Barbara’s father and mother were also surveyed. Here Barbara was baffled by the determination on the part of both of them that she should talk, should think, should dream about all the things concerning which she could not talk, think nor dream. “How to grow up into a nice little girl,” “How to pray to God,” “How never to tell lies,” “How to keep one’s clothes clean,”—these things did not interest Barbara in the least; but had she been given love with them she might have paid some attention. But a too rigidly defined politics, a too rigidly defined religion find love a poor, loose, sentimental thing—very rightly so, perhaps. Mrs. Flint was afraid that Barbara was a “silly little girl.”
“I hope, Miss Letts, that she no longer talks about her silly fancies.”
“She has said nothing to me in that respect for a considerable period, Mrs. Flint.”
“All very young children have fancies, but such things are dangerous when they grow older.”
“I agree with you.”
Nevertheless the fountain continued to flash in the sun, and births, deaths, weddings, love and hate continued to play their part in March Square.
Barbara, groping about in the desolation of having no one to grope with her, discovered that her Friend came now less frequently to see her. She was even beginning to wonder whether he had ever really come at all. She had perhaps imagined him just as on occasion she would imagine her doll, Jane, the Queen of England, or her afternoon tea the most wonderful meal, with sausages, blackberry jam and chocolates. Young though, she was, she was able to realise that this imagination of hers was capable de tout, and that every one older than herself said that it was wicked; therefore was her Friend, perhaps, wicked also.
And yet, if the dark curtains that veiled the nursery windows at night, if the glimmering shape of the picture-frames, if the square black sides of the dolls’ house were real, real also was the figure of her Friend, real his arousal in her of all the memories of the old days before she was Barbara Flint at all—real, too, his love, his care, his protection; as real, yes, as Miss Letts’s bony figure. It was all very puzzling. But he did not come now as in the old days.
Barbara played very often in the gardens in the middle of the Square, but because she was a timid little girl she did not make many friends. She knew many of the other children who played there, and sometimes she shared in their games; but her sensitive feelings were so easily hurt, she frequently retired in tears. Every day on going into the garden she looked about her, hoping that she would find before she left it again some one whom it would be possible to worship. She tried on several occasions to erect altars, but our English temperament is against public display, and she was misunderstood.