“Friends all, I have something to tell you.”
Everybody except myself looked up and listened, though everybody knew what was coming.
“We’ve had a stiff tussle in the library this afternoon, but everything is settled satisfactory—and the marriage is as good as made.”
There was a chorus of congratulations for me, and a few for his lordship, and then my father said again:
“Of course there’ll be deeds to draw up, and I want things done correct, even if it costs me a bit of money. But we’ve only one thing more to fix up to-day, and then we’re through—the wedding. When is it to come off?”
An appeal was made to me, but I felt it was only formal, so I glanced across to Lord Raa without speaking.
“Come now,” said my father, looking from one to the other. “The clean cut is the short cut, you know, and when I’m sot on doing a thing, I can’t take rest till it’s done. What do you say to this day next month?”
I bowed and my intended husband, in his languid way, said:
A few minutes afterwards the motor was ordered round, and the gentlemen prepared to go. Then the silver-haired terrier was missed, and for the first time that day his lordship betrayed a vivid interest, telling us its price and pedigree and how much he would give rather than lose it. But at the last moment Tommy appeared with the dog in his arms and dropped it into the car, whereupon my intended husband thanked him effusively.
“Yes,” said Tommy, “I thought you set store by that, sir.”
At the next moment the car was gone.
“Well, you are a lucky girl,” said Betsy Beauty; and Aunt Bridget began to take credit to herself for all that had come to pass, and to indicate the methods by which she meant to manage Castle Raa as soon as ever I became mistress of it.
Thus in my youth, my helplessness, my ignorance, and my inexperience I became engaged to the man who had been found and courted for me. If I acquiesced, I had certainly not been consulted. My father had not consulted me. My intended husband had not consulted me. Nobody consulted me. I am not even sure that I thought anybody was under any obligation to consult me. Love had not spoken to me, sex was still asleep in me, and my marriage was arranged before my deeper nature knew what was being done.
The next weeks were full of hurry, hubbub and perturbation. Our house was turned upside down. Milliners, sewing-maids and dressmakers were working day and night. Flowers, feathers and silk remnants were flowing like sea-wrack into every room. Orders were given, orders were retracted and given again, and then again retracted.
Such flying up and down stairs! Everybody so breathless! Everybody so happy! Every face wearing a smile! Every tongue rippling with laughter! The big grey mansion which used to seem so chill and cold felt for the first time like a house of joy.