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Title:      Mapp And Lucia
Author:     E. F. Benson
eBook No.:  0501131.txt
Edition:    1
Language:   English
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Date first posted:          November 2005
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Title:      Mapp And Lucia
Author:     E. F. Benson

Originally published in 1931




1


Though it was nearly a year since her husband's death, Emmeline
Lucas (universally known to her friends as Lucia) still wore the
deepest and most uncompromising mourning.  Black certainly suited
her very well, but that had nothing to do with this continued use
of it, whatever anybody said.  Pepino and she had been the most
devoted couple for over twenty-five years, and her grief at his
loss was heart-felt: she missed him constantly and keenly.  But
months ago now, she, with her very vital and active personality,
had felt a most natural craving to immerse herself again in all
those thrilling interests which made life at this Elizabethan
village of Riseholme so exciting a business, and she had not yet
been able to make up her mind to take the plunge she longed for.
Though she had not made a luxury out of the tokens of grief, she
had perhaps made, ever so slightly, a stunt of them.

For instance.  There was that book-shop on the green, 'Ye Signe of
ye Daffodille', under the imprint of which Pepino had published his
severely limited edition of Fugitive Lyrics and Pensieri Persi.  A
full six months after his death Lucia had been walking past it with
Georgie Pillson, and had seen in the window a book she would have
liked to purchase.  But next to it, on the shelf, was the thin
volume of Pepino's Pensieri Persi, and, frankly, it had been rather
stuntish of her to falter on the threshold and, with eyes that were
doing their best to swim, to say to Georgie:

'I can't quite face going in, Georgie.  Weak of me, I know, but
there it is.  Will you please just pop in, caro, and ask them to
send me Beethoven's Days of Boyhood?  I will stroll on.'

So Georgie had pressed her hand and done this errand for her, and
of course he had repeated this pathetic little incident to others.
Tasteful embroideries had been tacked on to it, and it was soon
known all over Riseholme that poor Lucia had gone into 'Ye Signe of
ye Daffodille' to buy the book about Beethoven's boyhood, and had
been so sadly affected by the sight of Pepino's poems in their
rough brown linen cover with dark-green tape to tie them up with
(although she constantly saw the same volume in her own house),
that she had quite broken down.  Some said that sal volatile had
been administered.

Similarly, she had never been able to bring herself to have a game
of golf, or to resume her Dante-readings, and having thus
established the impression that her life had been completely
smashed up it had been hard to decide that on Tuesday or Wednesday
next she would begin to glue it together again.  In consequence she
had remained in as many pieces as before.  Like a sensible woman
she was very careful of her physical health, and since this stunt
of mourning made it impossible for her to play golf or take brisk
walks, she sent for a very illuminating little book, called An
Ideal System of Callisthenics for those no longer Young, and in a
secluded glade of her garden she exposed as much of herself as was
proper to the invigorating action of the sun, when there was any,
and had long bouts of skipping, and kicked, and jerked, and swayed
her trunk, gracefully and vigorously, in accordance with the
instructions laid down.  The effect was most satisfactory, and at
the very, very back of her mind she conceived it possible that some
day she might conduct callisthenic classes for those ladies of
Riseholme who were no longer young.

Then there was the greater matter of the Elizabethan fête to be
held in August next, when Riseholme would be swarming with
tourists.  The idea of it had been entirely Lucia's, and there had
been several meetings of the fête-committee (of which, naturally,
she was President) before Pepino's death.  She had planned the
great scene in it: this was to be Queen Elizabeth's visit to the
Golden Hind, when, on the completion of Francis Drake's
circumnavigation of the world, Her Majesty went to dine with him on
board his ship at Deptford and knighted him.  The Golden Hind was
to be moored in the pond on the village green; or, more accurately,
a platform on piles was to be built there, in the shape of a ship's
deck, with masts and rudder and cannons and bulwarks, and banners
and ancients, particularly ancients.  The pond would be an
admirable stage, for rows of benches would be put up all round it,
and everybody would see beautifully.  The Queen's procession with
trumpeters and men-at-arms and ladies of the Court was planned to
start from the Hurst, which was Lucia's house, and make its
glittering and melodious way across the green to Deptford to the
sound of madrigals and medieval marches.  Lucia would impersonate
the Queen, Pepino following her as Raleigh, and Georgie would be
Francis Drake.  But at an early stage of these incubations Pepino
had died, and Lucia had involved herself in this inextricable
widowhood.  Since then the reins of government had fallen into
Daisy Quantock's podgy little hands, and she, in this as in all
other matters, had come to consider herself quite the Queen of
Riseholme, until Lucia could get a move on again and teach her
better.

One morning in June, some seven weeks before the date fixed for the
fête, Mrs Quantock telephoned from her house a hundred yards away
to say that she particularly wanted to see Lucia, if she might pop
over for a little talk.  Lucia had heard nothing lately about the
preparations for the fête, for the last time that it had been
mentioned in her presence, she had gulped and sat with her hand
over her eyes for a moment overcome with the memory of how gaily
she had planned it.  But she knew that the preparations for it must
by this time be well in hand, and now she instantly guessed that it
was on this subject that Daisy wanted to see her.  She had
premonitions of that kind sometimes, and she was sure that this was
one of them.  Probably Daisy wanted to address a moving appeal to
her that, for the sake of Riseholme generally, she should make this
fête the occasion of her emerging from her hermetic widowhood.  The
idea recommended itself to Lucia, for before the date fixed for it,
she would have been a widow for over a year, and she reflected that
her dear Pepino would never have wished her to make this permanent
suttee of herself: also there was the prestige of Riseholme to be
considered.  Besides, she was really itching to get back into the
saddle again, and depose Daisy from her awkward, clumsy seat there,
and this would be an admirable opportunity.  So, as was usual now
with her, she first sighed into the telephone, said rather faintly
that she would be delighted to see dear Daisy, and then sighed
again.  Daisy, very stupidly, hoped she had not got a cough, and
was reassured on that point.

Lucia gave a few moments' thought as to whether she would be found
at the piano, playing the funeral march from Beethoven's Sonata in
A flat which she now knew by heart, or be sitting out in Perdita's
garden, reading Pepino's poems.  She decided on the latter, and
putting on a shady straw hat with a crêpe bow on it, and taking a
copy of the poems from the shelf, hurried out into Perdita's
garden.  She also carried with her a copy of to-day's Times, which
she had not yet read.

Perdita's garden requires a few words of explanation.  It was a
charming little square plot in front of the timbered façade of the
Hurst, surrounded by yew-hedges and intersected with paths of crazy
pavement, carefully smothered in stone-crop, which led to the
Elizabethan sundial from Wardour Street in the centre.  It was gay
in spring with those flowers (and no others) on which Perdita
doted.  There were 'violets dim', and primroses and daffodils,
which came before the swallow dared and took the winds (usually of
April) with beauty.  But now in June the swallow had dared long
ago, and when spring and the daffodils were over, Lucia always
allowed Perdita's garden a wider, though still strictly
Shakespearian scope.  There was eglantine (Penzance briar) in full
flower now, and honeysuckle and gillyflowers and plenty of pansies
for thoughts, and yards of rue (more than usual this year), and so
Perdita's garden was gay all the summer.

Here then, this morning, Lucia seated herself by the sundial, all
in black, on a stone bench on which was carved the motto 'Come thou
north wind, and blow thou south, that my garden spices may flow
forth.'  Sitting there with Pepino's poems and The Times she
obscured about one-third of this text, and fat little Daisy would
obscure the rest . . .  It was rather annoying that the tapes which
tied the covers of Pepino's poems had got into a hard knot, which
she was quite unable to unravel, for she had meant that Daisy
should come up, unheard by her, in her absorption, and find her
reading Pepino's lyric called 'Loneliness'.  But she could not
untie the tapes, and as soon as she heard Daisy's footsteps she
became lost in reverie with the book lying shut on her lap, and the
famous far-away look in her eyes.

It was a very hot morning.  Daisy, like many middle-aged women who
enjoyed perfect health, was always practising some medical regime
of a hygienic nature, and just now she was a devoted slave to the
eliminative processes of the body.  The pores of the skin were the
most important of these agencies, and, after her drill of physical
jerks by the open window of her bedroom, she had trotted in all
this heat across the green to keep up the elimination.  She mopped
and panted for a little.

'Made quite a new woman of me,' she said.  'You should try it, dear
Lucia.  But so good of you to see me, and I'll come to the point at
once.  The Elizabethan fête, you know.  You see it won't be till
August.  Can't we persuade you, as they say, to come amongst us
again?  We all want you: such a fillip you'd give it.'

Lucia made no doubt that this request implied the hope that she
might be induced to take the part of Queen Elizabeth, and under the
spell of the exuberant sunshine that poured in upon Perdita's
garden, she felt the thrill and the pulse of life bound in her
veins.  The fête would be an admirable occasion for entering the
arena of activities again, and, as Daisy had hinted (delicately for
Daisy), more than a year of her widowhood would have elapsed by
August.  It was self-sacrificing, too, of Daisy to have suggested
this herself, for she knew that according to present arrangements
Daisy was to take the part of the Virgin Queen, and Georgie had
told her weeks ago (when the subject of the fête had been last
alluded to) that she was already busy pricking her fingers by
sewing a ruff to go round her fat little neck, and that she had
bought a most sumptuous string of Woolworth pearls.  Perhaps dear
Daisy had realized what a very ridiculous figure she would present
as Queen, and was anxious for the sake of the fête to retire from
so laughable a role.  But, however that might be, it was nice of
her to volunteer abdication.

Lucia felt that it was only proper that Daisy should press her a
little.  She was being asked to sacrifice her personal feelings
which so recoiled from publicity, and for the sake of Riseholme to
rescue the fête from being a farce.  She was most eager to do so,
and a very little pressing would be sufficient.  So she sighed
again, she stroked the cover of Pepino's poems, but she spoke quite
briskly.

'Dear Daisy,' she said, 'I don't think I could face it.  I cannot
imagine myself coming out of my house in silks and jewels to take
my place in the procession without my Pepino.  He was to have been
Raleigh, you remember, and to have walked immediately behind me.
The welcome, the shouting, the rejoicing, the madrigals, the Morris-
dances and me with my poor desolate heart!  But perhaps I ought to
make an effort.  My dear Pepino, I know, would have wished me to.
You think so, too, and I have always respected the soundness of
your judgment.'

A slight change came over Daisy's round red face.  Lucia was
getting on rather too fast and too far.

'My dear, none of us ever thought of asking you to be Queen
Elizabeth,' she said.  'We are not so unsympathetic, for of course
that would be far too great a strain on you.  You must not think of
it.  All that I was going to suggest was that you might take the
part of Drake's wife.  She only comes forward just for a moment,
and makes her curtsey to me--I mean to the Queen--and then walks
backwards again into the chorus of ladies-in-waiting and
halberdiers and things.'

Lucia's beady eyes dwelt for a moment on Daisy's rather anxious
face with a glance of singular disdain.  What a fool poor Daisy was
to think that she, Lucia, could possibly consent to take any
subordinate part in tableaux or processions or anything else at
Riseholme where she had been Queen so long!  She had decided in her
own mind that with a very little judicious pressing she would take
the part of the Queen, and thus make her superb entry into
Riseholme life again, but all the pressure in the world would not
induce her to impersonate anyone else, unless she could double it
with the Queen.  Was there ever anything so tactless as Daisy's
tact? . . .

She gave a wintry smile, and stroked the cover of Pepino's poems
again.

'Sweet of you to suggest it, dear,' she said, 'but indeed it would
be quite too much for me.  I was wrong to entertain the idea even
for a moment.  Naturally I shall take the greatest, the VERY
greatest interest in it all, and I am sure you will understand if I
do not even feel equal to coming to it, and read about it instead
in the Worcestershire Herald.'

She paused.  Perhaps it would be more in keeping with her empty
heart to say nothing more about the fête.  On the other hand, she
felt a devouring curiosity to know how they were getting on.  She
sighed.

'I must begin to interest myself in things again,' she said.  'So
tell me about it all, Daisy, if you would like to.'

Daisy was much relieved to know that even the part of Drake's wife
was too much for Lucia.  She was safe now from any risk of having
the far more arduous part of the Queen snatched from her.

'All going splendidly,' she said.  'Revels on the green to open
with, and madrigals and Morris-dances.  Then comes the scene on the
Golden Hind which was entirely your idea.  We've only elaborated it
a little.  There will be a fire on the poop of the ship, or is it
the prow?'

'It depends, dear, which end of the ship you mean,' said Lucia.

'The behind part, the stern.  Poop, is it?  Well, there will be a
fire on the poop for cooking.  Quite safe, they say, if the logs
are laid on a sheet of iron.  Over the fire we shall have an
Elizabethan spit, and roast a sheep on it.'

'I wouldn't,' said Lucia, feeling the glamour of these schemes
glowing in her.  'Half of it will be cinders and the rest blood.'

'No, dear,' said Daisy.  'It will really be roasted first at the
Ambermere Arms, and then just hung over the fire on the Golden
Hind.'

'Oh, yes: just to get a little kippered in the smoke,' said Lucia.

'Not to matter.  Of course I shan't really eat any, because I never
touch meat of any sort now: I shall only pretend to.  But there'll
be the scene of cooking going on for the Queen's dinner on the deck
of the Golden Hind, just to fill up, while the Queen's procession
is forming.  Oh, I wonder if you would let us start the procession
from your house rather than mine.  The route would be so much more
in the open: everyone will see it better.  I would come across to
dress, if you would let me, half an hour before.'

Lucia of course knew perfectly well that Daisy was to be the Queen,
but she wanted to make her say so.

'Certainly start from here,' said Lucia.  'I am only too happy to
help.  And dress here yourself.  Let me see: what are you going to
be?'

'They've all insisted that I should be Queen Elizabeth,' said Daisy
hurriedly.  'Where had we got to?  Oh yes: as the procession is
forming, the cooking will be going on.  Songs of course, a chorus
of cooks.  Then the procession will cross the green to the Golden
Hind, then dinner, and then I knight Drake.  Such a lovely sword.
Then Elizabethan games, running, jumping, wrestling and so on.  We
thought of baiting a bear, one out of some menagerie that could be
trusted not to get angry, but we've given that up.  If it didn't
get angry, it wouldn't be baited, and if it did get angry it would
be awful.'

'Very prudent,' said Lucia.

'Then I steal away into the Ambermere Arms which is quite close,
and change into a riding-dress.  There'll be a white palfrey at the
door, the one that draws the milk-cart.  Oh, I forgot.  While I'm
dressing, before the palfrey comes round, a rider gallops in from
Plymouth on a horse covered with soapsuds to say that the Spanish
Armada has been sighted.  I think we must have a megaphone for
that, or no one will hear.  So I come out, and mount my palfrey,
and make my speech to my troops at Tilbury.  A large board, you
know, with Tilbury written up on it like a station.  That's quite
in the Shakespearian style.  I shall have to learn it all by heart,
and just have Raleigh standing by the palfrey with a copy of my
speech to prompt me if I forget.'

The old familiar glamour glowed brighter and brighter to Lucia as
Daisy spoke.  She wondered if she had made a mistake in not
accepting the ludicrous part of Drake's wife, just in order to get
a footing in these affairs again and attend committees, and,
gradually ousting Daisy from her supremacy, take the part of the
Queen herself.  She felt that she must think it all over, and
settle whether, in so advanced a stage of the proceedings, it could
be done.  At present, till she had made up her mind, it was wiser,
in order to rouse no suspicions, to pretend that these things were
all very remote.  She would take a faint though kindly interest in
them, as if some elderly person was watching children at play, and
smiling pensively at their pretty gambols.  But as for watching the
fête when the date arrived, that was unthinkable.  She would either
be Queen Elizabeth herself, or not be at Riseholme at all.  That
was that.

'Well, you have got your work cut out for you, dear Daisy,' she
said, giving a surreptitious tug at the knotted tape of Pepino's
poems.  'What fun you will have, and, dear me, how far away it all
seems!'

Daisy wrenched her mind away from the thought of the fête.

'It won't always, dear,' she said, making a sympathetic little dab
at Lucia's wrist.  'Your joy in life will revive again.  I see
you've got Pepino's poems there.  Won't you read me one?'

Lucia responded to this gesture with another dab.

'Do you remember the last one he wrote?' she said.  'He called it
"Loneliness".  I was away in London at the time.  Beginning:


     The spavined storm-clouds limp down the ruinous sky,
       While I sit alone.
     Thick through the acid air the dumb leaves fly . . .


But I won't read it you now.  Another time.'

Daisy gave one more sympathetic poke at her wrist, and rose to go.

'Must be off,' she said.  'Won't you come round and dine quietly to-
night?'

'I can't, many thanks.  Georgie is dining with me.  Any news in
Riseholme this morning?'

Daisy reflected for a moment.

'Oh, yes,' she said.  'Mrs Antrobus's got a wonderful new
apparatus.  Not an ear-trumpet at all.  She just bites on a small
leather pad, and hears everything perfectly.  Then she takes it out
of her mouth and answers you, and puts it back again to listen.'

'No!' said Lucia excitedly.  'All wet?'

'Quite dry.  Just between her teeth.  No wetter anyhow than a pen
you put in your mouth, I assure you.'

Daisy hurried away to do some more exercises and drink pints and
pints of hot water before lunch.  She felt that she had emerged
safely from a situation which might easily have become menacing,
for without question Lucia, in spite of her sighs and her wistful
stroking of the covers of Pepino's poems, and her great crêpe bow,
was beginning to show signs of her old animation.  She had given
Daisy a glance or two from that beady eye which had the qualities
of a gimlet about it, she had shown eager interest in such topics
as the roasting of the sheep and Mrs Antrobus's gadget, which a few
weeks ago would not have aroused the slightest response from her
stricken mind, and it was lucky, Daisy thought, that Lucia had
given her the definite assurance that even the part of Drake's wife
in the fête would be too much for her.  For goodness only knew,
when once Lucia settled to be on the mend, how swift her
recuperation might be, or what mental horse-power in the way of
schemings and domination she might not develop after this fallow
period of quiescence.  There was a new atmosphere about her to-day:
she was like some spring morning when, though winds might still be
chilly and the sun still of tepid and watery beams, the air was
pregnant with the imminent birth of new life.  But evidently she
meant to take no hand in the fête, which at present completely
filled Daisy's horizon.  'She may do what she likes afterwards,'
thought Daisy, breaking into a trot, 'but I will be Queen
Elizabeth.'

Her house, with its mulberry-tree in front and its garden at the
back, stood next Georgie Pillson's on the edge of the green, and as
she passed through it and out on to the lawn behind, she heard from
the other side of the paling that tap-tap of croquet-mallet and
ball which now almost without cessation punctuated the hours of any
fine morning.  Georgie had developed a craze for solitary croquet:
he spent half the day practising all by himself, to the great
neglect of his water-colour painting and his piano-playing.  He
seemed indeed, apart from croquet, to be losing his zest for life;
he took none of his old interest in the thrilling topics of
Riseholme.  He had not been a bit excited at Daisy's description of
Mrs Antrobus's new apparatus, and the prospect of impersonating
Francis Drake at the forthcoming fête aroused only the most tepid
enthusiasm in him.  A book of Elizabethan costumes, full of
sumptuous coloured plates, had roused him for a while from his
lethargy, and he had chosen a white satin tunic with puffed sleeves
slashed with crimson, and a cloak of rose-coloured silk, on the
reproduction of which his peerless parlourmaid Foljambe was at
work, but he didn't seem to have any keenness about him.  Of course
he had had some rather cruel blows of Fate to contend against
lately: Miss Olga Bracely the prima donna to whom he had been so
devoted had left Riseholme a month ago for a year's operatic tour
in the United States and Australia, and that was a desolate
bereavement for him, while Lucia's determination not to do any of
all these things which she had once enjoyed so much had deprived
him of all the duets they used to play together.  Moreover, it was
believed in Riseholme (though only whispered at present) that
Foljambe, that paragon of parlourmaids, in whom the smoothness and
comfort of his domestic life was centred, was walking out with
Cadman, Lucia's chauffeur.  It might not mean anything, but if it
did, if Foljambe and he intended to get married and Foljambe left
Georgie, and if Georgie had got wind of this, then indeed there
would be good cause for that lack of zest, that air of gloom and
apprehension which was now so often noticeable in him.  All these
causes, the blows Fate had already rained on him, and the anxiety
concerning this possible catastrophe in the future, probably
contributed to the eclipsed condition of his energies.

Daisy sat down on a garden-bench, and began to do a little deep-
breathing, which was a relic of the days when she had studied Yoga.
It was important to concentrate (otherwise the deep-breathing did
no good at all), or rather to attain a complete blankness of mind
and exclude from it all mundane interests which were Maya, or
illusion.  But this morning she found it difficult: regiments of
topics grew up like mushrooms.  Now she congratulated herself on
having made certain that Lucia was not intending to butt into the
fête, now she began to have doubts--these were disconcerting
mushrooms--as to whether that was so certain, for Lucia was much
brisker to-day than she had been since Pepino's death, and if that
continued, her reawakened interest in life would surely seek for
some outlet.  Then the thought of her own speech to her troops at
Tilbury began to leak into her mind: would she ever get it so
thoroughly by heart that she could feel sure that no attack of
nervousness or movement on the part of her palfrey would put it out
of her head?  Above all there was that disturbing tap-tap going on
from Georgie's garden, and however much she tried to attain
blankness of mind, she found herself listening for the next tap . . .
It was no use and she got up.

'Georgie, are you there?' she called out.

'Yes,' came his voice, trembling with excitement.  'Wait a minute.
I've gone through nine hoops and--Oh, how tarsome, I missed quite
an easy one.  What is it?  I rather wish you hadn't called me just
then.'

Georgie was tall, and he could look over the paling.  Daisy pulled
her chair up to it, and mounted on it, so that they could converse
with level heads.

'So sorry, Georgie,' she said, 'I didn't know you were making such
a break.  Fancy!  Nine!  I wanted to tell you I've been to see
Lucia.'

'Is that all?  I knew that because I saw you,' said Georgie.  'I
was polishing my bibelots in the drawing-room.  And you sat in
Perdita's garden.'

'And there's a change,' continued Daisy, who had kept her mouth
open, in order to go on again as soon as Georgie stopped.  'She's
better.  Distinctly.  More interested, and not so faint and die-
away.  Sarcastic about the roast sheep for instance.'

'What?  Did she talk about the fête again?' asked Georgie.  'That
is an improvement.'

'That was what I went to talk about.  I asked her if she wouldn't
make an effort to be Drake's wife.  But she said it would be too
great a strain.'

'My dear, you didn't ask her to be Drake's wife?' said Georgie
incredulously.  'You might as well have asked her to be a confused
noise within.  What can you have been thinking of?'

'Anyhow, she said she couldn't be anything at all,' said Daisy.  'I
have her word for that.  But if she is recovering, and I'm sure she
is, her head will be full of plans again.  I'm not quite happy
about it.'

'What you mean is that you're afraid she may want to be the Queen,'
observed Georgie acutely.

'I won't give it up,' said Daisy very firmly, not troubling to
confirm so obvious an interpretation.  'I've had all the trouble of
it, and very nearly learnt the speech to the troops, and made my
ruff and bought a rope of pearls.  It wouldn't be fair, Georgie.
So don't encourage her, will you?  I know you're dining with her to-
night.'

'No, I won't encourage her,' said he.  'But you know what Lucia is,
when she's in working order.  If she wants a thing, she gets it
somehow.  It happens.  That's all you can say about it.'

'Well, this one shan't happen,' said Daisy, dismounting from her
basket-chair which was beginning to sag.  'It would be too mean.
And I wish you would come across now and let us practise that scene
where I knight you.  We must get it very slick.'

'Not this morning,' said Georgie.  'I know my bit: I've only got to
kneel down.  You can practise on the end of a sofa.  Besides, if
Lucia is really waking up, I shall take some duets across this
evening, and I must have a go at some of them.  I've not touched my
piano for weeks.  And my shoulder's sore where you knighted me so
hard the other day.  Quite a bruise.'

Daisy suddenly remembered something more.

'And Lucia repeated me several lines out of one of Pepino's last
poems,' she said.  'She couldn't possibly have done that a month
ago without breaking down.  And I believe she would have read one
to me when I asked her to, but I'm pretty sure she couldn't undo
one of those tapes that the book is tied up with.  A hard knot.
She was picking at it . . .'

'Oh, she must be better,' said he.  'Ever so much.'

So Georgie went in to practise some of the old duets in case Lucia
felt equal to evoking the memories of happier days at the piano,
and Daisy hit the end of her sofa some half-dozen times with her
umbrella bidding it rise Sir Francis Drake.  She still wondered if
Lucia had some foul scheme in her head, but though there had ticked
by some minutes, directly after their talk in Perdita's garden,
which might have proved exceedingly dangerous to her own chance of
being the Queen, these, by the time that she was knighting the
sofa, had passed.  For Lucia, still meditating whether she should
not lay plots for ousting Daisy, had, in default of getting that
knotted tape undone, turned to her unread Times, and scanned its
columns with a rather absent eye.  There was no news that could
interest anybody, and her glance wandered up and down the lists of
situations vacant and wanted, of the sailings of steamers, and
finally of houses to be let for summer months.  There was a picture
of one with a plain pleasant Queen Anne front looking on to a
cobbled street.  It was highly attractive, and below it she read
that Miss Mapp sought a tenant for her house in Tilling, called
Mallards, for the months of August and September.  Seven bedrooms,
four sitting-rooms, h. & c. and an old-world garden.  At that
precise psychological moment Daisy's prospects of being Queen
Elizabeth became vastly rosier, for this house to let started an
idea in Lucia's mind which instantly took precedence of other
schemes.  She must talk to Georgie about it this evening: till then
it should simmer.  Surely also the name of Miss Mapp aroused faint
echoes of memory in her mind: she seemed to remember a large woman
with a wide smile who had stayed at the Ambermere Arms a few years
ago, and had been very agreeable but slightly superior.  Georgie
would probably remember her . . .  But the sun had become extremely
powerful, and Lucia picked up her Times and her book of poems and
went indoors to the cool lattice-paned parlour where her piano
stood.  By it was a book-case with volumes of bound-up music, and
she drew from it one which contained the duets over which Georgie
and she used to be so gay and so industrious.  These were Mozart
quartettes arranged for four hands, delicious, rippling airs: it
was months since she had touched them, or since the music-room had
resounded to anything but the most sombre and pensive strains.  Now
she opened the book and put it on the music-rest.  'Uno, due, tre,'
she said to herself and began practising the treble part which was
the more amusing to play.


Georgie saw the difference in her at once when he arrived for
dinner that evening.  She was sitting outside in Perdita's garden
and for the first time hailed him as of old in brilliant Italian.

'Buona sera, caro,' she said.  'Come sta?'

'Molto bene,' he answered, 'and what a caldo day.  I've brought a
little music across with me in case you felt inclined.  Mozartino.'

'What a good idea!  We will have un po' di musica afterwards, but
I've got tanto, tanto to talk to you about.  Come in: dinner will
be ready.  Any news?'

'Let me think,' he said.  'No, I don't think there's much.  I've
got rather a bruised shoulder where Daisy knighted me the other day--'

'Dear Daisy!' said Lucia.  'A little heavy-handed sometimes, don't
you find?  Not a light touch.  She was in here this morning talking
about the fête.  She urged me to take part in it.  What part do you
think she suggested, Georgie?  You'll never guess.'

'I never should have, if she hadn't told me,' he said.  'The most
ludicrous thing I ever heard.'

Lucia sighed.

'I'm afraid not much more ludicrous than her being Queen
Elizabeth,' she said.  'Daisy on a palfrey addressing her troops!
Georgie dear, think of it!  It sounds like that rather vulgar game
called "Consequences".  Daisy, I am afraid, has got tipsy with
excitement at the thought of being a queen.  She is running amok,
and she will make a deplorable exhibition of herself, and Riseholme
will become the laughing-stock of all those American tourists who
come here in August to see our lovely Elizabethan village.  The
Village will be all right, but what of Elizabeth?  Tacete un
momento, Georgie.  Le domestiche?

Georgie's Italian was rusty after so much disuse, but he managed to
translate this sentence to himself, and unerringly inferred that
Lucia did not want to pursue the subject while Grosvenor, the
parlourmaid, and her colleague were in the room.

'Sicuro,' he said, and made haste to help himself to his fish.  The
domestiche thereupon left the room again, to be summoned back by
the stroke of a silver bell in the shape of a pomander which
nestled among pepper- and mustard-pots beside Lucia.  Almost before
the door had closed on their exit, Lucia began to speak again.

'Of course after poor Daisy's suggestion I shall take no part
myself in this fête,' she said; 'and even if she besought me on her
knees to play Queen Elizabeth, I could not dream of doing so.  She
cannot deprive me of what I may call a proper pride, and since she
has thought good to offer me the role of Drake's wife, who, she
hastened to explain, only came on for one moment and curtsied to
her, and then retired into the ranks of men-at-arms and ladies-in-
waiting again, my sense of dignity, of which I have still some
small fragments left, would naturally prevent me from taking any
part in the performance, even at the end of a barge-pole.  But I am
sorry for Daisy, since she knows her own deficiencies so little,
and I shall mourn for Riseholme if the poor thing makes such a mess
of the whole affair as she most indubitably will if she is left to
organize it herself.  That's all.'

It appeared, however, that there was a little more, for Lucia
quickly finished her fish, and continued at once.

'So after what she said to me this morning, I cannot myself offer
to help her, but if you like to do so, Georgie, you can tell her--
not from me, mind, but from your own impression--that you think I
should be perfectly willing to coach her and make the best I can of
her as the embodiment of great Queen Bess.  Something might be done
with her.  She is short, but so was the Queen.  She has rather bad
teeth, but that doesn't matter, for the Queen had the same.  Again
she is not quite a lady, but the Queen also had a marked strain of
vulgarity and bourgeoisie.  There was a coarse fibre in the Tudors,
as I have always maintained.  All this, dear Georgie, is to the
good.  If dear Daisy will only not try to look tall, and if she
will smile a good deal, and behave naturally, these are advantages,
real advantages.  But in spite of them Daisy will merely make
herself and Riseholme silly if she does not manage to get hold of
some semblance of dignity and queenship.  Little gestures, little
turnings of the head, little graciousnesses; all that acting means.
I thought it out in those dear old days when we began to plan it,
and, as I say, I shall be happy to give poor Daisy all the hints I
can, if she will come and ask me to do so.  But mind, Georgie, the
suggestion must not come from me.  You are at liberty to say that
you think I possibly might help her, but nothing more than that.
Capite?

This Italian word, not understanded of the people, came rather
late, for already Lucia had struck the bell, as, unconsciously, she
was emphasizing her generous proposal, and Grosvenor and her
satellite had been in the room quite a long time.  Concealment from
le domestiche was therefore no longer possible.  In fact both
Georgie and Lucia had forgotten about the domestiche altogether.

'That's most kind of you, Lucia,' said Georgie.  'But you know what
Daisy is.  As obstinate as--'

'As a palfrey,' interrupted Lucia.

'Yes, quite.  Certainly I'll tell her what you say, or rather
suggest what you might say if she asked you to coach her, but I
don't believe it will be any use.  The whole fête has become an
awful bore.  There are six weeks yet before it's held, and she
wants to practise knighting me every day, and has processions up
and down her garden, and she gets all the tradesmen in the place to
walk before her as halberdiers and sea-captains, when they ought to
be attending to their businesses and chopping meat and milking
cows.  Everyone's sick of it.  I wish you would take it over, and
be Queen yourself.  Oh, I forgot, I promised Daisy I wouldn't
encourage you.  Dear me, how awful!'

Lucia laughed, positively laughed.  This was an enormous
improvement on the pensive smiles.

'Not awful at all, Georgino mio,' she said.  'I can well imagine
poor Daisy's feverish fear that I should try to save her from being
ridiculous.  She loves being ridiculous, dear thing; it's a complex
with her--that wonderful new book of Freud's which I must read--and
subconsciously she pines to be ridiculous on as large a scale as
possible.  But as for my taking it over, that's quite out of the
question.  To begin with, I don't suppose I shall be here.  Twelfth
of August isn't it?  Grouse-shooting opens in Scotland and bear-
baiting at Riseholme.'

'No, that was given up,' said Georgie.  'I opposed it throughout on
the committee.  I said that even if we could get a bear at all, it
wouldn't be baited if it didn't get angry--'

Lucia interrupted.

'And that if it did get angry it would be awful,' she put in.

'Yes.  How did you know I said that?' asked Georgie.  'Rather neat,
wasn't it?'

'Very neat indeed, caro,' said she.  'I knew you said it because
Daisy told me she had said it herself.'

'What a cheat!' said Georgie indignantly.

Lucia looked at him wistfully.

'Ah, you mustn't think hardly of poor dear Daisy,' she said.
'Cheat is too strong a word.  Just a little envious, perhaps, of
bright clever things that other people say, not being very quick
herself.'

'Anyhow, I shall tell her that I know she has bagged my joke,' said
he.

'My dear, not worth while.  You'll make quantities of others.  All
so trivial, Georgie, not worth noticing.  Beneath you.'

Lucia leaned forward with her elbows on the table, quite in the old
braced way, instead of drooping.

'But we've got far more important things to talk about than Daisy's
little pilferings,' she said.  'Where shall I begin?'

'From the beginning,' said Georgie greedily.  He had not felt so
keen about the affairs of daily life since Lucia had buried herself
in her bereavement.

'Well, the real beginning was this morning,' she said, 'when I saw
something in The Times.'

'More than I did,' said Georgie.  'Was it about Riseholme or the
fête?  Daisy said she was going to write a letter to The Times
about it.'

'I must have missed that,' said Lucia, 'unless by any chance they
didn't put it in.  No, not about the fête, nor about Riseholme.
Very much not about Riseholme.  Georgie, do you remember a woman
who stayed at the Ambermere Arms one summer called Miss Mapp?'

Georgie concentrated.

'I remember the name, because she was rather globular, like a map
of the world,' he said.  'Oh, wait a moment: something's coming
back to me.  Large, with a great smile.  Teeth.'

'Yes, that's the one,' cried Lucia.  'There's telepathy going on,
Georgie.  We're suggesting to each other . . .  Rather like a
hyena, a handsome hyena.  Not hungry now but might be.'

'Yes.  And talked about a place called Tilling, where she had a
Queen Anne house.  We rather despised her for that.  Oh, yes, and
she came to a garden-party of mine.  And I know when it was too.
It was that summer when you invented saying "Au reservoir" instead
of "Au revoir".  We all said it for about a week and then got tired
of it.  Miss Mapp came here just about then, because she picked it
up at my garden-party.  She stopped quite to the end, eating
quantities of red-currant fool, and saying that she had inherited a
recipe from her grandmother which she would send me.  She did, too,
and my cook said it was rubbish.  Yes: it was the au reservoir
year, because she said au reservoir to everyone as they left, and
told me she would take it back to Tilling.  That's the one.  Why?'

'Georgie, your memory's marvellous,' said Lucia.  'Now about the
advertisement I saw in The Times.  Miss Mapp is letting her Queen
Anne house called Mallards, h. & c. and old-world garden, for
August and September.  I want you to drive over with me to-morrow
and see it.  I think that very likely, if it's at all what I hope,
I shall take it.'

'No!' cried Georgie.  'Why of course I'll drive there with you to-
morrow.  What fun!  But it will be too awful if you go away for two
months.  What shall I do?  First there's Olga not coming back for a
year, and now you're thinking of going away, and there'll be
nothing left for me except my croquet and being Drake.'

Lucia gave him one of those glances behind which lurked so much
purpose, which no doubt would be disclosed at the proper time.  The
bees were astir once more in the hive, and presently they would
stream out for swarmings or stingings or honey-harvesting . . .  It
was delightful to see her looking like that again.

'Georgie, I want change,' she said, 'and though I'm much touched at
the idea of your missing me, I think I must have it.  I want to get
roused up again and shaken and made to tick.  Change of air, change
of scene, change of people.  I don't suppose anyone alive has been
more immersed than I in the spacious days of Elizabeth, or more
devoted to Shakespearian tradition and environment--perhaps I ought
to except Sir Sidney Lee, isn't it?--than I, but I want for the
present anyhow to get away from it, especially when poor Daisy is
intending to make this deplorable public parody of all that I have
held sacred so long.'

Lucia swallowed three or four strawberries as if they had been
pills and took a gulp of water.

'I don't think I could bear to be here for all the rehearsals,' she
said; 'to look out from the rue and honeysuckle of my sweet garden
and see her on her palfrey addressing her lieges of Riseholme, and
making them walk in procession in front of her.  It did occur to me
this morning that I might intervene, take the part of the Queen
myself, and make a pageant such as I had planned in those happy
days, which would have done honour to the great age and credit to
Riseholme, but it would spoil the dream of Daisy's life, and one
must be kind.  I wash my hands of it all, though of course I shall
allow her to dress here, and the procession to start from my house.
She wanted that, and she shall have it, but of course she must
state on the programmes that the procession starts from Mrs Philip
Lucas's house.  It would be too much that the visitors, if there
are any, should think that my beautiful Hurst belongs to Daisy.
And, as I said, I shall be happy to coach her, and see if I can do
anything with her.  But I won't be here for the fête, and I must be
somewhere and that's why I'm thinking of Tilling.'

They had moved into the music-room where the bust of Shakespeare
stood among its vases of flowers, and the picture of Lucia by
Tancred Sigismund, looking like a chessboard with some arms and
legs and eyes sticking out of it, hung on the wall.  There were
Georgie's sketches there, and the piano was open, and Beethoven's
Days of Boyhood was lying on the table with the paper-knife stuck
between its leaves, and there was animation about the room once
more.

Lucia seated herself in the chair that might so easily have come
from Anne Hathaway's cottage, though there was no particular reason
for supposing that it did.

'Georgie, I am beginning to feel alive again,' she said.  'Do you
remember what wonderful Alfred says in Maud?  "My life hath crept
so long on a broken wing."  That's what my life has been doing, but
now I'm not going to creep any more.  And just for the time, as I
say, I'm "off" the age of Elizabeth, partly poor Daisy's fault, no
doubt.  But there were other ages, Georgie, the age of Pericles,
for instance.  Fancy sitting at Socrates's feet or Plato's, and
hearing them talk while the sun set over Salamis or Pentelicus.  I
must rub up my Greek, Georgie.  I used to know a little Greek at
one time, and if I ever manage any tableaux again, we must have the
death of Agamemnon.  And then there's the age of Anne.  What a
wonderful time, Pope and Addison!  So civilized, so cultivated.
Their routs and their tea-parties and rapes of the lock.  With all
the greatness and splendour of the Elizabethan age, there must have
been a certain coarseness and crudity about them.  No one reveres
it more than I, but it is a mistake to remain in the same waters
too long.  There comes a tide in the affairs of men, which, if you
don't nip it in the bud, leads on to boredom.'

'My dear, is that yours?' said Georgie.  'And absolutely impromptu
like that!  You're too brilliant.'

It was not quite impromptu, for Lucia had thought of it in her
bath.  But it would be meticulous to explain that.

'Wicked of me, I'm afraid,' she said.  'But it expresses my
feelings just now.  I do want a change, and my happening to see
this notice of Miss Mapp's in The Times seems a very remarkable
coincidence.  Almost as if it was sent: what they call a leading.
Anyhow, you and I will drive over to Tilling tomorrow and see it.
Let us make a jaunt of it, Georgie, for it's a long way, and stay
the night at an inn there.  Then we shall have plenty of time to
see the place.'

This was rather a daring project, and Georgie was not quite sure if
it was proper.  But he knew himself well enough to be certain that
no passionate impulse of his would cause Lucia to regret that she
had made so intimate a proposal.

'That'll be the greatest fun,' he said.  'I shall take my painting
things.  I haven't sketched for weeks.'

'Cattivo ragazzo!' said Lucia.  'What have you been doing with
yourself?'

'Nothing.  There's been no one to play the piano with, and no one,
who knows, to show my sketches to.  Hours of croquet, just killing
the time.  Being Drake.  How that fête bores me!'

''Oo poor thing!' said Lucia, using again the baby-talk in which she
and Georgie used so often to indulge.  'But me's back again now,
and me will scold 'oo vewy vewy much if 'oo does not do your
lessons.'

'And me vewy glad to be scolded again,' said Georgie.  'Me idle
boy!  Dear me, how nice it all is!' he exclaimed enthusiastically.

The clock on the old oak dresser struck ten, and Lucia jumped up.

'Georgie, ten o'clock already,' she cried.  'How time has flown.
Now I'll write out a telegram to be sent to Miss Mapp first thing
to-morrow to say we'll get to Tilling in the afternoon, to see her
house, and then ickle musica.  There was a Mozart duet we used to
play.  We might wrestle with it again.'

She opened the book that stood on the piano.  Luckily that was the
very one Georgie had been practising this morning.  (So too had
Lucia.)

'That will be lovely,' he said.  'But you mustn't scold me if I
play vewy badly.  Months since I looked at it.'

'Me too,' said Lucia.  'Here we are!  Shall I take the treble?
It's a little easier for my poor fingers.  Now: Uno, due, tre!  Off
we go!'



2


They arrived at Tilling in the middle of the afternoon, entering it
from the long level road that ran across the reclaimed marshland to
the west.  Blue was the sky overhead, complete with larks and small
white clouds; the town lay basking in the hot June sunshine, and
its narrow streets abounded in red-brick houses with tiled roofs,
that shouted Queen Anne and George I in Lucia's enraptured ears,
and made Georgie's fingers itch for his sketching-tools.

'Dear Georgie, perfectly enchanting!' exclaimed Lucia.  'I declare
I feel at home already.  Look, there's another lovely house.  We
must just drive to the end of this street, and then we'll inquire
where Mallards is.  The people, too, I like their looks.  Faces
full of interest.  It's as if they expected us.'

The car had stopped to allow a dray to turn into the High Street
from a steep cobbled way leading to the top of the hill.  On the
pavement at the corner was standing quite a group of Tillingites:
there was a clergyman, there was a little round bustling woman
dressed in a purple frock covered with pink roses which looked as
if they were made of chintz, there was a large military-looking man
with a couple of golf-clubs in his hand, and there was a hatless
girl with hair closely cropped, dressed in a fisherman's jersey and
knickerbockers, who spat very neatly in the roadway.

'We must ask where the house is,' said Lucia, leaning out of the
window of her Rolls-Royce.  'I wonder if you would be so good as to
tell me--'

The clergyman sprang forward.

'It'll be Miss Mapp's house you're seeking,' he said in a broad
Scotch accent.  'Straight up the street, to yon corner, and it's
right there is Mistress Mapp's house.'

The odd-looking girl gave a short hoot of laughter, and they all
stared at Lucia.  The car turned with difficulty and danced slowly
up the steep narrow street.

'Georgie, he told me where it was before I asked,' said Lucia.  'It
must be known in Tilling that I was coming.  What a strange accent
that clergyman had!  A little tipsy, do you think, or only Scotch?
The others too!  All most interesting and unusual.  Gracious,
here's an enormous car coming down.  Can we pass, do you think?'

By means of both cars driving on to the pavement on each side of
the cobbled roadway, the passage was effected, and Lucia caught
sight of a large woman inside the other, who in spite of the heat
of the day wore a magnificent sable cloak.  A small man with a
monocle sat eclipsed by her side.  Then, with glimpses of more red-
brick houses to right and left, the car stopped at the top of the
street opposite a very dignified door.  Straight in front where the
street turned at a right angle, a room with a large bow-window
faced them; this, though slightly separate from the house, seemed
to belong to it.  Georgie thought he saw a woman's face peering out
between half-drawn curtains, but it whisked itself away.

'Georgie, a dream,' whispered Lucia, as they stood on the doorstep
waiting for their ring to be answered.  'That wonderful chimney, do
you see, all crooked.  The church, the cobbles, the grass and
dandelions growing in between them . . .  Oh, is Miss Mapp in?  Mrs
Lucas.  She expects me.'

They had hardly stepped inside, when Miss Mapp came hurrying in
from a door in the direction of the bow-window where Georgie had
thought he had seen a face peeping out.

'Dear Mrs Lucas,' she said.  'No need for introductions, which
makes it all so happy, for how well I remember you at Riseholme,
your lovely Riseholme.  And Mr Pillson!  Your wonderful garden-
party!  All so vivid still.  Red-letter days!  Fancy your having
driven all this way to see my little cottage!  Tea at once,
Withers, please.  In the garden-room.  Such a long drive but what a
heavenly day for it.  I got your telegram at breakfast-time this
morning.  I could have clapped my hands for joy at the thought of
possibly having such a tenant as Mrs Lucas of Riseholme.  But let
us have a cup of tea first.  Your chauffeur?  Of course he will
have his tea here, too.  Withers: Mrs Lucas's chauffeur.  Mind you
take care of him.'

Miss Mapp took Lucia's cloak from her, and still keeping up an
effortless flow of hospitable monologue, led them through a small
panelled parlour which opened on to the garden.  A flight of eight
steps with a canopy of wistaria overhead led to the garden-room.

'My little plot,' said Miss Mapp.  'Very modest, as you see, three-
quarters of an acre at the most, but well screened.  My flower-
beds: sweet roses, tortoiseshell butterflies.  Rather a nice
clematis.  My Little Eden I call it, so small, but so well
beloved.'

'Enchanting!' said Lucia, looking round the garden before mounting
the steps up to the garden-room door.  There was a very green and
well-kept lawn, set in bright flower-beds.  A trellis at one end
separated it from a kitchen-garden beyond, and round the rest ran
high brick walls, over which peered the roofs of other houses.  In
one of these walls was cut a curved archway with a della Robbia
head above it.

'Shall we just pop across the lawn,' said Miss Mapp, pointing to
this, 'and peep in there while Withers brings our tea?  Just to
stretch the--the limbs, Mrs Lucas, after your long drive.  There's
a wee little plot beyond there which is quite a pet of mine.  And
here's sweet Puss-Cat come to welcome my friends.  Lamb!  Love-
bird!'

Love-bird's welcome was to dab rather crossly at the caressing hand
which its mistress extended, and to trot away to ambush itself
beneath some fine hollyhocks, where it regarded them with singular
disfavour.

'My little secret garden,' continued Miss Mapp as they came to the
archway.  'When I am in here and shut the door, I mustn't be
disturbed for anything less than a telegram.  A rule of the house:
I am very strict about it.  The tower of the church keeping watch,
as I always say over my little nook, and taking care of me.
Otherwise not overlooked at all.  A little paved walk round it, you
see, flower-beds, a pocket-handkerchief of a lawn, and in the
middle a pillar with a bust of good Queen Anne.  Picked it up in a
shop here for a song.  One of my lucky days.'

'Oh Georgie, isn't it too sweet?' cried Lucia.  'Un giardino
segreto.  Molto bello!'

Miss Mapp gave a little purr of ecstasy.

'How lovely to be able to talk Italian like that,' she said.  'So
pleased you like my little . . . giardino segreto, was it?  Now
shall we have our tea, for I'm sure you want refreshment, and see
the house afterwards?  Or would you prefer a little whisky and
soda, Mr Pillson?  I shan't be shocked.  Major Benjy--I should say
Major Flint--often prefers a small whisky and soda to tea on a hot
day after his game of golf, when he pops in to see me and tell me
all about it.'

The intense interest in humankind, so strenuously cultivated at
Riseholme, obliterated for a moment Lucia's appreciation of the
secret garden.

'I wonder if it was he whom we saw at the corner of the High
Street,' she said.  'A big soldier-like man, with a couple of golf-
clubs.'

'How you hit him off in a few words,' said Miss Mapp admiringly.
'That can be nobody else but Major Benjy.  Going off no doubt by
the steam-tram (most convenient, lands you close to the links) for
a round of golf after tea.  I told him it would be far too hot to
play earlier.  I said I should scold him if he was naughty and
played after lunch.  He served for many years in India.
Hindustanee is quite a second language to him.  Calls "Quai-hai"
when he wants his breakfast.  Volumes of wonderful diaries, which
we all hope to see published some day.  His house is next to mine
down the street.  Lots of tiger-skins.  A rather impetuous bridge-
player: quite wicked sometimes.  You play bridge of course, Mrs
Lucas.  Plenty of that in Tilling.  Some good players.'

They had strolled back over the lawn to the garden-room where
Withers was laying tea.  It was cool and spacious, one window was
shaded with the big leaves of a fig-tree, through which, unseen,
Miss Mapp so often peered out to see whether her gardener was
idling.  Over the big bow-window looking on to the street one
curtain was half-drawn, a grand piano stood near it, book-cases
half-lined the walls, and above them hung many water-colour
sketches of the sort that proclaims a domestic origin.  Their
subjects also betrayed them, for there was one of the front of Miss
Mapp's house, and one of the secret garden, another of the crooked
chimney, and several of the church tower looking over the house-
roofs on to Miss Mapp's lawn.

Though she continued to spray on her visitors a perpetual shower of
flattering and agreeable trifles, Miss Mapp's inner attention was
wrestling with the problem of how much a week, when it came to the
delicate question of terms for the rent of her house, she should
ask Lucia.  The price had not been mentioned in her advertisement
in The Times, and though she had told the local house-agent to name
twelve guineas a week, Lucia was clearly more than delighted with
what she had seen already, and it would be a senseless Quixotism to
let her have the house for twelve, if she might, all the time, be
willing to pay fifteen.  Moreover, Miss Mapp (from behind the
curtain where Georgie had seen her) was aware that Lucia had a
Rolls-Royce car, so that a few additional guineas a week would
probably be of no significance to her.  Of course, if Lucia was not
enthusiastic about the house as well as the garden, it might be
unwise to ask fifteen, for she might think that a good deal, and
would say something tiresome about letting Miss Mapp hear from her
when she got safe away back to Riseholme, and then it was sure to
be a refusal.  But if she continued to rave and talk Italian about
the house when she saw over it, fifteen guineas should be the
price.  And not a penny of that should Messrs Woolgar & Pipstow,
the house-agents, get for commission since Lucia had said
definitely that she saw the advertisement in The Times.  That was
Miss Mapp's affair: nothing to do with Woolgar & Pipstow.  Meantime
she begged Georgie not to look at those water-colours on the walls.

'Little daubs of my own,' she said, most anxious that this should
be known.  'I should sink into the ground with shame, clear Mr
Pillson, if you looked at them, for I know what a great artist you
are yourself.  And Withers has brought us our tea . . .  You like
the one of my little giardino segreto?  (I must remember that
beautiful phrase.)  How kind of you to say so!  Perhaps it isn't
quite so bad as the others, for the subject inspired me, and it's
so important, isn't it, to love your subject?  Major Benjy likes it
too.  Cream, Mrs Lucas?  I see Withers has picked some strawberries
for us from my little plot.  Such a year for strawberries!  And
Major Benjy was chatting with friends I'll be bound, when you
passed him.'

'Yes, a clergyman,' said Lucia, 'who kindly directed us to your
house.  In fact he seemed to know we were going there before I said
so, didn't he, Georgie?  A broad Scotch accent.'

'Dear Padre!' said Miss Mapp.  'It's one of his little ways to talk
Scotch, though he came from Birmingham.  A very good bridge-player
when he can spare time as he usually can.  Reverend Kenneth
Bartlett.  Was there a teeny little thin woman with him like a
mouse?  It would be his wife.'

'No, not thin, at all,' said Lucia thoroughly interested.  'Quite
the other way round: in fact round.  A purple coat and a skirt
covered with pink roses that looked as if they were made of
chintz.'

Miss Mapp nearly choked over her first sip of tea, but just saved
herself.

'I declare I'm quite frightened of you, Mrs Lucas,' she said.
'What an eye you've got.  Dear Diva Plaistow, whom we're all
devoted to.  Christened Godiva!  Such a handicap!  And they WERE
chintz roses, which she cut out of an old pair of curtains and
tacked them on.  She's full of absurd delicious fancies like that.
Keeps us all in fits of laughter.  Anyone else?'

'Yes, a girl with no hat and an Eton crop.  She was dressed in a
fisherman's jersey and knickerbockers.'

Miss Mapp looked pensive.

'Quaint Irene,' she said.  'Irene Coles.  Just a touch of
unconventionality, which sometimes is very refreshing, but can be
rather embarrassing.  Devoted to her art.  She paints strange
pictures, men and women with no clothes on.  One has to be careful
to knock when one goes to see quaint Irene in her studio.  But a
great original.'

'And then when we turned up out of the High Street,' said Georgie
eagerly, 'we met another Rolls-Royce.  I was afraid we shouldn't be
able to pass it.'

'So was I,' said Miss Mapp unintentionally betraying the fact that
she had been watching from the garden-room.  'That car is always up
and down this street here.'

'A large woman in it,' said Lucia.  'Wrapped in sables on this
broiling day.  A little man beside her.'

'Mr and Mrs Wyse,' said Miss Mapp.  'Lately married.  She was Mrs
Poppit, MBE.  Very worthy, and such a crashing snob.'

As soon as tea was over and the inhabitants of Tilling thus plucked
and roasted, the tour of the house was made.  There were charming
little panelled parlours with big windows letting in a flood of air
and sunshine and vases of fresh flowers on the tables.  There was a
broad staircase with shallow treads, and every moment Lucia became
more and more enamoured of the plain well-shaped rooms.  It all
looked so white and comfortable, and, for one wanting a change, so
different from the Hurst with its small latticed windows, its steep
irregular stairs, its single steps, up or down, at the threshold of
every room.  People of the age of Anne seemed to have a much better
idea of domestic convenience, and Lucia's Italian exclamations grew
gratifyingly frequent.  Into Miss Mapp's own bedroom she went alone
with the owner, leaving Georgie on the landing outside, for
delicacy would not permit his looking on the scene where Miss Mapp
nightly disrobed herself, and the bed where she nightly disposed
herself.  Besides, it would be easier for Lucia to ask that
important point-blank question of terms, and for herself to answer
it if they were alone.

'I'm charmed with the house,' said Lucia.  'And what exactly, how
much I mean, for a period of two months--'

'Fifteen guineas a week,' said Miss Mapp without pause.  'That
would include the use of my piano.  A sweet instrument by
Blumenfelt.'

'I will take it for August and September,' said Lucia.

'And I'm sure I hope you'll be as pleased with it,' said Miss Mapp,
'as I'm sure I shall be with my tenant.'

A bright idea struck her, and she smiled more widely than ever.

'That would not include, of course, the wages of my gardener, such
a nice steady man,' she said, 'or garden-produce.  Flowers for the
house by all means, but not fruit or vegetables.'

At that moment Lucia, blinded by passion for Mallards, Tilling and
the Tillingites, would have willingly agreed to pay the water-rate
as well.  If Miss Mapp had guessed that, she would certainly have
named this unusual condition.

Miss Mapp, as requested by Lucia, had engaged rooms for her and
Georgie at a pleasant hostelry near by, called the Trader's Arms,
and she accompanied them there with Lucia's car following, like an
empty carriage at a funeral, to see that all was ready for them.
There must have been some misunderstanding of the message, for
Georgie found that a double bedroom had been provided for them.
Luckily Lucia had lingered outside with Miss Mapp, looking at the
view over the marsh, and Georgie with embarrassed blushes explained
at the bureau that this would not do at all, and the palms of his
hands got cold and wet until the mistake was erased and remedied.
Then Miss Mapp left them and they went out to wander about the
town.  But Mallards was the magnet for Lucia's enamoured eye, and
presently they stole back towards it.  Many houses apparently were
to be let furnished in Tilling just now, and Georgie too grew
infected with the desire to have one.  Riseholme would be very
dismal without Lucia, for the moment the fête was over he felt sure
that an appalling reaction after the excitement would settle on it;
he might even miss being knighted.  He had sketched everything
sketchable, there would be nobody to play duets with, and the whole
place would stagnate again until Lucia's return, just as it had
stagnated during her impenetrable widowhood.  Whereas here there
were innumerable subjects for his brush, and Lucia would be
installed in Mallards with a Blumenfelt in the garden-room, and, as
was already obvious, a maelstrom of activities whirling in her
brain.  Major Benjy interested her, so did quaint Irene and the
Padre, all the group, in fact, which had seen them drive up with
such pre-knowledge, so it seemed, of their destination.

The wall of Miss Mapp's garden, now known to them from inside, ran
up to where they now stood, regarding the front of Mallards, and
Georgie suddenly observed that just beside them was the sweetest
little gabled cottage with the board announcing that it was to be
let furnished.

'Look, Lucia,' he said.  'How perfectly fascinating!  If it wasn't
for that blasted fête, I believe I should be tempted to take it, if
I could get it for the couple of months when you are here.'

Lucia had been waiting just for that.  She was intending to hint
something of the sort before long unless he did, and had made up
her mind to stand treat for a bottle of champagne at dinner, so
that when they strolled about again afterwards, as she was quite
determined to do, Georgie, adventurous with wine, might find the
light of the late sunset glowing on Georgian fronts in the town and
on the levels of the surrounding country, quite irresistible.  But
how wise to have waited, so that Georgie should make the suggestion
himself.

'My dear, what a delicious idea!' she said.  'Are you really
thinking of it?  Heavenly for me to have a friend here instead of
being planted among strangers.  And certainly it is a darling
little house.  It doesn't seem to be occupied, no smoke from any of
the chimneys.  I think we might really peep in through the windows
and get some idea of what it's like.'

They had to stand on tiptoe to do this, but by shading their eyes
from the westerly sun they could get a very decent idea of the
interior.

'This must be the dining-room,' said Georgie, peering in.

'A lovely open fireplace,' said Lucia.  'So cosy.'

They moved on sideways like crabs.

'A little hall,' said Lucia.  'Pretty staircase going up out of
it.'

More crab-like movements.

'The sitting-room,' said Georgie.  'Quite charming, and if you
press your nose close you can see out of the other window into a
tiny garden beyond.  The wooden paling must be that of your kitchen-
garden.'

They stepped back into the street to get a better idea of the
topography, and at this moment Miss Mapp looked out of the bow-
window of her garden-room and saw them there.  She was as intensely
interested in this as they in the house.

'And three bedrooms I should think upstairs,' said Lucia, 'and two
attics above.  Heaps.'

'I shall go and see the agent to-morrow morning,' said Georgie.  'I
can imagine myself being very comfortable there!'

They strolled off into the disused graveyard round the church.
Lucia turned to have one more look at the front of Mallards, and
Miss Mapp made a low swift curtsey, remaining down so that she
disappeared completely.

'About that old fête,' said Georgie, 'I don't want to throw Daisy
over, because she'll never get another Drake.'

'But you can go down there for the week,' said Lucia who had
thought it all out, 'and come back as soon as it's over.  You know
how to be knighted by now.  You needn't go to all those endless
rehearsals.  Georgie, look at that wonderful clock on the church.'

'Lovely,' said Georgie absently.  'I told Daisy I simply would not
be knighted every day.  I shall have no shoulder left.'

'And I think that must be the Town Hall,' said Lucia.  'Quite right
about not being knighted so often.  What a perfect sketch you could
do of that.'

'Heaps of room for us all in the cottage,' said Georgie.  'I hope
there's a servants' sitting-room.'

'They'll be in and out of Mallards all day,' said Lucia.  'A lovely
servants' hall there.'

'If I can get it, I will,' said Georgie.  'I shall try to let my
house at Riseholme, though I shall take my bibelots away.  I've
often had applications for it in other years.  I hope Foljambe will
like Tilling.  She will make me miserable if she doesn't.  Tepid
water, fluff on my clothes.'

It was time to get back to their inn to unpack, but Georgie longed
for one more look at his cottage, and Lucia for one at Mallards.
Just as they turned the corner that brought them in sight of these
there was thrust out of the window of Miss Mapp's garden-room a
hand that waved a white handkerchief.  It might have been samite.

'Georgie, what can that be?' whispered Lucia.  'It must be a signal
of some sort.  Or was it Miss Mapp waving us good night?'

'Not very likely,' said he.  'Let's wait one second.'

He had hardly spoken when Miss Coles, followed by the breathless
Mrs Plaistow hurried up the three steps leading to the front door
of Mallards and entered.

'Diva and quaint Irene,' said Lucia.  'It must have been a signal.'

'It might be a coincidence,' said Georgie.  To which puerile
suggestion Lucia felt it was not worth while to reply.

Of course it was a signal and one long prearranged, for it was a
matter of the deepest concern to several householders in Tilling,
whether Miss Mapp found a tenant for Mallards, and she had promised
Diva and quaint Irene to wave a handkerchief from the window of the
garden-room at six o'clock precisely, by which hour it was
reasonable to suppose that her visitors would have left her.  These
two ladies, who would be prowling about the street below, on the
look-out, would then hasten to hear the best or the worst.

Their interest in the business was vivid, for if Miss Mapp
succeeded in letting Mallards, she had promised to take Diva's
house, Wasters, for two months at eight guineas a week (the house
being much smaller) and Diva would take Irene's house, Taormina
(smaller still) at five guineas a week, and Irene would take a four-
roomed labourer's cottage (unnamed) just outside the town at two
guineas a week, and the labourer, who, with his family would be
harvesting in August and hop-picking in September, would live in
some sort of shanty and pay no rent at all.  Thus from top to
bottom of this ladder of lessors and lessees they all scored, for
they all received more than they paid, and all would enjoy the
benefit of a change without the worry and expense of travel and
hotels.  Each of these ladies would wake in the morning in an
unfamiliar room, would sit in unaccustomed chairs, read each
other's books (and possibly letters), look at each other's
pictures, imbibe all the stimulus of new surroundings, without the
wrench of leaving Tilling at all.  No true Tillingite was ever
really happy away from her town; foreigners were very queer
untrustworthy people, and if you did not like the food it was
impossible to engage another cook for an hotel of which you were
not the proprietor.  Annually in the summer this sort of ladder of
house-letting was set up in Tilling and was justly popular.  But it
all depended on a successful letting of Mallards, for if Elizabeth
Mapp did not let Mallards, she would not take Diva's Wasters nor
Diva Irene's Taormina.

Diva and Irene therefore hurried to the garden-room where they
would hear their fate; Irene forging on ahead with that long
masculine stride that easily kept pace with Major Benjy's, the
short-legged Diva with that twinkle of feet that was like the
scudding of a thrush over the lawn.

'Well, Mapp, what luck?' asked Irene.

Miss Mapp waited till Diva had shot in.

'I think I shall tease you both,' said she playfully with her
widest smile.

'Oh, hurry up,' said Irene.  'I know perfectly well from your face
that you've let it.  Otherwise it would be all screwed up.'

Miss Mapp, though there was no question about her being the social
queen of Tilling, sometimes felt that there were ugly Bolshevistic
symptoms in the air, when quaint Irene spoke to her like that.  And
Irene had a dreadful gift of mimicry, which was a very low weapon,
but formidable.  It was always wise to be polite to mimics.

'Patience, a little patience, dear,' said Miss Mapp soothingly.
'If you know I've let it, why wait?'

'Because I should like a cocktail,' said Irene.  'If you'll just
send for one, you can go on teasing.'

'Well, I've let it for August and September,' said Miss Mapp,
preferring to abandon her teasing than give Irene a cocktail.  'And
I'm lucky in my tenant.  I never met a sweeter woman than dear Mrs
Lucas.'

'Thank God,' said Diva, drawing up her chair to the still uncleared
table.  'Give me a cup of tea, Elizabeth.  I could eat nothing till
I knew.'

'How much did you stick her for it?' asked Irene.

'Beg your pardon, dear?' asked Miss Mapp, who could not be expected
to understand such a vulgar expression.

'What price did you screw her up to?  What's she got to pay you?'
said Irene impatiently.  'Damage: dibs.'

'She instantly closed with the price I suggested,' said Miss Mapp.
'I'm not sure, quaint one, that anything beyond that is what might
be called your business.'

'I disagree about that,' said the quaint one.  'There ought to be a
sliding-scale.  If you've made her pay through the nose, Diva ought
to make you pay through the nose for her house, and I ought to make
her pay through the nose for mine.  Equality, Fraternity,
Nosality.'

Miss Mapp bubbled with disarming laughter and rang the bell for
Irene's cocktail, which might stop her pursuing this subject, for
the sliding-scale of twelve, eight and five guineas a week had been
the basis of previous calculations.  Yet if Lucia so willingly
consented to pay more, surely that was nobody's affair but that of
the high contracting parties.  Irene, soothed by the prospect of
her cocktail, pursued the dangerous topic no further, but sat down
at Miss Mapp's piano and picked out God Save the King, with one
uncertain finger.  Her cocktail arrived just as she finished it.

'Thank you, dear,' said Miss Mapp.  'Sweet music.'

'Cheerio!' said Irene.  'Are you charging Lucas anything extra for
use of a fine old instrument?'

Miss Mapp was goaded into a direct and emphatic reply.

'No, darling, I am not,' she said, 'as you are so interested in
matters that don't concern you.'

'Well, well, no offence meant,' said Irene.  'Thanks for the
cocktail.  Look in to-morrow between twelve and one at my studio,
if you want to see far the greater part of a well-made man.  I'll
be off now to cook my supper.  Au reservoir.'

Miss Mapp finished the few strawberries that Diva had spared and
sighed.

'Our dear Irene has a very coarse side to her nature, Diva,' she
said.  'No harm in her, but just common.  Sad!  Such a contrast to
dear Mrs Lucas.  So refined: scraps of Italian beautifully
pronounced.  And so delighted with everything.'

'Ought we to call on her?' asked Diva.  'Widow's mourning, you
know.'

Miss Mapp considered this.  One plan would be that she should take
Lucia under her wing (provided she was willing to go there),
another to let it be known in Tilling (if she wasn't) that she did
not want to be called upon.  That would set Tilling's back up, for
if there was one thing it hated it was anything that (in spite of
widow's weeds) might be interpreted into superiority.  Though Lucia
would only be two months in Tilling, Miss Mapp did not want her to
be too popular on her own account, independently.  She wanted . . .
she wanted to have Lucia in her pocket, to take her by the hand and
show her to Tilling, but to be in control.  It all had to be
thought out.

'I'll find out when she comes,' she said.  'I'll ask her, for
indeed I feel quite an old friend already.'

'And who's the man?' asked Diva.

'Dear Mr Georgie Pillson.  He entertained me so charmingly when I
was at Riseholme for a night or two some years ago.  They are
staying at the Trader's Arms, and off again to-morrow.'

'What?  Staying there together?' asked Diva.

Miss Mapp turned her head slightly aside as if to avoid some faint
unpleasant smell.

'Diva dear,' she said.  'Old friends as we are, I should be sorry
to have a mind like yours.  Horrid.  You've been reading too many
novels.  If widow's weeds are not a sufficient protection against
such innuendoes, a baby girl in its christening-robe wouldn't be
safe.'

'Gracious me, I made no innuendo,' said the astonished Diva.  'I
only meant it was rather a daring thing to do.  So it is.  Anything
more came from your mind, Elizabeth, not mine.  I merely ask you
not to put it on to me, and then say I'm horrid.'

Miss Mapp smiled her widest.

'Of course I accept your apology, dear Diva,' she said.  'Fully,
without back-thought of any kind.'

'But I haven't apologized and I won't,' cried Diva.  'It's for you
to do that.'

To those not acquainted with the usage of the ladies of Tilling,
such bitter plain-speaking might seem to denote a serious friction
between old friends.  But neither Elizabeth nor Diva had any such
feeling: they would both have been highly surprised if an impartial
listener had imagined anything so absurd.  Such breezes, even if
they grew far stronger than this, were no more than bracing airs
that disposed to energy, or exercises to keep the mind fit.  No
malice.

'Another cup of tea, dear?' said Miss Mapp earnestly.

That was so like her, thought Diva: that was Elizabeth all over.
When logic and good feeling alike had produced an irresistible case
against her, she swept it all away, and asked you if you would have
some more cold tea or cold mutton, or whatever it was.

Diva gave up.  She knew she was no match for her and had more tea.

'About our own affairs then,' she said, 'if that's all settled--'

'Yes, dear: so sweetly so harmoniously,' said Elizabeth.

Diva swallowed a regurgitation of resentment, and went on as if she
had not been interrupted.

'--Mrs Lucas takes possession on the first of August,' she said.
'That's to say, you would like to get into Wasters that day.'

'Early that day, Diva, if you can manage it,' said Elizabeth, 'as I
want to give my servants time to clean and tidy up.  I would pop
across in the morning, and my servants follow later.  All so easy
to manage.'

'Then there's another thing,' said Diva.  'Garden-produce.  You're
leaving yours, I suppose.'

Miss Mapp gave a little trill of laughter.

'I shan't be digging up all my potatoes and stripping the beans and
the fruit-trees,' she said.  'And I thought--correct me if I am
wrong--that my eight guineas a week for your little house included
garden-produce, which is all that really concerns you and me.  I
think we agreed as to that.'

Miss Mapp leaned forward with an air of imparting luscious secret
information, as that was settled.

'Diva: something thrilling,' she said.  'I happened to be glancing
out of my window just by chance a few minutes before I waved to
you, and there were Mrs Lucas and Mr Pillson peering, positively
peering into the windows of Mallards Cottage.  I couldn't help
wondering if Mr Pillson is thinking of taking it.  They seemed to
be so absorbed in it.  It is to let, for Isabel Poppit has taken
that little brown bungalow with no proper plumbing out by the golf-
links.'

'Thrilling!' said Diva.  'There's a door in the paling between that
little back-yard at Mallards Cottage and your garden.  They could
unlock it--'

She stopped, for this was a development of the trend of ideas for
which neither of them had apologized.

'But even if Mr Pillson is thinking of taking it, what next,
Elizabeth?' she asked.

Miss Mapp bent to kiss the roses in that beautiful vase of flowers
which she had cut this morning in preparation for Lucia's visit.

'Nothing particular, dear,' she said.  'Just one of my madcap
notions.  You and I might take Mallards Cottage between us, if it
appealed to you.  Sweet Isabel is only asking four guineas a week
for it.  If Mr Pillson happens--it's only a speculation--to want
it, we might ask, say, six.  So cheap at six.'

Diva rose.

'Shan't touch it,' she said.  'What if Mr Pillson doesn't want it?
A pure speculation.'

'Perhaps it would be rather risky,' said Miss Mapp.  'And now I
come to think of it, possibly, possibly rather stealing a march--
don't they call it--on my friends.'

'Oh, decidedly,' said Diva.  'No "possibly possibly" about it.'

Miss Mapp winced for a moment under this smart rap, and changed the
subject.

'I shall have little more than a month, then, in my dear house,'
she said, 'before I'm turned out of it.  I must make the most of
it, and have a quantity of little gaieties for you all.'


Georgie and Lucia had another long stroll through the town after
their dinner.  The great celestial signs behaved admirably; it was
as if the spirit of Tilling had arranged that sun, moon and stars
alike should put forth their utmost arts of advertisement on its
behalf, for scarcely had the fires of sunset ceased to blaze on its
red walls and roofs and to incarnadine the thin skeins of mist that
hung over the marsh, than a large punctual moon arose in the east
and executed the most wonderful nocturnes in black and silver.

They found a great grey Norman tower keeping watch seaward, an
Edwardian gate with drum towers looking out landward: they found a
belvedere platform built out on a steep slope to the east of the
town, and the odour of the flowering hawthorns that grew there was
wafted to them as they gazed at a lighthouse winking in the
distance.  In another street there stood Elizabethan cottages of
brick and timber, very picturesque, but of no interest to those who
were at home in Riseholme.  Then there were human interests as
well: quaint Irene was sitting, while the sunset flamed, on a camp-
stool in the middle of a street, hatless and trousered, painting a
most remarkable picture, apparently of the Day of Judgment, for the
whole world was enveloped in fire.  Just as they passed her her
easel fell down, and in a loud angry voice she said, 'Damn the
beastly thing.'  Then they saw Diva scuttling along the High Street
carrying a bird-cage.  She called up to an open window very
lamentably, 'Oh, Dr Dobbie, please!  My canary's had a fit!'  From
another window, also open and unblinded, positively inviting
scrutiny, there came a baritone voice singing 'Will ye no' come
back again?' and there, sure enough, was the Padre from Birmingham,
with the little grey mouse tinkling on the piano.  They could not
tear themselves away (indeed there was quite a lot of people
listening) till the song was over, and then they stole up the
street, at the head of which stood Mallards, and from the house
just below it came a muffled cry of 'Quai-hai', and Lucia's lips
formed the syllables 'Major Benjy.  At his diaries.'  They tiptoed
on past Mallards itself, for the garden-room window was open wide,
and so past Mallards Cottage, till they were out of sight.

'Georgie, entrancing,' said Lucia.  'They're all being themselves,
and all so human and busy--'

'If I don't get Mallards Cottage,' said Georgie, 'I shall die.'

'But you must.  You shall.  Now it's time to go to bed, though I
could wander about for ever.  We must be up early in order to get
to the house-agents' as soon as it's open.  Woggles & Pickstick,
isn't it?'

'Now you've confused me,' said Georgie.  'Rather like it, but not
quite.'

They went upstairs to bed: their rooms were next each other, with a
communicating door.  There was a bolt on Georgie's side of it, and
he went swiftly across to this and fastened it.  Even as he did so,
he heard a key quietly turned from the other side of it.  He
undressed with the stealth of a burglar prowling about a house, for
somehow it was shy work that he and Lucia should be going to bed so
close to each other; he brushed his teeth with infinite precaution
and bent low over the basin to eject (spitting would be too noisy a
word) the water with which he had rinsed his mouth, for it would
never do to let a sound of these intimate manoeuvres penetrate next
door.  When half-undressed he remembered that the house-agents'
name was Woolgar & Pipstow, and he longed to tap at Lucia's door
and proclaim it, but the silence of the grave reigned next door,
and perhaps Lucia was asleep already.  Or was she, too, being as
stealthy as he?  Whichever it was (particularly if it was the last)
he must not let a betrayal of his presence reach her.

He got into bed and clicked out his light.  That could be done
quite boldly: she might hear that, for it only betokened that all
was over.  Then, in spite of this long day in the open air, which
should have conduced to drowsiness, he felt terribly wide-awake,
for the subject which had intermittently occupied his mind,
shadowing it with dim apprehension, ever since Pepino's death,
presented itself in the most garish colours.  For years, by a
pretty Riseholme fantasy, it had always been supposed that he was
the implacably Platonic but devout lover of Lucia: somehow that
interesting fiction had grown up, and Lucia had certainly abetted
it as well as himself.  She had let it be supposed that he was, and
that she accepted this chaste fervour.  But now that her year of
widowhood was nearly over, there loomed in front of Georgie the
awful fact that very soon there could be no earthly reason why he
should not claim his reward for these years of devotion and
exchange his passionate celibacy for an even more passionate
matrimony.  It was an unnerving thought that he might have the
right before the summer was over, to tap at some door of
communication like that which he had so carefully bolted (and she
locked) and say, 'May I come in, darling?'  He felt that the words
would freeze on his tongue before he could utter them.

Did Lucia expect him to ask to marry her?  There was the crux and
his imagination proceeded to crucify him upon it.  They had posed
for years as cherishing for each other a stainless devotion, but
what if, with her, it had been no pose at all, but a dreadful
reality?  Had he been encouraging her to hope, by coming down to
stay at this hotel in this very compromising manner?  In his
ghastly midnight musing, it seemed terribly likely.  He had been
very rash to come, and all this afternoon he had been pursuing his
foolhardy career.  He had said that life wasn't worth living if he
could not get hold of Mallards Cottage, which was less than a
stone's throw (even he could throw a stone as far as that) from the
house she was to inhabit alone.  Really it looked as if it was the
proximity to her that made the cottage so desirable.  If she only
knew how embarrassing her proximity had been just now when he
prepared himself for bed! . . .

And Lucia always got what she wanted.  There was a force about her
he supposed (so different from poor Daisy's violent yappings and
scufflings), which caused things to happen in the way she wished.
He had fallen in with all her plans with a zest which it was only
reasonable she should interpret favourably: only an hour or two ago
he had solemnly affirmed that he must take Mallards Cottage, and
the thing already was as good as done, for they were to breakfast
to-morrow morning at eight, in order to be at the house-agents'
(Woggle & Pipsqueak, was it?  He had forgotten again), as soon as
it opened.  Things happened like that for her: she got what she
wanted.  'But never, never,' thought Georgie, 'shall she get me.  I
couldn't possibly marry her, and I won't.  I want to live quietly
and do my sewing and my sketching, and see lots of Lucia, and play
any amount of duets with her, but not marry her.  Pray God, she
doesn't want me to!'

Lucia was lying awake, too, next door, and if either of them could
have known what the other was thinking about, they would both
instantly have fallen into a refreshing sleep, instead of tossing
and turning as they were doing.  She, too, knew that for years she
and Georgie had let it be taken for granted that they were mutually
devoted, and had both about equally encouraged that impression.
There had been an interlude, it is true, when that wonderful Olga
Bracely had shone (like evening stars singing) over Riseholme, but
she was to be absent from England for a year; besides she was
married, and even if she had not been would certainly not have
married Georgie.  'So we needn't consider Olga,' thought Lucia.
'It's all about Georgie and me.  Dear Georgie: he was so terribly
glad when I began to be myself again, and how he jumped at the plan
of coming to Tilling and spending the night here!  And how he froze
on to the idea of taking Mallards Cottage as soon as he knew I had
got Mallards!  I'm afraid I've been encouraging him to hope.  He
knows that my year of widowhood is almost over, and on the very eve
of its accomplishment, I take him off on this solitary expedition
with me.  Dear me: it looks as if I was positively asking for it.
How perfectly horrible!'

Though it was quite dark, Lucia felt herself blushing.

'What on earth am I to do?' continued these disconcerting
reflections.  'If he asks me to marry him, I must certainly refuse,
for I couldn't do so: quite impossible.  And then when I say no, he
has every right to turn on me, and say I've been leading him on.
I've been taking moonlight walks with him, I'm at this moment
staying alone with him in an hotel.  Oh dear!  Oh dear!'

Lucia sat up in bed and listened.  She longed to hear sounds of
snoring from the next room, for that would show that the thought of
the fulfilment of his long devotion was not keeping him awake, but
there was no sound of any kind.

'I must do something about it to-morrow,' she said to herself, 'for
if I allow things to go on like this, these two months here with
him will be one series of agitating apprehensions.  I must make it
quite clear that I won't before he asks me.  I can't bear to think
of hurting Georgie, but it will hurt him less if I show him
beforehand he's got no chance.  Something about the beauty of a
friendship untroubled with passion.  Something about the
tranquillity that comes with age . . .  There's that eternal old
church clock striking three.  Surely it must be fast.'

Lucia lay down again: at last she was getting sleepy.

'Mallards,' she said to herself.  'Quaint Irene . . . Woffles
and . . . Georgie will know.  Certainly Tilling is fascinating . . .
Intriguing, too . . . characters of strong individuality to be dealt
with . . .  A great variety, but I think I can manage them . . .
And what about Miss Mapp? . . .  Those wide grins . . .  We shall
see about that . . .'

Lucia awoke herself from a doze by giving a loud snore, and for one
agonized moment thought it was Georgie, whom she had hoped to hear
snoring, in alarming proximity to herself.  That nightmare-spasm
was quickly over, and she recognized that it was she that had done
it.  After all her trouble in not letting a sound of any sort
penetrate through that door!

Georgie heard it.  He was getting sleepy, too, in spite of his
uneasy musings, but he was just wide-awake enough to realize where
that noise had come from.

'And if she snores as well . . .' he thought, and dozed off.



3


It was hardly nine o'clock in the morning when they set out for the
house-agents', and the upper circles of Tilling were not yet fully
astir.  But there was a town-crier in a blue frock-coat ringing a
bell in the High Street and proclaiming that the water-supply would
be cut off that day from twelve noon till three in the afternoon.
It was difficult to get to the house-agents', for the street where
it was situated was being extensively excavated and they had chosen
the wrong side of the road, and though they saw it opposite them
when halfway down the street, a long detour must be made to reach
it.

'But so characteristic, so charming,' said Lucia.  'Naturally there
is a town-crier in Tilling, and naturally the streets are up.  Do
not be so impatient, Georgie.  Ah, we can cross here.'

There was a further period of suspense.

'The occupier of Mallards Cottage,' said Mr Woolgar (or it might
have been Mr Pipstow), 'is wanting to let for three months, July,
August and September.  I'm not so sure that she would entertain--'

'Then will you please ring her up,' interrupted Georgie, 'and say
you've had a firm offer for two months.'

Mr Woolgar turned round a crank like that used for starting rather
old-fashioned motor-cars, and when a bell rang, he gave a number,
and got into communication with the brown bungalow without proper
plumbing.

'Very sorry, sir,' he said, 'but Miss Poppit has gone out for her
sun-bath among the sand-dunes.  She usually takes about three hours
if fine.'

'But we're leaving again this morning,' said Georgie.  'Can't her
servant, or whoever it is, search the sand-dunes and ask her?'

'I'll inquire, sir,' said Mr Woolgar sympathetically.  'But there
are about two miles of sand-dunes, and she may be anywhere.'

'Please inquire,' said Georgie.

There was an awful period, during which Mr Woolgar kept on saying
'Quite', 'Just so', 'I see', 'Yes, dear', with the most tedious
monotony, in answer to unintelligible quacking noises from the
other end.

'Quite impossible, I am afraid,' he said at length.  'Miss Poppit
only keeps one servant, and she's got to look after the house.
Besides, Miss Poppit likes . . . likes to be private when she's
enjoying the sun.'

'But how tarsome,' said Georgie.  'What am I to do?'

'Well, sir, there's Miss Poppit's mother you might get hold of.
She is Mrs Wyse now.  Lately married.  A beautiful wedding.  The
house you want is her property.'

'I know,' broke in Lucia.  'Sables and a Rolls-Royce.  Mr Wyse has
a monocle.'

'Ah, if you know the lady, madam, that will be all right, and I can
give you her address.  Starling Cottage, Porpoise Street.  I will
write it down for you.'

'Georgie, Porpoise Street!' whispered Lucia in an entranced aside.
'Com' e bello e molto characteristuoso!'

While this was being done, Diva suddenly blew in, beginning to
speak before she was wholly inside the office.  A short tempestuous
interlude ensued.

'--morning, Mr Woolgar,' said Diva, 'and I've let Wasters, so you
can cross it off your books: such a fine morning.'

'Indeed, madam,' said Mr Woolgar.  'Very satisfactory.  And I hope
your dear little canary is better.'

'Still alive and in less pain, thank you, pip,' said Diva, and
plunged through the excavations outside sooner than waste time in
going round.

Mr Woolgar apparently understood that 'pip' was not a salutation
but a disease of canaries, and did not say 'So long' or 'Pip pip'.
Calm returned again.

'I'll ring up Mrs Wyse to say you will call, madam,' he said.  'Let
me see: what name?  It has escaped me for the moment.'

As he had never known it, it was difficult to see how it could have
escaped.

'Mrs Lucas and Mr Pillson,' said Lucia.  'Where is Porpoise
Street?'

'Two minutes' walk from here, madam.  As if you were going up to
Mallards, but first turning to the right just short of it.'

'Many thanks,' said Lucia, 'I know Mallards.'

'The best house in Tilling, madam,' said Mr Woolgar, 'if you were
wanting something larger than Mallards Cottage.  It is on our
books, too.'

The pride of proprietorship tempted Lucia for a moment to say 'I've
got it already,' but she refrained.  The complications which might
have ensued, had she asked the price of it, were endless . . .

'A great many houses to let in Tilling,' she said.

'Yes, madam, a rare lot of letting goes on about this time of
year,' said Mr Woolgar, 'but they're all snapped up very quickly.
Many ladies in Tilling like a little change in the summer.'

It was impossible (since time was so precious, and Georgie so
feverishly apprehensive, after this warning, that somebody else
would secure Mallards Cottage before him, although the owner was
safe in the sand-dunes for the present) to walk round the
excavations in the street, and like Diva they made an intrepid
short cut among gas-pipes and water-mains and braziers and bricks
to the other side.  A sad splash of mud hurled itself against
Georgie's fawn-coloured trousers as he stepped in a puddle, which
was very tarsome, but it was useless to attempt to brush it off
till it was dry.  As they went up the now familiar street towards
Mallards they saw quaint Irene leaning out of the upper window of a
small house, trying to take down a board that hung outside it which
advertised that this house, too, was to let: the fact of her
removing it seemed to indicate that from this moment it was to let
no longer.  Just as they passed, the board, which was painted in
the most amazing colours, slipped from her hand and crashed on to
the pavement, narrowly missing Diva who simultaneously popped out
of the front door.  It broke into splinters at her feet, and she
gave a shrill cry of dismay.  Then perceiving Irene she called up,
'No harm done, dear,' and Irene, in a voice of fury, cried, 'No
harm?  My beautiful board's broken to smithereens.  Why didn't you
catch it, silly?'

A snort of infinite contempt was the only proper reply, and Diva
trundled swiftly away into the High Street again.

'But it's like a game of general post, Georgie,' said Lucia
excitedly, 'and we're playing too.  Are they all letting their
houses to each other?  Is that it?'

'I don't care whom they're letting them to,' said Georgie, 'so long
as I get Mallards Cottage.  Look at this tarsome mud on my
trousers, and I daren't try to brush it off.  What will Mrs Wyse
think?  Here's Porpoise Street anyhow, and there's Starling
Cottage.  Elizabethan again.'

The door was of old oak, without a handle, but with a bobbin in the
strictest style, and there was a thickly patinated green bronze
chain hanging close by, which Georgie rightly guessed to be the
bell-pull, and so he pulled it.  A large bronze bell, which he had
not perceived, hanging close to his head, thereupon broke into a
clamour that might have been heard not only in the house but all
over Tilling, and startled him terribly.  Then bobbins and gadgets
were manipulated from within and they were shown into a room in
which two very diverse tastes were clearly exhibited.  Oak beams
crossed the ceiling, oak beams made a criss-cross on the walls:
there was a large open fireplace of grey Dutch bricks, and on each
side of the grate an ingle-nook with a section of another oak beam
to sit down upon.  The windows were latticed and had antique levers
for their control: there was a refectory-table and a spice-chest
and some pewter mugs and a Bible-box and a coffin-stool.  All this
was one taste, and then came in another, for the room was full of
beautiful objects of a very different sort.  The refectory-table
was covered with photographs in silver frames: one was of a man in
uniform and many decorations signed 'Cecco Faraglione', another of
a lady in Court dress with a quantity of plumes on her head signed
'Amelia Faraglione'.  Another was of the King of Italy, another of
a man in a frock-coat signed 'Wyse'.  In front of these, rather
prominent, was an open purple morocco box in which reposed the
riband and cross of a Member of the Order of the British Empire.
There was a cabinet of china in one corner with a malachite vase
above it: there was an occasional table with a marble mosaic top:
there was a satinwood piano draped with a piece of embroidery: a
palm-tree: a green velvet sofa over the end of which lay a sable
coat, and all these things spoke of post-Elizabethan refinements.

Long before Lucia had time to admire them all, there came a
jingling from a door over which hung a curtain of reeds and beads,
and Mrs Wyse entered.

'So sorry to keep you waiting, Mrs Lucas,' she said, 'but they
thought I was in the garden, and I was in my boudoir all the time.
And you must excuse my deshabille, just my shopping-frock.  And Mr
Pillson, isn't it?  So pleased.  Pray be seated.'

She heaved the sable coat off the end of the sofa on to the window-
seat.

'We've just been to see the house-agent,' said Georgie in a great
hurry, as he turned his muddied leg away from the light, 'and he
told us that you might help me.'

'Most happy I am sure, if I can.  Pray tell me,' said Mrs Wyse, in
apparent unconsciousness of what she could possibly help him about.

'Mallards Cottage,' said Georgie.  'There seems to be no chance of
getting hold of Miss Poppit and we've got to leave before she comes
back from her sun-bath.  I so much want to take it for August and
September.'

Mrs Wyse made a little cooing sound.

'Dear Isabel!' she said.  'My daughter.  Out in the sand-dunes all
morning!  What if a tramp came along? I say to her.  But no use:
she calls it the Browning Society, and she must not miss a meeting.
So quick and clever!  Browning, not the poet but the action of the
sun.'

'Most amusing!' said Georgie.  'With regard to Mallards Cottage--'

'The little house is mine, as no doubt Mr Woolgar told you,' said
Mrs Wyse, forgetting she had been in complete ignorance of these
manoeuvres, 'but you must certainly come and see over it, before
anything is settled . . .  Ah, here is Mr Wyse.  Algernon: Mrs
Lucas and Mr Pillson.  Mr Pillson wants to take Mallards Cottage.'

Lucia thought she had never seen anyone so perfectly correct and
polite as Mr Wyse.  He gave little bows and smiles to each as he
spoke to them, and that in no condescending manner, nor yet
cringingly, but as one consorting with his high-bred equals.

'From your beautiful Riseholme, I understand,' he said to Lucia
(bowing to Riseholme as well).  'And we are all encouraging
ourselves to hope that for two months at the least the charm of our
picturesque--do you not find it so?--little Tilling will give Susan
and myself the inestimable pleasure of being your neighbours.  We
shall look forward to August with keen anticipation.  Remind me,
dear Susan, to tell Amelia what is in store for us.'  He bowed to
August, Susan and Amelia and continued--'And now I hear that Mr
Pillson' (he bowed to Georgie and observed the drying spot of mud)
'is "after" as they say, after Mallards Cottage.  This will indeed
be a summer for Tilling.'

Georgie, during this pretty speech which Mr Wyse delivered in the
most finished manner, was taking notes of his costume and
appearance.  His clean-shaven face, with abundant grey hair brushed
back from his forehead, was that of an actor who has seen his best
days, but who has given command performances at Windsor.  He wore a
brown velveteen coat, a Byronic collar and a tie strictured with a
cameo-ring: he wore brown knickerbockers and stockings to match, he
wore neat golfing shoes.  He looked as if he might be going to play
golf, but somehow it didn't seem likely . . .

Georgie and Lucia made polite deprecating murmurs.

'I was telling Mr Pillson he must certainly see over it first,'
said Mrs Wyse.  'There are the keys of the cottage in my boudoir,
if you'll kindly fetch them, Algernon.  And the Royce is at the
door, I see, so if Mrs Lucas will allow us, we will all drive up
there together, and show her and Mr Pillson what there is.'

While Algernon was gone, Mrs Wyse picked up the photograph signed
Amelia Faraglione.

'You recognize, no doubt, the family likeness,' she said to Lucia.
'My husband's sister Amelia who married the Conte di Faraglione, of
the old Neapolitan nobility.  That is he.'

'Charming,' said Lucia.  'And so like Mr Wyse.  And that Order?
What is that?'

Mrs Wyse hastily shut the morocco box.

'So like servants to leave that about,' she said.  'But they seem
proud of it.  Graciously bestowed upon me.  Member of the British
Empire.  Ah, here is Algernon with the keys.  I was showing Mrs
Lucas, dear, the photograph of Amelia.  She recognized the likeness
at once.  Now let us all pack in.  A warm morning, is it not?  I
don't think I shall need my furs.'

The total distance to be traversed was not more than a hundred
yards, but Porpoise Street was very steep, and the cobbles which
must be crossed very unpleasant to walk on, so Mrs Wyse explained.
They had to wait some little while at the corner, twenty yards away
from where they started, for a van was coming down the street from
the direction of Mallards, and the Royce could not possibly pass
it, and then they came under fire of the windows of Miss Mapp's
garden-room.  As usual at this hour she was sitting there with the
morning paper in her hand in which she could immerse herself if
anybody passed whom she did not wish to see, but was otherwise
intent on the movements of the street.

Diva Plaistow had looked in with the news that she had seen Lucia
and Georgie at the house-agents', and that her canary still lived.
Miss Mapp professed her delight to hear about the canary, but was
secretly distrustful of whether Diva had seen the visitors or not.
Diva was so imaginative; to have seen a man and a woman who were
strangers was quite enough to make her believe she had seen Them.
Then the Royce heaved into sight round the corner below, and Miss
Mapp became much excited.

'I think, Diva,' she said, 'that this is Mrs Lucas's beautiful car
coming.  Probably she is going to call on me about something she
wants to know.  If you sit at the piano you will see her as she
gets out.  Then we shall know whether you really--'

The car came slowly up, barked loudly and instead of stopping at
the front door of Mallards, turned up the street in the direction
of Mallards Cottage.  Simultaneously Miss Mapp caught sight of that
odious chauffeur of Mrs Wyse's.  She could not see more than
people's knees in the car itself (that was the one disadvantage of
the garden-room window being so high above the street), but there
were several pairs of them.

'No, it's only Susan's great lumbering bus,' she said, 'filling up
the street as usual.  Probably she has found out that Mrs Lucas is
staying at the Trader's Arms, and has gone to leave cards.  Such a
woman to shove herself in where she's not wanted _I_ never saw.
Luckily I told Mrs Lucas what a dreadful snob she was.'

'A disappointment to you, dear, when you thought Mrs Lucas was
coming to call,' said Diva.  'But I did see them this morning at
Woolgar's and it's no use saying I didn't!'

Miss Mapp uttered a shrill cry.

'Diva, they've stopped at Mallards Cottage.  They're getting out.
Susan first--so like her--and . . . it's Them.  She's got hold of
them somehow . . .  There's Mr Wyse with the keys, bowing . . .
They're going in . . .  I was right, then, when I saw them peering
in through the windows yesterday.  Mr Pillson's come to see the
house, and the Wyses have got hold of them.  You may wager they
know by now about the Count and Countess Faradiddleone, and the
Order of the British Empire.  I really didn't think Mrs Lucas would
be so easily taken in.  However, it's no business of mine.'

There could not have been a better reason for Miss Mapp being
violently interested in all that happened.  Then an idea struck her
and the agitated creases in her face faded out.

'Let us pop in to Mallards Cottage, Diva, while they are still
there,' she said.  'I should hate to think that Mrs Lucas should
get her ideas of the society she will meet in Tilling from poor
common Susan.  Probably they would like a little lunch before their
long drive back to Riseholme.'

The inspection of the cottage had taken very little time.  The main
point in Georgie's mind was that Foljambe should be pleased, and
there was an excellent bedroom for Foljambe, where she could sit
when unoccupied.  The rooms that concerned him had been viewed
through the windows from the street the evening before.
Consequently Miss Mapp had hardly had time to put on her garden-
hat, and trip up the street with Diva, when the inspecting party
came out.

'Sweet Susan!' she said.  'I saw your car go by . . .  Dear Mrs
Lucas, good morning, I just popped across--this is Mrs Plaistow--to
see if you would not come and have an early lunch with me before
you drive back to your lovely Riseholme.  Any time would suit me,
for I never have any breakfast.  Twelve, half-past twelve?  A
little something?'

'So kind of you,' said Lucia, 'but Mrs Wyse has just asked us to
lunch with her.'

'I see,' said Miss Mapp, grinning frightfully.  'Such a pity.  I
had hoped--but there it is.'

Clearly it was incumbent on sweet Susan to ask her to join them at
this early lunch, but sweet Susan showed no signs of doing anything
of the sort.  Off went Lucia and Georgie to the Trader's Arms to
pack their belongings and leave the rest of the morning free, and
the Wyses, after vainly trying to persuade them to drive there in
the Royce, got into it themselves and backed down the street till
it could turn in the slightly wider space opposite Miss Mapp's
garden-room.  This took a long time, and she was not able to get to
her own front door till the manoeuvre was executed, for as often as
she tried to get round the front of the car it took a short run
forward, and it threatened to squash her flat against the wall of
her own room if she tried to squeeze round behind it.

But there were topics to gloat over which consoled her for this act
of social piracy on the part of the Wyses.  It was a noble stroke
to have let Mallards for fifteen guineas a week without garden-
produce, and an equally brilliant act to have got Diva's house for
eight with garden-produce, for Diva had some remarkably fine plum-
trees, the fruit of which would be ripe during her tenancy, not to
mention apples: Miss Mapp foresaw a kitchen-cupboard the doors of
which could not close because of the jam-pots within.  Such
reflections made a happy mental background as she hurried out into
the town, for there were businesses to be transacted without delay.
She first went to the house-agents' and had rather a job to
convince Mr Woolgar that the letting of Mallards was due to her own
advertisement in The Times, and that therefore she owed no
commission to his firm, but her logic proved irresistible.  Heated
but refreshed by that encounter, she paid a visit to her
greengrocer and made a pleasant arrangement for the sale of the
produce of her own kitchen-garden at Mallards during the months of
August and September.  This errand brought her to the east end of
the High Street, and there was Georgie already established on the
belvedere busy sketching the Landgate, before he went to breakfast
(as those Wyses always called lunch) in Porpoise Street.  Miss Mapp
did not yet know whether he had taken Mallards Cottage or not, and
that must be instantly ascertained.

She leaned on the railing close beside him, and moved a little,
rustled a little, till he looked up.

'Oh, Mr Pillson, how ashamed of myself I am!' she said.  'But I
couldn't help taking a peep at your lovely little sketch.  So rude
of me: just like an inquisitive stranger in the street.  Never
meant to interrupt you, but to steal away again when I'd had my
peep.  Every moment's precious to you, I know, as you're off this
afternoon after your early lunch.  But I must ask you whether your
hotel was comfortable.  I should be miserable if I thought that I
had recommended it, and that you didn't like it.'

'Very comfortable indeed, thank you,' said Georgie.

Miss Mapp sidled up to the bench where he sat.

'I will just perch here for a moment before I flit off again,' she
said, 'if you'll promise not to take any notice of me, but go on
with your picky, as if I was not here.  How well you've got the
perspective!  I always sit here for two or three minutes every
morning to feast my eyes on the beauty of the outlook.  What a pity
you can't stay longer here!  You've only had a glimpse of our sweet
Tilling.'

Georgie held up his drawing.

'Have I got the perspective right, do you think?' he said.  'Isn't
it tarsome when you mean to make a road go downhill and it will go
up instead?'

'No fear of that with you!' ejaculated Miss Mapp.  'If I was a
little bolder I should ask you to send your drawing to our Art
Society here.  We have a little exhibition every summer.  Could I
persuade you?'

'I'm afraid I shan't be able to finish it this morning,' said
Georgie.

'No chance then of your coming back?' she asked.

'In August, I hope,' said he, 'for I've taken Mallards Cottage for
two months.'

'Oh, Mr Pillson, that is good news!' cried Miss Mapp.  'Lovely!
All August and September.  Fancy!'

'I've got to be away for a week in August,' said Georgie, 'as we've
got an Elizabethan fête at Riseholme.  I'm Francis Drake.'

That was a trove for Miss Mapp and must be published at once.  She
prepared to flit off.

'Oh how wonderful!' she said.  'Dear me, I can quite see you.  The
Golden Hind!  Spanish treasure!  All the pomp and majesty.  I
wonder if I could manage to pop down to see it.  But I won't
interrupt you any more.  So pleased to think it's only au reservoir
and not good-bye.'

She walked up the street again, bursting with her budget of news.
Only the Wyses could possibly know that Georgie had taken Mallards
Cottage, and nobody that he was going to impersonate Francis
Drake . . .  There was the Padre talking to Major Benjy, no doubt on
his way to the steam-tram, and there were Diva and Irene a little
farther on.

'Good morning, Padre: good morning, Major Benjy,' said she.

'Good morrow, Mistress Mapp,' said the Padre.  'An' hoo's the time
o' day wi' ye?  'Tis said you've a fair tenant for yon Mallards.'

Miss Mapp fired off her news in a broadside.

'Indeed, I have, Padre,' she said.  'And there's Mallards Cottage,
too, about which you won't have heard.  Mr Pillson has taken that,
though he won't be here all the time as he's playing Francis Drake
in a fête at Riseholme for a week.'

Major Benjy was not in a very good temper.  It was porridge-morning
with him, and his porridge had been burned.  Miss Mapp already
suspected something of the sort, for there had been loud angry
sounds from within as she passed his dining-room window.

'That fellow whom I saw with Mrs Lucas this morning with a cape
over his arm?' he said scornfully.  'Not much of a hand against the
Spaniards, I should think.  Ridiculous!  Tea-parties with a lot of
old cats more in his line.  Pshaw!'  And away he went to the tram,
shovelling passengers off the pavement.

'Porridge burned, I expect,' said Miss Mapp, thoughtfully, 'though
I couldn't say for certain.  Morning, dear Irene.  Another artist
is coming to Tilling for August and September.'

'Hoot awa', woman,' said Irene, in recognition of the Padre's
presence.  'I ken that fine, for Mistress Wyse told me half an hour
agone.'

'But he'll be away for a week, though of course you know that,
too,' said Miss Mapp, slightly nettled.  'Acting Francis Drake in a
fête at Riseholme.'

Diva trundled up.

'I don't suppose you've heard, Elizabeth,' she said in a great
hurry, 'that Mr Pillson has taken Mallards Cottage.'

Miss Mapp smiled pityingly.

'Quite correct, dear Diva,' she said.  'Mr Pillson told me himself
hours ago.  He's sketching the Landgate now--a sweet picky--and
insisted that I should sit down and chat to him while he worked.'

'Lor!  How you draw them all in, Mapp,' said quaint Irene.  'He
looks a promising young man for his age, but it's time he had his
hair dyed again.  Grey at the roots.'

The Padre tore himself away; he had to hurry home and tell wee
wifie.

'Aweel, I mustn't stand daffing here,' he said, 'I've got my sermon
to think on.'

Miss Mapp did a little more shopping, hung about on the chance of
seeing Lucia again, and then went back to Mallards, to attend to
her sweet flowers.  Some of the beds wanted weeding, and now as she
busied herself with that useful work and eradicated groundsel, each
plant as she tore it up and flung it into her basket might have
been Mr and Mrs Wyse.  It was very annoying that they had stuck
their hooks (so the process represented itself to her vigorous
imagery) into Lucia, for Miss Mapp had intended to have no one's
hook there but her own.  She wanted to run her, to sponsor her, to
arrange little parties for her, and cause Lucia to arrange little
parties at her dictation, and, while keeping her in her place, show
her off to Tilling.  Providence, or whatever less beneficent power
ruled the world, had not been considerate of her clear right to do
this, for it was she who had been put to the expense of advertising
Mallards in The Times, and it was entirely owing to that that Lucia
had come down here, and wound up that pleasant machine of
subletting houses, so that everybody scored financially as well as
got a change.  But there was nothing to be done about that for the
present: she must wait till Lucia arrived here, and then be both
benignant and queenly.  A very sweet woman, up till now, was her
verdict, though possibly lacking in fine discernment, as witnessed
by her having made friends with the Wyses.  Then there was Georgie:
she was equally well disposed towards him for the present, but he,
like Lucia, must be good, and recognize that she was the arbiter of
all things social in Tilling.  If he behaved properly in that
regard she would propose him as an honorary member of the Tilling
Art Society, and, as member of the hanging committee, see that his
work had a conspicuous place on the walls of the exhibition, but it
was worth remembering (in case he was not good) that quaint Irene
had said that his hair was dyed, and that Major Benjy thought that
he would have been very little use against the Spaniards.

But thinking was hungry work, and weeding was dirty work, and she
went indoors to wash her hands for lunch after this exciting
morning.

There was a dreadful block in Porpoise Street when Lucia's car came
to pick up her and Georgie after their breakfast at Starling
Cottage, for Mrs Wyse's Royce was already drawn up there.  The two
purred and backed and advanced foot by foot, they sidled and stood
on pavements meant for pedestrians, and it was not till Lucia's car
had gone backwards again round the corner below Miss Mapp's garden-
room, and Mrs Wyse's forward towards the High Street, that Lucia's
could come to the door, and the way down Porpoise Street lie open
for their departure to Riseholme.  As long as they were in sight,
Susan stood waving her hand, and Algernon bowing.

Often during the drive Lucia tried, but always in vain, to start
the subject which had kept them both awake last night, and tell
Georgie that never would she marry again, but the moment she got
near the topic of friendship, or even wondered how long Mrs
Plaistow had been a widow or whether Major Benjy would ever marry,
Georgie saw a cow or a rainbow or something out of the window and
violently directed attention to it.  She could not quite make out
what was going on in his mind.  He shied away from such topics as
friendship and widowhood, and she wondered if that was because he
was not feeling quite ready yet, but was screwing himself up.  If
he only would let her develop those topics she could spare him the
pain of a direct refusal, and thus soften the blow.  But she had to
give it up, determining, however, that when he came to dine with
her that evening, she would not be silenced by his irrelevances:
she would make it quite clear to him, before he embarked on his
passionate declaration that, with all her affection for him, she
could never marry him . . .  Poor Georgie!

She dropped him at his house, and as soon as he had told Foljambe
about his having taken the house at Tilling (for that must be done
at once), he would come across to the Hurst.

'I hope she will like the idea,' said Georgie very gravely, as he
got out, 'and there is an excellent room for her, isn't there?'

Foljambe opened the door to him.

'A pleasant outing, I hope, sir,' said she.

'Very indeed, thank you, Foljambe,' said Georgie.  'And I've got
great news.  Mrs Lucas has taken a house at Tilling for August and
September, and so have I.  Quite close to hers.  You could throw a
stone.'

'That'll be an agreeable change,' said Foljambe.

'I think you'll like it.  A beautiful bedroom for you.'

'I'm sure I shall,' said Foljambe.

Georgie was immensely relieved, and, as he went gaily across to the
Hurst, he quite forgot for the time about this menace of matrimony.

'She likes the idea,' he said before he had opened the gate into
Perdita's garden, where Lucia was sitting.

'Georgie, the most wonderful thing,' cried she.  'Oh, Foljambe's
pleased, is she?  So glad.  An excellent bedroom.  I knew she
would.  But I've found a letter from Adele Brixton; you know, Lady
Brixton who always goes to America when her husband comes to
England, and the other way about, so that they only pass each other
on the Atlantic; she wants to take the Hurst for three months.  She
came down here for a Sunday, don't you remember, and adored it.  I
instantly telephoned to say I would let it.'

'Well, that is luck for you,' said Georgie.  'But three months;
what will you do for the third?'

'Georgie, I don't know, and I'm not going to think,' she said.
'Something will happen: it's sure to.  My dear, it's perfect
rapture to feel the great tide of life flowing again.  How I'm
going to set to work on all the old interests and the new ones as
well.  Tilling, the age of Anne, and I shall get a translation of
Pope's Iliad and of Plato's Symposium till I can rub up my Greek
again.  I have been getting lazy, and I have been getting--let us
go into dinner--narrow.  I think you have been doing the same.  We
must open out, and receive new impressions, and adjust ourselves to
new conditions!'

This last sentence startled Georgie very much, though it might only
apply to Tilling, but Lucia did not seem to notice his faltering
step as he followed her into the panelled dining-room with the
refectory-table, below which it was so hard to adjust the feet with
any comfort, owing to the foot-rail.

'Those people at Tilling,' she said, 'how interesting it will all
be.  They seemed to me very much alive, especially the women, who
appear to have got their majors and their padres completely under
their thumbs.  Delicious, isn't it, to think of the new interchange
of experience which awaits us.  Here, nothing happens.  Our dear
Daisy gets a little rounder and Mrs Antrobus a little deafer.
We're in a rut: Riseholme is in a rut.  We want, both of us, to get
out of it, and now we're going to.  Fresh fields and pastures new,
Georgie . . .  Nothing on your mind, my dear?  You were so distrait
as we drove home.'

Some frightful revivification, thought poor Georgie, had happened
to Lucia.  It had been delightful, only a couple of days ago, to
see her returning to her normal interests, but this repudiation of
Riseholme and the craving for the Iliad and Tilling and the
Symposium indicated an almost dangerous appetite for novelty.  Or
was it only that having bottled herself up for a year, it was
natural that, the cork being now out, she should overflow in these
ebullitions?  She seemed to be lashing her tail, goading herself to
some further revelation of her mental or spiritual needs.  He
shuddered at the thought of what further novelty might be popping
out next.  The question perhaps.

'I'm sorry I was distrait,' said he.  'Of course I was anxious
about how Foljambe might take the idea of Tilling.'

Lucia struck the pomander, and it was a relief to Georgie to know
that Grosvenor would at once glide in . . .  She laughed and laid
her hand affectionately on his.

'Georgie, dear, you are'--she took refuge in Italian as Grosvenor
appeared--'you are una vecchia signorina.'  (That means 'old maid',
thought Georgie.)  'Wider horizons, Georgie: that is what you want.
Put the rest of the food on the table, Grosvenor, and we'll help
ourselves.  Coffee in the music-room when I ring.'

This was ghastly: Lucia, with all this talk of his being an old
maid and needing to adapt himself to new conditions, was truly
alarming.  He almost wondered if she had been taking monkey-gland
during her seclusion.  Was she going to propose to him in the
middle of dinner?  Never, in all the years of his friendship with
her, had he felt himself so strangely alien.  But he was still the
master of his fate (at least he hoped so), and it should not be
that.

'Shall I give you some strawberry fool?' he asked miserably.

Lucia did not seem to hear him.

'Georgie, we must have ickle talk, before I ring for coffee,' she
said.  'How long have you and I been dear friends?  Longer than
either of us care to think.'

'But all so pleasant,' said Georgie, rubbing his cold moist hands
on his napkin . . .  He wondered if drowning was anything like
this.

'My dear, what do the years matter, if they have only deepened and
broadened our friendship?  Happy years, Georgie, bringing their
sheaves with them.  That lovely scene in Esmondi; Winchester
Cathedral!  And now we're both getting on.  You're rather alone in
the world, and so am I, but people like us with this dear strong
bond of friendship between us can look forward to old age--can't
we?--without any qualms.  Tranquillity comes with years, and that
horrid thing which Freud calls sex is expunged.  We must read some
Freud, I think; I have read none at present.  That was one of the
things I wanted to say all the time that you would show me cows out
of the window.  Our friendship is just perfect as it is.'

Georgie's relief when he found that Foljambe liked the idea of
Tilling was nothing, positively nothing, to the relief he felt now.

'My dear, how sweet of you to say that,' he said.  'I, too, find
the quality of our friendship perfect in every way.  Quite
impossible, in fact, to think of--I mean, I quite agree with you.
As you say, we're getting on in years, I mean I am.  You're right a
thousand times.'

Lucia saw the sunlit dawn of relief in Georgie's face, and though
she had been quite sincere in hoping that he would not be terribly
hurt when she hinted to him that he must give up all hopes of being
more to her than he was, she had not quite expected this
effulgence.  It was as if instead of pronouncing his sentence, she
had taken from him some secret burden of terrible anxiety.  For the
moment her own satisfaction at having brought this off without
paining him was swallowed up in surprise that he was so far from
being pained.  Was it possible that all his concern to interest her
in cows and rainbows was due to apprehension that she might be
leading up, via the topics of friendship and marriage, to something
exceedingly different from the disclosure which had evidently
gratified him rather than the reverse?

She struck the pomander quite a sharp blow.

'Let us go and have our coffee then,' she said.  'It is lovely that
we are of one mind.  Lovely!  And there's another subject we
haven't spoken about at all.  Miss Mapp.  What do you make of Miss
Mapp?  There was a look in her eye when she heard we were going to
lunch with Mrs Wyse that amazed me.  She would have liked to bite
her or scratch her.  What did it mean?  It was as if Mrs Wyse--she
asked me to call her Susan by the way, but I'm not sure that I can
manage it just yet without practising--as if Mrs Wyse had pocketed
something of hers.  Most extraordinary.  I don't belong to Miss
Mapp.  Of course it's easy to see that she thinks herself very much
superior to all the rest of Tilling.  She says that all her friends
are angels and lambs, and then just crabs them a little.  Marcate
mie parole, Georgino!  I believe she wants to run me.  I believe
Tilling is seething with intrigue.  But we shall see.  How I hate
all that sort of thing!  We have had a touch of it now and then in
Riseholme.  As if it mattered who took the lead!  We should aim at
being equal citizens of a noble republic, where art and literature
and all the manifold interests of the world are our concern.  Now
let us have a little music.'


Whatever might be the state of affairs at Tilling, Riseholme during
this month of July boiled and seethed with excitements.  It was
just like old times, and all circled, as of old, round Lucia.  She
had taken the plunge; she had come back (though just now for so
brief a space before her entering upon Mallards) into her native
centrality.  Gradually, and in increasing areas, grey and white and
violet invaded the unrelieved black in which she had spent the year
of her widowhood; one day she wore a white belt, another there were
grey panels in her skirt, another her garden-hat had a violet
riband on it.  Even Georgie, who had a great eye for female attire,
could not accurately follow these cumulative changes: he could not
be sure whether she had worn a grey cloak before, or whether she
had had white gloves in church last Sunday.  Then, instead of
letting her hair droop in slack and mournful braids over her ears,
it resumed its old polished and corrugated appearance, and on her
pale cheeks (ashen with grief) there bloomed a little brown rouge,
which made her look as if she had been playing golf again, and her
lips certainly were ruddier.  It was all intensely exciting, a
series of subtle changes at the end of which, by the middle of
July, her epiphany in church without anything black about her, and
with the bloom of her vitality quite restored, passed almost
unremarked.

These outward and visible signs were duly representative of what
had taken place within.  Time, the great healer, had visited her
sick-room, laid his hand on her languid brow, and the results were
truly astonishing.  Lucia became as good as new, or as good as old.
Mrs Antrobus and her tall daughters, Piggy and Goosie, Georgie and
Daisy and her husband, greedy Robert, Colonel Boucher and his wife,
and the rest were all bidden to dinner at the Hurst once more, and
sometimes Lucia played to them the slow movement of the 'Moonlight'
Sonata, and sometimes she instructed them in such elements of
Contract Bridge as she had mastered during the day.  She sketched,
she played the organ in church in the absence of the organist who
had measles, she sang a solo, 'O for the wings of a Dove' when he
recovered and the leading chorister got chicken-pox, she had
lessons in book-binding at 'Ye Signe of ye Daffodille', she sat in
Perdita's garden, not reading Shakespeare, but Pope's Iliad, and
murmured half-forgotten fragments of Greek irregular verbs as she
went to sleep.  She had a plan for visiting Athens in the spring
("the violet-crowned", is not that a lovely epithet, Georgie?') and
in compliment to Queen Anne regaled her guests with rich thick
chocolate.  The hounds of spring were on the winter traces of her
widowhood, and snapped up every fragment of it, and indeed spring
seemed truly to have returned to her, so various and so multi-
coloured were the blossoms that were unfolding.  Never at all had
Riseholme seen Lucia in finer artistic and intellectual fettle, and
it was a long time since she had looked so gay.  The world, or at
any rate Riseholme, which at Riseholme came to much the same thing,
had become her parish again.

Georgie, worked to the bone with playing duets, with consulting
Foljambe as to questions of linen and plate (for it appeared that
Isabel Poppit, in pursuance of the simple life, slept between
blankets in the back-yard, and ate uncooked vegetables out of a
wooden bowl like a dog), with learning Vanderbilt conventions, with
taking part in Royal processions across the green, with packing his
bibelots and sending them to the bank, with sketching, so that he
might be in good form when he began to paint at Tilling with a view
to exhibiting in the Art Society, wondered what was the true source
of these stupendous activities of Lucia's, whether she was getting
fit, getting in training, so to speak, for a campaign at Tilling.
Somehow it seemed likely, for she would hardly think it worth while
to run the affairs of Riseholme with such energy, when she was
about to disappear from it for three months.  Or was she intending
to let Riseholme see how dreadfully flat everything would become
when she left them?  Very likely both these purposes were at work;
it was like her to kill two birds with one stone.  Indeed, she was
perhaps killing three birds with one stone, for multifarious as
were the interests in which she was engaged there was one, now
looming large in Riseholme, namely the Elizabethan fête, of which
she seemed strangely unconscious.  Her drive, her powers of
instilling her friends with her own fervour, never touched that:
she did not seem to know that a fête was being contemplated at all,
though now a day seldom passed without a procession of some sort
crossing the green or a Morris-dance getting entangled with the
choristers practising madrigals, or a crowd of soldiers and
courtiers being assembled near the front entrance of the Ambermere
Arms, while Daisy harangued them from a chair put on the top of a
table, pausing occasionally because she forgot her words, or in
order to allow them to throw up their hats and cry 'God Save the
Queen's Grace', 'To hell with Spain', and other suitable
ejaculations.  Daisy, occasionally now in full dress, ruff and
pearls and all, came across to the gate of the Hurst, to wait for
the procession to join her, and Lucia sitting in Perdita's garden
would talk to her about Tilling or the importance of being prudent
if you were vulnerable at contract, apparently unaware that Daisy
was dressed up at all.  Once Lucia came out of the Ambermere Arms
when Daisy was actually mounting the palfrey that drew the milk-
cart for a full-dress rehearsal, and she seemed to be positively
palfrey-blind.  She merely said 'Don't forget that you and Robert
are dining with me to-night.  Half-past seven, so that we shall get
a good evening's bridge,' and went on her way . . .  Or she would
be passing the pond on which the framework of the Golden Hind was
already constructed, and on which Georgie was even then kneeling
down to receive the accolade amid the faint cheers of Piggy and
Goosie, and she just waved her hand to Georgie and said:  'Musica
after lunch, Georgie?'  She made no sarcastic comments to anybody,
and did not know that they were doing anything out of the ordinary.

Under this pointed unconsciousness of hers, a species of blight
spread over the scheme to which Riseholme ought to have been
devoting its most enthusiastic energies.  The courtiers were late
for rehearsals, they did not even remove their cigarettes when they
bent to kiss the Queen's hand, Piggy and Goosie made steps of
Morris-dances when they ought to have been holding up Elizabeth's
train, and Georgie snatched up a cushion, when the accolade was
imminent, to protect his shoulder.  The choir-boys droned their way
through madrigals, sucking peppermints, there was no life, no
keenness about it all, because Lucia, who was used to inspire all
Riseholme's activities, was unaware that anything was going on.

One morning when only a fortnight of July was still to run, Drake
was engaged on his croquet-lawn tapping the balls about and trying
to tame his white satin shoes which hurt terribly.  From the garden
next door came the familiar accents of the Queen's speech to her
troops.

'And though I am only a weak woman,' declaimed Daisy who was
determined to go through the speech without referring to her book.
'Though I am only a weak woman, a weak woman--' she repeated.

'Yet I have the heart of a Prince,' shouted Drake with the friendly
intention of prompting her.

'Thank you, Georgie.  Or ought it to be Princess, do you think?'

'No: Prince,' said Georgie.

'Prince,' cried Daisy.  'Though I am only a weak woman, yet I have
the heart of a Prince . . .  Let me see . . .  Prince.'

There was silence.

'Georgie,' said Daisy in her ordinary voice.  'Do stop your croquet
a minute and come to the paling.  I want to talk.'

'I'm trying to get used to these shoes,' said Georgie.  'They hurt
frightfully.  I shall have to take them to Tilling and wear them
there.  Oh, I haven't told you, Lady Brixton came down yesterday
evening--'

'I know that,' said Daisy.

'--and she thinks that her brother will take my house for a couple
of months, as long as I don't leave any servants.  He'll be here
for the fête, if he does, so I wonder if you could put me up.
How's Robert's cold?'

'Worse,' she said.  'I'm worse too.  I can't remember half of what
I knew by heart a week ago.  Isn't there some memory-system?'

'Lots, I believe,' said Georgie.  'But it's rather late.  They
don't improve your memory all in a minute.  I really think you had
better read your speech to the troops, as if it was the opening of
Parliament.'

'I won't,' said Daisy, taking off her ruff.  'I'll learn it if it
costs me the last breath of blood in my body--I mean drop.'

'Well it will be very awkward if you forget it all,' said Georgie.
'We can't cheer nothing at all.  Such a pity, because your voice
carries perfectly now.  I could hear you while I was breakfasting.'

'And it's not only that,' said Daisy.  'There's no life in the
thing.  It doesn't look as if it was happening.'

'No, that's true,' said Georgie.  'These tarsome shoes of mine are
real enough, though!'

'I begin to think we ought to have had a producer,' said Daisy.
'But it was so much finer to do it all ourselves, like--like
Oberammergau.  Does Lucia ever say anything about it?  I think it's
too mean for words of her to take no interest in it.'

'Well, you must remember that you asked her only to be my wife,'
said Georgie.  'Naturally she wouldn't like that.'

'She ought to help us instead of going about as if we were all
invisible,' exclaimed Daisy.

'My dear, she did offer to help you.  At least, I told you ages
ago, that I felt sure she would if you asked her to.'

'I feel inclined to chuck the whole thing,' said Daisy.

'But you can't.  Masses of tickets have been sold.  And who's to
pay for the Golden Hind and the roast sheep and all the costumes?'
asked Georgie.  'Not to mention all our trouble.  Why not ask her
to help, if you want her to?'

'Georgie, will you ask her?' said Daisy.

'Certainly not,' said Georgie very firmly.  'You've been managing
it from the first.  It's your show.  If I were you, I would ask her
at once.  She'll be over here in a few minutes, as we're going to
have a music.  Pop in.'

A melodious cry of 'Georgino mio!' resounded from the open window
of Georgie's drawing-room, and he hobbled away down the garden
walk.  Ever since that beautiful understanding they had arrived at,
that both of them shrank, as from a cup of hemlock, from the idea
of marriage, they had talked Italian or baby-language to a
surprising extent from mere lightness of heart.

'Me tummin',' he called.  ''Oo very good girl, Lucia.  'Oo molto
punctuale.'

(He was not sure about that last word, nor was Lucia, but she
understood it.)

'Georgino!  Che curiose scalpe!' said Lucia, leaning out of the
window.

'Don't be so cattiva.  They are cattivo enough,' said Georgie.
'But Drake did have shoes exactly like these.'

The mere mention of Drake naturally caused Lucia to talk about
something else.  She did not understand any allusion to Drake.

'Now for a good practice,' she said, as Georgie limped into the
drawing-room.  'Foljambe beamed at me.  How happy it all is!  I
hope you said you were at home to nobody.  Let us begin at once.
Can you manage the sostenuto pedal in those odd shoes?'

Foljambe entered.

'Mrs Quantock, sir,' she said.

'Daisy darling,' said Lucia effusively.  'Come to hear our little
practice?  We must play our best, Georgino.'

Daisy was still in queenly costume, except for the ruff.  Lucia
seemed as usual to be quite unconscious of it.

'Lucia, before you begin--' said Daisy.

'So much better than interrupting,' said Lucia.  'Thank you, dear.
Yes?'

'About this fête.  Oh, for gracious sake don't go on seeming to
know nothing about it.  I tell you there is to be one.  And it's
all nohow.  Can't you help us?'

Lucia sprang from the music-stool.  She had been waiting for this
moment, not impatiently, but ready for it if it came, as she knew
it must, without any scheming on her part.  She had been watching
from Perdita's garden the straggling procession smoking cigarettes,
the listless halberdiers not walking in step, the courtiers yawning
in Her Majesty's face, the languor and the looseness arising from
the lack of an inspiring mind.  The scene on the Golden Hind, and
that of Elizabeth's speech to her troops were equally familiar to
her, for though she could not observe them from under her garden-
hat close at hand, her husband had been fond of astronomy and there
were telescopes great and small, which brought these scenes quite
close.  Moreover, she had that speech which poor Daisy found so
elusive by heart.  So easy to learn, just the sort of cheap bombast
that Elizabeth would indulge in: she had found it in a small
history of England, and had committed it to memory, just in
case . . .

'But I'll willingly help you, dear Daisy,' she said.  'I seem to
remember you told me something about it.  You as Queen Elizabeth,
was it not, a roast sheep on the Golden Hind, a speech to the
troops, Morris-dances, bear-baiting, no, not bear-baiting.  Isn't
it all going beautifully?'

'No!  It isn't,' said Daisy in a lamentable voice.  'I want you to
help us, will you?  It's all like dough.'

Great was Lucia.  There was no rubbing in: there was no hesitation,
there was nothing but helpful sunny cordiality in response to this
SOS.

'How you all work me!' she said, 'but I'll try to help you if I
can.  Georgie, we must put off our practice, and get to grips with
all this, if the fête is to be a credit to Riseholme.  Addio, caro
Mozartino for the present.  Now begin, Daisy, and tell me all the
trouble.'

For the next week Mozartino and the Symposium and Contract Bridge
were non-existent and rehearsals went on all day.  Lucia
demonstrated to Daisy how to make her first appearance, and, when
the trumpeters blew a fanfare, she came out of the door of the
Hurst, and without the slightest hurry majestically marched down
the crazy pavement.  She did not fumble at the gate as Daisy always
did, but with a swift imperious nod to Robert Quantock, which made
him pause in the middle of a sneeze, she caused him to fly forward,
open it, and kneel as she passed through.  She made a wonderful
curtsey to her lieges and motioned them to close up in front of
her.  And all this was done in the clothes of today, without a ruff
or a pearl to help her.

'Something like that, do you think, dear Daisy, for the start of
the procession?' she said to her.  'Will you try it like that and
see how it goes?  And a little more briskness, gentlemen, from the
halberdiers.  Would you form in front of me now, while Mrs Quantock
goes into the house . . .  Ah, that has more snap, hasn't it?
Excellent.  Quite like guardsmen.  Piggy and Goosie, my dears, you
must remember that you are Elizabethan Countesses.  Very stately,
please, and Countesses never giggle.  Sweep two low curtsies, and
while still down pick up the Queen's train.  You opened the gate
very properly, Robert.  Very nice indeed.  Now may we have that all
over again.  Queen, please,' she called to Daisy.

Daisy came out of the house in all the panoply of Majesty, and with
the idea of not hurrying came so slowly that her progress resembled
that of a queen following a hearse.  ('A little quicker, dear,'
called Lucia encouragingly.  'We're all ready.')  Then she tripped
over a piece of loose crazy pavement.  Then she sneezed, for she
had certainly caught Robert's cold.  Then she forgot to bow to her
lieges, until they had closed up in procession in front of her, and
then bobbed to their backs.

'Hey ho, nonny, nonny,' sang Lucia to start the chorus.  'Off we
go!  Right, left--I beg your pardon, how stupid of me--Left, right.
Crescendo, choir.  Sing out, please.  We're being Merrie England.
Capital!'

Lucia walked by the side of the procession across the green,
beating time with her parasol, full of encouragement and
enthusiasm.  Sometimes she ran on in front and observed their
progress, sometimes she stood still to watch them go by.

'Open out a little, halberdiers,' she cried, 'so that we can get a
glimpse of the Queen from in front.  Hey nonny!  Hold that top G,
choir-boys!  Queen, dear, don't attempt to keep step with the
halberdiers.  Much more royal to walk as you choose.  The train a
little higher, Piggy and Goosie.  Hey nonny, nonny HEY!'

She looked round as they got near the Golden Hind, to see if the
cooks were basting the bolster that did duty for the sheep, and
that Drake's sailors were dancing their hornpipes.

'Dance, please, sailors,' she shrieked.  'Go on basting, cooks,
until the procession stops, and then begins the chorus of sailors
on the last "nonny Hey".  Cooks must join in, too, or we shan't get
enough body of sound.  Open out, halberdiers, leave plenty of room
for the Queen to come between you.  Slowly, Elizabeth!  "When the
storm winds blow and the surges sweep."  Louder!  Are you ready,
Georgie?  No; don't come off the Golden Hind.  You receive the
Queen on the deck.  A little faster, Elizabeth, the chorus will be
over before you get here.'

Lucia clapped her hands.

'A moment, please,' she said.  'A wonderful scene.  But just one
suggestion.  May I be Queen for a minute and show you the effect I
want to get, dear Daisy?  Let us go back, procession, please,
twenty yards.  Halberdiers still walking in front of Queen.
Sailors' chorus all over again.  Off we go!  Now, halberdiers, open
out.  Half right and left turn respectively.  Two more steps and
halt, making an avenue.'

It was perfectly timed.  Lucia moved forward up the avenue of
halberdiers, and just as the last 'Yo ho' was yelled by cooks,
courtiers and sailors, she stepped with indescribable majesty on to
the deck of the Golden Hind.  She stood there a moment quite still,
and whispered to Georgie, 'Kneel and kiss my hand, Georgie.  Now,
everybody together!  "God save the Queen".  "Hurrah".  Hats in the
air.  Louder, louder!  Now die away!  There!'

Lucia had been waving her own hat, and shrilly cheering herself,
and now she again clapped her hands for attention, as she
scrutinized the deck of the Golden Hind.

'But I don't see Drake's wife,' she said.  'Drake's wife, please.'

Drake's wife was certainly missing.  She was also the grocer's
wife, and as she had only to come forward for one moment, curtsey
and disappear, she was rather slack at her attendance of
rehearsals.

'It doesn't matter,' said Lucia.  'I'll take Drake's wife, just for
this rehearsal.  Now we must have that over again.  It's one of the
most important moments, this Queen's entry on to the Golden Hind.
We must make it rich in romance, in majesty, in spaciousness.  Will
the procession, please, go back, and do it over again?'

This time poor Daisy was much too early.  She got to the Golden
Hind long before the cooks and the chorus were ready for her.  But
there was a murmur of applause when Mrs Drake (so soon to be Lady
Drake) ran forward and threw herself at the Queen's feet in an
ecstasy of loyalty, and having kissed her hand walked backwards
from the Presence with head bent low, as if in adoration.

'Now step to the Queen's left, Georgie,' said Lucia, 'and take her
left hand, holding it high and lead her to the banquet.  Daisy
dear, you MUST mind your train.  Piggy and Goosie will lay it down
as you reach the deck, and then you must look after it yourself.
If you're not careful you'll tread on it and fall into the Thames.
You've got to move so that it follows you when you turn round.'

'May I kick it?' asked Daisy.

'No, it can be done without.  You must practise that.'

The whole company now, sailors, soldiers, courtiers and all were
eager as dogs are to be taken out for a walk by their mistress, and
Lucia reluctantly consented to come and look at the scene of the
review at Tilbury.  Possibly some little idea, she diffidently
said, might occur to her; fresh eyes sometimes saw something, and
if they all really wanted her she was at their disposal.  So off
they went to the rendezvous in front of the Ambermere Arms, and the
fresh eyes perceived that according to the present grouping of
soldiers and populace no spectator would see anything of the Queen
at all.  So that was rectified, and the mob was drilled to run into
its proper places with due eagerness, and Lucia sat where the front
row of spectators would be to hear the great speech.  When it was
over she warmly congratulated the Queen.

'Oh, I'm so glad you liked it,' said the Queen.  'Is there anything
that strikes you?'

Lucia sat for a while in pensive silence.

'Just one or two little tiny things, dear,' she said, thoughtfully.
'I couldn't hear very well.  I wondered sometimes what the mob was
cheering about.  And would it perhaps be safer to read the speech?
There was a good deal of prompting that was quite audible.  Of
course there are disadvantages in reading it.  It won't seem so
spontaneous and inspiring if you consult a paper all the time.
Still, I dare say you'll get it quite by heart before the time
comes.  Indeed, the only real criticism I have to make is about
your gestures, your movements.  Not quite, quite majestic enough,
not inspiring enough.  Too much as if you were whisking flies away.
More breadth!'

Lucia sighed, she appeared to be lost in meditation.

'What kind of breadth?' asked Daisy.

'So difficult to explain,' said Lucia.  'You must get more variety,
more force, both in your gestures and your voice.  You must be
fierce sometimes, the great foe of Spain, you must be tender, the
mother of your people.  You must be a Tudor.  The daughter of that
glorious cad, King Hal.  Coarse and kingly.  Shall I show you for a
moment the sort of thing I mean?  So much easier to show than to
explain.'

Daisy's heart sank: she was full of vague apprehensions.  But
having asked for help, she could hardly refuse this generous
granting of it, for indeed Lucia was giving up her whole morning.

'Very good of you,' she said.

'Lend me your copy of the speech, then,' said Lucia, 'and might I
borrow your ruff, just to encourage myself.  Now let me read
through the speech to myself.  Yes . . . yes . . . crescendo, and
flare up then . . . pause again; a touch of tenderness . . .  Well,
as you insist on it I'll try to show you what I mean.  Terribly
nervous, though.'

Lucia advanced and spoke in the most ingratiating tones to her army
and the mob.

'Please have patience with me, ladies and gentlemen,' she said,
'while I go through the speech once more.  Wonderful words, aren't
they?  I know I shan't do them justice.  Let me see: the palfrey
with the Queen will come out from the garden of the Ambermere Arms,
will it not?  Then will the whole mob, please, hurry into the
garden and then come out romping and cheering and that sort of
thing in front of me.  When I get to where the table is, that is to
say, where the palfrey will stand as I make my speech, some of the
mob must fall back, and the rest sit on the grass, so that the
spectators may see.  Now, please.'

Lucia stalked in from the garden, joining the mob now and then to
show them how to gambol, and nimbly vaulted (thanks to callisthenics)
on to the table on which was the chair where she sat on horseback.

Then with a great sweep of her arm she began to speak.  The copy of
the speech which she carried flew out of her hand, but that made no
difference, for she had it all by heart, and without pause, except
for the bursts of cheering from the mob, when she pointed at them,
she declaimed it all, her voice now rising, now falling, now full
of fire, now tender and motherly.  Then she got down from the
table, and passed along the line of her troops, beckoned to the mob--
which in the previous scene had been cooks and sailors and all
sorts of things--to close up behind her with shouts and cheers and
gambollings, and went off down the garden path again.

'That sort of thing, dear Daisy, don't you think?' she said to the
Queen, returning her ruff.  'So crude and awkwardly done I know,
but perhaps that may be the way to put a little life into it.  Ah,
there's your copy of the speech.  Quite familiar to me, I found.  I
dare say I learned it when I was at school.  Now, I really must be
off.  I wish I could think that I had been any use.'

Next morning Lucia was too busy to superintend the rehearsal: she
was sure that Daisy would manage it beautifully, and she was indeed
very busy watching through a field-glass in the music-room the
muddled and anaemic performance.  The halberdiers strolled along
with their hands in their pockets.  Piggy and Goosie sat down on
the grass, and Daisy knew less of her speech than ever.  The
collective consciousness of Riseholme began to be aware that
nothing could be done without Lucia, and conspiratorial groups
conferred stealthily, dispersing or dropping their voices as Queen
Elizabeth approached and forming again when she had gone by.  The
choir which had sung so convincingly when Lucia was there with her
loud 'Hey nonny nonny', never bothered about the high G at all, but
simply left it out; the young Elizabethans who had gambolled like
intoxicated lambkins under her stimulating eye sat down and chewed
daisies; the cooks never attempted to baste the bolster; and the
Queen's speech to her troops was received with the most respectful
tranquillity.

Georgie, in Drake's shoes which were becoming less agonizing with
use, lunched with Colonel and Mrs Boucher.  Mrs Boucher was
practically the only Riseholmite who was taking no part in the
fête, because her locomotion was confined to the wheels of a bath-
chair.  But she attended every rehearsal and had views which were
as strong as her voice.

'You may like it or not,' she said very emphatically, 'but the only
person who can pull you through is Lucia.'

'Nobody can pull poor Daisy through,' said Georgie.  'Hopeless!'

'That's what I mean,' said she.  'If Lucia isn't the Queen, I say
give it all up.  Poor Daisy's bitten off, if you won't misunderstand
me, as we're all such friends of hers, more than she can chew.  My
kitchen-cat, and I don't care who knows it, would make a better
Queen.'

'But Lucia's going off to Tilling, next week,' said Georgie.  'She
won't be here even.'

'Well, beg and implore her not to desert Riseholme,' said Mrs
Boucher.  'Why, everybody was muttering about it this morning, army
and navy and all.  It was like a revolution.  There was Mrs
Antrobus; she said to me, "Oh dear, oh dear, it will never do at
all," and there was poor Daisy standing close beside her; and we
all turned red.  Most awkward.  And it's up to you, Georgie, to go
down on your knees to Lucia and say "Save Riseholme!"  There!'

'But she refused to have anything to do with it, after Daisy asked
her to be my wife,' said Georgie Drake.

'Naturally she would be most indignant.  An insult.  But you and
Daisy must implore her.  Perhaps she could go to Tilling and settle
herself in and then come back for the fête, for she doesn't need
any rehearsals.  She could act every part herself if she could be a
crowd.'

'Marvellous woman!' said Colonel Boucher.  'Every word of the
Queen's speech by heart, singing with the choir, basting with the
cooks, dancing with the sailors.  That's what I call instinct, eh?
You'd have thought she had been studying it all the time.  I agree
with my wife, Georgie.  The difficulty is Daisy.  WOULD she give it
up?'

Georgie brightened.

'She did say that she felt inclined to chuck the whole thing, a few
days ago,' he said.

'There you are, then,' said Mrs Boucher.  'Remind her of what she
said.  You and she go to Lucia before you waste time over another
rehearsal without her, and implore her.  Implore!  I shouldn't a
bit wonder if she said yes.  Indeed, if you ask me, I believe that
she's been keeping out of it all until you saw you couldn't do
without her.  Then she came to help at a rehearsal, and you all saw
what you could do when she was there.  Why, I burst out cheering
myself when she said she had the heart of a Prince.  Then she
retires again as she did this morning, and more than ever you see
you can't do without her.  I say she's waiting to be asked.  It
would be like her, you know.'

That was an illuminating thought; it certainly seemed tremendously
like Lucia at her very best.

'I believe you're right.  She's cleverer than all of us put
together,' said Georgie.  'I shall go over to Daisy at once and
sound her.  Thank God, my shoes are better.'

It was a gloomy queen that Georgie found, a Queen of Sheba with no
spirit left in her, but only a calmness of despair.

'It went worse than ever this morning,' she remarked.  'And I dare
say we've not touched bottom yet.  Georgie, what is to be done?'

It was more delicate to give Daisy the chance of abdicating
herself.

'I'm sure I don't know,' said he.  'But something's got to be done.
I wish I could think what.'

Daisy was rent with pangs of jealousy and of consciousness of her
supreme impotence.  She took half a glass of port, which her regime
told her was deadly poison.

'Georgie!  Do you think there's the slightest chance of getting
Lucia to be the Queen and managing the whole affair?' she asked
quaveringly.

'We might try,' said Georgie.  'The Bouchers are for it, and
everybody else as well, I think.'

'Well, come quick then, or I may repent,' said Daisy.


Lucia had seen them coming, and sat down at her piano.  She had not
time to open her music, and so began the first movement of the
'Moonlight' Sonata.

'Ah, how nice!' she said.  'Georgie, I'm going to practise all
afternoon.  Poor fingers so rusty!  And did you have a lovely
rehearsal this morning?  Speech going well, Daisy?  I'm sure it
is.'

'Couldn't remember a word,' said Daisy.  'Lucia, we all want to
turn the whole thing over to you, Queen and all.  Will you--'

'Please, Lucia,' said Georgie.

Lucia looked from one to the other in amazement.

'But, dear things, how can I?' she said.  'I shan't be here to
begin with, I shall be at Tilling.  And then all the trouble you've
been taking, Daisy.  I couldn't.  Impossible.  Cruel.'

'We can't do it at all without you,' said Daisy firmly.  'So that's
impossible too.  Please, Lucia.'

Lucia seemed quite bewildered by these earnest entreaties.

'Can't you come back for the fête?' said Georgie.  'Rehearse all
day, every day, till the end of the month.  Then go to Tilling, and
you and I will return just for the week of the fête.'

Lucia seemed to be experiencing a dreadful struggle with herself.

'Dear Georgie, dear Daisy, you're asking a great sacrifice of me,'
she said.  'I had planned my days here so carefully.  My music, my
Dante: all my lessons!  I shall have to give them all up, you know,
if I'm to get this fête into any sort of shape.  No time for
anything else.'

A miserable two-part fugue of 'Please, Lucia.  It's the only
chance.  We can't do it unless you're Queen,' suddenly burst into
the happy strains of 'It is good of you.  Oh, thank you, Lucia,'
and the day was won.

Instantly she became extremely business-like.

'No time to waste then,' she said.  'Let us have a full rehearsal
at three, and after that I'll take the Morris-dancers and the
halberdiers.  You and Georgie must be my lieutenants, dear Daisy.
We shall all have to pull together.  By the way, what will you be
now?'

'Whatever you like,' said Daisy recklessly.

Lucia looked at her fixedly with that gimlet eye, as if appraising,
at their highest, her possibilities.

'Then let us see, dear Daisy,' she said, 'what you can make of
Drake's wife.  Quite a short part, I know, but so important.  You
have to get into that one moment all the loyalty, all the devotion
of the women of England to the Queen.'

She rose.

'Let us begin working at once,' she said.  'This is the Golden
Hind: I have just stepped on to it.  Now go behind the piano, and
then come tripping out, full of awe, full of reverence . . .  Oh,
dear me, that will never do.  Shall I act it for you once more? . . .



4


Lucia had come back to Tilling last night from the fêteful week at
Riseholme, and she was sitting next morning after breakfast at the
window of the garden-room in Miss Mapp's house.  It was a magic
casement to anyone who was interested in life, as Lucia certainly
was, and there was a tide every morning in the affairs of Tilling
which must be taken at the flood.  Mrs Wyse's Royce had lurched
down the street, Diva had come out with her market-basket from
quaint Irene's house, of which she was now the tenant, Miss Mapp's
(she was already by special request 'Elizabeth') gardener had
wheeled off to the greengrocer his daily barrowful of garden-
produce.  Elizabeth had popped in to welcome her on her return from
Riseholme and congratulate her on the fête of which the daily
illustrated papers had been so full, and, strolling about the
garden with her, had absently picked a few roses (Diva's had green
fly); the Padre passing by the magic casement had wished her good
morrow, Mistress Lucas, and finally Major Benjy had come out of his
house on the way to catch the tram to the golf-links.  Lucia called
'Quai-hai' to him in silvery tones, for they had made great friends
in the days she had already spent at Tilling, and reminded him that
he was dining with her that night.  With great gallantry he had
taken off his cap, and bawled out that this wasn't the sort of
engagement he was in any danger of forgetting, au reservoir.

The tide had ebbed now, and Lucia left the window.  There was so
much to think about that she hardly knew where to begin.  First her
eyes fell on the piano which was no longer the remarkable
Blumenfelt belonging to Elizabeth on which she had been granted the
privilege to play, but one which she had hired from Brighton.  No
doubt it was quite true that, as Elizabeth had said, her Blumenfelt
had been considered a very fine instrument, but nobody, for the
last twenty years or so, could have considered it anything but a
remarkable curiosity.  Some notes sounded like the chirping of
canaries (Diva's canary was quite well again after its pip), others
did not sound at all, and the sostenuto pedal was a thing of
naught.  So Lucia had hired a new piano, and had put the canary-
piano in the little telephone-room off the hall.  It filled it up,
but it was still possible to telephone if you went in sideways.
Elizabeth had shown traces of acidity about this when she
discovered the substitution, and had rather pensively remarked that
her piano had belonged to her dearest mamma, and she hoped the
telephone-room wasn't damp.  It seemed highly probable that it had
been her mother's if not her grandmother's, but after all Lucia had
not promised to play on it.

So much for the piano.  There lay on it now a china bowl full of
press-cuttings, and Lucia glanced at a few, recalling the triumphs
of the past week.  The fête, favoured by brilliant weather and
special trains from Worcester and Gloucester and Birmingham, had
been a colossal success.  The procession had been cinematographed,
so too had the scene on the Golden Hind and the click of cameras
throughout the whole performance had been like the noise of cicadas
in the south.  The Hurst had been the target for innumerable lenses
(Lucia was most indulgent) and she was photographed at her piano
and in Perdita's garden and musing in an arbour, as Queen Elizabeth
and as herself, and (she had got one of those artists to take,
rather reluctantly) a special photograph of Drake's poor wife.
That had not been a success, for Daisy had moved, but Lucia's
intention was of the kindest.  And throughout, to photographers and
interviewers alike, Lucia (knowing that nobody would believe it)
had insisted that all the credit was due to Drake's wife, who had
planned everything (or nearly) and had done all the spade-work.

There had nearly been one dreadful disaster.  In fact there had
been the disaster, but the amazing Lucia, quite impromptu, had
wrung a fresh personal triumph out of it.  It was on the last day
of the fête, when the green would hardly contain the influx of
visitors, and another tier of benches had been put up round the
pond where the Golden Hind lay, that this excruciating moment had
occurred.  Queen Elizabeth had just left the deck where she had
feasted on a plateful of kippered cinders, and the procession was
escorting her away, when the whole of the stern of the Golden Hind,
on which was the fire and the previously roasted sheep and a mast,
streaming with ancients and the crowd of cheering cooks, broke off,
and with a fearful splash and hiss fell into the water.  Before
anyone could laugh, Lucia (remembering that the water was only
three feet deep at the most and so there was no danger of anyone
drowning) broke into a ringing cry.  'Zounds and Zooks,' she
shouted.  'Thus will I serve the damned galleons of Spain,' and
with a magnificent gesture of disdain at the cooks standing waist-
high in the water, she swept on with her procession.  The reporters
singled out for special notice this wonderful piece of symbolism.
A few of the most highbrow deemed it not quite legitimate business,
but none questioned the superb dramatic effect of the device, for
it led on with such perfect fitness to the next topic, namely the
coming of the Armada.  The cooks waded ashore, rushed home to
change their clothes, and were in time to take their places in the
mob that escorted her white palfrey.  Who would mind a ducking in
the service of such a resourceful Queen?  Of all Lucia's triumphs
during the week that inspired moment was the crown, and she could
not help wondering what poor Daisy would have done, if she had been
on the throne that day.  Probably she would have said:  'Oh dear,
oh dear, they've all fallen into the water.  We must stop.'

No wonder Riseholme was proud of Lucia, and Tilling which had been
greedily devouring the picture papers was proud too.  There was one
possible exception, she thought, and that was Elizabeth, who in her
visit of welcome just now had said, 'How dreadful all this
publicity must be for you, dear!  How you must shrink from it!'

But Lucia, as usual, had been quite up to the mark.

'Sweet of you to be so sympathetic, Elizabeth,' she had said.  'But
it was my duty to help dear Riseholme, and I mustn't regard the
consequences to myself.'

That put the lid on Elizabeth: she said no more about the fête.


Lucia, as these random thoughts suggested by that stack of press-
cuttings flitted through her brain, felt that she would have soon
to bring it to bear on Elizabeth, for she was becoming something of
a problem.  But first, for this was an immediate concern, she must
concentrate on Georgie.  Georgie at the present moment, unconscious
of his doom, and in a state of the highest approbation with life
generally, was still at Riseholme, for Adele Brixton's brother,
Colonel Cresswell, had taken his house for two months and there
were many bits of things, embroidery and sketches and little
bottles with labels, 'For outward application only', which he must
put away.  He had been staying with Daisy for the fête, for
Foljambe and the rest of his staff had come to Tilling at the
beginning of August and it was not worth while taking them all
back, though it would be difficult to get on without Foljambe for a
week.  Then he had stopped on for this extra day with Daisy after
the fête was over, to see that everything was tidy and discreet and
Lucia expected him back this morning.

She had very upsetting news for him: ghastly in fact.  The vague
rumours which had been rife at Riseholme were all too true, and
Cadman, her chauffeur, had come to Lucia last night with the bomb-
shell that he and Foljambe were thinking of getting married.  She
had seen Foljambe as well, and Foljambe had begged her to break the
news to Georgie.

'I should take it very kind of you, ma'am, if you would,' Foljambe
had said, 'for I know I could never bring myself to do it, and he
wouldn't like to feel that I had made up my mind without telling
him.  We're in no hurry, me and Cadman, we shouldn't think of being
married till after we got back to Riseholme in the autumn, and
that'll give Mr Georgie several months to get suited.  I'm sure
you'll make him see it the right way, if anybody can.'

This handsome tribute to her tact had had its due weight, and Lucia
had promised to be the messenger of these dismal tidings.  Georgie
would arrive in time for lunch to-day, and she was determined to
tell him at once.  But it was dreadful to think of poor Georgie on
his way now, full of the pleasantest anticipations for the future
(since Foljambe had expressed herself more than pleased with her
bedroom) and rosy with the remarkable success of his Drake, and the
very substantial rent for which he had let his house for two
months, with this frightful blow so soon to be dealt him by her
hand.  Lucia had no idea how he would take it, except that he was
certain to be terribly upset.  So, leaving the garden-room and
establishing herself in the pleasant shade on the lawn outside, she
thought out quite a quantity of bracing and valuable reflections.

She turned her thoughts towards Elizabeth Mapp.  During those ten
days before Lucia had gone to Riseholme for the fête, she had
popped in every single day: it was quite obvious that Elizabeth was
keeping her eye on her.  She always had some glib excuse: she
wanted a hot-water bottle, or a thimble or a screw-driver that she
had forgotten to take away, and declining all assistance would go
to look for them herself, feeling sure that she could put her hand
on them instantly without troubling anybody.  She would go into the
kitchen wreathed in smiles and pleasant observations for Lucia's
cook, she would pop into the servants' hall and say something
agreeable to Cadman, and pry into cupboards to find what she was in
search of.  (It was during one of these expeditions that she had
discovered her dearest mamma's piano in the telephone-room.)  Often
she came in without knocking or ringing the bell, and then if Lucia
or Grosvenor heard her clandestine entry, and came to see who it
was, she scolded herself for her stupidity in not remembering that
for the present, this was not her house.  So forgetful of her.

On one of these occasions she had popped out into the garden, and
found Lucia eating a fig from the tree that grew against the garden-
room, and was covered with fruit.

'Oh you dear thief!' she said.  'What about garden-produce?'

Then seeing Lucia's look of blank amazement, she had given a pretty
peal of laughter.

'Lulu, dear!  Only my joke,' she cried.  'Poking a little fun at
Queen Elizabeth.  You may eat every fig in my garden, and I wish
there were more of them.'

On another occasion Elizabeth had found Major Benjy having tea with
Lucia, and she had said, 'Oh, how disappointed I am!  I had so
hoped to introduce you to each other, and now someone else has
taken that treat from me.  Who was the naughty person?'  But
perhaps that was a joke too.  Lucia was not quite sure that she
liked Elizabeth's jokes, any more than she liked her informal
visits.

This morning, Lucia cast an eye over her garden.  The lawn badly
wanted cutting, the flower-beds wanted weeding, the box-edgings to
them wanted clipping, and it struck her that the gardener, whose
wages she paid, could not have done an hour's work here since she
left.  He was never in this part of the garden at all, she seemed
to remember, but was always picking fruit and vegetables in the
kitchen-garden, or digging over the asparagus-bed, or potting
chrysanthemums, or doing other jobs that did not concern her own
interests but Elizabeth's.  There he was now, a nice genial man,
preparing a second basketful of garden-produce to take to the
greengrocer's, from whom eventually Lucia bought it.  An inquiry
must instantly be held.

'Good morning, Coplen,' she said.  'I want you to cut the lawn to-
day.  It's got dreadfully long.'

'Very sorry, ma'am,' said he.  'I don't think I can find time to-
day myself.  I could get a man in perhaps to do it.'

'I should prefer that you should,' said Lucia.  'You can get a man
in to pick those vegetables.'

'It's not only them,' he said.  'Miss Mapp she told me to manure
the strawberry-beds to-day.'

'But what has Miss Mapp got to do with it?' said she.  'You're in
my employment.'

'Well, that does only seem fair,' said the impartial Coplen.  'But
you see, ma'am, my orders are to go to Miss Mapp every morning and
she tells me what she wants done.'

'Then for the future please come to me every morning and see what I
want done,' she said.  'Finish what you're at now, and then start
on the lawn at once.  Tell Miss Mapp by all means that I've given
you these instructions.  And no strawberry-bed shall be manured to-
day, nor indeed until my garden looks less like a tramp who hasn't
shaved for a week.'

Supported by an impregnable sense of justice but still dangerously
fuming, Lucia went back to her garden-room, to tranquillize herself
with an hour's practice on the new piano.  Very nice tone; she and
Georgie would be able to start their musical hours again now.  This
afternoon, perhaps, if he felt up to it after the tragic news, a
duet might prove tonic.  Not a note had she played during that
triumphant week at Riseholme.  Scales first then, and presently she
was working away at a new Mozart, which she and Georgie would
subsequently read over together.

There came a tap at the door of the garden-room.  It opened a
chink, and Elizabeth in her sweetest voice said:

'May I pop in once more, dear?'

Elizabeth was out of breath.  She had hurried up from the High
Street.

'So sorry to interrupt your sweet music, Lucia mia,' she said.
'What a pretty tune!  What fingers you have!  But my good Coplen
has come to me in great perplexity.  So much better to clear it up
at once, I thought, so I came instantly though rather rushed to-
day.  A little misunderstanding, no doubt.  Coplen is not clever.'

Elizabeth seemed to be labouring under some excitement which might
account for this loss of wind.  So Lucia waited till she was more
controlled.

'--And your new piano, dear?' asked Elizabeth.  'You like it?  It
sounded so sweet, though not quite the tone of dearest mamma's.
About Coplen then?'

'Yes, about Coplen,' said Lucia.

'He misunderstood, I am sure, what you said to him just now.  So
distressed he was.  Afraid I should be vexed with him.  I said I
would come to see you and make it all right.'

'Nothing easier, dear,' said Lucia.  'We can put it all right in a
minute.  He told me he had not time to cut the lawn today because
he had to manure your strawberry-beds, and I said "The lawn please,
at once," or words to that effect.  He didn't quite grasp, I think,
that he's in my employment, so naturally I reminded him of it.  He
understands now, I hope.'

Elizabeth looked rather rattled at these energetic remarks, and
Lucia saw at once that this was the stuff to give her.

'But my garden-produce, you know, dear Lulu,' said Elizabeth.  'It
is not much use to me if all those beautiful pears are left to rot
on the trees till the wasps eat them.'

'No doubt that is so,' said Lucia; 'but Coplen, whose wages I pay,
is no use to me if he spends his entire time in looking after your
garden-produce.  I pay for his time, dear Elizabeth, and I intend
to have it.  He also told me he took his orders every morning from
you.  That won't do at all.  I shan't permit that for a moment.  If
I had engaged your cook as well as your gardener, I should not
allow her to spend her day in roasting mutton for you.  So that's
all settled.'

It was borne in upon Elizabeth that she hadn't got a leg to stand
upon and she sat down.

'Lulu,' she said, 'anything would be better than that I should have
a misunderstanding with such a dear as you are.  I won't argue, I
won't put my point of view at all.  I yield.  There!  If you can
spare Coplen for an hour in the morning to take my little fruits
and vegetables to the greengrocer's I should be glad.'

'Quite impossible, I'm afraid, dear Elizabeth,' said Lucia with the
greatest cordiality.  'Coplen has been neglecting the flower-garden
dreadfully, and for the present it will take him all his time to
get it tidy again.  You must get someone else to do that.'

Elizabeth looked quite awful for a moment: then her face was
wreathed in smiles again.

'Precious one!' she said.  'It shall be exactly as you wish.  Now I
must run away.  Au reservoir.  You're not free, I suppose, this
evening to have a little dinner with me?  I would ask Major Benjy
to join us, and our beloved Diva, who has a passion, positively a
passion for you.  Major Benjy indeed too.  He raves about you.
Wicked woman, stealing all the hearts of Tilling.'

Lucia felt positively sorry for the poor thing.  Before she left
for Riseholme last week, she had engaged Diva and Major Benjy to
dine with her to-night, and it was quite incredible that Elizabeth,
by this time, should not have known that.

'Sweet of you,' she said, 'but I have a tiny little party myself to-
night.  Just one or two, dropping in.'

Elizabeth lingered a moment yet, and Lucia said to herself that the
thumb-screw and the rack would not induce her to ask Elizabeth,
however long she lingered.

Lucia and she exchanged kissings of the hand as Elizabeth emerged
from the front door, and tripped down the street.  'I see I must be
a little firm with her,' thought Lucia, 'and when I've taught her
her place, then it will be time to be kind.  But I won't ask her to
dinner just yet.  She must learn not to ask me when she knows I'm
engaged.  And she shall not pop in without ringing.  I must tell
Grosvenor to put the door on the chain.'

Lucia returned to her practice, but shovelled the new Mozart out of
sight, when, in one of her glances out of the open window, she
observed Georgie coming up the street, on his way from the station.
He had a light and airy step, evidently he was in the best of
spirits and he waved to her as he caught sight of her.

'Just going to look in at the cottage one second,' he called out,
'to see that everything's all right, and then I'll come and have a
chat before lunch.  Heaps to tell you.'

'So have I,' said Lucia, ruefully thinking what one of those things
was.  'Hurry up, Georgie.'

He tripped along up to the cottage, and Lucia's heart was wrung for
him, for all that gaiety would soon suffer a total eclipse, and she
was to be the darkener of his day.  Had she better tell him
instantly, she wondered, or hear his news first, and outline the
recent Manoeuvres of Mapp.  These exciting topics might prove
tonic, something to fall back on afterwards.  Whereas, if she
stabbed him straight away, they would be of no service as
restoratives.  Also there was stewed lobster for lunch, and Georgie
who adored it would probably not care a bit about it if the blow
fell first.

Georgie began to speak almost before he opened the door.

'All quite happy at the cottage,' he said, 'and Foljambe ever so
pleased with Tilling.  Everything in spick-and-span order and my
paint-box cleaned up and the hole in the carpet mended quite
beautifully.  She must have been busy while I was away.'

('Dear, oh dear, she has,' thought Lucia.)

'And everything settled at Riseholme,' continued poor Georgie.
'Colonel Cresswell wants my house for three months, so I said yes,
and now we're both homeless for October, unless we keep on our
houses here.  I had to put on my Drake clothes again yesterday, for
the Birmingham Gazette wanted to photograph me.  My dear, what a
huge success it all was, but I'm glad to get away, for everything
will be as flat as ditchwater now, all except Daisy.  She began to
buck up at once the moment you left, and I positively heard her say
how quickly you picked up the part of the Queen after watching her
once or twice.'

'No!  Poor thing!' said Lucia with deep compassion.

'Now tell me all about Tilling,' said Georgie, feeling he must play
fair.

'Things are beginning to move, Georgie,' said she, forgetting for
the time the impending tragedy.  'Night-marches, Georgie,
manoeuvres.  Elizabeth, of course.  I'm sure I was right, she wants
to run me, and if she can't (if!) she'll try to fight me.  I can
see glimpses of hatred and malice in her.'

'And you'll fight her?' asked Georgie eagerly.

'Nothing of the kind, my dear,' said Lucia.  'What do you take me
for?  Every now and then, when necessary, I shall just give her two
or three hard slaps.  I gave her one this morning: I did indeed.
Not a very hard one, but it stung.'

'No!  Do tell me,' said Georgie.

Lucia gave a short but perfectly accurate description of the
gardener-crisis.

'So I stopped that,' she said, 'and there are several other things
I shall stop.  I won't have her, for instance, walking into my
house without ringing.  So I've told Grosvenor to put up the chain.
And she calls me Lulu which makes me sick.  Nobody's ever called me
Lulu and they shan't begin now.  I must see if calling her Liblib
will do the trick.  And then she asked me to dinner to-night, when
she must have known perfectly well that Major Benjy and Diva are
dining with me.  You're dining too, by the way.'

'I'm not sure if I'd better,' said Georgie.  'I think Foljambe
might expect me to dine at home the first night I get back.  I know
she wants to go through the linen and plate with me.'

'No, Georgie, quite unnecessary,' said she.  'I want you to help me
to give the others a jolly comfortable evening.  We'll play bridge
and let Major Benjy lay down the law.  We'll have a genial evening,
make them enjoy it.  And to-morrow I shall ask the Wyses and talk
about Countesses.  And the day after I shall ask the Padre and his
wife and talk Scotch.  I want you to come every night.  It's new in
Tilling I find, to give little dinners.  Tea is the usual
entertainment.  And I shan't ask Liblib at all till next week.'

'But my dear, isn't that war?' asked Georgie.  (It did look rather
like it.)

'Not the least.  It's benevolent neutrality.  We shall see if she
learns sense.  If she does, I shall be very nice to her again and
ask her to several pleasant little parties.  I am giving her every
chance.  Also Georgie . . .'  Lucia's eyes assumed that gimlet-like
expression which betokened an earnest purpose, 'I want to
understand her and be fair to her.  At present I can't understand
her.  The idea of her giving orders to a gardener to whom I give
wages!  But that's all done with.  I can hear the click of the
mowing-machine on the lawn now.  Just two or three things I won't
stand.  I won't be patronized by Liblib, and I won't be called
Lulu, and I won't have her popping in and out of my house like a
cuckoo clock.'

Lunch drew to an end.  There was Georgie looking so prosperous and
plump, with his chestnut-coloured hair no longer in the least need
of a touch of dye, and his beautiful clothes.  Already Major Benjy,
who had quickly seen that if he wanted to be friends with Lucia he
must be friends with Georgie too, had pronounced him to be the best-
dressed man in Tilling, and Lucia, who invariably passed on
dewdrops of this kind, had caused Georgie the deepest gratification
by repeating this.  And now she was about to plunge a dagger in his
heart.  She put her elbows on the table, so as to be ready to lay a
hand of sympathy on his.

'Georgie, I've got something to tell you,' she said.

'I'm sure I shall like it,' said he.  'Go on.'

'No, you won't like it at all,' she said.

It flashed through his mind that Lucia had changed her mind about
marrying him, but it could not be that, for she would never have
said he wouldn't like it at all.  Then he had a flash of intuition.

'Something about Foljambe,' he said in a quavering voice.

'Yes.  She and Cadman are going to marry.'

Georgie turned on her a face from which all other expression except
hopeless despair had vanished, and her hand of sympathy descended
on his, firmly pressing it.

'When?' he said, after moistening his dry lips.

'Not for the present.  Not till we get back to Riseholme.'

Georgie pushed away his untasted coffee.

'It's the most dreadful thing that's ever happened to me,' he said.
'It's quite spoiled all my pleasure.  I didn't think Foljambe was
so selfish.  She's been with me fifteen years, and now she goes and
breaks up my home like this.'

'My dear, that's rather an excessive statement,' said Lucia.  'You
can get another parlourmaid.  There are others.'

'If you come to that, Cadman could get another wife,' said Georgie,
'and there isn't another parlourmaid like Foljambe.  I have
suspected something now and then, but I never thought it would come
to this.  What a fool I was to leave her here when I went back to
Riseholme for the fête!  Or if only we had driven back there with
Cadman instead of going by train.  It was madness.  Here they were
with nothing to do but make plans behind our backs.  No one will
ever look after my clothes as she does.  And the silver.  You'll
miss Cadman, too.'

'Oh, but I don't think he means to leave me,' said Lucia in some
alarm.  'What makes you think that?  He said nothing about it.'

'Then perhaps Foljambe doesn't mean to leave me,' said Georgie,
seeing a possible dawn on the wreck of his home.

'That's rather different,' said Lucia.  'She'll have to look after
his house, you see, by day, and then at night he'd--he'd like her
to be there.'

'Horrible to think of,' said Georgie bitterly.  'I wonder what she
can see in him.  I've got a good mind to go and live in an hotel.
And I had left her five hundred pounds in my will.'

'Georgie, that was very generous of you.  Very,' put in Lucia,
though Georgie would not feel the loss of that large sum after he
was dead.

'But now I shall certainly add a codicil to say "if still in my
service",' said Georgie rather less generously.  'I didn't think it
of her.'

Lucia was silent a moment.  Georgie was taking it very much to
heart indeed, and she racked her ingenious brain.

'I've got an idea,' she said at length.  'I don't know if it can be
worked, but we might see.  Would you feel less miserable about it
if Foljambe would consent to come over to your house say at nine in
the morning and be there till after dinner?  If you were dining out
as you so often are, she could go home earlier.  You see Cadman's
at the Hurst all day, for he does odd jobs as well, and his cottage
at Riseholme is quite close to your house.  You would have to give
them a charwoman to do the housework.'

'Oh, that is a good idea,' said Georgie, cheering up a little.  'Of
course I'll give her a charwoman or anything else she wants if
she'll only look after me as before.  She can sleep wherever she
likes.  Of course there may be periods when she'll have to be away,
but I shan't mind that as long as I know she's coming back.
Besides, she's rather old for that, isn't she?'

It was no use counting the babies before they were born, and Lucia
glided along past this slightly indelicate subject with Victorian
eyes.

'It's worth while seeing if she'll stay with you on these terms,'
she said.

'Rather.  I shall suggest it at once,' said Georgie.  'I think I
shall congratulate her very warmly, and say how pleased I am, and
then ask her.  Or would it be better to be very cold and
preoccupied and not talk to her at all?  She'd hate that, and then
when I ask her after some days whether she'll stop on with me, she
might promise anything to see me less unhappy again.'

Lucia did not quite approve of this Machiavellian policy.

'On the other hand, it might make her marry Cadman instantly, in
order to have done with you,' she suggested.  'You'd better be
careful.'

'I'll think it over,' said Georgie.  'Perhaps it would be safer to
be very nice to her about it and appeal to her better nature, if
she's got one.  But I know I shall never manage to call her Cadman.
She must keep her maiden name, like an actress.'


Lucia duly put in force her disciplinary measures for the reduction
of Elizabeth.  Major Benjy, Diva and Georgie dined with her that
night, and there was a plate of nougat chocolates for Diva, whose
inordinate passion for them was known all over Tilling, and a fiery
curry for the Major to remind him of India, and a dish of purple
figs bought at the greengrocer's but plucked from the tree outside
the garden-room.  She could not resist giving Elizabeth ever so
gentle a little slap over this, and said that it was rather a
roundabout process to go down to the High Street to buy the figs
which Coplen plucked from the tree in the garden, and took down
with other garden-produce to the shop: she must ask dear Elizabeth
to allow her to buy them, so to speak, at the pit-mouth.  But she
was genuinely astonished at the effect this little joke had on
Diva.  Hastily she swallowed a nougat chocolate entire and turned
bright red.

'But doesn't Elizabeth give you garden-produce?' she asked in an
incredulous voice.

'Oh no,' said Lucia, 'Just flowers for the house.  Nothing else.'

'Well, I never!' said Diva.  'I fully understood, at least I
thought I did--'

Lucia got up.  She must be magnanimous and encourage no public
exposure, whatever it might be, of Elizabeth's conduct, but for the
pickling of the rod of discipline she would like to hear about it
quietly.

'Let's go into the garden-room and have a chat,' she said.  'Look
after Major Benjy, Georgie, and don't sit too long in bachelordom,
for I must have a little game of bridge with him.  I'm terribly
frightened of him, but he and Mrs Plaistow must be kind to
beginners like you and me.'

The indignant Diva poured out her tale of Elizabeth's iniquities in
a turgid flood.

'So like Elizabeth,' she said.  'I asked her if she gave you garden-
produce, and she said she wasn't going to dig up her potatoes and
carry them away.  Well, of course I thought that meant she did give
it you.  So like her.  Bismarck, wasn't it, who told the truth in
order to deceive?  And so of course I gave her my garden-produce
and she's selling one and eating the other.  I wish I'd known I
ought to have distrusted her.'

Lucia smiled that indulgent Sunday-evening smile which meant she
was thinking hard on week-day subjects.

'I like Elizabeth so much,' she said, 'and what do a few figs
matter?'

'No, but she always scores,' said Diva, 'and sometimes it's hard to
bear.  She got my house with garden-produce thrown in for eight
guineas a week and she lets her own without garden-produce for
twelve.'

'No dear, I pay fifteen,' said Lucia.

Diva stared at her open-mouthed.

'But it was down in Woolgar's books at twelve,' she said.  'I saw
it myself.  She is a one: isn't she?'

Lucia maintained her attitude of high nobility, but this
information added a little more pickling.

'Dear Elizabeth!' she said.  'So glad that she was sharp enough to
get a few more guineas, I expect she's very clever, isn't she?  And
here come the gentlemen.  Now for a jolly little game of bridge.'

Georgie was astonished at Lucia.  She was accustomed to lay down
the law with considerable firmness, and instruct partners and
opponents alike, but to-night a most unusual humility possessed
her.  She was full of diffidence about her own skill and of praise
for her partner's: she sought advice, even once asking Georgie what
she ought to have played, though that was clearly a mistake, for
next moment she rated him.  But for the other two she had nothing
but admiring envy at their declarations and their management of the
hand, and when Diva revoked she took all the blame on herself for
not having asked her whether her hand was bare of the suit.  Rubber
after rubber they played in an amity hitherto unknown in the higher
gambling circles of Tilling; and when, long after the incredible
hour of twelve had struck, it was found on the adjustment of
accounts that Lucia was the universal loser, she said she had never
bought experience so cheaply and pleasantly.

Major Benjy wiped the foam of his third (surreptitious and hastily
consumed) whisky and soda from his walrus-moustache.

'Most agreeable evening of bridge I've ever spent in Tilling,' he
said.  'Bless me, when I think of the scoldings I've had in this
room for some little slip, and the friction there's been . . .  Mrs
Plaistow knows what I mean.'

'I should think I did,' said Diva, beginning to simmer again at the
thought of garden-produce.  'Poor Elizabeth!  Lessons in self-
control are what she wants and after that a few lessons on the
elements of the game wouldn't be amiss.  Then it would be time to
think about telling other people how to play.'

This very pleasant party broke up, and Georgie, hurrying home to
Mallards Cottage, thought he could discern in these comments the
key to Lucia's unwonted humility at the card-table.  For herself
she had only kind words on the subject of Elizabeth as befitted a
large-hearted woman, but Diva and Major Benjy could hardly help
contrasting brilliantly to her advantage, the charming evening they
had spent with the vituperative scenes which usually took place
when they played bridge in the garden-room.  'I think Lucia has
begun,' thought Georgie to himself as he went noiselessly upstairs
so as not to disturb the slumbers of Foljambe.

It was known, of course, all over Tilling the next morning that
there had been a series of most harmonious rubbers of bridge last
night at Mallards till goodness knew what hour, for Diva spent half
the morning in telling everybody about it, and the other half in
advising them not to get their fruit and vegetables at the shop
which dealt in the garden-produce of the Bismarckian Elizabeth.
Equally well known was it that the Wyses were dining at Mallards to-
night, for Mrs Wyse took care of that, and at eight o'clock that
evening the Royce started from Porpoise Street, and arrived at
Mallards at precisely one minute past.  Georgie came on foot from
the Cottage thirty yards away in the other direction, in the
highest spirits, for Foljambe after consultation with her Cadman
had settled to continue on day-duty after the return to Riseholme.
So Georgie did not intend at present to execute that vindictive
codicil to his will.  He told the Wyses whom he met on the doorstep
of Mallards about the happy termination of this domestic crisis,
while Mrs Wyse took off her sables and disclosed the fact that she
was wearing the order of the MBE on her ample bosom; and he
observed that Mr Wyse had a soft crinkly shirt with a low collar,
and velveteen dress clothes: this pretty costume caused him to look
rather like a conjurer.  There followed very polite conversations
at dinner, full of bows from Mr Wyse; first he talked to his
hostess, and when Lucia tried to produce general talk and spoke to
Georgie, he instantly turned his head to the right, and talked most
politely to his wife about the weather and the news in the evening
paper till Lucia was ready for him again.

'I hear from our friend Miss Mapp,' he said to her, 'that you speak
the most beautiful and fluent Italian.'

Lucia was quite ready to oblige.

'Ah, che bella lingua!' said she.  'Ma ho dimenticato tutto, non
parla nessuno in Riseholme.'

'But I hope you will have the opportunity of speaking it before
long in Tilling,' said Mr Wyse.  'My sister Amelia, Contessa
Faraglione, may possibly be with us before long and I shall look
forward to hearing you and she talk together.  A lovely language to
listen to, though Amelia laughs at my poor efforts when I attempt
it.'

Lucia smelled danger here.  There had been a terrible occasion once
at Riseholme when her bilingual reputation had been shattered by
her being exposed to the full tempest of Italian volleyed at her by
a native, and she had been unable to understand anything that he
said.  But Amelia's arrival was doubtful and at present remote, and
it would be humiliating to confess that her knowledge was confined
to a chosen though singularly limited vocabulary.

'Georgie, we must rub up our Italian again,' she said.  'Mr Wyse's
sister may be coming here before long.  What an opportunity for us
to practise!'

'I do not imagine that you have much need of practice,' said Mr
Wyse, bowing to Lucia.  'And I hear your Elizabethan fête' (he
bowed to Queen Elizabeth) 'was an immense success.  We so much want
somebody at Tilling who can organize and carry through schemes like
that.  My wife does all she can, but she sadly needs someone to
help, or indeed direct her.  The hospital for instance, terribly in
need of funds.  She and I were talking as to whether we could not
get up a garden fête with some tableaux or something of the sort to
raise money.  She has designs on you, I know, when she can get you
alone, for indeed there is no one in Tilling with ability and
initiative.'

Suddenly it struck Lucia that though this was very gratifying to
herself, it had another purpose, namely to depreciate somebody
else, and surely that could only be one person.  But that name must
not escape her lips.

'My services, such as they are, are completely at Mrs Wyse's
disposal,' she said, 'as long as I am in Tilling.  This garden for
instance.  Would that be a suitable place for something of the
sort?'

Mr Wyse bowed to the garden.

'The ideal spot,' said he.  'All Tilling would flock here at your
bidding.  Never yet in my memory has the use of it been granted for
such a purpose; we have often lamented it.'

There could no longer be much doubt as to the sub-current in such
remarks, but the beautiful smooth surface must not be broken.

'I quite feel with you,' said Lucia.  'If one is fortunate enough,
even for a short time, to possess a pretty little garden like this,
it should be used for the benefit of charitable entertainment.  The
hospital: what more deserving object could we have?  Some tableaux,
you suggested.  I'm sure Mr Pillson and I would be only too glad to
repeat a scene or two from our fête at Riseholme.'

Mr Wyse bowed so low that his large loose tie nearly dipped itself
in an ice pudding.

'I was trying to summon my courage to suggest exactly that,' he
said.  'Susan, Mrs Lucas encourages us to hope that she will give
you a favourable audience about the project we talked over.'

The favourable audience began as soon as the ladies rose, and was
continued when Georgie and Mr Wyse followed them.  Already it had
been agreed that the Padre might contribute an item to the
entertainment, and that was very convenient, for he was to dine
with Lucia the next night.

'His Scotch stories,' said Susan.  'I can never hear them too
often, for though I've not got a drop of Scotch blood myself, I can
appreciate them.  Not a feature of course, Mrs Lucas, but just to
fill up pauses.  And then there's Mrs Plaistow.  How I laugh when
she does the sea-sick passenger with an orange, though I doubt if
you can get oranges now.  And Miss Coles.  A wonderful mimic.  And
then there's Major Benjy.  Perhaps he would read us portions of his
diary.'

A pause followed.  Lucia had one of those infallible presentiments
that a certain name hitherto omitted would follow.  It did.

'And if Miss Mapp would supply the refreshment department with
fruit from her garden here, that would be a great help,' said Mrs
Wyse.

Lucia caught in rapid succession the respective eyes of all her
guests, each of whom in turn looked away.  'So Tilling knows all
about the garden-produce already,' she thought to herself.

Bridge followed, and here she could not be as humble as she had
been last night, for both the Wyses abased themselves before she
had time to begin.

'We know already,' said Algernon, 'of the class of player that you
are, Mrs Lucas,' he said.  'Any hints you will give Susan and me
will be so much appreciated.  We shall give you no game at all I am
afraid, but we shall have a lesson.  There is no one in Tilling who
has any pretensions of being a player.  Major Benjy and Mrs
Plaistow and we sometimes have a well-fought rubber on our own
level, and the Padre does not always play a bad game.  But
otherwise the less said about our bridge the better.  Susan, my
dear, we must do our best.'

Here indeed was a reward for Lucia's humility last night.  The
winners had evidently proclaimed her consummate skill, and was
that, too, a reflection on somebody else, only once hitherto named,
and that in connection with garden-produce?  To-night Lucia's hands
dripped with aces and kings: she denuded her adversaries of all
their trumps, and then led one more for safety's sake, after which
she poured forth a galaxy of winners.  Whoever was her partner was
in luck, and to-night it was Georgie who had to beg for change for
a ten-shilling note and leave the others to adjust their portions.
He recked nothing of this financial disaster, for Foljambe was not
lost to him.  When the party broke up Mrs Wyse begged him to allow
her to give him a lift in the Royce, but as this would entail a
turning of that majestic car, which would take at least five
minutes followed by a long drive for them round the church square
and down into the High Street and up again to Porpoise Street, he
adventured forth on foot for his walk of thirty yards and arrived
without undue fatigue.


Georgie and Lucia started their sketching next morning.  Like
charity, they began at home, and their first subjects were each
other's houses.  They put their camp-stools side by side, but
facing in opposite directions, in the middle of the street half-way
between Mallards and Mallards Cottage; and thus, by their having
different objects to portray, they avoided any sort of rivalry, and
secured each other's companionship.

'So good for our drawing,' said Georgie.  'We were getting to do
nothing but trees and clouds which needn't be straight.'

'I've got the crooked chimney,' said Lucia proudly.  'That one
beyond your house.  I think I shall put it straight.  People might
think I had done it crooked by accident.  What do you advise?'

'I think I wouldn't,' said he.  'There's character in its
crookedness.  Or you might make it rather more crooked than it is:
then there won't be any doubt . . .  Here comes the Wyses' car.  We
shall have to move on to the pavement.  Tarsome.'

A loud hoot warned them that that was the safer course, and the car
lurched towards them.  As it passed, Mr Wyse saw whom he had
disturbed, stopped the Royce (which had so much better a right to
the road than the artists) and sprang out, hat in hand.

'A thousand apologies,' he cried.  'I had no idea who it was, and
for what artistic purpose, occupying the roadway.  I am indeed
distressed, I would instantly have retreated and gone round the
other way had I perceived in time.  May I glance?  Exquisite!  The
crooked chimney!  Mallards Cottage!  The west front of the church!'
He bowed to them all.

There followed that evening the third dinner-party when the Padre
and wee wifie made the quartet.  The Royce had called for him that
day to take him to lunch in Porpoise Street (Lucia had seen it go
by), and it was he who now introduced the subject of the proposed
entertainment on behalf of the hospital, for he knew all about it
and was ready to help in any way that Mistress Lucas might command.
There were some Scottish stories which he would be happy to
narrate, in order to fill up intervals between the tableaux, and he
had ascertained that Miss Coles (dressed as usual as a boy) would
give her most amusing parody of 'The boy stood on the burning
deck', and that Mistress Diva said she thought that an orange or
two might be procured.  If not, a ripe tomato would serve the
purpose.  He would personally pledge himself for the services of
the church choir to sing catches and glees and madrigals, whenever
required.  He suggested also that such members of the workhouse as
were not bedridden might be entertained to tea, in which case the
choir would sing grace before and after buns.

'As to the expense of that, if you approve,' he said, 'put another
baubee on the price of admission, and there'll be none in Tilling
to grudge the extra expense wi' such entertainment as you and the
other leddies will offer them.'

'Dear me, how quickly it is all taking shape,' said Lucia, finding
that almost without effort on her part she had been drawn into the
place of prime mover in all this, and that still a sort of
conspiracy of silence prevailed with regard to Miss Mapp's name,
which hitherto had only been mentioned as a suitable provider of
fruit for the refreshment department.  'You must form a little
committee, Padre, for putting all the arrangements in hand at once.
There's Mr Wyse who really thought of the idea, and you--'

'And with yourself,' broke in the Padre, 'that will make three.
That's sufficient for any committee that is going to do its work
without any argle-bargle.'

There flashed across Lucia's mind a fleeting vision of what
Elizabeth's face would be like when she picked up, as she would no
doubt do next morning, the news of all that was becoming so solid.

'I think I had better not be on the committee,' she said, quite
convinced that they would insist on it.  'It should consist of real
Tillingites who take the lead among you in such things.  I am only
a visitor here.  They will all say I want to push myself in.'

'Ah, but we can't get on wi' out ye, Mistress Lucas,' said the
Padre.  'You must consent to join us.  An' three, as I say, makes
the perfect committee.'

Mrs Bartlett had been listening to all this with a look of ecstatic
attention on her sharp but timid little face.  Here she gave vent
to a series of shrill minute squeaks which expressed a mouse-like
merriment, quite unexplained by anything that had been actually
said, but easily accounted for by what had not been said.  She
hastily drank a sip of water and assured Lucia that a crumb of
something (she was eating a peach) had stuck in her throat and made
her cough.  Lucia rose when the peach was finished.

'To-morrow we must start working in earnest,' she said.  'And to
think that I planned to have a little holiday in Tilling!  You and
Mr Wyse are regular slave-drivers, Padre.'

Georgie waited behind that night after the others had gone, and
bustled back to the garden-room after seeing them off.

'My dear, it's getting too exciting,' he said.  'But I wonder if
you're wise to join the committee.'

'I know what you mean,' said Lucia, 'but there really is no reason
why I should refuse, because they won't have Elizabeth.  It's not
me, Georgie, who is keeping her out.  But perhaps you're right, and
I think tomorrow I'll send a line to the Padre and say that I am
really too busy to be on the committee, and beg him to ask
Elizabeth instead.  It would be kinder.  I can manage the whole
thing just as well without being on the committee.  She'll hear all
about the entertainment to-morrow morning, and know that she's not
going to be asked to do anything, except supply some fruit.'

'She knows a good deal about it now,' said Georgie.  'She came to
tea with me to-day.'

'No!  I didn't know you had asked her.'

'I didn't,' said Georgie.  'She came.'

'And what did she say about it?'

'Not very much, but she's thinking hard what to do.  I could see
that.  I gave her the little sketch I made of the Landgate when we
first came down here, and she wants me to send in another picture
for the Tilling Art Exhibition.  She wants you to send something
too.'

'Certainly she shall have my sketch of Mallards Cottage and the
crooked chimney,' said Lucia.  'That will show good will.  What
else did she say?'

'She's getting up a jumble-sale in aid of the hospital,' said
Georgie.  'She's busy, too.'

'Georgie, that's copied from us.'

'Of course it is; she wants to have a show of her own, and I'm sure
I don't wonder.  And she knows all about your three dinner-
parties.'

Lucia nodded.  'That's all right then,' she said.  'I'll ask her to
the next.  We'll have some duets that night, Georgie.  Not bridge I
think, for they all say she's a perfect terror at cards.  But it's
time to be kind to her.'

Lucia rose.

'Georgie, it's becoming a frightful rush already,' she said.  'This
entertainment which they insist on my managing will make me very
busy, but when one is appealed to like that, one can't refuse.
Then there's my music, and sketching, and I haven't begun to rub up
my Greek . . .  And don't forget to send for your Drake clothes.
Good night, my dear.  I'll call to you over the garden-paling to-
morrow if anything happens.'

'I feel as if it's sure to,' said Georgie with enthusiasm.



5


Lucia was writing letters in the window of the garden-room next
morning.  One, already finished, was to Adele Brixton asking her to
send to Mallards the Queen Elizabeth costume for the tableaux: a
second, also finished, was to the Padre, saying that she found she
would not have time to attend committees for the hospital fête, and
begging him to co-opt Miss Mapp.  She would, however, do all in her
power to help the scheme, and make any little suggestions that
occurred to her.  She added that the chance of getting fruit gratis
for the refreshment department would be far brighter if the owner
of it was on the board.

The third letter, firmly beginning 'Dearest Liblib' (and to be
signed very large, LUCIA), asking her to dine in two days' time,
was not quite done when she saw dearest Liblib, with a fixed and
awful smile, coming swiftly up the street.  Lucia, sitting sideways
to the window, could easily appear absorbed in her letter and
unconscious of Elizabeth's approach, but from beneath half-lowered
eyelids she watched her with the intensest interest.  She was
slanting across the street now, making a bee-line for the door of
Mallards ('and if she tries to get in without ringing the bell,
she'll find the chain on the door,' thought Lucia).

The abandoned woman, disdaining the bell, turned the handle and
pushed.  It did not yield to her intrusion, and she pushed more
strongly.  There was the sound of jingling metal, audible even in
the garden-room, as the hasp that held the end of the chain gave
way; the door flew open wide, and with a few swift and nimble steps
she just saved herself from falling flat on the floor of the hall.

Lucia, pale with fury, laid down her pen and waited for the
situation to develop.  She hoped she would behave like a lady, but
was quite sure it would be a firm sort of lady.  Presently up the
steps to the garden-room came that fairy tread, the door was opened
an inch, and that odious voice said:

'May I come in, dear?'

'Certainly,' said Lucia brightly.

'Lulu dear,' said Elizabeth, tripping across the room with little
brisk steps.  'First I must apologize: so humbly.  Such a stupid
accident.  I tried to open your front door, and gave it a teeny
little push and your servants had forgotten to take the chain down.
I am afraid I broke something.  The hasp must have been rusty.'

Lucia looked puzzled.

'But didn't Grosvenor come to open the door when you rang?' she
asked.

'That was just what I forgot to do, dear,' said Elizabeth.  'I
thought I would pop in to see you without troubling Grosvenor.  You
and I such friends, and so difficult to remember that my dear
little Mallards--Several things to talk about!'

Lucia got up.

'Let us first see what damage you have done,' she said with an icy
calmness, and marched straight out of the room, followed by
Elizabeth.  The sound of the explosion had brought Grosvenor out of
the dining-room, and Lucia picked up the dangling hasp and examined
it.

'No, no sign of rust,' she said.  'Grosvenor, you must go down to
the ironmonger and get them to come up and repair this at once.
The chain must be made safer and you must remember always to put it
on, day and night.  If I am out, I will ring.'

'So awfully sorry, dear Lulu,' said Elizabeth, slightly cowed by
this firm treatment.  'I had no idea the chain could be up.  We all
keep our doors on the latch in Tilling.  Quite a habit.'

'I always used to in Riseholme,' said Lucia.  'Let us go back to
the garden-room, and you will tell me what you came to talk about.'

'Several things,' said Elizabeth when they had settled themselves.
'First, I am starting a little jumble-sale for the hospital, and I
wanted to look out some old curtains and rugs, laid away in
cupboards, to give to it.  May I just go upstairs and downstairs
and poke about to find them?'

'By all means,' said Lucia.  'Grosvenor shall go round with you as
soon as she has come back from the ironmonger's.'

'Thank you, dear,' said Elizabeth, 'though there's no need to
trouble Grosvenor.  Then another thing.  I persuaded Mr Georgie to
send me a sketch for our picky exhibition.  Promise me that you'll
send me one too.  Wouldn't be complete without something by you.
How you get all you do into the day is beyond me; your sweet music,
your sketching, and your dinner-parties every evening.'

Lucia readily promised, and Elizabeth then appeared to lose herself
in reverie.

'There IS one more thing,' she said at last.  'I have heard a
little gossip in the town both to-day and yesterday about a fête
which it is proposed to give in my garden.  I feel sure it is mere
tittle-tattle, but I thought it would be better to come up here to
know from you that there is no foundation for it.'

'But I hope there is a great deal,' said Lucia.  'Some tableaux,
some singing, in order to raise funds for the hospital.  It would
be so kind of you if you would supply the fruit for the refreshment
booth from your garden.  Apropos I should be so pleased to buy some
of it every day myself.  It would be fresher than if, as at
present, it is taken down to the greengrocer and brought up again.'

'Anything to oblige you, dear Lulu,' said Elizabeth.  'But that
would be difficult to arrange.  I have contracted to send all my
garden-produce to Twistevant's--such a quaint name, is it not?--for
these months, and for the same reason I should be unable to supply
this fête which I have heard spoken of.  The fruit is no longer
mine.'

Lucia had already made up her mind that, after this affair of the
chain, nothing would induce her to propose that Elizabeth should
take her place on the committee.  She would cling to it through
storm and tempest.

'I see,' she said.  'Perhaps then you could let us have some fruit
from Diva's garden, unless you have sold that also.'

Elizabeth came to the point, disregarding so futile a suggestion.

'The fête itself, dear one,' she said, 'is what I must speak about.
I cannot possibly permit it to take place in my garden.  The rag-
tag and bob-tail of Tilling passing through my hall and my sweet
little sitting-room and spending the afternoon in my garden!  All
my carpets soiled and my flower-beds trampled on!  And how do I
know that they will not steal upstairs and filch what they can
find?'

Lucia's blood had begun to boil: nobody could say that she was
preserving a benevolent neutrality.  In consequence she presented
an icy demeanour, and if her voice trembled at all, it was from
excessive cold.

'There will be no admission to the rooms in the house,' she said.
'I will lock all the doors, and I am sure that nobody in Tilling
will be so ill bred as to attempt to force them open.'

That was a nasty one.  Elizabeth recoiled for a moment from the
shock, but rallied.  She opened her mouth very wide to begin again,
but Lucia got in first.

'They will pass straight from the front door into the garden,' she
said, 'where we undertake to entertain them, presenting their
tickets of admission or paying at the door.  As for the carpet in
your sweet little sitting-room, there isn't one.  And I have too
high an opinion of the manners of Tilling in general to suppose
that they will trample on your flowerbeds.'

'Perhaps you would like to hire a menagerie,' said Elizabeth,
completely losing her self-control, 'and have an exhibition of
tigers and sharks in the garden-room.'

'No: I should particularly dislike it,' said Lucia earnestly.
'Half of the garden-room would have to be turned into a sea-water
tank for the sharks and my piano would be flooded.  And the rest
would have to be full of horse-flesh for the tigers.  A most
ridiculous proposal, and I cannot entertain it.'

Elizabeth gave a dreadful gasp as if she was one of the sharks and
the water had been forgotten.  She adroitly changed the subject.

'Then again, there's the rumour--of course it's only rumour--that
there is some idea of entertaining such inmates of the workhouse as
are not bedridden.  Impossible.'

'I fancy the Padre is arranging that,' said Lucia.  'For my part,
I'm delighted to give them a little treat.'

'And for my part,' said Miss Mapp, rising (she had become Miss Mapp
again in Lucia's mind), 'I will not have my little home-sanctuary
invaded by the rag-tag--'

'The tickets will be half a crown,' interposed Lucia.

'--and bob-tail of Tilling,' continued Miss Mapp.

'As long as I am tenant here,' said Lucia, 'I shall ask here whom I
please, and when I please, and--and how I please.  Or do you wish
me to send you a list of the friends I ask to dinner for your
sanction?'

Miss Mapp, trembling very much, forced her lips to form the
syllables:

'But, dear Lulu--'

'Dear Elizabeth, I must beg you not to call me Lulu,' she said.
'Such a detestable abbreviation--'

Grosvenor had appeared at the door of the garden-room.

'Yes, Grosvenor, what is it?' asked Lucia in precisely the same
voice.

'The ironmonger is here, ma'am,' she said, 'and he says that he'll
have to put in some rather large screws, as they're pulled out--'

'Whatever is necessary to make the door safe,' said Lucia.  'And
Miss Mapp wants to look into cupboards and take some things of her
own away.  Go with her, please, and give her every facility.'

Lucia, quite in the grand style, turned to look out of the window
in the direction of Mallards Cottage, in order to give Miss Mapp
the opportunity of a discreet exit.  She threw the window open.

'Georgino!  Georgino!' she called, and Georgie's face appeared
above the paling.

'Come round and have ickle talk, Georgie,' she said.  'Sumfin' I
want to tell you.  Presto!'

She kissed her hand to Georgie and turned back into the room.  Miss
Mapp was still there, but now invisible to Lucia's eye.  She hummed
a gay bar of Mozartino, and went back to her table in the bow-
window where she tore up the letter of resignation and recommendation
she had written to the Padre, and the half-finished note to Miss
Mapp, which so cordially asked her to dinner, saying that it was so
long since they had met, for they had met again now.  When she
looked up she was alone, and there was Georgie tripping up the steps
by the front door.  Though it was standing open (for the ironmonger
was already engaged on the firm restoration of the chain) he very
properly rang the bell and was admitted.

'There you are,' said Lucia brightly as he came in.  'Another
lovely day.'

'Perfect.  What has happened to your front door?'

Lucia laughed.

'Elizabeth came to see me,' she said gaily.  'The chain was on the
door, as I have ordered it always shall be.  But she gave the door
such a biff that the hasp pulled out.  It's being repaired.'

'No!' said Georgie, 'and did you give her what for?'

'She had several things she wanted to see me about,' said Lucia,
keeping an intermittent eye on the front door.  'She wanted to get
out of her cupboards some stuff for the jumble-sale she is getting
up in aid of the hospital, and she is at it now under Grosvenor's
superintendence.  Then she wanted me to send a sketch for the
picture exhibition, I said I would be delighted.  Then she said she
could not manage to send any fruit for our fête here.  She did not
approve of the fête at all, Georgie.  In fact, she forbade me to
give it.  We had a little chat about that.'

'But what's to be done then?' asked Georgie.

'Nothing that I know of, except to give the fête,' said Lucia.
'But it would be no use asking her to be on the committee for an
object of which she disapproved, so I tore up the letter I had
written to the Padre about it.'

Lucia suddenly focused her eyes and her attention on the front
door, and a tone of warm human interest melted the deadly chill of
her voice.

'Georgie, there she goes,' she said.  'What a quantity of things!
There's an old kettle and a boot-jack, and a rug with a hole in it,
and one stair-rod.  And there's a shaving from the front door where
they are putting in bigger screws, stuck to her skirt . . .  And
she's dropped the stair-rod . . .  Major Benjy's picking it up for
her.'

Georgie hurried to the window to see these exciting happenings, but
Miss Mapp, having recovered the stair-rod, was already disappearing.

'I wish I hadn't given her my picture of the Landgate,' said he.
'It was one of my best.  But aren't you going to tell me all about
your interview?  Properly, I mean: everything.'

'Not worth speaking of,' said Lucia.  'She asked me if I would like
to have a menagerie and keep tigers and sharks in the garden-room.
That sort of thing.  Mere raving.  Come out, Georgie.  I want to do
a little shopping.  Coplen told me there were some excellent
greengages from the garden which he was taking down to Twistevant's.'

It was the hour when the collective social life of Tilling was at
its briskest.  The events of the evening before, tea-parties and
games of bridge had become known and were under discussion, as the
ladies of the place with their baskets on their arms collided with
each other as they popped in and out of shops and obstructed the
pavements.  Many parcels were being left at Wasters which Miss Mapp
now occupied, for jumble-sales on behalf of deserving objects were
justly popular, since everybody had a lot of junk in their houses,
which they could not bear to throw away, but for which they had no
earthly use.  Diva had already been back from Taormina to her own
house (as Elizabeth to hers) and had disinterred from a cupboard of
rubbish a pair of tongs, the claws of which twisted round if you
tried to pick up a lump of coal and dropped it on the carpet, but
which were otherwise perfect.  Then there was a scuttle which had a
hole in the bottom, through which coal dust softly dribbled, and a
candlestick which had lost one of its feet, and a glass inkstand
once handsome, but now cracked.  These treasures, handsome
donations to a jumble-sale, but otherwise of no particular value,
she carried to her own hall, where donors were requested to leave
their offerings, and she learned from Withers, Miss Mapp's
parlourmaid, the disagreeable news that the jumble-sale was to be
held here.  The thought revolted her; all the rag-tag and bob-tail
of Tilling would come wandering about her house, soiling her
carpets and smudging her walls.  At this moment Miss Mapp herself
came in carrying the tea kettle and the boot-jack and the other
things.  She had already thought of half a dozen withering retorts
she might have made to Lucia.

'Elizabeth, this will never do,' said Diva.  'I can't have the
jumble-sale held here.  They'll make a dreadful mess of the place.'

'Oh no, dear,' said Miss Mapp, with searing memories of a recent
interview in her mind.  'The people will only come into your hall
where you see there's no carpet, and make their purchases.  What a
beautiful pair of tongs!  For my sale?  Fancy!  Thank you, dear
Diva.'

'But I forbid the jumble-sale to be held here,' said Diva.  'You'll
be wanting to have a menagerie here next.'

This was amazing luck.

'No, dear, I couldn't dream of it,' said Miss Mapp.  'I should hate
to have tigers and sharks all over the place.  Ridiculous!'

'I shall put up a merry-go-round in quaint Irene's studio at
Taormina,' said Diva.

'I doubt if there's room, dear,' said Miss Mapp, scoring heavily
again, 'but you might measure.  Perfectly legitimate, of course,
for if my house may be given over to parties for paupers, you can
surely have a merry-go-round in quaint Irene's and I a jumble-sale
in yours.'

'It's not the same thing,' said Diva.  'Providing beautiful
tableaux in your garden is quite different from using my panelled
hall to sell kettles and coal-scuttles with holes in them.'

'I dare say I could find a good many holes in the tableaux,' said
Miss Mapp.

Diva could think of no adequate verbal retort to such coruscations,
so for answer she merely picked up the tongs, the coal-scuttle, the
candlestick and the inkstand, and put them back in the cupboard
from which she had just taken them, and left her tenant to sparkle
by herself.


Most of the damaged objects for the jumble-sale must have arrived
by now, and after arranging them in tasteful groups Miss Mapp sat
down in a rickety basket-chair presented by the Padre for fell
meditation.  Certainly it was not pretty of Diva (no one could say
that Diva was pretty) to have withdrawn her treasures, but that was
not worth thinking about.  What did demand her highest mental
activities was Lucia's conduct.  How grievously different she had
turned out to be from that sweet woman for whom she had originally
felt so warm an affection, whom she had planned to take so cosily
under her wing, and administer in small doses as treats to Tilling
society!  Lucia had turned upon her and positively bitten the
caressing hand.  By means of showy little dinners and odious
flatteries, she had quite certainly made Major Benjy and the Padre
and the Wyses and poor Diva think that she was a very remarkable
and delightful person and in these manoeuvres Miss Mapp saw a
shocking and sinister attempt to set herself up as the Queen of
Tilling society.  Lucia had given dinner-parties on three
consecutive nights since her return, she had put herself on the
committee for this fête, which (however much Miss Mapp might say
she could not possibly permit it) she had not the slightest idea
how to stop, and though Lucia was only a temporary resident here,
these weeks would be quite intolerable if she continued to inflate
herself in this presumptuous manner.  It was certainly time for
Miss Mapp to reassert herself before this rebel made more progress,
and though dinner-giving was unusual in Tilling, she determined to
give one or two most amusing ones herself, to none of which, of
course, she would invite Lucia.  But that was not nearly enough:
she must administer some frightful snub (or snubs) to the woman.
Georgie was in the same boat and must suffer too, for Lucia would
not like that.  So she sat in this web of crippled fire-irons and
napless rugs like a spider, meditating reprisals.  Perhaps it was a
pity, when she needed allies, to have quarrelled with Diva, but a
dinner would set that right.  Before long she got up with a pleased
expression.  'That will do to begin with: she won't like that at
all,' she said to herself and went out to do her belated marketing.

She passed Lucia and Georgie, but decided not to see them, and,
energetically waving her hand to Mrs Bartlett, she popped into
Twistevant's, from the door of which they had just come out.  At
that moment quaint Irene, after a few words with the Padre, caught
sight of Lucia, and hurried across the street to her.  She was
hatless, as usual, and wore a collarless shirt and knickerbockers
unlike any other lady of Tilling, but as she approached Lucia her
face assumed an acid and awful smile, just like somebody else's,
and then she spoke in a cooing velvety voice that was quite
unmistakable.

'The boy stood on the burning deck, Lulu,' she said.  'Whence all
but he had fled, dear.  The flames that lit the battle-wreck, sweet
one, shone round him--'

Quaint Irene broke off suddenly, for within a yard of her at the
door of Twistevant's appeared Miss Mapp.  She looked clean over all
their heads, and darted across the street to Wasters, carrying a
small straw basket of her own delicious greengages.

'Oh, lor!' said Irene.  'The Mapp's in the fire, so that's done.
Yes.  I'll recite for you at your fête.  Georgie, what a saucy hat!
I was just going to Taormina to rout out some old sketches of mine
for the Art Show, and then this happens.  I wouldn't have had it
not happen for a hundred pounds.'

'Come and dine to-night,' said Lucia warmly, breaking all records
in the way of hospitality.

'Yes, if I needn't dress, and you'll send me home afterwards.  I'm
half a mile out of the town and I may be tipsy, for Major Benjy
says you've got jolly good booze, "quai-hai", the King, God bless
him!  Good-bye.'


'Most original!' said Lucia.  'To go on with what I was telling
you, Georgie, Liblib said she would not have her little home-
sanctuary--Good morning, Padre.  Miss Mapp shoved her way into
Mallards this morning without ringing, and broke the chain which
was on the door, such a hurry was she in to tell me that she will
not have her little home-sanctuary, as I was just saying to
Georgie, invaded by the rag-tag and bobtail of Tilling.'

'Hoots awa!' said the Padre.  'What in the world has Mistress Mapp
got to do with it?  An' who's holding a jumble-sale in Mistress
Plaistow's?  I keeked in just now wi' my bit o' rubbish and never
did I see such a mess.  Na, na!  Fair play's a jool, an' we'll go
richt ahead.  Excuse me, there's wee wifie wanting me.'

'It's war,' said Georgie as the Padre darted across to the Mouse,
who was on the other side of the street, to tell her what had
happened.

'No, I'm just defending myself,' said Lucia.  'It's right that
people should know she burst my door-chain.'

'Well, I feel like the fourth of August, 1914,' said Georgie.
'What do you suppose she'll do next?'

'You may depend upon it, Georgie, that I shall be ready for her
whatever it is,' said Lucia.  'I shan't raise a finger against her,
if she behaves.  But she SHALL ring the bell and I WON'T be
dictated to and I WON'T be called Lulu.  However, there's no
immediate danger of that.  Come, Georgie, let us go home and finish
our sketches.  Then we'll have them framed and send them to Liblib
for the picture exhibition.  Perhaps that will convince her of my
general good will, which I assure you is quite sincere.'


The jumble-sale opened next day, and Georgie, having taken his
picture of Lucia's house and her picture of his to be framed in a
very handsome manner, went on to Wasters with the idea of buying
anything that could be of the smallest use for any purpose, and
thus showing more good will towards the patroness.  Miss Mapp was
darting to and fro with lures for purchasers, holding the kettle
away from the light so that the hole in its bottom should not be
noticed, and she gave him a smile that looked rather like a snarl,
but after all very like the smile she had for others.  Georgie
selected a hearth-brush, some curtain-rings and a kettle-holder.

Then in a dark corner he came across a large cardboard tray,
holding miscellaneous objects with the label 'All 6d Each'.  There
were thimbles, there were photographs with slightly damaged frames,
there were chipped china ornaments and cork-screws, and there was
the picture of the Landgate which he had painted himself and given
Miss Mapp.  Withers, Miss Mapp's parlourmaid, was at a desk for the
exchange of custom by the door, and he exhibited his purchases for
her inspection.

'Ninepence for the hearth-brush and threepence for the curtain-
rings,' said Georgie in a trembling voice, 'and sixpence for the
kettle-holder.  Then there's this little picture out of the
sixpenny tray, which makes just two shillings.'

Laden with these miscellaneous purchases he went swiftly up the
street to Mallards.  Lucia was at the window of the garden-room,
and her gimlet eye saw that something had happened.  She threw the
sash up.

'I'm afraid the chain is on the door, Georgie,' she called out.
'You'll have to ring.  What is it?'

'I'll show you,' said Georgie.

He deposited the hearth-brush, the curtain-rings and the kettle-
holder in the hall, and hurried out to the garden-room with the
picture.

'The sketch I gave her,' he said.  'In the sixpenny tray.  Why, the
frame cost a shilling.'

Lucia's face became a flint.

'I never heard of such a thing, Georgie,' said she.  'The monstrous
woman!'

'It may have got there by mistake,' said Georgie, frightened at
this Medusa countenance.

'Rubbish, Georgie,' said Lucia.


Pictures for the annual exhibition of the Art Society of which Miss
Mapp was President had been arriving in considerable numbers at
Wasters, and stood stacked round the walls of the hall where the
jumble-sale had been held a few days before, awaiting the judgment
of the hanging committee which consisted of the President, the
Treasurer and the Secretary: the two latter were Mr and Mrs Wyse.
Miss Mapp had sent in half a dozen water-colours, the Treasurer a
study in still-life of a teacup, an orange and a wallflower, the
Secretary a pastel portrait of the King of Italy, whom she had seen
at a distance in Rome last spring.  She had reinforced the vivid
impression he had made on her by photographs.  All these, following
the precedent of the pictures of Royal Academicians at Burlington
House, would be hung on the line without dispute, and there could
not be any friction concerning them.  But quaint Irene had sent
some at which Miss Mapp felt lines must be drawn.  They were, as
usual, very strange and modern: there was one, harmless but insane,
that purported to be Tilling church by moonlight: a bright green
pinnacle all crooked (she supposed it was a pinnacle) rose up
against a strip of purple sky and the whole of the rest of the
canvas was black.  There was the back of somebody with no clothes
on lying on an emerald-green sofa: and, worst of all, there was a
picture called 'Women Wrestlers', from which Miss Mapp hurriedly
averted her eyes.  A proper regard for decency alone, even if Irene
had not mimicked her reciting 'The boy stood on the burning deck',
would have made her resolve to oppose, tooth and nail, the
exhibition of these shameless athletes.  Unfortunately Mr Wyse had
the most unbounded admiration for quaint Irene's work, and if she
had sent in a picture of mixed wrestlers he would probably have
said, 'Dear me, very powerful!'  He was a hard man to resist, for
if he and Miss Mapp had a very strong difference of opinion
concerning any particular canvas he broke off and fell into fresh
transports of admiration at her own pictures and this rather
disarmed opposition.

The meeting of the hanging committee was to take place this morning
at noon.  Half an hour before that time, an errand-boy arrived at
Wasters from the frame-maker's bringing, according to the order he
had received, two parcels which contained Georgie's picture of
Mallards and Lucia's picture of Mallards Cottage: they had the
cards of their perpetrators attached.  'Rubbishy little daubs,'
thought Miss Mapp to herself, 'but I suppose those two Wyses will
insist.'  Then an imprudent demon of revenge suddenly took complete
possession of her, and she called back the boy, and said she had a
further errand for him.

At a quarter before twelve the boy arrived at Mallards and rang the
bell.  Grosvenor took down the chain and received from him a thin
square parcel labelled 'With care'.  One minute afterwards he
delivered a similar parcel to Foljambe at Mallards Cottage, and had
discharged Miss Mapp's further errand.  The two maids conveyed
these to their employers, and Georgie and Lucia, tearing off the
wrappers, found themselves simultaneously confronted with their own
pictures.  A typewritten slip accompanied each, conveying to them
the cordial thanks of the hanging committee and its regrets that
the limited wall-space at its disposal would not permit of these
works of art being exhibited.

Georgie ran out into his little yard and looked over the paling of
Lucia's garden.  At the same moment Lucia threw open the window of
the garden-room which faced towards the paling.

'Georgie, have you received--' she called.

'Yes,' said Georgie.

'So have I.'

'What are you going to do?' he asked.

Lucia's face assumed an expression eager and pensive, the far-away
look with which she listened to Beethoven.  She thought intently
for a moment.

'I shall take a season ticket for the exhibition,' she said, 'and
constantly--'

'I can't quite hear you,' said Georgie.

Lucia raised her voice.

'I shall buy a season ticket for the exhibition,' she shouted, 'and
go there every day.  Believe me, that's the only way to take it.
They don't want our pictures, but we mustn't be small about it.
Dignity, Georgie.'

There was nothing to add to so sublime a declaration and Lucia went
across to the bow-window, looking down the street.  At that moment
the Wyses' Royce lurched out of Porpoise Street, and turned down
towards the High Street.  Lucia knew they were both on the hanging
committee which had just rejected one of her own most successful
sketches (for the crooked chimney had turned out beautifully), but
she felt not the smallest resentment towards them.  No doubt they
had acted quite conscientiously and she waved her hand in answer to
a flutter of sables from the interior of the car.  Presently she
went down herself to the High Street to hear the news of the
morning, and there was the Wyses' car drawn up in front of Wasters.
She remembered then that the hanging committee met this morning,
and a suspicion, too awful to be credible, flashed through her
mind.  But she thrust it out, as being unworthy of entertainment by
a clean mind.  She did her shopping and on her return took down a
pale straw-coloured sketch by Miss Mapp that hung in the garden-
room, and put in its place her picture of Mallards Cottage and the
crooked chimney.  Then she called to mind that powerful platitude,
and said to herself that time would show . . .


Miss Mapp had not intended to be present at the desecration of her
garden by paupers from the workhouse and such low haunts.  She had
consulted her solicitor, about her power to stop the entertainment,
but he assured her that there was no known statute in English law,
which enabled her to prevent her tenant giving a party.  So she
determined, in the manner of Lucia and the Elizabethan fête at
Riseholme, to be unaware of it, not to know that any fête was
contemplated, and never afterwards to ask a single question about
it.  But as the day approached she suspected that the hot tide of
curiosity, rapidly rising in her, would probably end by swamping
and submerging her principles.  She had seen the Padre dressed in a
long black cloak, and carrying an axe of enormous size, entering
Mallards; she had seen Diva come out in a white satin gown and
scuttle down the street to Taormina, and those two prodigies taken
together suggested that the execution of Mary Queen of Scots was in
hand.  (Diva as the Queen!)  She had seen boards and posts carried
in by the garden-door and quantities of red cloth, so there was
perhaps to be a stage for these tableaux.  More intriguing yet was
the apparition of Major Benjy carrying a cardboard crown glittering
with gold paper.  What on earth did that portend?  Then there was
her fruit to give an eye to: those choir-boys, scampering all over
the garden in the intervals between their glees, would probably
pick every pear from the tree.  She starved to know what was going
on, but since she avoided all mention of the fête herself, others
were most amazingly respectful to her reticence.  She knew nothing,
she could only make these delirious guesses, and there was THAT
Lucia, being the centre of executioners and queens and choir-boys,
instead of in her proper place, made much of by kind Miss Mapp, and
enjoying such glimpses of Tilling society as she chose to give her.
'A fortnight ago,' thought kind Miss Mapp, 'I was popping in and
out of the house, and she was Lulu.  Anyhow, that was a nasty one
she got over her picture, and I must bear her no grudge.  I shall
go to the fête because I can't help it, and I shall be very cordial
to her and admire her tableaux.  We're all Christians together, and
I despise smallness.'

It was distressing to be asked to pay half a crown for admittance
to her own Mallards, but there seemed positively no other way to
get past Grosvenor.  Very distressing, too, it was, to see Lucia in
full fig as Queen Elizabeth, graciously receiving newcomers on the
edge of the lawn, precisely as if this was her party and these
people who had paid half a crown to come in, her invited guests.
It was a bitter thought that it ought to be herself who (though not
dressed in all that flummery, so unconvincing by daylight) welcomed
the crowd; for to whom, pray, did Mallards belong, and who had
allowed it (since she could not stop it) to be thrown open?  At the
bottom of the steps into the garden-room was a large placard
'Private', but of course that would not apply to her.  Through the
half-opened door, as she passed, she caught a glimpse of a familiar
figure, though sadly travestied, sitting in a robe and a golden
crown and pouring something into a glass: no doubt then the garden-
room was the green-room of performers in the tableaux, who, less
greedy of publicity than Lulu, hid themselves here till the time of
their exposure brought them out.  She would go in there presently,
but her immediate duty, bitter but necessary, was to greet her
hostess.  With a very happy inspiration she tripped up to Lucia and
dropped a low curtsey.

'Your Majesty's most obedient humble servant,' she said, and then
trusting that Lucia had seen that this obeisance was made in a
mocking spirit, abounded in geniality.

'My dear, what a love of a costume!' she said.  'And what a lovely
day for your fête!  And what a crowd!  How the half-crowns have
been pouring in!  All Tilling seems to be here, and I'm sure I
don't wonder.'

Lucia rivalled these cordialities with equal fervour and about as
much sincerity.

'Elizabeth!  How nice of you to look in!' she said.  'Ecco, le due
Elizabethe!  And you like my frock?  Sweet of you!  Yes.  Tilling
has indeed come to the aid of the hospital!  And your jumble-sale
too was a wonderful success, was it not?  Nothing left, I am told.'

Miss Mapp had a moment's hesitation as to whether she should not
continue to stand by Lucia and shake hands with new arrivals and
give them a word of welcome, but she decided she could do more
effective work if she made herself independent and played hostess
by herself.  Also this mention of the jumble-sale made her slightly
uneasy.  Withers had told her that Georgie had bought his own
picture of the Landgate from the sixpenny tray, and Lucia (for all
her cordiality) might be about to spring some horrid trap on her
about it.

'Yes, indeed,' she said.  'My little sale-room was soon as bare as
Mother Hubbard's cupboard.  But I mustn't monopolize you, dear, or
I shall be lynched.  There's a whole queue of people waiting to get
a word with you.  How I shall enjoy the tableaux!  Looking forward
to them so!'

She sidled off into the crowd.  There were those dreadful old
wretches from the workhouse, snuffy old things, some of them
smoking pipes on her lawn and scattering matches, and being served
with tea by Irene and the Padre's curate.

'So pleased to see you all here,' she said, 'sitting in my garden
and enjoying your tea.  I must pick a nice nosegay for you to take
back home.  How de do, Mr Sturgis.  Delighted you could come and
help to entertain the old folks for us.  Good afternoon, Mr Wyse;
yes, my little garden is looking nice, isn't it?  Susan, dear!
Have you noticed my bed of delphiniums?  I must give you some seed.
Oh, there is the town-crier ringing his bell!  I suppose that means
we must take our places for the tableaux.  What a good stage!  I
hope the posts will not have made very big holes in my lawn.  Oh,
one of those naughty choir-boys is hovering about my fig-tree.  I
cannot allow that.'

She hurried off to stop any possibility of such depredation, and
had made some telling allusions to the eighth commandment when on a
second peal of the town-crier's bell, the procession of mummers
came down the steps of the garden-room and advancing across the
lawn disappeared behind the stage.  Poor Major Benjy (so weak of
him to allow himself to be dragged into this sort of thing) looked
a perfect guy in his crown (who could he be meant for?) and as for
Diva--Then there was Georgie (Drake indeed!), and last of all Queen
Elizabeth with her train held up by two choir-boys.  Poor Lucia!
Not content with a week of mumming at Riseholme she had to go on
with her processions and dressings-up here.  Some people lived on
limelight.

Miss Mapp could not bring herself to take a seat close to the
stage, and be seen applauding--there seemed to be some hitch with
the curtain: no, it righted itself, what a pity!--and she hung
about on the outskirts of the audience.  Glees were interposed
between the tableaux; how thin were the voices of those little boys
out of doors!  Then Irene, dressed like a sailor, recited that
ludicrous parody.  Roars of laughter.  Then Major Benjy was King
Cophetua: that was why he had a crown.  Oh dear, oh dear!  It was
sad to reflect that an elderly, sensible man (for when at his best,
he was that) could be got hold of by a pushing woman.  The final
tableau, of course (anyone might have guessed that), was the
knighting of Drake by Queen Elizabeth.  Then amid sycophantic
applause the procession of guys returned and went back into the
garden-room.  Mr and Mrs Wyse followed them, and it seemed pretty
clear that they were going to have a private tea there.  Doubtless
she would be soon sought for among the crowd with a message from
Lucia to hope that she would join them in her own garden-room, but
as nothing of the sort came, she presently thought that it would be
only kind to Lucia to do so, and add her voice to the general
chorus of congratulation that was no doubt going on.  So with a
brisk little tap on the door, and the inquiry 'May I come in?' she
entered.

There they all were, as pleased as children with dressing-up.  King
Cophetua still wore his crown, tilted slightly to one side like a
forage cap, and he and Queen Elizabeth and Queen Mary were seated
round the tea-table and calling each other your Majesty.  King
Cophetua had a large whisky and soda in front of him and Miss Mapp
felt quite certain it was not his first.  But though sick in soul
at these puerilities she pulled herself together and made a
beautiful curtsey to the silly creatures.  And the worst of it was
that there was no one left of her own intimate circle to whom she
could in private express her disdain, for they were all in it,
either actively or, like the Wyses, truckling to Lucia.

Lucia for the moment seemed rather surprised to see her, but she
welcomed her and poured her out a cup of rather tepid tea, nasty to
the taste.  She must truckle, too, to the whole lot of them, though
that tasted nastier than the tea.

'How I congratulate you all,' she cried.  'Padre, you looked too
cruel as executioner, your mouth so fixed and stern.  It was quite
a relief when the curtain came down.  Irene, quaint one, how you
made them laugh!  Diva, Mr Georgie, and above all our wonderful
Queen Lucia.  What a treat it has all been!  The choir!  Those
beautiful glees.  A thousand pities, Mr Wyse, that the Contessa was
not here.'

There was still Susan to whom she ought to say something pleasant,
but positively she could not go on, until she had eaten something
solid.  But Lucia chimed in.

'And your garden, Elizabeth,' she said.  'How they are enjoying it.
I believe if the truth was known they are all glad that our little
tableaux are over, so that they can wander about and admire the
flowers.  I must give a little party some night soon with Chinese
lanterns and fairy-lights in the beds.'

'Upon my word, your Majesty is spoiling us all,' said Major Benjy.
'Tilling's never had a month with so much pleasure provided for it.
Glorious.'

Miss Mapp had resolved to stop here if it was anyhow possible, till
these sycophants had dispersed, and then have one private word with
Lucia to indicate how ready she was to overlook all the little
frictions that had undoubtedly arisen.  She fully meant, without
eating a morsel of humble pie herself, to allow Lucia to eat proud
pie, for she saw that just for the present she herself was nowhere
and Lucia everywhere.  So Lucia should glut herself into a sense of
complete superiority, and then it would be time to begin fresh
manoeuvres.  Major Benjy and Diva soon took themselves off: she saw
them from the garden-window going very slowly down the street, ever
so pleased to have people staring at them, and Irene, at the
Padre's request, went out to dance a hornpipe on the lawn in her
sailor clothes.  But the two Wyses (always famous for sticking)
remained and Georgie.

Mr Wyse got up from the tea-table and passed round behind Miss
Mapp's chair.  Out of the corner of her eye she could see he was
looking at the wall where a straw-coloured picture of her own hung.
He always used to admire it, and it was pleasant to feel that he
was giving it so careful and so respectful a scrutiny.  Then he
spoke to Lucia.

'How well I remember seeing you painting that,' he said, 'and how
long I took to forgive myself for having disturbed you in my
blundering car.  A perfect little masterpiece, Mallards Cottage and
the crooked chimney.  To the life.'

Susan heaved herself up from the sofa and joined in the admiration.

'Perfectly delightful,' she said.  'The lights, the shadows.
Beautiful!  What a touch!'

Miss Mapp turned her head slowly as if she had a stiff neck, and
verified her awful conjecture that it was no longer a picture of
her own that hung there, but the very picture of Lucia's which had
been rejected for the Art Exhibition.  She felt as if no picture
but a bomb hung there, which might explode at some chance word, and
blow her into a thousand fragments.  It was best to hurry from this
perilous neighbourhood.

'Dear Lucia,' she said, 'I must be off.  Just one little stroll, if
I may, round my garden, before I go home.  My roses will never
forgive me, if I go away without noticing them.'

She was too late.

'How I wish I had known it was finished!' said Mr Wyse.  'I should
have begged you to allow us to have it for our Art Exhibition.  It
would have been the gem of it.  Cruel of you, Mrs Lucas!'

'But I sent it in to the hanging committee,' said Lucia.  'Georgie
sent his, too, of Mallards.  They were both sent back to us.'

Mr Wyse turned from the picture to Lucia with an expression of
incredulous horror, and Miss Mapp quietly turned to stone.

'But impossible,' he said.  'I am on the hanging committee myself,
and I hope you cannot think I should have been such an imbecile.
Susan is on the committee too: so is Miss Mapp.  In fact, we are
the hanging committee.  Susan, that gem, that little masterpiece
never came before us.'

'Never,' said Susan.  'Never.  Never, never.'

Mr Wyse's eye transferred itself to Miss Mapp.  She was still stone
and her face was as white as the wall of Mallards Cottage in the
masterpiece.  Then for the first time in the collective memory of
Tilling Mr Wyse allowed himself to use slang.

'There has been some hanky-panky,' he said.  'That picture never
came before the hanging committee.'

The stone image could just move its eyes and they looked, in a
glassy manner, at Lucia.  Lucia's met them with one short gimlet
thrust, and she whisked round to Georgie.  Her face was turned away
from the others, and she gave him a prodigious wink, as he sat
there palpitating with excitement.

'Georgino mio,' she said.  'Let us recall exactly what happened.
The morning, I mean, when the hanging committee met.  Let me see:
let me see.  Don't interrupt me: I will get it all clear.'

Lucia pressed her hands to her forehead.

'I have it,' she said.  'It is perfectly vivid to me now.  You had
taken our little pictures down to the framer's, Georgie, and told
him to send them in to Elizabeth's house direct.  That was it.  The
errand-boy from the framer's came up here that very morning, and
delivered mine to Grosvenor, and yours to Foljambe.  Let me think
exactly when that was.  What time was it, Mr Wyse, that the hanging
committee met?'

'At twelve, precisely,' said Mr Wyse.

'That fits in perfectly,' said Lucia.  'I called to Georgie out of
the window here, and we told each other that our pictures had been
rejected.  A moment later, I saw your car go down to the High
Street and when I went down there soon afterwards, it was standing
in front of Miss--I mean Elizabeth's house.  Clearly what happened
was that the framer misunderstood Georgie's instructions, and
returned the pictures to us before the hanging committee sat at
all.  So you never saw them, and we imagined all the time--did we
not, Georgie?--that you had simply sent them back.'

'But what must you have thought of us?' said Mr Wyse, with a
gesture of despair.

'Why, that you did not conscientiously think very much of our art,'
said Lucia.  'We were perfectly satisfied with your decision.  I
felt sure that my little picture had a hundred faults and
feeblenesses.'

Miss Mapp had become unpetrified.  Could it be that by some
miraculous oversight she had not put into those parcels the formal,
typewritten rejection of the committee?  It did not seem likely,
for she had a very vivid remembrance of the gratification it gave
her to do so, but the only alternative theory was to suppose a
magnanimity on Lucia's part which seemed even more miraculous.  She
burst into speech.

'How we all congratulate ourselves,' she cried, 'that it has all
been cleared up!  Such a stupid errand-boy!  What are we to do
next, Mr Wyse?  Our exhibition must secure Lucia's sweet picture,
and of course Mr Pillson's too.  But how are we to find room for
them?  Everything is hung.'

'Nothing easier,' said Mr Wyse.  'I shall instantly withdraw my
paltry little piece of still-life, and I am sure that Susan--'

'No, that would never do,' said Miss Mapp, currying favour all
round.  'That beautiful wallflower, I could almost smell it: that
King of Italy.  Mine shall go: two or three of mine.  I insist on
it.'

Mr Wyse bowed to Lucia and then to Georgie.

'I have a plan better yet,' he said.  'Let us put--if we may have
the privilege of securing what was so nearly lost to our exhibition--
let us put these two pictures on easels as showing how deeply we
appreciate our good fortune in getting them.'

He bowed to his wife, he bowed--was it quite a bow?--to Miss Mapp,
and had there been a mirror, he would no doubt have bowed to
himself.

'Besides,' he said, 'our little sketches will not thus suffer so
much from their proximity to--' and he bowed to Lucia.  'And if Mr
Pillson will similarly allow us--' he bowed to Georgie.

Georgie, following Lucia's lead, graciously offered to go round to
the Cottage and bring back his picture of Mallards, but Mr Wyse
would not hear of such a thing.  He and Susan would go off in the
Royce now, with Lucia's masterpiece, and fetch Georgie's from
Mallards Cottage, and the sun should not set before they both stood
on their distinguished easels in the enriched exhibition.  So off
they went in a great hurry to procure the easels before the sun
went down and Miss Mapp, unable alone to face the reinstated
victims of her fraud, scurried after them in a tumult of mixed
emotions.  Outside in the garden Irene, dancing hornpipes, was
surrounded by both sexes of the enraptured youth of Tilling, for
the boys knew she was a girl, and the girls thought she looked so
like a boy.  She shouted out 'Come and dance, Mapp,' and Elizabeth
fled from her own sweet garden as if it had been a plague-stricken
area, and never spoke to her roses at all.

The Queen and Drake were left alone in the garden-room.

'Well, I never!' said Georgie.  'Did you?  She sent them back all
by herself.'

'I'm not the least surprised,' said Lucia.  'It's like her.'

'But why did you let her off?' he asked.  'You ought to have
exposed her and have done with her.'

Lucia showed a momentary exultation, and executed a few steps from
a Morris-dance.

'No, Georgie, that would have been a mistake,' she said.  'She
knows that we know, and I can't wish her worse than that.  And I
rather think, though he makes me giddy with so much bowing, that Mr
Wyse has guessed.  He certainly suspects something of the sort.'

'Yes, he said there had been some hanky-panky,' said Georgie.
'That was a strong thing for him to say.  All the same--'

Lucia shook her head.

'No, I'm right,' she said.  'Don't you see I've taken the moral
stuffing out of that woman far more completely than if I had
exposed her?'

'But she's a cheat,' cried Georgie.  'She's a liar, for she sent
back our pictures with a formal notice that the committee had
rejected them.  She hasn't got any moral stuffing to take out.'

Lucia pondered this.

'That's true, there doesn't seem to be much,' she said.  'But even
then, think of the moral stuffing that I've put into myself.  A far
greater score, Georgie, than to have exposed her, and it must be
quite agonizing for her to have that hanging over her head.
Besides, she can't help being deeply grateful to me if there are
any depths in that poor shallow nature.  There may be: we must try
to discover them.  Take a broader view of it all, Georgie . . .
Oh, and I've thought of something fresh!  Send round to Mr Wyse for
the exhibition your picture of the Landgate, which poor Elizabeth
sold.  He will certainly hang it and she will see it there.  That
will round everything off nicely.'

Lucia moved across to the piano and sat down on the treble music-
stool.

'Let us forget all about these piccoli disturbi, Georgie,' she
said, 'and have some music to put us in tune with beauty again.
No, you needn't shut the door: it is so hot, and I am sure that no
one else will dream of passing that notice of "Private", or come in
here unasked.  Ickle bit of divine Mozartino?'

Lucia found the duet at which she had worked quietly at odd
moments.

'Let us try this,' she said, 'though it looks rather diffy.  Oh,
one thing more, Georgie.  I think you and I had better keep those
formal notices of rejection from the hanging committee just in
case.  We might need them some day, though I'm sure I hope we
shan't.  But one must be careful in dealing with that sort of
woman.  That's all I think.  Now let us breathe harmony and
loveliness again.  Uno, due . . . pom.'



6


It was a mellow morning of October, the season, as Lucia reflected,
of mists and mellow fruitfulness, wonderful John Keats.  There was
no doubt about the mists, for there had been several sea-fogs in
the English Channel, and the mellow fruitfulness of the garden at
Mallards was equally indisputable.  But now the fruitfulness of
that sunny plot concerned Lucia far more than it had done during
August and September, for she had taken Mallards for another month
(Adele Brixton having taken the Hurst, Riseholme, for three), not
on those original Shylock terms of fifteen guineas a week, and no
garden-produce--but of twelve guineas a week, and all the garden-
produce.  It was a wonderful year for tomatoes: there were far more
than a single widow could possibly eat, and Lucia, instead of
selling them, constantly sent little presents of them to Georgie
and Major Benjy.  She had sent one basket of them to Miss Mapp, but
these had been returned and Miss Mapp had written an effusive note
saying that they would be wasted on her.  Lucia had applauded that;
it showed a very proper spirit.

The chain of consequences, therefore, of Lucia's remaining at
Mallards was far-reaching.  Miss Mapp took Wasters for another
month at a slightly lower rent, Diva extended her lease of
Taormina, and Irene still occupied the four-roomed labourer's
cottage outside Tilling, which suited her so well, and the labourer
and his family remained in the hop-picker's shanty.  It was getting
chilly of nights in the shanty, and he looked forward to the time
when, Adele having left the Hurst, his cottage could be restored to
him.  Nor did the chain of consequences end here, for Georgie could
not go back to Riseholme without Foljambe, and Foljambe would not
go back there and leave her Cadman, while Lucia remained at
Mallards.  So Isabel Poppit continued to inhabit her bungalow by
the sea, and Georgie remained in Mallards Cottage.  With her skin
turned black with all those sun-baths, and her hair spiky and wiry
with so many sea-baths, Isabel resembled a cross between a kipper
and a sea-urchin.

September had been full of events.  The Art Exhibition had been a
great success, and quantities of the pictures had been sold.  Lucia
had bought Georgie's picture, of Mallards, Georgie had bought
Lucia's picture of Mallards Cottage, Mr Wyse had bought his wife's
pastel of the King of Italy, and sent it as a birthday present to
Amelia, and Susan Wyse had bought her husband's teacup and
wallflower and kept them herself.  But the greatest gesture of all
had been Lucia's purchase of one of Miss Mapp's six exhibits, and
this had practically forced Miss Mapp, so powerful was the
suggestion hidden in it, to buy Georgie's picture of the Landgate,
which he had given her, and which she had sold (not even for her
own benefit but for that of the hospital) for sixpence at her
jumble-sale.  She had had to pay a guinea to regain what had once
been hers, so that in the end the revengeful impulse which had
prompted her to put it in the sixpenny tray had been cruelly
expensive.  But she had still felt herself to be under Lucia's
thumb in the whole matter of the exhibition (as indeed she was) and
this purchase was of the nature of a propitiatory act.  They had
met one morning at the show, and Lucia had looked long at this
sketch of Georgie's and then, looking long at Elizabeth, she had
said it was one of the most charming and exquisite of his water-
colours.  Inwardly raging, yet somehow impotent to resist,
Elizabeth had forked up.  But she was now busily persuading herself
that this purchase had something to do with the hospital, and that
she need not make any further contributions to its funds this year:
she felt there was a very good chance of persuading herself about
this.  No one had bought quaint Irene's pictures, and she had
turned the women wrestlers into men.

Since then Miss Mapp had been very busy with the conversion of the
marvellous crop of apples, plums and red-currants in Diva's garden
into jam and jelly.  Her cook could not tackle so big a job alone,
and she herself spent hours a day in the kitchen, and the most
delicious odours of boiling preserves were wafted out of the
windows into the High Street.  It could not be supposed that they
would escape Diva's sharp nose, and there had been words about it.
But garden-produce (Miss Mapp believed) meant what it said, or
would dear Diva prefer that she let the crop rot on the trees, and
be a portion for wasps.  Diva acknowledged that she would.  And
when the fruit was finished Miss Mapp proposed to turn her
attention to the vegetable marrows, which, with a little ginger,
made a very useful preserve for the household.  She would leave a
dozen of these pots for Diva.

But the jam-making was over now and Miss Mapp was glad of that, for
she had scalded her thumb: quite a blister.  She was even gladder
that the Art Exhibition was over.  All the important works of the
Tilling school (except the pastel of the King of Italy) remained in
Tilling, she had made her propitiatory sacrifice about Georgie's
sketch of the Landgate, and she had no reason to suppose that Lucia
had ever repented of that moment of superb magnanimity in the
garden-room, which had averted an exposure of which she still
occasionally trembled to think.  Lucia could not go back on that
now, it was all over and done with like the jam-making (though,
like the jam-making, it had left a certain seared and sensitive
place behind) and having held her tongue then, Lucia could not blab
afterwards.  Like the banns in church, she must for ever hold her
peace.  Miss Mapp had been deeply grateful for that clemency at the
time, but no one could go on being grateful indefinitely.  You were
grateful until you had paid your debt of gratitude, and then you
were free.  She would certainly be grateful again, when this month
was over and Lucia and Georgie left Tilling, never, she hoped, to
return, but for the last week or two she had felt that she had
discharged in full every groat of gratitude she owed Lucia, and her
mind had been busier than usual over plots and plans and libels and
inductions with regard to her tenant who, with those cheese-paring
ways so justly abhorred by Miss Mapp, had knocked down the rent to
twelve guineas a week and grabbed the tomatoes.

But Miss Mapp did not yet despair of dealing Lucia some nasty blow,
for the fact of the matter was (she felt sure of it) that Tilling
generally was growing a little restive under Lucia's autocratic
ways.  She had been taking them in hand, she had been patronizing
them, which Tilling never could stand, she had been giving them
treats, just like that!  She had sent out cards for an evening
party (not dinner at all) with 'un po' di musica' written in the
left-hand corner.  Even Mr Wyse, that notorious sycophant, had
raised his eyebrows over this, and had allowed that this was rather
an unusual inscription: 'musica' (he thought) would have been more
ordinary, and he would ask Amelia when she came.  That had
confirmed a secret suspicion which Miss Mapp had long entertained
that Lucia's Italian (and, of course, Georgie's too) was really
confined to such words as 'ecco' and 'bon giorno' and 'bello' and
she was earnestly hoping that Amelia would come before October was
over, and they would all see what these great talks in Italian, to
which Mr Wyse was so looking forward, would amount to.

And what an evening that 'po-di-mu' (as it was already referred to
with faint little smiles) had been!  It was a wet night and in
obedience to her command (for at that time Lucia was at the height
of the ascendancy she had acquired at the hospital fête), they had
all put mackintoshes over their evening clothes, and galoshes over
their evening shoes, and slopped up to Mallards through the pouring
rain.  A couple of journeys of Lucia's car could have brought them
all in comfort and dryness, but she had not offered so obvious a
convenience.  Mrs Wyse's Royce was being overhauled, so they had to
walk too, and a bedraggled and discontented company had assembled.
They had gone into the garden-room dripped on by the wistaria, and
an interminable po-di-mu ensued.  Lucia turned off all the lights
in the room except one on the piano, so that they saw her profile
against a black background, like the head on a postage stamp, and
first she played the slow movement out of the 'Moonlight' Sonata.
She stopped once, just after she had begun, because Diva coughed,
and when she had finished there was a long silence.  Lucia sighed
and Georgie sighed, and everyone said 'Thank you' simultaneously.
Major Benjy said he was devoted to Chopin and Lucia playfully told
him that she would take his musical education in hand.

Then she had allowed the lights to be turned up again, and there
was a few minutes' pause to enable them to conquer the poignancy of
emotion aroused by that exquisite rendering of the 'Moonlight'
Sonata, to disinfect it so to speak with cigarettes, or drown it,
as Major Benjy did, in rapid whiskies and sodas, and when they felt
braver the po-di-mu began again, with a duet, between her and
Georgie, of innumerable movements by Mozart, who must indeed have
been a most prolific composer if he wrote all that.  Diva fell
quietly asleep, and presently there were indications that she would
soon be noisily asleep.  Miss Mapp hoped that she would begin to
snore properly, for that would be a good set-down for Lucia, but
Major Benjy poked her stealthily on the knee to rouse her.  Mr Wyse
began to stifle yawns, though he sat as upright as ever, with his
eyes fixed rather glassily on the ceiling, and ejaculated
'Charming' at the end of every movement.  When it was all over
there were some faintly murmured requests that Lucia would play to
them again, and without any further pressing, she sat down.  Her
obtuseness was really astounding.

'How you all work me!' she said.  'A fugue by Bach then, if you
insist on it, and if Georgie will promise not to scold me if I
break down.'

Luckily amid suppressed sighs of relief, she did break down, and
though she was still perfectly willing to try again, there was a
general chorus of unwillingness to take advantage of her great good
nature, and after a wretched supper, consisting largely of tomato-
salad, they trooped out into the rain, cheered by the promise of
another musical evening next week when she would have that
beautiful fugue by heart.

It was not the next week but the same week that they had all been
bidden to a further evening of harmony, and symptoms of revolt,
skilfully fomented by Miss Mapp, were observable.  She had just
received her note of invitation one morning, when Diva trundled in
to Wasters.

'Another po-di-mu already,' said she sarcastically.  'What are you--'

'Isn't it unfortunate?' interrupted Elizabeth, 'for I hope, dear
Diva, you have not forgotten that you promised to come in that very
night--Thursday, isn't it--and play piquet with me.'

Diva returned Elizabeth's elaborate wink.  'So I did,' she said.
'Anyhow, I do.'

'Consequently we shall have to refuse dear Lucia's invitation,'
said Elizabeth regretfully.  'Lovely, wasn't it, the other night?
And so many movements of Mozart.  I began to think he must have
discovered the secret of perpetual motion, and that we should be
stuck there till Doomsday.'

Diva was fidgeting about the room in her restless manner.  ('Rather
like a spinning top,' thought Miss Mapp, 'bumping into everything.
I wish it would die.')

'I don't think she plays bridge very well,' said Diva.  'She began,
you know, by saying she was so anxious to learn, and that we all
played marvellously, but now she lays down the law like anything,
telling us what we ought to have declared, and how we ought to have
played.  It's quite like--'

She was going to say 'It's quite like playing with you,' but
luckily stopped in time.

'I haven't had the privilege of playing with her.  Evidently I'm
not up to her form,' said Elizabeth, 'but I hear, only report,
mind, that she doesn't know the elements of the game.'

'Well, not much more,' said Diva.  'And she says she will start a
bridge class if we like.'

'She spoils us!  And who will the pupils be?' asked Elizabeth.

'I know one who won't,' said Diva darkly.

'And one and one make two,' observed Elizabeth.  'A pity that she
sets herself up like that.  Saying the other night that she would
take Major Benjy's musical education in hand!  I always thought
education began at home, and I'm sure I never heard so many wrong
notes in my life.'

Diva ruminated a moment, and began spinning again.  'She offered to
take the choir-practices in church, only the Padre wouldn't hear of
it,' she said.  'And there's talk of a class to read Homer in
Pope's translation.'

'She has every accomplishment,' said Elizabeth, 'including push.'

Diva bumped into another topic.

'I met Mr Wyse just now,' she said.  'Countess Amelia Faraglione is
coming to-morrow.'

Miss Mapp sprang up.

'Not really?' she cried.  'Why, she'll be here for Lucia's po-di-mu
on Thursday.  And the Wyses will be going, that's certain, and they
are sure to ask if they may bring the Faradidleone with them.
Diva, dear, we must have our piquet another night.  I wouldn't miss
that for anything.'

'Why?' asked Diva.

'Just think what will happen!  She'll be forced to talk Italian,
for Mr Wyse has often said what a treat it will be to hear them
talk it together, and I'm sure Lucia doesn't know any.  I must be
there.'

'But if she does know it, it will be rather a sell,' said Diva.
'We shall have gone there for nothing except to hear all that
Mozart over again and to eat tomatoes.  I had heart-burn half the
night afterwards.'

'Trust me, Diva,' said Elizabeth.  'I swear she doesn't know any
Italian.  And how on earth will she be able to wriggle out of
talking it?  With all her ingeniousness, it can't be done.  She
can't help being exposed.'

'Well, that would be rather amusing,' said Diva.  'Being put down a
peg or two certainly wouldn't hurt her.  All right.  I'll say I'll
come.'

Miss Mapp's policy was now of course the exact reverse of what she
had first planned.  Instead of scheming to get all Tilling to
refuse Lucia's invitation to listen to another po-di-mu, her object
was to encourage everyone to go, in order that they might listen
not so much to Mozart as to her rich silences or faltering replies
when challenged to converse in the Italian language.  She found
that the Padre and Mrs Bartlett had hurriedly arranged a choir-
practice and a meeting of the girl-guides respectively to take
place at the unusual hour of half-past nine in the evening in order
to be able to decline the po-di-mu, but Elizabeth, throwing economy
to the winds, asked them both to dine with her on the fatal night,
and come on to Lucia's delicious music afterwards.  This added
inducement prevailed, and off they scurried to tell choir-boys and
girl-guides that the meetings were cancelled and would be held at
the usual hour the day after.  The curate needed no persuasion, for
he thought that Lucia had a wonderful touch on the piano, and was
already looking forward to more; Irene similarly had developed a
violent schwärm for Lucia and had accepted, so that Tilling, thanks
to Elizabeth's friendly offices, would now muster in force to hear
Lucia play duets and fugues and not speak Italian.  And when, in
casual conversation with Mr Wyse, Elizabeth learned that he had (as
she had anticipated) ventured to ask Lucia if she would excuse the
presumption of one of her greatest admirers, and allow him to bring
his sister Amelia to her soirée and that Lucia had sent him her
most cordial permission to do so, it seemed that nothing could
stand in the way of the fulfilment of Elizabeth's romantic revenge
on that upstart visitor for presuming to set herself up as Queen of
the social life of Tilling.

It was, as need hardly be explained, this aspect of the affair
which so strongly appealed to the sporting instincts of the place.
Miss Mapp had long been considered by others as well as herself the
first social citizen of Tilling, and though she had often been
obliged to fight desperately for her position, and had suffered
from time to time manifold reverses, she had managed to maintain
it, because there was no one else of so commanding and unscrupulous
a character.  Then, this alien from Riseholme had appeared and had
not so much challenged her as just taken her sceptre and her crown
and worn them now for a couple of months.  At present all attempts
to recapture them had failed, but Lucia had grown a little
arrogant, she had offered to take choir-practice, she had issued
her invitations (so thought Tilling) rather as if they had been
commands, and Tilling would not have been sorry to see her suffer
some set-back.  Nobody wanted to turn out in the evening to hear
her play Mozart (except the curate), no one intended to listen to
her read Pope's translation of Homer's Iliad, or to be instructed
how to play bridge, and though Miss Mapp was no favourite, they
would have liked to see her score.  But there was little
partisanship; it was the sporting instinct which looked forward to
witnessing an engagement between two well-equipped Queens, and
seeing whether one really could speak Italian or not, even if they
had to listen to all the fugues of Bach first.  Everyone, finally,
except Miss Mapp, wherever their private sympathies might lie,
regretted that now in less than a month, Lucia would have gone back
to her own kingdom of Riseholme, where it appeared she had no rival
of any sort, for these encounters were highly stimulating to
students of human nature and haters of Miss Mapp.  Never before had
Tilling known so exciting a season.


On this mellow morning, then, of October, Lucia, after practising
her fugue for the coming po-di-mu, and observing Coplen bring into
the house a wonderful supply of tomatoes, had received that
appalling note from Mr Wyse, conveyed by the Royce, asking if he
might bring Contessa Amelia di Faraglione to the musical party to
which he so much looked forward.  The gravity of the issue was
instantly clear to Lucia, for Mr Wyse had made no secret about the
pleasure it would give him to hear his sister and herself
mellifluously converse in the Italian tongue, but without
hesitation she sent back a note by the chauffeur and the Royce,
that she would be charmed to see the Contessa.  There was no
getting out of that, and she must accept the inevitable before
proceeding irresistibly to deal with it.  From the window she
observed the Royce backing and advancing and backing till it
managed to turn and went round the corner to Porpoise Street.

Lucia closed the piano, for she had more cosmic concerns to think
about than the fingerings of a fugue.  Her party of course (that
required no consideration) would have to be cancelled, but that was
only one point in the problem that confronted her.  For that
baleful bilinguist the Contessa di Faraglione was not coming to
Tilling (all the way from Italy) for one night but she was to stay
here so Mr Wyse's note had mentioned, for 'about a week', after
which she would pay visits to her relations the Wyses of Whitchurch
and others.  So for a whole week (or about) Lucia would be in
perpetual danger of being called upon to talk Italian.  Indeed, the
danger was more than mere danger, for if anything in this world was
certain, it was that Mr Wyse would ask her to dinner during this
week, and exposure would follow.  Complete disappearance from
Tilling during the Contessa's sojourn here was the only possible
plan, yet how was that to be accomplished?  Her house at Riseholme
was let, but even if it had not been, she could not leave Tilling
tomorrow, when she had invited everybody to a party in the evening.

The clock struck noon: she had meditated for a full half-hour, and
now she rose.

'I can only think of influenza,' she said to herself.  'But I shall
consult Georgie.  A man might see it from another angle.'

He came at once to her SOS.

'Georgino mio,' began Lucia, but then suddenly corrected herself.
'Georgie,' she said.  'Something very disagreeable.  The Contessa
Thingummy is coming to the Wyses tomorrow, and he's asked me if he
may bring her to our musica.  I had to say yes; no way out of it.'

Georgie was often very perceptive.  He saw what this meant at once.

'Good Lord,' he said.  'Can't you put it off?  Sprain your thumb.'

The man's angle was not being of much use so far.

'Not a bit of good,' she said.  'She'll be here about a week, and
naturally I have to avoid meeting her altogether.  The only thing I
can think of is influenza.'

Georgie never smoked in the morning, but the situation seemed to
call for a cigarette.

'That would do it,' he said.  'Rather a bore for you, but you could
live in the secret garden a good deal.  It's not overlooked.'

He stopped: the unusual tobacco had stimulated his perceptive
powers.

'But what about me?' he said.

'I'm sure I don't know,' said Lucia.

'You're not looking far enough,' said Georgie.  'You're not taking
the long view which you so often talk to me about.  I can't have
influenza too, it would be too suspicious.  So I'm bound to meet
the Faraglione and she'll see in a minute I can't talk Italian.'

'Well?' said Lucia in a very selfish manner, as if he didn't matter
at all.

'Oh, I'm not thinking about myself only,' said Georgie in self-
defence.  'Not so at all.  It'll react on you.  You and I are
supposed to talk Italian together, and when it's obvious I can't
say more than three things in it, the fat's in the fire, however
much influenza you have.  How are you going to be supposed to
jabber away in Italian to me when it's seen that I can't understand
a word of it?'

Here indeed was the male angle, and an extremely awkward angle it
was.  For a moment Lucia covered her face with her hands.

'Georgie, what are we to do?' she asked in a stricken voice.

Georgie was a little ruffled at having been considered of such
absolute unimportance until he pointed out to Lucia that her fate
was involved with his, and it pleased him to echo her words.

'I'm sure I don't know,' he said stiffly.

Lucia hastened to smooth his smart.

'My dear, I'm so glad I thought of consulting you,' she said.  'I
knew it would take a man's mind to see all round the question, and
how right you are!  I never thought of that.'

'Quite,' said Georgie.  'It's evident you haven't grasped the
situation at all.'

She paced up and down the garden-room in silence, recoiling once
from the window, as she saw Elizabeth go by and kiss her hand with
that awful hyena grin of hers.

'Georgie, 'oo not cross with poor Lucia?' she said, resorting to
the less dangerous lingo which they used in happier days.  This
softened Georgie.

'I was rather,' said Georgie, 'but never mind that now.  What am I
to do?  Che faro, in fact.'

Lucia shuddered.

'Oh, for goodness' sake, don't talk Italian,' she said.  'It's that
we've got to avoid.  It's odd that we have to break ourselves of
the habit of doing something we can't do . . .  And you can't have
influenza too.  It would be too suspicious if you began
simultaneously with me to-morrow.  I've often wondered, now I come
to think of it, if that woman, that Mapp, hasn't suspected that our
Italian was a fake, and if we both had influenza exactly as the
Faraglione arrived, she might easily put two and two together.  Her
mind is horrid enough for anything.'

'I know she suspects,' said Georgie.  'She said some word in
Italian to me the other day, which meant paper-knife, and she
looked surprised when I didn't understand, and said it in English.
Of course, she had looked it out in a dictionary: it was a trap.'

A flood of horrid light burst in on Lucia.

'Georgie,' she cried.  'She tried me with the same word.  I've
forgotten it again, but it did mean paper-knife.  I didn't know it
either, though I pretended it was her pronunciation that puzzled
me.  There's no end to her craftiness.  But I'll get the better of
her yet.  I think you'll have to go away, while the Faraglione is
here and I have influenza.'

'But I don't want to go away,' began Georgie.  'Surely we can think
of--'

Lucia paid no heed to this attempt at protest: it is doubtful if
she even heard it, for the spark was lit now, and it went roaring
through her fertile brain like a prairie fire in a high gale.

'You must go away to-morrow,' she said.  'Far better than
influenza, and you must stop away till I send you a telegram, that
the Faraglione has left.  It will be very dull for me because I
shall be entirely confined to the house and garden all the time you
are gone.  I think the garden will be safe.  I cannot remember that
it is overlooked from any other house and I shall do a lot of
reading, though even the piano won't be possible . . .  Georgie, I
see it all.  You have not been looking very well lately (my dear,
you're the picture of health really, I have never seen you looking
younger or better) and so you will have gone off to have a week at
Folkestone or Littlestone, whichever you prefer.  Sea air; you
needn't bathe.  And you can take my car, for I shan't be able to
use it, and why not take Foljambe as well to valet you, as you
often do when you go for a jaunt?  She'll have her Cadman: we may
as well make other people happy, Georgie, as it all seems to fit in
so beautifully.  And one thing more: this little jaunt of yours is
entirely undertaken for my sake, and I must insist on paying it
all.  Go to a nice hotel and make yourself thoroughly comfortable;
half a bottle of champagne whenever you want it in the evening, and
what extras you like, and I will telephone to you to say when you
can come back.  You must start to-morrow morning before the
Faraglione gets here.'

Georgie knew it was useless to protest when Lucia got that loud,
inspired, gabbling ring in her voice; she would cut through any
opposition, as a steam saw buzzes through the most solid oak board
till, amid a fountain of flying sawdust, it has sliced its way.  He
did not want to go away, but when Lucia exhibited that calibre of
determination that he should, it was better to yield at once than
to collapse later in a state of wretched exhaustion.  Besides,
there were bright points in her scheme.  Foljambe would be
delighted at the plan, for it would give her and Cadman leisure to
enjoy each other's society; and it would not be disagreeable to
stay for a week at some hotel in Folkestone and observe the cargoes
of travellers from abroad arriving at the port after a billowy
passage.  Then he might find some bibelots in the shops, and he
would listen to a municipal band, and have a bathroom next his
bedroom, and do some sketches, and sit in a lounge in a series of
those suits which had so justly earned him the title of the best-
dressed man in Tilling.  He would have a fine Rolls-Royce in the
hotel garage, and a smart chauffeur coming to ask for orders every
morning, and he would be seen, an interesting and opulent figure,
drinking his half-bottle of champagne every evening and he would
possibly pick up an agreeable aquaintance or two.  He had no
hesitation whatever in accepting Lucia's proposal to stand the
charges of this expedition, for, as she had most truly said, it was
undertaken in her interests, and naturally she paid (besides, she
was quite rich) for its equipment.

The main lines of this defensive campaign being thus laid down,
Lucia, with her Napoleonic eye for detail, plunged into minor
matters.  She did not, of course, credit 'that Mapp' with having
procured the visit of the Faraglione, but a child could see that if
she herself met the Faraglione during her stay here the grimmest
exposure of her ignorance of the language she talked in such
admired snippets must inevitably follow.  'That Mapp' would pounce
on this, and it was idle to deny that she would score heavily and
horribly.  But Georgie's absence (cheap at the cost) and her own
invisibility by reason of influenza made a seemingly unassailable
position and it was with a keen sense of exhilaration in the coming
contest that she surveyed the arena.

Lucia sent for the trusty Grosvenor and confided in her
sufficiently to make her a conspirator.  She told her that she had
a great mass of arrears to do in reading and writing, and that for
the next week she intended to devote herself to them, and lead the
life of a hermit.  She wanted no callers, and did not mean to see
anyone, and the easiest excuse was to say that she had influenza.
No doubt there would be many inquiries, and so day by day she would
issue to Grosvenor her own official bulletin.  Then she told Cadman
that Mr Georgie was far from well, and she had bundled him off with
the car to Folkestone for about a week: he and Foljambe would
accompany him.  Then she made a careful survey of the house and
garden to ascertain what freedom of movement she could have during
her illness.  Playing the piano, except very carefully with the
soft pedal down, would be risky, but by a judicious adjustment of
the curtains in the garden-room window, she could refresh herself
with very satisfactory glances at the world outside.  The garden,
she was pleased to notice, was quite safe, thanks to its
encompassing walls, from any prying eyes in the houses round: the
top of the church tower alone overlooked it, and that might be
disregarded, for only tourists ascended it.

Then forth she went for the usual shoppings and chats in the High
Street and put in some further fine work.  The morning tide was
already on the ebb, but by swift flirtings this way and that she
managed to have a word with most of those who were coming to her po-
di-mu tomorrow, and interlarded all she said to them with brilliant
scraps of Italian.  She just caught the Wyses as they were getting
back into the Royce and said how molto amabile it was of them to
give her the gran' piacere of seeing the Contessa next evening:
indeed she would be a welcome guest, and it would be another gran'
piacere to talk la bella lingua again.  Georgie, alas, would not be
there for he was un po' ammalato, and was going to spend a
settimana by the mare per stabilirsi.  Never had she been so fluent
and idiomatic, and she accepted with mille grazie Susan's
invitation to dine the evening after her music and renew the
conversations to which she so much looked forward.  She got almost
tipsy with Italian . . .  Then she flew across the street to tell
the curate that she was going to shut herself up all afternoon in
order to get the Bach fugue more worthy of his critical ear, she
told Diva to come early to her party in order that they might have
a little chat first, and she just managed by a flute-like 'Cooee'
to arrest Elizabeth as she was on the very doorstep of Wasters.
With glee she learned that Elizabeth was entertaining the Padre and
his wife and Major Benjy to dinner before she brought them on to
her party, and then, remembering the trap which that woman had laid
for her and Georgie over the Italian paper-knife, she could not
refrain from asking her to dine and play bridge on the third night
of her coming illness.  Of course she would be obliged to put her
off, and that would be about square . . .  This half-hour's active
work produced the impression that, however little pleasure Tilling
anticipated from to-morrow's po-di-mu, the musician herself looked
forward to it enormously, and was thirsting to talk Italian.

From the window of her bedroom next morning Lucia saw Georgie and
Cadman and Foljambe set off for Folkestone, and it was with a
Lucretian sense of pleasure in her own coming tranquillity that she
contemplated the commotion and general upset of plans which was
shortly to descend on Tilling.  She went to the garden-room,
adjusted the curtains and brewed the tempest which she now sent
forth in the shape of a series of notes charged with the bitterest
regrets.  They were written in pencil (the consummate artist) as if
from bed, and were traced in a feeble hand not like her usual firm
script.  'What a disappointment!' she wrote to Mrs Wyse.  'How
cruel to have got the influenza--where could she have caught it?--
on the very morning of her party, and what a blow not to be able to
welcome the Contessa today or to dine with dear Susan tomorrow!'
There was another note to Major Benjy, and others to Diva and
quaint Irene and the curate and the Padre and Elizabeth.  She still
hoped that possibly she might be well enough for bridge and dinner
the day after tomorrow, but Elizabeth must remember how infectious
influenza was, and again she herself might not be well enough.
That seemed pretty safe, for Elizabeth had a frantic phobia of
infection, and Wasters had reeked of carbolic all the time the
jumble-sale was being held, for fear of some bit of rubbish having
come in contact with tainted hands.  Lucia gave these notes to
Grosvenor for immediate delivery and told her that the bulletin for
the day in answer to callers was that there was no anxiety, for the
attack though sharp was not serious, and only demanded warmth and
complete quiet.  She then proceeded to get both by sitting in this
warm October sun in her garden, reading Pope's translation of the
Iliad and seeing what the Greek for it was.

Three impregnable days passed thus.  From behind the adjusted
curtains of the garden-room she observed the coming of many callers
and Grosvenor's admirable demeanour to them.  The Royce lurched up
the street, and there was Susan in her sables, and, sitting next
her, a vivacious gesticulating woman with a monocle, who looked the
sort of person who could talk at the most appalling rate.  This
without doubt was the fatal Contessa, and Lucia felt that to see
her thus was like observing a lion at large from behind the bars of
a comfortable cage.  Miss Mapp on the second day came twice, and
each time she glanced piercingly at the curtains, as if she knew
that trick, and listened as if hoping to hear the sound of the
piano.  The Padre sent a note almost entirely in Highland dialect,
the curate turned away from the door with evident relief in his
face at the news he had received, and whistled the Bach fugue
rather out of tune.

On the fifth day of her illness new interests sprang up for Lucia
that led her to neglect Pope's Iliad altogether.  By the first post
there came a letter from Georgie, containing an enclosure which
Lucia saw (with a slight misgiving) was written in Italian.  She
turned first to Georgie's letter.


The most wonderful thing has happened [wrote Georgie] and you will
be pleased . . .  There's a family here with whom I've made
friends, an English father, an Italian mother and a girl with a
pigtail.  Listen!  The mother teaches the girl Italian, and sets
her little themes to write on some subject or other, and then
corrects them and writes a fair copy.  Well, I was sitting in the
lounge this morning while the girl was having her lesson, and Mrs
Brocklebank (that's her name) asked me to suggest a subject for the
theme, and I had the most marvellous idea.  I said 'Let her write a
letter to an Italian Countess whom she has never seen before, and
say how she regretted having been obliged to put off her musical
party to which she had asked the Countess and her brother, because
she had caught influenza.  She was so sorry not to meet her, and
she was afraid that as the Countess was only staying a week in the
place, she would not have the pleasure of seeing her at all.'  Mrs
B. thought that would do beautifully for a theme, and I repeated it
over again to make sure.  Then the girl wrote it, and Mrs B.
corrected it and made a fair copy.  I begged her to give it me,
because I adored Italian (though I couldn't speak it) and it was so
beautifully expressed.  I haven't told this very well, because I'm
in a hurry to catch the post, but I enclose Mrs B.'s Italian
letter, and you just see whether it doesn't do the trick too
marvellously.  I'm having quite a gay time, music and drives and
seeing the Channel boat come in, and aren't I clever?

                                             Your devoted,
                                                         Georgie

Foljambe and Cadman have had a row, but I'm afraid they've made it
up.


Lucia, with her misgivings turned to joyful expectation, seized and
read the enclosure.  Indeed it was a miraculous piece of manna to
one whom the very sight of it made hungry.  It might have been the
result of telepathy between Mrs Brocklebank and her own
subconscious self, so aptly did that lady grasp her particular
unspoken need.  It expressed in the most elegant idiom precisely
what met the situation, and she would copy out and send it to-day,
without altering a single word.  And how clever of Georgie to have
thought of it.  He deserved all the champagne he could drink.

Lucia used her highest art in making a copy (on Mallard paper) of
this document, as if writing hastily in a familiar medium.
Occasionally she wrote a word (it did not matter what), erased it
so as to render it illegible to the closest scrutiny, and then went
on with Mrs Brocklebank's manuscript; occasionally she omitted a
word of it and then inserted it with suitable curves of direction
above.  No one receiving her transcript could imagine that it was
other than her own extempore scribble.  Mrs Brocklebank had said
that in two or three days she hoped to be able to see her friends
again, and that fitted beautifully, because in two or three days
now the Contessa's visit would have come to an end, and Lucia could
get quite well at once.

The second post arrived before Lucia had finished this thoughtful
copy.  There was a letter in Lady Brixton's handwriting, and
hastily scribbling the final florid salutations to the Contessa,
she opened this, and thereupon forgot Georgie and Mrs Brocklebank
and everything else in the presence of the tremendous question
which was brought for her decision.  Adele had simply fallen in
love with Riseholme; she affirmed that life was no longer worth
living without a house there, and, of all houses, she would like
best to purchase, unfurnished, the Hurst.  Failing that there was
another that would do, belonging to round red little Mrs Quantock,
who, she had ascertained, might consider selling it.  Could darling
Lucia therefore let her know with the shortest possible delay
whether she would be prepared to sell the Hurst?  If she had no
thought of doing so Adele would begin tempting Mrs Quantock at
once.  But if she had, let genteel indications about price be
outlined at once.

There are certain processes of mental solidification which take
place with extraordinary rapidity, because the system is already
soaked and super-saturated with the issues involved.  It was so now
with Lucia.  Instantly, on the perusal of Adele's inquiries her own
mind solidified.  She had long been obliquely contemplating some
such step as Adele's letter thrust in front of her, and she was
surprised to find that her decision was already made.  Riseholme,
once so vivid and significant, had during these weeks at Tilling
been fading like an ancient photograph exposed to the sun, and all
its features, foregrounds and backgrounds had grown blurred and
dim.  If she went back to Riseholme at the end of the month, she
would find there nothing to occupy her energies, or call out her
unique powers of self-assertion.  She had so swept the board with
her management of the Elizabethan fête that no further progress was
possible.  Poor dear Daisy might occasionally make some minute
mutinies, but after being Drake's wife (what a lesson for her!)
there would be no real fighting spirit left in her.  It was far
better, while her own energies still bubbled within her, to conquer
this fresh world of Tilling than to smoulder at Riseholme.  Her
work there was done, whereas here, as this week of influenza
testified, there was a very great deal to do.  Elizabeth Mapp was
still in action and capable of delivering broadsides; innumerable
crises might still arise, volcanoes smoked, thunder-clouds
threatened, there were hostile and malignant forces to be thwarted.
She had never been better occupied and diverted, the place suited
her, and it bristled with opportunities.  She wrote to Adele at
once saying that dear as Riseholme (and especially the Hurst) was
to her, she was prepared to be tempted, and indicated a sum before
which she was likely to fall.


Miss Mapp by this fifth day of Lucia's illness was completely
baffled.  She did not yet allow herself to despair of becoming
unbaffled, for she was certain that there was a mystery here, and
every mystery had an explanation if you only worked at it enough.
The coincidence of Lucia's illness with the arrival of the Contessa
and Georgie's departure, supported by the trap she had laid about
the paper-knife, was far too glaring to be overlooked by any
constructive mind, and there must be something behind it.  Only a
foolish ingenuous child (and Elizabeth was anything but that) could
have considered these as isolated phenomena.  With a faith that
would have removed mountains, she believed that Lucia was perfectly
well, but all she had been able to do at present was to recite her
creed to Major Benjy and Diva and others, and eagerly wait for any
shred of evidence to support it.  Attempts to pump Grosvenor and
lynx-like glances at the window of the garden-room had yielded
nothing, and her anxious inquiry addressed to Dr Dobbie, the
leading physician of Tilling, had yielded a snub.  She did not know
who Lucia's doctor was, so with a view to ascertaining that, and
possibly getting other information, she had approached him with her
most winning smile, and asked how the dear patient at Mallards was.

'I am not attending any dear patient at Mallards,' had been his
unpromising reply, 'and if I was I need hardly remind you that, as
a professional man, I should not dream of answering any inquiry
about my patients without their express permission to do so.  Good
morning.'

'A very rude man,' thought Miss Mapp, 'but perhaps I had better not
try to get at it that way.'

She looked up at the church, wondering if she would find
inspiration in that beautiful grey tower, which she had so often
sketched, outlined against the pellucid blue of the October sky.
She found it instantly, for she remembered that the leads at the
top of it which commanded so broad a view of the surrounding
country commanded also a perfectly wonderful view of her own little
secret garden.  It was a small chance, but no chance however small
must be neglected in this famine of evidence, and it came to her in
a flash that there could be no more pleasant way of spending the
morning than making a sketch of the green, green marsh and the line
of the blue, blue sea beyond.  She hurried back to Wasters, pausing
only at Mallards to glance at the garden-room where the curtains
were adjusted in the most exasperatingly skilful manner, and to
receive Grosvenor's assurance that the patient's temperature was
quite normal today.

'Oh, that is good news,' said Miss Mapp.  'Then tomorrow perhaps
she will be about again.'

'I couldn't say, miss,' said Grosvenor, holding on to the door.

'Give her my fondest love,' said Miss Mapp, 'and tell her how
rejoiced I am, please, Grosvenor.'

'Yes, miss,' said Grosvenor, and before Miss Mapp could step from
the threshold, she heard the rattle of the chain behind the closed
door.

She was going to lunch that day with the Wyses, a meal which Mr
Wyse, in his absurd affected fashion, always alluded to as
breakfast, especially when the Contessa was staying with them.
Breakfast was at one, but there was time for an hour at the top of
the church tower first.  In order to see the features of the
landscape better, she took up an opera-glass with her sketching
things.  She first put a blue watery wash on her block for the sky
and sea, and a green one for the marsh, and while these were drying
she examined every nook of her garden with the opera-glass.  No
luck, and she picked up her sketch again on which the sky was
rapidly inundating the land.

Lucia had learned this morning via Grosvenor and her cook and
Figgis, Mr Wyse's butler, that the week of the Contessa's stay here
was to be curtailed by one day and that the Royce would convey her
to Whitchurch next morning on her visit to the younger but ennobled
branch of the family.  Further intelligence from the same source
made known that the breakfast to-day to which Miss Mapp was bidden
was a Belshazzar breakfast, eight if not ten.  This was good news:
the period of Lucia's danger of detection would be over in less
than twenty-four hours, and about the time that Miss Mapp at the
top of the tower of Tilling Church was hastily separating the
firmament from the dry land, Lucia wrote out a telegram to Georgie
that he might return the following day and find all clear.
Together with that she sent a request to Messrs Woolgar & Pipstow
that they should furnish her with an order to view a certain house
she had seen just outside Tilling, near quaint Irene's cottage,
which she had observed was for sale.

She hesitated about giving Grosvenor the envelope addressed to
Contessa di Faraglione, which contained the transcript, duly
signed, of Mrs Brocklebank's letter to a Countess, and decided, on
the score of dramatic fitness, to have it delivered shortly after
one o'clock when Mrs Wyse's breakfast would be in progress, with
orders that it should be presented to the Contessa at once.

Lucia was feeling the want of vigorous exercise, and bethought
herself of the Ideal System of Callisthenics for those no longer
Young.  For five days she had been confined to house and garden,
and the craving to skip took possession of her.  Skipping was an
exercise highly recommended by the ideal system, and she told
Grosvenor to bring back for her, with the order to view from Messrs
Woolgar & Pipstow, a simple skipping-rope from the toy-shop in the
High Street.  While Grosvenor was gone this desire for free active
movement in the open air awoke a kindred passion for the healthful
action of the sun on the skin, and she hurried up to her sick-room,
changed into a dazzling bathing-suit of black and yellow, and,
putting on a very smart dressing-gown gay with ribands, was waiting
in the garden-room when Grosvenor returned, recalling to her mind
the jerks and swayings which had kept her in such excellent health
when grief forbade her to play golf.

The hour was a quarter to one when Lucia tripped into the secret
garden, shed her dressing-gown and began skipping on the little
lawn with the utmost vigour.  The sound of the church clock
immediately below Miss Mapp's eyrie on the tower warned her that it
was time to put her sketching things away, deposit them at Wasters
and go out to breakfast.  During the last half-hour she had cast
periodical but fruitless glances at her garden, and had really
given it up as a bad job.  Now she looked down once more, and there
close beside the bust of good Queen Anne was a gay striped figure
of waspish colours skipping away like mad.  She dropped her sketch,
she reached out a trembling hand for her opera-glasses, the focus
of which was already adjusted to a nicety, and by their aid she saw
that this athletic wasp who was skipping with such exuberant
activity was none other than the invalid.

Miss Mapp gave a shrill crow of triumph.  All came to him who
waited, and if she had known Greek she would undoubtedly have
exclaimed 'Eureka': as it was she only crowed.  It was all too good
to be true, but it was all too distinct not to be.  'Now I've got
her,' she thought.  'The whole thing is as clear as daylight.  I
was right all the time.  She has not had influenza any more than I,
and I'll tell everybody at breakfast what I have seen.'  But the
sight still fascinated her.  What shameless vigour, when she should
have been languid with fever!  What abysses of falsehood, all
because she could not talk Italian!  What expense to herself in
that unnecessary dinner to the Padre and Major Benjy!  There was no
end to it . . .

Lucia stalked about the lawn with a high prancing motion when she
had finished her skipping.  Then she skipped again, and then she
made some odd jerks, as if she was being electrocuted.  She took
long deep breaths, she lifted her arms high above her head as if to
dive, she lay down on the grass and kicked, she walked on tiptoe
like a ballerina, she swung her body round from the hips.  All this
had for Miss Mapp the fascination that flavours strong disgust and
contempt.  Eventually, just as the clock struck one, she wrapped
herself in her dressing-gown, the best was clearly over.  Miss Mapp
was already late, and she must hurry straight from the tower to her
breakfast, for there was no time to go back to Wasters first.  She
would be profuse in pretty apologies for her lateness; the view
from the church tower had been so entrancing (this was perfectly
true) that she had lost all count of time.  She could not show her
sketch to the general company, because the firmament had got
dreadfully muddled up with the waters which were below it, but
instead she would tell them something which would muddle up Lucia.

The breakfast-party was all assembled in Mrs Wyse's drawing-room
with its dark oak beams and its silver-framed photographs and its
morocco case containing the order of the MBE, still negligently
open.  Everybody had been waiting, everybody was rather grumpy at
the delay, and on her entry the Contessa had clearly said 'Ecco!
Now at last!'

They would soon forgive her when they learned what had really made
her late, but it was better to wait for a little before imparting
her news, until breakfast had put them all in a more appreciative
mood.  She hastened on this desired moment by little compliments
all round: what a wonderful sermon the Padre had preached last
Sunday: how well dear Susan looked: what a delicious dish these
eggs à la Capri were, she must really be greedy and take a teeny
bit more.  But these dewdrops were only interjected, for the
Contessa talked in a loud continuous voice as usual, addressing the
entire table, and speaking with equal fluency whether her mouth was
full or empty.

At last the opportunity arrived.  Figgis brought in a note on an
immense silver (probably plated) salver, and presented it to the
Contessa: it was to be delivered at once.  Amelia said 'Scusi'
which everybody understood--even Lucia might have understood that--
and was silent for a space as she tore it open and began reading
it.

Miss Mapp decided to tantalize and excite them all before actually
making her revelation.

'I will give anybody three guesses as to what I have seen this
morning,' she said.  'Mr Wyse, Major Benjy, Padre, you must all
guess.  It is about someone whom we all know, who is still an
invalid.  I was sketching this morning at the top of the tower, and
happened to glance down into my pet little secret garden.  And
there was Lucia in the middle of the lawn.  How was she dressed,
and what was she doing?  Three guesses each, shall it be?'

Alas!  The introductory tantalization had been too long, for before
anybody could guess anything the Contessa broke in again.

'But never have I read such a letter!' she cried.  'It is from Mrs
Lucas.  All in Italian, and such Italian!  Perfect.  I should not
have thought that any foreigner could have had such command of
idiom and elegance.  I have lived in Italy for ten years, but my
Italian is a bungle compared to this.  I have always said that no
foreigner ever can learn Italian perfectly, and Cecco too, but we
were wrong.  This Mrs Lucas proves it.  It is composed by the ear,
the spoken word on paper.  Dio mio!  What an escape I have had,
Algernon!  You had a plan to bring me and your Mrs Lucas together
to hear us talk.  But she would smile to herself, and I should know
what she was thinking, for she would be thinking how very poorly I
talk Italian compared with herself.  I will read her letter to you
all, and though you do not know what it means you will recognize a
fluency, a music. . . .'

The Contessa proceeded to do so, with renewed exclamations of
amazement, and all that bright edifice of suspicion, so carefully
reared by the unfortunate Elizabeth, that Lucia knew no Italian,
collapsed like a house built of cards when the table is shaken.
Elizabeth had induced everybody to accept invitations to the second
po-di-mu in order that all Tilling might hear Lucia's ignorance
exposed by the Contessa, and when she had wriggled out of that,
Elizabeth's industrious efforts had caused the gravest suspicions
to be entertained that Lucia's illness was feigned in order to
avoid any encounter with one who did know Italian, and now not only
was not one pane of that Crystal Palace left unshattered, but the
Contessa was congratulating herself on her own escape.

Elizabeth stirred feebly below the ruins: she was not quite
crushed.

'I'm sure it sounds lovely,' she said when the recitation was over.
'But did not you yourself, dear Mr Wyse, think it odd that anyone
who knew Italian should put un po' di musica on her invitation-
card?'

'Then he was wrong,' said the Contessa.  'No doubt that phrase is a
little humorous quotation from something I do not know.  Rather
like you ladies of Tilling who so constantly say "au reservoir".
It is not a mistake: it is a joke.'

Elizabeth made a final effort.

'I wonder if dear Lucia wrote that note herself,' she said
pensively.

'Pish!  Her parlourmaid, doubtless,' said the Contessa.  'For me, I
must spend an hour this afternoon to see if I can answer that
letter in a way that will not disgrace me.'

There seemed little more to be said on that subject and Elizabeth
hastily resumed her tantalization.

'Nobody has tried to guess yet what I saw from the church tower,'
she said.  'Major Benjy, you try!  It was Lucia, but how was she
dressed and what was she doing?'

There was a coldness about Major Benjy.  He had allowed himself to
suspect, owing to Elizabeth's delicate hints, that there was
perhaps some Italian mystery behind Lucia's influenza, and now he
must make amends.

'Couldn't say, I'm sure,' he said.  'She was sure to have been very
nicely dressed from what I know of her.'

'I'll give you a hint then,' said she.  'I've never seen her
dressed like that before.'

Major Benjy's attention completely wandered.  He made no attempt to
guess but sipped his coffee.

'You then, Mr Wyse, if Major Benjy gives up,' said Elizabeth,
getting anxious.  Though the suspected cause of Lucia's illness was
disproved, it still looked as if she had never had influenza at
all, and that was something.

'My ingenuity, I am sure, will not be equal to the occasion,' said
Mr Wyse very politely.  'You will be obliged to tell me.  I give
up.'

Elizabeth emitted a shrill little titter.

'A dressing-gown,' she said.  'A bathing-costume.  And she was
skipping!  Fancy!  With influenza!'

There was a dreadful pause.  No babble of excited inquiry and
comment took place at all.  The Contessa put up her monocle,
focused Elizabeth for a moment, and this pause somehow was like the
hush that succeeds some slight gaffe, some small indelicacy that
had better have been left unsaid.  Her host came to her rescue.

'That is indeed good news,' said Mr Wyse.  'We may encourage
ourselves to hope that our friend is well on the road to
convalescence.  Thank you for telling us that, Miss Mapp.'

Mrs Bartlett gave one of her little mouse-like squeals, and Irene
said:

'Hurrah!  I shall try to see her this afternoon.  I am glad.'

That again was an awful thought.  Irene no doubt, if admitted,
would give an account of the luncheon-party which would lose
nothing in the telling, and she was such a ruthless mimic.
Elizabeth felt a sinking feeling.

'Would that be wise, dear?' she said.  'Lucia is probably not yet
free from infection, and we mustn't have you down with it.  I
wonder where she caught it, by the way?'

'But your point is that she's never had influenza at all,' said
Irene with that dismal directness of hers.

Choking with this monstrous dose of fiasco, Elizabeth made for the
present no further attempt to cause her friends to recoil from the
idea of Lucia's skippings, for they only rejoiced that she was
sufficiently recovered to do so.  The party presently dispersed,
and she walked away with her sketching things and Diva, and glanced
up the street towards her house.  Irene was already standing by the
door, and Elizabeth turned away with a shudder, for Irene waved her
hand to them and was admitted.

'It's all very strange, dear Diva, isn't it?' she said.  'It's
impossible to believe that Lucia's been ill, and it's useless to
try to do so.  Then there's Mr Georgie's disappearance.  I never
thought of that before.'

Diva interrupted.

'If I were you, Elizabeth,' she said, 'I should hold my tongue
about it all.  Much wiser.'

'Indeed?' said Elizabeth, beginning to tremble.

'Yes.  I tell you so as a friend,' continued Diva firmly.  'You got
hold of a false scent.  You made us think that Lucia was avoiding
the Faraglione.  All wrong from beginning to end.  One of your
worst shots.  Give it up.'

'But there is something queer,' said Elizabeth wildly.  'Skipping--'

'If there is,' said Diva, 'you're not clever enough to find it out.
That's my advice.  Take it or leave it.  I don't care.  Au
reservoir.'



7


Had Miss Mapp been able to hear what went on in the garden-room
that afternoon, as well as she had been able to see what had gone
on that morning in the garden, she would never have found Irene
more cruelly quaint.  Her account of this luncheon-party was more
than graphic, for so well did she reproduce the Contessa's fervid
monologue and poor Elizabeth's teasings over what she wanted them
all to guess, that it positively seemed to be illustrated.  Almost
more exasperating to Miss Mapp would have been Lucia's pitiful
contempt for the impotence of her malicious efforts.

'Poor thing!' she said.  'Sometimes I think she is a little mad.
Una pazza: un po' pazza . . .  But I regret not seeing the
Contessa.  Nice of her to have approved of my scribbled note, and I
dare say I should have found that she talked Italian very well
indeed.  To-morrow--for after my delicious exercise on the lawn
this morning, I do not feel up to more to-day--tomorrow I should
certainly have hoped to call--in the afternoon--and have had a chat
with her.  But she is leaving in the morning, I understand.'

Lucia, looking the picture of vigour and vitality, swept across to
the curtained window and threw back those screenings with a
movement that made the curtain-rings chime together.

'Poor Elizabeth!' she repeated.  'My heart aches for her, for I am
sure all that carping bitterness makes her wretched.  I dare say it
is only physical: liver perhaps, or acidity.  The ideal system of
callisthenics might do wonders for her.  I cannot, as you will
readily understand, dear Irene, make the first approaches to her
after her conduct to me, and the dreadful innuendoes she has made,
but I should like her to know that I bear her no malice at all.  Do
convey that to her sometime.  Tactfully, of course.  Women like her
who do all they can on every possible occasion to hurt and injure
others are usually very sensitive themselves, and I would not add
to the poor creature's other chagrins.  You must all be kind to
her.'

'My dear, you're too wonderful!' said Irene, in a sort of ecstasy.
'What a joy you are!  But, alas, you're leaving us so soon.  It's
too unkind of you to desert us.'

Lucia had dropped on to the music-stool by the piano which had so
long been dumb, except for a few timorous chords muffled by the
unsustenuto pedal, and dreamily recalled the first bars of the
famous slow movement.

Irene sat down on the cold hot-water pipes and yearned at her.

'You can do everything,' she said.  'You play like an angel, and
you can knock out Mapp with your little finger, and you can skip
and play bridge, and you've got such a lovely nature that you don't
bear Mapp the slightest grudge for her foul plots.  You are
adorable!  Won't you ask me to come and stay with you at Riseholme
sometime?'

Lucia, still keeping perfect time with her triplets while this
recital of her perfections was going on, considered whether she
should not tell Irene at once that she had practically determined
not to desert them.  She had intended to tell Georgie first, but
she would do that when he came back to-morrow, and she wanted to
see about getting a house here without delay.  She played a nimble
arpeggio on the chord of C sharp minor and closed the piano.

'Too sweet of you to like me, dear,' she said, 'but as for your
staying with me at Riseholme, I don't think I shall ever go back
there myself.  I have fallen in love with this dear Tilling, and I
fully expect I shall settle here for good.'

'Angel!' said Irene.

'I've been looking about for a house that might suit me,' she
continued when Irene had finished kissing her, 'and the house-
agents have just sent me the order to view one which particularly
attracts me.  It's that white house on the road that skirts the
marsh, half a mile away.  A nice garden sheltered from the north
wind.  Right down on the level, it is true, but such a divine view.
Broad, tranquil!  A dyke and a bank just across the road, keeping
back the high tides in the river.'

'But of course I know it; you mean Grebe,' cried Irene.  'The
cottage I am in now adjoins the garden.  Oh, do take it!  While
you're settling in, I'll let Diva have Taormina, and Diva will let
Mapp have Wasters, and Mapp will let you have Mallards till Grebe's
ready for you.  And I shall be at your disposal all day to help you
with your furniture.'

Lucia decided that there was no real danger of meeting the Contessa
if she drove out there: besides the Contessa now wanted to avoid
her for fear of showing how inferior was her Italian.

'It's such a lovely afternoon,' she said, 'that I think a little
drive would not hurt me.  Unfortunately Georgie, who comes back to-
morrow, has got my car.  I lent it him for his week by the sea.'

'Oh, how like you!' cried Irene.  'Always unselfish!'

'Dear Georgie!  So pleased to give him a little treat,' said Lucia.
'I'll ring up the garage and get them to send me something closed.
Come with me, dear, if you have nothing particular to do, and we'll
look over the house.'

Lucia found much to attract her in Grebe.  Though it was close to
the road it was not overlooked, for a thick hedge of hornbeam made
a fine screen: besides, the road did not lead anywhere particular.
The rooms were of good dimensions, there was a hall and dining-room
on the ground floor, with a broad staircase leading up to the first
floor where there were two or three bedrooms and a long admirable
sitting-room with four windows looking across the road to the
meadows and the high bank bounding the river.  Beyond that lay the
great empty levels of the marsh, with the hill of Tilling rising
out of it half a mile away to the west.  Close behind the house was
the cliff which had once been the coastline before the marshes were
drained and reclaimed, and this would be a rare protection against
northerly and easterly winds.  All these pleasant rooms looked
south, and all had this open view away seawards; they had character
and dignity, and at once Lucia began to see herself living here.
The kitchen and offices were in a wing by themselves, and here
again there was character, for the kitchen had evidently been a
coach-house, and still retained the big double doors appropriate to
such.  There had once been a road from it to the end of the kitchen
garden, but with its disuse as a coach-house, the road had been
replaced by a broad cinder path now bordered with beds of useful
vegetables.

'Ma molto conveniente,' said Lucia more than once, for it was now
perfectly safe to talk Italian again, since the Contessa, no less
than she, was determined to avoid a duet in that language.  'Mi
piace molto.  E un bel giardino.'

'How I love hearing you talk Italian,' ejaculated Irene,
'especially since I know it's the very best.  Will you teach it me?
Oh, I am so pleased you like the house.'

'But I am charmed with it,' said Lucia.  'And there's a garage with
a very nice cottage attached which will do beautifully for Cadman
and Foljambe.'

She broke off suddenly, for in the fervour of her enthusiasm for
the house, she had not thought about the awful catastrophe which
must descend on Georgie, if she decided to live at Tilling.  She
had given no direct thought to him, and now for the first time she
realized the cruel blow that would await him, when he came back to-
morrow, all bronzed from his week at Folkestone.  He had been a
real Deus ex machino to her: his stroke of genius had turned a very
hazardous moment into a blaze of triumph, and now she was going to
plunge a dagger into his domestic heart by the news that she and
therefore Cadman and therefore Foljambe were not coming back to
Riseholme at all . . .

'Oh, are they going to marry?' asked Irene.  'Or do you mean they
just live together?  How interesting!'

'Dear Irene, do not be so modern,' said Lucia, quite sharply.
'Marriage of course, and banns first.  But never mind that for the
present.  I like those great double doors to the kitchen.  I shall
certainly keep them.'

'How ripping that you're thinking about kitchen-doors already,'
said Irene.  'That really sounds as if you did mean to buy the
house.  Won't Mapp have a fit when she hears it!  I must be there
when she's told.  She'll say "Darling Lulu, what a joy," and then
fall down and foam at the mouth.'

Lucia gazed out over the marsh where the level rays of sunset
turned a few low-lying skeins of mist to rose and gold.  The tide
was high and the broad channel of the river running out to sea was
brimming from edge to edge.  Here and there, where the banks were
low, the water had overflowed on to adjacent margins of land; here
and there, spread into broad lakes, it lapped the confining dykes.
There were sheep cropping the meadows, there were seagulls floating
in the water, and half a mile away to the west the red roofs of
Tilling glowed as if molten not only with the soft brilliance of
the evening light, but (to the discerning eye) with the intensity
of the interests that burned beneath them . . .  Lucia hardly knew
what gave her the most satisfaction, the magic of the marsh, her
resolve to live here, or the recollection of the complete
discomfiture of Elizabeth.

Then again the less happy thought of Georgie recurred, and she
wondered what arguments she could use to induce him to leave
Riseholme and settle here.  Tilling with all its manifold interests
would be incomplete without him, and how dismally incomplete
Riseholme would be to him without herself and Foljambe.  Georgie
had of late taken his painting much more seriously than ever
before, and he had often during the summer put off dinner to an
unheard-of lateness in order to catch a sunset, and had risen at
most inconvenient hours to catch a sunrise.  Lucia had strongly
encouraged this zeal, she had told him that if he was to make a
real career as an artist he had no time to waste.  Appreciation and
spurring-on was what he needed: perhaps Irene could help.

She pointed to the glowing landscape.

'Irene, what would life be without sunsets?' she asked.  'And to
think that this miracle happens every day, except when it's very
cloudy!'

Irene looked critically at the view.

'Generally speaking, I don't like sunsets,' she said.  'The
composition of the sky is usually childish.  But good colouring
about this one.'

'There are practically no sunsets at Riseholme,' said Lucia.  'I
suppose the sun goes down, but there's a row of hills in the way.
I often think that Georgie's development as an artist is starved
there.  If he goes back there he will find no one to make him work.
What do you think of his painting, dear?'

'I don't think of it at all,' said Irene.

'No?  I am astonished.  Of course your own is so different in
character.  Those wrestlers!  Such movement!  But personally I find
very great perception in Georgie's work.  A spaciousness, a
calmness!  I wish you would take an interest in it and encourage
him.  You can find beauty anywhere if you look for it.'

'Of course I'll do my best if you want me to,' said Irene.  'But it
will be hard work to find beauty in Georgie's little valentines.'

'Do try.  Give him some hints.  Make him see what you see.  All
that boldness and freedom.  That's what he wants . . .  Ah, the
sunset is fading.  Buona notte, bel sole!  We must be getting home
too.  Addio, mia bella casa.  But Georgie must be the first to
know, Irene, do not speak of it until I have told him.  Poor
Georgie: I hope it will not be a terrible blow to him.'


Georgie came straight to Mallards on his arrival next morning from
Folkestone with Cadman and Foljambe.  His recall, he knew, meant
that the highly dangerous Contessa had gone, and his admission by
Grosvenor, after the door had been taken off the chain, that
Lucia's influenza was officially over.  He looked quite bronzed,
and she gave him the warmest welcome.

'It all worked without a hitch,' she said as she told him of the
plots and counter-plots which had woven so brilliant a tapestry of
events.  'And it was that letter of Mrs Brocklebank's which you
sent me that clapped the lid on Elizabeth.  I saw at once what I
could make of it.  Really, Georgie, I turned it into a stroke of
genius.'

'But it was a stroke of genius already,' said Georgie.  'You only
had to copy it out and send it to the Contessa.'

Lucia was slightly ashamed of having taken the supreme credit for
herself: the habit was hard to get rid of.

'My dear, all the credit shall be yours then,' she said handsomely.
'It was your stroke of genius.  I copied it out very carelessly as
if I had scribbled it off without thought.  That was a nice touch,
don't you think?  The effect?  Colossal, so Irene tells me, for I
could not be there myself.  That was only yesterday.  A few
desperate wriggles from Elizabeth, but of course no good.  I do not
suppose there was a more thoroughly thwarted woman in all Sussex
than she.'

Georgie gave a discreet little giggle.

'And what's so terribly amusing is that she was right all the time
about your influenza and your Italian and everything,' he said.
'Perfectly maddening for her.'

Lucia sighed pensively.

'Georgie, she was malicious,' she observed, 'and that never pays.'

'Besides, it serves her right for spying on you,' Georgie
continued.

'Yes, poor thing.  But I shall begin now at once to be kind to her
again.  She shall come to lunch to-morrow, and you of course.  By
the way, Georgie, Irene takes so much interest in your painting.
It was news to me, for her style is so different from your
beautiful, careful work.'

'No!  That's news to me too,' said Georgie.  'She never seemed to
see my sketches before: they might have been blank sheets of paper.
Does she mean it?  She's not pulling my leg?'

'Nothing of the sort.  And I couldn't help thinking it was a great
opportunity for you to learn something about more modern methods.
There is something you know in those fierce canvases of hers.'

'I wish she had told me sooner,' said Georgie.  'We've only got a
fortnight more here.  I shall be very sorry when it's over, for I
felt terribly pleased to be getting back to Tilling this morning.
It'll be dull going back to Riseholme.  Don't you feel that too?
I'm sure you must.  No plots: no competition.'

Lucia had just received a telegram from Adele concerning the
purchase of the Hurst, and it was no use putting off the staggering
moment.  She felt as if she was Zeus about to discharge a
thunderbolt on some unhappy mortal.

'Georgie, I'm not going back to Riseholme at all,' she said.  'I
have sold the Hurst: Adele Brixton has bought it.  And,
practically, I've bought that white house with the beautiful
garden, which we admired so much, and that view over the marsh (how
I thought of you at sunset yesterday), and really charming rooms
with character.'

Georgie sat open-mouthed, and all expression vanished from his
face.  It became as blank as a piece of sunburnt paper.  Then
slowly, as if he was coming round from an anaesthetic while the
surgeon was still carving dexterously at living tissue, a look of
intolerable anguish came into his face.

'But Foljambe, Cadman!' he cried.  'Foljambe can't come back here
every night from Riseholme.  What am I to do?  Is it all
irrevocable?'

Lucia bridled.  She was quite aware that this parting (if there was
to be one) between him and Foljambe would be a dagger; but it was
surprising, to say the least, that the thought of the parting
between herself and him should not have administered him the first
shock.  However, there it was.  Foljambe first by all means.

'I knew parting from Foljambe would be a great blow to you,' she
said, with an acidity that Georgie could hardly fail to notice.
'What a pity that row you told me about came to nothing!  But I am
afraid that I can't promise to live in Riseholme for ever in order
that you may not lose your parlourmaid.'

'But it's not only that,' said Georgie, aware of this acidity and
hastening to sweeten it.  'There's you as well.  It will be
ditchwater at Riseholme without you.'

'Thank you, Georgie,' said Lucia.  'I wondered if and when, as the
lawyers say, you would think of that.  No reason why you should, of
course.'

Georgie felt that this was an unjust reproach.

'Well, after all, you settled to live in Tilling,' he retorted,
'and said nothing about how dull it would be without me.  And I've
got to do without Foljambe as well.'

Lucia had recourse to the lowest artifice.

'Georgie-orgie, 'oo not cwoss with me?' she asked in an innocent,
childish voice.

Georgie was not knocked out by this sentimental stroke below the
belt.  It was like Lucia to settle everything in exactly the way
that suited her best, and then expect her poor pawns to be stricken
at the thought of losing their queen.  Besides, the loss of
Foljambe HAD occurred to him first.  Comfort, like charity, began
at home.

'No, I'm not cross,' he said, utterly refusing to adopt baby-talk
which implied surrender.  'But I've got every right to be hurt with
you for settling to live in Tilling and not saying a word about how
you would miss me.'

'My dear, I knew you would take that for granted,' began Lucia.

'Then why shouldn't you take it for granted about me?' he observed.

'I ought to have,' she said.  'I confess it, so that's all right.
But why don't you leave Riseholme too and settle here, Georgie?
Foljambe, me, your career, now that Irene is so keen about your
pictures, and this marvellous sense of not knowing what's going to
happen next.  Such stimulus, such stuff to keep the soul awake.
And you don't want to go back to Riseholme: you said so yourself.
You'd moulder and vegetate there.'

'It's different for you,' said Georgie.  'You've sold your house
and I haven't sold mine.  But there it is: I shall go back, I
suppose, without Foljambe or you--I mean you or Foljambe.  I wish I
had never come here at all.  It was that week when we went back for
the fête, leaving Cadman and her here, which did all the mischief.'

There was no use in saying anything more at present, and Georgie,
feeling himself the victim of an imperious friend and of a
faithless parlourmaid, went sadly back to Mallards Cottage.  Lucia
had settled to leave Riseholme without the least thought of what
injury she inflicted on him by depriving him at one fell blow of
Foljambe and her own companionship.  He was almost sorry he had
sent her that wonderful Brocklebank letter, for she had been in a
very tight place, especially when Miss Mapp had actually seen her
stripped and skipping in the garden as a cure for influenza; and
had he not, by his stroke of genius, come to her rescue, her
reputation here might have suffered an irretrievable eclipse, and
they might all have gone back to Riseholme together.  As it was, he
had established her on the most exalted pinnacle and her thanks for
that boon were expressed by dealing this beastly blow at him.

He threw himself down, in deep dejection, on the sofa in the little
parlour of Mallards Cottage, in which he had been so comfortable.
Life at Tilling had been full of congenial pleasures, and what a
spice all these excitements had added to it!  He had done a lot of
painting, endless subjects still awaited his brush, and it had
given him a thrill of delight to know that quaint Irene, with all
her modern notions about art, thought highly of his work.  Then
there was the diversion of observing and nobly assisting in Lucia's
campaign for the sovereignty, and her wars, as he knew, were far
from won yet, for Tilling certainly had grown restive under her
patronizings and acts of autocracy, and there was probably life in
the old dog (meaning Elizabeth Mapp) yet.  It was dreadful to think
that he would not witness the campaign that was now being planned
in those Napoleonic brains.  These few weeks that remained to him
here would be blackened by the thought of the wretched future that
awaited him, and there would be no savour in them, for in so short
a time now he would go back to Riseholme in a state of the most
pitiable widowerhood, deprived of the ministering care of Foljambe,
who all these years had made him so free from household anxieties,
and of the companion who had spurred him on to ambitions and
activities.  Though he had lain awake shuddering at the thought
that perhaps Lucia expected him to marry her, he felt he would
almost sooner have done that than lose her altogether.  'It may be
better to have loved and lost,' thought Georgie, 'than never to
have loved at all, but it's very poor work not having loved and
also to have lost' . . .

There was Foljambe singing in a high buzzing voice as she unpacked
his luggage in his room upstairs, and though it was a rancid noise,
how often had it filled him with the liveliest satisfaction, for
Foljambe seldom sang, and when she did, it meant that she was
delighted with her lot in life and was planning fresh efforts for
his comfort.  Now, no doubt, she was planning all sorts of
pleasures for Cadman, and not thinking of him at all.  Then there
was Lucia: through his open window he could already hear the piano
in the garden-room, and that showed a horrid callousness to his
miserable plight.  She didn't care; she was rolling on like the
moon or the car of Juggernaut.  It was heartless of her to occupy
herself with those gay tinkling tunes, but the fact was that
she was odiously selfish, and cared about nothing but her own
successes . . .  He abstracted himself from those painful
reflections for a moment and listened more attentively.  It was
clearly Mozart that she was practising, but the melody was new to
him.  'I bet,' thought Georgie, 'that this evening or tomorrow,
she'll ask me to read over a new Mozart, and it'll be that very
piece that she's practising now.'

His bitterness welled up within him again, as that pleasing
reflection faded from his mind, and almost involuntarily he began
to revolve how he could pay her back for her indifference to him.
A dark but brilliant thought (like a black pearl) occurred to him.
What if he dismissed his own chauffeur, Dickie, at present in the
employment of his tenant at Riseholme, and, by a prospect of a rise
in wages, seduced Cadman from Lucia's service, and took him and
Foljambe back to Riseholme?  He would put into practise the plan
that Lucia herself had suggested, of establishing them in a cottage
of their own, with a charwoman, so that Foljambe's days should be
his, and her nights Cadman's.  That would be a nasty one for Lucia,
and the idea was feasible, for Cadman didn't think much of Tilling,
and might easily fall in with it.  But hardly had this devilish
device occurred to him than his better nature rose in revolt
against it.  It would serve Lucia right, it is true, but it was
unworthy of him.  'I should be descending to her level,' thought
Georgie very nobly, 'if I did such a thing.  Besides, how awful it
would be if Cadman said no, and then told her that I had tempted
him.  She would despise me for doing it, as much as I despise her,
and she would gloat over me for having failed.  It won't do.  I
must be more manly about it all somehow.  I must be like Major
Benjy and say "Damn the woman!  Faugh!" and have a drink.  But I
feel sick at the idea of going back to Riseholme alone . . .  I
wish I had eyebrows like a paste-brush, and could say damn
properly.'

With a view to being more manly he poured himself out a very small
whisky and soda, and his eye fell on a few letters lying for him on
the table, which must have come that morning.  There was one with
the Riseholme postmark, and the envelope was of that very bright
blue which he always used.  His own stationery evidently, of which
he had left a supply, without charge, for the use of his tenant.
He opened it, and behold there was dawn breaking on his dark life,
for Colonel Cresswell wanted to know if he had any thoughts of
selling his house.  He was much taken by Riseholme, his sister had
bought the Hurst, and he would like to be near her.  Would Georgie
therefore let him have a line about this as soon as possible, for
there was another house, Mrs Quantock's, about which he would enter
into negotiations, if there was no chance of getting Georgie's . . .

The revulsion of feeling was almost painful.  Georgie had another
whisky and soda at once, not because he was depressed, but because
he was so happy.  'But I mustn't make a habit of it,' he thought,
as he seized his pen.

Georgie's first impulse when he had written his letter to Colonel
Cresswell was to fly round to Mallards with this wonderful news,
but now he hesitated.  Some hitch might arise, the price Colonel
Cresswell proposed might not come up to his expectations, though--
God knew--he would not dream of haggling over any reasonable offer.
Lucia would rejoice at the chance of his staying in Tilling but she
did not deserve to have such a treat of pleasurable expectation for
the present.  Besides, though he had been manly enough to reject
with scorn the wiles of the devil who had suggested the seduction
of Cadman, he thought he would tease her a little even if his dream
came true.  He had often told her that if he was rich enough he
would have a flat in London, and now, if this sale of his house
came off, he would pretend that he was not meaning to live in
Tilling at all, but would live in town, and he would see how she
would take that.  It would be her turn to be hurt, and serve her
right.  So instead of interrupting the roulades of Mozart that were
pouring from the window of the garden-room, he walked briskly down
to the High Street to see how Tilling was taking the news that it
would have Lucia always with it, if her purchase of Grebe had
become public property.  If not, he would have the pleasure of
disseminating it.

There was a hint of seafaring about Georgie's costume as befitted
one who had lately spent so much time on the pier at Folkestone.
He had a very nautical-looking cap, with a black shining brim, a
dark-blue double-breasted coat, white trousers and smart canvas
shoes: really he might have been supposed to have come up to
Tilling in his yacht, and have landed to see the town . . .  A
piercing whistle from the other side of the street showed him that
his appearance had at once attracted attention, and there was Irene
planted with her easel in the middle of the pavement, and painting
a row of flayed carcasses that hung in the butcher's shop.
Rembrandt had better look out . . .

'Avast there, Georgie,' she cried.  'Home is the sailor, home from
sea.  Come and talk.'

This was rather more attention than Georgie had anticipated, but as
Irene was quite capable of shouting nautical remarks after him if
he pretended not to hear, he tripped across the street to her.

'Have you seen Lucia, Commodore?' she said.  'And has she told
you?'

'About her buying Grebe?' asked Georgie.  'Oh, yes.'

'That's all right then.  She told me not to mention it till she'd
seen you.  Mapp's popping in and out of the shops, and I simply
must be the first to tell her.  Don't cut in in front of me, will
you?  Oh, by the way, have you done any sketching at Folkestone?'

'One or two,' said Georgie.  'Nothing very much.'

'Nonsense.  Do let me come and see them.  I love your handling.
Just cast your eye over this and tell me what's wrong with--There
she is.  Hi!  Mapp!'

Elizabeth, like Georgie, apparently thought it more prudent to
answer that summons and avoid further public proclamation of her
name, and came hurrying across the street.

'Good morning, Irene mine,' she said.  'What a beautiful picture!
All the poor skinned piggies in a row, or are they sheep?  Back
again, Mr Georgie?  How we've missed you.  And how do you think
dear Lulu is looking after her illness?'

'Mapp, there's news for you,' said Irene, remembering the luncheon-
party yesterday.  'You must guess: I shall tease you.  It's about
your Lulu.  Three guesses.'

'Not a relapse, I hope?' said Elizabeth brightly.

'Quite wrong.  Something much nicer.  You'll enjoy it
tremendously.'

'Another of those beautiful musical parties?' asked Elizabeth.  'Or
has she skipped a hundred times before breakfast?'

'No, much nicer,' said Irene.  'Heavenly for us all.'

A look of apprehension had come over Elizabeth's face, as an awful
idea occurred to her.

'Dear one, give over teasing,' she said.  'Tell me.'

'She's not going away at the end of the month,' said Irene.  'She's
bought Grebe.'

Blank dismay spread over Elizabeth's face.

'Oh, what a joy!' she said.  'Lovely news.'

She hurried off to Wasters, too much upset even to make Diva, who
was coming out of Twistevant's, a partner in her joy.  Only this
morning she had been consulting her calendar and observing that
there were only fifteen days more before Tilling was quit of Lulu,
and now at a moderate estimate there might be at least fifteen
years of her.  Then she found she could not bear the weight of her
joy alone and sped back after Diva.

'Diva dear, come in for a minute,' she said.  'I've heard
something.'

Diva looked with concern at that lined and agitated face.

'What's the matter?' she said.  'Nothing serious?'

'Oh no, lovely news,' she said with bitter sarcasm.  'Tilling will
rejoice.  SHE'S not going away.  SHE'S going to stop here for
ever.'

There was no need to ask who 'she' was.  For weeks Lucia had been
'she'.  If you meant Susan Wyse, or Diva or Irene, you said so.
But 'she' was Lucia.

'I suspected as much,' said Diva.  'I know she had an order to view
Grebe.'

Elizabeth, in a spasm of exasperation, banged the door of Wasters
so violently after she and Diva had entered, that the house shook
and a note leaped from the wire letter-box on to the floor.

'Steady on with my front door,' said Diva, 'or there'll be some
dilapidations to settle.'

Elizabeth took no notice of this petty remark, and picked up the
note.  The handwriting was unmistakable, for Lucia's study of Homer
had caused her (subconsciously or not) to adopt a modified form of
Greek script, and she made her 'a' like alpha and her 'e' like
epsilon.  At the sight of it Elizabeth suffered a complete loss of
self-control, she held the note on high as if exposing a relic to
the gaze of pious worshippers, and made a low curtsey to it.

'And this is from Her,' she said.  'Oh, how kind of Her Majesty to
write to me in her own hand with all those ridiculous twiddles.
Not content with speaking Italian quite perfectly, she must also
write in Greek.  I dare say she talks it beautifully too.'

'Come, pull yourself together, Elizabeth,' said Diva.

'I am not aware that I am coming to bits, dear,' said Elizabeth,
opening the note with the very tips of her fingers, as if it had
been written by someone infected with plague or at least influenza.
'But let me see what Her Majesty says . . .  "Dearest Liblib" . . .
the impertinence of it!  Or is it Riseholme humour?'

'Well, you call her Lulu,' said Diva.  'Do get on.'

Elizabeth frowned with the difficulty of deciphering this crabbed
handwriting.

'"Now that I am quite free of infection,"' she read--(Infection
indeed.  She never had flu at all)--'"of infection, I can receive
my friends again, and hope so much you will lunch with me to-
morrow.  I hasten also to tell you of my change of plans, for I
have so fallen in love with your delicious Tilling that I have
bought a house here--(Stale news!)--and shall settle into it next
month.  An awful wrench, as you may imagine, to leave my dear
Riseholme--(Then why wrench yourself?)--. . . and poor Georgie is
in despair, but Tilling and all you dear people have wrapt
yourselves round my heart.  (Have we?  The same to you!)--and it is
no use my struggling to get free.  I wonder therefore if you would
consider letting me take your beautiful Mallards at the same rent
for another month, while Grebe is being done up, and my furniture
being installed?  I should be so grateful if this is possible,
otherwise I shall try to get Mallards Cottage when my Georgie--
(My!)--goes back to Riseholme.  Could you, do you think, let me
know about this to-morrow, if, as I hope, you will send me un
amabile 'si'--(What in the world is an amabile si?)--and come to
lunch?  Tanti saluti, Lucia."'

'I understand,' said Diva.  'It means "an amiable yes", about going
to lunch.'

'Thank you, Diva.  You are quite an Italian scholar too,' said
Elizabeth.  'I call that a thoroughly heartless letter.  And all of
us, mark you, must serve her convenience.  I can't get back into
Mallards, because She wants it, and even if I refused, She would be
next door at Mallards Cottage.  I've never been so long out of my
own house before.'

Both ladies felt that it would be impossible to keep up any
semblance of indignation that Lucia was wanting to take Mallards
for another month, for it suited them both so marvellously well.

'You are in luck,' said Diva, 'getting another month's let at that
price.  So am I too, if you want to stop here, for Irene is certain
to let me stay on at her house, because her cottage is next to
Grebe and she'll be in and out all day--'

'Poor Irene seems to be under a sort of spell,' said Elizabeth in
parenthesis.  'She can think about nothing except that woman.  Her
painting has fallen off terribly.  Coarsened . . .  Yes, dear, I
think I will give the Queen of the Italian language an amabile si
about Mallards.  I don't know if you would consider taking rather a
smaller rent for November.  Winter prices are always lower.'

'Certainly not,' said Diva.  'You're going to get the same as
before for Mallards.'

'That's my affair, dear,' said Elizabeth.

'And this is mine,' said Diva firmly.  'And will you go to lunch
with her to-morrow?'

Elizabeth, now comparatively calm, sank down in the window-seat,
which commanded so good a view of the High Street.

'I suppose I shall have to,' she said.  'One must be civil,
whatever has happened.  Oh, there's Major Benjy.  I wonder if he's
heard.'

She tapped at the window and threw it open.  He came hurrying
across the street and began to speak in a loud voice before she
could get in a word.

'That amusing guessing game of yours, Miss Elizabeth,' he said,
just like Irene.  'About Mrs Lucas.  I'll give you three--'

'One's enough: we all know,' said Elizabeth.  'Joyful news, isn't
it?'

'Indeed, it is delightful to know that we are not going to lose one
who--who has endeared herself to us all so much,' said he very
handsomely.

He stopped.  His tone lacked sincerity; there seemed to be
something in his mind which he left unsaid.  Elizabeth gave him a
piercing and confidential look.

'Yes, Major Benjy?' she suggested.

He glanced round like a conspirator to see there was no one
eavesdropping.

'Those parties, you know,' he said.  'Those entertainments which
we've all enjoyed so much.  Beautiful music.  But Grebe's a long
way off on a wet winter night.  Not just round the corner.  Now if
she was settling in Mallards--'

He saw at once what an appalling interpretation might be put on
this, and went on in a great hurry.

'You'll have to come to our rescue, Miss Elizabeth,' he said,
dropping his voice so that even Diva could not hear.  'When you're
back in your own house again, you'll have to look after us all as
you always used to.  Charming woman, Mrs Lucas, and most
hospitable, I'm sure, but in the winter, as I was saying, that long
way out of Tilling, just to hear a bit of music, and have a tomato,
if you see what I mean.'

'Why, of course I see what you mean,' murmured Elizabeth.  'The
dear thing, as you say, is so hospitable.  Lovely music and
tomatoes, but we must make a stand.'

'Well, you can have too much of a good thing,' said Major Benjy,
'and for my part a little Mozart lasts me a long time, especially
if it's a long way on a wet night.  Then I'm told there's an idea
of callisthenic classes, though no doubt they would be for ladies
only--'

'I wouldn't be too sure about that,' said Elizabeth.  'Our dear
friend has got enough--shall we call it self-confidence?--to think
herself capable of teaching anybody anything.  If you aren't
careful, Major Benjy, you'll find yourself in a skipping-match on
the lawn at Grebe, before you know what you're doing.  You've been
King Cophetua already, which I, for one, never thought to see.'

'That was just once in a way,' said he.  'But when it comes to
callisthenic classes--'

Diva, in an agony at not being able to hear what was going on, had
crept up behind Elizabeth, and now crouched close to her as she
stood leaning out of the window.  At this moment, Lucia, having
finished her piano-practice, came round the corner from Mallards
into the High Street.  Elizabeth hastily withdrew from the window
and bumped into Diva.

'So sorry: didn't know you were there, dear,' she said.  'We must
put our heads together another time, Major Benjy.  Au reservoir.'

She closed the window.

'Oh, do tell me what you're going to put your heads together
about,' said Diva.  'I only heard just the end.'

It was important to get allies: otherwise Elizabeth would have made
a few well-chosen remarks about eavesdroppers.

'It is sad to find that just when Lucia has settled never to leave
us any more,' she said, 'that there should be so much feeling in
Tilling about being told to do this and being made to listen to
that.  Major Benjy--I don't know if you heard that part, dear--
spoke very firmly, and I thought sensibly about it.  The question
really is if England is a free country or not, and whether we're
going to be trampled upon.  We've been very happy in Tilling all
these years, going our own way, and living in sweet harmony
together, and I for one, and Major Benjy for another, don't intend
to put our necks under the yoke.  I don't know how you feel about
it.  Perhaps you like it, for after all you were Mary Queen of
Scots just as much as Major Benjy was King Cophetua.'

'I won't go to any po-di-mus, after dinner at Grebe,' said Diva.
'I shouldn't have gone to the last, but you persuaded us all to go.
Where was your neck then, Elizabeth?  Be fair.'

'Be fair yourself, Diva,' said Elizabeth with some heat.  'You know
perfectly well that I wanted you to go in order that you might all
get your necks from under her yoke, and hear that she couldn't
speak a word of Italian.'

'And a nice mess you made of that,' said Diva.  'But never mind.
She's established now as a perfect Italian linguist, and there it
is.  Don't meddle with that again, or you'll only prove that she
can talk Greek too.'

Elizabeth rose and pointed at her like one of Raphael's Sibyls.

'Diva, to this day I don't believe she can talk Italian.  It was a
conjuring trick, and I'm no conjurer but a plain woman, and I can't
tell you how it was done.  But I will swear it was a trick.
Besides, answer me this!  Why doesn't she offer to give us Italian
lessons if she knows it?  She has offered to teach us bridge and
Homer and callisthenics and take choir-practices and arranged
tableaux.  Why not Italian?'

'That's curious,' said Diva thoughtfully.

'Not the least curious.  The reason is obvious.  Everyone snubbed
me and scolded me, you among others, at that dreadful luncheon-
party, but I know I'm right, and some day the truth will come out.
I can wait.  Meantime what she means to do is to take us all in
hand, and I won't be taken in hand.  What is needed from us all is
a little firmness.'

Diva went home thrilled to the marrow of her bones at the thought
of the rich entertainment that these next months promised to
provide.  Naturally she saw through Elizabeth's rodomontade about
yokes and free countries: what she meant was that she intended to
assert herself again, and topple Lucia over.  Two could not reign
in Tilling, as everybody could see by this time.  'All most
interesting,' said Diva to herself.  'Elizabeth's got hold of Major
Benjy for the present, and Lucia's going to lose Georgie, but then
men don't count for much in Tilling: it's brains that do it.
There'll be more bridge-parties and teas this winter than ever
before.  Really, I don't know which of them I would back.  Hullo,
there's a note from her.  Lunch to-morrow, I expect . . .  I
thought so.'

Lucia's luncheon-party next day was to be of the nature of a
banquet to celebrate the double event of her recovery and of the
fact that Tilling, instead of mourning her approaching departure,
was privileged to retain her, as Elizabeth had said, for ever and
ever.  The whole circle of her joyful friends would be there, and
she meant to give them to eat of the famous dish of lobster à la
Riseholme, which she had provided for Georgie, a few weeks ago, to
act as a buffer to break the shock of Foljambe's engagement.  It
had already produced a great deal of wild surmise in the minds of
the housewives at Tilling for no one could conjecture how it was
made, and Lucia had been deaf to all requests for the recipe:
Elizabeth had asked her twice to give it her, but Lucia had merely
changed the subject without attempt at transition: she had merely
talked about something quite different.  This secretiveness was
considered unamiable, for the use of Tilling was to impart its
culinary mysteries to friends, so that they might enjoy their
favourite dishes at each other's houses, and lobster à la Riseholme
had long been an agonizing problem to Elizabeth.  She had made an
attempt at it herself, but the result was not encouraging.  She had
told Diva and the Padre that she felt sure she had 'guessed it',
and, when bidden to come to lunch and partake of it, they had both
anticipated a great treat.  But Elizabeth had clearly guessed
wrong, for lobster à la Riseholme à la Mapp had been found to
consist of something resembling lumps of india-rubber (so tough
that the teeth positively bounced away from them on contact)
swimming in a dubious pink gruel, and both of them left a great
deal on their plates, concealed as far as possible under their
knives and forks, though their hostess continued manfully to chew,
till her jaw-muscles gave out.  Then Elizabeth had had recourse to
underhand methods.  Lucia had observed her more than once in the
High Street, making herself suspiciously pleasant to her cook, and
from the window of the garden-room just before her influenza, she
had seen her at the back door of Mallards again in conversation
with the lady of the kitchen.  On this occasion, with an unerring
conviction in her mind, she had sent for her cook and asked her
what Miss Mapp wanted.  It was even so: Elizabeth's ostensible
inquiry was for an egg-whisk, which she had left by mistake at
Mallards three months ago, but then she had unmasked her batteries,
and, actually fingering a bright half-crown, had asked point-blank
for the recipe of this lobster à la Riseholme.  The cook had given
her a polite but firm refusal, and Lucia was now more determined
than ever that Elizabeth should never know the exquisite secret.
She naturally felt that it was beneath her to take the slightest
notice of this low and paltry attempt to obtain by naked bribery a
piece of private knowledge, and she never let Elizabeth know that
she was cognizant of it.

During the morning before Lucia's luncheon-party a telegram had
come for Georgie from Colonel Cresswell making a firm and very
satisfactory offer for his house at Riseholme, unfurnished.  That
had made him really busy: first he had to see Foljambe and tell her
(under seal of secrecy, for he had his little plot of teasing Lucia
in mind) that he was proposing to settle in Tilling.  Foljambe was
very pleased to hear it, and in a burst of most unusual feeling,
had said that it would have gone to her heart to leave his service,
after so many harmonious years, when he went back to Riseholme, and
that she was very glad to adopt the plan, which she had agreed to,
when it was supposed that they would all go back to Riseholme
together.  She would do her work all day in Georgie's house, and
retire in the evening to the connubialities of the garage at Grebe.
When this affecting interview was over, she went back to her jobs,
and again Georgie heard her singing as she cleaned the silver.  'So
that's beautiful,' he said to himself, 'and the cloud has passed
for ever.  Now I must instantly see about getting a house here.'

He hurried out.  There was still an hour before he was due at the
lobster lunch.  Though he had left the seaside twenty-four hours
ago, he put on his yachtsman's cap and, walking on air, set off for
the house-agents'.  Of all the houses in the place which he had
seen, he was sure that none would suit him as well as this dear
little Mallards Cottage which he now occupied; he liked it,
Foljambe liked it, they all liked it, but he had no idea whether he
could get a lease from kippered Isabel.  As he crossed the High
Street, a wild hoot from a motor-horn just behind him gave him a
dreadful fright, but he jumped nimbly for the pavement, reached it
unhurt, and though his cap fell off and landed in a puddle, he was
only thankful to have escaped being run down by Isabel Poppit on
her motor-cycle.  Her hair was like a twisted mop, her skin
incredibly tanned, and mounted on her cycle she looked like a sort
of modernized Valkyrie in rather bad repair . . .  Meeting her just
at this moment, when he was on his way to inquire about Mallards
Cottage, seemed a good omen to Georgie, and he picked up his cap
and ran back across the street, for in her natural anxiety to avoid
killing him she had swerved into a baker's cart, and had got messed
up in the wheels.

'I do apologize, Miss Poppit,' he said.  'Entirely my fault for not
looking both ways before I crossed.'

'No harm done,' said she.  'Oh, your beautiful cap.  I am sorry.
But after all the wonderful emptiness and silence among the sand-
dunes, a place like a town seems to me a positive nightmare.'

'Well, the emptiness and silence does seem to suit you,' said
Georgie, gazing in astonishment at her mahogany face.  'I never saw
anybody looking so well.'

Isabel, with a tug of her powerful arms, disentangled her cycle.

'It's the simple life,' said she, shaking her hair out of her eyes.
'Never again will I live in a town.  I have taken the bungalow I am
in now for six months more, and I only came in to Tilling to tell
the house-agent to get another tenant for Mallards Cottage, as I
understand that you're going back to Riseholme at the end of this
month.'

Georgie had never felt more firmly convinced that a wise and
beneficent Providence looked after him with the most amiable care.

'And I was also on my way to the house-agents',' he said, 'to see
if I could get a lease of it.'

'Gracious!  What a good thing I didn't run over you just now,' said
Isabel, with all the simplicity derived from the emptiness and
silence of sand-dunes.  'Come on to the agents'.'

Within half an hour the whole business was as good as settled.
Isabel held a lease from her mother of Mallards Cottage, which had
five years yet to run, and she agreed to transfer this to Georgie,
and store her furniture.  He had just time to change into his new
mustard-coloured suit with its orange tie and its topaz tie-pin,
and arrived at the luncheon-party in the very highest spirits.
Besides, there was his talk with Lucia when other guests had gone,
to look forward to.  How he would tease her about settling in
London!

Though Tilling regarded the joyful prospect of Lucia's never going
away again with certain reservations, and, in the case of
Elizabeth, with nothing but reservations, her guests vied with each
other in the fervency of their self-congratulations, and Elizabeth
outdid them all, as she took into her mouth small fragments of
lobster, in the manner of a wine-taster, appraising subtle
flavours.  There was cheese, there were shrimps, there was cream:
there were so many things that she felt like Adam giving names to
the innumerable procession of different animals.  She had helped
herself so largely that when the dish came to Georgie there was
nothing left but a little pink juice, but he hardly minded at all,
so happy had the events of the morning made him.  Then when
Elizabeth felt that she would choke if she said anything more in
praise of Lucia, Mr Wyse took it up, and Georgie broke in and said
it was cruel of them all to talk about the delicious busy winter
they would have, when they all knew that he would not be here any
longer but back at Riseholme.  In fact, he rather overdid his
lamentations, and Lucia, whose acute mind detected the grossest
insincerity in Elizabeth's raptures, began to wonder whether
Georgie for some unknown reason was quite as woeful as he professed
to be.  Never had he looked more radiant, not a shadow of
disappointment had come over his face when he inspected the
casserole that had once contained his favourite dish, and found
nothing left for him.  There was something up--what on earth could
it be?  Had Foljambe jilted Cadman?--and just as Elizabeth was
detecting flavours in the mysterious dish, so Lucia was trying to
arrive at an analysis of the gay glad tones in which Georgie
expressed his misery.

'It's too tarsome of you all to go on about the lovely things
you're going to do,' he said.  'Callisthenic classes and Homer and
bridge, and poor me far away, I shall tell myself every morning
that I hate Tilling; I shall say like Coué, "Day by day in every
way, I dislike it more and more," until I've convinced myself that
I shall be glad to go.'

Mr Wyse made him a beautiful bow.

'We too shall miss you very sadly, Mr Pillson,' he said, 'and for
my part I shall be tempted to hate Riseholme for taking from us one
who has so endeared himself to us.'

'I ask to be allowed to associate myself with those sentiments,'
said Major Benjy, whose contempt for Georgie and his sketches and
his needlework had been intensified by the sight of his yachting
cap, which he had pronounced to be only fit for a popinjay.  It had
been best to keep on good terms with him while Lucia was at
Mallards, for he might poison her mind about himself, and now that
he was going, there was no harm in these handsome remarks.  Then
the Padre said something Scotch and sympathetic and regretful, and
Georgie found himself, slightly to his embarrassment, making bows
and saying 'thank you' right and left in acknowledgment of these
universal expressions of regret that he was so soon about to leave
them.  It was rather awkward, for within a few hours they would all
know that he had taken Mallards Cottage unfurnished for five years,
which did not look like an immediate departure.  But this little
deception was necessary if he was to bring off his joke against
Lucia, and make her think that he meant to settle in London.  And
after all, since everybody seemed so sorry that (as they imagined)
he was soon to leave Tilling, they ought to be very much pleased to
find that he was doing nothing of the kind.

The guests dispersed soon after lunch and Georgie, full of mischief
and naughtiness, lingered with his hostess in the garden-room.  All
her gimlet glances during lunch had failed to fathom his high good
humour: here was he on the eve of parting with his Foljambe and
herself, and yet his face beamed with content.  Lucia was in very
good spirits also, for she had seen Elizabeth's brow grow more and
more furrowed as she strove to find a formula for the lobster.

'What a lovely luncheon-party, although I got no lobster at all,'
said Georgie, as he settled himself for his teasing.  'I did enjoy
it.  And Elizabeth's rapture at your stopping here!  She must have
an awful blister on her tongue.'

Lucia sighed.

'Sapphira must look to her laurels, poor thing,' she observed
pensively.  'And how sorry they all were that you are going away.'

'Wasn't it nice of them?' said Georgie.  'But never mind that now:
I've got something wonderful to tell you.  I've never felt happier
in my life, for the thing I've wanted for so many years can be
managed at last.  You will be pleased for my sake.'

Lucia laid a sympathetic hand on his.  She felt that she had shown
too little sympathy with one who was to lose his parlourmaid and
his oldest friend so soon.  But the gaiety with which he bore his
double stroke was puzzling . . .

'Dear Georgie,' she said, 'anything that makes you happy makes me
happy.  I am rejoiced that something of the sort has occurred.
Really rejoiced.  Tell me what it is instantly.'

Georgie drew a long breath.  He wanted to give it out all in a
burst of triumph like a fanfare.

'Too lovely,' he said.  'Colonel Cresswell has bought my house at
Riseholme--such a good price--and now at last I shall be able to
settle in London.  I was just as tired of Riseholme as you, and now
I shall never see it again or Tilling either.  Isn't it a dream?
Riseholme, stuffy little Mallards Cottage, all things of the past!
I shall have a nice little home in London, and you must promise to
come up and stay with me sometimes.  How I looked forward to
telling you!  Orchestral concerts at Queen's Hall, instead of our
fumbling little arrangements of Mozartino for four hands.
Pictures, a club if I can afford it, and how nice to think of you
so happy down at Tilling!  As for all the fuss I made yesterday
about losing Foljambe, I can't think why it seemed to me so
terrible.'

Lucia gave him one more gimlet glance, and found she did not
believe a single word he was saying except as regards the sale of
his house at Riseholme.  All the rest must be lies, for the
Foljambe-wound could not possibly have healed so soon.  But she
instantly made up her mind to pretend to believe him, and clapped
her hands for pleasure.

'Dear Georgie!  What splendid news!' she said.  'I am pleased.
I've always felt that you, with all your keenness and multifarious
interests in life, were throwing your life away in these little
backwaters like Riseholme and Tilling.  London is the only place
for you!  Now, tell me:  Are you going to get a flat or a house?
And where is it to be?  If I were you I should have a house!'

This was not quite what Georgie had expected.  He had thought that
Lucia would suggest that now that he was quit of Riseholme he
positively must come to Tilling, but not only did she fail to do
that, but she seemed delighted that no such thought had entered
into his head.

'I haven't really thought about that yet,' he said.  'There's
something to be said for a flat.'

'No doubt.  It's more compact, and then there's no bother about
rates and taxes.  And you'll have your car, I suppose.  And will
your cook go with you?  What does she say to it all?'

'I haven't told her yet,' said Georgie, beginning to get a little
pensive.

'Really?  I should have thought you would have done that at once.
And isn't Foljambe pleased that you are so happy again?'

'She doesn't know yet,' said Georgie.  'I thought I would tell you
first.'

'Dear Georgie, how sweet of you,' said Lucia.  'I'm sure Foljambe
will be as pleased as I am.  You'll be going up to London, I
suppose, constantly now till the end of this month, so that you can
get your house or your flat, whichever it is, ready as soon as
possible.  How busy you and I will be, you settling into London and
I into Tilling.  Do you know, supposing you had thought of living
permanently here, now that you've got rid of your house at
Riseholme, I should have done my best to persuade you not to,
though I know in my selfishness that I did suggest that yesterday.
But it would never do, Georgie.  It's all very well for elderly
women like me, who just want a little peace and quietness, or for
retired men like Major Benjy or for dilettantes like Mr Wyse, but
for you, a thousand times no.  I am sure of it.'

Georgie got thoughtfuller and thoughtfuller.  It had been rather a
mistake to try to tease Lucia, for so far from being teased she was
simply pleased.  The longer she went on like this, and there seemed
no end to her expressions of approval, the harder it would be to
tell her.

'Do you really think that?' he said.

'Indeed I do.  You would soon be terribly bored with Tilling.  Oh,
Georgie, I am so pleased with your good fortune and your good
sense.  I wonder if the agents here have got any houses or flats in
London on their books.  Let's go down there at once and see.  We
might find something.  I'll run and put on my hat.'

Georgie threw in his hand.  As usual Lucia had come out on top.

'You're too tarsome,' he said.  'You don't believe a single word
I've been telling you of my plans.'

'My dear, of course I don't,' said Lucia brightly.  'I never heard
such a pack of rubbish.  Ananias is not in it.  But it is true
about selling your Riseholme house, I hope?'

'Yes, that part is,' said Georgie.

'Then of course you're going to live here,' said she.  'I meant you
to do that all along.  Now how about Mallards Cottage?  I saw that
Yahoo in the High Street this morning, and she told me she wanted
to let it for the winter.  Let's go down to the agents' as I
suggested, and see.'

'I've done that already,' said Georgie, 'for I met her too, and she
nearly knocked me down.  I've got a five years' lease of it.'

It was not in Lucia's nature to crow over anybody.  She proved her
quality and passed on to something else.

'Perfect!' she said.  'It has all come out just as I planned, so
that's all right.  Now, if you've got nothing to do, let us have
some music.'

She got out the new Mozart which she had been practising.

'This looks a lovely duet,' she said, 'and we haven't tried it yet.
I shall be terribly rusty, for all the time I had influenza, I
hardly dared to play the piano at all.'

Georgie looked at the new Mozart.

'It does look nice,' he said.  'Tum-ti-tum.  Why, that's the one I
heard you practising so busily yesterday morning.'

Lucia took not the slightest notice of this.

'We begin together,' she said, 'on the third beat.  Now . . .  Uno,
due, TRE!'



8


The painting and decorating of Grebe began at once.  Irene offered
to do all the painting with her own hands, and recommended as a
scheme for the music-room, a black ceiling and four walls of
different colours, vermilion, emerald green, ultramarine and
yellow.  It would take a couple of months or so to execute, and the
cost would be considerable as lapis lazuli must certainly be used
for the ultramarine wall, but she assured Lucia that the result
would be unique and marvellously stimulating to the eye, especially
if she would add a magenta carpet and a nickel-plated mantelpiece.

'It sounds too lovely, dear,' said Lucia, contemplating the sample
of colours which Irene submitted to her, 'but I feel sure I shan't
be able to afford it.  Such a pity!  Those beautiful hues!'

Then Irene besought her to introduce a little variety into the
shape of the windows.  It would be amusing to have one window egg-
shaped, and another triangular, and another with five or six or
seven irregular sides, so that it looked as if it was a hole in the
wall made by a shell.  Or how about a front door that, instead of
opening sideways, let down like a portcullis?

Irene rose to more daring conceptions yet.  One night she had dined
on a pot of strawberry jam and half a pint of very potent
cocktails, because she wanted her eye for colour to be at its
keenest round about eleven o'clock when the moon would rise over
the marsh, and she hoped to put the lid for ever on Whistler's
naïve old-fashioned attempts to paint moonlight.  After this
salubrious meal she had come round to Mallards, waiting for the
moon to rise and sat for half an hour at Lucia's piano, striking
random chords, and asking Lucia what colour they were.  These
musical rainbows suggested a wonderful idea, and she shut down the
piano with a splendid purple bang.

'Darling, I've got a new scheme for Grebe,' she said.  'I want you
to furnish a room sideways, if you understand what I mean.'

'I don't think I do,' said Lucia.

'Why, like this,' said Irene very thoughtfully.  'You would open
the door of the room and find you were walking about on wallpaper
with pictures hanging on it.  (I'll do the pictures for you.)  Then
one side of the room where the window is would be whitewashed as if
it was a ceiling and the window would be the skylight.  The
opposite side would be the floor; and you would have the furniture
screwed on to it.  The other walls, including the one which would
be the ceiling in an ordinary room, would be covered with wallpaper
and more pictures and a book-case.  It would all be sideways, you
see: you'd enter through the wall, and the room would be at right
angles to you; ceiling on the left, floor on the right, or vice
versa.  It would give you a perfectly new perception of the world.
You would see everything from a new angle, which is what we want so
much in life nowadays.  Don't you think so?'

Irene's speech was distinct and clear cut, she walked up and down
the garden-room with a firm unwavering step, and Lucia put from her
the uneasy suspicion that her dinner had gone to her head.

'It would be most delightful,' she said, 'but slightly too
experimental for me.'

'And then, you see,' continued Irene, 'how useful it would be if
somebody tipsy came in.  It would make him sober at once, for tipsy
people see everything crooked, and so your sideways-room, being
crooked, would appear to him straight, and so he would be himself
again.  Just like that.'

'That would be splendid,' said Lucia, 'but I can't provide a room
where tipsy people could feel sober again.  The house isn't big
enough.'

Irene sat down by her, and passionately clasped one of her hands.

'Lucia, you're too adorable,' she said.  'Nothing defeats you.
I've been talking the most abject nonsense, though I do think that
there may be something in it, and you remain as calm as the moon
which I hope will rise over the marsh before long, unless the
almanack in which I looked it out is last year's.  Don't tell
anybody else about the sideways-room, will you, or they might think
I was drunk.  Let it be our secret, darling.'

Lucia wondered for a moment if she ought to allow Irene to spend
the night on the marsh, but she was perfectly capable of coherent
speech and controlled movements, and possibly the open air might do
her good.

'Not a soul shall know, dear,' she said.  'And now if you're really
going to paint the moon, you had better start.  You feel quite sure
you can manage it, don't you?'

'Of course I can manage the moon,' said Irene stoutly.  'I've
managed it lots of times.  I wish you would come with me.  I always
hate leaving you.  Or shall I stop here, and paint you instead?  Or
do you think Georgie would come?  What a lamb, isn't he?  Pass the
mint-sauce please, or shall I go home?'

'Perhaps that would be best,' said Lucia.  'Paint the moon another
night.'


Lucia next day hurried up the firm to which she had entrusted the
decoration of Grebe, in case Irene had some new schemes, and half-
way through November, the house was ready to receive her furniture
from Riseholme.  Georgie simultaneously was settling into Mallards
Cottage, and in the course of it went through a crisis of the most
agitating kind.  Isabel had assured him that by noon on a certain
day men would arrive to take her furniture to the repository where
it was to be stored, and as the vans with his effects from
Riseholme had arrived in Tilling the night before, he induced the
foreman to begin moving everything out of the house at nine next
morning and bring his furniture in.  This was done, and by noon all
Isabel's tables and chairs and beds and crockery were standing out
in the street ready for her van.  They completely blocked it for
wheeled traffic, though pedestrians could manage to squeeze by in
single file.  Tilling did not mind this little inconvenience in the
least, for it was all so interesting, and tradesmen's carts coming
down the street were cheerfully backed into the churchyard again
and turned round in order to make a more circuitous route, and
those coming up were equally obliging, while foot-passengers,
thrilled with having the entire contents of a house exposed for
their inspection, were unable to tear themselves away from so
intimate an exhibition.  Then Georgie's furniture was moved in, and
there were dazzling and fascinating objects for inspection,
pictures that he had painted, screens and bedspreads that he had
worked, very pretty woollen pyjamas for the winter and embroidered
covers for hot-water bottles.  These millineries roused Major
Benjy's manliest indignation, and he was nearly late for the tram
to take him out to play golf, for he could not tear himself away
from the revolting sight.  In a few hours Georgie's effects had
passed into the house, but still there was no sign of anyone coming
to remove Isabel's from the street, and, by dint of telephoning, it
was discovered that she had forgotten to give any order at all
about them, and the men from the repository were out on other jobs.
It then began to rain rather heavily, and though Georgie called
heaven and earth to witness that all this muddle was not his fault
he felt compelled, out of mere human compassion, to have Isabel's
furniture moved back into his house again.  In consequence the
rooms and passages on the ground floor were completely blocked with
stacks of cupboards and tables piled high with books and crockery
and saucepans, the front door would not shut, and Foljambe, caught
upstairs by the rising tide, could not come down.  The climax of
intensity arrived when she let down a string from an upper window,
and Georgie's cook attached a small basket of nourishing food to
it.  Diva was terribly late for lunch at the Wyses, for she was
rooted to the spot, though it was raining heavily, till she was
sure that Foljambe would not be starved.

But by the time that the month of November was over, the houses of
the new-comers were ready to receive them, and a general post of
owners back to their homes took place after a remunerative let of
four months.  Elizabeth returned to Mallards from Wasters, bringing
with her, in addition to what she had taken there, a cargo of
preserves made from Diva's garden of such bulk that Coplen had to
make two journeys with her large wheelbarrow.  Diva returned to
Wasters from Taormina, quaint Irene came back to Taormina from the
labourer's cottage with a handcart laden with striking canvases
including that of the women wrestlers who had become men, and the
labourer and his family were free to trek to their own abode from
the hop-picker's shanty which they had inhabited so much longer
than they had intended.

There followed several extremely busy days for most of the
returning emigrants.  Elizabeth in particular was occupied from
morning till night in scrutinizing every corner of Mallards and
making out a list of dilapidations against Lucia.  There was a
teacup missing, the men who removed Lucia's hired piano from the
garden-room had scraped a large piece of paint off the wall, Lucia
had forgotten to replace dearest mamma's piano which still stood in
the telephone-room, and there was no sign of a certain egg-whisk.
Simultaneously Diva was preparing a similar list for Elizabeth
which would astonish her, but was pleased to find that the tenant
had left an egg-whisk behind; while the wife of the labourer, not
being instructed in dilapidations, was removing from the
whitewashed wall of her cottage the fresco which Irene had painted
there in her spare moments.  It wasn't fit to be seen, that it
wasn't, but a scrubbing-brush and some hot water made short work of
all those naked people.  Irene, for her part, was frantically
searching among her canvases for a picture of Adam and Eve with
quantities of the sons of God shouting for joy: an important work.
Perhaps she had left it at the cottage, and then remembering that
she had painted it on the wall, she hurried off there in order to
varnish it against the inclemencies of weather.  But it was already
too late, for the last of the sons of God was even then
disappearing under the strokes of the scrubbing-brush.

Gradually, though not at once, these claims and counterclaims were
(with the exception of the fresco) adjusted to the general
dissatisfaction.  Lucia acknowledged the charge for the re-
establishment of dearest mamma's piano in the garden-room, but her
cook very distinctly remembered that on the day when Miss Mapp
tried to bribe her to impart the secret of lobster à la Riseholme,
she took away the egg-whisk, which had formed the gambit of Miss
Mapp's vain attempt to corrupt her.  So Lucia reminded Elizabeth
that not very long ago she had called at the back door of Mallards
and had taken it away herself.  Her cook believed that it was in
two if not three pieces.  So Miss Mapp, having made certain it had
not got put by mistake among the pots of preserves she had brought
from Wasters, went to see if she had left it there, and found not
it alone, but a preposterous list of claims against her from Diva.
But by degrees these billows, which were of annual occurrence,
subsided, and apart from Elizabeth's chronic grievance against
Lucia for her hoarding the secret of the lobster, they and other
differences in the past faded away and Tilling was at leisure to
turn its attention again to the hardly more important problems and
perplexities of life and the menaces that might have to be met in
the future.


Elizabeth, on this morning of mid-December, was quite settled into
Mallards again, egg-whisk and all, and the window of her garden-
room was being once more used by the rightful owner for the purpose
of taking observations.  It had always been a highly strategic
position; it commanded, for instance, a perfect view of the front
door of Taormina, which at the present moment quaint Irene was
painting in stripes of salmon pink and azure.  She had tried to
reproduce the lost fresco on it, but there had been earnest
remonstrances from the Padre, and also the panels on the door broke
it up and made it an unsuitable surface for such a cartoon.  She
therefore was contenting herself with brightening it up.  Then
Elizabeth could see the mouth of Porpoise Street and register
all the journeys of the Royce.  These, after a fortnight's
intermission, had become frequent again, for the Wyses had just
come back from 'visiting friends in Devonshire', and though
Elizabeth had strong reason to suspect that friends in Devonshire
denoted nothing more than an hotel in Torquay, they had certainly
taken the Royce with them, and during its absence the streets of
Tilling had been far more convenient for traffic.  Then there was
Major Benjy's house as before, under her very eye, and now Mallards
Cottage as well was a point that demanded frequent scrutiny.  She
had never cared what that distraught Isabel Poppit did, but with
Georgie there it was different, and neither Major Benjy nor he (nor
anybody else visiting them) could go in or out of either house
without instant detection.  The two most important men in Tilling,
in fact, were powerless to evade her observation.

Nothing particular was happening at the moment, and Elizabeth was
making a mental retrospect rather as if she was the King preparing
his speech for the opening of Parliament.  Her relations with
foreign powers were excellent, and though during the last six
months there had been disquieting incidents, there was nothing
immediately threatening . . .  Then round the corner of the High
Street came Lucia's car and the King's speech was put aside.

The car stopped at Taormina.  Quaint Irene instantly put down her
painting paraphernalia on the pavement, and stood talking into the
window of the car for quite a long time.  Clearly therefore Lucia,
though invisible, was inside it.  Eventually Irene leaned her head
forward into the car, exactly as if she was kissing something, and
stepping back again upset one of her paint-pots.  This was
pleasant, but not of first-rate importance compared with what the
car would do next.  It turned down into Porpoise Street: naturally
there was no telling for certain what happened to it there, for it
was out of sight, but a tyro could conjecture that it had business
at the Wyses', even if he had been so deaf as not to hear the
clanging of that front-door bell.  Then it came backing out again,
went through the usual manoeuvres of turning, and next stopped at
Major Benjy's.  Lucia was still invisible, but Cadman got down and
delivered a note.  The tyro could therefore conjecture by this time
that invitations were coming from Grebe.

She slid her chair a little farther back behind the curtain,
feeling sure that the car would stop next at her own door.  But it
turned the corner below the window without drawing up, and
Elizabeth got a fleeting glance into the interior, where Lucia was
sitting with a large book open in her lap.  Next it stopped at
Mallards Cottage: no note was delivered there, but Cadman rang the
bell, and presently Georgie came out.  Like Irene, he talked for
quite a long time into the window of the car, but, unlike her, did
not kiss anything at the conclusion of the interview.  The
situation was therefore perfectly clear: Lucia had asked Irene
and Major Benjy and Georgie and probably the Wyses to some
entertainment, no doubt the house-warming of which there had been
rumours, but had not asked her.  Very well.  The relations with
foreign powers therefore had suddenly become far from satisfactory.

Elizabeth quitted her seat in the window, for she had observed
enough to supply her with plenty of food for thought, and went
back, in perfect self-control, to the inspection of her household
books; adding up figures was a purely mechanical matter, which
allowed the intenser emotions full play.  Georgie would be coming
in here presently, for he was painting a sketch of the interior of
the garden-room; this was to be his Christmas present to Lucia (a
surprise, about which she was to know nothing), to remind her of
the happy days she had spent in it.  He usually left his sketch
here, for it was not worth while to take it backwards and forwards,
and there it stood, propped up on the bookcase.  He had first tried
an Irene-ish technique, but he had been obliged to abandon that,
since the garden-room with this handling persisted in looking like
Paddington Station in a fog, and he had gone back to the style he
knew, in which book-cases, chairs and curtains were easily
recognizable.  It needed a few mornings' work yet, and now the idea
of destroying it, and, when he arrived, of telling him that she was
quite sure he had taken it back with him yesterday darted unbidden
into Elizabeth's mind.  But she rejected it, though it would have
been pleasant to deprive Lucia of her Christmas present . . . and
she did not believe for a moment that she had ordered a dozen eggs
on Tuesday and a dozen more on Thursday.  The butcher's bill seemed
to be correct, though extortionate, and she must find out as soon
as possible whether the Padre and his wife and Diva were asked to
Grebe too.  If they were--but she banished the thought of what was
to be done if they were: it was difficult enough to know what to do
even if they weren't.

The books were quickly done, and Elizabeth went back to finish
reading the morning paper in the window.  Just as she got there
Georgie, with his little cape over his shoulders and his paint-box
in his hand, came stepping briskly along from Mallards Cottage.
Simultaneously Lucia's great bumping car returned round the corner
by the churchyard, in the direction of Mallards.

An inspiration of purest ray serene seized Elizabeth.  She waited
till Georgie had rung the front-door bell, at which psychological
moment Lucia's car was straight below the window.  Without a
second's hesitation Elizabeth threw up the sash, and, without
appearing to see Lucia at all, called out to Georgie in a high
cheerful voice, using baby-language.

''Oo is very naughty boy, Georgie!' she cried.  'Never ring
Elizabeth's belly-pelly.  'Oo walk straight in always, and sing out
for her.  There's no chain up.'

Georgie looked round in amazement.  Never had Elizabeth called him
Georgie before, or talked to him in the language consecrated for
his use and Lucia's.  And there was Lucia's car close to him.  She
must have heard this affectionate welcome, and what would she
think?  But there was nothing to do but to go in.

Still without seeing (far less cutting) Lucia, Elizabeth closed the
window again, positively dazzled by her own brilliance.  An hour's
concentrated thought could not have suggested to her anything that
Lucia would dislike more thoroughly than hearing that gay little
speech, which parodied her and revealed such playful intimacy with
Georgie.  Georgie came straight out to the garden-room, saying
'Elizabeth, Elizabeth' to himself below his breath, in order to get
used to it, for he must return this token of friendship in kind.

'Good morning, Elizabeth,' he said firmly (and the worst was over
until such time as he had to say it again in Lucia's presence).

'Good morning, Georgie,' she said by way of confirmation.  'What a
lovely light for your painting this morning.  Here it is ready for
you, and Withers will bring you out your glass of water.  How
you've caught the feel of my dear little room!'

Another glance out of the window as she brought him his sketch was
necessary, and she gasped.  There was Cadman on the doorstep just
handing Withers a note.  In another minute she came into the garden-
room.

'From Mrs Lucas,' she said.  'She forgot to leave it when she went
by before.'

'That's about the house-warming, I'm sure,' said Georgie, getting
his paint-box ready.

What was done, was done, and there was no use in thinking about
that.  Elizabeth tore the note open.

'A house-warming?' she said.  'Dear Lucia!  What a treat that will
be.  Yes, you're quite right.'

'She's sending her car up for the Padre and his wife and Irene and
Mrs Plaistow,' said Georgie, 'and asked me just now if I would
bring you and Major Benjy.  Naturally I will.'

Elizabeth's brilliant speech out of the window had assumed the
aspect of a gratuitous act of war.  But she could not have guessed
that Lucia had merely forgotten to leave her invitation.  The most
charitable would have assumed that there was no invitation to
leave.

'How kind of you!' she said.  'To-morrow night, isn't it?  Rather
short notice.  I must see if I'm disengaged.'

As Lucia had asked the whole of the élite of Tilling, this proved
to be the case.  But Elizabeth still pondered as to whether she
should accept or not.  She had committed one unfriendly act in
talking baby-language to Georgie, with a pointed allusion to the
door-chain, literally over Lucia's head, and it was a question
whether, having done that, it would not be wise to commit another
(while Lucia, it might be guessed, was still staggering) by
refusing to go to the house-warming.  She did not doubt that there
would be war before long: the only question was if she was ready
now.

As she was pondering Withers came in to say that Major Benjy had
called.  He would not come out into the garden-room, but he would
like to speak to her a minute.

'Evidently he has heard that Georgie is here,' thought Elizabeth to
herself as she hurried into the house.  'Dear me, how men quarrel
with each other, and I only want to be on good terms with
everybody.  No doubt he wants to know if I'm going to the house-
warming--Good morning, Major Benjy.'

'Thought I wouldn't come out,' said this bluff fellow, 'as I heard
your Miss Milliner Michael-Angelo, ha, was with you--'

'Oh Major Benjy, fie!' said Elizabeth.  'Cruel of you.'

'Well, leave it at that.  Now about this party to-morrow.  I think
I shall make a stand straight away, for I'm not going to spend the
whole of the winter evenings tramping through the mud to Grebe.  To
be sure it's dinner this time, which makes a difference.'

Elizabeth found that she longed to see what Lucia had made of
Grebe, and what she had made of her speech from the window.

'I quite agree in principle,' she said, 'but a house-warming, you
know.  Perhaps it wouldn't be kind to refuse.  Besides, Georgie--'

'Eh?' said the Major.

'Mr Pillson, I mean,' said Elizabeth, hastily correcting herself,
'has offered to drive us both down.'

'And back?' asked he suspiciously.

'Of course.  So just for once, shall we?'

'Very good.  But none of those after-dinner musicals, or lessons in
bridge for me.'

'Oh, Major Benjy!' said Elizabeth.  'How can you talk so?  As if
poor Lucia would attempt to teach YOU bridge.'

This could be taken in two ways, one interpretation would read that
he was incapable of learning, the other that Lucia was incapable of
teaching.  He took the more obvious one.

'Upon my soul she did, at the last game I had with her,' said he.
'Laid out the last three tricks and told me how to play them.
Beyond a joke.  Well, I won't keep you from your dressmaker.'

'O fie!' said Elizabeth again.  'Au reservoir.'


Lucia, meantime, had driven back to Grebe with that mocking voice
still ringing in her ears, and a series of most unpleasant images,
like some diabolical film, displaying themselves before her inward
eye.  Most probably Elizabeth had seen her when she called out to
Georgie like that, and was intentionally insulting her.  Such
conduct called for immediate reprisals and she must presently begin
to think these out.  But the alternative, possible though not
probable, that Elizabeth had not seen her, was infinitely more
wounding, for it implied that Georgie was guilty of treacheries too
black to bear looking at.  Privately, when she herself was not
present, he was on Christian-name terms with that woman, and
permitted and enjoyed her obvious mimicry of herself.  And what was
Georgie doing popping in to Mallards like this, and being scolded
in baby-voice for ringing the bell instead of letting himself in,
with allusions of an absolutely unmistakable kind to that episode
about the chain?  Did they laugh over that together: did Georgie
poke fun at his oldest friend behind her back?  Lucia positively
writhed at the thought.  In any case, whether or not he was guilty
of this monstrous infidelity, he must be in the habit of going into
Mallards, and now she remembered that he had his paint-box in his
hand.  Clearly then he was going there to paint, and in all their
talks when he so constantly told her what he had been doing, he had
never breathed a word of that.  Perhaps he was painting Elizabeth,
for in this winter weather he could never be painting in the
garden.  Just now too, when she called at Mallards Cottage, and
they had had a talk together, he had refused to go out and drive
with her, because he had some little jobs to do indoors, and the
moment he had got rid of her--no less than that--he had hurried off
to Mallards with his paint-box.  With all this evidence, things
looked very dark indeed, and the worst and most wounding of these
two alternatives began to assume probability.

Georgie was coming to tea with her that afternoon, and she must
find out what the truth of the matter was.  But she could not
imagine herself saying to him:  'Does she really call you Georgie,
and does she imitate me behind my back, and are you painting her?'
Pride absolutely forbade that: such humiliating inquiries would
choke her.  Should she show him an icy aloof demeanour, until he
asked her if anything was the matter?  But that wouldn't do, for
either she must say that nothing was the matter, which would not
help, or she must tell him what the matter was, which was
impossible.  She must behave to him exactly as usual, and he would
probably do the same.  'So how am I to find out?' said the
bewildered Lucia quite aloud.

Another extremely uncomfortable person in tranquil Tilling that
morning was Georgie himself.  As he painted this sketch of the
garden-room for Lucia, with Elizabeth busying herself with dusting
her piano and bringing in chrysanthemums from her greenhouse, and
making bright little sarcasms about Diva who was in ill odour just
now, there painted itself in his mind, in colours growing ever more
vivid, a most ominous picture of Lucia.  If he knew her at all, and
he was sure he did, she would say nothing whatever about that
disconcerting scene on the doorstep.  Awkward as it would be, he
would be obliged to protest his innocence, and denounce Elizabeth.
Most disagreeable, and who could foresee the consequences?  For
Lucia (if he knew her) would see red, and there would be war.
Bloody war of the most devastating sort.  'But it will be rather
exciting too,' thought he, 'and I back Lucia.'

Georgie could not wait for tea-time, but set forth on his
uncomfortable errand soon after lunch.  Lucia had seen him coming
up the garden, and abandoned her musings and sat down hastily at
the piano.  Instantly on his entry she sprang up again, and plunged
into mixed Italian and baby-talk.

'Ben arrivato, Georgino,' she cried.  'How early you are, and so we
can have cosy ickle chat-chat before tea.  Any newsy-pewsy?'

Georgie took the plunge.

'Yes,' he said.

'Tell Lucia, presto.  'Oo think me like it?'

'It'll interest you,' said Georgie guardedly.  'Now!  When I was
standing on Mallards doorstep this morning, did you hear what that
old witch called to me out of the garden-room window?'

Lucia could not repress a sigh of relief.  The worst could not be
true.  Then she became herself again.

'Let me see now!' she said.  'Yes.  I think I did.  She called you
Georgie, didn't she: she scolded you for ringing.  Something of
that sort.'

'Yes.  And she talked baby-talk like you and me,' interrupted
Georgie, 'and she said the door wasn't on the chain.  I want to
tell you straight off that she never called me Georgie before, and
that we've never talked baby-talk together in my life.  I owe it to
myself to tell you that.'

Lucia turned her piercing eye on to Georgie.  There seemed to be a
sparkle in it that boded ill for somebody.

'And you think she saw me, Georgie?' she asked.

'Of course she did.  Your car was directly below her window.'

'I am afraid there is no doubt about it,' said Lucia.  'Her
remarks, therefore, seem to have been directed at me.  A singularly
ill-bred person.  There's one thing more.  You were taking your
paint-box with you--'

'Oh, that's all right,' said he.  'I'm doing a sketch of the garden-
room.  You'll know about that in time.  And what are you going to
do?' he asked greedily.

Lucia laughed in her most musical manner.

'Well, first of all I shall give her a very good dinner tomorrow,
as she has not had the decency to say she was engaged.  She
telephoned to me just now telling me what a joy it would be, and
how she was looking forward to it.  And mind you call her
Elizabeth.'

'I've done that already,' said Georgie proudly.  'I practised
saying it to myself.'

'Good.  She dines here then to-morrow night, and I shall be her
hostess and shall make the evening as pleasant as I can to all my
guests.  But apart from that, Georgie, I shall take steps to teach
her manners if she's not too old to learn.  She will be sorry; she
will wish she had not been so rude.  And I can't see any objection
to our other friends in Tilling knowing what occurred this morning,
if you feel inclined to speak of it.  I shan't, but there's no
reason why you shouldn't.'

'Hurrah, I'm dining with the Wyses to-night,' said Georgie.
'They'll soon know.'

Lucia knitted her brows in profound thought.

'And then there's that incident about our pictures, yours and mine,
being rejected by the hanging committee of the Art Club,' said she.
'We have both kept the forms we received saying that they regretted
having to return them, and I think, Georgie, that while you are on
the subject of Elizabeth Mapp, you might show yours to Mr Wyse.  He
is a member, so is Susan, of the committee, and I think they have a
right to know that our pictures were rejected on official forms
without ever coming before the committee at all.  I behaved towards
our poor friend with a magnanimity that now appears to me
excessive, and since she does not appreciate magnanimity we will
try her with something else.  That would not be amiss.'  Lucia
rose.

'And now let us leave this very disagreeable subject for the
present,' she said, 'and take the taste of it out of our mouths
with a little music.  Beethoven, noble Beethoven, don't you think?
The fifth symphony, Georgie, for four hands.  Fate knocking at the
door.'

Georgie rather thought that Lucia smacked her lips as she said,
'this very disagreeable subject', but he was not certain, and
presently Fate was knocking at the door with Lucia's firm fingers,
for she took the treble.

They had a nice long practice, and when it was time to go home
Lucia detained him.

'I've got one thing to say to you, Georgie,' she said, 'though not
about that paltry subject.  I've sold the Hurst, I've bought this
new property, and so I've made a new will.  I've left Grebe and all
it contains to you, and also, well, a little sum of money.  I
should like you to know that.'

Georgie was much touched.

'My dear, how wonderful of you,' he said.  'But I hope it will be
ages and ages before--'

'So do I, Georgie,' she said in her most sincere manner.

Tilling had known tensions before and would doubtless know them
again.  Often it had been on a very agreeable rack of suspense, as
when, for instance, it had believed (or striven to believe) that
Major Benjy might be fighting a duel with that old crony of his,
Captain Puffin, lately deceased.  Now there was a suspense of a
more intimate quality (for nobody would have cared at all if
Captain Puffin had been killed, nor much, if Major Benjy), for it
was as if the innermost social guts of Tilling were attached to
some relentless windlass, which, at any moment now, might be wound,
but not relaxed.  The High Street next morning, therefore, was the
scene of almost painful excitement.  The Wyses' Royce, with Susan
smothered in sables, went up and down, until she was practically
certain that she had told everybody that she and Algernon had
retired from the hanging committee of the Art Club, pending
explanations which they had requested Miss (no longer Elizabeth)
Mapp to furnish, but which they had no hope of receiving.  Susan
was perfectly explicit about the cause of this step, and Algernon
who, at a very early hour, had interviewed the errand-boy at the
frame-shop, was by her side, to corroborate all she said.  His high-
bred reticence, indeed, had been even more weighty than Susan's
volubility.  'I am afraid it is all too true,' was all that could
be got out of him.  Two hours had now elapsed since their
resignations had been sent in, and still no reply had come from
Mallards.

But that situation was but an insignificant fraction of the
prevalent suspense, for the exhibition had been open and closed
months before, and if Tilling was to make a practice of listening
to such posthumous revelations, life would cease to have any
poignant interest, but be wholly occupied in retrospective
retributions.  Thrilling therefore as was the past, as revealed by
the stern occupants of the Royce, what had happened only yesterday
on the doorstep of Mallards was far more engrossing.  The story of
that, by 11.30 a.m., already contained several remarkable variants.
The Padre affirmed that Georgie had essayed to enter Mallards
without knocking, and that Miss Mapp (the tendency to call her Miss
Mapp was spreading) had seen Lucia in her motor just below the
window of the garden-room, and had called out 'Turn in, Georgino
mio, no tarsome chains now that Elizabeth has got back to her own
housie-pousie.'  Diva had reason to believe that Elizabeth (she
still stuck to that) had not seen Lucia in her motor, and had
called out of the window to Georgie 'Ring the belly-pelly, dear,
for I'm afraid the chain is on the door.'  Mrs Bartlett (she was no
use at all) said, 'All so distressing and exciting and Christmas
Day next week, and very little good will, oh dear me!'  Irene had
said, 'That old witch will get what for.'

Again, it was known that Major Benjy had called at Mallards soon
after the scene, whatever it was, had taken place, and had refused
to go into the garden-room, when he heard that Georgie was painting
Elizabeth's portrait.  Withers was witness (she had brought several
pots of jam to Diva's house that morning, not vegetable marrow at
all, but raspberry, which looked like a bribe) that the Major had
said 'Faugh!' when she told him that Georgie was there.  Major
Benjy himself could not be cross-examined because he had gone out
by the eleven o'clock tram to play golf.  Lucia had not been seen
in the High Street at all, nor had Miss Mapp, and Georgie had only
passed through it in his car, quite early, going in the direction
of Grebe.  This absence of the principals, in these earlier stages
of development, was felt to be in accordance with the highest rules
of dramatic technique, and everybody, as far as was known, was to
meet that very night at Lucia's house-warming.  Opinion as to what
would happen then was as divergent as the rumours of what had
happened already.  Some said that Miss Mapp had declined the
invitation on the plea that she was engaged to dine with Major
Benjy.  This was unlikely, because he never had anybody to dinner.
Some said that she had accepted, and that Lucia no doubt intended
to send out a message that she was not expected, but that Georgie's
car would take her home again.  So sorry.  All this, however, was a
matter of pure conjecture, and it was work enough to sift out what
had happened, without wasting time (for time was precious) in
guessing what would happen.

The church clock had hardly struck half-past eleven (winter time)
before the first of the principals appeared on the stage of the
High Street.  This was Miss Mapp, wreathed in smiles, and occupied
in her usual shopping errands.  She trotted about from grocer to
butcher, and butcher to general stores, where she bought a mouse-
trap, and was exceedingly affable to tradespeople.  She nodded to
her friends, she patted Mr Woolgar's dog on the head, she gave a
penny to a ragged individual with a lugubrious baritone voice who
was singing 'The Last Rose of Summer', and said 'Thank you for your
sweet music.'  Then after pausing for a moment on the pavement in
front of Wasters, she rang the bell.  Diva, who had seen her from
the window, flew to open it.

'Good morning, Diva dear,' she said.  'I just looked in.  Any
news?'

'Good gracious, it's I who ought to ask you that,' said Diva.
'What DID happen really?'

Elizabeth looked very much surprised.

'How?  When?  Where?' she asked.

'As if you didn't know,' said Diva, fizzing with impatience.  'Mr
Georgie, Lucia, paint-boxes, no chain on the door, you at the
garden-room window, belly-pelly.  Etcetera.  Yesterday morning.'

Elizabeth put her finger to her forehead, as if trying to recall
some dim impression.  She appeared to succeed.

'Dear gossipy one,' she said, 'I believe I know what you mean.
Georgie came to paint in the garden-room, as he so often does--'

'Do you call him Georgie?' asked Diva in an eager parenthesis.

'Yes, I fancy that's his name, and he calls me Elizabeth.'

'No!' said Diva.

'Yes,' said Elizabeth.  'Do not interrupt me, dear . . .  I
happened to be at the window as he rang the bell, and I just popped
my head out, and told him he was a naughty boy not to walk straight
in.'

'In baby-talk?' asked Diva.  'Like Lucia?'

'Like any baby you chance to mention,' said Elizabeth.  'Why not?'

'But with her sitting in her car just below?'

'Yes, dear, it so happened that she was just coming to leave an
invitation on me for her house-warming tonight.  Are you going?'

'Yes, of course, everybody is.  But how could you do it?'

Elizabeth sat wrapped in thought.

'I'm beginning to see what you mean,' she said at length.  'But
what an absurd notion.  You mean, don't you, that dear Lulu thinks--
goodness, how ridiculous--that I was mimicking her.'

'Nobody knows what she thinks,' said Diva.  'She's not been seen
this morning.'

'But gracious goodness me, what have I done?' asked Elizabeth.
'Why this excitement?  Is there a law that only Mrs Lucas of Grebe
may call Georgie, Georgie?  So ignorant of me if there is.  Ought I
to call him Frederick?  And pray, why shouldn't I talk baby-talk?
Another law perhaps.  I must get a book of the laws of England.'

'But you knew she was in the car just below you and must have
heard.'

Elizabeth was now in possession of what she wanted to know.  Diva
was quite a decent barometer of Tilling weather, and the weather
was stormy.

'Rubbish, darling,' she said.  'You are making mountains out of
mole-hills.  If Lulu heard--and I don't know that she did, mind--
what cause of complaint has she?  Mayn't I say Georgie?  Mayn't I
say "vewy naughty boy"?  Let us hear no more about it.  You will
see this evening how wrong you all are.  Lulu will be just as sweet
and cordial as ever.  And you will hear with your own ears how
Georgie calls me Elizabeth.'

These were brave words, and they very fitly represented the stout
heart that inspired them.  Tilling had taken her conduct to be
equivalent to an act of war, exactly as she had meant it to be, and
if anyone thought that E. M. was afraid they were wrong . . .  Then
there was that matter of Mr Wyse's letter, resigning from the
hanging committee.  She must tap the barometer again.

'I think everybody is a shade mad this morning,' she observed, 'and
I should call Mr Wyse, if anybody asked me to be candid, a raving
lunatic.  There was a little misunderstanding months and months ago--
I am vague about it--concerning two pictures that Lulu and Georgie
sent in to the art exhibition in the summer.  I thought it was all
settled and done with.  But I did act a little irregularly.
Technically I was wrong, and when I have been wrong about a thing,
as you very well know, dear Diva, I am not ashamed to confess it.'

'Of course you were wrong,' said Diva cordially, 'if Mr Wyse's
account of it is correct.  You sent the pictures back, such
beauties, too, with a formal rejection from the hanging committee
when they had never seen them at all.  So rash, too: I wonder at
you.'

These unfavourable comments did not make the transaction appear any
the less irregular.

'I said I was wrong, Diva,' remarked Elizabeth with some asperity,
'and I should have thought that was enough.  And now Mr Wyse,
raking bygones up again in the way he has, has written to me to say
that he and Susan resign their places on the hanging committee.'

'I know: they told everybody,' said Diva.  'Awkward.  What are you
going to do?'

The barometer had jerked alarmingly downwards on this renewed
tapping.

'I shall cry peccavi,' said Elizabeth, with the air of doing
something exceedingly noble.  'I shall myself resign.  That will
show that whatever anybody else does, I am doing the best in my
power to put right a technical error.  I hope Mr Wyse will
appreciate that, and be ashamed of the letter he wrote me.  More
than that, I shall regard his letter as having been written in a
fit of temporary insanity, which I trust will not recur.'

'Yes; I suppose that's the best thing you can do,' said Diva.  'It
will show him that you regret what you did, now that it's all found
out.'

'That is not generous of you, Diva,' cried Elizabeth, 'I am sorry
you said that.'

'More than I am,' said Diva.  'It's a very fair statement.  Isn't
it now?  What's wrong with it?'

Elizabeth suddenly perceived that at this crisis it was unwise to
indulge in her usual tiffs with Diva.  She wanted allies.

'Diva, dear, we mustn't quarrel,' she said.  'That would never do.
I felt I had to pop in to consult you as to the right course to
take with Mr Wyse, and I'm so glad you agree with me.  How I trust
your judgment!  I must be going.  What a delightful evening we have
in store for us.  Major Benjy was thinking of declining, but I
persuaded him it would not be kind.  A house-warming, you know.
Such a special occasion.'

The evening to which everybody had looked forward so much was, in
the main, a disappointment to bellicose spirits.  Nothing could
exceed Lucia's cordiality to Elizabeth unless it was Elizabeth's to
Lucia: they left the dining-room at the end of dinner with arms and
waists intertwined, a very bitter sight.  They then played bridge
at the same table, and so loaded each other with compliments while
deploring their own errors, that Diva began to entertain the most
serious fears that they had been mean enough to make it up on the
sly, or that Lucia in a spirit of Christian forbearance, positively
unnatural, had decided to overlook all the attacks and insults with
which Elizabeth had tried to provoke her.  Or did Lucia think that
this degrading display of magnanimity was a weapon by which she
would secure victory, by enlisting for her the sympathy and
applause of Tilling?  If so, that was a great mistake; Tilling did
not want to witness a demonstration of forgiveness or white
feathers but a combat without quarter.  Again, if she thought that
such nobility would soften the malevolent heart of Mapp, she showed
a distressing ignorance of Mapp's nature, for she would quite
properly construe this as not being nobility at all but the most
ignoble cowardice.  There was Georgie under Lucia's very nose,
interlarding his conversation with far more 'Elizabeths' than was
in the least necessary to show that he was talking to her, and she
volleyed 'Georgies' at him in return.  Every now and then, when
these discharges of Christian names had been particularly resonant,
Elizabeth caught Diva's eye with a glance of triumph as if to
remind her that she had prophesied that Lulu would be all sweetness
and cordiality, and Diva turned away sick at heart.

On the other hand, there were still grounds for hope, and, as the
evening went on, these became more promising: they were like small
caps of foam and cats'-paws of wind upon a tranquil sea.  To begin
with, it was only this morning that the baseness of Elizabeth in
that matter concerning the art committee had come to light.
Georgie, not Lucia, had been directly responsible for that damning
disclosure, but it must be supposed that he had acted with her
connivance, if not with her express wish, and this certainly did
not look so much like forgiveness as a nasty one for Elizabeth.
That was hopeful, and Diva's eagle eye espied other signs of bad
weather.  Elizabeth, encouraged by Lucia's compliments and
humilities throughout a long rubber, began to come out more in her
true colours, and to explain to her partner that she had lost a few
tricks (no matter) by not taking a finesse, or a whole game by not
supporting her declaration, and Diva thought she detected a
certain dangerous glitter in Lucia's eye as she bent to these
chastisements.  Surely, too, she bit her lip when Elizabeth
suddenly began to call her Lulu again.  Then there was Irene's
conduct to consider: Irene was fizzing and fidgeting in her chair,
she cast glances of black hatred at Elizabeth, and once Diva
distinctly saw Lucia frown and shake her head at her.  Again, at
the voluptuous supper which succeeded many rubbers of bridge, there
was the famous lobster à la Riseholme.  It had become, as all
Tilling knew, a positive obsession with Elizabeth to get the secret
of that delicious dish, and now, flushed with continuous victories
at bridge and with Lucia's persevering pleasantness, she made
another direct request for it.

'Lulu dear,' she said, 'it would be sweet of you to give me the
recipe for your lobster.  So good . . .'

Diva felt this to be a crucial moment: Lucia had often refused it
before, but now if she was wholly Christian and cowardly she would
consent.  But once more she gave no reply, and asked the Padre on
what day of the week Christmas fell.  So Diva heaved a sigh of
relief, for there was still hope.

In spite of this rebuff, it was hardly to be wondered at that
Elizabeth felt in a high state of elation when the evening was
over.  The returning revellers changed the order of their going,
and Georgie took back her and Diva.  He went outside with Diva,
for, during the last half-hour, Mapp (as he now mentally termed her
in order to be done with Elizabeth) had grown like a mushroom in
complaisance and self-confidence, and he could not trust himself,
if she went on, as she would no doubt do, in the same strain, not
to rap out something very sharp.  'Let her just wait,' he thought,
'she'll soon be singing a different tune.'

Georgie's precautions in going outside, well wrapped up in his cap
and his fur tippet and his fur rug, were well founded, for hardly
had Mapp kissed her hand for the last time to Lulu (who would come
to the door to see them off), and counted over the money she had
won, than she burst into staves of intolerable triumph and
condescension.

'So that's that!' she said, pulling up the window.  'And if I was
to ask you, dear Diva, which of us was right about how this evening
would go off, I don't think there would be very much doubt about
the answer.  Did you ever see Lulu so terribly anxious to please
me?  And did you happen to hear me say Georgie and him say
Elizabeth?  Lulu didn't like it, I am sure, but she had to swallow
her medicine, and she did so with a very good grace, I am bound to
say.  She just wanted a little lesson, and I think I may say I've
given it her.  I had no idea, I will confess, that she would take
it lying down like that.  I just had to lean out of the window,
pretend not to see her, and talk to Georgie in that silly voice and
language and the thing was done.'

Diva had been talking simultaneously for some time, but Elizabeth
only paused to take breath, and went on in a slightly louder tone.
So Diva talked louder too, until Georgie turned round to see what
was happening.  They both broke off, and smiled at him, and then
both began again.

'If you would allow me to get a word in edgeways,' said Diva, who
had some solid arguments to produce, and, had she not been a lady,
could have slapped Mapp's face in impotent rage--

'I don't think,' said Elizabeth, 'that we shall have much more
trouble with her and her queenly airs.  Quite a pleasant house-
warming, and there was no doubt that the house wanted it, for it
was bitterly cold in the dining-room, and I strongly suspect that
chicken-cream of being rabbit.  She only had to be shown that
whatever Riseholme may have stood from her in the way of
condescensions and graces, she had better not try them on at
Tilling.  She was looking forward to teaching us, and ruling us and
guiding us.  Pop!  Elizabeth (that's me, dear!) has a little lamb,
which lives at Grebe and gives a house-warming, so you may guess
who THAT is.  The way she flattered and sued to-night over our
cards when but a few weeks ago she was thinking of holding bridge
classes--'

'You were just as bad,' shouted Diva.  'You told her she played
beauti--'

'She was "all over me", to use that dreadful slang expression of
Major Benjy's,' continued Mapp.  'She was like a dog that has had a
scolding and begs--so prettily--to be forgiven.  Mind, dear, I do
not say that she is a bad sort of woman by any means, but she
required to be put in her place, and Tilling ought to thank me for
having done so.  Dear me, here we are already at your house.  How
short the drive has seemed!'

'Anyhow, you didn't get the recipe for the lobster à la Riseholme,'
said Diva, for this was one of the things she most wanted to say.

'A little final wriggle,' said Mapp.  'I have not the least doubt
that she will think it over and send it me to-morrow.  Good night,
darling.  I shall be sending out invitations for a cosy evening of
bridge some time at the end of this week.'

The baffled Diva let herself into Wasters in low spirits, so
convinced and lucid had been Mapp's comments on the evening.  It
was such a dismal conclusion to so much excitement; and all that
thrilling tension, instead of snapping, had relaxed into the most
depressing slackness.  But she did not quite give up hope, for
there had been cats'-paws and caps of foam on the tranquil sea.
She fell asleep visualizing these.



9


Though Georgie had thought that the garden-room would have to give
him at least two more sittings before his sketch arrived at that
high state of finish which he, like the Pre-Raphaelites, regarded
as necessary to any work of art, he decided that he would leave it
in a more impressionist state, and sent it next morning to be
framed.  In consequence the glass of water which Elizabeth had
brought out for him in anticipation of his now usual visit at
eleven o'clock remained unsullied by washings from his brush, and
at twelve, Elizabeth, being rather thirsty in consequence of so
late a supper the night before, drank it herself.  On the second
morning, a very wet one, Major Benjy did not go out for his usual
round of golf, and again Georgie did not come to paint.  But at a
few minutes to one she observed that his car was at the door of
Mallards Cottage; it passed her window, it stopped at Major
Benjy's, and he got in.  It was impossible not to remember that
Lucia always lunched at one in the winter because a later hour for
colazione made the afternoon so short.  But it was a surprise to
see Major Benjy driving away with Miss Milliner Michael-Angelo, and
difficult to conjecture where else it was at all likely that they
could have gone.

There was half an hour yet to her own luncheon, and she wrote seven
post cards inviting seven friends to tea on Saturday, with bridge
to follow.  The Wyses, the Padres, Diva, Major Benjy and Georgie
were the destinataires of these missives; these, with herself, made
eight, and there would thus be two tables of agreeable gamblers.
Lucia was not to be favoured: it would be salutary for her to be
left out every now and then, just to impress upon her the lesson of
which she had stood so sadly in need.  She must learn to go to
heel, to come when called, and to produce recipes when desired,
which at present she had not done.

There had been several days of heavy rain, but early in the
afternoon it cleared up, and Elizabeth set out for a brisk healthy
walk.  The field-paths would certainly make very miry going, for
she saw from the end of the High Street that there was much water
lying in the marsh, and she therefore kept to that excellent road,
which, having passed Grebe, went nowhere particular.  She was
prepared to go in and thank Lucia for her lovely house-warming, in
order to make sure whether Georgie and Major Benjy had gone to
lunch with her, but no such humiliating need occurred, for there in
front of the house was drawn up Georgie's motor-car, so (whether
she liked it or not, and she didn't) THAT problem was solved.  The
house stood quite close to the road: a flagged pathway of half a
dozen yards, flanked at the entrance-gate by thick hornbeam hedges
on which the leaf still lingered, separated it from the road, and
just as Elizabeth passed Georgie's car drawn up there, the front
door opened, and she saw Lucia and her two guests on the threshold.
Major Benjy was laughing in that fat voice of his, and Georgie was
giving forth his shrill little neighs like a colt with a half-
cracked voice.

The temptation to know what they were laughing at was irresistible.
Elizabeth moved a few steps on and, screened by the hornbeam hedge,
held her breath.

Major Benjy gave another great haw-haw and spoke.

''Pon my word, did she really?' he said.  'Do it again, Mrs Lucas.
Never laughed so much in my life.  Infernal impertinence!'

There was no mistaking the voice and the words that followed.

''Oo is vewy naughty boy, Georgie,' said Lucia.  'Never ring
Elizabeth's belly-pelly--'

Elizabeth hurried on, as she heard steps coming down that short
flagged pathway.  But hurry as she might, she heard a little more.

''Oo walk straight in always and sing out for her,' continued the
voice, repeating word for word the speech of which she had been so
proud.  'There's no chain up'--and then came loathsome parody--'now
that Liblib has ritornata to Mallardino.'

It was in a scared mood, as if she had heard or seen a ghost, that
Elizabeth hastened along up the road that led nowhere in
particular, before Lucia's guests could emerge from the gate.
Luckily at the end of the kitchen-garden the hornbeam hedge turned
at right angles, and behind this bastion she hid herself till she
heard the motor move away in the direction of Tilling, the prey of
the most agitated misgivings.  Was it possible that her own speech,
which she had thought had scarified Lucia's pride, was being turned
into a mockery and a derision against herself?  It seemed not only
possible but probable.  And how dare Mrs Lucas invent and repeat as
if spoken by herself that rubbish about ritornata and Mallardino?
Never in her life had she said such a thing.

When the coast was clear, she took the road again, and walked
quickly on away from Tilling.  The tide was very high, for the
river was swollen with rain, and the waters overbrimmed its channel
and extended in a great lake up to the foot of the bank and dyke
which bounded the road.  Perturbed as she was, Miss Mapp could not
help admiring that broad expanse of water, now lit by a gleam of
sun, in front of which to the westward, the hill of Tilling rose
dark against a sky already growing red with the winter sunset.  She
had just turned a corner in the road, and now she perceived that
close ahead of her somebody else was admiring it too in a more
practical manner, for there by the roadside within twenty yards of
her sat quaint Irene, with her mouth full of paint-brushes and an
easel set up in front of her.  She had not seen Irene since the
night of the house-warming, when the quaint one had not been very
cordial, and so, thinking she had walked far enough, she turned
back.  But Irene had quite evidently seen her, for she shaded her
eyes for a moment against the glare, took some of the paint-brushes
out of her mouth and called to her with words that seemed to have
what might be termed a dangerous undertow.

'Hullo, Mapp,' she said.  'Been lunching with Lulu?'

'What a lovely sketch, dear,' said Mapp.  'No, just a brisk little
walk.  Not been lunching at Grebe to-day.'

Irene laughed hoarsely.

'I didn't think it was very likely, but thought I would ask,' she
said.  'Yes; I'm rather pleased with my sketch.  A bloody look
about the sunlight, isn't there, as if the Day of Judgment was
coming.  I'm going to send it to the winter exhibition of the Art
Club.'

'Dear girlie, what do you mean?' asked Mapp.  'We don't have winter
exhibitions.'

'No, but we're going to,' said girlie.  'A new hanging committee,
you see, full of pep and pop and vim.  Haven't they asked you to
send them something . . .  Of course the space at their disposal is
very limited.'

Mapp laughed, but not with any great exuberance.  This undertow was
tweaking at her disagreeably.

'That's news to me,' she said.  'Most enterprising of Mr Wyse and
dear Susan.'

'Sweet Lulu's idea,' said Irene.  'As soon as you sent in your
resignation, of course they asked her to be President.'

'That is nice for her,' said Mapp enthusiastically.  'She will like
that.  I must get to work on some little picky to send them.'

'There's that one you did from the church tower when Lucia had
influenza,' said this awful Irene.  'That would be nice . . .  Oh,
I forgot.  Stupid of me.  It's by invitation: the committee are
asking a few people to send pickies.  No doubt they'll beg you for
one.  Such a good plan.  There won't be any mistakes in the future
about rejecting what is sent in.'

Mapp gave a gulp but rallied.

'I see.  They'll be all Academicians together, and be hung on the
line,' said she unflinchingly.

'Yes.  On the line or be put on easels,' said Irene.  'Curse the
light!  It's fading.  I must pack up.  Hold these brushes, will
you?'

'And then we'll walk back home together, shall we?  A cup of tea
with me, dear?' asked Mapp, anxious to conciliate and to know more.

'I'm going into Lucia's, I'm afraid.  Wyses tummin' to play bridgey
and hold a committee meeting,' said Irene.

'You are a cruel thing to imitate poor Lulu,' said Mapp.  'How well
you've caught that silly baby-talk of hers.  Just her voice.  Bye-
bye.'

'Same to you,' said Irene.


There was undoubtedly, thought Mapp, as she scudded swiftly
homewards alone, a sort of mocking note about quaint Irene's
conversation, which she did not relish.  It was full of hints and
awkward allusions; it bristled with hidden menace, and even her
imitation of Lucia's baby-talk was not wholly satisfactory, for
quaint Irene might be mimicking her imitation of Lucia, even as
Lucia herself had done, and there was very little humour in that.
Presently she passed the Wyses' Royce going to Grebe.  She kissed
her hand to a mound of sables inside, but it was too dark to see if
the salute was returned.  Her brisk afternoon's walk had not
freshened her up; she was aware of a feeling of fatigue, of a vague
depression and anxiety.  And mixed with that was a hunger not only
for tea but for more information.  There seemed to be things going
on of which she was sadly ignorant, and even when her ignorance was
enlightened, they remained rather sad.  But Diva (such a gossip)
might know more about this winter exhibition, and she popped into
Wasters.  Diva was in, and begged her to wait for tea: she would be
down in a few minutes.

It was a cosy little room, looking out on to the garden which had
yielded her so many pots of excellent preserves during the summer,
but dreadfully untidy, as Diva's house always was.  There was a
litter of papers on the table, notes half-thrust back into their
envelopes, crossword puzzles cut out from the Evening Standard and
partially solved: there was her own post card to Diva sent off that
morning and already delivered, and there was a sheet of paper with
the stamp of Grebe upon it and Lucia's monogram, which seemed to
force itself on Elizabeth's eye.  The most cursory glance revealed
that this was a request from the Art Committee that Mrs Plaistow
would do them the honour to send them a couple of her sketches for
the forthcoming winter exhibition.  All the time there came from
Diva's bedroom, directly overhead, the sound of rhythmical steps or
thumps, most difficult to explain.  In a few minutes these ceased,
and Diva's tread on the stairs gave Elizabeth sufficient warning to
enable her to snatch up the first book that came to hand, and sink
into a chair by the fire.  She saw, with some feeling of
apprehension similar to those which had haunted her all afternoon,
that this was a copy of An Ideal System of Callisthenics for those
no longer Young, of which she seemed to have heard.  On the title-
page was an inscription 'Diva from Lucia', and in brackets, like a
prescription, 'Ten minutes at the exercises in Chapter I, twice a
day for the present.'

Diva entered very briskly.  She was redder in the face than usual,
and, so Elizabeth instantly noticed, lifted her feet very high as
she walked, and held her head well back and her breast out like a
fat little pigeon.  This time there was to be no question about
getting a word in edgeways, for she began to talk before the door
was fully open.

'Glad to see you, Elizabeth,' she said, 'and I shall be very
pleased to play bridge on Saturday.  I've never felt so well in my
life, do you know, and I've only been doing them two days.  Oh, I
see you've got the book.'

'I heard you stamping and thumping, dear,' said Elizabeth.  'Was
that them?'

'Yes, twice a day, ten minutes each time.  It clears the head, too.
If you sit down to a crossword puzzle afterwards you find you're
much brighter than usual.'

'Callisthenics à la Lucia?' asked Elizabeth.

'Yes.  Irene and Mrs Bartlett and I all do them, and Mrs Wyse is
going to begin, but rather more gently.  Hasn't Lucia told you
about them?'

Here was another revelation of things happening.  Elizabeth met it
bravely.

'No.  Dear Lulu knows my feelings about that sort of fad.  A brisk
walk such as I've had this afternoon is all I require.  Such lovely
lights of sunset and a very high tide.  Quaint Irene was sketching
on the road just beyond Grebe.'

'Yes.  She's going to send it in and three more for the winter
exhibition.  Oh, perhaps you haven't heard.  There's to be an
exhibition directly after Christmas.'

'Such a good idea: I've been discussing it,' said Elizabeth.

Diva's eye travelled swiftly and suspiciously to the table where
this flattering request to her lay on the top of the litter.
Elizabeth did not fail to catch the significance of this.

'Irene told me,' she said hastily, 'I must see if I can find time
to do them something.'

'Oh, then they have asked you,' said Diva with a shade of
disappointment in her voice.  'They've asked me too--'

'No!  Really?' said Elizabeth.

'--so of course I said yes, but I'm afraid I'm rather out of
practice.  Lucia is going to give an address on modern art at the
opening, and then we shall all go round and look at each other's
pictures.'

'What fun!' said Elizabeth cordially.

Tea had been brought in.  There was a pot of greenish jam and
Elizabeth loaded her buttered toast with it, and put it into her
mouth.  She gave a choking cry and washed it down with a gulp of
tea.

'Anything wrong?' asked Diva.

'Yes, dear.  I'm afraid it's fermenting,' said Elizabeth, laying
down the rest of her toast.  'And I can't conceive what it's made
of.'

Diva looked at the pot.

'You ought to know,' she said.  'It's one of the pots you gave me.
Labelled vegetable marrow.  So sorry it's not eatable.  By the way,
talking of food, did Lucia send you the recipe for the lobster?'

Elizabeth smiled her sweetest.

'Dear Lucia,' she said.  'She's been so busy with art and
callisthenics.  She must have forgotten.  I shall jog her memory.'


The afternoon had been full of rather unpleasant surprises, thought
Elizabeth to herself, as she went up to Mallards that evening.
They were concerned with local activities, art and gymnastics, of
which she had hitherto heard nothing, and they all seemed to show a
common origin: there was a hidden hand directing them.  This was
disconcerting, especially since, only a few nights ago, she had
felt so sure that that hand had been upraised to her, beseeching
pardon.  Now it rather looked as if that hand had spirited itself
away and was very busy and energetic on its own account.

She paused on her doorstep.  There was a light shining out through
chinks behind the curtains in Mallards Cottage, and she thought it
would be a good thing to pop in on Georgie and see if she could
gather some further gleanings.  She would make herself extremely
pleasant: she would admire his needlework if he was at it, she
would praise the beautiful specklessness of his room, for Georgie
always appreciated any compliment to Foljambe, she would sing the
praises of Lucia, though they blistered her tongue.

Foljambe admitted her.  The door of the sitting-room was ajar, and
as she put down her umbrella, she heard Georgie's voice talking to
the telephone.

'Saturday, half-past four,' he said.  'I've just found a post card.
Hasn't she asked you?'

Georgie, as Elizabeth had often observed, was deafer than he knew
(which accounted for his not hearing all the wrong notes she played
in his duets with Lucia) and he had not heard her entry, though
Foljambe spoke her name quite loud.  He was listening with rapt
attention to what was coming through and saying 'My dear!' or 'No!'
at intervals.  Now, however, he turned and saw her, and with a
scared expression hung up the receiver.

'Dear me, I never heard you come in!' he said.  'How nice!  I was
just going to tell Foljambe to bring up tea.  Two cups, Foljambe.'

'I'm interrupting you,' said Elizabeth.  'I can see you were just
settling down to your sewing and a cosy bachelor evening.'

'Not a bit,' said Georgie.  'Do have a chair near the fire.'  It
was not necessary to explain that she had already had tea with
Diva, even if one mouthful of fermenting vegetable could properly
be called tea, and she took the chair he pulled up for her.

'Such beautiful work,' she said, looking at Georgie's tambour of
petit point, which lay near by.  'What eyes you must have to be
able to do it.'

'Yes, they're pretty good yet,' said Georgie, slipping his
spectacle-case into his pocket.  'And I shall be delighted to come
to tea and bridge on Saturday.  Thanks so much.  Just got your
invitation.'

Miss Mapp knew that already.

'That's charming,' she said.  'And how I envy you your Foljambe.
Not a speck of dust anywhere.  You could eat your tea off the
floor, as they say.'

Georgie noticed that she did not use his Christian name.  This
confirmed his belief that the employment of it was reserved for
Lucia's presence as an annoyance to her.  Then the telephone-bell
rang again.

'May I?' said Georgie.

He went across to it, rather nervous.  It was as he thought: Lucia
was at it again, explaining that somebody had cut her off.  Listen
as she might, Miss Mapp, from where she sat, could only hear a
confused quacking noise.  So to show how indifferent she was as to
the conversation, she put her fingers close to her ears ready to
stop them when Georgie turned round again, and listened hard to
what he said.

'Yes . . . yes,' said Georgie.  'Thanks so much--lovely.  I'll pick
him up then, shall I?  Quarter to eight, is it?  Yes, her too.
Yes, I've done them once to-day: not a bit giddy . . .  I can't
stop now, Lucia.  Miss Ma--Elizabeth's just come in for a cup of
tea . . .  I'll tell her.'

Elizabeth felt she understood all this; she was an adept at
telephonic reconstruction.  There was evidently another party at
Grebe.  'Him' and 'her' no doubt were Major Benjy and herself, whom
Georgie would pick up as before.  'Them' were exercises, and
Georgie's promise to tell 'her' clearly meant that he should convey
an invitation.  This was satisfactory: evidently Lucia was hoping
to propitiate.  Then Georgie turned round and saw Elizabeth smiling
gaily at the fire with her hands over her ears.  He moved into her
field of vision and she uncorked herself.

'Finished?' she said.  'Hope you did not cut it short because of
me.'

'Not at all,' said Georgie, for she couldn't (unless she was
pretending) have heard him say that he had done precisely that.
'It was Lucia ringing up.  She sends you her love.'

'Sweet of her, such a pet,' said Elizabeth, and waited for more
about picking up and that invitation.  But Lucia's love appeared to
be all, and Georgie asked her if she took sugar.  She did, and
tried if he in turn would take another sort of sugar, both for
himself and Lucia.

'Such a lovely house-warming,' she said, 'and how we all enjoyed
ourselves.  Lucia seems to have time for everything, bridge, those
lovely duets with you, Italian, Greek (though we haven't heard much
about that lately), a winter art exhibition, and an address (how I
shall look forward to it!) on modern art, callisthenics--'

'Oh, you ought to try those,' said Georgie.  'You stretch and stamp
and feel ever so young afterwards.  We're all doing them.'

'And does she take classes as she threat--promised to do?' asked
Elizabeth.

'She will when we've mastered the elements,' said Georgie.  'We
shall march round the kitchen-garden at Grebe--cinder paths you
know, so good in wet weather--keeping time, and then skip and flex
and jerk.  And if it's raining we shall do them in the kitchen.
You can throw open those double doors, and have plenty of fresh air
which is so important.  There's that enormous kitchen-table too, to
hold on to, when we're doing that swimming movement.  It's like a
great raft.'

Elizabeth had not the nerve to ask if Major Benjy was to be of that
company.  It would be too bitter to know that he, who had so
sternly set his face against Lucia's domination, was in process of
being sucked down in that infernal whirlpool of her energetic
grabbings.  Almost she wished that she had asked her to be one of
her bridge-party to-morrow: but it was too late now.  Her seven
invitations--seven against Lucia--had gone forth, and not till she
got home would she know whether her two bridge-tables were full.

'And this winter exhibition,' she asked.  'What a good idea!  We're
all so idle in the winter at dear old Tilling, and now there's
another thing to work for.  Are you sending that delicious picture
of the garden-room?  How I enjoyed our lovely chatty mornings when
you were painting it!'

By the ordinary rules of polite conversation, Georgie ought to have
asked her what she was sending.  He did nothing of the kind, but
looked a little uncomfortable.  Probably then, as Irene had told
her, the exhibition was to consist of pictures sent by request of
the committee, and at present they had not requested her.  She felt
that she must make sure about that, and determined to send in a
picture without being asked.  That would show for certain what was
going on.

'Weren't those mornings pleasant?' said the evasive Georgie.  'I
was quite sorry when my picture was finished.'

Georgie appeared unusually reticent: he did not volunteer any more
information about the winter exhibition, nor about Lucia's
telephoning, nor had he mentioned that he and Major Benjy had
lunched with her to-day.  She would lead him in the direction of
that topic . . .

'How happy dear Lucia is in her pretty Grebe,' she said.  'I took
my walk along the road there to-day.  Her garden, so pleasant!  A
high tide this afternoon.  The beautiful river flowing down to the
sea, and the tide coming up to meet it.  Did you notice it?'

Georgie easily saw through that: he would talk about tides with
pleasure, but not lunch.

'It looked lovely,' he said, 'but they tell me that in ten days'
time the spring tides are on, and they will be much higher.  The
water has been over the road in front of Lucia's house sometimes.'

Elizabeth went back to Mallards more uneasy than ever.

Lucia was indeed busy arranging callisthenic classes and winter
exhibitions and, clearly, some party at Grebe, but not a word had
she said to her about any of these things, nor had she sent the
recipe for lobster à la Riseholme.  But there was nothing more to
be done to-night except to take steps concerning the picture
exhibition to which she had not been asked to contribute.  The
house was full of her sketches, and she selected quite the best of
them and directed Withers to pack it up and send it, with her card,
to the Committee of the Art Club, Grebe.


The winter bridge-parties in Tilling were in their main features of
a fixed and invariable pattern.  An exceedingly substantial tea,
including potted-meat sandwiches, was served at half-past four,
and, after that was disposed of, at least three hours of bridge
followed.  After such a tea, nobody, as was perfectly well known,
dreamed of having dinner: and though round about eight o'clock, the
party broke up, with cries of astonishment at the lateness of the
hour, and said it must fly back home to dress, this was a mere
fashion of speech.  'A tray' was the utmost refreshment that anyone
could require, and nobody dressed for a solitary tray.  Elizabeth
was a great upholder of the dress-and-dinner fiction, and she had
been known to leave a bridge-party at nine, saying that Withers
would scold her for being so late, and that her cook would be
furious.

So on this Saturday afternoon the party of eight (for all seven had
accepted) assembled at Mallards.  They were exceedingly cordial: it
was as if they desired to propitiate their hostess for something
presently to emerge.  Also it struck that powerful observer that
there was not nearly so much eaten as usual.  She had provided the
caviare sandwiches of which Mrs Wyse had been known absentmindedly
to eat nine, she had provided the nougat chocolates of which Diva
had been known to have eaten all, but though the chocolates were in
front of Diva, and the caviare in front of Susan, neither of them
exhibited anything resembling their usual greed.  There was Scotch
shortbread for the Padre, who, though he came from Birmingham, was
insatiable with regard to that national form of biscuit, and there
was whisky and soda for Major Benjy, who had no use for tea, and
both of them, too, were mysteriously abstemious.  Perhaps this wet
muggy weather, thought Elizabeth, had made them all a trifle
liverish, or very likely those callisthenics had taken away their
appetites.  It was noticeable, moreover, that throughout tea nobody
mentioned the name of Lucia.

They adjourned to the garden-room where two tables were set out for
bridge, and till half-past six nothing momentous occurred.  At that
hour Elizabeth was partner to Major Benjy, and she observed with
dark misgivings that when she had secured the play of the hand (at
a staggering sacrifice, as it was soon to prove) he did not as
usual watch her play, but got up, and standing by the fireplace
indulged in some very antic movements.  He bent down, apparently
trying to touch his toes with his fingers and a perfect fusillade
of small crackling noises from his joints (knee or hip it was
impossible to tell) accompanied these athletic flexings.  Then he
whisked himself round to right and left as if trying to look down
his back, like a parrot.  This was odd and ominous conduct, this
strongly suggested that he had been sucked into the callisthenic
whirlpool, and what was more ominous yet was that when he sat down
again he whispered to Georgie, who was at the same table, 'That
makes my ten minutes, old boy.'  Elizabeth did not like that at
all.  She knew now what the ten minutes must refer to, and that
endearing form of address to Miss Milliner Michael-Angelo was a
little worrying.  The only consolation was that Georgie's attention
was diverted from the game, and that he trumped his partner's best
card.  At the conclusion of the hand, Elizabeth was three tricks
short of her contract, and another very puzzling surprise awaited
her, for instead of Major Benjy taking her failure in very ill
part, he was more than pleasant about it.  What could be the matter
with him?

'Very well played, Miss Elizabeth,' he said.  'I was afraid that
after my inexcusable declaration we should lose more than that.'

Elizabeth began to feel more keenly puzzled as to why none of them
had any appetites, and why they were all so pleasant to her.  Were
they rallying round her again, was their silence about Lucia a
tactful approval of her absence?  Or was there some hidden
connection between their abstemiousness, their reticence and their
unwontedly propitiatory attitude?  If there was, it quite eluded
her.  Then as Diva dealt in her sloppy manner Lucia's name came up
for the first time.

'Mr Georgie, you ought not to have led trumps,' she said.  'Lucia
always says--Oh, dear me, I believe I've misdealt.  Oh no, I
haven't.  That's all right.'

Elizabeth pondered this as she sorted her cards.  Nobody inquired
what Lucia said, and Diva's swift changing of the subject as if
that name had slipped out by accident, looked as if possibly they
none of them desired any allusion to be made to her.  Had they done
with her? she wondered.  But if so, what about the callisthenics?

She was dummy now and was absorbed in watching Major Benjy's
tragical mismanagement of the hand, for he was getting into a
sadder bungle than anyone, except perhaps Lucia, could have
involved himself in.  Withers entered while this was going on, and
gave Elizabeth a parcel.  With her eye and her mind still glued to
the cards, she absently unwrapped it, and took its contents from
its coverings just as the last trick was being played.  It was the
picture she had sent to the art committee the day before and with
it was a typewritten form to convey its regrets that the limited
wall-space at its disposal would not permit of Miss Mapp's picture
being exhibited.  This slip floated out on to the floor, and
Georgie bent down and returned it to her.  She handed it and the
picture and the wrappings to Withers, and told her to put them in
the cupboard.  Then she leaned over the table to her partner, livid
with mixed and uncontrollable emotions.

'Dear Major Benjy, what a hash!' she said.  'If you had pulled out
your cards at random from your hand, you could not, bar revokes,
have done worse.  I think you must have been having lessons from
dear Lulu.  Never mind: live and unlearn.'

There was an awful pause.  Even the players at the other table were
stricken into immobility and looked at each other with imbecile
eyes.  Then the most surprising thing of all happened.

''Pon my word, partner,' said Major Benjy, 'I deserve all the
scoldings you can give me.  I played it like a baby.  I deserve to
pay all our losings.  A thousand apologies.'

Elizabeth, though she did not feel like it, had to show that she
was generous too.  But why didn't he answer her back in the usual
manner?

'Naughty Major Benjy!' she said.  'But what does it matter?  It's
only a game, and we all have our ups and downs.  I have them
myself.  That's the rubber, isn't it?  Not very expensive after
all.  Now let us have another and forget all about this one.'

Diva drew a long breath, as if making up her mind to something, and
glanced at the watch set with false pearls (Elizabeth was sure) on
her wrist.

'Rather late to begin again,' she said.  'I make it ten minutes to
seven.  I think I ought to be going to dress.'

'Nonsense, dear,' said Elizabeth.  'Much too early to leave off.
Cut, Major Benjy.'

He also appeared to take his courage in his hands, not very
successfully.

'Well, upon my word, do you know, really Miss Elizabeth,' he
babbled, 'a rubber goes on sometimes for a very long while, and if
it's close on seven now, if, you know what I mean . . .  What do
you say, Pillson?'  It was Georgie's turn.

'Too tarsome,' he said, 'but I'm afraid personally that I must
stop.  Such a delightful evening.  Such good rubbers . . .'

They all got up together, as if some common mechanism controlled
their movements.  Diva scuttled away to the other table, without
even waiting to be paid the sum of one and threepence which she had
won from Elizabeth.

'I'll see how they're getting on here,' she said.  'Why they're
just adding up, too.'

Elizabeth sat where she was and counted out fifteen pennies.

That would serve Diva right for going at ten minutes to seven.
Then she saw that the others had got up in a hurry, for Susan Wyse
said to Mrs Bartlett, 'I'll pay you later on,' and her husband held
up her sable coat for her.

'Diva, your winnings,' said Elizabeth, piling up the coppers.

Diva whisked round, and instead of resenting this ponderous
discharge of the debt, received it with enthusiasm.

'Thank you, Elizabeth,' she said.  'All coppers: how nice!  So
useful for change.  Good night, dear.  Thanks ever so much.'

She paused a moment by the door, already open, by which Georgie was
standing.

'Then you'll call for me at twenty minutes to eight,' she said to
him in the most audible whisper, and Georgie with a nervous glance
in Elizabeth's direction gave a silent assent.  Diva vanished into
the night where Major Benjy had gone.  Elizabeth rose from her
deserted table.

'But you're not all going too?' she said to the others.  'So early
yet.'

Mr Wyse made a profound bow.

'I regret that my wife and I must get home to dress,' he said.
'But one of the most charming evenings of bridge I have ever spent,
Miss Mapp.  So many thanks.  Come along, Susan.'

'Delicious bridge,' said Susan.  'And those caviare sandwiches.
Good night, dear.  You must come round and play with us some night
soon.'

'A grand game of bridge, Mistress Mapp,' said the Padre.  'Ah, wee
wifie's callin' for me.  Au reservoir.'

Next moment Elizabeth was alone.  Georgie had followed on the heels
of the others, closing the door very carefully, as if she had
fallen asleep.  Instead of that she hurried to the window and
peeped out between the curtains.  There were three or four of them
standing on the steps while the Wyses got into the Royce, and they
dispersed in different directions like detected conspirators, as no
doubt they were.

The odd disconnected little incidents of the evening, the lack of
appetites, the propitiatory conduct to herself, culminating in this
unexampled departure a full hour before bridge-parties had ever
been known to break up, now grouped themselves together in
Elizabeth's constructive mind.  They fitted on to other facts that
had hitherto seemed unrelated, but now were charged with
significance.  Georgie, for instance, had telephoned the day and
the hour of this bridge-party to Lucia, he had accepted an
invitation to something at a quarter to eight: he had promised to
call for 'him' and 'her'.  There could be no reasonable doubt that
Lucia had purposely broken up Elizabeth's party at this early hour
by bidding to dinner the seven guests who had just slunk away to
dress . . .  And her picture had been returned by the art
committee, two of whom (though she did them the justice to admit
that they were but the cat's-paws of a baleful intelligence) had
hardly eaten any caviare sandwiches at all, for fear that they
should not have good appetites for dinner.  Hence also Diva's
abstention from nougat chocolate, Major Benjy's from whisky, and
the Padre's from shortbread.  Nothing could be clearer.

Elizabeth was far from feeling unhappy or deserted, and very very
far from feeling beaten.  Defiance and hatred warmed her blood most
pleasantly, and she spent half an hour sitting by the window,
thoroughly enjoying herself.  She meant to wait here till twenty
minutes to eight, and if by that time she had not seen the Royce
turning the corner of Porpoise Street, and Georgie's car calling at
the perfidious Major Benjy's house, she would be ready to go
barefoot to Grebe, and beg Lucia's pardon for having attributed to
her so devilish a device.  But no such humiliating pilgrimage
awaited her, for all happened exactly as she knew it would.  The
great glaring head-lights of the Royce blazed on the house opposite
the turning to Porpoise Street, its raucous fog-horn sounded, and
the porpoise car lurched into view scaring everybody by its lights
and its odious voice, and by its size making foot-passengers
flatten themselves against the walls.  Hardly had it cleared the
corner into the High Street when Georgie's gay bugle piped out and
his car came under the window of the garden-room, and stopped at
Major Benjy's.  Elizabeth's intellect, unaided by any direct
outside information, except that which she had overheard on the
telephone, had penetrated this hole-and-corner business, and
ringing the bell for her tray, she ate the large remainder of
caviare sandwiches and nougat chocolate and fed her soul with
schemes of reprisals.  She could not off-hand think of any definite
plan of sufficiently withering a nature, and presently, tired with
mental activity, she fell into a fireside doze and had a happy
dream that Dr Dobbie had popped in to tell her that Lucia had
developed undoubted symptoms of leprosy.


During the positively voluptuous week that followed Elizabeth's
brief bridge-party, no fresh development occurred of the drama on
which Tilling was concentrated, except that Lucia asked Elizabeth
to tea and that Elizabeth refused.  The rivals therefore did not
meet, and neither of them seemed aware of the existence of the
other.  But both Grebe and Mallards had been inordinately gay; at
Grebe there had been many lunches with bridge afterwards, and the
guests on several occasions had hurried back for tea and more
bridge at Mallards.  Indeed, Tilling had never had so much lunch
and tea in its life or enjoyed so brilliant a winter season, for
Diva and the Wyses and Mrs Padre followed suit in lavish
hospitality, and Georgie on one notable morning remembered that he
had not had lunch or tea at home for five days; this was a record
that beat Riseholme all to fits.

In addition to these gaieties there were celebrated the nuptials of
Foljambe and Cadman, conducted from the bride's home, and the
disposition of Foljambe's time between days with Georgie and nights
with Cadman was working to admiration: everybody was pleased.  At
Grebe there had been other entertainments as well; the callisthenic
class met on alternate days and Lucia in a tunic rather like
Artemis, but with a supplementary skirt and scarlet stockings,
headed a remarkable procession, consisting of Diva and the Wyses
and Georgie and Major Benjy and the Padres and quaint Irene, out on
to the cinder path of the kitchen-garden, and there they copied her
jerks and flexings and whirlings of the arms and touchings of the
toes to the great amazement of errand-boys who came legitimately to
the kitchen-door, and others who peered through the hornbeam hedge.
On wet days the athletes assembled in the kitchen with doors flung
wide to the open air, and astonished the cook with their swimming
movements, an arm and leg together, while they held on with the
other hand to the great kitchen-table.  'Uno, due, tre,' counted
Lucia, and they all kicked out like frogs.  And quaint Irene in her
knickerbockers, sometimes stood on her head, but nobody else
attempted that.  Lucia played them soothing music as they rested
afterwards in her drawing-room; she encouraged Major Benjy to learn
his notes on the piano, for she would willingly teach him: she
persuaded Susan to take up her singing again, and played 'La ci
darem' for her, while Susan sang it in a thin shrill voice, and Mr
Wyse said 'Brava!  How I wish Amelia was here.'  Sometimes Lucia
read them Pope's translation of the Iliad as they drank their
lemonade and Major Benjy his whisky and soda, and not content with
these diversions (the wonderful creature) she was composing the
address on modern art which she was to deliver at the opening of
the exhibition on the day following Boxing Day.  She made notes for
it and then dictated to her secretary (Elizabeth Mapp's face was
something awful to behold when Diva told her that Lucia had a
secretary) who took down what she said on a typewriter.  Indeed,
Elizabeth's face had never been more awful when she heard that,
except when Diva informed her that she was quite certain that Lucia
would be delighted to let her join the callisthenic class.

But though, during these days, no act of direct aggression like
that of Lucia's dinner-party causing Elizabeth's bridge-party to
break up had been committed on either side, it was generally
believed that Elizabeth was not done for yet, and Tilling was on
tiptoe, expectant of some 'view halloo' call to show that the chase
was astir.  She had refused Lucia's invitation to tea, and if she
had been done for or gone to earth she would surely have accepted.
Probably she took the view that the invitation was merely a test
question to see how she was getting on, and her refusal showed that
she was getting on very nicely.  It would be absolutely unlike
Elizabeth (to adopt a further metaphor) to throw up the sponge like
that, for she had not yet been seriously hurt, and the bridge-party-
round had certainly been won by Lucia; there would be fierce boxing
in the next.  It seemed likely that, in this absence of aggressive
acts, both antagonists were waiting till the season of peace and
good will was comfortably over and then they would begin again.
Elizabeth would have a God-sent opportunity at the opening of the
exhibition, when Lucia delivered her address.  She could sit in the
front row and pretend to go to sleep or suppress an obvious
inclination to laugh.  Tilling felt that she must have thought of
that and of many other acts of reprisal unless she was no longer
the Elizabeth they all knew and (within limits) respected, and (on
numerous occasions) detested.

The pleasant custom of sending Christmas cards prevailed in
Tilling, and most of the world met in the stationer's shop on
Christmas Eve, selecting suitable salutations from the threepenny,
the sixpenny and the shilling trays.  Elizabeth came in rather
early and had almost completed her purchases when some of her
friends arrived, and she hung about looking at the backs of volumes
in the lending-library, but keeping an eye on what they purchased.
Diva, she observed, selected nothing from the shilling tray any
more than she had herself; in fact, she thought that Diva's
purchases this year were made entirely from the threepenny tray.
Susan, on the other hand, ignored the threepenny tray and hovered
between the sixpennies and the shillings and expressed an odiously
opulent regret that there were not some 'choicer' cards to be
obtained.  The Padre and Mrs Bartlett were certainly exclusively
threepenny, but that was always the case.  However they, like
everybody else, studied the other trays, so that when, next
morning, they all received seasonable coloured greetings from their
friends, a person must have a shocking memory if he did not know
what had been the precise cost of all that were sent him.  But
Georgie and Lucia as was universally noticed, though without
comment, had not been in at all, in spite of the fact that they had
been seen about in the High Street together and going into other
shops.  Elizabeth therefore decided that they did not intend to
send any Christmas cards and before paying for what she had chosen,
she replaced in the threepenny tray a pretty picture of a robin
sitting on a sprig of mistletoe which she had meant to send
Georgie.  There was no need to put back what she had chosen for
Lucia, since the case did not arise.

Christmas Day dawned, a stormy morning with a strong gale from the
south-west, and on Elizabeth's breakfast-table was a pile of
letters, which she tore open.  Most of them were threepenny
Christmas cards, a sixpenny from Susan, smelling of musk, and none
from Lucia or Georgie.  She had anticipated that, and it was
pleasant to think that she had put back into the threepenny tray
the one she had selected for him, before purchasing it.

The rest of her post was bills, some of which must be stoutly
disputed when Christmas was over, and she found it difficult to
realize the jollity appropriate to the day.  Last evening various
choirs of amateur riff-raffs and shrill bobtails had rendered the
night hideous by repetitions of 'Good King Wenceslas' and the
'First Noel', church bells borne on squalls of wind and rain had
awakened her while it was still dark and now sprigs of holly kept
falling down from the picture-frames where Withers had perched
them.  Bacon made her feel rather better, and she went to church,
with a mackintosh against these driving gusts of rain, and a
slightly blue nose against this boisterous wind.  Diva was coming
to a dinner-lunch: this was an annual institution held at Wasters
and Mallards alternately.

Elizabeth hurried out of church at the conclusion of the service by
a side door, not feeling equal to joining in the gay group of her
friends who with Lucia as their centre were gathered at the main
entrance.  The wind was stronger than ever, but the rain had
ceased, and she battled her way round the square surrounding the
church before she went home.  Close to Mallards Cottage she met
Georgie holding his hat on against the gale.  He wished her a merry
Christmas, but then his hat had been whisked off his head;
something very strange happened to his hair, which seemed to have
been blown off his skull, leaving a quite bare place there, and he
vanished in frenzied pursuit of his hat with long tresses growing
from the side of his head streaming in the wind.  A violent draught
eddying round the corner by the garden-room propelled her into
Mallards holding on to the knocker, and it was with difficulty that
she closed the door.  On the table in the hall stood a substantial
package, which had certainly not been there when she left.  Within
its wrappings was a terrine of pâté de foie gras with a most
distinguished label on it, and a card fluttered on to the floor,
proclaiming that wishes for a merry Christmas from Lucia and
Georgie accompanied it.  Elizabeth instantly conquered the feeble
temptation of sending this gift back again in the manner in which
she had returned that basket of tomatoes from her own garden.
Tomatoes were not pâté.  But what a treat for Diva!

Diva arrived, and they went straight in to the banquet.  The
terrine was wrapped in a napkin, and Withers handed it to Diva.
She helped herself handsomely to the truffles and the liver.

'How delicious!' she said.  'And such a monster!'

'I hope it's good,' said Elizabeth, not mentioning the donors.  'It
ought to be.  Paris.'

Diva suddenly caught sight of a small label pasted below the
distinguished one.  It was that of the Tilling grocer, and a flood
of light poured in upon her.

'Lucia and Mr Georgie have sent such lovely Christmas presents to
everybody,' she said.  'I felt quite ashamed of myself for only
having given them threepenny cards.'

'How sweet of them,' said Elizabeth.  'What were they?'

'A beautiful box of hard chocolates for me,' said Diva.  'And a
great pot of caviare for Susan, and an umbrella for the Padre--his
blew inside out in the wind yesterday--and--'

'And this beautiful pâté for me,' interrupted Elizabeth, grasping
the nettle, for it was obvious that Diva had guessed.  'I was just
going to tell you.'

Diva knew that was a lie, but it was no use telling Elizabeth so,
because she knew it too, and she tactfully changed the subject.

'I shall have to do my exercises three times to-day after such a
lovely lunch,' she said, as Elizabeth began slicing the turkey.
But that was not a well-chosen topic, for subjects connected with
Lucia might easily give rise to discord and she tried again and
again and again, bumping, in her spinning-top manner, from one
impediment to another.

'Major Benjy can play the scale of C with his right hand'--(No,
that wouldn't do).  'What an odd voice Susan's got: she sang an
Italian song the other day at'--(Worse and worse).  'I sent two
pictures to the winter exhibition'--(Worse if possible: there
seemed to be no safe topic under the sun).  'A terrific gale, isn't
it?  There'll be three days of tremendous high tides for the wind
is heaping them up.  I should not wonder if the road by Grebe--'
(she gave it up: it was no use) '--isn't flooded to-morrow.'

Elizabeth behaved like a perfect lady.  She saw that Diva was doing
her best to keep off disagreeable subjects on Christmas Day, but
there were really no others.  All topics led to Lucia.

'I hope not,' she said, 'for with all the field-paths soaked from
the rain it is my regular walk just now.  But not very likely,
dear, for after the last time that the road was flooded, they built
the bank opposite--opposite that house much higher.'

They talked for quite a long while about gales and tides and dykes
in complete tranquillity.  Then the proletarian diversions of
Boxing Day seemed safe.

'There's a new film to-morrow at the Picture Palace about
tadpoles,' said Elizabeth.  'So strange to think they become toads:
or is it frogs?  I think I must go.'

'Lucia's giving a Christmas-tree for the choir-boys in the evening,
in that great kitchen of hers,' said Diva.

'How kind!' said Elizabeth hastily, to show she took no offence.

'And in the afternoon there's a whist drive at the Institute,' said
Diva.  'I'm letting both my servants go, and Lucia's sending all
hers too.  I'm not sure I should like to be quite alone in a house
along that lonely road.  We in the town could scream from a top
window if burglars got into our houses and raise the alarm.'

'It would be a very horrid burglar who was so wicked on Boxing
Day,' observed Elizabeth sententiously.  'Ah, here's the plum
pudding!  Blazing beautifully, Withers!  So pretty!'

Diva became justifiably somnolent when lunch was over, and after
half an hour's careful conversation she went off home to have a
nice long nap, which she expressed by the word exercises.
Elizabeth wrote two notes of gratitude to the donors of the pâté
and sat herself down to think seriously of what she could do.  She
had refused Lucia's invitation to tea a few days before, thus
declaring her attitude, and now it seemed to her that that was a
mistake, for she had cut herself off from the opportunities of
reprisals which intercourse with her might have provided.  She had
been unable, severed like this, to devise anything at all
effective; all she could do was to lie awake at night hating Lucia,
and this seemed to be quite barren of results.  It might be better
(though bitter) to join that callisthenic class in order to get a
foot in the enemy's territory.  Her note of thanks for the pâté
would have paved the way towards such a step, and though it would
certainly be eating humble pie to ask to join an affair that she
had openly derided, it would be pie with a purpose.  As it was, for
a whole week she had had no opportunities, she had surrounded
herself with a smoke-cloud, she heard nothing about Lucia any more,
except when clumsy Diva let out things by accident.  All she knew
was that Lucia, busier than any bee known to science, was
undoubtedly supreme in all the social activities which she herself
had been accustomed to direct, and to remain, like Achilles in his
tent, did not lead to anything.  Also she had an idea that Tilling
expected of her some exhibition of spirit and defiance, and no one
was more anxious than she to fulfil those expectations to the
utmost.  So she settled she would go to Grebe to-morrow, and, after
thanking her in person for the pâté, ask to join the callisthenic
class.  Tilling, and Lucia too, no doubt would take that as a sign
of surrender, but let them wait a while, and they should see.

'I can't fight her unless I get in touch with her,' reflected
Elizabeth; 'at least I don't see how, and I'm sure I've thought
enough.'



10


In pursuance of this policy Elizabeth set out early in the
afternoon next day to walk out to Grebe, and there eat pie with a
purpose.  The streets were full of holiday folk, and by the
railings at the end of the High Street, where the steep steps went
down to the levels below, there was a crowd of people looking at
the immense expanse of water that lay spread over the marsh.  The
south-westerly gale had piled up the spring tides, the continuous
rains had caused the river to come down in flood, and the meeting
of the two, the tide now being at its height, formed a huge lake, a
mile and more wide, which stretched seawards.  The gale had now
quite ceased, the sun shone brilliantly from the pale blue of the
winter sky, and this enormous estuary sparkled in the gleam.  Far
away to the south a great bank of very thick vapour lay over the
horizon, showing that out in the Channel there was thick fog, but
over Tilling and the flooded marsh the heavens overhead were of a
dazzling radiance.

Many of Elizabeth's friends were there, the Padre and his wife (who
kept exclaiming in little squeaks, 'Oh dear me, what a quantity of
water!'), the Wyses who had dismounted from the Royce, which stood
waiting, to look at the great sight, before they proceeded on their
afternoon drive.  Major Benjy was saying that it was nothing to the
Jumna in flood, but then he always held up India as being far ahead
of England in every way (he had even once said on an extremely
frosty morning, that this was nothing to the bitterness of Bombay):
Georgie was there and Diva.  With them all Elizabeth exchanged the
friendliest greetings, and afterwards, when the great catastrophe
had happened, everyone agreed that they had never known her more
cordial and pleasant, poor thing.  She did not of course tell them
what her errand was, for it would be rash to do that till she saw
how Lucia received her, but merely said that she was going for her
usual brisk walk on this lovely afternoon, and should probably pop
into the Picture Palace to learn about tadpoles.  With many
flutterings of her hand and enough au reservoirs to provide water
for the world, she tripped down the hill, through the Landgate, and
out on to the road that led to Grebe and nowhere else particular.

She passed, as she neared Grebe, Lucia's four indoor servants and
Cadman coming into the town, and, remembering that they were going
to a whist drive at the Institute, wished them a merry Christmas
and hoped that they would all win.  (Little kindly remarks like
that always pleased servants, thought Elizabeth; they showed a
human sympathy with their pleasures, and cost nothing; so much
better than Christmas boxes.)  Her brisk pace made short work of
the distance, and within quite a few minutes of her leaving her
friends, she had come to the thick hornbeam hedge which shielded
Grebe from the road.  She stopped opposite it for a moment: there
was that prodigious sheet of dazzling water now close to the top of
the restraining bank to admire: there was herself to screw up to
the humility required for asking Lucia if she might join her silly
callisthenic class.  Finally, coming from nowhere, there flashed
into her mind the thought of lobster à la Riseholme, the recipe for
which Lucia had so meanly withheld from her.  Instantly that
thought fructified into apples of Desire.

She gave one glance at the hornbeam hedge to make sure that she was
not visible from the windows of Grebe.  (Lucia used often to be
seen spying from the windows of the garden-room during her tenancy
of Mallards, and she might be doing the same thing here.)  But the
hedge was quite impenetrable to human eye, as Elizabeth had often
regretfully observed already, and now instead of going in at the
high wooden gate which led to the front door, she passed quickly
along till she came to the far corner of the hedge bordering the
kitchen-garden.  So swift was thought to a constructive mind like
hers already stung with desire, that, brisk though was her physical
movement, her mind easily outstripped it, and her plan was laid
before she got to the corner.  Viz.:

The servants were all out--of that she had received ocular evidence
but a few moments before--and the kitchen would certainly be empty.
She would therefore go round to the gate at the end of the kitchen-
garden and approach the house that way.  The cinder path, used for
the prancing of the callisthenic class in fine weather, led
straight to the big coachhouse doors of the kitchen, and she would
ascertain by the simple device of trying the handle if these were
unlocked.  If they were locked, there was an end to her scheme, but
if they were unlocked, she would quietly pop in, and see whether
the cook's book of recipes was not somewhere about.  If it was she
would surely find in it the recipe for lobster à la Riseholme.  A
few minutes would suffice to copy it, and then tiptoeing out of the
kitchen again, with the key to the mystery in her pocket, she would
go round to the front door as cool as a cucumber, and ring the
bell.  Should Lucia (alone in the house and possibly practising for
more po-di-mus) not hear the bell, she would simply postpone the
eating of her humble pie till the next day.  If, by ill chance,
Lucia was in the garden and saw her approaching by this unusual
route, nothing was easier than to explain that, returning from her
walk, she thought she would look in to thank her for the pâté and
ask if she might join her callisthenic class.  Knowing that the
servants were all out (she would glibly explain) she felt sure that
the main gate on to the road would be locked, and therefore she
tried the back way . . .  The whole formation of the scheme was
instantaneous; it was as if she had switched on the lights at the
door of a long gallery, and found it lit from end to end.

Without hurrying at all she walked down the cinder path and tested
the kitchen-door.  It was unlocked, and she slipped in, closing it
quietly behind her.  In the centre of the kitchen, decked and ready
for illumination, stood the Christmas-tree designed for the
delectation of the choir-boys that evening, and the great kitchen-
table, with its broad skirting of board half-way down the legs, had
been moved away and stood on its side against the dresser in order
to give more room for the tree.  Elizabeth hardly paused a second
to admire the tapers, the reflecting glass balls, the bright
tinselly decorations, for she saw a small shelf of books on the
wall opposite, and swooped like a merlin on it.  There were a few
trashy novels, there was a hymn-book and a prayer-book, and there
was a thick volume, with no title on the back, bound in American
cloth.  She opened it and saw at once that her claws had at last
gripped the prey, for on one page was pasted a cutting from the
daily press concerning oeufs à l'aurore, on the next was a recipe
in manuscript for cheese straws.  Rapidly she turned the leaves,
and there manifest at last was the pearl of great price, lobster à
la Riseholme.  It began with the luscious words, 'Take two hen
lobsters.'

Out came her pencil; that and a piece of paper in which had been
wrapped a present for a choir-boy was all she needed.  In a couple
of minutes she had copied out the mystic spell, replaced the sacred
volume on its shelf, and put in her pocket the information for
which she had pined so long.  'How odd,' she cynically reflected,
'that only yesterday I should have said to Diva that it must be a
very horrid burglar who was so wicked as to steal things on Boxing
Day.  Now I'll go round to the front door.'

At the moment when this Mephistophelian thought came into her mind,
she heard with a sudden stoppage of her heart-beat, a step on the
crisp path outside, and the handle of the kitchen-door was turned.
Elizabeth took one sideways stride behind the gaudy tree and
peering through its branches, saw Lucia standing at the entrance.
Lucia came straight towards her, not yet perceiving that there was
a Boxing Day burglar in her own kitchen, and stood admiring her
tree.  Then with a startled exclamation she called out, 'Who's
that?' and Elizabeth knew that she was discovered.  Further dodging
behind the decorated fir would be both undignified and ineffectual,
however skilful her footwork.

'It's me, dear Lucia,' she said.  'I came to thank you in person
for that delicious pàté and to ask if--'

From somewhere close outside there came a terrific roar and rush as
of great water-floods released.  Reunited for the moment by a
startled curiosity, they ran together to the open door, and saw,
already leaping across the road and over the hornbeam hedge, a
solid wall of water.

'The bank has given way,' cried Lucia.  'Quick, into the house
through the door in the kitchen, and up the stairs.'

They fled back past the Christmas-tree, and tried the door into the
house.  It was locked: the servants had evidently taken this
precaution before going out on their pleasuring.

'We shall be drowned,' wailed Elizabeth, as the flood came foaming
into the kitchen.

'Rubbish,' cried Lucia.  'The kitchen-table!  We must turn it
upside down and get on to it.'

It was but the work of a moment to do this, for the table was
already on its side, and the two stepped over the high boarding
that ran round it.  Would their weight be too great to allow it to
float on the rushing water that now deepened rapidly in the
kitchen?  That anxiety was short-lived, for it rose free from the
floor and bumped gently into the Christmas-tree.

'We must get out of this,' cried Lucia.  'One doesn't know how much
the water will rise.  We may be drowned yet if the table-legs come
against the ceiling.  Catch hold of the dresser and pull.'

But there was no need for such exertion, for the flood, eddying
fiercely round the submerged kitchen, took them out of the doors
that it had flung wide, and in a few minutes they were floating
away over the garden and the hornbeam hedge.  The tide had
evidently begun to ebb before the bank gave way, and now the
kitchen-table, occasionally turning round in an eddy, moved off in
the direction of Tilling and of the sea.  Luckily it had not got
into the main stream of the river but floated smoothly and swiftly
along, with the tide and the torrent of the flood to carry it.  Its
two occupants, of course, had no control whatever over its
direction, but soon, with an upspring of hope, they saw that the
current was carrying it straight towards the steep slope above the
Landgate, where not more than a quarter of an hour ago Elizabeth
had interchanged greetings and au reservoirs with her friends who
had been looking at the widespread waters.  Little had she thought
that so soon she would be involved in literal reservoirs of the
most gigantic sort--but this was no time for light conceits.

The company of Tillingites was still there when the bank opposite
Grebe gave way.  All but Georgie had heard the rush and roar of the
released waters, but his eyes were sharper than others, and he had
been the first to see where the disaster had occurred.

'Look, the bank opposite Grebe has burst!' he cried.  'The road's
under water, her garden's under water: the rooms downstairs must be
flooded.  I hope Lucia's upstairs, or she'll get dreadfully wet.'

'And that road is Elizabeth's favourite walk,' cried Diva.  'She'll
be on it now.'

'But she walks so fast,' said the Padre, forgetting to speak
Scotch.  'She'll be past Grebe by now, and above where the bank has
burst.'

'Oh dear, oh dear, and on Boxing Day!' wailed Mrs Bartlett.

The huge flood was fast advancing on the town, but with this outlet
over the fields, it was evident that it would get no deeper at
Grebe, and that, given Lucia was upstairs and that Elizabeth had
walked as fast as usual, there was no real anxiety for them.  All
eyes now watched the progress of the water.  It rose like a wave
over a rock when it came to the railway line that crossed the marsh
and in a couple of minutes more it was foaming over the fields
immediately below the town.

Again Georgie uttered woe like Cassandra.

'There's something coming,' he cried.  'It looks like a raft with
its legs in the air.  And there are two people on it.  Now it's
spinning round and round; now it's coming straight here ever so
fast.  There are two women, one without a hat.  It's Them!  It's
Lucia and Miss Mapp!  What HAS happened?'

The raft, with legs sometimes madly waltzing, sometimes floating
smoothly along, was borne swiftly towards the bottom of the cliff,
below which the flood was pouring by.  The Padre, with his new
umbrella, ran down the steps that led to the road below in order to
hook it in, if it approached within umbrella-distance.  On and on
it came, now clearly recognizable as Lucia's great kitchen-table
upside down, until it was within a yard or two of the bank.  To
attempt to wade out to it, for any effective purpose, was useless:
the strongest would be swept away in such a headlong torrent, and
even if he reached the raft there would be three helpless people on
it instead of two and it would probably sink.  To hook it with the
umbrella was the only chance, for there was no time to get a boat-
hook or a rope to throw out to the passengers.  The Padre made a
desperate lunge at it, slipped and fell flat into the water, and
was only saved from being carried away by clutching at the iron
railing alongside the lowest of the submerged steps.  Then some
fresh current tweaked the table and, still moving in the general
direction of the flood-water, it sheered off across the fields.  As
it receded Lucia showed the real stuff of which she was made.  She
waved her hand and her clear voice rang out gaily across the waste
of water.

'Au reservoir, all of you,' she cried.  'We'll come back: just wait
till we come back,' and she was seen to put her arm round the
huddled form of Mapp, and comfort her.

The kitchen-table was observed by the watchers to get into the main
channel of the river, where the water was swifter yet.  It twirled
round once or twice as if waving a farewell, and then shot off
towards the sea and that great bank of thick mist which hung over
the horizon.

There was not yet any reason to despair.  A telephone-message was
instantly sent to the fishermen at the port, another to the coast-
guards, another to the lifeboat, that a kitchen-table with a cargo
of ladies on it was coming rapidly down the river, and no effort
must be spared to arrest its passage out to sea.  But, one after
the other, as the short winter afternoon waned, came discouraging
messages from the coast.  The flood had swept from their moorings
all the fishing boats anchored at the port or drawn up on the shore
above high-water mark, and a coast-guardsman had seen an
unintelligible object go swiftly past the mouth of the river before
the telephone-message was received.  He could not distinguish what
it was, for the fog out in the Channel had spread to the coastline,
and it had seemed to him more like the heads and necks of four
sea-serpents playing together than anything else.  But when
interrogated as to whether it might be the legs of a kitchen-table
upside down he acknowledged that the short glimpse which he
obtained of it before it got lost in the fog would suit a kitchen-
table as well as sea-serpents.  He had said sea-serpents because it
was in the sea, but it was just as like the legs of a kitchen-
table, which had never occurred to him as possible.  His missus had
just such a kitchen-table--but as he seemed to be diverging into
domestic reminiscences, the Mayor of Tilling, who himself conducted
inquiries instead of opening the whist drive at the Institute with
a short speech on the sin of gambling, cut him off.  It was only
too clear that this imaginative naturalist had seen--too late--the
kitchen-table going out to sea.

The lifeboat had instantly responded to the SOS call on its
services, and the great torrent of the flood having now gone by,
the crew had been able to launch the boat and had set off to search
the English Channel, in the blinding fog, for the table.  The tide
was setting west down the coast, the flood pouring out from the
river mouth was discharged east, but they had gone off to row about
in every direction, where the kitchen-table might have been
carried.  Rockets had been sent up from the station in case the
ladies didn't know where they were.  That, so the Mayor reflected,
might conceivably show the ladies where they were, but it didn't
really enable them to get anywhere else.

Dusk drew on and the friends of the missing went back to their
respective houses, for there was no good in standing about in this
dreadful cold fog which had now crept up from the marsh.  Pneumonia
wouldn't help matters.  Four of them, Georgie and Major Benjy and
Diva and quaint Irene, lived solitary and celibate, and the
prospect of a lonely evening with only suspense and faint hopes to
feed upon was perfectly ghastly.  In consequence, when each of them
in turn was rung up by Mr Wyse, who hoped, in a broken voice, that
he might find them disengaged and willing to come round to his
house for supper (not dinner), they all gladly accepted.  Mr Wyse
requested them not to dress as for dinner, and this was felt to
show a great delicacy: not dressing would be a sort of symbol of
their common anxiety.  Supper would be at half-past eight, and Mr
Wyse trusted that there would be encouraging news before that hour.

The Padre and Mrs Bartlett had been bidden as well, so that there
was a supper-party of eight.  Supper began with the most delicious
caviare, and on the black oak mantelpiece were two threepenny
Christmas cards.  Susan helped herself plentifully to the caviare.
There was no use in not eating.

'Dear Lucia's Christmas present to me,' she said.  'Hers and yours
I should say, Mr Georgie.'

'Lucia sent me a wonderful box of nougat chocolates,' said Diva.
'She and you, I mean, Mr Georgie.'

Major Benjy audibly gulped.

'Mrs Lucia,' he said, 'if I may call her so, sent me half a dozen
bottles of pre-war whisky.'

The Padre had pulled himself together by this time, and spoke
Scotch.

'I had a wee mischance wi' my umbrella two days agone,' he said,
'and Mistress Lucia, such a menseful woman, sent me a new one.  An'
now that's gone bobbin' out to sea.'

'You're too pessimistic, Kenneth,' said Mrs Bartlett.  'An umbrella
soon gets waterlogged and sinks, I tell you.  The chances are it
will be picked up in the marsh to-morrow, and it'll find its way
back to you, for there's that beautiful silver band on the handle
with your name engraved on it.'

'Eh, 'twould be a bonnie thing to recover it,' said her husband.

Mr Wyse thought that the conversation was getting a little too much
concerned with minor matters; the recovery of an umbrella, though
new, was a loss that might be lamented later.  Besides, the other
missing lady had not been mentioned yet.  He pointed to the two
threepenny Christmas cards on the mantelpiece.

'Our friend Elizabeth Mapp sent those to my wife and me yesterday,'
he said.  'We shall keep them always among our most cherished
possessions in case--I mean in any case.  Pretty designs.  Roofs
covered with snow.  Holly.  Robins.  She had a very fine artistic
taste.  Her pictures had always something striking and original
about them.'

Everybody cudgelled their brains for something appropriate to say
about Elizabeth's connection with Art.  The effort was quite
hopeless, for her ignoble trick in rejecting Lucia's and Georgie's
pictures for the last exhibition, and the rejection by the new
committee of her own for the forthcoming exhibition were all that
could occur to the most nimble brain, and while the artist was in
direst peril on the sea, or possibly now at rest beneath it, it
would be in the worst taste to recall those discordant incidents.
A very long pause of silence followed, broken only by the crashing
of toast in the mouths of those who had not yet finished their
caviare.

Irene had eaten no caviare, nor hitherto had she contributed
anything to the conversation.  Now she suddenly burst into shrieks
of hysterical laughter and sobs.

'What rubbish you're all talking,' she cried, wiping her eyes.
'How can you be so silly?  I'm sure I beg your pardons, but there
it is.  I'll go home, please.'

She fled from the room and banged the front door so loudly that the
house shook, and one of Miss Mapp's cards fell into the fireplace.

'Poor thing.  Very excitable and uncontrolled,' said Susan.  'But I
think she's better alone.'

There was a general feeling of relief that Irene had gone, and as
Mrs Wyse's excellent supper progressed, with its cold turkey and
its fried slices of plum pudding, its toasted cheese and its figs
stuffed with almonds sent by Amelia from Capri, the general
numbness caused by the catastrophe began to pass off.  Consumed
with anxiety as all were for the two (especially one of them) who
had vanished into the Channel fogs on so unusual a vehicle, they
could not fail to recognize what problems of unparalleled
perplexity and interest were involved in what all still hoped might
not turn out to be a tragedy.  But whether it proved so or not, the
whole manner of these happenings, the cause, the conditions, the
circumstances which led to the two unhappy ladies whisking by on
the flood must be discussed, and presently Major Benjy broke into
this unnatural reticence.

'I've seen many floods on the Jumna,' he said, refilling his glass
of port, 'but I never saw one so sudden and so--so fraught with
enigmas.  They must have been in the kitchen.  Now we all know
there was a Christmas-tree there--'

A conversational flood equal to the largest ever seen on the Jumna
was unloosed; a torrent of conjectures, and reconstruction after
reconstruction of what could have occurred to produce what they had
all seen, was examined and rejected as containing some inherent
impossibility.  And then what did the gallant Lucia's final words
mean, when she said, 'Just wait till we come back'?  By now
discussion had become absolutely untrammelled, the rivalry between
the two, Miss Mapp's tricks and pointless meannesses, Lucia's
scornful victories, and, no less, her domineering ways were openly
alluded to.

'But "Just wait till we come back" is what we're talking about,'
cried Diva.  'We must keep to the point, Major Benjy.  I believe
she simply meant "Don't give up hope.  We SHALL come back."  And
I'm sure they will.'

'No, there's more in it than that,' said Georgie, interrupting.
'I know Lucia better than any of you.  She meant that she had
something frightfully interesting to tell us when she did come
back, as of course she will, and I'd bet it was something about
Elizabeth.  Some new thing she'd found her out in.'

'But at such a solemn moment,' said the Padre, again forgetting his
pseudo-Highland origin, 'when they were being whirled out to sea
with death staring them in the face, I hardly think that such
trivialities as those which had undoubtedly before caused between
those dear ladies the frictions which we all deplored--'

'Nonsense, Kenneth,' said his wife, rather to his relief, for he
did not know how he was to get out of this sentence, 'you enjoyed
those rows as much as anybody.'

'I don't agree with you, Padre,' said Georgie.  'To begin with, I'm
sure Lucia didn't think she was facing death and even if she did,
she'd still have been terribly interested in life till she went
phut.'

'Thank God I live on a hill,' exclaimed Major Benjy, thinking, as
usual, of himself.

Mr Wyse held up his hand.  As he was the host, it was only kind to
give him a chance, for he had had none as yet.  'Your pardon,' he
said, 'if I may venture to suggest what may combine the ideas of
our reverend friend and of Mr Pillson'--he made them two bows--'I
think Mrs Lucas felt she was facing death--who wouldn't?--but she
was of that vital quality which never gives up interest in life,
until, in fact (which we trust with her is not the case), all is
over.  But like a true Christian, she was, as we all saw, employed
in comforting the weak.  She could not have been using her last
moments, which we hope are nothing of the sort, better.  And if
there had been frictions, they arose only from the contact of two
highly vitalized--'

'She kissed Elizabeth too,' cried Mrs Bartlett.  'I saw her.  She
hasn't done that for ages.  Fancy!'

'I want to get back to the kitchen,' said Diva.  'What could have
taken Elizabeth to the kitchen?  I've got a brilliant idea, though
I don't know what you'll think of it.  She knew Lucia was giving a
Christmas-tree to the choir-boys, because I told her so yesterday--'

'I wonder what's happened to that,' said the Padre.  'If it wasn't
carried away by the flood, and I think we should have seen it go
by, it might be dried.'

Diva, as usual when interrupted, had held her mouth open, and went
straight on.

'--and she knew the servants were out, because I'd told her that
too, and she very likely wanted to see the Christmas-tree.  So I
suggest that she went round the back way into the kitchen--that
would be extremely like her, you know--in order to have a look at
it, without asking a favour of--'

'Well, I do call that clever,' interrupted Georgie admiringly.  'Go
on.  What happened next?'

Diva had not got further than that yet, but now a blinding
brilliance illuminated her and she clapped her hands.

'I see, I see,' she cried.  'In she went into the kitchen and while
she was looking at it, Lucia came in too, and then the flood came
in too.  All three of them.  That would explain what was behind her
words, "Just wait till we come back."  She meant that she wanted to
tell us that she'd found Elizabeth in her kitchen.'

It was universally felt that Diva had hit it, and after such a
stroke of reconstructive genius, any further discussion must be
bathos.  Instantly a sad reaction set in, and they all looked at
each other much shocked to find how wildly interested they had
become in these trivial affairs, while their two friends were, to
put the most hopeful view of the case, on a kitchen-table somewhere
in the English Channel.  But still Lucia had said that she and her
companion were coming back, and though no news had arrived of the
castaways, every one of her friends, at the bottom of their hearts,
felt that these were not idle words, and that they must keep alive
their confidence in Lucia.  Miss Mapp alone would certainly have
been drowned long ago, but Lucia, whose power of resource all knew
to be unlimited, was with her.  No one could suggest what she could
possibly do in such difficult circumstances, but never yet had she
been floored, nor failed to emerge triumphant from the most
menacing situations.

Mrs Wyse's cuckoo clock struck the portentous hour of 1 a.m.  They
all sighed, they all got up, they all said good night with
melancholy faces, and groped their ways home in the cold fog.
Above Georgie's head as he turned the corner by Mallards there
loomed the gable of the garden-room, where so often a chink of
welcoming light had shone between the curtains, as the sound of
Mozartino came from within.  Dark and full of suspense as was the
present, he could still, without the sense of something forever
past from his life, imagine himself sitting at the piano again with
Lucia, waiting for her Uno, due, TRE as they tried over for the
first time the secretly familiar duets.

The whole of the next day this thick fog continued both on land and
water, but no news came from seawards save the bleating and hooting
of fog-horns, and as the hours passed, anxiety grew more acute.
Mrs Wyse opened the picture exhibition on behalf of Lucia, for it
was felt that in any case she would have wished that, but owing to
the extreme inclemency of the weather only Mr Wyse and Georgie
attended this inaugural ceremony.  Mrs Wyse in the lamented absence
of the authoress read Lucia's lecture on modern art from the
typewritten copy which she had sent Georgie to look through and
criticize.  It lasted an hour and twenty minutes, and after
Georgie's applause had died away at the end, Mr Wyse read the
speech he had composed to propose a vote of thanks to Lucia for her
most enthralling address.  This also was rather long, but written
in the most classical and urbane style.  Georgie seconded this in a
shorter speech, and Mrs Wyse (vice Lucia) read another longer
speech of Lucia's which was appended in manuscript to her lecture,
in which she thanked them for thanking her, and told them how
diffident she had felt in thus appearing before them.  There was
more applause, and then the three of them wandered round the room
and peered at each other's pictures through the dense fog.  Evening
drew in again, without news, and Tilling began to fear the worst.

Next morning there came a mute and terrible message from the sea.
The fog had cleared, the day was of crystalline brightness, and
since air and exercise would be desirable after sitting at home all
the day before, and drinking that wonderful pre-war whisky, Major
Benjy set off by the eleven o'clock tram to play a round of golf
with the Padre.  Though hope was fast expiring, neither of them
said anything definitely indicating that they no longer really
expected to see their friends again, but there had been talk
indirectly bearing on the catastrophe; the Major had asked casually
whether Mallards was a freehold, and the Padre replied that both it
and Grebe were the property of their occupiers and not held on
lease; he also made a distant allusion to memorial services, saying
he had been to one lately, very affecting.  Then Major Benjy lost
his temper with the caddie, and their game assumed a more normal
aspect.

They had now come to the eighth hole, the tee of which was perched
high like a pulpit on the sand-dunes and overlooked the sea.  The
match was most exciting: hole after hole had been halved in
brilliant sixes and sevens, the players were both on the top of
their form, and in their keenness had quite banished from their
minds the overshadowing anxiety.  Here Major Benjy topped his ball
into a clump of bents immediately in front of the tee, and when he
had finished swearing at his caddie for moving on the stroke, the
Padre put his iron shot on to the green.

'A glorious day,' he exclaimed, and, turning to pick up his clubs,
gazed out seawards.  The tide was low, and an immense stretch of
'shining sands' as in Charles Kingsley's poem was spread in front
of him.  Then he gave a gasp.

'What's that?' he said to Major Benjy, pointing with a shaking
finger.

'Good God,' said Major Benjy.  'Pick up my ball, caddie.'  They
scrambled down the steep dunes and walked across the sands to where
lay this object which had attracted the Padre's attention.  It was
an immense kitchen-table upside down with its legs in the air, wet
with brine but still in perfect condition.  Without doubt it was
the one which they had seen two days before whirling out to sea.
But now it was by itself, no ladies were sitting upon it.  The
Padre bared his head.

'Shall we abandon our game, Major?' he said.  'We had better
telephone from the Club-house to the Mayor.  And I must arrange to
get some men to bring the table back.  It's far too heavy for us to
think of moving it.'


The news that the table had come ashore spread swiftly through
Tilling, and Georgie, hearing that the Padre had directed that when
it had passed the Custom House it should be brought to the
Vicarage, went round there at once.  It seemed almost unfeeling in
this first shock of bereavement to think about tables, but it would
save a great deal of bother afterwards to see to this now.  The
table surely belonged to Grebe.

'I quite understand your point of view,' he said to the Padre, 'and
of course what is found on the seashore in a general way belongs to
the finder, if it's a few oranges in a basket, because nobody knows
who the real owner is.  But we all know, at least we're afraid we
do, where this came from.'

The Padre was quite reasonable.

'You mean it ought to go back to Grebe,' he said.  'Yes, I agree.
Ah, I see it has arrived.'

They went out into the street, where a trolley, bearing the table,
had just drawn up.  Then a difficulty arose.  It was late, and the
bearers demurred to taking it all the way out to Grebe to-night and
carrying it through the garden.

'Move it in here then for the night,' said the Padre.  'You can get
it through the back-yard and into the outhouse.'

Georgie felt himself bound to object to this: the table belonged to
Grebe, and it looked as if Grebe, alas, belonged to him.

'I think it had better come to Mallards Cottage,' said he firmly.
'It's only just round the corner, and it can stand in my yard.'

The Padre was quite willing that it should go back to Grebe, but
why should Georgie claim this object with all the painful interest
attached to it?  After all, he had found it.

'And so I don't quite see why you should have it,' he said a little
stiffly.

Georgie took him aside.

'It's dreadful to talk about it so soon,' he said, 'but that is
what I should like done with it.  You see Lucia left me Grebe and
all its contents.  I still cling--can't help it--to the hope that
neither it nor they may ever be mine, but in the interval which may
elapse--'

'No!  Really!' said the Padre with a sudden thrill of Tillingite
interest which it was no use trying to suppress.  'I congrat--Well,
well.  Of course the kitchen-table is yours.  Very proper.'

The trolley started again and by dint of wheedlings and cunning
coaxings the sad substantial relic was induced to enter the back-
yard of Mallards Cottage.  Here for the present it would have to
remain, but pickled as it was with long immersion in sea water, the
open air could not possibly hurt it, and if it rained, so much the
better, for it would wash the salt out.

Georgie, very tired and haggard with these harrowing arrangements,
had a little rest on his sofa, when he had seen the table safely
bestowed.  His cook gave him a succulent and most nutritious dinner
by way of showing her sympathy, and Foljambe waited on him with
peculiar attention, constantly holding a pocket-handkerchief to the
end of her nose, by way of expressing her own grief.  Afterwards he
moved to his sitting-room and took up his needlework, that 'sad
narcotic exercise', and looked his loss in the face.

Indeed, it was difficult to imagine what life would be like without
Lucia, but there was no need to imagine it, for he was experiencing
it already.  There was nothing to look forward to, and he realized
how completely Lucia and her manoeuvres and her indomitable
vitality and her deceptions and her greatnesses had supplied the
salt to life.  He had never been in the least in love with her, but
somehow she had been as absorbing as any wayward and entrancing
mistress.  'It will be too dull for anything,' thought he, 'and
there won't be a single day in which I shan't miss her most
dreadfully.  It's always been like that: when she was away from
Riseholme, I never seemed to care to paint or to play, except
because I should show her what I had done when she came back, and
now she'll never come back.'

He abandoned himself for quite a long time to despair with regard
to what life would hold for him.  Nobody else, not even Foljambe,
seemed to matter at all.  But then through the black, deep waters
of his tribulation there began to appear little bubbles on the
surface.  It was like comparing a firefly with the huge night
itself to weigh them against this all-encompassing darkness, but
where for a moment each pricked the surface there was, it was idle
to deny, just a spark that stood out momentarily against the
blackness.  The table, for instance: he would have a tablet fixed
on to it, with a suitable inscription to record the tragic role it
had played, a text, so to speak, as on a cenotaph.  How would
Lucia's last words do?  'Just wait till we come back.'  But if this
was a memorial table, it must record that Lucia was not coming
back.

He fetched a writing-pad and began again.  'This is the table--'
but that wouldn't do.  It suggested 'This is the house that Jack
built.'  Then, 'It was upon this table on Boxing Day afternoon,
1930, that Mrs Emmeline Lucas, of Grebe, and Miss Elizabeth Mapp,
of Mallards--' that was too prolix.  Then, 'In memory of Emmeline
Lucas and Elizabeth Mapp.  They went to sea--' but that sounded
like a nursery rhyme by Edward Lear, or it might suggest to future
generations that they were sailors.  Then he wondered if poetry
would supply anything, and the lines, 'And may there be no sadness
of farewell, when I embark,' occurred to him.  But that wouldn't
do: people would wonder why she had embarked on a kitchen-table,
and even now, when the event was so lamentably recent, nobody
actually knew.

'I hadn't any idea,' thought Georgie, 'how difficult it is to write
a few well-chosen and heart-felt words.  I shall go and look at the
tombstones in the churchyard to-morrow.  Lucia would have thought
of something perfect at once.'

Tiny as were these bubbles and others (larger ones) which Georgie
refused to look at directly, they made a momentary, an evanescent
brightness.  Some of them made quite loud pops as they burst, and
some presented problems.  This catastrophe had conveyed a solemn
warning against living in a house so low-lying, and Major Benjy had
already expressed that sentiment when he gave vent to that self-
centred cri du coeur 'Thank God I live on a hill,' but for Georgie
that question would soon become a practical one, though he would
not attempt to make up his mind yet.  It would be absurd to have
two houses in Tilling, to be the tenant of Mallards Cottage, and
the owner of Grebe.  Or should he live in Grebe during the summer,
when there was no fear of floods, and Mallards Cottage in the
winter?

He got into bed: the sympathetic Foljambe, before going home, had
made a beautiful fire, and his hot-water bottle was of such a
temperature that he could not put his feet on it at all . . .  If
he lived at Grebe she would only have to go back across the garden
to her Cadman, if Cadman remained in his service.  Then there was
Lucia's big car.  He supposed that would be included in the
contents of Grebe.  Then he must remember to put a black bow on
Lucia's picture in the Art Exhibition.  Then he got sleepy . . .



11


Though Georgie had thought that there would be nothing interesting
left in life now that Lucia was gone, and though Tilling generally
was conscious that the termination of the late rivalries would take
all thrill out of existence as well as eclipsing its gaieties most
dreadfully, it proved one morning when the sad days had begun to
add themselves into weeks, that there was a great deal for him to
do, as well as a great deal for Tilling to talk about.  Lucia had
employed a local lawyer over the making of her will, and to-day Mr
Causton (re the affairs of Mrs Emmeline Lucas) came to see Georgie
about it.  He explained to him with a manner subtly compounded of
sympathy and congratulation that the little sum of money to which
Lucia had alluded was no less than £80,000.  Georgie was, in fact,
apart from certain legacies, her heir.  He was much moved.

'Too kind of her,' he said.  'I had no idea--'

Mr Causton went on with great delicacy.

'It will be some months,' he said, 'before in the absence of fresh
evidence, the death of my client can be legally assumed--'

'Oh, the longer, the better,' said Georgie rather vaguely, wiping
his eyes, 'but what do you mean about fresh evidence?'

'The recovery, by washing ashore or other identification, of the
lamented corpses,' said Mr Causton.  'In the interval the--the
possibly late Mrs Lucas has left no provision for the contingency
we have to face.  If and when her death is proved, the staff of
servants will receive their wages up to date and a month's notice.
Until then the estate, I take it, will be liable for the out-goings
and the upkeep of Grebe.  I would see to all that, but I felt that
I must get your authority first.'

'Of course, naturally,' said Georgie.

'But here a difficulty arises,' said Mr Causton.  'I have no
authority for drawing on the late--or, we hope, the present Mrs
Lucas's balance at the bank.  There is, you see, no fund out of
which the current expenses of the upkeep of the house can be paid.
There is more than a month's food and wages for her servants
already owing.'

George's face changed a little.  A very little.

'I had better pay them myself,' he said.  'Would not that be the
proper course?'

'I think, under the circumstances, that it would,' said Mr Causton.
'In fact, I don't see what else is to be done, unless all the
servants were discharged at once, and the house shut up.'

'No, that would never do,' said Georgie.  'I must go down there and
arrange about it all.  If Mrs Lucas returns, how horrid for her to
find all her servants who had been with her so long, gone.
Everything must carry on as if she had only gone for a visit
somewhere and forgotten to send a cheque for expenses.'

Here then, at any rate, was something to do already, and Georgie,
thinking that he would like a little walk on this brisk morning,
and also feeling sure that he would like a little conversation with
friends in the High Street, put on his thinner cape, for a hint of
spring was in the air, and there were snowdrops abloom in the
flower-border of his little garden.  Lucia, he remembered, always
detested snowdrops: they hung their heads and were feeble; they
typified for her slack though amiable inefficiency.  In order to
traverse the whole length of the High Street and get as many
conversations as possible he went down by Mallards and Major
Benjy's house.  The latter, from the window of his study, where he
so often enjoyed a rest or a little refreshment before and after
his game of golf, saw him pass, and beckoned him in.

'Good morning, old boy,' he said.  'I've had a tremendous slice of
luck: at least that is not quite the way to put it, but what I mean
is--In fact, I've just had a visit from the solicitor of our
lamented friend Elizabeth Mapp, God bless her, and he told me the
most surprising news.  I was monstrously touched by it: hadn't a
notion of it, I assure you.'

'You don't mean to say,' began Georgie.

'Yes I do.  He informed me of the provisions of that dear woman's
will.  In memory of our long friendship, these were the very words--
and I assure you I was not ashamed to turn away and wipe my eyes,
when he told me--in memory of our long friendship she has left me
that beautiful Mallards and the sum of ten thousand pounds, which I
understand was the bulk of her fortune.  What do you think of
that?' he asked, allowing his exultation to get the better of him
for the moment.

'No!' said Georgie, 'I congratulate--at least in case--'

'I know,' said Major Benjy.  'If it turns out to be too true that
our friends have gone for ever, you're friendly enough to be glad
that what I've told you is too true, too.  Eh?'

'Quite, and I've had a visit from Mr Causton,' said Georgie, unable
to contain himself any longer, 'and Lucia's left me Grebe and
eighty thousand pounds.'

'My word!  What a monstrous fortune,' cried the Major with a spasm
of chagrin.  'I congrat--Anyhow, the same to you.  I shall get a
motor instead of going to my golf on that measly tram.  Then
there's Mallards for me to arrange about.  I'm thinking of letting
it furnished, servants and all.  It'll be snapped up at ten guineas
a week.  Why, she got fifteen last summer from the other poor
corpse.'

'I wouldn't,' said Georgie.  'Supposing she came back and found she
couldn't get into her house for another month because you had let
it?'

'God grant she may come back,' said the Major, without falling dead
on the spot.  'But I see your point: it would be awkward.  I'll
think it over.  Anyhow, of course, after a proper interval, when
the tragedy is proved, I shall go and live there myself.  Till then
I shall certainly pay the servants' wages and the upkeep.  Rather a
drain, but it can't be helped.  Board wages of twelve shillings a
week is what I shall give them: they'll live like fighting cocks on
that.  By jove, when I think of that terrible sight of the kitchen-
table lying out there on the beach, it causes me such a sinking
still.  Have a drink: wonderful pre-war whisky.'

Georgie had not yet visited Grebe, and he found a thrilling though
melancholy interest in seeing the starting-point of the
catastrophe.  The Christmas-tree, he ascertained, had stuck in the
door of the kitchen, and the Padre had already been down to look at
it, but had decided that the damage to it was irreparable.  It was
lying now in the garden from which soil and plants had been swept
away by the flood, but Georgie could not bear to see it there, and
directed that it should be put up, as a relic, in an empty
outhouse.  Perhaps a tablet on that as well as on the table.  Then
he had to interview Grosvenor, and make out a schedule of the
servants' wages, the total of which rather astonished him.  He saw
the cook and told her that he had the kitchen-table in his yard,
but she begged him not to send it back, as it had always been most
inconvenient.  Mrs Lucas, she told him, had had a feeling for it;
she thought there was luck about it.  Then she burst into tears and
said it hadn't brought her mistress much luck after all.  This was
all dreadfully affecting, and Georgie told her that in this period
of waiting during which they must not give up hope, all their wages
would be paid as usual, and they must carry on as before, and keep
the house in order.  Then there were some unpaid bills of Lucia's,
a rather appalling total, which must be discharged before long, and
the kitchen must be renovated from the effects of the flood.  It
was after dark when he got back to Mallards Cottage again.

In the absence of what Mr Causton called further evidence in the
way of corpses, and of alibis in the way of living human bodies,
the Padre settled in the course of the next week to hold a memorial
service, for unless one was held soon, they would all have got used
to the bereavement, and the service would lose point and poignancy.
It was obviously suitable that Major Benjy and Georgie, being the
contingent heirs of the defunct ladies, should sit by themselves in
a front pew as chief mourners, and Major Benjy ordered a black suit
to be made for him without delay for use on this solemn occasion.
The church bell was tolled as if for a funeral service, and the two
walked in side by side after the rest of the congregation had
assembled, and took their places in a pew by themselves immediately
in front of the reading-desk.

The service was of the usual character, and the Padre gave a most
touching address on the text 'They were lovely and pleasant in
their lives and in their death they were not divided.'  He reminded
his hearers how the two whom they mourned were as sisters, taking
the lead in social activities, and dispensing to all who knew them
their bountiful hospitalities.  Their lives had been full of
lovable energy.  They had been at the forefront in all artistic and
literary pursuits: indeed he might almost have taken the whole of
the verse of which he had read them only the half as his text, and
have added that they were swifter than eagles, they were stronger
than lions.  One of them had been known to them all for many years,
and the name of Elizabeth Mapp was written on their hearts.  The
other was a newer comer, but she had wonderfully endeared herself
to them in her briefer sojourn here, and it was typical of her
beautiful nature that on the very day on which the disaster
occurred, she had been busy with a Christmas-tree for the
choristers in whom she took so profound an interest.

As regards the last sad scene, he need not say much about it, for
never would any of them forget that touching, that ennobling, that
teaching sight of the two, gallant in the face of death as they had
ever been in that of life, being whirled out to sea.  Mrs Lucas in
the ordeal which they would all have to face one day, giving that
humorous greeting of hers, 'au reservoir', which they all knew so
well, to her friends standing in safety on the shore, and then
turning again to her womanly work of comforting and encouraging her
weaker sister.  'May we all,' said the Padre, with a voice
trembling with emotion, 'go to meet death in that serene and
untroubled spirit, doing our duty to the last.  And now--'

This sermon, at the request of a few friends, he had printed in the
Parish Magazine next week, and copies were sent to everybody.


It was only natural that Tilling should feel relieved when the
ceremony was over, for the weeks since the stranding of the kitchen-
table had been like the period between a death and a funeral.  The
blinds were up again now, and life gradually resumed a more normal
complexion.  January ebbed away into February, February into March,
and as the days lengthened with the returning sun, so the mirths
and squabbles of Tilling grew longer and brighter.

But a certain stimulus which had enlivened them all since Lucia's
advent from Riseholme was lacking.  It was not wholly that there
was no Lucia, nor, wholly, that there was no Elizabeth, it was the
intense reactions which they had produced together that everyone
missed so fearfully.  Day after day those who were left met and
talked in the High Street, but never was there news of that
thrilling kind which since the summer had keyed existence up to so
exciting a level.  But it was interesting to see Major Benjy in his
new motor, which he drove himself, and watch his hairbreadth
escapes from collisions at sharp corners and to hear the appalling
explosions of military language if any other vehicle came within a
yard of his green bonnet.

'He seems to think,' said Diva to Mrs Bartlett, as they met on
shopping errands one morning, 'that now he has got a motor nobody
else may use the road at all.'

'A trumpery little car,' said Mrs Bartlett, 'I should have thought,
with ten thousand pounds as good as in his pocket, he might have
got himself something better.'

They were standing at the corner looking up towards Mallards, and
Diva suddenly caught sight of a board on Major Benjy's house,
announcing that it was for sale.

'Why, whatever's that?' she cried.  'That must have been put up
only to-day.  Good morning, Mr Georgie.  What about Major Benjy's
house?'

Georgie still wore a broad black band on his sleeve.

'Yes, he told me yesterday that he was going to move into Mallards
next week,' he said.  'And he's going to have a sale of his
furniture almost immediately.'

'That won't be much to write home about,' said Diva scornfully.  'A
few moth-eaten tiger-skins which he said he shot in India.'

'I think he wants some money,' said Georgie.  'He's bought a motor,
you see, and he has to keep up Mallards as well as his own house.'

'I call that very rash,' said Mrs Bartlett.  'I call that counting
your chickens before they're hatched.  Oh dear me, what a thing to
have said!  Dreadful!'

Georgie tactfully covered this up by a change of subject.

'I've made up my mind,' he said, 'and I'm going to put up a
cenotaph in the churchyard to dear Lucia and Elizabeth.'

'What?  Both?' asked Diva.

'Yes, I've thought it carefully over, and it's going to be both.'

'Major Benjy ought to go halves with you then,' said Diva.

'Well, I told him I was intending to do it,' said Georgie, 'and he
didn't catch on.  He only said "Capital idea," and took some whisky
and soda.  So I shan't say any more.  I would really just as soon
do it all myself.'

'Well, I do think that's mean of him,' said Diva.  'He ought anyhow
to bear some part of the expense, considering everything.  Instead
of which he buys a motor-car which he can't drive.  Go on about the
cenotaph.'

'I saw it down at the stonemason's yard,' said Georgie, 'and that
put the idea into my head.  Beautiful white marble on the lines,
though of course much smaller, of the one in London.  It had been
ordered, I found, as a tombstone, but then the man who ordered it
went bankrupt, and it was on the stonemason's hands.'

'I've heard about it,' said Mrs Bartlett, in rather a superior
voice.  'Kenneth told me you'd told him, and we both think that
it's a lovely idea.'

'The stonemason ought to let you have it cheap then,' said Diva.

'It wasn't very cheap,' said Georgie, 'but I've bought it, and
they'll put it in its place to-day, just outside the south
transept, and the Padre is going to dedicate it.  Then there's the
inscription.  I shall have in loving memory of them, by me, and a
bit of the Padre's text at the memorial service.  Just "In death
they were not divided."'

'Quite right.  Don't put in about the eagles and the lions,' said
Diva.

'No, I thought I would leave that out.  Though I like that part,'
said Georgie for the sake of Mrs Bartlett.

'Talking of whisky,' said Diva, flying back, as her manner was, to
a remote allusion, 'Major Benjy's finished all the pre-war whisky
that Lucia gave him.  At least I heard him ordering some more
yesterday.  Oh, and there's the notice of his sale.  Old English
furniture--yes, that may mean two things, and I know which of them
it is.  Valuable works of Art.  Well I never!  A print of the
"Monarch of the Glen" and a photograph of the "Soul's Awakening".
Rubbish!  Fine tiger-skins!  The skins may be all right, but
they're bald.'

'My dear, how severe you are,' said Georgie.  'Now I must go and
see how they're getting on with the inscription.  Au reservoir.'

Diva nodded at Evie Bartlett.

'Nice to hear that again,' she said.  'I've not heard it--well,
since.'

The cenotaph with its inscription in bold leaded letters to say
that Georgie had erected it in memory of the two undivided ladies,
roused much admiration, and a full-page reproduction of it appeared
in the Parish Magazine for April, which appeared on the last day of
March.  The stone-cutter had slightly miscalculated the space at
his disposal for the inscription, and the words 'Elizabeth Mapp'
were considerably smaller than the words 'Emmeline Lucas' in order
to get them into the line.  Though Tilling said nothing about that,
it was felt that the error was productive of a very suitable
effect, if a symbolic meaning was interpreted into it.  Georgie was
considered to have done it very handsomely and to be behaving in a
way that contrasted most favourably with the conduct of Major
Benjy, for whereas Georgie was keeping up Grebe at great expense,
and restoring, all at his own charge, the havoc the flood had
wrought in the garden, Major Benjy, after unsuccessfully trying to
let Mallards at ten guineas a week, had moved into the house, and,
with a precipitation that was as rash as it was indelicate, was
already negotiating about the disposal of his own, and was to have
a sale of his furniture on April the first.  He had bought a motor,
he had replenished the cellars of Mallards with strong wines and
more pre-war whisky, he was spending money like water and on the
evening of this last day of March he gave a bridge-party in the
garden-room.

Georgie and Diva and Mrs Padre were the guests at this party: there
had been dinner first, a rich elaborate dinner, and bridge
afterwards up till midnight.  It had been an uncomfortable evening,
and before it was over they all wished they had not come, for Major
Benjy had alluded to it as a house-warming, which showed that
either his memory was going, or that his was a very callous nature,
for no one whose perceptions were not of the commonest could
possibly have used that word so soon.  He had spoken of his
benefactress with fulsome warmth, but it was painfully evident from
what source this posthumous affection sprang.  He thought of having
the garden-room redecorated, the house wanted brightening up a bit,
he even offered each of them one of Miss Mapp's water-colour
sketches, of which was a profusion on the walls, as a memento of
their friend, God bless her . . .  There he was straddling in the
doorway with the air of a vulgar nouveau riche owner of an
ancestral property, as they went their ways homeward into the
night, and they heard him bolt and lock the door and put up the
chain which Lucia in her tenancy had had repaired in order to keep
out the uninvited and informal visits of Miss Mapp.  'It would
serve him jolly well right,' thought Georgie, 'if she came back.'



12


It was a calm and beautiful night with a high tide that overflowed
the channel of the river.  There was spread a great sheet of
moonlit water over the submerged meadows at the margin, and it came
up to the foot of the rebuilt bank opposite Grebe.  Between four
and five of the morning of April the first, a trawler entered the
mouth of the river, and just at the time when the stars were
growing pale and the sky growing red with the coming dawn, it drew
up at the little quay to the east of the town, and was moored to
the shore.  There stepped out of it two figures clad in overalls
and tarpaulin jackets.

'I think we had better go straight to Mallards, dear,' said
Elizabeth, 'as it's so close, and have a nice cup of tea to warm
ourselves.  Then you can telephone from there to Grebe, and tell
them to send the motor up for you.'

'I shall ring up Georgie too,' said Lucia.  'I can't bear to think
that his suspense should last a minute more than is necessary.'

Elizabeth pointed upwards.

'See, there's the sun catching the top of the church tower,' she
said.  'Little did I think I should ever see dear Tilling again.'

'I never had the slightest doubt about it,' said Lucia.  'Look,
there are the fields we floated across on the kitchen-table.  I
wonder what happened to it.'

They climbed the steps at the south-east angle of the town, and up
the slope to the path across the churchyard.  This path led close
by the south side of the church, and the white marble of the
cenotaph gleamed in the early sunlight.

'What a handsome tomb,' said Elizabeth.  'It's quite new.  But how
does it come here?  No one has been buried in the churchyard for a
hundred years.'

Lucia gave a gasp as the polished lead letters caught her eye.

'But it's us!' she said.

They stood side by side in their tarpaulins, and together in a sort
of chant read the inscription aloud.


                  THIS STONE WAS ERECTED BY

                       GEORGE PILLSON

                     IN LOVING MEMORY OF

              EMMELINE LUCAS AND Elizabeth Mapp

               LOST AT SEA ON BOXING DAY, 1930

                      ----------------

              'IN DEATH THEY WERE NOT DIVIDED.'


'I've never heard of such a thing,' cried Lucia.  'I call it most
premature of Georgie, assuming that I was dead like that.  The
inscription must be removed instantly.  All the same it was kind of
him and what a lot of money it must have cost him!  Gracious me, I
suppose he thought--Let us hurry, Elizabeth.'

Elizabeth was still staring at the stone.

'I am puzzled to know why my name is put in such exceedingly small
letters,' she said acidly.  'You can hardly read it.  As you say,
dear, it was most premature of him.  I should call it impertinent,
and I'm very glad dear Major Benjy had nothing to do with it.
There's an indelicacy about it.'

They went quickly on past Mallards Cottage where the blinds were
still down, and there was the window of the garden-room from which
each had made so many thrilling observations, and the red-brick
front, glowing in the sun-light, of Mallards itself.  As they
crossed the cobbled way to the front door, Elizabeth looked down
towards the High Street and saw on Major Benjy's house next door
the house-agents' board announcing that the freehold of this
desirable residence was for disposal.  There were bills pasted on
the walls announcing the sale of furniture to take place there that
very day.

Her face turned white, and she laid a quaking hand on Lucia's arm.

'Look, Major Benjy's house is for sale,' she faltered.  'Oh, Lucia,
what has happened?  Have we come back from the dead, as it were, to
find that it's our dear old friend instead?  And to think--'  She
could not complete the sentence.

'My dear, you mustn't jump at any such terrible conclusions,' said
Lucia.  'He may, have changed his house--'

Elizabeth shook her head; she was determined to believe the worst,
and indeed it seemed most unlikely that Major Benjy who had lived
in the same house for a full quarter of a century could have gone
to any new abode but one.  Meantime, eager to put an end to this
suspense, Elizabeth kept pressing the bell, and Lucia plying the
knocker of Mallards.

'They all sleep on the attic floor,' said Elizabeth, 'but I think
they must hear us soon if we go on.  Ah, there's a step on the
stairs.  Someone is coming down.'

They heard the numerous bolts on the door shot back, they heard the
rattle of the released chain.  The door was opened and there within
stood Major Benjy.  He had put on his dinner jacket over his Jaeger
pyjamas, and had carpet slippers on his feet.  He was sleepy and
bristly and very cross.

'Now what's all this about, my men,' he said, seeing two
tarpaulined figures on the threshold.  'What do you mean by waking
me up with that infernal--'

Elizabeth's suspense was quite over.

'You wretch,' she cried in a fury.  'What do YOU mean?  Why are you
in my house?  Ah, I guess!  He!  He!  He!  You learned about my
will, did you?  You thought you wouldn't wait to step into a dead
woman's shoes, but positively tear them off my living feet.  My
will shall be revoked this day: I promise you that . . .  Now out
you go, you horrid supplanter!  Off to your own house with you, for
you shan't spend another minute in mine.'

During this impassioned address Major Benjy's face changed to an
expression of the blankest dismay, as if he had seen something much
worse (as indeed he had) than a ghost.  He pulled pieces of himself
together.

'But, my dear Miss Elizabeth,' he said.  'You'll allow me surely,
to get my clothes on, and above all to say one word of my deep
thankfulness that you and Mrs Lucas--it is Mrs Lucas, isn't it?--'

'Get out!' said Elizabeth, stamping her foot.  'Thankfulness
indeed!  There's a lot of thankfulness in your face!  Go away!
Shoo!'

Major Benjy had faced wounded tigers (so he said) in India, but
then he had a rifle in his hand.  He could not face his
benefactress, and, with first one slipper and then the other
dropping off his feet, he hurried down the few yards of pavement to
his own house.  The two ladies entered: Elizabeth banged the door
and put up the chain.

'So that's that,' she observed (and undoubtedly it was).  'Ah,
here's Withers.  Withers, we've come back, and though you ought
never to have let the Major set foot in my house, I don't blame
you, for I feel sure he bullied you into it.'

'Oh, miss!' said Withers.  'Is it you?  Fancy!  Well, that is a
surprise!'

'Now get Mrs Lucas and me a cup of tea,' said Elizabeth, 'and then
she's going back to Grebe.  That wretch hasn't been sleeping in my
room, I trust?'

'No, in the best spare bedroom,' said Withers.

'Then get my room ready, and I shall go to bed for a few hours.
We've been up all night.  Then, Withers, take all Major Benjy's
clothes and his horrid pipes, and all that belongs to him, and put
them on the steps outside.  Ring him up, and tell him where he will
find them.  But not one foot shall he set in MY house again.'

Lucia went to the telephone and rang up Cadman's cottage for her
motor.  She heard his exclamation of 'My Gawd', she heard (what she
supposed was) Foljambe's cry of astonishment, and then she rang up
Georgie.  He and his household were all a-bed and asleep when the
telephone began its summons, but presently the persistent tinkle
penetrated into his consciousness, and made him dream that he was
again watching Lucia whirling down the flood on the kitchen-table
and ringing an enormous dinner-bell as she swept by the steps.
Then he became completely awake and knew it was only the telephone.

'The tarsome thing!' he muttered.  'Who on earth can it be ringing
one up at this time?  Go on ringing then till you're tired.  I
shall go to sleep again.'

In spite of these resolutions, he did nothing of the kind.  So
ceaseless was the summons that in a minute or two he got out of
bed, and putting on his striped dressing-gown (blue and yellow)
went down to his sitting-room.

'Yes.  Who is it?  What do you want?' he said crossly.

There came a little merry laugh, and then a voice, which he had
thought was silent for ever, spoke in unmistakable accents.

'Georgie!  Georgino mio!' it said.

His heart stood still.

'What?  What?' he cried.

'Yes, it's Lucia,' said the voice.  'Me's tum home, Georgie.'

Eighty thousand pounds (less death duties) and Grebe seemed to
sweep by him like an avalanche, and fall into the gulf of the
things that might have been.  But it was not the cold blast of that
ruin that filled his eyes with tears.

'Oh my dear!' he cried.  'Is it really you?  Lucia, where are you?
Where are you talking from?'

'Mallards.  Elizabeth and I--'

'What, both of you?' called Georgie.  'Then--where's Major Benjy?'

'Just gone home,' said Lucia discreetly.  'And as soon as I've had
a cup of tea I'm going to Grebe.'

'But I must come round and see you at once,' said Georgie.  'I'll
just put some things on.'

'Yes, do,' said Lucia.  'Presto, presto, Georgie.'

Careless of his reputation for being the best-dressed man in
Tilling, he put on his dress trousers and a pullover, and his thick
brown cape, and did not bother about his toupet.  The front door of
Mallards was open, and Elizabeth's servants were laying out on the
top step a curious collection of golf-clubs and tooth-brushes and
clothes.  From mere habit--everyone in Tilling had the habit--he
looked up at the window of the garden-room as he passed below it,
and was astonished to see two mariners in sou'wester caps and
tarpaulin jackets kissing their hands to him.  He had only just
time to wonder who these could possibly be when he guessed.  He
flew into Lucia's arms, then wondered if he ought to kiss Elizabeth
too.  But there was a slight reserve about her which caused him to
refrain.  He was not brilliant enough at so early an hour to guess
that she had seen the smaller lettering in which her loving memory
was recorded.

There was but time for a few ejaculations and a promise from
Georgie to dine at Grebe that night, before Lucia's motor arrived,
and the imperturbable Cadman touched his cap and said to Lucia,
'Very pleased to see you back, ma'am,' as she picked her way
between the growing deposits of socks and other more intimate
articles of male attire which were now being ranged on the front
steps.  Georgie hurried back to Mallards Cottage to dress in a
manner more worthy of his reputation, and Elizabeth up to her
bedroom for a few hours' sleep.  Below her oil-skins she still wore
the ragged remains of the clothes in which she had left Tilling on
Boxing Day, and now she drew out of the pocket of her frayed and
sea-stained jacket, a half-sheet of discoloured paper.  She
unfolded it and having once more read the mystic words 'Take two
hen lobsters', she stowed it safely away for future use.

Meantime Major Benjy next door had been the prey of the most
sickening reflections; whichever way he turned, fate gave him some
stinging blow that set him staggering and reeling in another
direction.  Leaning out of an upper window of his own house, he
observed his clothes and boots and articles of toilet being laid
out like a bird's breakfast on the steps of Mallards, and essaying
to grind his teeth with rage he discovered that his upper dental
plate must still be reposing in a glass of water in the best spare
bedroom which he had lately quitted in such haste.  To recover his
personal property was the first necessity, and when from his point
of observation he saw that the collection had grown to a
substantial size, he crept up the pavement, seized a bundle of
miscellaneous articles, as many as he could carry, then stole back
again, dropping a nail-brush here and a sock-suspender there, and
dumped them in his house.  Three times he must go on these
degrading errands, before he had cleared all the bird's breakfast
away; indeed he was an early bird feeding on the worms of
affliction.

Tilling was beginning to awake now: the milkman came clattering
down the street and, looking in amazement at his dishevelled
figure, asked whether he wanted his morning supply left at his own
house or at Mallards: Major Benjy turned on him so appalling a face
that he left no milk at either and turned swiftly into the less
alarming air of Porpoise Street.  Again he had to make the passage
of his Via Dolorosa to glean the objects which had dropped from his
overburdened arms, and as he returned he heard a bumping noise
behind him, and saw his new portmanteau hauled out by Withers
rolling down the steps into the street.  He emerged again when
Withers had shut the door, put more gleanings into it and pulled it
into his house.  There he made a swift and sorry toilet, for there
was business to be done which would not brook delay.  Already the
preparations for the sale of his furniture were almost finished;
the carpet and hearth-rug in his sitting-room were tied up together
and labelled Lot 1; the fire-irons and a fishing-rod and a
rhinoceros-hide whip were Lot 2; a kitchen tray with packs of
cards, a tobacco jar, a piece of chipped cloisonné ware and a roll
of toilet paper formed an unappetizing Lot 3.  The sale must be
stopped at once and he went down to the auctioneer's in the High
Street and informed him that owing to circumstances over which he
had no control he was compelled to cancel it.  It was pointed out
to him that considerable expense had already been incurred for the
printing and display of the bills that announced it, for the
advertisements in the local press, for the time and trouble already
spent in arranging and marking the lots, but the Major bawled out:
'Damn it all, the things are mine and I won't sell one of them.
Send me in your bill.'  Then he had to go to the house-agents' and
tell them to withdraw his house from the market and take down his
board, and coming out of the office he ran into Irene, already on
her way to Grebe, who cried out:  'They've come back, old
Benjywenjy.  Joy!  Joy!'

The most immediate need of having a roof over his head and a chair
to sit on was now provided for, and as he had already dismissed his
own servants, taking those of Mallards, he must go to another
agency to find some sort of cook or charwoman till he could get his
establishment together again.  They promised to send an elderly
lady, highly respectable though rather deaf and weak in the legs,
to-morrow if possible.  Back he came to his house with such cold
comfort to cheer him, and observed on the steps of Mallards half a
dozen bottles of wine.  'My God, my cellar,' muttered the Major,
'there are dozens and dozens of my wine and my whisky in the
house!'  Again he crept up to the abhorred door and, returning with
the bottles, put a kettle on to boil, and began cutting the strings
that held the lots together.  Just then the church bells burst out
into a joyful peal, and it was not difficult to conjecture the
reason for their unseemly mirth.  All this before breakfast . . .

A cup of hot strong tea without any milk restored not only his
physical stability but also his mental capacity for suffering, and
he sat down to think.  There was the financial side of the disaster
first of all, a thing ghastly to contemplate.  He had bought (but
not yet paid for) a motor, some dozens of wine, a suit of new
clothes, as well as the mourning habiliments in which he had
attended the memorial service, quantities of stationery with the
Mallards stamp on it, a box of cigars and other luxuries too
numerous to mention.  It was little comfort to remember that he had
refused to contribute to the cenotaph; a small saving like that did
not seem to signify.  Then what view, he wondered, would his
benefactress, when she knew all, take of his occupation of
Mallards?  She might find out (indeed being who she was, she would
not fail to do so) that he had tried to let it at ten guineas a
week and she might therefore send him in a bill on that scale for
the fortnight he had spent there, together with that for her
servants' wages, and for garden-produce and use of her piano.
Luckily he had only eaten some beetroot out of the garden, and he
had had the piano tuned.  But of all these staggering expenses, the
only items which were possibly recoverable were the wages he had
paid to the staff of Mallards between Boxing Day and the date of
his tenancy: these Elizabeth might consent to set against the
debits.  Not less hideous than this financial débâcle that stared
him in the face, was the loss of prestige in Tilling.  Tilling, he
knew, had disapproved of his precipitancy in entering into
Mallards, and Tilling, full, like Irene, of joy, joy for the return
of the lost, would simply hoot with laughter at him.  He could
visualize with awful clearness the chatting groups in the High
Street which would vainly endeavour to suppress their smiles as he
approached.  The day of swank was past and done, he would have to
be quiet and humble and grateful to anybody who treated him with
the respect to which he had been accustomed.

He unrolled a tiger-skin to lay down again in his hall: a cloud of
dust and deciduous hair rose from it, pungent like snuff, and the
remaining glass eye fell out of the socket.  He bawled 'Quai-hai'
before he remembered that till tomorrow at least he would be alone
in the house, and that even then his attendant would be deaf.  He
opened his front door and looked out into the street again, and
there on the doorstep of Mallards was another dozen or so of wine
and a walking-stick.  Again he stole out to recover his property
with the hideous sense that perhaps Elizabeth was watching him from
the garden-room.  His dental plate--thank God--was there too on the
second step, all by itself, gleaming in the sun, and seeming to
grin at him in a very mocking manner.  After that throughout the
morning he looked out at intervals as he rested from the awful
labour of laying carpets and putting beds together, and there were
usually some more bottles waiting for him, with stray golf-clubs,
bridge-markers and packs of cards.  About one o'clock just as he
was collecting what must surely be the last of these bird-
breakfasts, the door of Mallards opened and Elizabeth stepped
carefully over his umbrella and a box of cigars.  She did not
appear to see him.  It seemed highly probable that she was going to
revoke her will.

Georgie, as well as Major Benjy, had to do a little thinking, when
he returned from his visit at dawn to Mallards.  It concerned two
points, the cenotaph and the kitchen-table.  The cenotaph had not
been mentioned in those few joyful ejaculations he had exchanged
with Lucia, and he hoped that the ladies had not seen it.  So after
breakfast he went down to the stonemason's and begged him to send a
trolley and a hefty lot of men up to the churchyard at once, and
remove the monument to the backyard of Mallards Cottage, which at
present was chiefly occupied by the kitchen-table under a
tarpaulin.  But Mr Marble (such was his appropriate name) shook his
head over this: the cenotaph had been dedicated, and he felt sure
that a faculty must be procured before it could be removed.  That
would never do: Georgie could not wait for a faculty, whatever that
was, and he ordered that the inscription, anyhow, should be effaced
without delay: surely no faculty was needed to destroy all traces
of a lie.  Mr Marble must send some men up to chip, and chip and
chip for all they were worth till those beautiful lead letters were
detached and the surface of the stone cleared of all that erroneous
information.

'And then I'll tell you what,' said Georgie, with a sudden splendid
thought, 'why not paint on to it (I can't afford any more cutting)
the inscription that was to have been put on it when that man went
bankrupt and I bought the monument instead?  He'll get his monument
for nothing, and I shall get rid of mine, which is just what I
want . . .  That's beautiful.  Now you must send a trolley to my
house and take a very big kitchen-table, THE one in fact, back to
Grebe.  It must go in through the door of the kitchen-garden and be
put quietly into the kitchen.  And I particularly want it done to-
day.'

All went well with these thoughtful plans.  Georgie saw with his
own eyes the last word of his inscription disappear in chips of
marble; and he carried away all the lead letters in case they might
come in useful for something, though he could not have said what:
perhaps he would have 'Mallards Cottage' let into the threshold of
his house for that long inscription would surely contain the
necessary letters.  Rather a pretty and original idea.  Then he
ascertained that the kitchen-table had been restored to its place
while Lucia slept, and he drove down at dinner-time feeling that he
had done his best.  He wore his white waistcoat with onyx buttons
for the happy occasion.

Lucia was looking exceedingly well and much sunburnt.  By way of
resting she had written a larger number of post cards to all her
friends, both here and elsewhere, than Georgie had ever seen
together in one place.

'Georgino,' she cried.  'There's so much to say that I hardly know
where to begin.  I think my adventures first, quite shortly, for I
shall dictate a full account of them to my secretary, and have a
party next week for all Tilling, and read them out to you.  Two
parties, I expect, for I don't think I shall be able to read it all
in one evening.  Now we go back to Boxing Day.

'I went into the kitchen that afternoon,' she said as they sat down
to dinner, 'and there was Elizabeth.  I asked her--, naturally,
don't you think?--why she was there, and she said, "I came to thank
you for that delicious pâté, and to ask if--"  That was as far as
she got--I must return to that later--when the bank burst with a
frightful roar, and the flood poured in.  I was quite calm.  We got
on to, I should really say into the table--By the way, was the
table ever washed up?'

'Yes,' said Georgie, 'it's in your kitchen now.  I sent it back.'

'Thank you, my dear.  We got into the kitchen-table, really a
perfect boat, I can't think why they don't make more like it, flew
by the steps--oh, did the Padre catch a dreadful cold?  Such a
splash it was, and that was the only drop of water that we shipped
at all.'

'No, but he lost his umbrella, the one you'd given him,' said
Georgie, 'and the Padre of the Roman Catholic church found it, a
week afterwards, and returned it to him.  Wasn't that a
coincidence?  Go on.  Oh no, wait a minute.  What did you mean by
calling out "Just wait till we get back"?'

'Why of course I wanted to tell you that I had found Elizabeth in
my kitchen,' said Lucia.

'Hurrah!  I guessed you meant something of the kind,' said Georgie.

'Well, out we went--I've never been so fast in a kitchen-table
before--out to sea in a blinding sea-fog.  My dear; poor Elizabeth!
No nerve of any kind!  I told her that if we were rescued, there
was nothing to cry about, and if we weren't all our troubles would
soon be over.'

Grosvenor had put some fish before Lucia.  She gave an awful
shudder.

'Oh, take it away,' she said.  'Never let me see fish again,
particularly cod, as long as I live.  Tell the cook.  You'll see
why presently, Georgie.  Elizabeth got hysterical and said she
wasn't fit to die, so I scolded her--the best plan always with
hysterical people--and told her that the longer she lived, the less
fit she would be, and that did her a little good.  Then it got
dark, and there were fog-horns hooting all round us, and we called
and yelled, but they had much more powerful voices than we, and
nobody heard us.  One of them grew louder and louder, until I could
hardly bear it, and then we bumped quite gently into it, the fog-
horn's boat I mean.'

'Gracious, you might have upset,' said Georgie.

'No, it was like a liner coming up to the quay,' said Lucia.  'No
shock of any kind.  Then when the fog-horn stopped, they heard us
shouting, and took us aboard.  It was an Italian trawler on its way
to the cod-fishery (that's why I never want to see cod again) on
the Gallagher Banks.'

'That was lucky too,' said Georgie, 'you could make them understand
a little.  Better than if they had been Spanish.'

'About the same, because I'm convinced, as I told Elizabeth, that
they talked a very queer Neapolitan dialect.  It was rather
unlucky, in fact.  But as the Captain understood English perfectly,
it didn't matter.  They were most polite, but they couldn't put us
ashore, for we were miles out in the Channel by this time, and also
quite lost.  They hadn't an idea where the coast of England or any
other coast was.'

'Wireless?' suggested Georgie.

'It had been completely smashed up by the dreadful gale the day
before.  We drifted about in the fog for two days, and when it
cleared and they could take the sun again--a nautical expression,
Georgie--we were somewhere off the coast of Devonshire.  The
Captain promised to hail any passing vessel bound for England that
he saw, but he didn't see any.  So he continued his course to the
Gallagher Banks, which is about as far from Ireland as it is from
America, and there we were for two months.  Cod, cod, cod, nothing
but cod, and Elizabeth snoring all night in the cabin we shared
together.  Bitterly cold very often: how glad I was that I knew so
many callisthenic exercises!  I shall tell you all about that time
at my lecture.  Then we found that there was a Tilling trawler on
the bank, and when it was ready to start home we trans-shipped--
they call it--and got back, as you know, this morning.  That's the
skeleton.'

'It's the most wonderful skeleton I ever heard,' said Georgie.  'Do
write your lecture quick.'

Lucia fixed Georgie with her gimlet eye.  It had lost none of its
penetrative power by being so long at sea.

'Now it's your turn for a little,' she said.  'I expect I know
rather more than you think.  First about that memorial service.'

'Oh, do you know about that?' he asked.

'Certainly.  I found the copy of the Parish Magazine waiting for
me, and read it in bed.  I consider it to have been very premature.
You attended it, I think.'

'We all did,' said Georgie.  'And after all, the Padre said
extremely nice things about you.'

'I felt very much flattered.  But all the same it was too early.
And you and Major Benjy were chief mourners.'

Georgie considered for a moment.

'I'm going to make a clean breast of it,' he said.  'You told me
you had left me Grebe, and a small sum of money, and your lawyer
told me what that meant.  My dear, I was too touched, and
naturally, it was proper that I should be chief mourner.  It was
the same with Major Benjy.  He had seen Elizabeth's will, so there
we were.'

Suddenly an irresistible curiosity seized him.

'Major Benjy hasn't been seen all day,' he said.  'Do tell me what
happened this morning at Mallards.  You only said on the telephone
that he had just gone home.'

'Yes, bag and baggage,' said Lucia.  'At least he went first and
his bag and baggage followed.  Socks and things, you saw some of
them on the top step.  Elizabeth was mad with rage, a perfect
fishwife.  So suitable after coming back from the Gallagher Banks.
But tell me more.  What was the next thing after the memorial
service?'

The hope of keeping the knowledge of the cenotaph from Lucia became
very dim.  If Lucia had seen the February number of the Parish
Magazine she had probably also seen the April number in which
appeared the full-page reproduction of that monument.  Besides,
there was the gimlet eye.

'The next thing was that I put up a beautiful cenotaph to you and
Elizabeth,' said Georgie firmly.  '"In loving memory of by me."
But I've had the inscription erased to-day.'

Lucia laid her hand on his.

'Dear Georgie, I'm glad you told me,' she said.  'As a matter of
fact I knew, because Elizabeth and I studied it this morning.  I
was vexed at first, but now I think it's rather dear of you.  It
must have cost a lot of money.'

'It did,' said Georgie.  'And what did Elizabeth think about it?'

'Merely furious because her name was in smaller letters than mine,'
said Lucia.  'So like the poor thing.'

'Was she terribly tarsome all these months?' asked Georgie.

'Tiresome's not quite the word,' said Lucia judicially.  'Deficient
rather than tiresome, except incidentally.  She had no idea of the
tremendous opportunities she was getting.  She never rose to her
chances, nor forgot our little discomforts and that everlasting
smell of fish.  Whereas I learned such lots of things, Georgie: the
Italian for starboard and port--those are the right and left sides
of the ship--and how to tie an anchor-knot and a running noose, and
a clove-hitch, and how to splice two ends of fishing-line together,
and all sorts of things of the most curious and interesting kind.
I shall show you some of them at my lecture.  I used to go about
the deck barefoot (Lucia had very pretty feet) and pull on anchors
and capstans and things, and managed never to tumble out of my
berth on to the floor when the ship was rolling frightfully, and
not to be sea-sick.  But poor Elizabeth was always bumping on to
the floor, and sometimes being sick there.  She had no spirit.
Little moans and sighs and regrets that she ever came down the
Tilling hill on Boxing Day.'

Lucia leaned forward and regarded Georgie steadfastly.

'I couldn't fathom her simply because she was so superficial,' she
said.  'But I feel sure that there was something on her mind all
the time.  She used often to seem to be screwing herself up to
confess something to me, and then not to be able to get it out.  No
courage.  And though I can make no guess as to what it actually
was, I believe I know its general nature.'

'How thrilling!' cried Georgie.  'Tell me!'

Lucia's eye ceased to bore, and became of far-off focus, keen still
but speculative, as if she was Einstein concentrating on some
cosmic deduction.

'Georgie, why did she come into my kitchen like a burglar on Boxing
Day?' she asked.  'She told me she had come to thank me for that
pâté I sent her.  But that wasn't true: anyone could see that it
wasn't.  Nobody goes into kitchens to thank people for pâtés.'

'Diva guessed that she had gone there to see the Christmas-tree,'
said Georgie.  'You weren't on very good terms at the time.  We all
thought that brilliant of her.'

'Then why shouldn't she have said so?' asked Lucia.  'I believe it
was something much meaner and more underhand than that.  And I am
convinced--I have those perceptions sometimes, as you know very
well--that all through the months of our Odyssey she wanted to tell
me why she was there, and was ashamed of doing so.  Naturally I
never asked her, because if she didn't choose to tell me, it would
be beneath me to force a confidence.  There we were together on the
Gallagher Banks, she all to bits all the time, and I should have
scorned myself for attempting to worm it out of her.  But the more
I think of it, Georgie, the more convinced I am, that what she had
to tell me and couldn't, concerned that.  After all, I had unmasked
every single plot she made against me before, and I knew the worst
of her up till that moment.  She had something on her mind, and
that something was why she was in my kitchen.'

Lucia's far-away prophetic aspect cleared.

'I shall find out all right,' she said.  'Poor Elizabeth will
betray herself some time.  But, Georgie, how in those weeks I
missed my music!  Not a piano on board any of the trawlers
assembled there!  Just a few concertinas and otherwise nothing
except cod.  Let us go, in a minute, into my music-room and have
some Mozartino again.  But first I want to say one thing.'

Georgie took a rapid survey of all he had done in his conviction
that Lucia had long ago been drowned.  But if she knew about the
memorial service and the cenotaph there could be nothing more
except the kitchen-table, and that was now in its place again.  She
knew all that mattered.  Lucia began to speak baby-talk.

'Georgie,' she said.  ''Oo have had dweffel disappointy--'

That was too much.  Georgie thumped the table quite hard.

'I haven't,' he cried.  'How dare you say that?'

'Ickle joke, Georgie,' piped Lucia.  'Haven't had joke for so long
with that melancholy Liblib.  'Pologize.  'Oo not angry wif Lucia?'

'No, but don't do it again,' said Georgie.  'I won't have it.'

'You shan't then,' said Lucia, relapsing into the vernacular of
adults.  'Now all this house is spick and span, and Grosvenor tells
me you've been paying all their wages, week by week.'

'Naturally,' said Georgie.

'It was very dear and thoughtful of you.  You saw that my house was
ready to welcome my return, and you must send me in all the bills
and everything to-morrow and I'll pay them at once, and I thank you
enormously for your care of it.  And send me in the bill for the
cenotaph too.  I want to pay for it, I do indeed.  It was a loving
impulse of yours, Georgie, though, thank goodness, a hasty one.
But I can't bear to think that you're out of pocket because I'm
alive.  Don't answer: I shan't listen.  And now let's go straight
to the piano and have one of our duets, the one we played last,
that heavenly Mozartino.'

They went into the next room.  There was the duet ready on the
piano, which much looked as if Lucia had been at it already, and
she slid on to the top music-stool.

'We both come in on the third beat,' said she.  'Are you ready?
Now!  Uno, due, TRE!'



13


The wretched Major Benjy, who had not been out all day except for
interviews with agents and miserable traverses between his house
and the doorsteps of Mallards, dined alone that night (if you could
call it dinner) on a pork pie and a bottle of Burgundy.  A day's
hard work had restored the lots of his abandoned sale to their
proper places, and a little glue had restored its eye to the bald
tiger.  He felt worse than bald himself, he felt flayed, and God
above alone knew what fresh skinnings were in store for him.  All
Tilling must have had its telephone-bells (as well as the church
bells) ringing from morning till night with messages of
congratulation and suitable acknowledgments between the returned
ladies and their friends, and he had never felt so much like a
pariah before.  Diva had just passed his windows (clearly visible
in the lamplight, for he had not put up the curtains of his
snuggery yet) and he had heard her knock on the door of Mallards.
She must have gone to dine with the fatal Elizabeth, and what were
they talking about now?  Too well he knew, for he knew Elizabeth.

If in spirit he could have been present in the dining-room, where
only last night he had so sumptuously entertained Diva and Georgie
and Mrs Bartlett, and had bidden them punish the port, he would not
have felt much more cheerful.

'In my best spare room, Diva, would you believe it?' said
Elizabeth, 'with all the drawers full of socks and shirts and false
teeth, wasn't it so, Withers? and the cellar full of wine.  What he
has consumed of my things, goodness only knows.  There was that
pâté which Lucia gave me only the day before we were whisked out to
sea--'

'But that was three months ago,' said Diva.

'--and he used my coal and my electric light as if they were his
own, not to mention firing,' said Elizabeth, going on exactly where
she had left off, 'and a whole row of beetroot.'

Diva was bursting to hear the story of the voyage.  She knew that
Georgie was dining with Lucia, and he would be telling everybody
about it to-morrow, but if only Elizabeth would leave the beetroot
alone and speak of the other she herself would be another focus of
information instead of being obliged to listen to Georgie.

'Dear Elizabeth,' she said, 'what does a bit of beetroot matter
compared to what you've been through?  When an old friend like you
has had such marvellous experiences as I'm sure you must have,
nothing else counts.  Of course I'm sorry about your beetroot: most
annoying, but I do want to hear about your adventures.'

'You'll hear all about them soon,' said Elizabeth, 'for tomorrow
I'm going to begin a full history of it all.  Then, as soon as it's
finished, I shall have a big tea-party, and instead of bridge
afterwards I shall read it to you.  That's absolutely confidential,
Diva.  Don't say a word about it, or Lucia may steal my idea or do
it first.'

'Not a word,' said Diva.  'But surely you can tell me some bits.'

'Yes, there is a certain amount which I shan't mention publicly,'
Elizabeth said.  'Things about Lucia which I should never dream of
stating openly.'

'Those are just the ones I should like to hear about most,' said
Diva.  'Just a few little titbits.'

Elizabeth reflected a moment.

'I don't want to be hard on her,' she said, 'for after all we were
together, and what would have happened if I had not been there, I
can't think.  A little off her head perhaps with panic: that is the
most charitable explanation.  As we swept by the town on our way
out to sea she shrieked out--"Au reservoir: just wait till we come
back."  Diva, I am not easily shocked, but I must say I was
appalled.  Death stared us in the face and all she could do was to
make jokes!  There was I sitting quiet and calm, preparing myself
to meet the solemn moment as a Christian should, with this
screaming hyena for my companion.  Then out we went to sea, in that
blinding fog, tossing and pitching on the waves, till we went crash
into the side of a ship which was invisible in the darkness.'

'How awful!' said Diva.  'I wonder you didn't upset.'

'Certainly it was miraculous,' said Elizabeth.  'We were battered
about, the blows against the table were awful, and if I hadn't kept
my head and clung on to the ship's side, we must have upset.  They
had heard our calls by then, and I sprang on to the rope-ladder
they put down, without a moment's pause, so as to lighten the table
for Lucia, and then she came up too.'

Elizabeth paused a moment.

'Diva, you will bear me witness that I always said, in spite of
Amelia Faraglione, that Lucia didn't know a word of Italian, and it
was proved I was right.  It was an Italian boat, and our great
Italian scholar was absolutely flummoxed, and the Captain had to
talk to us in English.  There!'

'Go on,' said Diva breathlessly.

'The ship was a fishing trawler bound for the Gallagher Banks, and
we were there for two months, and then we found another trawler on
its way home to Tilling, and it was from that we landed this
morning.  But I shan't tell you of our life and adventures, for I'm
reserving that for my reading to you.'

'No, never mind then,' said Diva.  'Tell me intimate things about
Lucia.'

Elizabeth sighed.

'We mustn't judge anybody,' she said, 'and I won't: but oh, the
nature that revealed itself!  The Italians were a set of coarse,
lascivious men of the lowest type, and Lucia positively revelled in
their society.  Every day she used to walk about the deck, often
with bare feet, and skip and do her callisthenics, and learn a few
words of Italian; she sat with this one or that, with her fingers
actually entwined with his, while he pretended to teach her to tie
a knot or a clove-hitch or something that probably had an improper
meaning as well.  Such flirtation (at her age too), such
promiscuousness, I have never seen.  But I don't judge her, and I
beg you won't.'

'But didn't you speak to her about it?' asked Diva.

'I used to try to screw myself up to it,' said Elizabeth, 'but her
lightness positively repelled me.  We shared a cabin about as big
as a dog kennel, and oh, the sleepless nights when I used to be
thrown from the shelf where I lay!  Even then she wanted to
instruct me, and show me how to wedge myself in.  Always that
dreadful superior attitude, that mania to teach everybody
everything except Italian, which we have so often deplored.  But
that was nothing.  It was her levity from the time when the flood
poured into the kitchen at Grebe--'

'Do tell me about that,' cried Diva.  'That's almost the most
interesting thing of all.  Why had she taken you into the kitchen?'

Elizabeth laughed.

'Dear thing!' she said.  'What a lovely appetite you have for
details!  You might as well expect me to remember what I had for
breakfast that morning.  She and I had both gone into the kitchen;
there we were, and we were looking at the Christmas-tree.  Such a
tawdry tinselly tree!  Rather like her.  Then the flood poured in,
and I saw that our only chance was to embark on the kitchen-table.
By the way, was it ever washed up?'

'Oh yes, without a scratch on it,' said Diva, thinking of the
battering it was supposed to have undergone against the side of the
trawler . . .

Elizabeth had evidently not reckoned on its having come ashore, and
rose.

'I am surprised that it didn't go to bits,' she said.  'But let us
go into the garden-room.  We must really talk about that wretched
sponger next door.  Is it true he's bought a motorcar out of the
money he hoped my death would bring him?  And all that wine:
bottles and bottles, so Withers told me.  Oceans of champagne.  How
is he to pay for it all now with his miserable little income on
which he used to pinch and scrape along before?'

'That's what nobody knows,' said Diva.  'An awful crash for him.
So rash and hasty, as we all felt.'

They settled themselves comfortably by the fire, after Elizabeth
had had one peep between the curtains.

'I'm not the least sorry for having been a little severe with him
this morning,' she said.  'Any woman would have done the same.'

Withers entered with a note.  Elizabeth glanced at the handwriting,
and turned pale beneath the tan acquired on the cod-banks.

'From him,' she said.  'No answer, Withers.'

'Shall I read it?' said Elizabeth, when Withers had left the room,
'or throw it, as it deserves, straight into the fire.'

'Oh, read it,' said Diva, longing to know what was in it.  'You
must see what he has to say for himself.'

Elizabeth adjusted her pince-nez and read it in silence.

'Poor wretch,' she said.  'But very proper as far as it goes.
Shall I read it you?'

'Do, do, do,' said Diva.

Elizabeth read:


'My Dear Miss Elizabeth (if you will still permit me to call you
so)--'

'Very proper,' said Diva.

'Don't interrupt, dear, or I shan't read it,' said Elizabeth.

'--call you so.  I want first of all to congratulate you with all
my heart on your return after adventures and privations which I
know you bore with Christian courage.

'Secondly I want to tender you my most humble apologies for my
atrocious conduct in your absence, which was unworthy of a soldier
and Christian, and, in spite of all, a gentleman.  Your
forgiveness, should you be so gracious as to extend it to me, will
much mitigate my present situation.

'Most sincerely yours (if you will allow me to say so),

                                            'Benjamin Flint'


'I call that very nice,' said Diva.  'He didn't find that easy to
write!'

'And I don't find it very easy to forgive him,' retorted Elizabeth.

'Elizabeth, you must make an effort,' said Diva energetically.
'Tilling society will all fly to smithereens if we don't take care.
You and Lucia have come back from the dead, so that's a very good
opportunity for showing a forgiving spirit and beginning again.  He
really can't say more than he has said.'

'Nor could he possibly, if he's a soldier, a Christian and a
gentleman, have said less,' observed Elizabeth.

'No, but he's done the right thing.'

Elizabeth rose and had one more peep out of the window.

'I forgive him,' she said.  'I shall ask him to tea to-morrow.'

Elizabeth carried up to bed with her quantities of food for thought
and lay munching it till a very late hour.  She had got rid of a
good deal of spite against Lucia, which left her head the clearer,
and she would be very busy to-morrow writing her account of the
great adventure.  But it was the thought of Major Benjy that most
occupied her.  Time had been when he had certainly come very near
making honourable proposals to her which she always was more than
ready to accept.  They used to play golf together in those days
before that firebrand Lucia descended on Tilling; he used to drop
in casually, and she used to put flowers in his buttonhole for him.
Tilling had expected their union, and Major Benjy had without doubt
been on the brink.  Now, she reflected, was the precise moment to
extend to him a forgiveness so plenary that it would start a new
chapter in the golden book of pardon.  Though only this morning she
had ejected his golf-clubs and his socks and his false teeth with
every demonstration of contempt, this appeal of his revived in her
hopes that had hitherto found no fruition.  There should be fatted
calves for him as for a prodigal son, he should find in this house
that he had violated a cordiality and a welcome for the future and
an oblivion of the past that could not fail to undermine his
celibate propensities.  Discredited owing to his precipitate
occupation of Mallards, humiliated by his degrading expulsion from
it, and impoverished by the imprudent purchase of wines, motor-car
and steel-shafted drivers, he would surely take advantage of the
wonderful opportunity which she presented to him.  He might be
timid at first, unable to believe the magnitude of his good
fortune, but with a little tact, a proffering of saucers of milk,
so to speak, as to a stray and friendless cat, with comfortable
invitations to sweet Pussie to be fed and stroked, with stealthy
butterings of his paws, and with, frankly, a sudden slam of the
door when sweet Pussie had begun to make himself at home, it seemed
that unless Pussie was a lunatic, he could not fail to wish to
domesticate himself.  'I think I can manage it,' thought Elizabeth,
'and then poor Lulu will only be a widow, and I a married woman
with a well-controlled husband.  How will she like that?'

Such sweet thoughts as these gradually lulled her to sleep.

It was soon evident that the return of the lost, an event in itself
of the first magnitude, was instantly to cause a revival of those
rivalries which during the autumn had rendered life at Tilling so
thrilling a business.  Georgie, walking down to see Lucia three
days after her return, found a bill-poster placarding the High
Street with notices of a lecture to be delivered at the Institute
in two days' time by Mrs Lucas, admission free and no collection of
any sort before, during or after.  'A modern Odyssey' was the title
of the discourse.  He hurried on to Grebe, and found her busy
correcting the typewritten manuscript which she had been dictating
to her secretary all yesterday with scarcely a pause for meals.

'Why, I thought it was to be just an after-dinner reading,' he
said, straight off, without any explanation of what he was talking
about.

Lucia put a paper-knife in the page she was at, and turned back to
the first.

'My little room would not accommodate all the people who, I
understand, are most eager to hear about what I went through,' she
said.  'You see, Georgie, I think it is a duty laid upon those who
have been privileged to pass unscathed through tremendous
adventures to let others share, as far as is possible, their
experiences.  In fact that is how I propose to open my lecture.
I was reading the first sentence.  What do you think of it?'

'Splendid,' said Georgie.  'So well expressed.'

'Then I make some allusion to Nansen, and Stanley and Amundsen,'
said Lucia, 'who have all written long books about their travels,
and say that as I do not dream of comparing my adventure to theirs,
a short verbal recital of some of the strange things that happened
to me will suffice.  I calculate that it will not take much more
than two hours, or at most two and a half.  I finished it about one
o'clock this morning.'

'Well, you have been quick about it,' said Georgie.  'Why, you've
only been back three days.'

Lucia pushed the pile of typewritten sheets aside.

'Georgie, it has been terrific work,' she said, 'but I had to rid
myself of the incubus of these memories by writing them down.
Aristotle, you know; the purging of the mind.  Besides, I'm sure
I'm right in hurrying up.  It would be like Elizabeth to be
intending to do something of the sort.  I've hired the Institute
anyhow--'

'Now that is interesting,' said Georgie.  'Practically every time
that I've passed Mallards during these last two days Elizabeth has
been writing in the window of the garden-room.  Frightfully busy:
hardly looking up at all.  I don't know for certain that she is
writing her Odyssey--such a good title--but she is writing
something, and surely it must be that.  And two of those times
Major Benjy was sitting with her on the piano-stool and she was
reading to him from a pile of blue foolscap.  Of course I couldn't
hear the words, but there were her lips going on like anything.  So
busy that she didn't see me, but I think he did.'

'No!' said Lucia, forgetting her lecture for the moment.  'Has she
made it up with him then?'

'She must have.  He dined there once, for I saw him going in, and
he lunched there once, for I saw him coming out, and then there was
tea, when she was reading to him, and I passed them just now in his
car.  All their four hands were on the wheel, and I think he was
teaching her to drive, or perhaps learning himself.'

'And fancy his forgiving all the names she called him, and putting
his teeth on the doorstep,' said Lucia.  'I believe there's more
than meets the eye.'

'Oh, much more,' said he.  'You know she wanted to marry him and
nearly got him, Diva says, just before we came here.  She's having
another go.'

'Clever of her,' said Lucia appreciatively.  'I didn't think she
had so much ability.  She's got him on the hop, you see, when he's
ever so grateful for her forgiving him.  But cunning, Georgie,
rather low and cunning.  And it's quite evident she's writing our
adventures as hard as she can.  It's a good thing I've wasted no
time.'

'I should like to see her face when she comes back from her drive,'
said Georgie.  'They were pasting the High Street with you, as I
came.  Friday afternoon, too: that's a good choice because it's
early closing.'

'Yes, of course, that's why I chose it,' said Lucia.  'I don't
think she can possibly be ready a whole day before me, and if she
hires the Institute the day after me, nobody will go, because I
shall have told them everything already.  Then she can't have hired
the Institute on the same day as I, because you can't have two
lectures, especially on the same subject, going on in the same room
simultaneously.  Impossible.'

Grosvenor came in with the afternoon post.

'And one by hand, ma'am,' she said.

Lucia, of course, looked first at the one by hand.  Nothing that
came from outside Tilling could be as urgent as a local missive.

'Georgie!' she cried.  'Delicious complication!  Elizabeth asks
me--me--to attend her reading in the garden-room called "Lost to
Sight", at three o'clock on Friday afternoon.  Major Benjamin Flint
has kindly consented to take the chair.  At exactly that hour the
Padre will be taking the chair at the Institute for me.  I know
what I shall do.  I shall send a special invitation to Elizabeth to
sit on the platform at my lecture, and I shall send another note to
her two hours later as if I had only just received hers, to say
that as I am lecturing myself that afternoon at the Institute, I
much regret that, etc.  Then she can't say I haven't asked her.'

'And when they come back from their drive this afternoon, she and
Major Benjy,' cried Georgie, 'they'll see the High Street placarded
with your notices.  I've never been so excited before except when
you came home.'

The tension next day grew very pleasant.  Elizabeth, hearing that
Lucia had taken the Institute, did her best to deprive her of an
audience, and wrote personal notes not only to her friends of the
immediate circle, but to chemists and grocers and auctioneers and
butchers to invite them to the garden-room at Mallards at three
o'clock on the day of battle in order to hear a TRUE (underlined)
account of her adventure.  Lucia's reply to that was to make a
personal canvass of all the shops, pay all her bills, and tell
everyone that in the interval between the two sections of her
lecture, tea would be provided gratis for the audience.  She
delayed this manoeuvre till Friday morning, so that there could
scarcely be a counter-attack.

That same morning, the Padre, feeling that he must do his best to
restore peace after the engagement that was now imminent, dashed
off two notes to Lucia and Elizabeth, saying that a few friends
(this was a lie because he had thought of it himself) had suggested
to him how suitable it would be that he should hold a short service
of thanksgiving for their escape from the perils of the sea and of
cod-fisheries.  He proposed therefore that this service should take
place directly after the baptisms on Sunday afternoon.  It would be
quite short, a few prayers, the general thanksgiving, a hymn
('Fierce raged the tempest o'er the deep'), and a few words from
himself.  He hoped the two ladies would sit together in the front
pew which had been occupied at the memorial service by the chief
mourners.  Both of them were charmed with the idea, for neither
dared refuse for fear of putting herself in the wrong.  So after
about three forty-five on Sunday afternoon (and it was already two
forty-five on Friday afternoon) there must be peace, for who could
go on after that joint thanksgiving?

By three o'clock on Friday there was not a seat to be had at the
Institute, and many people were standing.  At the same hour every
seat was to be had at the garden-room, for nobody was sitting down
in any of them.  At half-past three Lucia was getting rather mixed
about the latitude and longitude of the Gallagher Bank, and the map
had fallen down.  At half-past three Elizabeth and Major Benjy were
alone in the garden-room.  It would be fatiguing for her, he said,
to read again the lecture she had read him yesterday, and he
wouldn't allow her to do it.  Every word was already branded on his
memory.  So they seated themselves comfortably by the fire and
Elizabeth began to talk of the loneliness of loneliness and of
affinities.  At half-past four Lucia's audience, having eaten their
sumptuous tea, had ebbed away, leaving only Irene, Georgie, Mr and
Mrs Wyse, and Mr and Mrs Padre to listen to the second half of the
lecture.  At half-past four in the garden-room Elizabeth and Major
Benjy were engaged to be married.  There was no reason for (in fact
every reason against) a long engagement, and the banns would be put
up in church next Sunday morning.

'So they'll all know about it, Benjino mio,' said Elizabeth, 'when
we have our little thanksgiving service on Sunday afternoon, and I
shall ask all our friends, Lucia included, to a cosy lunch on
Monday to celebrate our engagement.  You must send me across some
of your best bottles of wine, dear.'

'As if you didn't know that all my cellar was at your disposal,'
said he.

Elizabeth jumped up and clapped her hands.  'Oh, I've got such a
lovely idea for that lunch,' she said.  'Don't ask me about it, for
I shan't tell you.  A splendid surprise for everybody, especially
Lulu.'


Elizabeth was slightly chagrined next day, when she offered to read
her lecture on practically any afternoon to the inmates of the
workhouse, to find that Lucia had already asked all those who were
not bedridden or deaf to tea at Grebe that very day, and hear an
abridged form of what she had read at the Institute: an hour was
considered enough, since perhaps some of them would find the
excitement and the strain of a longer intellectual effort too much
for them.  But this chagrin was altogether wiped from her mind when
on Sunday morning at the end of the second lesson the Padre
published banns of marriage.  An irrepressible buzz of conversation
like a sudden irruption of bluebottle flies filled the church, and
Lucia, who was sitting behind the choir and assisting the altos,
said 'I thought so' in an audible voice.  Elizabeth was assisting
the trebles on the Cantoris side, and had she not been a perfect
lady, and the scene a sacred edifice, she might have been tempted
to put out her tongue or make a face in the direction of the Decani
altos.  Then in the afternoon came the service of thanksgiving, and
the two heroines were observed to give each other a stage kiss.
Diva, who sat in the pew immediately behind them, was certain that
actual contact was not established.  They resumed their seats,
slightly apart.

As was only to be expected, notes of congratulation and acceptance
to the lunch on Monday poured in upon the young couple.  All the
intimate circle of Tilling was there, the sideboard groaned with
Major Benjy's most expensive wines, and everyone felt that the
hatchet which had done so much interesting chopping in the past was
buried, for never had two folk been so cordial to each other as
were Lucia and Elizabeth.

They took their places at the table.  Though it was only lunch
there were menu cards, and written on them as the first item of the
banquet was 'Lobster à la Riseholme'.

Georgie saw it first, though his claim was passionately disputed by
Diva, but everybody else, except Lucia, saw it in a second or two
and the gay talk dropped dead.  What could have happened?  Had
Lucia, one day on the Gallagher Banks, given their hostess the
secret which she had so firmly withheld?  Somehow it seemed
scarcely credible.  The eyes of the guests, pair by pair, grew
absorbed in meditation, for all were beginning to recall a mystery
that had baffled them.  The presence of Elizabeth in Lucia's
kitchen when the flood poured in had never been fathomed, but
surely . . .  A slight catalepsy seized the party, and all eyes
were turned on Lucia who now for the first time looked at the menu.
If she had given the recipe to Elizabeth, she would surely say
something about it.

Lucia read the menu and slightly moistened her lips.  She directed
on Elizabeth a long penetrating gaze that mutely questioned her.
Then the character of that look altered.  There was no reproach in
it, only comprehension and unfathomable contempt.

The ghastly silence continued as the lobster was handed round.  It
came to Lucia first.  She tasted it and found that it was exactly
right.  She laid down her fork, and grubbed up the imperfectly
buried hatchet.

'Are you sure you copied the recipe out quite correctly, Elizabetha
mia?' she asked.  'You must pop into my kitchen some afternoon when
you are going for your walk--never mind if I am in or not--and look
at it again.  And if my cook is out too, you will find the recipe
in a book on the kitchen-shelf.  But you know that, don't you?'

'Thank you, dear,' said Elizabeth.  'Sweet of you.'

Then everybody began to talk in a great hurry.



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