So, the first thing to do is ‘reduce the number of meals by one’.
“Lord Alois, perhaps you should refrain, just for today.”
The next day, Camilla put into place her plans to have Alois lose weight. It was during afternoon tea, a meal that had become almost routine for her to attend since coming to the Montchat manor. Camilla picked up the sweets prepared on the table in front of him as she said that.
Unlike the previous tea party which had been dominated by piles of meat, this one had been properly decorated with sweets being served instead. They weren’t sugar encrusted doughnuts. Lightly baked to a pleasant golden brown colour and moulded into odd shapes and sizes, it was a basket of quite normal looking cookies that had been served, although the basket was so full it was beginning to overflow.
――Even if they’re just ordinary biscuits, you’ll obviously gain weight if you eat this many.
That basket was so large you could probably fit Camilla’s head in it. And when she had taken it in order to keep it away from Alois, she noticed just how much it weighed as well.
Eating this much was just insanity. But, Alois accomplishes the insane on a daily basis.
“You intend to lose weight and marry me, do you not?”
“W-Why, of course!”
Alois responds just as meekly as always.
“Then, you must refrain from eating such things. I will return this to the kitchen for you.”
“Ah, um, but…”
As Camilla made that assertion, Alois frowned as if presented with a puzzle. Then, in his melancholy, his hand reached out and grabbed a massive fistful of sugar cubes and dropped them into his teacup.
“But, I’d feel sorry for the chef who worked so hard at baking them.”
“You shouldn’t have to worry about the cook’s feelings, it’s his job!”
The cook simply cooks what he is told. It shouldn’t matter to him what happens to his food after that. In the first place, a cook that makes such an unhealthy amount of food for one person shouldn’t be considered a good cook. Actually, maybe since it’s Alois, this is just the normal amount?
“No, no, Camilla. That’s wrong.”
As Camilla’s hands trembled a little trying to withstand the weight of the basket, Alois shook his head with a strangely serious and sage look on his face.
“Since the chef worked so hard, we must respect the food he poured his sweat and blood into making. Anyone can simply make food. However, if someone does it for a living, then they must truly value their work. That value is then reflected in the food. The dishes are proof of the value of their effort. To simply throw it away would be like rejecting their value, their pride, as a chef.”
“Please, try a bite. Today’s sweets are special, after all. I think that you’ll truly find them to your tastes.”
After he said that, Camilla hesitantly put the basket back down on the tea table. Then, taking a biscuit, she took a small bite.
“………It’s quite a simple taste.”
Certainly, it fit Camilla’s tastes. Crushed nuts were rolled into the cookie dough, giving the biscuit a strong and chewy texture.
“Right? I tried it once before and found the taste strange, but quite delicious.”
“But, this wasn’t made by the chef, was it? It’s almost as if you prepared it yourself.”
At Camilla’s observation, Alois smiled.
“You figured it out that quickly? You’re right, the chef didn’t make these. They were actually made by an old woman who runs an orphanage in Mohnton. Her husband passed away, so now she manages it alone.”
However, the orphanage had become run-down over the years. Originally, it was a home where the elderly couple would simply pick up some children off the street out of sympathy to raise and nurture, but word of their kindness spread and soon there were more children than they could handle. They never had profit in mind. But, because of how many children there were, it was impossible to raise them all with their meager funds.
When she was at the end of their rope, Alois had offered his charity.
The old woman, however, refused to take a donation. If she received money in exchange for nothing, she said that it wouldn’t teach the children to respect the value of it. The children may face a harsh future once they leave the orphanage. However, she didn’t want them to fall into becoming beggars.
Therefore, Alois proposed to instead give the money in exchange for the old woman’s cookies. When he visited the orphanage to hand over the donation, he took the sweets for today’s tea party in return. That way, the money wasn’t being given freely. That was enough to persuade the old woman.
The cookie dough was kneaded with crushed nuts gathered from the forest near the orphanage. The old woman rolled the dough, whilst the young children shaped it into forms.
“So that’s why they were such odd shapes…”
Camilla pursed her lips as she stared at the cookie in her hand. None of them was a clean round form, but some of them had quite childlike shapes, looking like rabbits or dogs.
The orphanage’s little kitchen must have been in a real state that day. The children hustling and bustling, learning more about the value of money as they made cookies to sell to Alois. It’s hard to imagine throwing away cookies made like that. How crushed would those children be, if they saw their work simply tossed aside like garbage?
The work of those little chefs wasn’t just about taste or appearance. The fact that they had poured their heart and effort into it, that’s what gave it value.
“So, do you see what I mean?”
Alois smiled as he reached his hand out to the basket. Grabbing a mass of cookies, he chomped them all down at once. She can’t help but frown at his way of eating.
“Oh, I see,” Alois said, as if he realized something, as Camilla was lost for words.
“You’re quite unexpectedly meek at times, aren’t you?”
Alois’ eyes narrowed jovially as he scoffed down more biscuits. Although he didn’t make the sound, it was as if he were laughing at her. Camilla found that expression of his quite repugnant.
――By any chance, did I just get strung along…?
Impossible. Camilla shook the thought from her head. Just like his appearance suggests, he’s a dull and unintelligent man. He’s also a coward, any time Camilla raised her voice, he would shrink back and begin to tremble.
How could such a man ever manage to play Camilla for a fool?