Study Guide

What Maisie Knew

What Maisie Knew Summary

Ida and Beale Farange, Maisie's parents, have split up for good. After their divorce, when James's novel opens, the Faranges are left with nothing nice to say to one another. But rather than say nothing at all, they make their only daughter, little Maisie, carry nasty, name-calling messages back and forth as she shuttles between two equally broken homes.

Ida and Beale have been ordered by the court to share custody of Maisie. But the only thing they really end up sharing is the prize for Worst Parents Ever. Small-minded, selfish, and spiteful, Mr. and Mrs. Farange are two of the most despicable people you're likely to encounter in fiction, and it's Maisie's job to save herself from them.

But first, she has to see them for what they are, and this is no easy feat for a child who is still so young and dependent. Maisie also happens to be nothing like her folks. The apple fell far from the tree, thankfully, and she's a real sweetie. She's also curious, quick, and good-natured through and through.

So how does she make it out of harm's way and free herself from her evildoing, good-for-nothing mom and dad? You guessed it: by running away from home. But being such a young'un, she needs help to make this happen. This means she has to find an adult who'll really have what it takes to help her, who'll be willing to look out for her and do what's right.

Several candidates present themselves, and James leaves readers in doubt as to who is the genuine article. Much of the interest in reading Maisie comes from having to puzzle this out with James's protagonist. We know what Maisie knows, and little else, so the suspense mounts during Maisie's search for a rescuer.

Maisie has two governesses, one in each of her parents' houses: the odd but lovable Mrs. Wix and a prettier woman named Miss Overmore. Her loyalties are divided between these ladies, but she also comes to adore the new man in her mother's life, Sir Claude, who is chivalrous, charming, and—all of James's characters agree—a real hottie.

The plot thickens—and the family tree gets complicated—when Miss Overmore becomes Mrs. Beale, marrying Maisie's dad (and for some reason, using his first name as her last, which must be what floats her boat). Sir Claude, for his part, marries her mom.

But this doesn't mean, of course, that Maisie now has two big happy families. Adulterers will be adulterers is what James seems to think. And sure enough—get this—Maisie's two stepparents, Mrs. Beale and Sir Claude, also get together. The exes' new spouses end up with each other, so it's like a marriage merry-go-round.

Sir Claude and Mrs. Beale start seeing each other on the sly and getting to know each other very well, if you know what we mean. James implies this even though Maisie doesn't see it clearly because she's too young to know the ways of the world. Mrs. Wix, though, sees it all and seriously disapproves.

So when Sir Claude hatches a plan to cart Maisie off to France to live happily ever after with him, Mrs. Beale, and Mrs. Wix, the good old governess wants out, and she wants Maisie to have the "moral sense" (XXVI.1) to opt out, too. (In those days, more than today, adultery really was a huge thing, and James expects readers to understand this and to sympathize with Mrs. Wix, even if he keeps showing that she's really pretty wacky.)

As the novel nears its conclusion, Maisie, now in France, hesitates, torn between her stepparents and Mrs. Wix. But, in the end, her conscience is her guide, and—spoiler alert!—she chooses the straight and narrow (if unglamorous) Mrs. Wix. This good governess marvels, in the novel's last words, "at what Maisie knew" (XXXI.154).

The child-heroine has come a long way and finally found safety. She has learned from life. And she now has a whole new life to look forward to.

  • Preface

    • What Maisie Knew begins with an explanation of how Maisie's sad "fate" is first decided (Preface.5).
    • There has been a long—almost "interminable"—court case, and it ends, after some complications involving money, with a verdict that grants shared custody to Ida and Beale Farange, Maisie's parents (Preface.1).
    • So, by order of the court, each parent takes her "in rotation, for six months at a time," and James gives readers a taste of what's in store for Maisie: lots of change and confusion (Preface.1).
    • The confusion will be caused by the role Maisie will be made to play, which the narrator already spells out: she will be "a vessel for [her parents'] bitterness"; she will act as a go-between for the divorced Faranges, who want Maisie "not for any good they could do her, but for the harm they could, with her unconscious aid, do to each other" (Preface.5).
    • Poor Maisie!
    • Before the preface ends, James offers some exposition that gives readers the scoop on the social world that the Faranges live in. Turns out, it's a very, very shallow one.
    • We're also treated to some description of both parents, which makes it clear that they're shallow as well—shallow and pretty poor.
    • Mrs. Farange likes to play pool, which isn't very ladylike of her.
    • Little Maisie, though, is "provided for" because a great aunt whom we never meet has left her with just enough (Preface.6).
  • Chapter I

    • We meet Maisie, age six, and find out what her world is like while she's spending her "first term with her father" (I.2). (Notice that that could be a prison "term." But if so, then Maisie is being punished from the first for a crime that she did not commit.)
    • After the impersonal preface, James's narrator shows us what it feels like to be Maisie, and the novel will remain close to her point of view throughout (though it will still be narrated in the third person, not the first).
    • In short, Maisie has got a tough life ahead of her.
    • Beale Farange doesn't hide his anger for her benefit and bad-mouths Maisie's mother in front of his daughter on the regular.
    • We also meet Maisie's babysitter, Moddle (some name).
    • Moddle is always telling Maisie what a bad pair her parents are (as if she needs reminding).
    • Moddle promises Maisie that things will be better when she goes to stay with her mother.
    • But the chapter ends with Maisie repeating an insult per her father's request, one that's sure to get Ida Farange's goat: "'He said I was to tell you, from him,' she faithfully reported, 'that you're a nasty, horrid pig!'" (I.4).
    • Ouch.
  • Chapter II

    • Maisie pretends to be stupid to keep from having to hurl insults and then learns to keep secrets to protect herself.
    • Still, Maisie feels guilty—like she is the one who has made "everything" in her world "bad" (II.2).
    • Aww, poor kiddo.
    • We meet Maisie's "first governess," Miss Overmore, who is pretty and refined (II.2).
    • Maisie and Miss Overmore develop an understanding, learning to communicate without words.
    • Maisie starts to show precocity by speaking in ways that startle adults like Miss Overmore.
  • Chapter III

    • Maisie learns that Miss Overmore will not be coming with her when she returns to her father's place.
    • Maisie and Miss Overmore separate, sadly.
    • Miss Overmore defies Ida Farange's orders and comes to stay with Maisie at her father's house.
    • We learn that Maisie has "conceived her first passion, and the object of it was her governess" (III.6). She's really into this Miss Overmore.
    • Luckily, Maisie thinks, her father, Beale Farange, seems to like Miss Overmore just as much as she does. This is foreshadowing.
  • Chapter IV

    • Maisie heads back to her mother's.
    • Enter Mrs. Wix, the governess who's now to be responsible for Maisie when she is with her mother.
    • Mrs. Wix is off-putting to Maisie at first but soon wins her over.
    • We learn that Mrs. Wix had a young daughter, Clara Matilda, who died, and Maisie can tell by Mrs. Wix's voice that she "had been … a mother, and that this was something Miss Overmore was not, something, strangely, confusingly that mamma was even less" (IV.1).
    • So Maisie has her first experience of mother love from Mrs. Wix—more foreshadowing.
    • Mrs. Wix is described as both poor and ugly but "peculiarly and soothingly safe," which in James-speak means super-protective of Maisie (IV.3).
    • Maisie and Mrs. Wix visit Clara Matilda's grave.
    • It turns out that Mrs. Wix is less accomplished than Miss Overmore as well as less elegant.
    • Instead of learning school subjects from Mrs. Wix, Maisie listens to stories—lots and lots of them.
    • The only thing that Mrs. Wix reveals about her late husband is that he has been dead for a long time. She and Maisie never go to visit his grave.
  • Chapter V

    • Maisie has to go back to her father and Miss Overmore (who is now employed by Beale, remember).
    • This means that she has to say goodbye to Mrs. Wix for the first time, and this is super, super sad!
    • Maisie asks her father if he liked Miss Overmore "just the same" while she was at her mother's (V.2).
    • This embarrasses Miss Overmore, even though Beale Farange makes no secret of having been with Miss Overmore the whole time.
    • This is just above Maisie's head. She, too, feels embarrassed and wonders why Miss Overmore has been awkward. She also tries to figure out the nature of her father's relationship to Miss Overmore.
    • Maisie takes to treating her doll, Lisette, the way she herself is treated by her mother and Miss Overmore. She keeps secrets from her doll and even reprimands her for asking indiscreet questions.
  • Chapter VI

    • Miss Overmore starts neglecting Maisie's lessons because she is now busy looking after Mr. Farange and his many guests.
    • Miss Overmore and Mr. Farange toy with the idea of sending Maisie to a school or getting her a second governess, but nothing comes of either idea.
    • Maisie starts spending a lot of time by herself.
    • Maisie also realizes that her stay with her father has lasted longer than it was supposed to; Miss Overmore tells her that this is because her mom doesn't care about her.
    • We hear through Miss Overmore that Mrs. Farange, while traveling, has "picked up" a younger male companion (VI.4).
    • Miss Overmore tells the girl that Maisie is providing a cover for her relationship with Mr. Farange; without Maisie as an excuse for Miss Overmore's presence in the house, they would cause a scandal.
    • Miss Overmore forbids Maisie to write to Mrs. Wix and then bad-mouths her some more to Maisie.
  • Chapter VII

    • Mrs. Wix appears at Beale Farange's.
    • Miss Overmore can't even. She really hates Mrs. Wix and all that she stands for, including Mrs. Farange.
    • But Mrs. Wix holds her own, fights back with some surprisingly sharp words, and manages to give Maisie the message she has come to give: that her mother will marry a man named Sir Claude.
    • Mrs. Wix also shows Maisie a picture of the man in question, and little Maisie is very, very impressed by the looks of her soon-to-be stepfather.
    • Maisie convinces Mrs. Wix to give her the picture, and Mrs. Wix parts with it reluctantly.
    • Out of nowhere, Miss Overmore announces that she, too, has just gotten married: to Mr. Farange.
  • Chapter VIII

    • Miss Overmore starts to go by Mrs. Beale (using her husband's first name as her last name, for reasons that are never explained).
    • Maisie realizes that she now has four parents in total.
    • Maisie's studies are neglected; "untutored and unclaimed," she spends most of her time at home, listening to grown-ups live it up downstairs (VIII.11).
    • A maid named Susan Ash starts taking Maisie out for walks.
    • Returning from one of these walks, Maisie finds Sir Claude waiting for her at her father's place.
    • Maisie thinks, meeting Sir Claude, that he is the most beautiful thing she has ever seen.
    • Sir Claude and Mrs. Beale get along swimmingly—which is odd, given that their spouses are bitter enemies.
    • Mrs. Beale, Sir Claude, and Maisie all agree that Maisie has brought the two stepparents together. Here, James uses still more foreshadowing.
    • Maisie goes home to her mother's with Sir Claude.
  • Chapter IX

    • Maisie finds that she has a lot of schoolwork to make up, and Mrs. Wix, who's thrilled to have her back, sets to work to help her.
    • Maisie's mother, Mrs. Farange (now "her ladyship"), refuses to see Maisie for three days after her return.
    • Mrs. Wix tries to make Maisie feel better by saying it's because her mother is in love, and, ever the romantic, she tells little Maisie stories about love's "ravages" (IX.3).
    • Maisie does not reveal to her mother, when she finally sees her, that Sir Claude and Mrs. Beale seemed to like each other very much.
    • Time passes. Sir Claude leaves occasionally for a few days at a time.
    • He seems to be out on the town—"in society," as they'd say in James's day—but he always comes back with gifts for both Maisie and Mrs. Wix. Sir Claude is clearly very fond of both of them.
    • And they are, of course, very fond of him, too. Mrs. Wix takes to spending evenings chatting with Maisie about his charms. She feels a bit awkward doing so but figures Maisie has already seen and heard it all.
    • During one of these talks, Mrs. Wix and Maisie both say they're in love with Sir Claude.
    • But months go by, and they haven't seen Sir Claude much at all. Both he and his new wife are off partying.
    • Maisie learns from Mrs. Wix that Mrs. Beale has been trying to see her, and that this has enraged Maisie's mother. Sir Claude sides with Mrs. Beale, which only makes Ida more upset.
  • Chapter X

    • Maisie and Sir Claude have a heart-to-heart.
    • Sir Claude drops lots of vague hints. Maisie reminds him that she has brought him and Mrs. Beale together, and he hints at his marital difficulties.
    • Sir Claude also tells Maisie that she won't be apart from him when she goes back to live with her father and Mrs. Beale, even though they won't all be living in the same place.
    • This is almost as confusing for the reader as it is for Maisie; Sir Claude is being cagey, and none of what he's saying makes much sense.
    • Sir Claude says that Mrs. Wix doesn't approve of Mrs. Beale, and Maisie starts to suspect that he's hiding something, although she can't yet say what it is.
  • Chapter XI

    • Maisie's mother says, in her characteristically cruel way, that she has washed her hands of Maisie and tells Maisie that Sir Claude is now responsible for her.
    • Maisie senses that "something beyond her knowledge had taken place in the house." Then, she realizes "that her mother was no longer in love" (XI.4).
    • There is a new man in Ida's life, and Maisie soon meets him: a millionaire named Mr. Perriam, who visits Ida's house while Sir Claude is away.
    • Maisie tries to figure out who is on her side and realizes that her stepparents and Mrs. Wix are looking out for her, but her biological parents aren't.
    • Our heroine also has the feeling that things are about to change.
    • Sir Claude and Mrs. Wix start to have late-night conversations, during which the "perfect gentleman" asks his friend the governess for advice about how to get out of the bad marriage he's in (XI.20).
    • Mrs. Wix and Maisie fantasize about getting Sir Claude into Parliament, and Mrs. Wix tells Maisie that this will be just the thing needed to "save" Sir Claude (XI.20).
    • Maisie asks what Sir Claude needs to be saved from, and Mrs. Wix responds: "awful misery" (XI.22).
  • Chapter XII

    • Maisie worries that she'll soon face "the hour when … with two fathers, two mothers, and two homes, six protections in all, she shouldn't know 'wherever' to go" (XII.1).
    • Mrs. Wix is also frightened about her own future and Maisie's.
    • This is because there is apparently yet another man in Ida's life. (That's right, readers: her ladyship gets around.) This one's name is Lord Eric.
    • Mrs. Wix proposes that she, Sir Claude, and Maisie all go off and live together.
    • Sir Claude says he'll have to think about this. He's worried about what people will say if he leaves his wife, Ida.
    • Mrs. Wix begs Sir Claude, on behalf of Maisie and in the name of what's right.
    • Sir Claude says it's not that simple but starts to take Maisie out with him, especially on weekends when Ida is away.
    • Ida stays away more, and it seems to the others in her house that she's testing the waters, planning on a permanent departure from home.
    • Mrs. Wix thinks this means all they have to do is wait: if Ida leaves, then she, Maisie, and Sir Claude will all live together, as planned.
  • Chapter XIII

    • Sir Claude explains to Maisie that he doesn't love her mother, adding that Mrs. Beale doesn't love her father, either.
    • This prompts Maisie to ask whether he's been seeing Mrs. Beale after all.
    • Sir Claude says no, but he's written to her. But, here again, James is hinting at greater intimacy between Maisie's two stepparents. You guessed it: foreshadowing.
    • Shortly after this conversation with Sir Claude, Maisie hears from Mrs. Wix that he has been secretly seeing Mrs. Beale. Mrs. Wix is convinced of this.
    • Maisie has a hard time accepting that Sir Claude would have lied to her.
    • But soon enough, she gets proof that he has been seeing Mrs. Beale when he takes her to her father's house to see her.
    • Before they arrive at Mrs. Beale's, Sir Claude says that he doesn't think Mrs. Wix's plan for all of them to live together will work out.
    • But, he says Maisie can stay with Mrs. Beale, and he will come to visit her often. Maisie accepts.
    • Maisie realizes that this means she won't get to see Mrs. Wix or say goodbye—but only after it's too late.
  • Chapter XIV

    • Mrs. Beale lets it slip that she and Sir Claude have been seeing each other, and Maisie reveals that she has already heard this from Mrs. Wix.
    • Sir Claude says that Mrs. Wix has been hoping that Mrs. Beale will "spare" him—meaning go without him for Maisie's sake (XIV.22).
    • Mrs. Beale says no way.
    • Maisie reveals a remarkable—and somewhat alarming—ability to understand the ins and outs of adult intrigue and odd marital arrangements.
    • She still doesn't see, though, what the big deal is about Sir Claude and Mrs. Beale.
    • But, by this time, it's clear to the reader that the two are having an affair. Remember, this was even more scandalous in James's day than it is now.
    • Mrs. Beale and Sir Claude praise Maisie's character, and she praises theirs back.
    • Mrs. Beale then promises to start taking Maisie to classes where she'll learn art and French literature and all kinds of other things.
    • Though thrilled at the prospect of finally getting to go to school and do some real learning, Maisie still worries about Mrs. Wix, but Sir Claude promises to take care of her.
  • Chapter XV

    • Sir Claude visits Maisie and takes her out for a stroll in Kensington Gardens, in London's Hyde Park.
    • We learn that he has broken his promise and hasn't been to visit Maisie much.
    • Even though Maisie's mother is supposed to be away playing pool in Brussels, she appears in the park with a man.
    • The man she's with isn't one we've heard about before; it's neither Mr. Perriam nor Lord Eric, nor someone called the "Count."
    • The man in question is the "Captain," and Maisie is told to go talk to him while Ida and Sir Claude have it out.
  • Chapter XVI

    • The Captain surprises Maisie by telling her that he has heard a lot about her and that her mother is "an angel" (XVI.5).
    • According to the Captain, Ida Farange is just misunderstood but really wild about her daughter.
    • Even though Maisie long ago realized that her mother isn't wild about her—and really doesn't care about her at all—this announcement from the Captain moves her.
    • The Captain emphasizes what a hard time Ida has had, and Maisie is moved to pity when she realizes that this is the first time she's heard anyone say anything nice about her mother at all.
    • Maisie asks the Captain if he loves her mother, and now it's his turn to be startled. But, he says he does love her.
    • Maisie says she does, too, and then tells the Captain that if he loves her mother, he shouldn't be "like the others" (XVI.73) but should love Ida "always" (XVI.75).
    • The Captain says that Maisie should live with her mother and that he'll join them eventually.
    • Sir Claude returns and asks Maisie what the Captain has said and who he is.
    • Maisie feigns ignorance as she has learned to do; she pretends not to have paid attention to the Captain and not to have found out who he is.
    • Sir Claude responds angrily, calling Maisie an idiot, putting her into a cab, and sending her away, alone.
  • Chapter XVII

    • Mrs. Beale again tells Maisie that she sees Sir Claude even when he doesn't come to see Maisie.
    • Mrs. Beale starts bringing Maisie messages from Sir Claude.
    • Maisie feels that she is entering "a new phase"; she has temporarily forgotten about Mrs. Wix (XVII.4).
    • Mrs. Beale finally starts to take Maisie's education seriously, if only for a short time. The two read together and sit in on lectures at an institution that Sir Claude has arranged for them to attend.
    • Mrs. Beale arranges to take Maisie to a fair at Earl's Court, where Sir Claude has promised to meet them.
    • Maisie reveals that she still doesn't understand what the big deal is about Sir Claude and Mrs. Beale—that they're committing adultery.
  • Chapter XVIII

    • Mrs. Beale takes Maisie to the fair, called the "Exhibition," but they have no fun there since all of the attractions cost money.
    • At the fair, Mrs. Beale is shocked when she and Maisie run into Beale Farange, Maisie's father.
    • He is supposed to be abroad but turns out to be in town—in fact, never to have left.
    • Just as Maisie and Sir Claude had unexpectedly encountered Ida and another man in the park, here Maisie and her stepmother see that Beale is with another woman. (Maisie herself makes this comparison.)
    • Mrs. Beale mistakes the woman for Mrs. Cuddon. Only later will it become clear that she is someone else, a new mistress of Beale's.
    • All of a sudden, Maisie is in the hands of her father, who takes her away from Mrs. Beale and to his mistress's house.
    • Here, Maisie and her father wait for the lady to return.
    • The house is prettier and fancier than any Maisie has ever been in, and Maisie realizes that this means the lady is very rich.
    • Mr. Farange explains that the lady, whom he calls the "Countess," is a wealthy American.
    • He is unexpectedly affectionate with Maisie, to her surprise.
  • Chapter XIX

    • Beale Farange, Maisie's father, says he'll soon be going to America with the Countess and, much to Maisie's surprise, invites her along.
    • She initially accepts the invitation, and her father says it's hers to take or leave.
    • While Maisie waits with Beale for the Countess to appear, she and her father discuss her mother and her future.
    • Beale seems to have finally gotten tired of bad-mouthing his ex-wife.
    • But, he has nothing but awful things to say about Mrs. Beale and Sir Claude.
    • When Maisie says that she plans to live with the two of them, Beale says they have made her into "a monster" (XIX.35).
    • When the Countess appears after a long wait, her ugliness horrifies Maisie, and she wants to run away, even though the Countess is perfectly nice.
    • This confirms Maisie's sense that she can't possibly go with her father, even though this means she will never see him again.
    • The Countess gives Maisie cab fare as she's leaving.
  • Chapter XX

    • The cab fare that the Countess gave Maisie turns out to be way too generous.
    • Back at Mrs. Beale's, a debate about what to do with the extra money ensues.
    • Susan Ash, the maid who sometimes looks after Maisie, pockets some.
    • Mrs. Beale insists on giving all of the extra money back.
    • Sir Claude takes Maisie and Susan Ash to Folkestone, a city on England's southeast coast, on the English Channel.
    • Here, Maisie is able to put a lot of the puzzle pieces together. She is getting smarter by the day.
    • Sir Claude has taken her to Folkestone to go along with Mrs. Wix's plan, Maisie thinks.
    • It seems like Mrs. Wix's urging of Sir Claude to do the right thing has finally made a difference.
    • Maisie is sad that Mrs. Wix herself hasn't yet appeared, but she expects to see her again any day.
    • All of a sudden, Maisie's mother, Ida, appears out of nowhere.
    • Ida tells Sir Claude that she wants to talk to Maisie alone.
  • Chapter XXI

    • Ida and Maisie have a heart-to-heart.
    • Ida is nicer than usual to Maisie, but still, her serious selfishness and unbelievable obnoxiousness shine through.
    • Ida tells Maisie that she's through with Sir Claude and has to go away, doctor's orders. She's planning to leave for South Africa.
    • Ida claims to have gone through lots and lots of trouble for Maisie— unbelievable amounts of trouble, in fact.
    • Maisie reports to Ida that the Captain has praised her, but Ida seems to have lost interest in him, too.
    • Maisie's fondness for the Captain rubs Ida the wrong way, and she hurls awful insults at Maisie right before leaving her.
    • Ida has taken some money out of her purse—Maisie can't tell how much—but the final turn in the conversation leads her to put it back, without giving any to Maisie.
    • Maisie tells Sir Claude about the conversation and about the fact that Ida is leaving for South Africa.
    • Sir Claude exclaims that he's "free" (XXI.35).
  • Chapter XXII

    • Maisie, Sir Claude, and Susan Ash cross the Channel together and arrive in Boulogne, France.
    • Maisie asks Sir Claude whether they will be traveling on to Paris, but Sir Claude says not yet, explaining that Paris is too expensive.
    • Maisie is disappointed at first, but then she realizes that she loves Boulogne because of all the new things there are to see and do.
    • Sir Claude says that Mrs. Wix will soon be joining them.
    • Poor Mrs. Wix arrives in the middle of a rainstorm, after a hard journey crossing the Channel.
  • Chapter XXIII

    • Mrs. Wix says that she has seen Maisie's mother, who has given her the money that she declined to give to Maisie.
    • Mrs. Wix also says that Ida wants them to send Susan Ash back to England.
    • Sir Claude volunteers to accompany Susan Ash on her return trip.
    • This startles Mrs. Wix, who thinks it's a bad idea, but Sir Claude insists, saying that it's not appropriate for Susan Ash to travel on her own.
    • Mrs. Wix emphasizes how nice Ida was during her visit back in England—so nice that she seemed to be a changed woman.
    • Sir Claude gets Mrs. Wix to confess that Ida was with another man—that's right, another one—called Mr. Tischbein.
    • But Mrs. Wix says that the important thing is that Ida wanted her daughter to be with "a decent person" (XXIII.47).
    • Mrs. Wix adds that she herself has come to make sure that Sir Claude is decent, but she senses that he's going back to England with Susan Ash so he can see Mrs. Beale again.
  • Chapter XXIV

    • A letter from Mrs. Beale arrives, enclosing another from Beale Farange to her.
    • Beale's letter announces that he's leaving his wife.
    • Sir Claude says this means that Mrs. Beale is set free.
    • This gives him more reason to go back to England with Susan Ash, against Mrs. Wix's wishes.
    • Mrs. Wix protests vehemently but to no avail.
    • Sir Claude is on his way back to England to Mrs. Beale.
  • Chapter XXV

    • Maisie and Mrs. Wix have a heart-to-heart about all four of Maisie's would-be parents.
    • Maisie asks why they can't all four live together—Maisie, Mrs. Wix, Sir Claude, and Mrs. Beale.
    • Mrs. Wix replies that this would be "a crime" (XXV.12).
    • She means adultery but doesn't make this explicit to Maisie, who doesn't quite get it. And who can blame her? She's still so young, after all.
  • Chapter XXVI

    • Maisie shows Mrs. Wix around Boulogne, and they continue their conversation.
    • Mrs. Wix asks Maisie if she has "any moral sense" (XXVI.1). This question will remain important until the end of the novel.
    • Attempting to impart moral sense, Mrs. Wix repeats that Sir Claude is committing a crime by being with Mrs. Beale.
    • Speak of the devil! Out of nowhere, just before the chapter ends, Mrs. Beale shows up.
  • Chapter XXVII

    • It turns out that Mrs. Beale has come on her own, without Sir Claude.
    • Mrs. Wix tells Maisie that coming to Boulogne is Mrs. Beale's way of winning Sir Claude.
    • Mrs. Wix also repeats her point about the importance of moral sense.
  • Chapter XXVIII

    • Mrs. Beale tells Maisie that Sir Claude has made a deal with Ida, his soon-to-be ex-wife: Ida will stop expecting Sir Claude's financial support if Sir Claude takes on the responsibility of supporting Maisie.
    • It's not yet clear, though, whether this will work out.
    • Mrs. Wix concludes that Mrs. Beale is using Maisie as a pawn to allow her to hold onto Sir Claude.
    • Maisie and Mrs. Wix discuss the possibility of Mrs. Beale taking care of Maisie, instead of Sir Claude.
    • Both decide, though, that this is unacceptable; Maisie will live with Sir Claude, with "Him alone or nobody" (XXVIII.54).
  • Chapter XXIX

    • Maisie wakes up to find that Sir Claude has returned.
    • While Maisie gets dressed, she and Mrs. Wix take stock of their situation once again.
    • Maisie sees Sir Claude and tells Mrs. Wix that he didn't want Mrs. Beale to come.
    • Maisie agrees to go to a café with Sir Claude alone.
  • Chapter XXX

    • Maisie's café trip with Sir Claude turns into an epic walk around Boulogne.
    • Sir Claude asks Maisie to "sacrifice" Mrs. Wix and live instead with him and Mrs. Beale (XXX.71).
    • Surprised and afraid, Maisie thinks it over.
    • Maisie asks to see Mrs. Wix before she makes a final decision.
    • Sir Claude reminds Maisie that he and Mrs. Beale now occupy the place of her parents.
    • Maisie reminds him that she brought him and Mrs. Beale together.
  • Chapter XXXI

    • Still deciding what to do, Maisie tells Sir Claude that she'll give up Mrs. Wix if he gives up Mrs. Beale.
    • Then, Maisie proposes that she and Sir Claude wait until both Mrs. Wix and Mrs. Beale have gone away without them.
    • Maisie and Sir Claude return to their hotel to find that Mrs. Wix and Mrs. Beale have had a fight.
    • Mrs. Wix has been worried because Sir Claude and Maisie were gone for so long.
    • For a minute, it looks like Mrs. Wix has left Maisie alone, but Mrs. Wix reappears and asks Maisie to come with her.
    • Sir Claude says that Maisie has already refused, but Maisie begs to differ.
    • A fight between all of the adults present ensues, with Mrs. Beale in particular getting angry and calling the others, including Maisie, all kinds of names.
    • In the end, Maisie chooses to stay with Mrs. Wix, with Sir Claude's blessing.
    • Sir Claude tells Mrs. Beale that he hasn't given her up and says goodbye to both Maisie and Mrs. Wix.
    • Maisie and Mrs. Wix board a boat headed for England. Maisie has been saved at last.