Above all things, how could he comfort the unfortunate man? There was no word of encouragement, no word of hope to be given. The deepest pity he had ever felt went out to Henry Veath; the greatest remorse he had ever known stung his soul. Should he tell Veath the truth? Could he do it?
“Do you see my position?” asked Veath steadily, after a long silence. “I could never hope to provide for her as she has been accustomed to living, and I have too much pride to allow my wife to live other than the way in which I would have to live.”
“She may not love you,” said Hugh, suddenly hopeful.
“But I could win her love. I’m sure I could, Hugh. Even though she is pledged to another man, I could love her so powerfully that a new love would be inspired in her for me. You don’t know how I love her. Hugh, you are not angry with me for having told you this?”
“Angry? Great Heavens, no! I’m heartbroken over it,” cried Hugh. There were traces of tears in his eyes.
“You know how hopeless it is for me,” went on Veath, “and I hope you will remember that I have been honest and plain with you. Before we part in Manila I may tell her, but that is all. I believe I should like to have her know that I love her. She can’t think badly of me for it, I’m sure.”
Hugh did not answer. He arose and silently grasped the hand of the other, who also had conic to his feet.
“I would to God that I could call you brother,” said he.
“Don’t say it! It is too wild an improbability,” cried Veath.
“Yes; it is more than that: it is an impossibility.”
“If in the end I should conclude to tell Miss Ridge of my feelings, will you tell me now that I may do so with your permission?”
“But there is no hope,” cried Hugh miserably.
“I do not ask for hope. I shall not ask her to love me or to be my wife. I may want to tell her that I love her, that’s all. You can have no objection to that, Hugh.”
“I have no objection,” murmured Ridgeway, a chill striking deep into his heart.
ONE LOVE AGAINST ANOTHER
Ridgeway passed another sleepless night. Had not Veath said he could win her love, even though it were pledged to another? The thought gave birth to a fear that he was not perfectly sure of her love, and that it might turn to Henry Veath, after all. In the early morning hours, between snatches of sleep, he decided to ask Lady Huntingford’s advice, after explaining to her the dilemma in full. He would also tell Grace of Veath’s declaration, putting her on guard. Breakfast time found the sea heavy and the ship rolling considerably, but at least three people gave slight notice to the weather. Hugh was sober and morose; Veath was preoccupied and unnatural; Grace was restless and uneasy. Lady Huntingford, who came in while they were eating, observed