There was a party, a ball at the castle in April of the year I turned sixteen. My first ball! I went to London with Mrs. Davidson my governess and bought my first pair of high heel shoes, three-inch Bally black suede with peek-a boo toes. The seamstress came to the castle to measure me for my first gown that she ordered from Paris. I spent two months in fittings and practice walking up and down, back and forth the hallway upstairs in those damn shoes and up and down the stairway to the foyer below.
“Look up, never down. Lift your chin, shoulders back, and smile confidently,” said Mrs. Davidson over and over from her position in the comfortable chair at the end of the hallway. “Keep the book steady. Don’t wobble. Glide. Glide.” Like a metronome she recited the phrases again and again, as I stumbled, then tromped, and finally – glided up the hallway and down the stairs!!
In preparation for the night of the ball I had drawn up a battle plan that would make Patton proud. I was leaving nothing to chance. I needed him to see I was not a child any longer; alright still not old enough for him to consider romantically, but no longer a child.
I had called everyone together in a meeting. After securing their co-operation, I assigned positions and tasks. Dr. Hogan, Dr. Chang, and Sir Angus Campbell were to secure him at the doorway just inside the foyer, while I made my entrance from upstairs. After engaging him in conversation, they were to watch for the sign from Mabel the maid who would be collecting the coats and wraps at the door. She would be signaled by Maise the upstairs maid who would ring the bell for the dumb waiter. Once I started my walk to the staircase, the men were to turn him facing the staircase.
The staircase in the Castle Dunvegan is one of those grand affairs of stone. It runs along the side of the entry wall starting at the width of five feet and gradually widening each step until the last step as you enter the foyer is twelve feet across. Once you commit yourself to the middle of the case there is no banister for support.
My gown was emerald green silk with a satin bodice and darker green underskirt. It came off one shoulder, cinched at the waist and opened out into a heavy bell skirt. It floated when I walked. I had never felt so beautiful or so terrified. What if I stumbled? What if I fell?! I could feel the silk against my skin, cool and sliding with each step. The weight of my hair felt odd so high on my head, like a piled up bit of laundry. I was too chicken to have my ears pierced, so I had the heavy clip on emeralds that Van Cleefs had sent from London. They were drop earring with just enough dangle to refract the light from the overhead chandeliers.