Then came the day when he first heard some one saying discreetly behind him:
“That’s the lifeboat chap!”
Or more briefly:
Implying that in all Llandudno “him” could mean only one person.
And for a time he went about the streets self-consciously. However, that self-consciousness soon passed off, and he wore his fame as easily as he wore his collar.
The lifeboat trips to the Hjalmar became a feature of daily life in Llandudno. The pronunciation of the ship’s name went through a troublous period. Some said the “j” ought to be pronounced to the exclusion of the “h,” and others maintained the contrary. In the end the first two letters were both abandoned utterly, also the last—but nobody had ever paid any attention to the last. The facetious had a trick of calling the wreck Inkerman. This definite settlement of the pronunciation of the name was a sign that the pleasure-seekers of Llandudno had definitely fallen in love with the lifeboat-trip habit. Denry’s timid fear that the phenomenon which put money into his pocket could not continue, was quite falsified. It continued violently. And Denry wished that the Hjalmar had been wrecked a month earlier. He calculated that the tardiness of the Hjalmar in wrecking itself had involved him in a loss of some four hundred pounds. If only the catastrophe had happened early in July, instead of early in August, and he had been there. Why, if forty Hjalmars had been wrecked, and their forty crews saved by forty different lifeboats, and Denry had bought all the lifeboats, he could have filled them all!
Still, the regularity of his receipts was extremely satisfactory and comforting. The thing had somehow the air of being a miracle; at any rate of being connected with magic. It seemed to him that nothing could have stopped the visitors to Llandudno from fighting for places in his lifeboat and paying handsomely for the privilege. They had begun the practice, and they looked as if they meant to go on with the practice eternally. He thought that the monotony of it would strike them unfavourably. But no! He thought that they would revolt against doing what every one had done. But no! Hundreds of persons arrived fresh from the railway station every day, and they all appeared to be drawn to that lifeboat as to a magnet. They all seemed to know instantly and instinctively that to be correct in Llandudno they must make at least one trip in Denry’s lifeboat.