It was a calm southern night, with a silver moon shining serenely in a cloudless sky, and over the glittering expanse of ocean steamed the P. and O.'s vessel "Neptune" on her way from Brindisi to Malta. Every revolution of her powerful engines sent her plunging through the blue waters, with the waves breaking in tumbling masses of white foam from her towering sides. The passengers, numbering about three hundred, were all in high spirits, having had a most delightful voyage from Australia, and were looking forward, with pleasure, to their arrival at Valletta on the morrow. Can there be anything in the world more pleasant than sea life on a steamship with jolly people? Anyone, who is a good sailor, will answer "No," though perhaps Ulysses, who travelled over these same waters, might not agree, but then the wandering Greek had not a P. and O. steamer at his command. On this charming night a dance was in progress on the hurricane deck, and the immense area had been draped with brilliantly coloured flags, thus turning it into an admirable ball-room. Miss Kate Lester, the belle of the ship,--a position she knew she occupied, and, by the way took full advantage of all benefits to be derived therefrom,--was the pianist, and was playing the "Venetia Valse," to which a number of young people were dancing. The white dresses of the ladies, the darker costumes of the men, and the vivid tints of the flags, all seen under the powerful radiance of the electric lights, made up a very pretty picture. Ronald Monteith thought so, at all events--and Mr. Monteith was a very good judge of beauty, especially if it were feminine. He leaned lazily against the bulwarks and surveyed the festive scene with a smile on his handsome face, but--Joseph like--took no notice of the many glances he received from bright eyes. Tall and sinewy, with fair hair and mustaches, blue eyes, and a skin bronzed by exposure to the hot southern sun, Monteith was decidedly good-looking, and by no means undervalued his personal appearance. His father was a wealthy Australian squatter, who owned large stations in the Riverina District, and, being a liberal-minded and liberal-handed man, had sent his son forth to see the world. Master Ronald, nothing loth, departed with a goodly supply of money, several letters of introduction, and a huge capacity of enjoyment; so, as can easily be seen, this lucky young man's lines were cast in pleasant places. There were lots of pretty girls on board who would have liked to marry him, nevertheless, his highness threw his handkerchief to none of them, yet flirted with all. He was not a clever man by any means, but he could ride, shoot, swim and box to perfection, all of which athletic accomplishments found favour in the eyes of women; he was, moreover, an honourable gentleman, with a kind heart and a generous spirit.