Page:Miss Mapp.djvu/261

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glass into her soup, talked with her mouth full, and drank a good deal of wine, which was a very bad example for Major Puffin. Then there were many sudden and complete pauses in the talk, for Diva’s news of the kissing of Mrs. Poppit by the Contessa had spread like wildfire through the fog this morning, owing to Miss Mapp’s dissemination of it, and now, whenever Mr. Wyse raised his voice ever so little, everybody else stopped talking, in the expectation that the news was about to be announced. Occasionally, also, the Contessa addressed some remark to her brother in shrill and voluble Italian, which rather confirmed the gloomy estimate of her table-manners in the matter of talking with her mouth full, for to speak in Italian was equivalent to whispering, since the purport of what she said could not be understood by anybody except him.... Then also, the sensation of dining with a countess produced a slight feeling of strain, which, in addition to the correct behaviour which Mr. Wyse’s presence always induced, almost congealed correctness into stiffness. But as dinner went on her evident enjoyment of herself made itself felt, and her eccentricities, though carefully observed and noted by Miss Mapp, were not succeeded by silences and hurried bursts of conversation.

“And is your ladyship making a long stay in Tilling?” asked the (real) Major, to cover the pause which had been caused by Mr. Wyse saying something across the table to Isabel.

She dropped her eye-glass with quite a splash into her gravy, pulled it out again by the string as if landing a fish and sucked it.

“That depends on you gentlemen,” she said with greater audacity than was usual in Tilling. “If you and Major