When Mr. and Mrs. Beale Farange are divorced, they receive joint custody of their young daughter Maisie. At first, both jealously guard their privileges, using Maisie as a weapon to wreak revenge on each other. Then, as they each become involved with new lovers, Maisie is increasingly forgotten, left to fend for herself with little more guidance and affection that what is to be had from her ridiculous governess, Mrs. Wix.
As it happens, Ida Farange’s new husband, Sir Claude, has some scruples and is genuinely fond of Maisie. It is he who takes over her care—indeed, her entertainment—for the most part, while her selfish and heedless parents all but abandon her. Sir Claude and Ida eventually go their separate ways, however, and he takes up with Beale’s new wife, Miss Overmore. This puts the highly scrupulous Mrs. Wix in a compromising position, which she applies to the hapless Maisie, who would, it seems, be quite content to go on living with Sir Claude and his new mistress.
At this point, the extent of Maisie’s extraordinarily canny grasp of her situation and of the intricate amorous games being played all around her becomes clear. She quite brazenly bargains with various adults to secure her own care, preferably with Sir Claude. He takes her to France with Mrs. Wix, only to be pursued there by Ida, or Mrs. Beale, as she is most frequently called. In a climactic confrontation, Sir Claude dispatches Maisie and Mrs. Wix back to England,...
(The entire section is 411 words.)