Page:Miss Mapp.djvu/34

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as appalling as her opinion about the Germans. Sometimes Miss Mapp alluded to her as “quaint Irene,” but that was as far as she got in the way of reprisals.

“Oh, you sweet thing!” she said. “Treasure!”

Irene, in some ghastly way, seemed to take note of this. Why men like Captain Puffin and Major Flint found Irene “fetching” and “killing” was more than Miss Mapp could understand, or wanted to understand.

Quaint Irene looked down at her basket.

“Why, there’s my lunch going over the top like those beastly British Tommies,” she said. “Get back, love.”

Miss Mapp could not quite determine whether “love” was a sarcastic echo of “Treasure.” It seemed probable.

“Oh, what a dear little lobster,” she said. “Look at his sweet claws.”

“I shall do more than look at them soon,” said Irene, poking it into her basket again. “Come and have tiffin, qui-hi, I’ve got to look after myself to-day.”

“What has happened to your devoted Lucy?” asked Miss Mapp. Irene lived in a very queer way with one gigantic maid, who, but for her sex, might have been in the Guards.

“Ill. I suspect scarlet-fever,” said Irene. “Very infectious, isn’t it? I was up nursing her all last night.”

Miss Mapp recoiled. She did not share Major Flint’s robust views about microbes.

“But I hope, dear, you’ve thoroughly disinfected—”

“Oh, yes. Soap and water,” said Irene. “By the way, are you Poppiting this afternoon?”

“If I can squeeze it in,” said Miss Mapp.

“We’ll meet again, then. Oh—”

“Au reservoir,” said Miss Mapp instantly.