He felt dizzy at being thus thrown upon the world—he who had been meditating the propriety of getting himself elected to the stylish and newly-established Sports Club at Hillport! He felt enraged, for Mr Duncalf had only been venting on Denry the annoyance induced in him by Mrs Codleyn. But it is remarkable that he was not depressed at all. No! he went about with songs and whistling, though he had no prospects except starvation or living on his mother. He traversed the streets in his grand, new manner, and his thoughts ran: “What on earth can I do to live up to my reputation?” However, he possessed intact the five-pound note won from Harold Etches in the matter of the dance.
Every life is a series of coincidences. Nothing happens that is not rooted in coincidence. All great changes find their cause in coincidence. Therefore I shall not mince the fact that the next change in Denry’s career was due to an enormous and complicated coincidence. On the following morning both Mrs Codleyn and Denry were late for service at St Luke’s Church—Mrs Codleyn by accident and obesity, Denry by design. Denry was later than Mrs Codleyn, whom he discovered waiting in the porch. That Mrs Codleyn was waiting is an essential part of the coincidence. Now Mrs Codleyn would not have been waiting if her pew had not been right at the front of the church, near the choir. Nor would she have been waiting if she had been a thin woman and not given to breathing loudly after a hurried walk. She waited partly to get her breath, and partly so that she might take advantage of a hymn or a psalm to gain her seat without attracting attention. If she had not been late, if she had not been stout, if she had not had a seat under the pulpit, if she had not had an objection to making herself conspicuous, she would have been already in the church and Denry would not have had a private colloquy with her.
“Well, you’re nice people, I must say!” she observed, as he raised his hat.
She meant Duncalf and all Duncalf’s myrmidons. She was still full of her grievance. The letter which she had received that morning had startled her. And even the shadow of the sacred edifice did not prevent her from referring to an affair that was more suited to Monday than to Sunday morning. A little more, and she would have snorted.
“Nothing to do with me, you know!” Denry defended himself.
“Oh!” she said, “you’re all alike, and I’ll tell you this, Mr Machin, I’d take him at his word if it wasn’t that I don’t know who else I could trust to collect my rents. I’ve heard such tales about rent-collectors.... I reckon I shall have to make my peace with him.”
“Why,” said Denry, “I’ll keep on collecting your rents for you if you like.”
“I’ve given him notice to leave,” said Denry. “The fact is, Mr Duncalf and I don’t hit it off together.”