The child was provided for, but the new arrangement was inevitably confoundin_o a young intelligence intensely aware that something had happened which mus_atter a good deal and looking anxiously out for the effects of so great _ause. It was to be the fate of this patient little girl to see much more tha_he at first understood, but also even at first to understand much more tha_ny little girl, however patient, had perhaps ever understood before. Only _rummer-boy in a ballad or a story could have been so in the thick of th_ight. She was taken into the confidence of passions on which she fixed jus_he stare she might have had for images bounding across the wall in the slid_f a magic-lantern. Her little world was phantasmagoric—strange shadow_ancing on a sheet. It was as if the whole performance had been given fo_er—a mite of a half-scared infant in a great dim theatre. She was in shor_ntroduced to life with a liberality in which the selfishness of others foun_ts account, and there was nothing to avert the sacrifice but the modesty o_er youth.
Her first term was with her father, who spared her only in not letting he_ave the wild letters addressed to her by her mother: he confined himself t_olding them up at her and shaking them, while he showed his teeth, and the_musing her by the way he chucked them, across the room, bang into the fire.
Even at that moment, however, she had a scared anticipation of fatigue, _uilty sense of not rising to the occasion, feeling the charm of the violenc_ith which the stiff unopened envelopes, whose big monograms—Ida bristled wit_onograms—she would have liked to see, were made to whizz, like dangerou_issiles, through the air. The greatest effect of the great cause was her ow_reater importance, chiefly revealed to her in the larger freedom with whic_he was handled, pulled hither and thither and kissed, and the proportionatel_reater niceness she was obliged to show. Her features had somehow becom_rominent; they were so perpetually nipped by the gentlemen who came to se_er father and the smoke of whose cigarettes went into her face. Some of thes_entlemen made her strike matches and light their cigarettes; others, holdin_er on knees violently jolted, pinched the calves of her legs till sh_hrieked—her shriek was much admired—and reproached them with bein_oothpicks. The word stuck in her mind and contributed to her feeling fro_his time that she was deficient in something that would meet the genera_esire. She found out what it was: it was a congenital tendency to th_roduction of a substance to which Moddle, her nurse, gave a short ugly name,
a name painfully associated at dinner with the part of the joint that sh_idn't like. She had left behind her the time when she had no desires to meet,
none at least save Moddle's, who, in Kensington Gardens, was always on th_ench when she came back to see if she had been playing too far. Moddle'_esire was merely that she shouldn't do that, and she met it so easily tha_he only spots in that long brightness were the moments of her wondering wha_ould become of her if, on her rushing back, there should be no Moddle on th_ench. They still went to the Gardens, but there was a difference even there;
she was impelled perpetually to look at the legs of other children and ask he_urse if THEY were toothpicks. Moddle was terribly truthful; she always said:
"Oh my dear, you'll not find such another pair as your own." It seemed to hav_o do with something else that Moddle often said: "You feel the strain—that'_here it is; and you'll feel it still worse, you know."
Thus from the first Maisie not only felt it, but knew she felt it. A part o_t was the consequence of her father's telling her he felt it too, and tellin_oddle, in her presence, that she must make a point of driving that home. Sh_as familiar, at the age of six, with the fact that everything had bee_hanged on her account, everything ordered to enable him to give himself up t_er. She was to remember always the words in which Moddle impressed upon he_hat he did so give himself: "Your papa wishes you never to forget, you know,
that he has been dreadfully put about." If the skin on Moddle's face had t_aisie the air of being unduly, almost painfully, stretched, it neve_resented that appearance so much as when she uttered, as she often ha_ccasion to utter, such words. The child wondered if they didn't make it hur_ore than usual; but it was only after some time that she was able to attac_o the picture of her father's sufferings, and more particularly to he_urse's manner about them, the meaning for which these things had waited. B_he time she had grown sharper, as the gentlemen who had criticised her calve_sed to say, she found in her mind a collection of images and echoes to whic_eanings were attachable—images and echoes kept for her in the childish dusk,
the dim closet, the high drawers, like games she wasn't yet big enough t_lay. The great strain meanwhile was that of carrying by the right end th_hings her father said about her mother—things mostly indeed that Moddle, on _limpse of them, as if they had been complicated toys or difficult books, too_ut of her hands and put away in the closet. A wonderful assortment of object_f this kind she was to discover there later, all tumbled up too with th_hings, shuffled into the same receptacle, that her mother had said about he_ather.
She had the knowledge that on a certain occasion which every day brough_earer her mother would be at the door to take her away, and this would hav_arkened all the days if the ingenious Moddle hadn't written on a paper i_ery big easy words ever so many pleasures that she would enjoy at the othe_ouse. These promises ranged from "a mother's fond love" to "a nice poache_gg to your tea," and took by the way the prospect of sitting up ever so lat_o see the lady in question dressed, in silks and velvets and diamonds an_earls, to go out: so that it was a real support to Maisie, at the suprem_our, to feel how, by Moddle's direction, the paper was thrust away in he_ocket and there clenched in her fist. The supreme hour was to furnish he_ith a vivid reminiscence, that of a strange outbreak in the drawing- room o_he part of Moddle, who, in reply to something her father had just said, crie_loud: "You ought to be perfectly ashamed of yourself—you ought to blush, sir,
for the way you go on!" The carriage, with her mother in it, was at the door;
a gentleman who was there, who was always there, laughed out very loud; he_ather, who had her in his arms, said to Moddle: "My dear woman, I'll settl_ou presently!"—after which he repeated, showing his teeth more than ever a_aisie while he hugged her, the words for which her nurse had taken him up.
Maisie was not at the moment so fully conscious of them as of the wonder o_oddle's sudden disrespect and crimson face; but she was able to produce the_n the course of five minutes when, in the carriage, her mother, all kisses,
ribbons, eyes, arms, strange sounds and sweet smells, said to her: "And di_our beastly papa, my precious angel, send any message to your own lovin_amma?" Then it was that she found the words spoken by her beastly papa to be,
after all, in her little bewildered ears, from which, at her mother's appeal,
they passed, in her clear shrill voice, straight to her little innocent lips.
"He said I was to tell you, from him," she faithfully reported, "that you're _asty horrid pig!"