Five minutes after the gong sounded I walked into the cabin. Miss Browne, Captain Watkins of the freighter, and half a dozen men were already at the table. I slid unobtrusively into the one vacant place, fortunately remote from the captain, who glared at me savagely, as though still embittered by the recollection of my aunt’s fits.
“Gentlemen,” said Miss Browne in icy tones, “Miss Virginia Harding.”
Two of the men rose, the others stared and ducked. Except for Miss Browne and the captain, I had received on coming aboard only the most blurred impression of my fellow-voyagers. I remembered them merely as a composite of khaki and cork helmets and astounded staring faces. But I felt that as the abetters of Miss Browne a hostile and sinister atmosphere enveloped them all.
Being thus in the camp of the enemy, I sat down in silence and devoted myself to my soup. The majority of my companions did likewise—audibly. But presently I heard a voice at my left:
“I say, what a jolly good sailor you seem to be—pity your aunt’s not!”
I looked up and saw Apollo sitting beside me. Or rather, shall I say a young man who might have walked straight out of an advertisement for a ready-made clothing house, so ideal and impossible was his beauty. He was very tall—I had to tilt my chin quite painfully to look up at him—and from the loose collar of his silk shirt his throat rose like a column. His skin was a beautiful clear pink and white just tinged with tan—like a meringue that has been in the oven for two minutes exactly. He had a straight, chiseled profile and his hair was thick and chestnut and wavy and he had clear sea-gray eyes. To give him at once his full name and titles, he was the Honorable Cuthbert Patrick Ruthmore Vane, of High Staunton Manor, Kent, England. But as I was ignorant of this, I can truthfully say that his looks stunned me purely on their own merits.
Outwardly calm, I replied, “Yes, its too bad, but then who ever dreamed that Aunt Jane would go adventuring at her time of life? I thought nobody over the age of thirteen, and then boys, ever went treasure-hunting.”