As the congregation filed out of Church, Hugh took note of Stephen properly for the first time. Of course, he had been vaguely aware of him throughout the service, in the way one always notices strangers, but now he was suddenly struck with the idea that this might be Rosemary's husband, sent on a reconnaissance trip in advance of their visit.
It had begun to drizzle and the first people out had got no further than the porch because they'd stopped there to contemplate the weather. Nobody else could move forward. Those caught in the body of the Church huffed and puffed, umbrellas at the ready for unfurling - but mostly they settled for a chat and looked around for something to moan about while they waited. Hugh was trapped behind Mrs Crow who was complaining about her cat’s latest batch of kittens. Mrs Partridge was complaining about reduced postal deliveries. Mr Dint had lost his glasses and Mr Hobbs and Mr Martin were discussing seed catalogues. Hugh peered through the crowd and strained his ears.
'Robert' was already at the door, being said goodbye to by the Vicar.
He heard the man say ‘America’ and ‘bank’. And the Vicar said ‘London’. Mrs Cosborough started up about Christmas not being far away and Hugh heard Stephen say ‘Clapham’.
That clinched it. It was Robert!
If Hugh hadn’t been the kind of man who always sits in the front pew, he would never have got to Stephen in time - but as it was, he simply had to march forward casting loud 'Good Morning's about him and the crowd moved aside. “Good Morning.” “Good Morning.” He held each person's eye long enough for them to realise what was wanted, then stepped into the gap they made for him. Within seconds, he was at the front of the queue.