Yet the next morning, as the three companions sat together under the striped awning of the buffet on the pier, nobody could have divined, by looking at them, that one of them at any rate was the most uncomfortable young man in all Llandudno. The sun was hotly shining on their bright attire and on the still turbulent waves. Ruth, thirsty after a breakfast of herrings and bacon, was sucking iced lemonade up a straw. Nellie was eating chocolate, undistributed remains of the night’s benevolence. Demo was yawning, not in the least because the proceedings failed to excite his keen interest, but because he had been a journalist till three a.m. and had risen at six in order to despatch a communication to the editor of the Staffordshire Signal by train. The girls were very playful. Nellie dropped a piece of chocolate into Ruth’s glass, and Ruth fished it out, and bit at it.
“What a jolly taste!” she exclaimed.
And then Nellie bit at it.
“Oh, it’s just lovely!” said Nellie, softly.
“Here, dear!” said Ruth, “try it.”
And Denry had to try it, and to pronounce it a delicious novelty (which indeed it was) and generally to brighten himself up. And all the time he was murmuring in his heart, “This can’t go on.”
Nevertheless, he was obliged to admit that it was he who had invited Ruth to pass the rest of her earthly life with him, and not vice versa.
“Well, shall we go on somewhere else?” Ruth suggested.
And he paid yet again. He paid and smiled, he who had meant to be the masterful male, he who deemed himself always equal to a crisis. But in this crisis he was helpless.
They set off down the pier, brilliant in the brilliant crowd. Everybody was talking of wrecks and lifeboats. The new lifeboat had done nothing, having been forestalled by the Prestatyn boat; but Llandudno was apparently very proud of its brave old worn-out lifeboat which had brought ashore the entire crew of the Hjalmar, without casualty, in a terrific hurricane.
“Run along, child,” said Ruth to Nellie, “while uncle and auntie talk to each other for a minute.”
Nellie stared, blushed, and walked forward in confusion. She was startled. And Denry was equally startled. Never before had Ruth so brazenly hinted that lovers must be left alone at intervals. In justice to her, it must be said that she was a mirror for all the proprieties. Denry had even reproached her, in his heart, for not sufficiently showing her desire for his exclusive society. He wondered, now, what was to be the next revelation of her surprising character.
“I had our bill this morning,” said Ruth.
She leaned gracefully on the handle of her sunshade, and they both stared at the sea. She was very elegant, with an aristocratic air. The bill, as she mentioned it, seemed a very negligible trifle. Nevertheless, Denry’s heart quaked.