English Love Story
Love Letter Part 1
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I was always a little in awe of Great-aunt Stephina
Roos. Indeed, as children we were all frankly terrified
of her. The fact that she did not live with the family,
preferring her tiny cottage and solitude to the comfortable
but rather noisy household where we were brought up -
added to the respectful fear in which she was held.
We used to take turns to carry small delicacies which
my mother had made down from the big house to the little
cottage where Aunt Stephia and an old colored maid spent
their days. Old Tnate Sanna would open the door to the
rather frightened little messenger and would usher him
- or her - into the dark voor-kamer, where the shutters
were always closed to keep out the heat and the flies.
There we would wait while trembling but not altogether
She was a tiny little woman to inspire so much veneration.
She was always dressed in black, and her dark clothes
melted into the shadows of the voor-kamer and made her
look smaller than ever. But you feel it the moment she
entered. The feeling is something vital and strong and
somehow indestructible had come in with her. This was
despite the fact that she moved slowly and her voice was
sweet and soft.
She never embraced us. She would greet us and take out
hot little hands in her own beautiful cool one with blue
veins standing out on the back of it, as though the white
skin were almost too delicate to contain them.
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Tante Sanna would bring in dishes that comprises of very
sweet sticky candy or a great bowl of grapes or peaches
and Great-aunt Stephina would converse gravely about happenings
on the farm ,and, more rarely, of the outer world.
When we had finished our sweetmeats or fruit she would
accompany us to the stoep, bidding us goodbye and reminding
us to thank our mother for her gift and sending quaint,
old-fashioned messages to her and father. Then she would
turn and enter the house, closing the door behind so that
it became once more a place of mystery.
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 of our engagement
before I had confided in another living soul. 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 down in
South Africa. She became quite animated and chattered
away with him. She was somewhat disappointed on hearing
that we had decided to wait for two years before getting
married. However, when she learned that my father and
mother were both pleased with the arrangement, she seemed
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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,
she still looked so small and appealing that any man would
have wanted to protect her.
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