All this led her on, but it brought on her fate as well, the day when he_other would be at the door in the carriage in which Maisie now rode on n_ccasions but these. There was no question at present of Miss Overmore's goin_ack with her: it was universally recognised that her quarrel with Mrs.
Farange was much too acute. The child felt it from the first; there was n_ugging nor exclaiming as that lady drove her away—there was only _rightening silence, unenlivened even by the invidious enquiries of forme_ears, which culminated, according to its stern nature, in a still mor_rightening old woman, a figure awaiting her on the very doorstep. "You're t_e under this lady's care," said her mother. "Take her, Mrs. Wix," she added,
addressing the figure impatiently and giving the child a push from whic_aisie gathered that she wished to set Mrs. Wix an example of energy. Mrs. Wi_ook her and, Maisie felt the next day, would never let her go. She had struc_er at first, just after Miss Overmore, as terrible; but something in he_oice at the end of an hour touched the little girl in a spot that had neve_ven yet been reached. Maisie knew later what it was, though doubtless sh_ouldn't have made a statement of it: these were things that a few days' tal_ith Mrs. Wix quite lighted up. The principal one was a matter Mrs. Wi_erself always immediately mentioned: she had had a little girl quite of he_wn, and the little girl had been killed on the spot. She had had absolutel_othing else in all the world, and her affliction had broken her heart. It wa_omfortably established between them that Mrs. Wix's heart was broken. Wha_aisie felt was that she had been, with passion and anguish, a mother, an_hat this was something Miss Overmore was not, something (strangely,
confusingly) that mamma was even less. So it was that in the course of a_xtraordinarily short time she found herself as deeply absorbed in the imag_f the little dead Clara Matilda, who, on a crossing in the Harrow Road, ha_een knocked down and crushed by the cruellest of hansoms, as she had eve_ound herself in the family group made vivid by one of seven. "She's you_ittle dead sister," Mrs. Wix ended by saying, and Maisie, all in a tremor o_uriosity and compassion, addressed from that moment a particular piety to th_mall accepted acquisition. Somehow she wasn't a real sister, but that onl_ade her the more romantic. It contributed to this view of her that she wa_ever to be spoken of in that character to any one else—least of all to Mrs.
Farange, who wouldn't care for her nor recognise the relationship: it was t_e just an unutterable and inexhaustible little secret with Mrs. Wix. Maisi_new everything about her that could be known, everything she had said or don_n her little mutilated life, exactly how lovely she was, exactly how her hai_as curled and her frocks were trimmed. Her hair came down—far below he_aist—it was of the most wonderful golden brightness, just as Mrs. Wix's ow_ad been a long time before. Mrs. Wix's own was indeed very remarkable still,
and Maisie had felt at first that she should never get on with it. It played _arge part in the sad and strange appearance, the appearance as of a kind o_reasy greyness, which Mrs. Wix had presented on the child's arrival. It ha_riginally been yellow, but time had turned that elegance to ashes, to _urbid sallow unvenerable white. Still excessively abundant, it was dressed i_ manner of which the poor lady appeared not yet to have recognised th_upersession, with a glossy braid, like a large diadem, on the top of th_ead, and behind, at the nape of the neck, a dingy rosette like a larg_utton. She wore glasses which, in humble reference to a divergent obliquit_f vision, she called her straighteners, and a little ugly snuff-coloure_ress trimmed with satin bands in the form of scallops and glazed wit_ntiquity. The straighteners, she explained to Maisie, were put on for th_ake of others, whom, as she believed, they helped to recognise the bearing,
otherwise doubtful, of her regard; the rest of the melancholy garb could onl_ave been put on for herself. With the added suggestion of her goggles i_eminded her pupil of the polished shell or corslet of a horrid beetle. A_irst she had looked cross and almost cruel; but this impression passed awa_ith the child's increased perception of her being in the eyes of the world _igure mainly to laugh at. She was as droll as a charade or an animal towar_he end of the "natural history"—a person whom people, to make talk lively,
described to each other and imitated. Every one knew the straighteners; ever_ne knew the diadem and the button, the scallops and satin bands; every one,
though Maisie had never betrayed her, knew even Clara Matilda.
It was on account of these things that mamma got her for such low pay, reall_or nothing: so much, one day when Mrs. Wix had accompanied her into th_rawing-room and left her, the child heard one of the ladies she found there—_ady with eyebrows arched like skipping-ropes and thick black stitching, lik_uled lines for musical notes on beautiful white gloves—announce to another.
She knew governesses were poor; Miss Overmore was unmentionably and Mrs. Wi_ver so publicly so. Neither this, however, nor the old brown frock nor th_iadem nor the button, made a difference for Maisie in the charm put fort_hrough everything, the charm of Mrs. Wix's conveying that somehow, in he_gliness and her poverty, she was peculiarly and soothingly safe; safer tha_ny one in the world, than papa, than mamma, than the lady with the arche_yebrows; safer even, though so much less beautiful, than Miss Overmore, o_hose loveliness, as she supposed it, the little girl was faintly consciou_hat one couldn't rest with quite the same tucked-in and kissed-for-good-
night feeling. Mrs. Wix was as safe as Clara Matilda, who was in heaven an_et, embarrassingly, also in Kensal Green, where they had been together to se_er little huddled grave. It was from something in Mrs. Wix's tone, which i_pite of caricature remained indescribable and inimitable, that Maisie, befor_er term with her mother was over, drew this sense of a support, like _reast-high banister in a place of "drops," that would never give way. If sh_new her instructress was poor and queer she also knew she was not nearly so
"qualified" as Miss Overmore, who could say lots of dates straight off
(letting you hold the book yourself) state the position of Malabar, play si_ieces without notes and, in a sketch, put in beautifully the trees and house_nd difficult parts. Maisie herself could play more pieces than Mrs. Wix, wh_as moreover visibly ashamed of her houses and trees and could only, with th_elp of a smutty forefinger, of doubtful legitimacy in the field of art, d_he smoke coming out of the chimneys. They dealt, the governess and her pupil,
in "subjects," but there were many the governess put off from week to week an_hat they never got to at all: she only used to say "We'll take that in it_roper order." Her order was a circle as vast as the untravelled globe. Sh_ad not the spirit of adventure—the child could perfectly see how man_ubjects she was afraid of. She took refuge on the firm ground of fiction,
through which indeed there curled the blue river of truth. She knew swarms o_tories, mostly those of the novels she had read; relating them with a memor_hat never faltered and a wealth of detail that was Maisie's delight. The_ere all about love and beauty and countesses and wickedness. Her conversatio_as practically an endless narrative, a great garden of romance, with sudde_istas into her own life and gushing fountains of homeliness. These were th_arts where they most lingered; she made the child take with her again ever_tep of her long, lame course and think it beyond magic or monsters. Her pupi_cquired a vivid vision of every one who had ever, in her phrase, knocke_gainst her—some of them oh so hard!—every one literally but Mr. Wix, he_usband, as to whom nothing was mentioned save that he had been dead for ages.
He had been rather remarkably absent from his wife's career, and Maisie wa_ever taken to see his grave.