“Leave it to me,” said Denry. “This table is the only thing that can give your show away. We can’t carry it back. We might meet some one.”
He tied the fragments of the table together with rope that was afloat in the van, and attached the heavy iron bar whose function was to keep the doors closed. Then he sank the faggot of wood and iron in a distant corner of the basin.
“There!” he said. “Now you understand. Nothing’s happened except that a furniture van’s run off and fallen into the canal owing to the men’s carelessness. We can settle the rest later—I mean about the rent and so on.”
They looked at each other.
Her skirts were nearly dry. Her nose showed no trace of bleeding, but there was a bluish lump over her left eye. Save that he was hatless, and that his trousers clung, he was not utterly unpresentable.
They were alone in the silent dawn.
“You’d better go home by Acre Lane, not up Brougham Street,” he said. “I’ll come in during the morning.”
It was a parting in which more was felt than said.
They went one after the other through the devastated gateway, baptising the path as they walked. The Town Hall clock struck three as Denry crept up his mother’s stairs. He had seen not a soul.
The exact truth in its details was never known to more than two inhabitants of Bursley. The one thing clear certainly appeared to be that Denry, in endeavouring to prevent a runaway pantechnicon from destroying the town, had travelled with it into the canal. The romantic trip was accepted as perfectly characteristic of Denry. Around this island of fact washed a fabulous sea of uninformed gossip, in which assertion conflicted with assertion, and the names of Denry and Ruth were continually bumping against each other.
Mr Herbert Calvert glanced queerly and perhaps sardonically at Denry when Denry called and handed over ten pounds (less commission) which he said Miss Earp had paid on account.
“Look here,” said the little Calvert, his mean little eyes gleaming. “You must get in the balance at once.”
“That’s all right,” said Denry. “I shall.”
“Was she trying to hook it on the q.t.?” Calvert demanded.
“Oh, no!” said Denry. “That was a very funny misunderstanding. The only explanation I can think of is that that van must have come to the wrong house.”
“Are you engaged to her?” Calvert asked, with amazing effrontery.
Denry paused. “Yes,” he said. “Are you?”
Mr Calvert wondered what he meant.
He admitted to himself that the courtship had begun in a manner surpassingly strange.
WRECKING OF A LIFE