Arithmetic

Matildalongedforherparentstobegoodandlovingandunderstandingandhonourableandintelligent.Thefactthattheywerenoneofthesethingswassomethingshehadtoputupwith.Itwasnoteasytodoso.Butthenewgameshehadinventedofpunishingoneorbothofthemeachtimetheywerebeastlytohermadeherlifemoreorlessbearable.

Beingverysmallandveryyoung,theonlypowerMatildahadoveranyoneinherfamilywasbrainpower.Forsheerclevernessshecouldrunringsaroundthemall.Butthefactremainedthatanyfive-year-oldgirlinanyfamilywasalwaysobligedtodoasshewastold,howeverasininetheordersmightbe.ThusshewasalwaysforcedtoeathereveningmealsoutofTV-dinner-traysinfrontofthedreadedbox.Shealwayshadtostayaloneonweekdayafternoons,andwhenevershewastoldtoshutup,shehadtoshutup.

Hersafety-valve,thethingthatpreventedherfromgoingroundthebend,wasthefunofdevisinganddishingoutthesesplendidpunishments,andthelovelythingwasthattheyseemedtowork,atanyrateforshortperiods.ThefatherinparticularbecamelesscockyandunbearableforseveraldaysafterreceivingadoseofMatilda’smagicmedicine.

Theparrot-in-the-chimneyaffairquitedefinitelycooledbothparentsdownalotandforoveraweektheywerecomparativelyciviltotheirsmalldaughter.Butalas,thiscouldn’tlast.Thenextflare-upcameoneeveninginthesitting-room.Mr.Wormwoodhadjustreturnedfromwork.

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