“Maybe he thinks he’s lucky to be travelling alone.”
“That’s very pretty, sir. Would you rather be travelling alone?”
“Not at all. I’m only saying what he may think. The poor devil may be married, you know.”
“Oh, do you really think so?” cried she.
“He looks a little subdued.”
“That’s because he’s seasick.”
“But, to return to our own troubles—you think, then, we would better adopt Mr. Veath for the voyage and break the news to him impressively after the deed is done?”
“I think so, don’t you? It is sure to be embarrassing, any way you put it, isn’t it?” she asked, laughing nervously.
“Oh, I don’t know,” he replied airily. “People of our nerve should not be embarrassed by anything on earth.” He arose and assisted her to her feet. Then, slipping his arm through hers, he started for the companionway. “The prospect of being brother and sister for ten thousand miles is rather obnoxious to me,” he went on. She looked at him in surprise and then blushed faintly. As they descended the steps, he put his arm around her shoulder. At the bottom he stopped and glanced around apprehensively, something like alarm appearing in his face. His arm slipped from her shoulder to her waist and contracted suddenly.
“What is the matter, Hugh?” she whispered, looking quickly about as if expecting a calamity.
“Is any one in sight?” he demanded anxiously.
“I don’t see a soul,” she answered.
“Then I’m going to give up the brother act for a moment or two. This is a good, sequestered spot, and I’m going to kiss you.” And he did so more than once. “That’s the first chance I’ve had to kiss you since we came aboard. What an outrage it is that brothers cannot be more attentive to their own sisters than to other men’s sisters.”
“It seems to be customary for brothers to neglect their sisters,” she suggested demurely.
“A brother who neglects his sister ought to be horsewhipped,” declared he.
“Amen to that. They use the cat-o’-nine-tails on board ship, you must remember,” she said, smiling.
Shortly afterward he dropped in to see Veath and was welcomed gladly. He was lying in his berth, and Hugh sent for a bottle of his champagne. Two glasses of the wine put new life into him and something of a sparkle flew to his dull eyes, as if cast there by the bubbling liquor. His tongue loosened a little, Hugh finding him to be a bright, sensible fellow, somewhat ignorant of the ways of the world, but entirely capable of taking care of himself. Moreover, with the renewed vigor displaying itself, he was far better looking than his new acquaintance had thought. His blue eyes, keen and clear, appealed to Hugh’s love for straightforwardness; his wide mouth bespoke firmness, good nature, and the full ability to enjoy the humorous side of things. The lines about his clean-cut, beardless face were a trifle deep, and there was a network of those tiny wrinkles which belong to men of forty-five and not to those of twenty-eight.