“You are torturing that infant,” said Hortense, and Sarah smiled.
Mary was by no means the first of Sarah’s victim’s. There had been many others. Utterly aloof, herself, from all emotions of panic or terror, it had, from the very earliest age, interested her to see those passions at work in others. Cruelty for cruelty’s sake had no interest for her at all; to pull the wings from flies, to tie kettles to the tails of agitated puppies, to throw stones at cats, did not, in the least, amuse her. She had once put a cat in the fire, but only because she had seen it play with a terrified mouse. That had affronted her sense of justice. But she was gravely and quite dispassionately interested in the terror of Mary Kitson. In later life a bull fight was to appear to her a tiresome affair, but the domination of one human being over another, absorbing. She had, too, at the very earliest age, that conviction that it was pleasant to combat all sentiment, all appeals to be “good,” all soft emotions of pity, anything that could suggest that Right was of more power than Might.
It was as though she said, “You may think that even now you will get me. I tell you I’m a rebel from the beginning; you’ll never catch me showing affection or sympathy. If you do you may do your worst.”
Beyond all things, her anxiety was that, suddenly, in spite of herself, she would do something “soft,” some weak kindness. Her power over Mary Kitson reassured her.
The fascination of this power very soon became to her an overwhelming interest. Playing with Mary Kitson’s mind was as absorbing to Sarah, as chess to an older enthusiast; her discoveries promised her a life full of entertainment, if, with her fellow-mortals, she was able, so easily, “to do things,” what a time she would always have. She discovered, very soon, that Mary Kitson was, by nature, truthful and obedient, that she had a great fear of God, and that she loved her parents. Here was fine material to work upon. She began by insisting on little lies.
“Say our clocks were all wrong, and you couldn’t know what the time was.”
“Yes, say it.”
“Say it. Otherwise I’ll be punished too. Mind, if you don’t say it, I shall know.”
There was the horrible threat that effected so much. Mary began soon to believe that Sarah was never absent from her, that she attended her, invisibly, her little dark face peering over Mary’s shoulder, and when Mary was in bed at night, the lights out, and only shadows on the walls, Sarah was certainly there, her mocking eyes on Mary’s face, her voice whispering things in Mary’s ears.
Sarah, Mary very soon discovered, believed in nothing, and knew everything. This horrible combination, naturally, affected Mary, who believed in everything and knew nothing.
“Why should we obey our mothers?” said Sarah. “We’re as good as they are.”