To cut a shameful story short, in a week Denry was being tried on. Shillitoe 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 info 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 inquired if she would give him the first waltz at the ball. She paused, then said yes.
On the evening of the ball, Denry spent at least two hours in the operation which was necessary before he could give the Countess the pleasure of his company. This operation took place in his minute bedroom at the back of the cottage in Brougham Street, and it was of a complex nature. Three weeks ago he had innocently thought that you had only to order a dress-suit and there you were! He now knew that a dress-suit is merely the beginning of anxiety. Shirt! Collar! Tie! Studs! Cuff-links! Gloves! Handkerchief! (He was very glad to learn authoritatively from Shillitoe that handkerchiefs were no longer worn in the waistcoat opening, and that men who so wore them were barbarians and the truth was not in them. Thus, an everyday handkerchief would do.) Boots!... Boots were the rock on which he had struck. Shillitoe, in addition to being a tailor was a hosier, but by some flaw in the scheme of the universe hosiers do not sell boots. Except boots, Denry could get all he needed on credit; boots he could not get on credit, and he could not pay cash for them. Eventually he decided that his church boots must be dazzled up to the level of this great secular occasion. The pity was that he forgot—not that he was of a forgetful disposition in great matters; he was simply over-excited—he forgot to dazzle them up until after he had fairly put his collar on and his necktie in a bow. It is imprudent to touch blacking in a dress-shirt, so Denry had to undo the past and begin again. This hurried him. He was not afraid of being late for the first waltz