Page:Miss Mapp.djvu/267

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(with such unnecessary fussing and apology on the part of Mr. Wyse) in the crimson-lake. Luckily, it would be seen no more, for Diva had promised—if you could trust Diva—to send it to the dyer’s; but it was a great puzzle to know why Diva had it on at all, if she was preparing to spend a solitary evening at home. By eight o’clock she ought by rights to have already had her tray, dressed in some old thing; but within three minutes of her being telephoned for she had appeared in the crimson-lake, and eaten so heartily that it was impossible to imagine, greedy though she was, that she had already consumed her tray…. But in spite of Diva’s adventitious triumph, the main feeling in Miss Mapp’s mind was pity for her. She looked so ridiculous in that dress with the powder peeling off her red face. No wonder the dear Contessa stared when she came in.

There was her bridge-party for the Contessa to consider. The Contessa would be less nervous, perhaps, if there was only one table: that would be more homey and cosy, and it would at the same time give rise to great heart-burnings and indignation in the breasts of those who were left out. Diva would certainly be one of the spurned, and the Contessa would not play with Mr. Wyse…. Then there was Major Benjy, he must certainly be asked, for it was evident that the Contessa delighted in him….

Suddenly Miss Mapp began to feel less sure that Major Benjy must be of the party. The Contessa, charming though she was, had said several very tropical, Italian things to him. She had told him that she would stop here for ever if the men fought duels about her. She had said “you dear darling” to him at bridge when, as adversary, he failed to trump her losing card, and she had asked him to ask her to tea (“with no one else, for I have a