North Rompshire School of Manners.
Gloria Pettigrew paces the Persian carpet in front of the night windows. A fire is banked up in the drawing-room. She’s called Barry Plumb’s flat in Dampford, but the phone just rings. She’s left the curtains open in the hope of seeing his headlights on the hill. But there’s been no traffic for hours.
She stops pacing and stares into the blackness.
It’s now 10:14 PM and Claire and Gloria can wait no longer. They go into the dining room.
Claire Tweedy is Gloria’s old school chum all the way from Warmsley some 20 miles distant, so she’s staying a week. She’s keen to do some striding around the wild country with the dogs.
“Buck up, old girl. He’s probably just gone off,” says Claire.
“But he said he would be here for dinner.”
“Don’t worry, Pet, he’s a man. Men just go off.”
“No they don’t,” says Gloria.
“Nancy Blair is always losing her husband. On Tuesday of last week, she took him shopping in Wafflington. Normally he’s quite obedient. She came out of the bakery to find him gone. He came back a few days later. They usually find their way home.”
“That must be it. He must’ve gone off,” agrees a yawning Gloria.
They go off to bed.
Gloria immerses herself in pillowy softness. But she is worried because she made a big deal about the visiting speaker. And the parents and the trustees will be there too. And what if he doesn’t come?
She thinks of Brandon Manly as a way to distract herself but she won’t sleep a wink.