The relationship between Earl Springcoat and his butler had hit rock bottom. Although the earl had returned, he still repeated his usual tomfoolery of just withdrawing money and staying over at his lovers’ places without even trying to manage his territory.
Recently he had completely lost all his restraints. Being forced to raise the taxes to maintain that lifestyle, the residents started to leave the earldom in droves and the earl’s reputation went, accordingly, down the drain, resulting in business stalling gradually. It went as far that Earl Springcoat himself was asked to repay the debts he had made for fooling around on the streets.
If Earl Springcoat had a son, the butler would have educated him, convinced his father to retire and made the son cut all relations with his father.
Again and again the butler pressed his master to adopt an excellent child of some relative, but the earl didn’t listen, always claiming that Primrose was more than enough.
The butler always retorted that if Lady Indra had been here it would be one thing, but Primrose was beyond any hope. This only earned him a harsh, angry chiming despite the butler being the one supposed to be angry here.
――Certainly, in the eyes of Earl Springcoat, Primrose might be cuter. After all, she’s as much of a useless bum as her father.
It was impossible to hope for Primrose to have any capability to manage the territory, and so the butler had no choice but to hope for a suitable marriage partner for her, but seeing how that partner hadn’t even been decided yet, it remained unclear whether anyone would actually marry her in the first place.
She hadn’t learned any manners, and her behavior was so bad that even commoners couldn’t hold a candle to her. Not to even mention her noisy eating style, she actually used her hands to stuff the food into her mouth, resulting in her dress always being a dirty mess after a meal.
She didn’t know the concept of walking quietly, and not only that, she couldn’t even greet others properly.
In short, refinement was alien to her.
Just who would take such a wild beast of a girl as a spouse?
At long last, the family head started to talk about enrolling her at the academy in the capital and she received strict training from the head maid, but Primrose made no progress as she always cried, whining about being mistreated.
As such, the butler performed his official duties while constantly having a headache.
“……several years left where we can keep this up.”
Earl Springcoat repeatedly made debts without any hopes to ever pay them back. The earl house’s income couldn’t even maintain the status quo, and it was becoming harder and harder to pay for the remaining servants and the mansion itself.
By now they had sold off most of the furniture in the guest rooms and unused rooms. The antique heirlooms and goods had all been sold off long before that.
Suddenly the butler sensed the aroma of black tea. Once he turned around, he found the head maid having poured him some black tea.
“…Those are not the leaves used by the servants, are they?”
“This is my own stash of black tea. When the maids left this place, they handed it to me as a farewell gift.” She said, holding out the cup to the butler.
“…Then I shall gratefully accept your kindness.” He breathed in the tea’s aroma before taking a sip.
“……What are you going to do from now on?” The butler asked the head maid all of a sudden. “You came to this place together with the lady of the ducal house, didn’t you? Even if it would buy you the resentment of the earl house, you don’t have any obligation to remain here. No one would be troubled even if you quit your job. You wouldn’t need to teach Lady Primrose manners while having her scream at you that you are bullying her and that she hates it, all while crying loudly, right?”
The head maid smiled bitterly, and then looked out of the window.
“……This is my punishment.” She muttered in what sounded like a monologue. “I should have stopped the madam, Lady Isadora. I knew that he was a man who would never be able to make her happy, on top of it not having been a political marriage either. ―I should have stopped her, clearly telling her that only his appearance was somewhat good, and that he would use nicely sounding words to flatter her only at the beginning, while at the same time having lovers all over the place, and trying to woo other noble daughters. If this hadn’t hindered her, I should have approached her younger brother, who adored his elder sister, to have him stop her. If it had come out of the mouth of her beloved, little brother, I’m sure even Lady Isadora would have given up on that man. But I was naive, believing that he would certainly change for the better once he got married.
――And on top of that, Lady Isadora’s desire to monopolize him also… I had not expected even in my wildest dreams that things would end like this. Moreover, I couldn’t even prevent that, hence it’s my punishment for the sins towards Lady Indra.”
The butler stared at her, and then smiled, “…Then please allow me to accompany you on serving the Springcoat House towards the nearing end as it is by now no more than a mud castle which is being dissolved by rain. It won’t last another five years. And once that is over, so will be our punishment.”
The head maid turned around to him, and performed a polite curtsy, “I am looking forward to working with you for the remaining time.”
“So do I.” The butler stood up, and returned her curtsy with a bow.