He hesitated a second. Then the nurse appeared out of the kitchen, with a squalling Maisie in her arms, and ran upstairs. Why Maisie was squalling, and why she should have been in the kitchen at such an hour instead of in bed, he could not guess. But he could guess that if he remained one second longer in that exasperating minor world he would begin to smash furniture. And so he quitted it.
It was raining slightly, but he dared not return to the house for his umbrella. In the haze and wet of the shivering October night the clock of Bleakridge Church glowed like a fiery disc suspended in the sky, and, mysteriously hanging there, without visible means of support, it seemed to him somehow to symbolize the enigma of the universe and intensify his inward gloom. Never before had he had such feelings to such a degree. It is scarcely an exaggeration to say that never before had the enigma of the universe occurred to him. The side gates clicked as he stood hesitant under the shelter of the wall, and a figure emerged from his domain. It was Bellfield, the new chauffeur, going across to his home in the little square in front of the church. Bellfield touched his cap with an eager and willing hand, as new chauffeurs will.
“Want the car, sir?... Setting in for a wet night!”
It was a lie. He did want the car. He wanted the car so that he might ride right away into a new and more interesting world, or at any rate into Hanbridge, centre of the pleasures, the wickedness and the commerce of the Five Towns. But he dared not have the car. He dared not have his own car. He must slip off noiseless and unassuming. Even to go to Dr Stirling’s he dared not have the car. Besides, he could have walked down the hill to Dr. Stirling’s in three minutes. Not that he had the least intention of going to Dr. Stirling’s. No! His wife imagined that he was going. But she was mistaken. Within an hour, when Dr. Stirling had failed to arrive, she would doubtless telephone and get her Dr. Stirling. Not, however, with Edward Henry’s assistance!
He reviewed his conduct throughout the evening. In what particular had it been sinful? In no particular. True, the accident to the boy was a misfortune, but had he not borne that misfortune lightly, minimized it and endeavoured to teach others to bear it lightly? His blithe humour ought surely to have been an example to Nellie! And as for the episode of the funeral march on the Pianisto, really, really, the tiresome little thing ought to have better appreciated his whimsical drollery!