“Little girls should be seen and not heard” is her grandfather's mantra.
It is unfair in ways six-year-old Millie struggles to articulate – smart raps across her knuckles, on the back of her legs when she is disrespectful, impertinent,
audacious – long words as weaponised as the cane to make her retreat into silence.
Like all weapons, words can be turned on their users, and Millie gathers an arsenal from her parents' library.
She cloisters herself away in her bedroom and precociously makes her way through Kipling, Dumas, and Hardy.
She behaves herself, does her best not to speak out of turn, but when she's not allowed to play with the boys, forced instead to help serve afternoon tea,
Millie knows precisely which words to say to make sure she's never treated like an ornamental doll again.
(The hiding she gets, her grandfather washing her mouth out with soap, is worth it.)
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