The Sleepless Night of the Maid — Chapter 9
Translator: Eonnicorn / Editor: Scarlet
“Ahem. Well, it seems the lady is okay now. Why don’t we leave?”
Count Holland, who had been an onlooker all this time, cleared his throat to separate them. Ruth turned his head in disapproval, feigning ignorance and innocence. They might be friends, but given their status, the Count should be above him. However, somehow it felt like the role was reserved.
“Pardon me, but may I invite you two to dinner tonight? I know it’s sudden, but I’d like to repay you for saving my friend.”
It was Pamela who chimed in. Impatience showed on her face, probably afraid the relationship would be cut off if it ended like this. Eva bristled after recognizing the rudeness. Hadn’t Cecil taught her how to invite?
When inviting aristocrats, they should send invitations a few days in advance to ask for their participation and await their response. No matter how urgent it was, it was impolite to invite guests for the very same evening. Though dinner is never served right away, it is still a difficult task for the head chef and maids. In the end, it meant that Eva had to work nonstop all afternoon.
“I appreciate your kind gesture, but–”
Ruth quickly intercepted Count Holland’s answer as soon as it gave off a nuance of rejection.
“It’s not polite to refuse an invitation from ladies. Don’t you think so, Count Holland?”
“…That’s… true.” Count Holland replied bitterly at Ruth’s provoking question. He glared at Ruth while forcing a smile, irritated. But at the same time, no ill-will was directed toward him. They seemed to be close friends, or perhaps there was something between them.
“Can you walk?” Ruth’s gaze was on Eva once again. To show his sincerity, he offered an unexpected proposal. “If it’s hard, I’ll help you return.”
Now with a bit more stability than before, Eva felt burdened by his suggestion. If she accepted his help, she had to repay him in kind, yet she had nothing to give. The care and kindness she received were more than enough. In addition, Paul, the coachman, had promised to pick up Eva and Pamela. If they came back with them, Paul’s effort would be futile.
“No, you don’t need–”
“Would you, please? My house is quite far, and it’ll be difficult to get there with her in this state.” Pamela cut Eva off immediately. It was obvious why she lied. She intended to leave Eva in Ruth’s hands while she rode on the Count’s horse. It wasn’t like Pamela to miss the opportunity to be alone with the Count.
Eva stopped refusing again and decided to go along with the situation. Pamela’s grudges would haunt her for some time if Eva ruined her plan. Above all, she had no more strength or stamina to refute.
“Then, the Count will escort Lady Pamela.”
“All right. Suit yourself. Is there any other request to comply?” A feigned smile played on the Count’s tense face, all while suspiciously glancing between Ruth and Eva. Ruth gestured to the horses with his chin, motioning to leave. The Count pursed his lips discreetly. He guided Pamela and helped her sit on his horse, setting off a moment after.
“So, shall we go too?”
“Sure,” Eva responded quietly, feeling awkward.
“Do you know how to ride a horse?”
“Yes, a bit.”
“Don’t be too tense, just sit comfortably. I won’t ride it fast, but if you’re scared, please do tell.”
“You can be fast…” Eva answered in a small voice.
In fact, she could ride a horse well. She learned horse riding when she was young and loved it very much. There were three horses that she especially cherished.
Since she came to Pamela’s residence, she didn’t have a chance to ride a horse. However, she remembered both the posture and what she felt back then. The wind that gusted across her when she galloped at full speed, the freedom and the rush she felt. She wanted to feel it again after such a long time. If she had to explicitly ask him, she would’ve said nothing. But as long as she had to ride his horse, Eva didn’t want him to slow down for her.
“Got it.” After studying Eva for a moment, he smiled. It felt like he understood and sympathized with her frustration.
With Ruth’s help, Eva was able to place one foot on a stirrup and lifted the other foot gracefully. Following after, Ruth got on behind Eva, swallowing down his dry saliva in giddiness. The gap between the two bodies was closer than they imagined. There was no choice to avoid it, albeit, with a restless face, he opened his mouth as his body glued to Eva.
“Hold on tight.”
As if on cue, she instinctively corrected her posture as he hit the horse on the side with his heel. Then, the horse began to gallop.
At first, awkward and uneasy feelings enveloped them. His chest bumped her back endlessly, their shaken arms rubbed against each other and the sound of his breath caught by her ears, making her shudder.
Worrying her hair was fluttering in his face, Eva grabbed the mane with one hand and gathered her hair together with the other, lowering it to one side. But then her body lost balance and tilted.
Before she could stifle her startled gasp, a strong arm wrapped around her stomach and embraced her by the waist. Holding the reins with one hand, he galloped skillfully without a hitch as if he was hugging a small doll.
“Don’t worry.” She could hear his muffled voice in the wind. It sounded like encouragement to not care about anything and just enjoy the moment.
As she regained her balance, Eva looked forward. The sun, as well as the wind, streaked fiercely at her face, forcing her eyes to remain half-closed.
The horse dashed along the riverbank, through the green forest, then galloped on the open plains. True to his word, Ruth didn’t slow down his horse. It was refreshing, it felt like her stuffy chest had burst open. It was as though all the hardships she received today were made up for in this moment.
She teared up a little bit, happy that she remembered the old days.