horror for him—he had always lived on such safe lines. Later it assumed

a more interesting, almost a soothing, sense: it pointed a moral, and

Pemberton could enjoy a moral. The Moreens were adventurers not merely

because they didn’t pay their debts, because they lived on society, but

because their whole view of life, dim and confused and instinctive, like

that of clever colour-blind animals, was speculative and rapacious and

mean. Oh they were “respectable,” and that only made them more immondes.

The young man’s analysis, while he brooded, put it at last very

simply—they were adventurers because they were toadies and snobs. That

was the completest account of them—it was the law of their being. Even

when this truth became vivid to their ingenious inmate he remained

unconscious of how much his mind had been prepared for it by the

extraordinary little boy who had now become such a complication in his

life. Much less could he then calculate on the information he was still

to owe the extraordinary little boy.


But it was during the ensuing time that the real problem came up—the

problem of how far it was excusable to discuss the turpitude of parents

with a child of twelve, of thirteen, of fourteen. Absolutely inexcusable

and quite impossible it of course at first appeared; and indeed the

question didn’t press for some time after Pemberton had received his

three hundred francs. They produced a temporary lull, a relief from the

sharpest pressure. The young man frugally amended his wardrobe and even

had a few francs in his pocket. He thought the Moreens looked at him as

if he were almost too smart, as if they ought to take care not to spoil

him. If Mr. Moreen hadn’t been such a man of the world he would perhaps

have spoken of the freedom of such neckties on the part of a subordinate.

But Mr. Moreen was always enough a man of the world to let things pass—he

had certainly shown that. It was singular how Pemberton guessed that

Morgan, though saying nothing about it, knew something had happened. But

three hundred francs, especially when one owed money, couldn’t last for

ever; and when the treasure was gone—the boy knew when it had

failed—Morgan did break ground. The party had returned to Nice at the

beginning of the winter, but not to the charming villa. They went to an

hotel, where they stayed three months, and then moved to another

establishment, explaining that they had left the first because, after

waiting and waiting, they couldn’t get the rooms they wanted. These

apartments, the rooms they wanted, were generally very splendid; but

fortunately they never _could_ get them—fortunately, I mean, for

Pemberton, who reflected always that if they had got them there would

have been a still scantier educational fund. What Morgan said at last

was said suddenly, irrelevantly, when the moment came, in the middle of a

(C) 2013