At first Grace demurred to this plan, which he necessarily proposed as his own, holding that it would be absolutely cruel to desert Veath at the last minute. Finally she agreed to the compromise and kissed him with tears in her eyes.
Days passed and the strain grew more tense than ever. The Tempest Queen was nearing the Archipelago, after the stops at Penang and Singapore. At Hong Kong the Manila-bound passengers were to be transferred to one of the small China Sea steamers. The weather had been rough and ugly for many days. Lady Huntingford had not left her stateroom in two days. Grace was with her a greater portion of the time, ministering to her wants gently and untiringly. Ridgeway and Veath, anxious and troubled, wandered aimlessly about the ship, smoking cigar after cigar, praying for a cessation of the ugly weather. Finally, all passengers were peremptorily forbidden the deck. The skilled sailors were in constant danger of being washed overboard. Captain Shadburn admitted that they were being driven from their course by the fury of the typhoon. Secretly he feared that the Queen might rush upon a reef at night.
Dinner on the second violent evening was a sombre affair. Lady Huntingford, pale, sweet and wan, made her appearance with Grace, occupying Veath’s seat, that gentleman moving to the next chair, its original occupant being confined to his berth. Lord Huntingford, austere and imperturbable, entered some time before his wife and purposely ignored her when she came in.
As the party arose from the table, a heavy lurch of the boat threw Grace headlong into Veath’s arms. By a superhuman effort he managed to keep his feet. He smiled down at her; but there was something so insistent in the smile that it troubled her.
“It’s an ill wind that blows no good,” said Veath softly.
“What blows well for one may blow ill for another,” she responded a little coldly, though she did not refuse the proffered arm; and they staggered toward the doorway.
As they passed into the main saloon he suddenly asked her if she would let him speak to her of a matter that long had been on his mind. She did not look him in the face, but she knew it was white and determined. The time had come when he was to tell her that he loved her. He begged for a moment’s time and gained her unspoken permission. They sank to a couch near the stairway, Grace giving a last helpless, hopeless glance at Hugh as he and his companion passed from the apartment.