AsIgrewolderIfound,rathertomysurprise,thatIhadbecomegenuinelyfondofmyaloofoldgreat-aunt.ButtothisdayIdonotknowwhatstrangeimpulsemademetakeGeorgetoseeherandtotellher,beforeIhadconfidedinanotherlivingso...As I grew older I found, rather to my surprise, that I had become genuinely fond of my aloof old great-aunt. But to this day I do not know what strange impulse made me take George to see her and to tell her, before I had confided in another living soul, of our engagement. To my astonishment, she was delighted.
"An Englishman,"she exclaimed."But that is splendid, splendid. And you,"she turned to George,"you are making your home in this country? You do not intend to return to England just yet?"
She seemed relieved when she heard that George had bought a farm near our own farm and intended to settle in South Africa. She became quite animated, and chattered away to him.
After that I would often slip away to the little cottage by the mealie lands. Once she was somewhat disappointed on hearing that we had decided to wait for two years before getting married, but when she learned that my father and mother were both pleased with the match she seemed reassured.
Still, she often appeared anxious about my love affair, and would ask questions that seemed to me strange, almost as though she feared that something would happen to destroy my romance. But I was quite unprepared for her outburst when I mentioned that George thought of paying a lightning visit to England before we were married."He must not do it,"she cried."Ina, you must not let him go. Promise me you will prevent him."she was trembling all over. I did what I could to console her, but she looked so tired and pale that I persuaded her to go to her room and rest, promising to return the next day.
When I arrived I found her sitting on the stoep. She looked lonely and pathetic, and for the first time I wondered why no man had ever taken her and looked after her and loved her. Mother had told me that Great-aunt Stephina had been lovely as a young girl, and although no trace of that beauty remained, except perhaps in her brown eyes, yet she looked so small and appealing that any man, one felt, would have wanted to protect her.