As for Nellie, she seemed to surrender.
Then he kissed her—also angrily. He kissed her several times—yes, even in Lord Street itself—less and less angrily.
“Where are you taking me to?” she inquired humbly, as a captive.
“I shall take you to my mother’s,” he said.
“Will she like it?”
“She’ll either like it or lump it,” said Denry. “It’ll take a fortnight.”
“The notice, and things.”
In the train, in the midst of a great submissive silence, she murmured:
“It’ll be simply awful for father and mother.”
“That can’t be helped,” said he. “And they’ll be far too sea-sick to bother their heads about you.”
“You can’t think how you’ve staggered me,” said she.
“You can’t think how I’ve staggered myself,” said he.
“When did you decide to...”
“When I was standing at the gangway, and you looked at me,” he answered.
“It’s no use butting,” he said. “I’m like that.... That’s me, that is.”
It was the bare truth that he had staggered himself. But he had staggered himself into a miraculous, ecstatic happiness. She had no money, no clothes, no style, no experience, no particular gifts. But she was she. And when he looked at her, calmed, he knew that he had done well for himself. He knew that if he had not yielded to that terrific impulse he would have done badly for himself. Mrs Machin had what she called a ticklish night of it.
The next day he received a note from Ruth, dated Southport, inquiring how he came to lose her on the landing-stage, and expressing concern. It took him three days to reply, and even then the reply was a bad one. He had behaved infamously to Ruth; so much could not be denied. Within three hours of practically proposing to her, he had run off with a simple girl, who was not fit to hold a candle to her. And he did not care. That was the worst of it; he did not care.
Of course the facts reached her. The facts reached everybody; for the singular reappearance of Nellie in the streets of Bursley immediately after her departure for Canada had to be explained. Moreover, the infamous Denry was rather proud of the facts. And the town inevitably said: “Machin all over, that! Snatching the girl off the blooming lugger. Machin all over.” And Denry agreed privately that it was Machin all over.
“What other chap,” he demanded of the air, “would have thought of it? Or had the pluck?...”
It was mere malice on the part of destiny that caused Denry to run across Mrs Capron-Smith at Euston some weeks later. Happily they both had immense nerve.
“Dear me,” said she. “What are you doing here?”
“Only honeymooning,” he said.