I find it difficult, now, to recapture my first impression of that meeting. About the
woman, hesitating before me, there was something unexpected, something
wholly unfamiliar. She belonged to a type with which I was not acquainted. Nor
was it wonderful that she should strike me in this fashion, since my wanderings,
although fairly extensive, had never included the West Indies, nor had I been to
Spain; and this girl --I could have sworn that she was under twenty--was one of
those rare beauties, a golden Spaniard.
That she was not purely Spanish I learned later.
She was small, and girlishly slight, with slender ankles and exquisite little feet;
indeed I think she had the tiniest feet of any woman I had ever met. She wore a
sort of white pinafore over her dress, and her arms, which were bare because of
the short sleeves of her frock, were of a child-like roundness, whilst her creamy
skin was touched with a faint tinge of bronze, as though, I remember thinking, it
had absorbed and retained something of the Southern sunshine. She had the
swaying carriage which usually belongs to a tall woman, and her head and neck
were Grecian in poise.
Her hair, which was of a curious dull gold colour, presented a mass of thick, tight
curls, and her beauty was of that unusual character which makes a Cleopatra a
subject of deathless debate. What I mean to say is this: whilst no man could have
denied, for instance, that Val Beverley was a charmingly pretty woman, nine
critics out of ten must have failed to classify this golden Spaniard correctly or
justly. Her complexion was peach-like in the Oriental sense, that strange hint of
gold underlying the delicate skin, and her dark blue eyes were shaded by really
wonderful silken lashes.
Emotion had the effect of enlarging the pupils, a phenomenon rarely met with, so
that now as she entered the room and found a stranger present they seemed to
be rather black than blue.
Her embarrassment was acute, and I think she would have retired without
"Ysola," said Colin Camber, regarding her with a look curiously compounded of
sorrow and pride, "allow me to present Mr. Malcolm Knox, who has honoured us
with a visit."
He turned to me.
"Mr. Knox," he said, "it gives me great pleasure that you should meet my wife."
Perhaps I had expected this, indeed, subconsciously, I think I had. Nevertheless,
at the words "my wife" I felt that I started. The analogy with Edgar Allan Poe was
As Mrs. Camber extended her hand with a sort of appealing timidity, it appeared
to me that she felt herself to be intruding. The expression in her beautiful eyes
when she glanced at her husband could only be described as one of adoration;
and whilst it was impossible to doubt his love for her, I wondered if his colossal