Page:Miss Mapp.djvu/258

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the malignity of the cards relented, and she brought out an intricate matter three times running. The clock on her mantelpiece chiming a quarter to eight, surprised her with the lateness of the hour, and recalled to her with a stab of pain that it was dinner-time at Mr. Wyse’s, and at this moment some seven pairs of eager feet were approaching the door. Well, she was dining at a quarter to eight, too; Janet would enter presently to tell her that her own banquet was ready, and gathering up her cards, she spent a pleasant though regretful minute in looking at herself and the crimson-lake for the last time in her long glass. The tremendous walk in the rain had given her an almost equally high colour. Janet’s foot was heard on the stairs, and she turned away from the glass. Janet entered.

“Dinner?” said Diva.

“No, ma’am, the telephone,” said Janet. “Mr. Wyse is on the telephone, and wants to speak to you very particularly.”

“Mr. Wyse himself?” asked Diva, hardly believing her ears, for she knew Mr. Wyse’s opinion of the telephone.

“Yes, ma’am.”

Diva walked slowly, but reflected rapidly. What must have happened was that somebody had been taken ill at the last moment​—​was it Elizabeth?​—​and that he now wanted her to fill the gap.... She was torn in two. Passionately as she longed to dine at Mr. Wyse’s, she did not see how such a course was compatible with dignity. He had only asked her to suit his own convenience; it was not out of encouragement to hope that he invited her now. No; Mr. Wyse should want. She would say that she had friends dining with her; that was what the true lady would do.