“It does seem silly to stay below on a night like this. Shall we sit here?” She indicated two vacant chairs well forward. The young lady scorned a steamer rug, so he sat beside her, conscious that, despite her charming presence, he was beginning to feel the air keenly. But he could not admit it to this slight Englishwoman.
For half an hour or more they sat there, finding conversation easy, strangely interesting to two persons who had nothing whatsoever in common. He was charmed, delighted with this vivacious girl. And yet something mournful seemed to shade the brilliant face now and then. It did not come and go, moreover, for the frank, open beauty was always the same; it was revealed to him only at intervals. Perhaps he saw it in her dark, tender eyes—he could not tell. He saw Henry Veath pacing the deck, smoking and—alone. Hugh’s heart swelled gladly and he spoke quite cheerily to Veath as that gentleman sauntered past.
“Now, that is Mr. Veath, isn’t it?” demanded his fair companion.
“Yes; do you think we should be mistaken for each other?”
“Oh, dear, no, now that I know you apart. You are utterly unlike, except in height. How broad he is! Hasn’t he a wonderful back?” she cried, admiring the tall, straight figure of the walker.
“He got that on the farm.”
“It is worth a farm to have shoulders like his, I should say. You must introduce Mr. Veath to me.”
Hugh looked at the moon very thoughtfully for a few moments and then, as if remembering, said that he would be happy to do so, and was sure that Veath would be even happier.
At this moment the tall, lank form of Lord Huntingford approached. He was peering intently at the people in the chairs as he passed them, plainly searching for some one.
“There is Lord Huntingford looking for you,” said Hugh, rising. He saw a trace of annoyance in her face as she also arose. “I overheard him telling the captain that Lady Huntingford—your mother—plays a miserable game of crib.”
She started and turned sharply upon him.
“My mother, Mr. Ridge?” she said slowly.
“Yes; your father was guying Captain Shadburn about his game, you know.”
The look of wonder in her eyes increased; she passed her hand across her brow and then through her hair in evident perplexity, all the while staring at his face. There was a tinge of suspicion in her voice when she spoke.
“Mr. Ridge, don’t you know?”
“You surely know that I am not Lord Huntingford’s—”
“You don’t mean to say that you are not his daughter,” gasped Hugh, dubious as to her meaning.
“I am Lady Huntingford.”
Hugh, too dumbfounded to speak, could do no more than doff his cap as she took the arm of the gray lord and softly said to him:
“Good-night, Mr. Ridge.”