The “Virginia Dare” was a beautiful boat, and the weather was perfect—just the weather for a cruise in Southern waters. The company were all friends of Keith; and Keith found himself sailing in Summer seas, with Summer airs breathing about him. Keith was at his best. He was richly tanned by exposure, and as hard as a nail from work in the open air. Command of men had given him that calm assurance which is the mark of the captain. Ambition—ambition to be, not merely to possess—was once more calling to him with her inspiring voice, and as he hearkened his face grew more and more distinguished. Providence, indeed, or Grinnell Rhodes was working his way, and it seemed to him—he admitted it with a pang of contempt for himself at the admission—that Mrs. Lancaster was at least acquiescent in their hands. Morning after morning they sat together in the shadow of the sail, and evening after evening together watched the moon with an ever-rounder golden circle steal up the cloudless sky. Keith was pleased to find how much interested he was becoming. Each day he admired her more and more; and each day he found her sweeter than she had been before. Once or twice she spoke to him of Lois Huntington, but each time she mentioned her, Keith turned the subject. She said that they had expected to have her join them; but she could not leave her aunt.
“I hear she is engaged,” said Keith.
“Yes, I heard that. I do not believe it. Whom did you hear it from?”
“So did I.”
THE OLD IDEAL
One evening they sat on deck. Alice Lancaster had never appeared so sweet. It happened that Mrs. Rhodes had a headache and was down below, and Rhodes declared that he had some writing to do. So Mrs. Lancaster and Keith had the deck to themselves.
They had been sailing for weeks among emerald isles and through waters as blue as heaven. Even the “still-vex’d Bermoothes” had lent them their gentlest airs.
They had left the Indies and were now approaching the American shore. Their cruise was almost at an end, and possibly a little sadness had crept over them both. As she had learned more and more of his life and more and more of his character, she had found herself ready to give up everything for him if he only gave her what she craved. But one thing had made itself plain to Alice: Keith was not in love with her as she knew he could be in love. If he were in love, it was with an ideal. And her woman’s intuition told her that she was not that ideal.