Page:Miss Mapp.djvu/236

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screaming or scratching, seem aware of Diva’s presence. Then she soared, lambent as flame.

“Diva darling!” she said, and bent and kissed her, even as St. Stephen in the moment of martyrdom prayed for those who stoned him. Flesh and blood could not manage more, and she turned to Mr. Wyse, remembering that Diva had told her that the Contessa Faradiddleony’s arrival was postponed.

“And your dear sister has put off her journey, I understand,” she said. “Such a disappointment! Shall we see her at Tilling at all, do you think?”

Mr. Wyse looked surprised.

“Dear lady,” he said, “you’re the second person who has said that to me. Mrs. Plaistow asked me just now—”

“Yes; it was she who told me,” said Miss Mapp in case there was a mistake.” Isn’t it true?”

“Certainly not. I told my housekeeper that the Contessa’s maid was ill, and would follow her, but that’s the only foundation I know of for this rumour. Amelia encourages me to hope that she will be here early next week.”

“Oh, no doubt that’s it!” said Miss Mapp in an aside so that Diva could hear. “Darling Diva’s always getting hold of the most erroneous information. She must have been listening to servants’ gossip. So glad she’s wrong about it.”

Mr. Wyse made one of his stately inclinations of the head.

“Amelia will regret very much not being here to-night,” he said, “for I see all the great bridge-players are present.”

“Oh, Mr. Wyse!” said she. “We shall all be humble learners compared with the Contessa, I expect.”