And as Ruth showed no curiosity Denry behaved on the assumption that she felt none. And the situation grew even more strained.
As they walked down the pier towards the beach, at the dinner-hour, Ruth bowed to a dandiacal man who obsequiously saluted her.
“Who’s that?” asked Denry, instinctively.
“It’s a gentleman that I was once engaged to,” answered Ruth, with cold, brief politeness.
Denry did not like this.
The situation almost creaked under the complicated stresses to which it was subject. The wonder was that it did not fly to pieces long before evening.
The pride of the principal actors being now engaged, each person was compelled to carry out the intentions which he had expressed either in words or tacitly. Denry’s silence had announced more efficiently than any words that he would under no inducement emerge from his castle. Ruth had stated plainly that there was nothing for it but to go home at once, that very night. Hence she arranged to go home, and hence Denry refrained from interfering with her arrangements. Ruth was lugubrious under a mask of gaiety; Nellie was lugubrious under no mask whatever. Nellie was merely the puppet of these betrothed players, her elders. She admired Ruth and she admired Denry, and between them they were spoiling the little thing’s holiday for their own adult purposes. Nellie knew that dreadful occurrences were in the air—occurrences compared to which the storm at sea was a storm in a tea-cup. She knew partly because Ruth had been so queenly polite, and partly because they had come separately to St Asaph’s Road and had not spent the entire afternoon together.
So quickly do great events loom up and happen that at six o’clock they had had tea and were on their way afoot to the station. The odd man of No. 26 St Asaph’s Road had preceded them with the luggage. All the rest of Llandudno was joyously strolling home to its half-past six high tea— grand people to whom weekly bills were as dust and who were in a position to stop in Llandudno for ever and ever, if they chose! And Ruth and Nellie were conscious of the shame which always afflicts those whom necessity forces to the railway station of a pleasure resort in the middle of the season. They saw omnibuses loaded with luggage and jolly souls were actually coming, whose holiday had not yet properly commenced. And this spectacle added to their humiliation and their disgust. They genuinely felt that they belonged to the lower orders.
Ruth, for the sake of effect, joked on the most solemn subjects. She even referred with giggling laughter to the fact that she had borrowed from Nellie in order to discharge her liabilities for the final twenty-four hours at the boarding-house. Giggling laughter being contagious, as they were walking side by side close together, they all laughed. And each one secretly thought how ridiculous was such behaviour, and how it failed to reach the standard of true worldliness.