Then, nearer the station, some sprightly caprice prompted Denry to raise his hat to two young women who were crossing the road in front of them. Neither of the two young women responded to the homage.
“Who are they?” asked Ruth, and the words were out of her mouth before she could remind herself that curiosity was beneath her.
“It’s a young lady I was once engaged to,” said Denry.
“Which one?” asked the ninny, Nellie, astounded.
“I forget,” said Denry.
He considered this to be one of his greatest retorts—not to Nellie, but to Ruth. Nellie naturally did not appreciate its loveliness. But Ruth did. There was no facet of that retort that escaped Ruth’s critical notice.
At length they arrived at the station, quite a quarter of an hour before the train was due, and half-an-hour before it came in.
Denry tipped the odd man for the transport of the luggage.
“Sure it’s all there?” he asked the girls, embracing both of them in his gaze.
“Yes,” said Ruth, “but where’s yours?”
“Oh!” he said. “I’m not going to-night. I’ve got some business to attend to here. I thought you understood. I expect you’ll be all right, you two together.”
After a moment, Ruth said brightly: “Oh yes! I was quite forgetting about your business.” Which was completely untrue, since she knew nothing of his business, and he had assuredly not informed her that he would not return with them.
But Ruth was being very brave, haughty, and queenlike, and for this the precise truth must sometimes be abandoned. The most precious thing in the world to Ruth was her dignity—and who can blame her? She meant to keep it at no matter what costs.
In a few minutes the bookstall on the platform attracted them as inevitably as a prone horse attracts a crowd. Other people were near the bookstall, and as these people were obviously leaving Llandudno, Ruth and Nellie felt a certain solace. The social outlook seemed brighter for them. Denry bought one or two penny papers, and then the newsboy began to paste up the contents poster of the Staffordshire Signal, which had just arrived. And on this poster, very prominent, were the words:—“The Great Storm in North Wales. Special Descriptive Report.” Denry snatched up one of the green papers and opened it, and on the first column of the news-page saw his wondrous description, including the word “Rembrandtesque.” “Graphic Account by a Bursley Gentleman of the Scene at Llandudno,” said the sub-title. And the article was introduced by the phrase: “We are indebted to Mr E.H. Machin, a prominent figure in Bursley,” etc.
It was like a miracle. Do what he would, Denry could not stop his face from glowing.
With false calm he gave the paper, to Ruth. Her calmness in receiving it upset him.
“We’ll read it in the train,” she said primly, and started to talk about something else. And she became most agreeable and companionable.