My gratitude goes to all of you who have been following this story “A man in love”, particularly those who have given me enthusiastic feedback 😍 on Chapter 9 or on Facebook. I can’t believe this is my tenth chapter already. Thank you very much for keeping me motivated! 💓💓💓💓
— Ms Puddle
Master William and I will spend the rest of the day in the head office, which, unbeknownst to me, he has this planned all along. Rather than relating to me all the details of his conversation with his aunt, he fills in the blank whenever I appear clueless to him.
“I informed Aunt Elroy I was ready to start working full-time, and she could officially begin the transition,” he explains on our way back to the mansion from the hospital. “So my aunt immediately asked if I had the date in mind.”
His début, he implied. It signifies an important milestone in his life, which is long overdue. He adds, “I said no, and she urged me to consider it as soon as possible.”
In a nutshell, of his own volition, the heir is prepared to step up and take over the office, executing the powers and duties of the presidency, even before his début.
“How did Madam Elroy react? Was she skeptical?” I ask without hiding my amusement, and Master William laughs spontaneously, his frown breaking into a sheepish grin. “You know both of us very well, Georges.”
I chuckle. One of his favourite quotes is a verse from the Bible, “How meaningless to think that wealth brings true happiness! Those who love money will never have enough.” (Ecclesiastes 5:10 NLT)
In other words, the person with the respectable name “William A. Ardlay” hasn’t kept his nose to the grindstone at all, despite rumors to the contrary. (In fact, almost all rumors about him are invalid. For example, he’s not a feeble old man.) Ever since his graduation from college, the heir has been reluctant to stay in the office for many hours; he took frequent breaks to enjoy the nature and solitude. His half-hearted working attitude remained the same when he worked together with me in London, aiming to expand the family business in Europe. He set aside a few days every week for a part-time job in the Blue River Zoo, where he could spend time taking care of the caged animals. When his aunt came to London to visit the young generation in the boarding school, St. Paul’s Academy, she seriously brought up the topic he had been dodging – his début, but he managed to persuade her to wait until after he returned from Africa. However, who could have predicted that he would vanish into thin air only months after he started volunteering in Kenya?
At this point he elaborates, “She was bewildered at first, and you’re right, she strongly doubted my words after she grasped my intentions. Thus, in order to prove that I’m more than determined, I told her I would follow in my father’s footsteps from now on, and I even expressed my wish to borrow his three-piece dark suits to appear more like a chief executive than a college graduate.”
“Really?” I retort, a mixture of disbelief and curiosity is evident in my tone. “Sir, do you know your late father, Sir William C. Ardlay, worked seven days a week, from dawn to dusk?”
This question is for him; he hasn’t stopped surprising me today. What have really motivated him to be an industrialist, so much so that he’s willing to curb his love for nature and subdue his fondness for animals?
As he gives me a nod to confirm his determination, I append in all seriousness, “And was Madam Elroy pleased?”
He shakes his head, a strained smile gracing his lips. “She was alarmed,” he answers, “if not terrified.”
“Madam Elroy? Terrified?” I repeat, cocking my eyebrows incredulously. That’s impossible. Never in my life have I seen her show any trace of fear.
“No kidding!” he exclaims in a dignified tone, and yet his lips curl up into a half smile when he mimics his aunt’s reproof in a panicking tone, “She said, ‘Don’t make rash promises, William!'”
A heavy sigh emits from his lips as he closes his eyes for few seconds. Then, he goes on, his eyes downcast and his voice back to normal, “With a straight face she cautioned me to never ever become a workaholic and even made me vow that I’d take it easy for another while until I’m back in shape.”
“Back in shape?” I echo, unable to comprehend what that means. Master William looks up and explains, “My aunt thought I had just recovered, but I reassured her that physically, my body had long recuperated… Only my memory had taken an extra lengthy vacation before returning to its host.”
He chuckles at his own joke, his eyes twinkling merrily. I suppose the last thing Madam Elroy wants is history repeating itself. Nonetheless, his good humor attests his high spirits. I have a hunch he’s quite satisfied with the outcome of his meeting with his aunt, even though this costs him the freedom to indulge his vagabond’s lifestyle.
At the same time, I wonder what causes Master William to be this elated, to have reunited and made peace with his aunt, to finally embrace his destiny by taking up the role as the head of a huge business enterprise, or to continue living elsewhere with his ‘sister’. Perhaps a combination of all these and more?
Regrettably, by the time we reach the office building, he still hasn’t revealed a word about his roommate and his living arrangement. I haven’t forgotten his promise to me earlier today, that he would explain why he had opted to stay with her. Of course, he is still unaware that I have discovered who she is. Yet, I know the behavior appropriate to my position and status, and I won’t push my master unless he takes the initiative.
On the other hand, he must have apprised his aunt of his absurd decision, for her first task for me was to hire bodyguards. Yet, it’s a known fact that Madam Elroy is ruthless and uncompromising when it comes to order and business, so how Master William could move his aunt’s heart and prevail is beyond my imagination. What sentences of persuasion did he use when he reasoned his wish to continue to live like an ordinary man from the working class? Did he tell his aunt whom he had been living with all this time? Or is he going to hide Miss Candice from his own household?
Just like my first reaction to Master William’s recollection, if his aunt knew her nephew practically owed his roommate his life, she could have questioned why he didn’t reward his friend profusely, considering that there are numerous things he can do to return the kindness right now. If Miss Eliza can live like a princess, Miss Candice has the absolute rights to lead a luxurious life as the adoptive daughter of William A. Ardlay.
At the mention of this name, it suddenly dawns on me that his firm resolve to settle down, taking up the tremendous duties as the rightful heir, may very well have something to do with his so-called sister. Think about it, what he can do for her right now is relatively limited when his aunt is in charge as the matriarch. He’s fully aware of his aunt’s unfair treatment to Miss Candice in the past, and as long as he stays low profile, his legal daughter has nobody to fall back upon or with whom she can share her plight. That is, she will continue to be the subject of disapproval and meet with contempt due to her lowly background.
On the contrary, once Master William undertakes the role as the patriarch, the matriarch will have no choice but to step down; as a result, he will have substantial authority in the family. But it seems to me even that is not enough for him, because he goes the extra mile to take over the vast business enterprise, asking his aunt to begin the transition. In other words, he decides to live up to the name of Granduncle William. Only then he can exercise his power and influence to stand up for Miss Candice, to vindicate her innocence, and to fight for her rights. For instance, Master William can make Dr. Leonard apologize and make amendments. If Miss Candice wishes to pursue her nursing career, she can select any hospital her heart desires. The working condition will be considerably much better in a hospital than in a tiny clinic.
Presently, his words ring in my ears, ‘…regardless of whom I would turn out to be, I would take care of her to the very end…’
Hence, I stand in amazement of this new understanding. He is keeping the promise he made to himself, and with William A. Ardlay behind Miss Candice, who dares to openly look down upon her?
Is Miss Candice the major motivation for Master William to overhaul his working habits? Does he have a long term goal in mind for her, as her legal guardian, her big brother or a close friend?
As soon as we show up in my office, my secretary shoots up from her seat. She’s taken aback, obviously; our unannounced arrival has seemingly brought a blush to her cheeks, as if she has been caught red-handed. After greeting one another, I speak to her, “Mrs. Thompson, please unlock the president’s office for Sir Ardlay.”
“My pleasure, Mr. Villers. Sir Ardlay, please allow me to get the key for you.”
“Thank you,” he replies with a polite smile. When her eyes meet his blue ones, her blush gets deeper. At once, she averts her gaze and literally flees from our sight. What’s the matter with her today? My highly experienced secretary is a little older than me, and I’ve never seen her more abashed. Maybe she needs some time to collect herself, but why? Is she still feeling guilty or embarrassed due to her arrogance yesterday? Or does her awkward behavior arise from seeing the charming boss clad in fine Italian suit?
I must admit Master William is dashing and gallant in appearance and manner. His late father’s clothes fit him so well as though they were tailor-made. In other words, the young heir has the same height and athletic build as my benefactor. Yet, he takes the resemblance of his deceased mother. The same held true for Rosemary. That explains why the siblings looked so much like each other, except Master William has his father’s blue eyes. If my previous secretary were here at present, she would have fainted, believing that late William C. Ardlay has come back to life.
Anyway, the president’s office has been locked for nearly two years. Soon after we shockingly discovered that Master William had gone missing for a while, Madam Elroy’s health plummeted and began to show signs of old age. She could no longer come to the office every day. Therefore, the chief financial officer, her most trusted delegate, has the key for the cleaning staff.
Meanwhile, the new president paces himself around the grand office, letting his glance wander about. It’s not at all a surprise that it is maintained in its best possible conditions. As a matter of fact, this is the first time Master William ever steps into this particular office. Like everything else that belongs to the Ardlays, this spacious room is elegantly decorated and furnished from top to bottom with European style. Some ornamentation is even designed with antique taste.
Moments later, I hear him murmur to himself, “Compare to the total area of my current apartment, including the bedroom and bathroom, this office is almost doubled…”
He sounded neutral, not happy nor excited. As his voice fades, I decide not to give any comment to his remark; he wasn’t talking to me anyway. About several minutes of silence later, with two creases forming between his eyebrows, he turns towards me, asking in a thoughtful tone, “Why don’t you ask?”
Ask what? What’s on his mind?
So I pretend, “I beg your pardon, sir?”
He stares at me for a long moment, clearly unconvinced that I didn’t hear him. Without another word, he leaves his spot and heads towards the windows in pensiveness. After throwing a quick glance at the double doors, which are securely shut, he turns to face the windows. The silence between us disperses when he speaks up, “Remember I told you I could do anything just to get my memory back?”
“Yes, I remember, sir.”
No words come forth from him after that, as if he needs a respite. Then, out of the blue, he whirls around and declares, “Georges, I’ve braced myself for this day. I’ll be the chairman, CEO and the president of this enterprise.”
“Yes, Sir Ardlay,” I assure him, nodding once firmly. “No doubt.”
Right then, a confident smile makes its way across his handsome face. “Arrange a meeting then, Georges. It’s time to introduce me to the executives and the vice presidents.”
To one who doesn’t know him well, he’s like a young king who has recently inherited the kingdom; he’s ready to battle and conquer. In a sense, that’s very true, but my gut feeling tells me there’s more. He wanted to reveal something to me just now but held back at the last minute.
Note: Again, this is purely my imagination inspired by the manga version of Candy Candy. Thank you, my dear friends, for your continued support and positive reviews to my previous chapter (not in any specific order)! ❤❤
Tania Frias, Loren Rios, Evelyn, Reeka, Mariacristina Marchetti(mari), Anonymous, Gina Riquelme Orellana, marmalade, Cary, Sarah, JeannyJJ, and antlay31