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    Preface

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    Chapter 1
    The litigation seemed interminable and had in fact been complicated; but
    by the decision on the appeal the judgement of the divorce-court was
    confirmed as to the assignment of the child. The father, who, though
    bespattered from head to foot, had made good his case, was, in pursuance
    of this triumph, appointed to keep her: it was not so much that the
    mother's character had been more absolutely damaged as that the
    brilliancy of a lady's complexion (and this lady's, in court, was
    immensely remarked) might be more regarded as showing the spots.
    Attached, however, to the second pronouncement was a condition that
    detracted, for Beale Farange, from its sweetness--an order that he
    should refund to his late wife the twenty-six hundred pounds put down
    by her, as it was called, some three years before, in the interest of
    the child's maintenance and precisely on a proved understanding that he
    would take no proceedings: a sum of which he had had the administration
    and of which he could render not the least account. The obligation thus
    attributed to her adversary was no small balm to Ida's resentment; it
    drew a part of the sting from her defeat and compelled Mr. Farange
    perceptibly to lower his crest. He was unable to produce the money or to
    raise it in any way; so that after a squabble scarcely less public and
    scarcely more decent than the original shock of battle his only issue
    from his predicament was a compromise proposed by his legal advisers and
    finally accepted by hers.

    His debt was by this arrangement remitted to him and the little girl
    disposed of in a manner worthy of the judgement-seat of Solomon. She was
    divided in two and the portions tossed impartially to the disputants.
    They would take her, in rotation, for six months at a time; she would
    spend half the year with each. This was odd justice in the eyes of those
    who still blinked in the fierce light projected from the tribunal--a
    light in which neither parent figured in the least as a happy example to
    youth and innocence. What was to have been expected on the evidence was
    the nomination, _in loco parentis_, of some proper third person, some
    respectable or at least some presentable friend. Apparently, however,
    the circle of the Faranges had been scanned in vain for any such
    ornament; so that the only solution finally meeting all the difficulties
    was, save that of sending Maisie to a Home, the partition of the
    tutelary office in the manner I have mentioned. There were more reasons
    for her parents to agree to it than there had ever been for them to
    agree to anything; and they now prepared with her help to enjoy the
    distinction that waits upon vulgarity sufficiently attested. Their
    rupture had resounded, and after being perfectly insignificant
    together they would be decidedly striking apart. Had they not produced
    an impression that warranted people in looking for appeals in the
    newspapers for the rescue of the little one--reverberation, amid a
    vociferous public, of the idea that some movement should be started or
    some benevolent person should come forward? A good lady came indeed a
    step or two: she was distantly related to Mrs. Farange, to whom she
    proposed that, having children and nurseries wound up and going, she
    should be allowed to take home the bone of contention and, by working it
    into her system, relieve at least one of the parents. This would make
    every time, for Maisie, after her inevitable six months with Beale, much
    more of a change.

    "More of a change?" Ida cried. "Won't it be enough of a change for her
    to come from that low brute to the person in the world who detests him
    most?"

    "No, because you detest him so much that you'll always talk to her about
    him. You'll keep him before her by perpetually abusing him."

    Mrs. Farange stared. "Pray, then, am I to do nothing to counteract his
    villainous abuse of ME?"

    The good lady, for a moment, made no reply: her silence was a grim
    judgement of the whole point of view. "Poor little monkey!" she at
    last exclaimed; and the words were an epitaph for the tomb of Maisie's
    childhood. She was abandoned to her fate. What was clear to any
    spectator was that the only link binding her to either parent was this
    lamentable fact of her being a ready vessel for bitterness, a deep
    little porcelain cup in which biting acids could be mixed. They had
    wanted her not for any good they could do her, but for the harm they
    could, with her unconscious aid, do each other. She should serve
    their anger and seal their revenge, for husband and wife had been
    alike crippled by the heavy hand of justice, which in the last resort
    met on neither side their indignant claim to get, as they called it,
    everything. If each was only to get half this seemed to concede that
    neither was so base as the other pretended, or, to put it differently,
    offered them both as bad indeed, since they were only as good as each
    other. The mother had wished to prevent the father from, as she said,
    "so much as looking" at the child; the father's plea was that the
    mother's lightest touch was "simply contamination." These were the
    opposed principles in which Maisie was to be educated--she was to fit
    them together as she might. Nothing could have been more touching at
    first than her failure to suspect the ordeal that awaited her little
    unspotted soul. There were persons horrified to think what those in
    charge of it would combine to try to make of it: no one could conceive
    in advance that they would be able to make nothing ill.

    This was a society in which for the most part people were occupied
    only with chatter, but the disunited couple had at last grounds for
    expecting a time of high activity. They girded their loins, they felt
    as if the quarrel had only begun. They felt indeed more married than
    ever, inasmuch as what marriage had mainly suggested to them was the
    unbroken opportunity to quarrel. There had been "sides" before, and
    there were sides as much as ever; for the sider too the prospect
    opened out, taking the pleasant form of a superabundance of matter for
    desultory conversation. The many friends of the Faranges drew together
    to differ about them; contradiction grew young again over teacups
    and cigars. Everybody was always assuring everybody of something
    very shocking, and nobody would have been jolly if nobody had been
    outrageous. The pair appeared to have a social attraction which failed
    merely as regards each other: it was indeed a great deal to be able
    to say for Ida that no one but Beale desired her blood, and for Beale
    that if he should ever have his eyes scratched out it would be only by
    his wife. It was generally felt, to begin with, that they were awfully
    good-looking--they had really not been analysed to a deeper residuum.
    They made up together for instance some twelve feet three of stature,
    and nothing was more discussed than the apportionment of this
    quantity. The sole flaw in Ida's beauty was a length and reach of
    arm conducive perhaps to her having so often beaten her ex-husband
    at billiards, a game in which she showed a superiority largely
    accountable, as she maintained, for the resentment finding expression
    in his physical violence. Billiards was her great accomplishment
    and the distinction her name always first produced the mention of.
    Notwithstanding some very long lines everything about her that might
    have been large and that in many women profited by the licence was,
    with a single exception, admired and cited for its smallness. The
    exception was her eyes, which might have been of mere regulation size,
    but which overstepped the modesty of nature; her mouth, on the other
    hand, was barely perceptible, and odds were freely taken as to the
    measurement of her waist. She was a person who, when she was out--and
    she was always out--produced everywhere a sense of having been seen
    often, the sense indeed of a kind of abuse of visibility, so that it
    would have been, in the usual places rather vulgar to wonder at her.
    Strangers only did that; but they, to the amusement of the familiar,
    did it very much: it was an inevitable way of betraying an alien
    habit. Like her husband she carried clothes, carried them as a train
    carries passengers: people had been known to compare their taste and
    dispute about the accommodation they gave these articles, though
    inclining on the whole to the commendation of Ida as less overcrowded,
    especially with jewellery and flowers. Beale Farange had natural
    decorations, a kind of costume in his vast fair beard, burnished like
    a gold breastplate, and in the eternal glitter of the teeth that his
    long moustache had been trained not to hide and that gave him, in
    every possible situation, the look of the joy of life. He had been
    destined in his youth for diplomacy and momentarily attached, without
    a salary, to a legation which enabled him often to say "In MY time in
    the East": but contemporary history had somehow had no use for him,
    had hurried past him and left him in perpetual Piccadilly. Every one
    knew what he had--only twenty-five hundred. Poor Ida, who had run
    through everything, had now nothing but her carriage and her paralysed
    uncle. This old brute, as he was called, was supposed to have a lot
    put away. The child was provided for, thanks to a crafty godmother, a
    defunct aunt of Beale's, who had left her something in such a manner
    that the parents could appropriate only the income.
    Next Chapter
    Chapter 1
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