The couple arousing the interest of the young men stood near the forward end of the deck-house. The young woman’s face was beaming with an inspiration awakened by the singers. Her companion, tall, gray and unimpressionable, listened as if through coercion and not for pleasure. His lean face, red with apoplectic hues, grim with the wrinkles of three score years or more, showed clear signs of annoyance. The thin gray moustache was impatiently gnawed, first on one side and then on the other. Then the military streak of gray that bristled forth as an imperial was pushed upward and between the lips by bony fingers. He was a picture of dutiful rebellion, Immaculately dressed was he, and distinguished from the soles of his pointed shoes to the beak of his natty cap. A light colored newmarket of the most fashionable cut was buttoned closely about his thin figure.
The young woman was not tall, nor was she short; she was of that indefinite height known as medium. Her long green coat fitted her snugly and perfectly; a cap of the same material was perched jauntily upon her dark hair. The frolicking wind had torn several strands from beneath the cap, and despite the efforts of her gloved fingers, they whipped and fluttered in tantalizing confusion. In the dimming afternoon the Americans could see that she was exquisitely beautiful. They could see the big dark eyes, almost timid in the hiding places beyond the heavy fringing lashes. Her dark hair threw the rich face into clear relief,—fresh, bright, eager. The men were not close enough to observe with minuteness its features, but its brilliancy was sufficient to excite even marvelling admiration. It was one of those faces at which one could look for ever and still feel there was a charm about it he had not caught.
“I’ve never seen such a face before,” again murmured Ridgeway.
“Tastes differ,” said Veath. “Now, if you’ll pardon me, I think Miss Ridge is the more beautiful. She is taller and has better style. Besides, I like fair women. What say?” The question was prompted by the muttered oath that came from Hugh.
“Nothing at all,” he almost snarled. “Say, Veath, don’t always be talking to me about my sister,” he finally jerked out, barely able to confine himself to this moderately sensible abjuration while his brain was seething with other and stronger expressions.
“I beg your pardon, Ridge; I did not know that I talked very much about her.” There was a brief silence and then he continued: “Have a fresh cigar, old man.” Hugh took the cigar ungraciously, ashamed of his petulance.
By this time the early shades of night had begun to settle and the figures along the deck were growing faint in the shadows. Here and there sailors began to light the deck lamps; many of the passengers went below to avoid the coming chill. In her stateroom Grace was just writing: “For over a week we have been sailing under British colors, we good Americans, Hugh and I,—and I may add, Mr. Veath.”