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   Chapter 2 No.2

Denry the Audacious By Arnold Bennett Characters: 2642

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:04


He had never been to a dance. He had no dress-suit, and no notion of dancing.

He was a strange inconsequent mixture of courage and timidity. You and I are consistent in character; we are either one thing or the other; but Denry Machin had no consistency.

For three days he hesitated, and then, secretly trembling, he slipped into Sillitoe's the young tailor who had recently set up and who was gathering together the jeunesse dorée of the town.

"I want a dress-suit," he said.

Sillitoe, who knew that Denry only earned eighteen shilling a week, replied with only superficial politeness that a dress-suit was out of the question; he had already taken more orders than he could execute without killing himself. The whole town had uprisen as one man and demanded a dress-suit.

"So you 're going to the ball, are you?" said Sillitoe, trying to condescend, but in fact slightly impressed.

"Yes," said Denry, "are you?"

Sillitoe started and then shook his head. "No time for balls," said he.

"I can get you an invitation, if you like," said Denry, glancing at the door precisely as he had glanced at the door before adding 2 to 7.

"Oh!" Sillitoe cocked his ears. He was not a native of the town, and had no alderman to protect his legitimate interests.

To cut a shameful story short, in a week Den

ry was being tried on. Sillitoe allowed him two years' credit.

The prospect of the ball gave an immense impetus to the study of the art of dancing in Bursley, and so put quite a nice sum of money into the pocket of Miss Earp, a young mistress in that art. She was the daughter of a furniture dealer with a passion for the bankruptcy court. Miss Earp's evening classes were attended by Denry, but none of his money went into her pocket. She was compensated by an expression of the Countess's desire for the pleasure of her company at the ball.

The Countess had aroused Denry's interest in women as a sex. Ruth Earp quickened the interest. She was plain, but she was only twenty-four, and very graceful on her feet. Denry had one or two strictly private lessons from her in reversing. She said to him one evening, when he was practising reversing and they were entwined in the attitude prescribed by the latest fashion: "Never mind me! Think about yourself. It's the same in dancing as it is in life-the woman's duty is to adapt herself to the man." He did think about himself. He was thinking about himself in the middle of the night, and about her too. There had been something in her tone ... her eye...! At the final lesson he enquired if she would give him the first waltz at the ball. She paused, then said yes.

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