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Chapter 1

  • 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!"