At Nice once, toward evening, as the pair rested in the open air after a
walk, and looked over the sea at the pink western lights, he said
suddenly to his comrade: "Do you like it, you know--being with us all in
this intimate way?"
"My dear fellow, why should I stay if I didn't?"
"How do I know you'll stay? I'm almost sure you won't, very long."
"I hope you don't mean to dismiss me," said Pemberton.
Morgan debated, looking at the sunset. "I think if I did right I ought
"Well, I know I'm supposed to instruct you in virtue; but in that case
don't do right."
"'You're very young--fortunately," Morgan went on, turning to him again.
"Oh yes, compared with you!"
"Therefore it won't matter so much if you do lose a lot of time."
"That's the way to look at it," said Pemberton accommodatingly.
They were silent a minute; after which the boy asked: "Do you like my
father and my mother very much?"
"Dear me, yes. They're charming people."
Morgan received this with another silence; then unexpectedly, familiarly,
but at the same time affectionately, he remarked: "You're a jolly old
For a particular reason the words made our young man change colour. The
boy noticed in an instant that he had turned red, whereupon he turned red
himself and pupil and master exchanged a longish glance in which there
was a consciousness of many more things than are usually touched upon,
even tacitly, in such a relation. It produced for Pemberton an
embarrassment; it raised in a shadowy form a question--this was the first
glimpse of it--destined to play a singular and, as he imagined, owing to
the altogether peculiar conditions, an unprecedented part in his
intercourse with his little companion. Later, when he found himself
talking with the youngster in a way in which few youngsters could ever
have been talked with, he thought of that clumsy moment on the bench at
Nice as the dawn of an understanding that had broadened. What had added
to the clumsiness then was that he thought it his duty to declare to
Morgan that he might abuse him, Pemberton, as much as he liked, but must
never abuse his parents. To this Morgan had the easy retort that he
hadn't dreamed of abusing them; which appeared to be true: it put
Pemberton in the wrong.
"Then why am I a humbug for saying _I_ think them charming?" the young
man asked, conscious of a certain rashness.
"Well--they're not your parents."
"They love you better than anything in the world--never forget that,"
"Is that why you like them so much?"
"They're very kind to me," Pemberton replied evasively.
"You _are_ a humbug!" laughed Morgan, passing an arm into his tutor's. He
leaned against him looking oft at the sea again and swinging his long
"Don't kick my shins," said Pemberton while he reflected "Hang it, I
can't complain of them to the child!"
"There's another reason, too," Morgan went on, keeping his legs still.
"Another reason for what?"
"Besides their not being your parents."
"I don't understand you," said Pemberton.
"Well, you will before long. All right!"
He did understand fully before long, but he made a fight even with
himself before he confessed it. He thought it the oddest thing to have a
struggle with the child about. He wondered he didn't hate the hope of
the Moreens for bringing the struggle on. But by the time it began any
such sentiment for that scion was closed to him. Morgan was a special
case, and to know him was to accept him on his own odd terms. Pemberton
had spent his aversion to special cases before arriving at knowledge.
When at last he did arrive his quandary was great. Against every
interest he had attached himself. They would have to meet things
together. Before they went home that evening at Nice the boy had said,
clinging to his arm:
"Well, at any rate you'll hang on to the last."
"To the last?"
"Till you're fairly beaten."
"_You_ ought to be fairly beaten!" cried the young man, drawing him