“Marriage. Do you want to marry for your family or is that your own wish?” I said, “I am just curious. For me, um, my situation is complicated. But what about you? You are a man, an heir and can do what you please. So, do you want to marry someone because you want to or is it because of pressure from your family or title to get an heir for your estate? What would you choose?”
Hugo was calm as he pondered on my questions. It was one of his positive traits. He always took things very calmly and didn’t get flustered very fast. This was why I had tolerated talking and meeting him as opposed to various others.
“For me… yes, even if I didn’t have the obligation to have a successor, I would want a wife and a family. It would be of my own volition,” explained Hugo. “Marriage is a commitment of a lifetime so you should be able to trust your partner. There might come several times in life where you might have to make tough decisions. It would be great to have someone you could trust. It would also help if that someone knows me well.”
Hugo sighed for a moment and smiled. “You must have felt it too, Miss Alice, but I’m not good with words. It is hard for me to talk to women. I would hate to bore someone with my stories if she is only meeting me out of courtesy.”
I raised my eyebrows slightly. “Being married to someone out of obligation would be sad. Marriage isn’t some magic that solves all problems,” I said. “If people have differences, it will create problems in the future while they have no choice but to act as a genial married couple on the outside.”
I felt a jab at my side again. I stretched out my hand carefully, grabbed Alex’s finger and crooked it slightly as a warning sign. Should I really break it next time? A broken finger won’t affect his life. That’s the only slack I could cut him because he was my brother.
As if they learned a lesson, those fingers slipped out of my hand slowly. I wiped my hand at the hem of my skirt. Hugo seemed a bit surprised at my words.
“You are right, My Lady. Marriage won’t change my personality, and my wife won’t have to accept it either. Maybe I thought of that matter too lightly. But I want to think that if they agree to marry me, it’s because they have a good impression of me. Then we could spend time together before getting married, talking about what we like about each other beyond the general line of courtesy, right?”
How old is this guy? Isn’t he in his early or mid-20s? Every man I knew of his age would have replied a lot more sincerely. But the world is different here and standards of behaviour enforced by this society were different at each age. Maybe you have to be like this when you’re the heir of a duke.
Our conversation was interrupted by a loud laughter. We looked to where the princess was seated. I also saw that Ethan Duplo had grabbed the wrist of a maid with food tray and whispered in her ears. The maid’s face flashed disgust and horror.
I just couldn’t stand him! I looked at Hugo. His face darkened a bit when he saw what his brother was doing.
“My Lord,” I said, “When your brother dolls himself up in front of the mirror, it would be nice if he was taught manners too.”
Hugo looked at me, shocked and then laughed. Everyone was busy with their own conversation or their food so no one had heard us. But the Grand Duke snapped his head to look straight at us. His grey eyes narrowed.
What? Why? What did I do? He is looking at me as though I murdered someone. I stared back at him for a few seconds.
“He looks like he spends hours in front of a mirror and wastes all his money on alcohol and clothes,” I said, “I am not one to judge but you should cut down on his expenses so that you can save for the future. Tell him to find a job. You would be doing him a favour. It’s better than becoming a rich Madame’s playmate and forcefully flirting with women who don’t want such advances.”
I turned my gaze away from the Grand Duke and looked at Hugo. Hugo was so taken aback by my words that he was flustered and tried to grab a wine glass. He missed it. The wine glass fell and crimson spread all over the tablecloth and dripped down onto my skirt.