had at Nice a villa, a carriage, a piano and a banjo, and they went to

official parties. They were a perfect calendar of the “days” of their

friends, which Pemberton knew them, when they were indisposed, to get out

of bed to go to, and which made the week larger than life when Mrs.

Moreen talked of them with Paula and Amy. Their initiations gave their

new inmate at first an almost dazzling sense of culture. Mrs. Moreen had

translated something at some former period—an author whom it made

Pemberton feel borné never to have heard of. They could imitate Venetian

and sing Neapolitan, and when they wanted to say something very

particular communicated with each other in an ingenious dialect of their

own, an elastic spoken cipher which Pemberton at first took for some

patois of one of their countries, but which he “caught on to” as he would

not have grasped provincial development of Spanish or German.

“It’s the family language—Ultramoreen,” Morgan explained to him drolly

enough; but the boy rarely condescended to use it himself, though he

dealt in colloquial Latin as if he had been a little prelate.

Among all the “days” with which Mrs. Moreen’s memory was taxed she

managed to squeeze in one of her own, which her friends sometimes forgot.

But the house drew a frequented air from the number of fine people who

were freely named there and from several mysterious men with foreign

titles and English clothes whom Morgan called the princes and who, on

sofas with the girls, talked French very loud—though sometimes with some

oddity of accent—as if to show they were saying nothing improper.

Pemberton wondered how the princes could ever propose in that tone and so

publicly: he took for granted cynically that this was what was desired of

them. Then he recognised that even for the chance of such an advantage

Mrs. Moreen would never allow Paula and Amy to receive alone. These

young ladies were not at all timid, but it was just the safeguards that

made them so candidly free. It was a houseful of Bohemians who wanted

tremendously to be Philistines.

In one respect, however, certainly they achieved no rigour—they were

wonderfully amiable and ecstatic about Morgan. It was a genuine

tenderness, an artless admiration, equally strong in each. They even

praised his beauty, which was small, and were as afraid of him as if they

felt him of finer clay. They spoke of him as a little angel and a

prodigy—they touched on his want of health with long vague faces.

Pemberton feared at first an extravagance that might make him hate the

boy, but before this happened he had become extravagant himself. Later,

when he had grown rather to hate the others, it was a bribe to patience

for him that they were at any rate nice about Morgan, going on tiptoe if

they fancied he was showing symptoms, and even giving up somebody’s “day”

to procure him a pleasure. Mixed with this too was the oddest wish to

Download<<BackPagesMainNext>>
(C) 2013