as that comes to.”

“The difficulty is that your parents wouldn’t hear of it. They’d never

part with you; they worship the ground you tread on. Don’t you see the

proof of it?” Pemberton developed. “They don’t dislike me; they wish me

no harm; they’re very amiable people; but they’re perfectly ready to

expose me to any awkwardness in life for your sake.”

The silence in which Morgan received his fond sophistry struck Pemberton

somehow as expressive. After a moment the child repeated: “You are a

hero!” Then he added: “They leave me with you altogether. You’ve all

the responsibility. They put me off on you from morning till night. Why

then should they object to my taking up with you completely? I’d help

you.”

“They’re not particularly keen about my being helped, and they delight in

thinking of you as _theirs_. They’re tremendously proud of you.”

“I’m not proud of _them_. But you know that,” Morgan returned.

“Except for the little matter we speak of they’re charming people,” said

Pemberton, not taking up the point made for his intelligence, but

wondering greatly at the boy’s own, and especially at this fresh reminder

of something he had been conscious of from the first—the strangest thing

in his friend’s large little composition, a temper, a sensibility, even a

private ideal, which made him as privately disown the stuff his people

were made of. Morgan had in secret a small loftiness which made him

acute about betrayed meanness; as well as a critical sense for the

manners immediately surrounding him that was quite without precedent in a

juvenile nature, especially when one noted that it had not made this

nature “old-fashioned,” as the word is of children—quaint or wizened or

offensive. It was as if he had been a little gentleman and had paid the

penalty by discovering that he was the only such person in his family.

This comparison didn’t make him vain, but it could make him melancholy

and a trifle austere. While Pemberton guessed at these dim young things,

shadows of shadows, he was partly drawn on and partly checked, as for a

scruple, by the charm of attempting to sound the little cool shallows

that were so quickly growing deeper. When he tried to figure to himself

the morning twilight of childhood, so as to deal with it safely, he saw

it was never fixed, never arrested, that ignorance, at the instant he

touched it, was already flushing faintly into knowledge, that there was

nothing that at a given moment you could say an intelligent child didn’t

know. It seemed to him that he himself knew too much to imagine Morgan’s

simplicity and too little to disembroil his tangle.

The boy paid no heed to his last remark; he only went on: “I’d have

spoken to them about their idea, as I call it, long ago, if I hadn’t been

sure what they’d say.”

“And what would they say?”

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