The elopers found their chairs and joined the long line of spectators. Hugh glanced admiringly at Grace now and then. Her cheeks were warm and glowing, her eyes were bright and flashing with excitement, her whole being seemed charged with animation.
The wan-faced stranger followed them on deck a few minutes later. His eyes were riveted on a chair nearby and his long body moved swiftly toward it. Then came a deep roll, the deck seemed to throw itself in the air, and, with a startled look, he plunged headlong toward Miss Vernon’s chair.
His knee struck the chair, but he managed to throw his body to one side. He went driving against the deck-house, sinking in a heap. Miss Vernon gave a little shriek of alarm and pity, and Ridgeway sprang to the side of the fallen man, assisting him to his feet. The stranger’s face was drawn with momentary pain and his eyes were dazed.
“Pardon me,” he murmured. “I am so very awkward. Have I hurt you?”
“Not in the least,” cried she. “But I am afraid you are hurt. See! There is blood on your forehead.” She instantly extended her handkerchief, and he accepted it in a bewildered sort of a way, placing it to his forehead, where a tiny stream of blood was showing itself.
“A piece of court plaster will stop the flow,” said Hugh critically, and at once produced the article from his capacious pocket-book. Grace immediately appropriated it and asked for his knife.
“You are very good,” said the stranger, again pressing the handkerchief to his head. The act revealed to him the fact that he was using her handkerchief for the purpose, soiling it, perhaps. His face flushed deeply and an embarrassed gleam came to his eyes. “Why, I am using your handkerchief. I assure you I did not know what I was doing when I took it from you. Have I ruined it?”
Miss Vernon laughed at his concern and her face brightened considerably. As she looked into his clear blue eyes and his square, firm face she observed for the first time that he was quite a handsome fellow.
“It won’t soil it at all,” she said.
“But it was thoughtless, even rude of me, to take yours when I had my own. I am so sorry.”
“Do you think this will be large enough, Hugh?” she asked, holding up a piece of black court plaster. The stranger laughed.
“If the cut is as big as that I’d better consult a surgeon,” he said. “About one-tenth of that, I should say.”
“All right,” she said cheerfully. “It is your wound.”
“But you are the doctor,” he protested.
“I dare say it is too big to look well. People might think you were dynamited. Does it pain you?” she asked solicitously. For an instant their eyes looked steadily, unwaveringly, into each other,—one of those odd, involuntary searches which no one can explain and which never happen but once to the same people.
“Not at all,” he replied, glancing out over the tumbling waves with a look which proved they were strange to him. Hugh dashed away and soon returned with a glass of brandy, which the stranger swallowed meekly and not very gracefully. Then he sat very still while Grace applied the court-plaster to the little gash at the apex of a rapidly rising lump.