“I see,” he laughed easily.
“Convenient!” she reiterated, contemptuously. “I think everybody in Bursley knows how my clientele gets larger and larger every year!... Convenient!”
“So that’s final, Miss Earp?”
“Perfectly!” said Miss Earp.
He rose. “Then the simplest thing will be for me to send round a bailiff to-morrow morning, early.” He might have been saying: “The simplest thing will be for me to send round a bunch of orchids.”
Another man would have felt emotion, and probably expressed it. But not Denry, the rent-collector and manager of estates large and small. There were several different men in Denry, but he had the great gift of not mixing up two different Denrys when he found himself in a complicated situation.
Ruth Earp rose also. She dropped her eyelids and looked at him from under them. And then she gradually smiled.
“I thought I’d just see what you’d do,” she said, in a low, confidential voice from which all trace of hostility had suddenly departed. “You’re a strange creature,” she went on curiously, as though fascinated by the problems presented by his individuality. “Of course, I shan’t let it go as far as that. I only thought I’d see what you’d say. I’ll write you to-night.”
“With a cheque?” Denry demanded, with suave, jolly courtesy. “I don’t collect postage-stamps.”
(And to himself: “She’s got her stamps back.”)
She hesitated. “Stay!” she said. “I’ll tell you what will be better. Can you call to-morrow afternoon? The bank will be closed now.”
“Yes,” he said, “I can call. What time?”
“Oh!” she answered, “any time. If you come in about four, I’ll give you a cup of tea into the bargain. Though you don’t deserve it!” After an instant, she added reassuringly: “Of course I know business is business with you. But I’m glad I’ve told you the real truth about your precious Mr Herbert Calvert, all the same.”
And as he walked slowly home Denry pondered upon the singular, erratic, incalculable strangeness of woman, and of the possibly magic effect of his own personality on women.
It was the next afternoon, in July. Denry wore his new summer suit, but with a necktie of higher rank than the previous day’s. As for Ruth, that plain but piquant girl was in one of her more elaborate and foamier costumes. The wonder was that such a costume could survive even for an hour the smuts that lend continual interest and excitement to the atmosphere of Bursley. It was a white muslin, spotted with spots of opaque white, and founded on something pink. Denry imagined that he had seen parts of it before—at the ball; and he had; but it was now a tea-gown, with long, languishing sleeves; the waves of it broke at her shoulders, sending lacy surf high up the precipices of Ruth’s neck. Denry did not know it was a tea-gown. But he knew that it had a most peculiar and agreeable effect on himself, and that she had promised him tea. He was glad that he had paid her the homage of his best necktie.