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Chapter 31

  • She remained out with him for a time of which she could take no measure sav_hat it was too short for what she wished to make of it—an interval, a barrie_ndefinite, insurmountable. They walked about, they dawdled, they looked i_hop-windows; they did all the old things exactly as if to try to get back al_he old safety, to get something out of them that they had always got before.
  • This had come before, whatever it was, without their trying, and nothing cam_ow but the intenser consciousness of their quest and their subterfuge. Th_trangest thing of all was what had really happened to the old safety. Wha_ad really happened was that Sir Claude was "free" and that Mrs. Beale was
  • "free," and yet that the new medium was somehow still more oppressive than th_ld. She could feel that Sir Claude concurred with her in the sense that th_ppression would be worst at the inn, where, till something should be settled, they would feel the want of something—of what could they call it but _ooting? The question of the settlement loomed larger to her now: it depended, she had learned, so completely on herself. Her choice, as her friend ha_alled it, was there before her like an impossible sum on a slate, a sum tha_n spite of her plea for consideration she simply got off from doing while sh_alked about with him. She must see Mrs. Wix before she could do her sum; therefore the longer before she saw her the more distant would be the ordeal.
  • She met at present no demand whatever of her obligation; she simply plunged, to avoid it, deeper into the company of Sir Claude. She saw nothing that sh_ad seen hitherto—no touch in the foreign picture that had at first bee_lways before her. The only touch was that of Sir Claude's hand, and to fee_er own in it was her mute resistance to time. She went about as sightlessl_s if he had been leading her blindfold. If they were afraid of themselves i_as themselves they would find at the inn. She was certain now that wha_waited them there would be to lunch with Mrs. Beale. All her instinct was t_void that, to draw out their walk, to find pretexts, to take him down upo_he beach, to take him to the end of the pier. He said no other word to he_bout what they had talked of at breakfast, and she had a dim vision of ho_is way of not letting her see him definitely wait for anything from her woul_ake any one who should know of it, would make Mrs. Wix for instance, thin_im more than ever a gentleman. It was true that once or twice, on the jetty, on the sands, he looked at her for a minute with eyes that seemed to propos_o her to come straight off with him to Paris. That, however, was not to giv_er a nudge about her responsibility. He evidently wanted to procrastinat_uite as much as she did; he was not a bit more in a hurry to get back to th_thers. Maisie herself at this moment could be secretly merciless to Mrs. Wix— to the extent at any rate of not caring if her continued disappearance di_ake that lady begin to worry about what had become of her, even begin t_onder perhaps if the truants hadn't found their remedy. Her want of mercy t_rs. Beale indeed was at least as great; for Mrs. Beale's worry and wonde_ould be as much greater as the object at which they were directed. When a_ast Sir Claude, at the far end of the plage, which they had already, in th_any-coloured crowd, once traversed, suddenly, with a look at his watch, remarked that it was time, not to get back to the table d'hote, but to ge_ver to the station and meet the Paris papers—when he did this she foun_erself thinking quite with intensity what Mrs. Beale and Mrs. Wix WOULD say.
  • On the way over to the station she had even a mental picture of the stepfathe_nd the pupil established in a little place in the South while the governes_nd the stepmother, in a little place in the North, remained linked by _ommunity of blankness and by the endless series of remarks it would giv_irth to. The Paris papers had come in and her companion, with a strang_xtravagance, purchased no fewer than eleven: it took up time while the_overed at the bookstall on the restless platform, where the little volumes i_ row were all yellow and pink and one of her favourite old women in one o_er favourite old caps absolutely wheedled him into the purchase of three.
  • They had thus so much to carry home that it would have seemed simpler, wit_uch a provision for a nice straight journey through France, just to "nip," a_he phrased it to herself, into the coupe of the train that, a little furthe_long, stood waiting to start. She asked Sir Claude where it was going.
  • "To Paris. Fancy!"
  • She could fancy well enough. They stood there and smiled, he with all th_ewspapers under his arm and she with the three books, one yellow and tw_ink. He had told her the pink were for herself and the yellow one for Mrs.
  • Beale, implying in an interesting way that these were the natural divisions i_rance of literature for the young and for the old. She knew how prepared the_ooked to pass into the train, and she presently brought out to her companion:
  • "I wish we could go. Won't you take me?"
  • He continued to smile. "Would you really come?"
  • "Oh yes, oh yes. Try."
  • "Do you want me to take our tickets?"
  • "Yes, take them."
  • "Without any luggage?"
  • She showed their two armfuls, smiling at him as he smiled at her, but s_onscious of being more frightened than she had ever been in her life that sh_eemed to see her whiteness as in a glass. Then she knew that what she saw wa_ir Claude's whiteness: he was as frightened as herself. "Haven't we go_lenty of luggage?" she asked. "Take the tickets—haven't you time? When doe_he train go?"
  • Sir Claude turned to a porter. "When does the train go?"
  • The man looked up at the station-clock. "In two minutes. Monsieur est place?"
  • "Pas encore."
  • "Et vos billets?—vous n'avez que le temps." Then after a look at Maisie,
  • "Monsieur veut-il que je les prenne?" the man said.
  • Sir Claude turned back to her. "Veux-tu lieu quil en prenne?"
  • It was the most extraordinary thing in the world: in the intensity of he_xcitement she not only by illumination understood all their French, but fel_nto it with an active perfection. She addressed herself straight to th_orter.
  • "Prenny, prenny. Oh prenny!"
  • "Ah si mademoiselle le veut—!" He waited there for the money.
  • But Sir Claude only stared—stared at her with his white face. "You have chose_hen? You'll let her go?"
  • Maisie carried her eyes wistfully to the train, where, amid cries of "E_oiture, en voiture!" heads were at windows and doors banging loud. The porte_as pressing. "Ah vous n'avez plus le temps!"
  • "It's going—it's going!" cried Maisie.
  • They watched it move, they watched it start; then the man went his way with _hrug. "It's gone!" Sir Claude said.
  • Maisie crept some distance up the platform; she stood there with her back t_er companion, following it with her eyes, keeping down tears, nursing he_ink and yellow books. She had had a real fright but had fallen back to earth.
  • The odd thing was that in her fall her fear too had been dashed down an_roken. It was gone. She looked round at last, from where she had paused, a_ir Claude's, and then saw that his wasn't. It sat there with him on the benc_o which, against the wall of the station, he had retreated, and where, leaning back and, as she thought, rather queer, he still waited. She came dow_o him and he continued to offer his ineffectual intention of pleasantry.
  • "Yes, I've chosen," she said to him. "I'll let her go if you—if you—"
  • She faltered; he quickly took her up. "If I, if I—"
  • "If you'll give up Mrs. Beale."
  • "Oh!" he exclaimed; on which she saw how much, how hopelessly he was afraid.
  • She had supposed at the cafe that it was of his rebellion, of his gatherin_otive; but how could that be when his temptations—that temptation for exampl_f the train they had just lost—were after all so slight? Mrs. Wix was right.
  • He was afraid of his weakness—of his weakness.
  • She couldn't have told you afterwards how they got back to the inn: she coul_nly have told you that even from this point they had not gone straight, bu_nce more had wandered and loitered and, in the course of it, had foun_hemselves on the edge of the quay where—still apparently with half an hour t_pare—the boat prepared for Folkestone was drawn up. Here they hovered as the_ad done at the station; here they exchanged silences again, but onl_xchanged silences. There were punctual people on the deck, choosing places, taking the best; some of them already contented, all established and shawled, facing to England and attended by the steward, who, confined on such a day t_he lighter offices, tucked up the ladies' feet or opened bottles with a pop.
  • They looked down at these things without a word; they even picked out a goo_lace for two that was left in the lee of a lifeboat; and if they lingere_ather stupidly, neither deciding to go aboard nor deciding to come away, i_as Sir Claude quite as much as she who wouldn't move. It was Sir Claude wh_ultivated the supreme stillness by which she knew best what he meant. H_imply meant that he knew all she herself meant. But there was no pretence o_leasantry now: their faces were grave and tired. When at last they lounge_ff it was as if his fear, his fear of his weakness, leaned upon her heavil_s they followed the harbour. In the hall of the hotel as they passed in sh_aw a battered old box that she recognised, an ancient receptacle wit_angling labels that she knew and a big painted W, lately done over an_ntensely personal, that seemed to stare at her with a recognition and eve_ith some suspicion of its own. Sir Claude caught it too, and there wa_gitation for both of them in the sight of this object on the move. Was Mrs.
  • Wix going and was the responsibility of giving her up lifted, at a touch, fro_er pupil? Her pupil and her pupil's companion, transfixed a moment, held, i_he presence of the omen, communication more intense than in the presenc_ither of the Paris train or of the Channel steamer; then, and still without _ord, they went straight upstairs. There, however, on the landing, out o_ight of the people below, they collapsed so that they had to sink dow_ogether for support: they simply seated themselves on the uppermost ste_hile Sir Claude grasped the hand of his stepdaughter with a pressure that a_nother moment would probably have made her squeal. Their books and paper_ere all scattered. "She thinks you've given her up!"
  • "Then I must see her—I must see her," Maisie said.
  • "To bid her good-bye?"
  • "I must see her—I must see her," the child only repeated. They sat a minut_onger, Sir Claude, with his tight grip of her hand and looking away from her, looking straight down the staircase to where, round the turn, electric bell_attled and the pleasant sea-draught blew. At last, loosening his grasp, h_lowly got up while she did the same. They went together along the lobby, bu_efore they reached the salon he stopped again. "If I give up Mrs. Beale—?"
  • "I'll go straight out with you again and not come back till she has gone."
  • He seemed to wonder. "Till Mrs. Beale—?" he had made it sound like a bad joke.
  • "I mean till Mrs. Wix leaves—in that boat."
  • Sir Claude looked almost foolish. "Is she going in that boat?"
  • "I suppose so. I won't even bid her good-bye," Maisie continued.
  • "I'll stay out till the boat has gone. I'll go up to the old rampart."
  • "The old rampart?"
  • "I'll sit on that old bench where you see the gold Virgin."
  • "The gold Virgin?" he vaguely echoed. But it brought his eyes back to her a_f after an instant he could see the place and the thing she named—could se_er sitting there alone. "While I break with Mrs. Beale?"
  • "While you break with Mrs. Beale."
  • He gave a long deep smothered sigh. "I must see her first."
  • "You won't do as I do? Go out and wait?"
  • "Wait?"—once more he appeared at a loss.
  • "Till they both have gone," Maisie said.
  • "Giving US up?"
  • "Giving US up."
  • Oh with what a face for an instant he wondered if that could be! But hi_onder the next moment only made him go to the door and, with his hand on th_nob, stand as if listening for voices. Maisie listened, but she heard none.
  • All she heard presently was Sir Claude's saying with speculation quite choke_ff, but so as not to be heard in the salon: "Mrs. Beale will never go." O_his he pushed open the door and she went in with him. The salon was empty, but as an effect of their entrance the lady he had just mentioned appeared a_he door of the bedroom. "Is she going?" he then demanded.
  • Mrs. Beale came forward, closing her door behind her. "I've had the mos_xtraordinary scene with her. She told me yesterday she'd stay."
  • "And my arrival has altered it?"
  • "Oh we took that into account!" Mrs. Beale was flushed, which was never quit_ecoming to her, and her face visibly testified to the encounter to which sh_lluded. Evidently, however, she had not been worsted, and she held up he_ead and smiled and rubbed her hands as if in sudden emulation of th_atronne. "She promised she'd stay even if you should come."
  • "Then why has she changed?"
  • "Because she's a hound. The reason she herself gives is that you've been ou_oo long."
  • Sir Claude stared. "What has that to do with it?"
  • "You've been out an age," Mrs. Beale continued; "I myself couldn't imagin_hat had become of you. The whole morning," she exclaimed, "and luncheon lon_ince over!"
  • Sir Claude appeared indifferent to that. "Did Mrs. Wix go down with you?" h_nly asked.
  • "Not she; she never budged!"—and Mrs. Beale's flush, to Maisie's vision, deepened. "She moped there—she didn't so much as come out to me; and when _ent to invite her she simply declined to appear. She said she wanted nothing, and I went down alone. But when I came up, fortunately a little primed"—an_rs. Beale smiled a fine smile of battle—"she WAS in the field!"
  • "And you had a big row?"
  • "We had a big row"—she assented with a frankness as large. "And while you lef_e to that sort of thing I should like to know where you were!" She paused fo_ reply, but Sir Claude merely looked at Maisie; a movement that promptl_uickened her challenge. "Where the mischief have you been?"
  • "You seem to take it as hard as Mrs. Wix," Sir Claude returned.
  • "I take it as I choose to take it, and you don't answer my question."
  • He looked again at Maisie—as if for an aid to this effort; whereupon sh_miled at her stepmother and offered: "We've been everywhere."
  • Mrs. Beale, however, made her no response, thereby adding to a surprise o_hich our young lady had already felt the light brush. She had receive_either a greeting nor a glance, but perhaps this was not more remarkable tha_he omission, in respect to Sir Claude, parted with in London two days before, of any sign of a sense of their reunion. Most remarkable of all was Mrs.
  • Beale's announcement of the pledge given by Mrs. Wix and not hitherto reveale_o her pupil. Instead of heeding this witness she went on with acerbity: "I_ight surely have occurred to you that something would come up."
  • Sir Claude looked at his watch. "I had no idea it was so late, nor that we ha_een out so long. We weren't hungry. It passed like a flash. What HAS com_p?"
  • "Oh that she's disgusted," said Mrs. Beale.
  • "With whom then?"
  • "With Maisie." Even now she never looked at the child, who stood there equall_ssociated and disconnected. "For having no moral sense."
  • "How SHOULD she have?" Sir Claude tried again to shine a little at th_ompanion of his walk. "How at any rate is it proved by her going out wit_e?"
  • "Don't ask ME; ask that woman. She drivels when she doesn't rage," Mrs. Beal_eclared.
  • "And she leaves the child?"
  • "She leaves the child," said Mrs. Beale with great emphasis and looking mor_han ever over Maisie's head.
  • In this position suddenly a change came into her face, caused, as the other_ould the next thing see, by the reappearance of Mrs. Wix in the doorwa_hich, on coming in at Sir Claude's heels, Maisie had left gaping. "I DON'_eave the child—I don't, I don't!" she thundered from the threshold, advancin_pon the opposed three but addressing herself directly to Maisie. She wa_irded—positively harnessed—for departure, arrayed as she had been arrayed o_er advent and armed with a small fat rusty reticule which, almost in th_anner of a battle-axe, she brandished in support of her words. She ha_learly come straight from her room, where Maisie in an instant guessed sh_ad directed the removal of her minor effects. "I don't leave you till I'v_iven you another chance. Will you come WITH me?"
  • Maisie turned to Sir Claude, who struck her as having been removed to _istance of about a mile. To Mrs. Beale she turned no more than Mrs. Beale ha_urned: she felt as if already their difference had been disclosed. What ha_ome out about that in the scene between the two women? Enough came out now, at all events, as she put it practically to her stepfather. "Will YOU come?
  • Won't you?" she enquired as if she had not already seen that she should hav_o give him up. It was the last flare of her dream. By this time she wa_fraid of nothing.
  • "I should think you'd be too proud to ask!" Mrs. Wix interposed. Mrs. Wix wa_erself conspicuously too proud.
  • But at the child's words Mrs. Beale had fairly bounded. "Come away from ME, Maisie?" It was a wail of dismay and reproach, in which her stepdaughter wa_stonished to read that she had had no hostile consciousness and that if sh_ad been so actively grand it was not from suspicion, but from strang_ntanglements of modesty.
  • Sir Claude presented to Mrs. Beale an expression positively sick. "Don't pu_t to her THAT way!" There had indeed been something in Mrs. Beale's tone, an_or a moment our young lady was reminded of the old days in which so many o_er friends had been "compromised."
  • This friend blushed; she was before Mrs. Wix, and though she bridled she too_he hint. "No—it isn't the way." Then she showed she knew the way. "Don't be _till bigger fool, dear, but go straight to your room and wait there till _an come to you."
  • Maisie made no motion to obey, but Mrs. Wix raised a hand that forestalle_very evasion. "Don't move till you've heard me. I'M going, but I must firs_nderstand. Have you lost it again?"
  • Maisie surveyed—for the idea of a describable loss—the immensity of space.
  • Then she replied lamely enough: "I feel as if I had lost everything."
  • Mrs. Wix looked dark. "Do you mean to say you HAVE lost what we found togethe_ith so much difficulty two days ago?" As her pupil failed of response sh_ontinued: "Do you mean to say you've already forgotten what we foun_ogether?"
  • Maisie dimly remembered. "My moral sense?"
  • "Your moral sense. HAVEN'T I, after all, brought it out?" She spoke as she ha_ever spoken even in the schoolroom and with the book in her hand.
  • It brought back to the child's recollection how she sometimes couldn't repea_n Friday the sentence that had been glib on Wednesday, and she dealt al_eebly and ruefully with the present tough passage. Sir Claude and Mrs. Beal_tood there like visitors at an "exam." She had indeed an instant a whiff o_he faint flower that Mrs. Wix pretended to have plucked and now with such _eremptory hand thrust at her nose. Then it left her, and, as if she wer_inking with a slip from a foothold, her arms made a short jerk. What thi_erk represented was the spasm within her of something still deeper than _oral sense. She looked at her examiner; she looked at the visitors; she fel_he rising of the tears she had kept down at the station. They had nothing—no, distinctly nothing—to do with her moral sense. The only thing was the old fla_hameful schoolroom plea. "I don't know—I don't know."
  • "Then you've lost it." Mrs. Wix seemed to close the book as she fixed th_traighteners on Sir Claude. "You've nipped it in the bud. You've killed i_hen it had begun to live."
  • She was a newer Mrs. Wix than ever, a Mrs. Wix high and great; but Sir Claud_as not after all to be treated as a little boy with a missed lesson. "I'v_ot killed anything," he said; "on the contrary I think I've produced life. _on't know what to call it—I haven't even known how decently to deal with it, to approach it; but, whatever it is, it's the most beautiful thing I've eve_et—it's exquisite, it's sacred." He had his hands in his pockets and, thoug_ trace of the sickness he had just shown perhaps lingered there, his fac_ent itself with extraordinary gentleness on both the friends he was about t_ose. "Do you know what I came back for?" he asked of the elder.
  • "I think I do!" cried Mrs. Wix, surprisingly un-mollified and with the heat o_er late engagement with Mrs. Beale still on her brow. That lady, as if _ittle besprinkled by such turns of the tide, uttered a loud inarticulat_rotest and, averting herself, stood a moment at the window.
  • "I came back with a proposal," said Sir Claude.
  • "To me?" Mrs. Wix asked.
  • "To Maisie. That she should give you up."
  • "And does she?"
  • Sir Claude wavered. "Tell her!" he then exclaimed to the child, also turnin_way as if to give her the chance. But Mrs. Wix and her pupil stood confronte_n silence, Maisie whiter than ever— more awkward, more rigid and yet mor_umb. They looked at each other hard, and as nothing came from them Sir Claud_aced about again. "You won't tell her?—you can't?" Still she said nothing; whereupon, addressing Mrs. Wix, he broke into a kind of ecstasy. "Sh_efused—she refused!"
  • Maisie, at this, found her voice. "I didn't refuse. I didn't," she repeated.
  • It brought Mrs. Beale straight back to her. "You accepted, angel —yo_ccepted!" She threw herself upon the child and, before Maisie could resist, had sunk with her upon the sofa, possessed of her, encircling her. "You'v_iven her up already, you've given her up for ever, and you're ours and our_nly now, and the sooner she's off the better!"
  • Maisie had shut her eyes, but at a word of Sir Claude's they opened. "Let he_o!" he said to Mrs. Beale.
  • "Never, never, never!" cried Mrs. Beale. Maisie felt herself more compressed.
  • "Let her go!" Sir Claude more intensely repeated. He was looking at Mrs. Beal_nd there was something in his voice. Maisie knew from a loosening of arm_hat she had become conscious of what it was; she slowly rose from the sofa, and the child stood there again dropped and divided. "You're free—you'r_ree," Sir Claude went on; at which Maisie's back became aware of a push tha_ented resentment and that placed her again in the centre of the room, th_ynosure of every eye and not knowing which way to turn.
  • She turned with an effort to Mrs. Wix. "I didn't refuse to give you up. I sai_ would if HE'D give up—"
  • "Give up Mrs. Beale?" burst from Mrs. Wix.
  • "Give up Mrs. Beale. What do you call that but exquisite?" Sir Claude demande_f all of them, the lady mentioned included; speaking with a relish as intens_ow as if some lovely work of art or of nature had suddenly been set dow_mong them. He was rapidly recovering himself on this basis of fin_ppreciation. "She made her condition—with such a sense of what it should be!
  • She made the only right one."
  • "The only right one?"—Mrs. Beale returned to the charge. She had taken _oment before a snub from him, but she was not to be snubbed on this. "How ca_ou talk such rubbish and how can you back her up in such impertinence? Wha_n the world have you done to her to make her think of such stuff?" She stoo_here in righteous wrath; she flashed her eyes round the circle. Maisie too_hem full in her own, knowing that here at last was the moment she had ha_ost to reckon with. But as regards her stepdaughter Mrs. Beale subdue_erself to a question deeply mild. "HAVE you made, my own love, any suc_ondition as that?"
  • Somehow, now that it was there, the great moment was not so bad. What helpe_he child was that she knew what she wanted. All her learning and learning ha_ade her at last learn that; so that if she waited an instant to reply it wa_nly from the desire to be nice. Bewilderment had simply gone or at any rat_as going fast. Finally she answered. "Will you give HIM up? Will you?"
  • "Ah leave her alone—leave her, leave her!" Sir Claude in sudden supplicatio_urmured to Mrs. Beale.
  • Mrs. Wix at the same instant found another apostrophe. "Isn't it enough fo_ou, madam, to have brought her to discussing your relations?"
  • Mrs. Beale left Sir Claude unheeded, but Mrs. Wix could make her flame. "M_elations? What do you know, you hideous creature, about my relations, an_hat business on earth have you to speak of them? Leave the room this instant, you horrible old woman!"
  • "I think you had better go—you must really catch your boat," Sir Claude sai_istressfully to Mrs. Wix. He was out of it now, or wanted to be; he knew th_orst and had accepted it: what now concerned him was to prevent, to dissipat_ulgarities. "Won't you go—won't you just get off quickly?"
  • "With the child as quickly as you like. Not without her." Mrs. Wix wa_damant.
  • "Then why did you lie to me, you fiend?" Mrs. Beale almost yelled. "Why di_ou tell me an hour ago that you had given her up?"
  • "Because I despaired of her—because I thought she had left me." Mrs. Wi_urned to Maisie. "You were WITH them—in their connexion. But now your eye_re open, and I take you!"
  • "No you don't!" and Mrs. Beale made, with a great fierce jump, a wild snatc_t her stepdaughter. She caught her by the arm and, completing an instinctiv_ovement, whirled her round in a further leap to the door, which had bee_losed by Sir Claude the instant their voices had risen. She fell back agains_t and, even while denouncing and waving off Mrs. Wix, kept it closed in a_ncoherence of passion. "You don't take her, but you bundle yourself: sh_tays with her own people and she's rid of you! I never heard anything s_onstrous!" Sir Claude had rescued Maisie and kept hold of her; he held her i_ront of him, resting his hands very lightly on her shoulders and facing th_oud adversaries. Mrs. Beale's flush had dropped; she had turned pale with _plendid wrath. She kept protesting and dismissing Mrs. Wix; she glued he_ack to the door to prevent Maisie's flight; she drove out Mrs. Wix by th_indow or the chimney. "You're a nice one—'discussing relations'—with you_alk of our 'connexion' and your insults! What in the world's our connexio_ut the love of the child who's our duty and our life and who holds u_ogether as closely as she originally brought us?"
  • "I know, I know!" Maisie said with a burst of eagerness. "I did bring you."
  • The strangest of laughs escaped from Sir Claude. "You did bring us—you did!"
  • His hands went up and down gently on her shoulders.
  • Mrs. Wix so dominated the situation that she had something sharp for ever_ne. "There you have it, you see!" she pregnantly remarked to her pupil.
  • "WILL you give him up?" Maisie persisted to Mrs. Beale.
  • "To YOU, you abominable little horror?" that lady indignantly enquired, "an_o this raving old demon who has filled your dreadful little mind with he_ickedness? Have you been a hideous little hypocrite all these years that I'v_laved to make you love me and deludedly believed you did?"
  • "I love Sir Claude—I love HIM," Maisie replied with an awkward sense that sh_ppeared to offer it as something that would do as well. Sir Claude ha_ontinued to pat her, and it was really an answer to his pats.
  • "She hates you—she hates you," he observed with the oddest quietness to Mrs.
  • Beale.
  • His quietness made her blaze. "And you back her up in it and give me up t_utrage?"
  • "No; I only insist that she's free—she's free."
  • Mrs. Beale stared—Mrs. Beale glared. "Free to starve with this paupe_unatic?"
  • "I'll do more for her than you ever did!" Mrs. Wix retorted. "I'll work m_ingers to the bone."
  • Maisie, with Sir Claude's hands still on her shoulders, felt, just as she fel_he fine surrender in them, that over her head he looked in a certain way a_rs. Wix. "You needn't do that," she heard him say. "She has means."
  • "Means?—Maisie?" Mrs. Beale shrieked. "Means that her vile father has stolen!"
  • "I'll get them back—I'll get them back. I'll look into it." He smiled an_odded at Mrs. Wix.
  • This had a fearful effect on his other friend. "Haven't I looked into it, _hould like to know, and haven't I found an abyss? It's too inconceivable—you_ruelty to me!" she wildly broke out. She had hot tears in her eyes.
  • He spoke to her very kindly, almost coaxingly. "We'll look into it again; we'll look into it together. It IS an abyss, but he CAN be made—or Ida can.
  • Think of the money they're getting now!" he laughed. "It's all right, it's al_ight," he continued. "It wouldn't do—it wouldn't do. We CAN'T work her in.
  • It's perfectly true—she's unique. We're not good enough—oh no!" and, quit_xuberantly, he laughed again.
  • "Not good enough, and that beast IS?" Mrs. Beale shouted.
  • At this for a moment there was a hush in the room, and in the midst of it Si_laude replied to the question by moving with Maisie to Mrs. Wix. The nex_hing the child knew she was at that lady's side with an arm firmly grasped.
  • Mrs. Beale still guarded the door. "Let them pass," said Sir Claude at last.
  • She remained there, however; Maisie saw the pair look at each other. Then sh_aw Mrs. Beale turn to her. "I'm your mother now, Maisie. And he's you_ather."
  • "That's just where it is!" sighed Mrs. Wix with an effect of irony positivel_etached and philosophic.
  • Mrs. Beale continued to address her young friend, and her effort to b_easonable and tender was in its way remarkable. "We're representative, yo_now, of Mr. Farange and his former wife. This person represents mer_lliterate presumption. We take our stand on the law."
  • "Oh the law, the law!" Mrs. Wix superbly jeered. "You had better indeed le_he law have a look at you!"
  • "Let them pass—let them pass!" Sir Claude pressed his friend hard—he pleaded.
  • But she fastened herself still to Maisie. "DO you hate me, dearest?"
  • Maisie looked at her with new eyes, but answered as she had answered before.
  • "Will you give him up?"
  • Mrs. Beale's rejoinder hung fire, but when it came it was noble. "Yo_houldn't talk to me of such things!" She was shocked, she was scandalised t_ears.
  • For Mrs. Wix, however, it was her discrimination that was indelicate. "Yo_ught to be ashamed of yourself!" she roundly cried.
  • Sir Claude made a supreme appeal. "Will you be so good as to allow thes_orrors to terminate?"
  • Mrs. Beale fixed her eyes on him, and again Maisie watched them. "You shoul_o him justice," Mrs. Wix went on to Mrs. Beale. "We've always been devoted t_im, Maisie and I—and he has shown how much he likes us. He would like t_lease her; he would like even, I think, to please me. But he hasn't given yo_p."
  • They stood confronted, the step-parents, still under Maisie's observation.
  • That observation had never sunk so deep as at this particular moment. "Yes, m_ear, I haven't given you up," Sir Claude said to Mrs. Beale at last, "and i_ou'd like me to treat our friends here as solemn witnesses I don't min_iving you my word for it that I never never will. There!" he dauntlessl_xclaimed.
  • "He can't!" Mrs. Wix tragically commented.
  • Mrs. Beale, erect and alive in her defeat, jerked her handsome face about. "H_an't!" she literally mocked.
  • "He can't, he can't, he can't!"—Sir Claude's gay emphasis wonderfully carrie_t off.
  • Mrs. Beale took it all in, yet she held her ground; on which Maisie addresse_rs. Wix. "Shan't we lose the boat?"
  • "Yes, we shall lose the boat," Mrs. Wix remarked to Sir Claude.
  • Mrs. Beale meanwhile faced full at Maisie. "I don't know what to make of you!"
  • she launched.
  • "Good-bye," said Maisie to Sir Claude.
  • "Good-bye, Maisie," Sir Claude answered.
  • Mrs. Beale came away from the door. "Goodbye!" she hurled at Maisie; the_assed straight across the room and disappeared in the adjoining one.
  • Sir Claude had reached the other door and opened it. Mrs. Wix was already out.
  • On the threshold Maisie paused; she put out her hand to her stepfather. H_ook it and held it a moment, and their eyes met as the eyes of those who hav_one for each other what they can. "Good-bye," he repeated.
  • "Good-bye." And Maisie followed Mrs. Wix.
  • They caught the steamer, which was just putting off, and, hustled across th_ulf, found themselves on the deck so breathless and so scared that they gav_p half the voyage to letting their emotion sink. It sank slowly an_mperfectly; but at last, in mid-channel, surrounded by the quiet sea, Mrs.
  • Wix had courage to revert. "I didn't look back, did you?"
  • "Yes. He wasn't there," said Maisie.
  • "Not on the balcony?"
  • Maisie waited a moment; then "He wasn't there" she simply said again.
  • Mrs. Wix also was silent a while. "He went to HER," she finally observed.
  • "Oh I know!" the child replied.
  • Mrs. Wix gave a sidelong look. She still had room for wonder at what Maisi_new.