Page:Miss Mapp.djvu/114

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Elizabeth’s guests dropped off gorged from the tea-table. Diva fortunately remembered their consistency in time, and nearly cleared a plate of jumbles instead, which the hostess had hoped would form a pleasant accompaniment to her dessert at her supper this evening, and was still crashingly engaged on them when the general drifting movement towards the two bridge-tables set in. Mrs. Poppit, with her glasses up, followed by Isabel, was employed in making a tour of the room, in case, as Miss Mapp had already determined, she never saw it again, examining the quality of the carpet, the curtains, the chair-backs with the air of a doubtful purchaser.

“And quite a quantity of books, I see,” she announced as she came opposite the fatal cupboard. “Look, Isabel, what a quantity of books. There is something strange about them, though; I do not believe they are real.”

She put out her hand and pulled at the back of one of the volumes of “Elegant Extracts.” The door swung open, and from behind it came a noise of rattling, bumping and clattering. Something soft and heavy thumped on to the floor, and a cloud of floury dust arose. A bottle of bovril embedded itself quietly there without damage, and a tin of Bath Oliver biscuits beat a fierce tattoo on one of corned beef. Innumerable dried apricots from the burst package flew about like shrapnel, and tapped at the tins. A jar of prunes, breaking its fall on the flour, rolled merrily out into the middle of the floor.

The din was succeeded by complete silence. The Padre had said “What ho, i’ fegs?” during the tumult, but his voice had been drowned by the rattling of the dried apricots. The Member of the Order of the British Empire stepped free of the provisions that bumped round her, and examined them through her glasses. Diva crammed