Another turn down the promenade and back brought Ridgeway and Veath face to face with the old gentleman and the young lady, who were on the point of starting below. The Americans paused to let them pass, lifting their caps. The old gentleman, now eager and apparently more interested in life and its accompaniments, touched the vizor of his cap in response, and the young lady smiled faintly as she drew her skirts aside and passed before him.
“Did you ever see a smile like that?” cried Hugh, as the couple disappeared from view.
“Thousands,” answered his companion. “They’re common as women themselves. Any woman has a pretty smile when she wants it.”
“You haven’t a grain of sentiment, confound you.”
“They don’t teach sentiment on the farm, and there’s where I began this unappreciative existence of mine. But I am able to think a lot sometimes.”
“That’s about all a fellow has to do on a farm, isn’t it?”
“That and die, I believe.”
“And get married?”
“Naturally, in order to think more. A man has to think for two after he’s married, you see.”
“Quite sarcastic that. You don’t think much of women, I fancy.”
“Not in the plural.”
Captain Shadburn was nearing them on the way from the chart-house, and the young men accosted him, Veath inquiring:
“Captain, who is the tall old gentleman you were talking to forward awhile ago?”
“That is Lord Huntingford, going over to straighten out some complications for the Crown. He is a diplomat of the first water.”
“Where are these complications, may I ask?”
“Oh, in China, I think. He is hurrying across as fast as possible. He leaves the ship at Hong Kong, and nobody knows just what his mission is; that’s between him and the prime minister, of course. But, good-evening, gentlemen. I have a game of cribbage after dinner with his Lordship.” The captain hurried below.
“A real live lord,” said Veath. “The first I’ve seen.”
“China,” Hugh repeated. “I hope we may get to know them.”
MR. RIDGEWAY’S AMAZEMENT
At dinner Hugh was strangely exuberant, jesting gaily and exchanging rare witticisms with Veath, who also appeared immensely satisfied. As they left the saloon he said:
“Let’s take a turn on deck, Grace.”
“Won’t you include me?” asked Veath.
“Certainly,” answered Grace promptly.
“Be delighted,” echoed Hugh, swallowing as if it were an effort.
“I must get a wrap,” said Grace. “I won’t delay you more than five minutes.”
“I’ll get my overcoat and some cigars,” added Hugh.
“And I’ll write a short letter to post at Malta,” said Veath, and they separated.
A short while later, a steward passed Hugh’s stateroom, and he called to him to step to the next door and tell Miss Ridge that he was ready.