Chapter 5 – Margaret

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I cleaned up lunch, did a quick weeding in front of the front door, and peeked into the bowl of strawberries to see that the sugar was nice and moist.
After all, ripe strawberries had a good water content.

Now, let’s boil! However, it was not much of a hassle.
The point was to use a large, deep pot and cook it at once with high heat, so that it did not stick.

The kitchen of the mansion had some magic tools, as expected.
It was like a wizard’s tinderbox.
I’d like to say that, but that was it.
There were kitchen chopsticks, similar in length and atmosphere to kitchen chopsticks back in my world.

There was a flat black stone in the shape of a doughnut underneath the stove part’s pentode 1.
You could start a fire by twirling a pair of high quality chopsticks with a small red stone stuck in the tip along the inside edge of the stone.
Fire control and extinguishing were controlled by a switch bar on the stove.

… In my mind, I called it a charcoal stick.
The accent was on the charcoal.
Even though this was a magic tool, it could be used without hesitation.
It was still strange, though.
I wondered what was going on with the fuel.

I put it on high heat and kept stirring for a while, and it would come to a boil.
A white foamy scum would come up, so I did my best to scoop it out.
It was better to use a deep pot, because at this point, the water really rose to the top.

If you were too busy scooping, it would burn at the bottom of the pan, so be sure to stir the whole thing and turn the heat down or up to prevent spilling.
Well, the basic steps.
If you didn’t, you wouldn’t be able to boil it down for any length of time, and I thought the color would be more beautiful if you finished it in a shorter time.
Ah, I was the kind of person who didn’t add lemon juice.
This depended on what you like.

If you wanted to keep the strawberry grains, do so moderately; otherwise, thoroughly mash the strawberries with a ladle with holes and stir constantly to prevent burning.

When the fine bubbles became large and shiny, it was time to finish.

Turn off the heat and check for boiling over.
You could let it cool on a small plate and see how thick it was, or you could drop a little of it into a glass of cold water and see if it hardened.
I guessed the trick was not to check it while it was hot because it got hard when it cooled down.
Well, but the degree of thickening was also a matter of taste.

While the jam was still hot, pour it into sterilized jars until it was about nine-tenths full, then cover tightly and leave them to cool while you turned them upside down.
Yes! It was done~.
That was fast, it was already done.

If you wanted to keep it for a longer period of time, place it in a pot with the lid up, fill the jar with water until it was completely covered, and heat it.
When the water boiled enough, turn off the heat and let it cool naturally.
There was a vacuum bottle 2.
That would last a long time!

While I was happily simmering, Dr.
Daniel came for a house call.
On his way home, I would give it to him as a souvenir.

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I was being watched.
I-was-found-out!

Oh, my God.
I’m so embarrassed!

Eh, was there a road out there? Wow, I had no idea… He saw me twirling around in the strawberries bushes and even squatted down to rub my ankles.

Hey, Mark, you could at least call out to me.
I couldn’t believe he was telling Dr.
Daniel.
Even this silver-foxed man treated me like a child.
I kept telling him I was twenty-eight years old.

No, I was not being disrespected or dumbfounded by any means, I could feel the goodwill, but it was itchy! I was not used to being spoiled!

Since my grandmother died of old age when I was eleven, and my parents both died in an accident when I was thirteen, I’d never been pampered by anyone, so I’d forgotten how to do it.

Eh, brother? He was quick-paced and his motto was independence.
Yeah, that was the guy.
If he hadn’t met my sister-in-law, he would have been alone for sure.
Thank you, sister-in-law, for your romance with my brother.

Really, I had fond memories of fretting until the day of the wedding about what would happen if they came to their senses and destroyed it.
Well, they’d been married for six years now, and the disease still didn’t seem to be cured.
Getting along well was a beautiful thing.

It was hard back then when my parents died.
I didn’t have any other relatives to associate with besides my late grandmother, and I was being sent off as a favor to all my neighbors and school teachers.
I guessed it helped that my brother was an adult.
After my brother got a U-turn job, I finally settled down.

The reason why I got rid of my house in the suburbs and bought a cozy apartment near my brother’s workplace in the center of the city was to “shovel snow”… Maintaining a house in the north takes a lot of time and effort.
Especially in winter.
With me as a junior high school student doing housework and going to school, and my brother as a new employee busy with work, it was too much for us to handle.

The road in front of our house was a little narrow, so the city’s snow plows didn’t come through as often as they should.
As we worked together with our neighbors, we moved the large shovel, feeling bitter about the snow that was falling.
We worked until after nine o’clock at night, and the road finally took shape, but it was an everyday occurrence to wake up in the morning and find the road buried under newly fallen snow.

We had to take care of the garden and the roof.
After two years of trying, we moved out when I graduated from junior high school, rather than seeing the house that my parents had cared for deteriorate under our care.

The apartment was a little small for a family, and there were many retired couples who had moved in for the same reason.
Then, there were the newlyweds who worked together.
After all, snow was a big deal.
It was heavy.

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Snow shoveling was done by the management company, so there was no need for residents to shovel snow, and apartments were warmer than houses, even in the northern part of Japan.
There were no stairs in the house and it was barrier-free.
There was a janitor who would take care of your luggage even if you were not home.
If you wanted, they could watch over yours.
This was probably due in part to that the apartment was designed to be friendly to the elderly.

In an apartment building where the average age of the residents was high, my siblings who had lost their parents were treated very well.
I thought they were all being kind, or maybe they just had time on their hands.
In the morning and in the evening, when I met them, they would stop me and gave me pickles, stews, and vegetables.
In fact, the food was a big help.
To be honest, I didn’t know what I was going to do with the dozens of crepe straps I had accumulated, but… Each one was so cute, but when they were gathered together, they were a kind of powerful.

And even if we got along, they were all old, so they were disappearing fast.

It was inevitable, but it still made me sad every time.

“You can’t help it.
You shouldn’t have hang out with them if you cared so much.”

… I just remembered.
That was what my long-time boyfriend said to me when I suddenly remembered it.

It didn’t matter now whether the true meaning of this statement was to comfort me, to resent me for being depressed over something I couldn’t control, or simply to show the indifference of human relationships.

I remember feeling like I had a soft part in my heart crushed as I replied, ‘Yes, you’re right’.

Whether it was natural or unavoidable, what was sad was sad, and what was lonely was lonely.
I didn’t want any opinions, I just wanted to hear “I see”.

I didn’t know how we managed to stay together for six years without being able to compensate each other for such minor differences.

As I was pondering in a daze while putting away the laundry, there was a knock on the door of the housekeeping room and Lady Adelaide appeared.

“Margaret, what do you think of this? The cloth is sturdy, and the color is dark, so it won’t show much if it gets dirty.”

She was holding a navy blue one-piece dress in her hands.
If you looked closely, you could see that it was made of a woven fabric with a fine ground pattern, with a lace of the same color discreetly attached to the collar and hem.
It had a modest V-neck and sleeves that allowed for effortless movement.
I did as I was told and tried on the dress, and it fit perfectly.
I thought it looked pretty good on me.

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“My, you look great.
Then, try on this one too.
But are you sure? In an old-fashioned dress like this one.”

This was good! I emphatically told her that repeatedly, and Lady Adelaide finally accepted.

Clothes… Lady Adelaide’s clothes were pretty.
Indeed, it was a little different from the way the women in the village dressed.
Perhaps, as she said, the model was old, but this one looked better to me.
Even though it was the same dress, it did not emphasize the waist and chest too much, so there was no need for a tight corset, and the roomy cut allowed for simple movement.
But that didn’t mean that the skirt was unnecessarily bulging.

This way, it was simple to the point and cute.

For the people here, there seemed to be a difference between clothes and kimonos, but for me, both clothes were far from each other.
New and old were meaningless.
I thought it was natural to think of the one you like.
And I didn’t want to haunt the villagers with bustiers and corsets.
And before that, corsets were tough on a thin Mongolian body, it would hit my bones!

Lady Adelaide took good care of her clothes, even the ones from her youth.
It was not the most admirable thing for a noblewoman to do, but I understood the feeling.

At my age of almost 30, I was less likely to jump into new designs and more likely to rotate my favorite clothes… Even if they were a little out of fashion.
Ah, I knew, it was a step towards becoming an old lady, yes.
I might understand, but I didn’t agree! It was called being open, that was.

Such was the generosity with which Lady Adelaide’s clothing collection had been given away.
I was grateful.

I heard that I had to go to the Imperial Capital once my injuries were fully healed, so I hoped to see a cloth shop over there then.
We didn’t have a big fabric store here.

This village was just far enough away to make a day trip to Imperial Capital, and since everyone went to the other side of the country to do a little shopping, the stores in the village sold only daily necessities.
A greengrocer, a butcher, a blacksmith.
We had minor items and underwear, but not much in the way of clothing.
I didn’t see any precious metal stores either.
Oh, there was no pastry shop either, just a corner of the bakery with some baked goods.
Everyone baked their own sweets.
I heard there was a gift shop in the capital that sold sweets… I was a little curious.

“But I really don’t know if you can handle it.
If your body hurts, tell Daniel immediately and take a break.
Just take it easy on yourself, okay?”

Oh, that was really sweet of you.
I had had no one to worry about my health in a long time, so every time someone told me to take it easy, I wanted to take it easy.
I would be careful.

I thanked her and hurriedly put away my clothes.
As for what this navy blue outfit was for… Actually, Dr.
Daniel, who just left, asked me to be the nursemaid at the clinic.

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He asked me if I would be willing to work with the children who came to the clinic once or twice a week for half a day each.

There was no such thing as a daycare center in this village.
They wanted to help mothers with small children or elderly people who wanted to go to the clinic but could not due to their own illness or injury.
In short, it was a good luck charm between medical appointments.

If you could see a doctor in peace, you could come see him before your symptoms get worse, and as a result, you would heal faster.
That was true.

“I’m having Mark babysit for me right now, but he’s not very good.
It would be more helpful for us if he could stay by my side as my assistant.”

It was hard on Mark when the kids were around.
I didn’t know what to say, that guy was nice, but he didn’t show his true feelings, or he put a line between others.
Not so much at this time, but I also had the feeling that he was very guarded in the beginning.
In the first place, I didn’t think he was the type of person who would willingly play with children.

Blond hair, blue eyes, and tall.
He was very popular with the young girls in the village because he had a very nice face, like any prince, but he didn’t seem to be happy about it or use it well, he seemed uninterested and aloof… You okay, Mark? You must have been younger than me, but you were already withering away.
This sister would be worried.

Ha! He was that kind of guy!? No, I’m sorry, I didn’t realize that.
I’ll secretly ask him next time.
Sis, I looked normal, but I had a high tolerance, don’t worry, I wouldn’t look at you funny! Ah, I should have listened to Yuko properly if this was going to happen.
I was not very knowledgeable… I might not be able to help you much.
But if you were serious, I would support you.
Leave it to me!

“Everyone in the village knows Margaret well by now.
Even if you can’t speak, you’re still able to shop, right? You can’t write with a child who can’t read, but I think you’ll be fine.”

‘I’ll pay you well’, the doctor continued mischievously.
He’d kill two birds with one stone if he made house calls like he did today, since I’d be there and it’d save the doctor a lot of trouble…Doctor.
It would give you less of an excuse to see Lady Adelaide, was that okay? Ah, you looked like you were not worried.
That was good.

“You’ll be fine.”… Yeah, thanks for buying so much for me, Dr.
Daniel.
If someone else had told me this, I would have thought that it was just flattery to keep the orison around.
But I could trust Dr.
Daniel.
There were many reasons for this, but most of all, because Lady Adelaide believed in the doctor.

That was why I decided to try my hand at being a nursemaid at the clinic next week, in between my chores at the mansion.

Footnotes

A pentode is an electronic device with five active electrodes.
The term most commonly applies to a three-grid amplifying vacuum tube.
The pentode can be used for almost all purpose for which vacuum tubes are used, including amplification, mixing, oscillation, and pulse generation, and in circuits for timing, control, and counting. A bottle or flask having a vacuum liner that prevents the escape of heat from hot contents, usually liquids, or the entrance of heat into cold contents; thermos.

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