Morgan Moreen was somehow sickly without being “delicate,” and that he

looked intelligent—it is true Pemberton wouldn’t have enjoyed his being

stupid—only added to the suggestion that, as with his big mouth and big

ears he really couldn’t be called pretty, he might too utterly fail to

please. Pemberton was modest, was even timid; and the chance that his

small scholar might prove cleverer than himself had quite figured, to his

anxiety, among the dangers of an untried experiment. He reflected,

however, that these were risks one had to run when one accepted a

position, as it was called, in a private family; when as yet one’s

university honours had, pecuniarily speaking, remained barren. At any

rate when Mrs. Moreen got up as to intimate that, since it was understood

he would enter upon his duties within the week she would let him off now,

he succeeded, in spite of the presence of the child, in squeezing out a

phrase about the rate of payment. It was not the fault of the conscious

smile which seemed a reference to the lady’s expensive identity, it was

not the fault of this demonstration, which had, in a sort, both vagueness

and point, if the allusion didn’t sound rather vulgar. This was exactly

because she became still more gracious to reply: “Oh I can assure you

that all that will be quite regular.”

Pemberton only wondered, while he took up his hat, what “all that” was to

amount to—people had such different ideas. Mrs. Moreen’s words, however,

seemed to commit the family to a pledge definite enough to elicit from

the child a strange little comment in the shape of the mocking foreign

ejaculation “Oh la-la!”

Pemberton, in some confusion, glanced at him as he walked slowly to the

window with his back turned, his hands in his pockets and the air in his

elderly shoulders of a boy who didn’t play. The young man wondered if he

should be able to teach him to play, though his mother had said it would

never do and that this was why school was impossible. Mrs. Moreen

exhibited no discomfiture; she only continued blandly: “Mr. Moreen will

be delighted to meet your wishes. As I told you, he has been called to

London for a week. As soon as he comes back you shall have it out with


This was so frank and friendly that the young man could only reply,

laughing as his hostess laughed: “Oh I don’t imagine we shall have much

of a battle.”

“They’ll give you anything you like,” the boy remarked unexpectedly,

returning from the window. “We don’t mind what anything costs—we live

awfully well.”

“My darling, you’re too quaint!” his mother exclaimed, putting out to

caress him a practised but ineffectual hand. He slipped out of it, but

looked with intelligent innocent eyes at Pemberton, who had already had

time to notice that from one moment to the other his small satiric face

seemed to change its time of life. At this moment it was infantine, yet

(C) 2013