The old man looked round with his “starboard eye,” and recognised me instantly.
“God bless my sowl,” he cried, “if it isn’t the lil’ missy! Well, well! Well, well! And she’s a woman grown! A real lady too! My gracious; yes,” he said, after a second and longer look, “and there hasn’t been the match of her on this island since they laid her mother under the sod!”
I wanted to ask him a hundred questions, but Aunt Bridget, who had been watching from a window, called from the house to say she was “mashing” a cup of tea for me, so I returned to the drawing-room where (my father being busy with his letters in the library) Betsy Beauty talked for half an hour about Lord Raa, his good looks, distinguished manners and general accomplishments.
“But aren’t you just dying to see him?” she said.
I saw him the following morning.
I was sitting in my own room, writing to the Reverend Mother, to tell her of my return home, when I heard the toot of a horn and raising my eyes saw a motor-car coming up the drive. It contained three gentlemen, one of them wore goggles and carried a silver-haired terrier on his knees.
A little later Nessy MacLeod came to tell me that Lord Raa and his party had arrived and I was wanted immediately.
I went downstairs hesitatingly, with a haunting sense of coming trouble. Reaching the door of the drawing-room I saw my intended husband for the first time—there being nothing in his appearance to awaken in me the memory of ever having seen him before.
He was on the hearthrug in front of the fire, talking to Betsy Beauty, who was laughing immoderately. To get a better look at him, and at the same time to compose myself, I stopped for a moment to speak to the three gentlemen (the two lawyers and Lord Raa’s trustee or guardian) who were standing with my father in the middle of the floor.
He was undoubtedly well-dressed and had a certain air of breeding, but even to my girlish eyes he betrayed at that first sight the character of a man who had lived an irregular, perhaps a dissipated life.
His face was pale, almost puffy, his grey eyes were slow and heavy, his moustache was dark and small, his hair was thin over his forehead, and he had a general appearance of being much older than his years, which I knew to be thirty-three.
His manners, when I approached him, were courteous and gentle, almost playful and indulgent, but through all their softness there pierced a certain hardness, not to say brutality, which I afterwards learned (when life had had its tug at me) to associate with a man who has spent much of his time among women of loose character.
Betsy Beauty made a great matter of introducing us; but in a drawling voice, and with a certain play of humour, he told her it was quite unnecessary, since we were very old friends, having made each other’s acquaintance as far back as ten years ago, when I was the prettiest little woman in the world, he remembered, though perhaps my manners were not quite cordial.