Ellis himself saw the enormity of his transgression. He lay awake astounded by his own doggishness.
And yet he had seldom felt less doggy than during that trip. It seemed to him that doggishness was not the glorious thing he had thought. However, he cut a heroic figure at the dogs’ club. Every admiring face said: ’Well, you have been going the pace! We always knew you were a hot un, but, really——’
On the following Friday evening, when Ellis jumped off the car opposite his home on the Hawkins, he saw in the road, halted, a train of vast and queer-shaped waggons in charge of two traction-engines. They were painted on all sides with the great name of Jenkins. They contained Jenkins’s roundabouts and shooting-saloons, on their way to rouse the joy of life in other towns. And he perceived in front of the portico the high, green dogcart and the lamp-post-destroying mare.
He went in. The family had come home that afternoon. Sundry of his sisters greeted him with silent horror on their faces in the hall. In the breakfast-room, which gave off the drawing-room, was his mother in the attitude of an intent listener. She spoke no word.
And Ellis listened, too.
‘Yes,’ a very powerful and raucous voice was saying in the drawing-room, ’I reckoned I’d call and tell ye myself, Mister Carter, what I thought on it. My gell, a motherless gell, but brought up respectable; sixth standard at Whalley Range Board School; and her aunt a strict God-fearing woman! And here your son comes along and gets hold of the girl while her aunt’s at the special service for Wakes folks in Bethesda Chapel, and runs off with her in my dogcart with one of my hosses, and raises a scandal all o’er the Five Towns. God bless my soul, mister! I tell’n ye I hardly liked to open o’ Monday afternoon, I was that ashamed! And I packed Ada off to Manchester. It seems to me that if the upper classes, as they call ’em—the immoral classes I call ’em—’ud look after themselves a bit instead o’ looking after other people so much, things might be a bit better, Mister Carter. I dare say you think it’s nothing as your son should go about ruining the reputation of any decent, respectable girl as he happens to fancy, Mister Carter; but this is what I say. I say——’
Mr. Carter was understood to assert, in his most pacific and pained public-meeting voice, that he regretted, infinitely regretted——
Mrs. Carter, weeping, ran out of the breakfast-room.
And soon afterwards the traction-engines rumbled off, and the high, green dogcart followed them.
Ellis sat spell-bound.
He heard the parlourmaid go into the drawing-room and announce, ’Tea is ready, sir!’ and then his father’s dry cough.
And then the parlourmaid came into the breakfast-room: ’Tea is ready, Mr. Ellis!’
Oh, the meal!