MRS. SPILLER has also entered, shortly after Mrs. Krause. She is small, somewhat deformed, and decked out in Mrs. Krause's hand-me-downs. While Mrs. Krause speaks, she looks up at her with a kind of admiration. She is about fifty-five. Her breath is accompanied by a quiet little moan when she exhales; it is regularly audible, even when she speaks, as a soft "nnngg."
MRS. SPILLER. (In an obsequious, affectedly melancholic, minor-key tone. Very softly.) His Lordship the Baron has the exact same buffet – nnngg – .
HELEN. (To Mrs. Krause.) Mother, don't you think we should sit down before we . . .
MRS. KRAUSE. (With a lightning fast turn to Helen, and a scathing look; brusquely and imperiously.) Izzat fittin' 'n proper? (She is just about to sit down when she remembers that grace has not been said. Mechanically she folds her hands without, however, managing to suppress her meanness.)
MRS. SPILLER. (Intoning.)
Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest.
May thy bounty to us be blessed.
They take their seats noisily. With all the passing and taking of the many dishes, which occupies no mean amount of time, they manage to get over the awkwardness of the previous interchange.
HOFFMANN. (To Loth.) Help yourself, Alfred. How about some oysters?
LOTH. I'll give them a try. First time for me.
MRS. KRAUSE. (Who has just slurped one down noisily and speaks with freshly restuffed mouth.) Ya mean this season?
LOTH. I mean ever.
Mrs. Krause and Mrs. Spiller exchange glances.
HOFFMANN. (To Kahl, who is squeezing the juice from a lemon with his teeth.) Haven't seen you for two days, Mr. Kahl. Been busy shooting up the fieldmice?
KAHL. Aw, g-g-go on.
HOFFMANN. (To Loth.) You see, Mr. Kahl is passionately devoted to hunting.
KAHL. F-f-fieldmice is inf-f-famous amph-ph-phibians!
HELEN. (Bursts out laughing.) That's just too absurd. Wild or domestic, tame or game, he can't see anything that moves without shooting it!
KAHL. L-las' night, I g-g-gunned down our ol' s-s-sow.
LOTH. Seems that shooting is your primary occupation.