There came a day—an astonishing day—when she felt irritated with her mother. She had during her walk through the garden seen a little boy and a little girl, who were grubbing about in a little pile of earth and sand there in the corner under the trees, and grubbing very happily. They had dirt upon their faces, but their nurse was sitting, apparently quite easy in her mind, and the sun had not stopped in its course nor had the birds upon the trees ceased to sing. Nancy stayed for a moment her progress and looked at them, and something not very far from envy struck, in some far-distant hiding-place, her soul. She moved on, but when she came indoors and was met by her mamma and a handsome lady, her mamma’s friend, who said: “Isn’t she a pretty dear?” and her mother said: “That’s right, Nancy darling, been for your walk?” she was, for an amazing moment, irritated with her beautiful mother.
Once she was conscious of this desire to ask questions she had no more peace. Although she was only five years of age, she had all the determination not “to give herself away” of a woman of forty. She was not going to show that she wanted anything in the world, and yet she would have liked—A little wistfully she looked at her nurse. But that good woman, carefully chosen by Mrs. Ross, was not the one to encourage questions. She was as shining as a new brass nail, and a great deal harder.
The nursery was as neat as a pin, with a lovely bright rocking-horse upon which Nancy had never ridden; a pink doll’s-house with every modern contrivance, whose doors had never been opened; a number of expensive dolls, which had never been disrobed. Nancy approached these joys—diffidently and with caution. She rode upon the horse, opened the doll’s-house, embraced the dolls, but she had no natural imagination to bestow upon them, and the horse and the dolls, hurt, perhaps, at their long neglect, received her with frigidity. Those grubby little children in the Square would, she knew, have been “there” in a moment. She began then to be frightened. The nursery, her bedroom, the dark little passage outside, were suddenly alarming. Sometimes, when she was sitting quietly in her nursery, the house was so silent that she could have screamed.
“I don’t think Miss Nancy’s quite well, ma’am,” said the nurse.
“Oh, dear! What a nuisance,” said Mrs. Ross who liked her little girl to be always well and beautiful. “I do hope she’s not going to catch something.”
“She doesn’t take that pleasure in her clothes she did,” said the nurse.
“Perhaps she wants some new ones,” said her mother. “Take her to Florice, nurse.” Nancy went to Florice, and beautiful new garments were invented, and once again she was squeezed, and tightened, and stretched, and pulled. But Nancy was indifferent. As they tried these clothes, and stood back, and stepped forward, and admired and criticised, she was thinking, “I wish the nursery clock didn’t make such a noise.”