His mother said:
“Why don’t you grow a beard? Here you spend money on razors, strops, soaps and brushes, besides a quarter of an hour of your time every day, and cutting yourself—all to keep yourself from having something that would be the greatest help to you in business! With a beard you’d look at least thirty-one. Your father had a splendid beard, and so could you if you chose.”
This was high wisdom. But he would not listen to it. The truth is, he was getting somewhat dandiacal.
At length his scheme lacked naught but what Denry called a “right-down good starting shove.” In a word, a fine advertisement to fire it off. Now, he could have had the whole of the first page of the Signal (at that period) for five-and-twenty pounds. But he had been so accustomed to free advertisements of one sort or another that the notion of paying for one was loathsome to him. Then it was that he thought of the Countess of Chell, who happened to be staying at Knype. If he could obtain that great aristocrat, that ex-Mayoress, that lovely witch, that benefactor of the district, to honour his Thrift Club as patroness, success was certain. Everybody in the Five Towns sneered at the Countess and called her a busybody; she was even dubbed “Interfering Iris” (Iris being one of her eleven Christian names); the Five Towns was fiercely democratic—in theory. In practice the Countess was worshipped; her smile was worth at least five pounds, and her invitation to tea was priceless. She could not have been more sincerely adulated in the United States, the home of social equality.
Denry said to himself:
“And why shouldn’t I get her name as patroness? I will have her name as patroness.”
Hence the expedition to Sneyd Hall, one of the ancestral homes of the Earls of Chell.
He had been to Sneyd Hall before many times—like the majority of the inhabitants of the Five Towns—for, by the generosity of its owner, Sneyd Park was always open to the public. To picnic in Sneyd Park was one of the chief distractions of the Five Towns on Thursday and Saturday afternoons. But he had never entered the private gardens. In the midst of the private gardens stood the Hall, shut off by immense iron palisades, like a lion in a cage at the Zoo. On the autumn afternoon of his Historic visit, Denry passed with qualms through the double gates of the palisade, and began to crunch the gravel of the broad drive that led in a straight line to the overwhelming Palladian facade of the Hall.