There was indeed a visitor at the drawing room.
It was my first time seeing this person, but my first impression of her was that she’s warm and gentle, like a village grandmother.
Although, she was dressed in quite a luxurious outfit to be regarded as just a common grandmother in some village.
“Duchess Valentino, it’s an honor to meet you.
My name is Cecil Pinerze.”
“Pinerze… from the province of Alerze”
I’m very glad that you recognized me.”
As we talked, I gathered that the guest was the mother of Baron Pinerze, who was the lord of the Alerze fief.
She came today to teach me painting.
It was none other than Theodore who invited her.
He had planned this since a week ago.
“…Why wasn’t I informed in advance”
His Grace wanted to surprise you.”
I wanted to ask why he had to go through this kind of trouble, but I didn’t say anything because I was in front of a guest.
And I still had to go through the charade of ‘a good couple’ in front of other people, so I endeavored to pull up the corners of my lips.
It wasn’t difficult to make a smile that looked natural.
An expression without any sincerity was much easier to make.
“You may call me Missus Pinerze, but to be honest, I use a different name as a painter.”
Cecil Pinerze’s words made me wonder, and so I asked.
She smiled, answering as though whispering a secret.
“My pseudonym as a painter is George Rennier.”
My eyes widened in surprise.
…Truly, my façade slipped as I was genuinely shocked.
George Rennier was a tremendously famous painter who had been active for two decades now.
And also the painter with my favorite style of painting.
Did Theodore know about that, so he invited her …But how
‘I never brought this up with him.’
…I decided to set aside the question for a while, instead focusing on the person in front of me in the meantime.
If I really wanted to know, then I would need to personally ask Theodore later.
“You must be surprised.
It’s only natural to react that way.
The painter ‘George Rennier’ is known as a man.”
Cecil Pinerze said this with a well-meaning smile.
Just as she said, George Rennier was known to the public as a male painter.
I also heard that he appeared as a man at his atelier and at various salons.
But the painter’s true identity was a noblewoman who had a kind and gentle impression like this…
Of course I couldn’t hide my surprise.
“It’s difficult for female artists to succeed in this field, so there are many female artists who disguise themselves as me.
I’m just one of them.”
In the field of art—especially with the fine arts, which was considered to be exclusive to male artists—it was difficult for women to show their talents.
Parents would assign their daughters art classes only to build upon their cultural knowledge, for the sake of becoming a good lady of the house she would marry into.
It was never to nurture her artistic abilities.
“Even now, I still dress up as a man whenever I engage in social activities.
Maybe George Rennier will be remembered as a male artist forever.”
Although she spoke with a rather bitter smile, she held herself with an air of dignity, which was becoming of her mature age at the twilight of her life.
It was the kind of dignity reserved for only adults who had to give up on the things they weren’t allowed to do in their youth, but did not lock themselves in despair—instead choosing to live in the reality they were given.
“I was very surprised to hear that you’re well-versed in painting, Duchess Valentino.
May I see the pieces that you’ve created”
“…Of course, but they’re not very good.
I just paint as a hobby…”
Cecil Pinerze let out a small chuckle, then replied to me.
“Many great things in the world began only as someone’s hobby, once upon a time.”
* * *
I showed Cecil Pinerze my paintings, and she expressed her appreciation of them.
Then, the situation naturally progressed, and our painting lesson began before I knew it.
I learned many things from her.
It was about five in the afternoon when she returned home.
That’s when I found out that the mage called Derrick was making sure that Cecil’s travels to and fro would be comfortable.
I was told that our next lesson would be in three days.
Cecil would be coming to the Valentino residence every three days to teach me.
Theodore, who planned all this, looked proud when I met him.
“…How did you know”
“What do you mean”
“That Cecil Pinerze is George Rennier.”
Theodore smiled and brushed back a stray lock of my hair, as it had gotten a little disheveled by the wind.
Biting my lower lip, I held back the urge to shake off his hand.
“My grandparents sponsored her as her patron a long time ago.
There’s a record of this in the Valentino family’s books, so I happened to know about it.”
If it’s during the time of Theodore’s grandparents, then…
Perhaps as Cecil remembered the relationship she had with them a long time ago and did not turn down Theodore’s request because of it, then Cecil must think of the Valentinos fondly.