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Chapter 4

  • 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.