Catherine watched her lady up the road with a disappointed eye. It was a tame conclusion to a promising adventure. Although respectably brought up, her sympathies were all with Captain Hyde: she had foreseen herself, the image of regretful discretion, sacrificing her lifelong principles to escort Mrs. Clowes to Brighton, or Switzerland, or that place where they had the little horses that Mr. Duval made such a ’mysterious joke about—it would have been amusing to do foreign parts with Mr. Duval. But when Laura took the turning to the vicarage Catherine was invaded by a creeping chill of doubt. Was it possible that Captain Hyde was not Mrs. Clowes’s lover after all?
“I know which I’d choose,” she said to Gordon. “I’ve no patience with the Major. Such a way to behave! and my poor lady with the patience of an angel, putting up and putting up— No man’s worth it, that’s what I say.”
“Well, it is a bit thick,” said Gordon: “calling his own wife a—”
The son of the Clyde was a contentious young man, and a jealous one. “You didn’t seem to mind when the French chap was talking about a fille de joy. What d’ye suppose a fille de joy is in English? but there’s some of us can do no wrong.”
“French sounds so much more refined,” said Catherine firmly.
Inaction was hard on Lawrence. He hated it: and he was not used to it: his impulse was to go direct to Wanhope and break down the door: but it was not to be done. When he reached the vicarage Mr. Stafford had gone out after an early lunch to take a wedding in Countisford, while Val had been obliged to ride over to a neighbouring farm. Leaving Laura to Isabel, who startled him by her cool “So Major Clowes has done it at last?” he hurried down to the post office to telephone to Selincourt (aware on his way that every eye was staring at him: no doubt the tale was already on every lip), but Selincourt too was out, and he had to be content with despatching colourless duplicate telegrams to his rooms and club. From a hint let fall during the night he was aware that no more than the most laconic wire would be needed, but he fretted under the delay, which meant that Selincourt could not arrive before six o’clock. After that he would have liked to go to Wharton, but dared not, for, though Jack’s grandfather was what Yvonne called a Romantic, the Grantchesters were old-fashioned straightlaced people who had better not hear of the scandal till it was over. No, till Selincourt and Val appeared there was no more to be done, and Lawrence, returned to the vicarage and flung himself into a chair to wait. He dreaded inaction: inaction meant thought: and thought meant such bitter realities as he knew not how to stand up against: but what he liked or disliked was no longer to the point.