Then taking me aside he made his loud voice as low as he could and said:
“What’s this your Aunt Bridget tells me? Nine months married and no sign yet? Tut, tut! That won’t do, gel, that won’t do.”
I tried to tell him not to spend money on the Castle if he intended to do so in expectation of an heir, but my heart was in my mouth and what I really said I do not know. I only know that my father looked at me for a moment as if perplexed, and then burst into laughter.
“I see! I see!” he said. “It’s a doctor you want. I must send Conrad to put a sight on you. It’ll be all right, gel, it’ll be all right! Your mother was like that when you were coming.”
As we returned to the hall Betsy Beauty whispered that she was surprised Mr. Eastcliff had married, but she heard from Madame that we were to have a house-party soon, and she hoped I would not forget her.
Then Aunt Bridget, who had been eyeing Alma darkly, asked me who and what she was and where she came from, whereupon I (trying to put the best face on things) explained that she was the daughter of a rich New York banker. After that Aunt Bridget’s countenance cleared perceptibly and she said:
“Ah, yes, of course! I thought she had a quality toss with her.”
The two motor-cars had been drawn up to the door, and the two parties had taken their seats in them when my father, looking about him, said to my husband:
“Your garden is as rough as a thornbush, son-in-law. I must send Tommy the Mate to smarten it up a bit. So long! So long!”
At the next moment they were gone, and I was looking longingly after them. God knows my father’s house had never been more than a stepmother’s home to me, but at that moment I yearned to return to it and felt like a child who was being left behind at school.
What had I gained, by running away from London? Nothing at all. Already I knew I had brought my hopeless passion with me.
And now I was alone.
Next day Lady Margaret came to my room to say good-bye, telling me she had only stayed at Castle Raa to keep house and make ready for me, and must now return to her own home, which was in London.
I was sorry, for my heart had warmed to her, and when I stood at the door and saw her drive off with my husband to catch the afternoon steamer, I felt I had lost both sympathy and protection.
Alma’s feelings were less troubled, and as we turned back into the house I could see that she was saying to herself:
“Thank goodness, she’s gone away.”
A day or two later Doctor Conrad came, according to my father’s instructions, and I was glad to see his close-cropped iron-grey head coming up the stairs towards my room.
Naturally our first conversation was about Martin, who had written to tell his parents of our meeting in London and to announce his intended visit. It was all very exciting, and now his mother was working morning and night at the old cottage, to prepare for the arrival of her son. Such scrubbing and scouring! Such taking up of carpets and laying them down again, as if the darling old thing were expecting a prince!