Oh I love this part. Vanessa returned to her dodgy lodgings to find that the landlord is kicking out the woman that lived on the floor above. Vanessa had had problems with her before because she kept awake by the noise of the springs creaking all night long. Now the landlord discovers that this woman is a prostitute and evicts her. When she starts threatening Vanessa, implying that living on the ground floor makes her an easy victim, she asks the landlord if she can take the room the woman has left. That night Vanessa starts feeling unwell, and she is sick and feverish.
The following day when Vanessa doesn’t turn up, Alistair gets worried. He sends Tanith to Vanessa’s lodgings, but she simply says that when she looked into Vanessa’s flat, she only saw an empty room. Still worried, Alistair realises that if Vanessa has gone for some reason, she must have ended up in Starshurst, but when he calls the hall, the butler answers, and when he tells him that he doesn’t know anything about Vanessa, Alistair makes her promise to call him back after going to the cottage to ask Vanessa’s mother. Later in the day Alistair goes to Vanessa’s lodgings again, and a smelly, and possibly inebriated man tells him that the landlord kicked her out, and then he slams the door closed.
After that, Alistair decides to go to Starshurst, and without any embarrassment he asks Fern’s father about Vanessa and then her mother, but neither knows anything. There is an interesting conversation between Lord Starshurst and Alistair; naturally, the older man can guess that Alistair’s interest in Vanessa is more than friendly, and he warns him to place his loyalty to Fern above anything else. Alistair tells him that Fern wants a divorce, and the man refuses to accept that. It is his belief that a divorce would be a disgrace to his reputation, and in his opinion Alistair and Fern can live apart with dignity, but a divorce is out of the question. Lord Starshurst tells Alistair some important bits about Vanessa’s husband. Apparently, Leo’s plane fell and it is suspected that the pilot was exhausted after too many days flying. He also tells him that Vanessa and her husband had a fall out; she kicked him out when he returned once, and Lord Starshurst is disapproving, implying that a man fighting in the war didn’t deserve that kind of behaviour. Alistair just says that one can never know what happens behind closed doors.
Alistair stays the night in Starshurst, and when she returns to London, he tries Vanessa’s lodgings again. This time the landlord answers the door, and he informs him that Vanessa moved to the rooms upstairs. When they open the door, they find Vanessa very sick in bed. Alistair takes her to his marital house. Fern is there, and she and Alistair settle Vanessa in a spare room. They look after her, and when Vanessa feels better, Fern brings her some food and Vanessa even asks her for some clothes. After eating something, she falls asleep and when she wakes up, Alistair is there. Vanessa is worried about some of the things at work, but Alistair tells her not to worry. Then they start kissing, and Vanessa whispers how much she wants him. Then they are surprised by Fern, who starts taking photographs. They are speechless as Fern says that following Vanessa’s advice, she went to see a lawyer who told her to get some proof of her husband’s adultery, which is what she has now. Fern surprises them again when she confesses that there is no film in the camera as it is almost impossible to get one after the war, so her threats are empty. Then she even makes a humorous comment about them having lust written all over their faces, and she is not bitter at all. I imagine that Fern hopes that if Alistair is falling for Vanessa, he might cave in and give her the divorce. I have mixed feelings about Fern. Most of the time she is not very likeable, but I think she is a good friend to Vanessa.