Neither was he surprised—at least any more than a gentleman had to be who

freely confessed himself a little shocked—though not perhaps strictly at


“We must go into this, mustn’t we, dear?” he said to his wife. He

assured his young friend that the matter should have his very best

attention; and he melted into space as elusively as if, at the door, he

were taking an inevitable but deprecatory precedence. When, the next

moment, Pemberton found himself alone with Mrs. Moreen it was to hear her

say “I see, I see”—stroking the roundness of her chin and looking as if

she were only hesitating between a dozen easy remedies. If they didn’t

make their push Mr. Moreen could at least disappear for several days.

During his absence his wife took up the subject again spontaneously, but

her contribution to it was merely that she had thought all the while they

were getting on so beautifully. Pemberton’s reply to this revelation was

that unless they immediately put down something on account he would leave

them on the spot and for ever. He knew she would wonder how he would get

away, and for a moment expected her to enquire. She didn’t, for which he

was almost grateful to her, so little was he in a position to tell.

“You won’t, you _know_ you won’t—you’re too interested,” she said. “You

are interested, you know you are, you dear kind man!” She laughed with

almost condemnatory archness, as if it were a reproach—though she

wouldn’t insist; and flirted a soiled pocket-handkerchief at him.

Pemberton’s mind was fully made up to take his step the following week.

This would give him time to get an answer to a letter he had despatched

to England. If he did in the event nothing of the sort—that is if he

stayed another year and then went away only for three months—it was not

merely because before the answer to his letter came (most unsatisfactory

when it did arrive) Mr. Moreen generously counted out to him, and again

with the sacrifice to “form” of a marked man of the world, three hundred

francs in elegant ringing gold. He was irritated to find that Mrs.

Moreen was right, that he couldn’t at the pinch bear to leave the child.

This stood out clearer for the very reason that, the night of his

desperate appeal to his patrons, he had seen fully for the first time

where he was. Wasn’t it another proof of the success with which those

patrons practised their arts that they had managed to avert for so long

the illuminating flash? It descended on our friend with a breadth of

effect which perhaps would have struck a spectator as comical, after he

had returned to his little servile room, which looked into a close court

where a bare dirty opposite wall took, with the sound of shrill clatter,

the reflexion of lighted back windows. He had simply given himself away

to a band of adventurers. The idea, the word itself, wore a romantic

(C) 2013