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There are exceptions, we suppose, to almost every rule, and this particular Friday towards the end of June was such an exception. It was fine. Not a cloud flecked the sun-lit sky. A glorious blue expanse hung over a sea almost as blue, but criss-crossed in all directions by the curling white tops of tiny wavelets, all that remained to remind one of the atrocious weather which had prevailed. For the North Sea, Europe, Great Britain, everywhere in fact, had been treated to a succession of violent gales, to a continuous deluge of rain, to bitter hail, and squalls of snow in some parts. And here and now, off the mouth of the river Elbe the sun shone, the sky was a delight, a balmy breeze fanned the cheeks of the passengers crowding the decks of the Hamburg-Amerika liner.
“What a change! I began to wonder whether there was such a season as summer. Have a cigar?”
Mr. Andrew Provost drew from an inner pocket of his jacket a silver-mounted case, pulled the lid off and offered one of the contents to his nephew.
“Not that one, Joe,” he said, as the young man beside him placed his long fingers on one of the weeds. “It’s Dutch. Not that they’re not good smokes; I like ‘em sometimes. But give me a Havana, and offer one to your friends. There! That one! You’ll like it.”
“Thanks! I know ‘em, Uncle. You always give me your best.”
There was a smile on the handsome face of the young man as he obeyed the directions of his Uncle Andrew. It was obvious indeed from their smiles, the manner in which they paced the deck arm in arm, and from the intimacy of their conversation, that the two were on the best of terms. And why not? They were related, as we have stated. Then they had for long been separated. Mr. Andrew Provost had not always been the comfortable-looking individual he now appeared. For prosperous and comfortable he looked without a doubt. Florid and sunburned, with white hair and moustache which made his complexion seem to be even more ruddy, he was tall, and slight, and gracefully if not robustly built. There was something of a military air about him, and we whisper the truth when we say that he was often enough taken for an old soldier, much to his own secret gratification. Dark grey eyes looked out genially from a smiling face upon the world and his fellows. His forehead was hardly seamed. Care, in fact, seemed to have failed in its effort to reach him, or, more likely perhaps, his genial, plucky nature had caused it to fall easily from his shoulders. For the rest he was exceedingly well groomed, and looked what he was, a prosperous, healthy gentleman.
“But it wasn’t always like that, Joe,” he told his companion, as they paced the deck, basking in the sun. “Your Uncle Andrew wasn’t always the stylish dog he looks now. Not by a long way. I’ve been on my beam ends.”
“Know what that means?”
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