Published March 1914
Approx. 4,300 words
(First read 23/12/1994)
Fans of Mapp and Lucia will love this one. Set in the little country town of Riseborough, it tells the story of Mrs Altham and her arch-rival Mrs Amy Ames, 'a comely toad' and 'not well off' but nonetheless the Queen of Society. Mrs Altham comes into a colossal fortune and decides, in a masterstroke of spite, to rent Hinton, the former home of Sir James Westbourne, who happens to be Mrs Ames' cousin ~ a thing Amy couldn't conceive of in her wildest dreams. Mrs Altham, with her husband as more-than-willing accomplice, duly move in and make their best efforts to 'become county'. Well, remember how Mrs Mapp-Flint felt when she moved in to Grebe, cut off from all the 'news'? Added to this are the fact that Hinton is a 'great barrack' of a place, she's terrified of her inherited servants, and Mr A realizes he can't stand the discomforts of shooting, largely because
... the bathroom was an immense, chilly apartment, half a mile away from his bedroom, and the bath, put in by Victorian plumbers, let water slowly steal away with moribund gurglings into a sort of sieve at the bottom of a huge grey coffin ...But by far her bitterest pill is that she cannot get Mrs Ames to come for a weekend of having her nose rubbed in it ... A pure delight from start to finish: EFB at his very best. Available in Fine Feathers and Other Stories (1994).