"Haven't you heard of that?" asked Mrs Traffick. "Why -- she is at Stalham with the Alburys this moment, and I do not doubt that Colonel Stubbs is there also. She would not have gone had she not been sure of meeting him."
This disturbed the Captain so violently that for two or three hours he kept himself apart, not knowing what to do with himself or where to betake himself. Could this be true about Jonathan Stubbs? There had been moments of deep jealousy down at Stalham; but then he had recovered from that, having assured himself that he was wrong. It had been Larry Twentyman and not Jonathan Stubbs who had led the two girls over the brook -- into which Stubbs had simply fallen, making himself an object of pity. But now again the Captain believed it all. It was on this account, then, that his half-sister-in-law, Rosaline, had desired him to stay away from Stalham for the present! He knew well how high in favour with Lady Albury was that traitor Stubbs; how it was by her favour that Stubbs, who was no more than a second cousin, was allowed to do just what be pleased in the stables, while Sir Harry himself, the Master of the Hounds, confined himself to the kennel! He was determined at first to leave Merle Park and start instantly for Stalham, and had sent for his servant to begin the packing of his things; but as he thought of it more maturely he considered that his arrival at Stalham would be very painful to himself as well as to others. For the others he did not much care, but he saw clearly that the pain to himself would be very disagreeable. No one at Stalham would be glad to see him. Sir Harry would be disturbed, and the other three persons with whom he was concerned -- Lady Albury, Stubbs, and Ayala -- would be banded together in hostility against him. What chance would he have under such circumstances? Therefore he determined that he would stay at Merle Park yet a little longer.
And, after all, was Ayala worth the trouble which he had proposed to take for her? How much had he offered her, how scornfully had his offer been received, and how little had she to give him in return! And now he had been told that she was always running after Jonathan Stubbs! Could it be worth his while to run after a girl who was always running after Jonathan Stubbs? Was he not much higher in the world than Jonathan Stubbs, seeing that he had, at any rate, double Stubbs's income? Stubbs was a red-haired, ugly, impudent fellow, who made his way wherever he went simply by "cheek'! Upon reflection, he found that it would be quite beneath him to run after any girl who could so demean herself as to run after Jonathan Stubbs. Therefore he came down to dinner on that evening with all his smiles, and said not a word about Ayala to Sir Thomas, who had just returned from London.
"Is he very much provoked?" Sir Thomas asked his wife that evening. "Provoked about what?"
"He was expressly told that he would meet Ayala here."
"He seems to be making himself very comfortable, and hasn't said a word to me about Ayala. I am sick of Ayala. Poor Tom is going to be really ill." Then Sir Thomas frowned, and said nothing more on that occasion.
Tom was certainly in an uncomfortable position, and never left his bed till after noon. Then he would mope about the place, moping even worse than he did before, and would spend the evening all alone in the housekeeper's room, with a pipe in his mouth, which he seemed hardly able to take the trouble to keep alight. There were three or four other guests in the house, including two honourable Miss Trafficks, and a couple of young men out of the City, whom Lady Tringle hoped might act as antidotes to Houston and Hamel. But with none of them would Tom associate. With Captain Batsby he did form some little intimacy; driven to it, no doubt, by a community of interest. "I believe you were acquainted with my cousin, Miss Dormer, at Stalham?" asked Tom. At that moment the two were sitting over the fire in the housekeeper's room, and Captain Batsby was smoking a cigar, while Tom was sucking an empty pipe.
"Oh, yes," said Captain Batsby, pricking up his ears, "I saw a good deal of her."