Chapter 3

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It’s cold.

Chloe murmured to herself as she breathed over her freezing hands.

Snow was pouring outside the window.

White, flawless snowflakes piled up and covered the world like a serene blanket.

Chloe, who grew up in the warm South, was delighted when she first saw snow.

‘So much snow! I can’t believe it!’

She couldn’t believe that the snow she’d only read about in books was right in front of her.

’The other girls from the south won’t get to see this for the rest of their lives, will they? I’m so lucky!’

She used to run around the snowfield saying this.

But the joy she felt was extinguished in an instant.
Chloe soon suffered from the severe cold of the North.

‘It’s cold.’

Chloe rushed to her feet and pulled on the shawl on her shoulders.
As always, the fourth floor’s hallway was empty.
No one at all came and went.

The servants didn’t come here except for when they brought her meals or when they served her.
So there was no chance for anyone else to see her.

For Chloe, who didn’t get along with the other people in the estate, this was the butler’s consideration for her.
But now that Chloe saw it, he wasn’t being considerate at all.

She was a young woman who came to the North alone with no one beside her.

In her head, she thought she’d be able to lead the servants and get close to them as the Marchioness, but she couldn’t do it because she was afraid.

In the South, people would come to her on their own even when she didn’t do anything.

It wasn’t like that here.

In the South, everyone treated her with a friendly smile, yet in this place, everyone was full of contempt.

She tried to talk to them a few times, but because they were feeble attempts, their conversations did not continue.
There, a clear line of boundaries had been drawn between her and everyone else.

Naturally, a distance had been formed between them, and Chloe herself as well detached herself from them.

Eric might have been able to help her adapt well here if he had taken care of her, but he was a heartless husband who never returned home for months on end.
He never even looked for her.

And so, Chloe was completely isolated.

It had been five years.

‘What if I had gotten attached to this place? Even if Eric didn’t love me, the people in the mansion could care for me and love me.’

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If that had happened, she might not have made the same decision now.

Chloe thought this, but it was really just an idea.

She had already made up her mind, and she still had enough drive in her to put her thoughts into action.

‘I need to find the butler.’

She couldn’t find him on the third floor, so she had to go all the way back to the first floor hall.

Huu. She sighed as she rounded the corner.

“She’s sick again, isn’t she?”

At that moment, she heard a familiar voice.
It was her personal maid.

Chloe reflexively hid herself even though she wasn’t at fault. Gasp. A cold breath came out.

“Of course.
The Madam is always sick during winter.”

“Gosh, why is she so weak.”

“Well, that’s the appeal to southern women I guess.”

Sarcasm was evident in her voice.
Chloe pursed her lips.

“She’s a noble lady.
I’m sure she’s having a hard time in this humble place.”

“Hey! What are you talking about! I did everything she asked me to do! I set up a stove in every room because she felt cold, and every winter, I lugged around all that expensive fur and plastered it all on the walls of her room—but what? Huh?”

“Just think of the Madam’s family.
Do you think a Duke’s precious youngest daughter would be satisfied with just that?”

“Ha! Did you mean a Duke drowning in debt? Who do you think is paying back all that money? If it weren’t for the Marquis, they’d have gone bankrupt, bankrupt! That’s all there is to it!”

She was right.
Everything she said was right.

But Chloe wanted to defend herself.
It really was cold.
And it was painful.
She couldn’t help it.

And the Duke’s debt was…

There was no excuse for it.
Chloe dropped her gaze despondently.

“It would be better for them to just get divorced.
They couldn’t even be called a husband and wife, now could they?”

“Lily, stop it.
What will you do if someone hears?”

“But did I say anything wrong? We’re all thinking the same thing anyway! Milord isn’t even coming back to the estate because of her!”

She didn’t know that.

Chloe froze, forgetting how to breathe.

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“That’s how bad their relationship is.
It’s been five years, and there’s not even a sign of a successor.”

“It’s a problem, I know…”

“I heard about it.
They’ve never slept together.”

“What?”

Even the maid who was trying to defend Chloe vaguely had asked back in a clearer voice.

“But then… What? Is Milord holding it in? Does that even make sense?”

“I don’t know.
He might have a lover.
Well, anyway.
They don’t even hold hands.
What kind of husband and wife is that? They’re worse than strangers.”

“That’s really amazing.
I didn’t know it was that bad.
Why isn’t she getting close to Milord?”

“Do you think I could understand how a noblewoman’s brain works? She never even tried to talk to us, did she? Gosh, it’s all so annoying.”

Their voices grew farther and farther away.

It could be that they’re walking away, or it could be that Chloe had fallen deaf to everything around her.

Left alone in that cruel silence, Chloe suddenly grabbed her own neck.
She squeezed it hard.
If she didn’t do this, her lips would utter a cry.

“Uuurk…”

They were right.

Chloe had never spent the night with Eric.

All throughout their five years of marriage.
Even their first official night never happened.

It’s not as though she never tried.

When her father was still alive, he pressured her endlessly, so she swallowed the shame she felt and reached out to Eric first.

But Eric refused.

What were his eyes like back then? He was so heartless that she didn’t want to remember.

‘It’s not my fault.’

It was because of Eric’s refusal.
Chloe thought so all this time.
But…

‘Is it really my fault?’

She loved him, but he didn’t love her back.

Her mother always said that… It was the woman’s fault if her husband did not love her.

According to what her mother said, then she was entirely responsible.
It was her fault that he did not love her.

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‘What did I do wrong?’

She didn’t know what it was.
But ignorance could not be forgiven, at least in this case.

She’d been living her life the wrong way.
And now, she could only reap what she had sown.

Chloe let go of her neck and sorted out her rumpled dress.

She quickly left that spot and went down the stairs.
As soon as she reached the hall on the first floor, she saw the butler.

“Madam?”

The butler approached her with great surprise, not expecting Chloe to come there.

“Why are you out here, Your Excellency? It’s cold.”

“I have a favor to ask of you.”

A favor? He was surprised once again.
It was very rare for Chloe to ask anything.

“Can you call a carriage for me?”

“A carriage?”

His eyes narrowed quite a bit, then he looked out the large window of the hall.

The snow had slowed for a while, but it was still blowing.

“It will be difficult because of the blizzard.
May I know where you plan on going, Madam?”

“Then when can you call for one?”

“I shall call the horseman as soon as the snow lets up.
But where…”

Chloe breathed out heavily once.
Then, she raised her chin straight up as her blue eyes sparkled dangerously.

“I’m going to see my husband.

She recalled the divorce papers in the drawer.

It’s time to end this mistaken relationship.

 

* * * 

Rattle.

The locomotive shook.

On the icy road, she could hear the horses neighing, and perhaps the wheels had been caught.
However, the horseman didn’t mind it all and continued to ignite the engine.

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Flick, clatter. As the flames ignited, the acrid smoke from the exhaust tank intensified.
The locomotive sped up.

Chloe hurriedly closed the window, the murky smell of coal unwelcome to her senses.

She carefully placed her forehead over the window. Haa. Her breath blew out and the window turned white.
The red sunset could be seen over the hazy horizon.

‘Why don’t you send a telegram instead, Madam? Instead of visiting Milord.’

The butler had recommended this, but Chloe refused.
She wanted to meet him right away before her firm heart would sway.

However, as the locomotive drove along the long road, she felt as though she wasn’t ready to go down this path.

’I don’t know.
He might have a lover.’

Despite the fact that the maid spewed out much sharper words behind her back, this remark wouldn’t leave her ears.

So she thought about it.

Maybe if he left home this early, he might be with his lover right now.

The seed of doubt was clearly embedded deep in her mind.

He was a husband who came home only once every few months.

Even then, he never stayed for more than a week, and he always refused to sleep with his wife who was only ever home.

‘There must be a lover.
There’s no way there’s none.’

Chloe smiled bitterly.

She wondered why she never doubted him before, but the answer came right away.

Because of her pride.
She didn’t allow herself to be the kind of woman who suspected her husband of having an affair.

And due to that pride, everyone but her was convinced that her husband was definitely having an affair.

How wretched.

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How pitiable.

She felt so sorry for herself that she couldn’t stand it.

Thump, thump. She hit her own chest a few times.

However, the dull sorrow filling her heart would not disappear easily.
These dense emotions wouldn’t go away just because of this feeble act.

Chloe, who was out of breath for a long time, reached into her bag and pulled out the divorce papers.

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