CHAPTER I ITEMS NOT IN THE MANIFEST
"I think I shall enjoy this trip," purred Isobel Baring, nestling comfortably among the cushions of her deck chair. A steward was arranging tea for two at a small table. The Kansas, with placid hum of engines, was speeding evenly through an azure sea.
"I agree with that opinion most heartily, though, to be sure, so much depends on the weather," replied her friend, Elsie Maxwell, rising to pour out the tea. Already the brisk sea-breeze had kissed the Chilean pallor from Elsie's face, which had regained its English peach-bloom. Isobel Baring's complexion was tinged with the warmth of a pomegranate. At sea, even in the blue Pacific, she carried with her the suggestion of a tropical garden.
"I never gave a thought to the weather," purred Isobel again, as she subsided more deeply into the cushions.
"Let us hope such a blissful state of mind may be justified. But you know, dear, we may run into a dreadful gale before we reach the Straits."
"All the better!" she cried. "People tell me I am a most fascinating invalid. I look like a creamy orchid. And what luck to have a chum so disinterested as you where a lot of nice men are concerned! What have I done to deserve it? Because you are really charming, you know."
"Does that mean that you have already discovered a lot of nice men on board?"
Elsie handed her friend a cup of tea and a plate of toast.
"Naturally. While you were mooning over the lights and tints of the Andes, I kept an eye, both eyes in fact, on our compulsory acquaintances of the next three weeks. To begin with, there's the captain."
"He is good-looking, certainly. Somewhat reserved, I fancied."
"Reserved!" Isobel showed all her fine teeth in a smile.Incidentally, she took a satisfactory bite out of a square of toast."I 'll soon shake the reserve out of him. He is mine. You will seehim play pet dog long before we meet that terrible gale of yours."
"Isobel, you promised your father—"
"To look after my health during the voyage. Do you think that I intend only to sleep, eat, and read novels all the way to London? Then, indeed, I should be ill. But there is a French Comte on the ship. He is mine, too."
"You mean to find safety in numbers?"
"Oh, there are others. Of course, I am sure of my little Count. He twisted his mustache with such an air when I skidded past him in the companionway."
Elsie bent forward to give the chatterer another cup of tea.
"And you promised to read Molière at least two hours daily!" she sighed good-humoredly. Even the most sensible people, and Elsie was very sensible, begin a long voyage with idiotic programs of work to be done.
"I mean to substitute a live Frenchman for a dead one—that is all. And I am sure Monsieur le Comte Edouard de Poincilit will do our French far more good than 'Les Fourberies de Scapin.'"
"Am I to be included in the lessons? And you actually know the man's name already?"
"Read it on his luggage, dear girl. He has such a lot. See if he doesn't wear three different colored shirts for breakfast, lunch, and tea....