Thanks for your patience. Originally I planned to publish this as my gift for Albert’s birthday. Oh well… hope you like this new chapter. 😍 If you do, I’d like to hear from you. Thank you! 😘
— Ms Puddle
When my benefactor was still alive, he had brought me up like a real family member. He was exceptionally generous to let me have the kind of education that I had not even dreamed of. Rosemary was just as nice, always friendly and warm, treating me like her equal. We had the same tutors and studied together even though it took me slightly more than a year to learn English as well as to catch up to her level.
In a sense, I grew up with the beautiful daughter of Sir William C. Ardlay like her big brother, but I’d always insisted to address her as Miss Rosemary unless we were alone. No matter what, I would never forget my place, and I was fully aware I owed Sir Ardlay my life. Without him, I would have either died in poverty or grown up to be a gangster somewhere in France.
Years later, young Master William was old enough to spend time with us like our little brother. Rosemary preferred calling him by his middle name, Albert, but only when there were no adults around. Her father became quite preoccupied with work that he had no clue about this little secret among us. Yet, I determined to always address the boy by his first name with a courtesy title. Not only the boy was the heir to inherit the Ardlay’s business empire in due time, but I also knew that Sir Ardlay had been training me in every way possible to be the personal assistant to his son. Therefore, I treated the boy with high respect even though I was more than ten years older.
That explains why I was sent to a business school for higher education and critical thinking skills. But not long after that, my benefactor had suddenly fallen morbidly ill. As I knelt by his death bed, he entrusted his eight-year-old boy to me. “Georges, promise to take care of young William for me.”
Needless to say, it was time for me to pay back his kindness. I vowed to protect the boy and do my best to watch over him. Since then, everything had changed. Madam Elroy took over and became the matriarch and the acting president of the family business. She put things back in order, and all servants were servants, who belonged to the household staff. When things were settled down, I decided to move out.
Hence, even now that I’m caught in the act here in Master William’s bedroom, I’ll not disobey his order. I know where my allegiance lies. He said not to inform his aunt of his whereabouts, then I wouldn’t disclose anything about his surprise visit to my office this late afternoon.
Fortunately, one thing I learned from my old master was to be proactive, always planning ahead for unforeseen circumstances and emergencies. Besides, I have to act calm in order not to worsen my situation.
Thus, wearing a placid expression on my face, I reply in an unhurried manner to the matriarch’s inquiry, “Madam Elroy, I have recently made acquaintance with a man, who has connections with the police officers in Belgium. They are experienced in training dogs to track criminals using smell-”
Before I can get to my point, she runs out of patience, pointing at my suitcase, “What did you put in there?”
“Two of Master William’s suits,” comes my matter-of-fact tone. As she raises her eyebrows in curiosity, I continue my explanation, “So I have contacted a new private investigator here, who owns a handful of German Shepherds.”
I intentionally pause here to allow my words to sink in. She is getting old, but her mind is still sharp. If I stay cool, she won’t suspect a thing. Several seconds of silence later, her quizzical frown is replaced by a hopeful demeanor. “Are you saying that William might actually be in Chicago?”
As calculated, I have successfully steered the topic away from her original question. However powerful she is, her nephew is always her weakness. Upon seeing my nod, her eyes light up, and the wrinkles near her temples deepen. She lays aside her suspicions and finds an antique armchair in the anteroom to sit down, inquiring about the latest progress of my search for her nephew.
Overall, the fruitless search has been agonizing to both of us. We fear that it may eventually end in heartbreak one day, but so long as there’s no evidence that something bad has occurred to him, we hold on to the hope that he’s somewhere out there. Nevertheless, it has inevitably taken a heavy toll on the matriarch’s health. Due to constant anxiety and disappointments after disappointments, her body has deteriorated considerably, and plenty of her grey hair has turned into silvery streaks. Moreover, she recedes to her study these days and delegates the majority of administrative tasks to trustworthy subordinates. She only shows up in the head office for meetings when important decisions need to be made.
Therefore, it’s been a long while since she last requested a report, so this time she wants minute details. Her maid and I have remained standing while I do the talking. In any case, I’m not lying, but I don’t have to tell her the entire truth either.
When I’m done, she breathes out a long exaggerated sigh of exhaustion, but what she says next catches me off guard, “Georges, have you been keeping in touch with the orphan?”
On one hand, I’m relieved it’s Madam Elroy who asks me this question, not Sir William. It’s undeniable that she abhors the adoption that took place years ago, but on the other hand I have to be careful not to stir her up unnecessarily. I’ve already spent way too long in the mansion than planned. Therefore, I merely answer, “No, not really, Madam Elroy.”
She contemplates my brief answer for two long seconds; she then averts her gaze and says, “Never mind. Georges, keep up your good work then. I’ll handle Archibald myself.”
“If there is anything I can help…” I begin half-heartedly. This is a typical response from me as I’m ready to proceed with my plan B at this point. I didn’t actually mean to get involved or act as the peacemaker. However, she seems pleased and gladly takes my offer, “Certainly, Georges, go through the adoption papers once again with our lawyer… see if there’s any way for us to marry off the girl without William’s signature. You’re her acting guardian, aren’t you?”
I can only say yes. I’m not in a position to question the matriarch’s motives. Just then, she lets out another tired sigh. “I warned Archibald earlier today to stay away from the orphan. She has brought nothing but disgrace to the family…”
Oh dear. It’s the same old speech again. I can’t help but pretend to be listening. The powerful lady has probably forgotten my origin was even worse, an abandoned child who stole from people on the street. I suppose she has never got off her high horse long enough to consider how insulting her words are to less fortunate people.
Then I hear Madam Elroy say, “…but Archibald was absolutely obstinate and tried to defend her misconduct…”
Misconduct? What did Miss Candice do this time? Maybe it’s a misunderstanding as usual? Or another trap set up by Master Neil like the way he framed her for stealing from his family?
My mind drifts to the evening when Master William appeared out of the blue in my study and dropped a bombshell, “I’ve decided to adopt a servant girl. She’s thirteen.”
After a flabbergasted moment, all I could do was to rephrase his words, “Sir, you’re planning to adopt a thirteen-year-old girl?”
His emphatic nod to my question had no tranquilizing effect unfortunately. While I was still reeling from the shock, he gave me a letter in his own handwriting. Then he went on, “If my aunt wants a proof, here it is. The poor girl deserves a family… someone to give her a shelter, take care of her needs and give her proper education. I believe adopting her into the family is the guaranteed way to achieve all that.”
Having said that, a worried frown marred his brows. “I must say this matter is dreadfully urgent… because Mrs. Sarah Lagan is going to send her to Mexico to be a child slave very soon. Do whatever you can to rescue her. You have my complete trust, Georges.”
It turned out a man had already picked up Miss Candice from the Lagans the next day. The adoption application would take some time to process, but I could tell my young master was dead serious about saving the girl from the fate of living a life of servitude. Therefore, I went ahead to drive down the same route to chase after them. She was more stubborn than I had imagined, and I had to convince her that I wasn’t a kidnapper; I was actually representing her adoptive father.
On our way back, I gave the adorable girl an elegant dress to change. Once dressed up, I was struck by her appearance. I realized with surprise that she bore some resemblance to Rosemary, especially her sparkling eyes. What impressed me more though was that she had remained humble and expressed her immense gratitude over and over. Only then I started to understand Master William’s decision to remain “anonymous”.
First, he had come of age not too long ago, so he wasn’t old enough to be her father. Not to mention that his identity was to be kept secret from the public. Besides, he himself had related to me that he’d rather keep an eye on the girl behind the scenes. “I want to raise her to be a real lady, that’s all, Georges. It’s totally not necessary for us to meet.”
To be honest, back then I had a hunch there was something more to it. Isn’t it odd, if not unwise, to introduce an outsider whom he had never met into his family? He said he bought into his nephews’ opinions, but to this day I still find it difficult to believe their individual pleading letters were the sole reasons behind the adoption. But how else did Master William discover her existence and dire situations?
At present, Madam Elroy declares, “This is the last straw. I intend to undertake to remedy the problems the girl has created ever since she got our precious name.”
The fury in her voice is barely contained. Regret courses through my veins for not paying full attention. What’s exactly happened?
Then she narrows her eyes at me with scrutiny and graveness. “You’re not supposed to inform William anything about my plan. This is strictly between you and me. You understand?”
“Yes, I do,” I give her a firm reply with a bow. “Good night, Madam Elroy.”
She nods. “Good night, Georges.”
What should I do now? This is definitely not the first time Madam Elroy did something behind her nephew’s back, but this time it affects someone he cares deeply about.
I figure I can buy some time by not digging up the adoption papers yet. I have enough valid excuses for procrastinating. Madam Elroy didn’t specify a deadline after all. No matter what, I must find Miss Candice by heading directly to St. Joanna’s hospital tonight. That’s my plan B. Yes, Master Archie said she had left the hospital residence quite a while ago, but as long as she works there, I’ll be able to talk to her during her shift.
Regrettably, none of the nurses at the reception area is willing to help me. Once they understand my intention, one chuckles sarcastically and one rolls her eyes. The third one even jeers, “Are you one of her male friends?”
She doesn’t bother concealing the scorn in her tone. Then she turns to face the other two nurses, wiggling her eyebrows, and they burst out laughing, shaking their heads at the same time. The way they look me up and down is humiliating to say the least, as if I were some sort of suspect or someone whom they despise.
Offended by their sardonic behavior, which attracts curious glances from people around me, I determine to file a complaint, so I demand, “Where is the head nurse?”
Just then, a man’s authoritative voice booms behind me, “What’s the matter here?”
This chapter is purely my imagination based on Candy Candy manga and Candy Candy Final Story (CCFS).