Meanwhile, Connie has gone from mildly irritated to full-on repulsed by Clifford. Now that she's gotten over her hero-worship of his mind, she just hates him.
Luckily, he's moving on. Mrs. Bolton is picking up Connie's slack and worshiping him whole-heartedly.
Clifford and Mrs. Bolton have little battles, where she tries to boss him around and he bosses her right back, but more aristocratically. She loves being bossed around, and he loves bossing her—this is definitely more like it.
Connie hates them both a little, but she knows when she's got a good thing and encourages Mrs. Bolton to learn to type so Connie doesn't have to take Clifford's dictation anymore.
He starts teaching her French and then chess, and basically turning her into the model of a submissive wife. It's not love exactly, but it is "a weird passion" (9.36).
The other thing that Mrs. Bolton does for Clifford is feed him village gossip. He says he's only listening for "material" for his stories—oh yeah, sure he is—and the gossip does sound a lot like novels of village life. It's full of marriage, scandal, melodrama, complaints about the "youth," and moralizing comments on how other people spend their money.
Connie listens, too, but, like devouring a pint of Cherry Garcia while watching Toddlers and Tiaras, feels bad about herself afterward. In the 1920s, you see, the public liked "humiliating" novels (9.42), while now it just likes humiliating reality shows.
Mrs. Bolton's gossip agitates Clifford, and he starts to worry that his ("his") villagers are going to get Bolshevik, i.e. communist ideas.
She assures him that they won't—as long things don't get too bad. At the moment, they're all too busy going to movies and watching football to start camping out on his lawn with signs saying "We are England's 99%."
As Clifford begins to pay more attention to the world, he turns his attention to his mines. The Tevershall mine isn't doing too well, since the coal is getting harder to excavate. So Clifford turns his intelligence—and he is a smart dude, no matter his other failings—to figuring out how to bleed his lands a little more. He's tired of chasing artistic success ("flattery"); now he wants mechanical success ("industry") (9.60).
All this gets his (metaphorical) "pecker up" (9.62). He starts reading technical books and even going down into the coal mine and then finally comes up with idea for some sort of concentrated fuel, something that burns "with a hard slowness at a fierce heat" (9.70). It's hard to say exactly what that means, but something tells us it's got a double meaning.
Meanwhile, Connie is all demanding and expecting him to be an adult. He only really feels comfortable when he's being babied by Mrs. Bolton.