Nine Unlikely Tales (Paperback)
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MATILDA'S ears were red and shiny. So were her cheeks. Her hands were red too. This was because Pridmore had washed her. It was not the usual washing, which makes you clean and comfortable, but the "thorough good wash," which makes you burn and smart till you wish you could be like the poor little savages who do not know anything, and run about bare in the sun, and only go into the water when they are hot.Matilda wished she could have been born in a savage tribe instead of at Brixton."Little savages," she said, "don't have their ears washed thoroughly, and they don't have new dresses that are prickly in the insides round their arms, and cut them round the neck. Do they, Pridmore?"But Pridmore only said, "Stuff and nonsense," and then she said, "don't wriggle so, child, for goodness' sake."Pridmore was Matilda's nursemaid. Matilda sometimes found her trying. Matilda was quite right in believing that savage children do not wear frocks that hurt. It is also true that savage children are not over-washed, over-brushed, over-combed, gloved, booted, and hatted and taken in an omnibus to Streatham to see their Great-aunt Willoughby. This was intended to be Matilda's fate. Her mother had arranged it. Pridmore had prepared her for it. Matilda, knowing resistance to be vain, had submitted to it.But Destiny had not been consulted, and Destiny had plans of its own for Matilda.When the last button of Matilda's boots had been fastened (the button-hook always had a nasty temper, especially when it was hurried, and that day it bit a little piece of Matilda's leg quite spitefully) the wretched child was taken downstairs and put on a chair in the hall to wait while Pridmore popped her own things on."I shan't be a minute," said Pridmore. Matilda knew better. She seated herself to wait, and swung her legs miserably. She had been to her Great-aunt Willoughby's before, and she knew exactly what to expect. She would be asked about her lessons, and how many marks she had, and whether she had been a good girl. I can't think why grown-up people don't see how impertinent these questions are. Suppose you were to answer, "I'm top of my class, Auntie, thank you, and I'm very good. And now 4let's have a little talk about you. Aunt, dear, how much money have you got, and have you been scolding the servants again, or have you tried to be good and patient as a properly brought up aunt should be, eh, dear?"MATILDA SWUNG HER LEGS MISERABLY.Try this method with one of your aunts next time she begins asking you questions, and write and tell me what she says.