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Chapter 7

They looked at the facts a good deal after this and one of the first
consequences of their doing so was that Pemberton stuck it out, in his
friend's parlance, for the purpose. Morgan made the facts so vivid and
so droll, and at the same time so bald and so ugly, that there was
fascination in talking them over with him, just as there would have been
heartlessness in leaving him alone with them. Now that the pair had such
perceptions in common it was useless for them to pretend they didn't
judge such people; but the very judgement and the exchange of perceptions
created another tie. Morgan had never been so interesting as now that he
himself was made plainer by the sidelight of these confidences. What
came out in it most was the small fine passion of his pride. He had
plenty of that, Pemberton felt--so much that one might perhaps wisely
wish for it some early bruises. He would have liked his people to have a
spirit and had waked up to the sense of their perpetually eating humble-
pie. His mother would consume any amount, and his father would consume
even more than his mother. He had a theory that Ulick had wriggled out
of an "affair" at Nice: there had once been a flurry at home, a regular
panic, after which they all went to bed and took medicine, not to be
accounted for on any other supposition. Morgan had a romantic
imagination, led by poetry and history, and he would have liked those who
"bore his name"--as he used to say to Pemberton with the humour that made
his queer delicacies manly--to carry themselves with an air. But their
one idea was to get in with people who didn't want them and to take snubs
as it they were honourable scars. Why people didn't want them more he
didn't know--that was people's own affair; after all they weren't
superficially repulsive, they were a hundred times cleverer than most of
the dreary grandees, the "poor swells" they rushed about Europe to catch
up with. "After all they _are_ amusing--they are!" he used to pronounce
with the wisdom of the ages. To which Pemberton always replied:
"Amusing--the great Moreen troupe? Why they're altogether delightful;
and if it weren't for the hitch that you and I (feeble performers!) make
in the ensemble they'd carry everything before them."

What the boy couldn't get over was the fact that this particular blight
seemed, in a tradition of self-respect, so undeserved and so arbitrary.
No doubt people had a right to take the line they liked; but why should
his people have liked the line of pushing and toadying and lying and
cheating? What had their forefathers--all decent folk, so far as he
knew--done to them, or what had he done to them? Who had poisoned their
blood with the fifth-rate social ideal, the fixed idea of making smart
acquaintances and getting into the monde chic, especially when it was
foredoomed to failure and exposure? They showed so what they were after;
that was what made the people they wanted not want _them_. And never a
wince for dignity, never a throb of shame at looking each other in the
face, never any independence or resentment or disgust. If his father or
his brother would only knock some one down once or twice a year! Clever
as they were they never guessed the impression they made. They were good-
natured, yes--as good-natured as Jews at the doors of clothing-shops! But
was that the model one wanted one's family to follow? Morgan had dim
memories of an old grandfather, the maternal, in New York, whom he had
been taken across the ocean at the age of five to see: a gentleman with a
high neck-cloth and a good deal of pronunciation, who wore a dress-coat
in the morning, which made one wonder what he wore in the evening, and
had, or was supposed to have "property" and something to do with the
Bible Society. It couldn't have been but that he was a good type.
Pemberton himself remembered Mrs. Clancy, a widowed sister of Mr.
Moreen's, who was as irritating as a moral tale and had paid a
fortnight's visit to the family at Nice shortly after he came to live
with them. She was "pure and refined," as Amy said over the banjo, and
had the air of not knowing what they meant when they talked, and of
keeping something rather important back. Pemberton judged that what she
kept back was an approval of many of their ways; therefore it was to be
supposed that she too was of a good type, and that Mr. and Mrs. Moreen
and Ulick and Paula and Amy might easily have been of a better one if
they would.

But that they wouldn't was more and more perceptible from day to day.
They continued to "chivey," as Morgan called it, and in due time became
aware of a variety of reasons for proceeding to Venice. They mentioned a
great many of them--they were always strikingly frank and had the
brightest friendly chatter, at the late foreign breakfast in especial,
before the ladies had made up their faces, when they leaned their arms on
the table, had something to follow the demitasse, and, in the heat of
familiar discussion as to what they "really ought" to do, fell inevitably
into the languages in which they could tutoyer. Even Pemberton liked
them then; he could endure even Ulick when he heard him give his little
flat voice for the "sweet sea-city." That was what made him have a
sneaking kindness for them--that they were so out of the workaday world
and kept him so out of it. The summer had waned when, with cries of
ecstasy, they all passed out on the balcony that overhung the Grand
Canal. The sunsets then were splendid and the Dorringtons had arrived.
The Dorringtons were the only reason they hadn't talked of at breakfast;
but the reasons they didn't talk of at breakfast always came out in the
end. The Dorringtons on the other hand came out very little; or else
when they did they stayed--as was natural--for hours, during which
periods Mrs. Moreen and the girls sometimes called at their hotel (to see
if they had returned) as many as three times running. The gondola was
for the ladies, as in Venice too there were "days," which Mrs. Moreen
knew in their order an hour after she arrived. She immediately took one
herself, to which the Dorringtons never came, though on a certain
occasion when Pemberton and his pupil were together at St. Mark's--where,
taking the best walks they had ever had and haunting a hundred churches,
they spent a great deal of time--they saw the old lord turn up with Mr.
Moreen and Ulick, who showed him the dim basilica as if it belonged to
them. Pemberton noted how much less, among its curiosities, Lord
Dorrington carried himself as a man of the world; wondering too whether,
for such services, his companions took a fee from him. The autumn at any
rate waned, the Dorringtons departed, and Lord Verschoyle, the eldest
son, had proposed neither for Amy nor for Paula.

One sad November day, while the wind roared round the old palace and the
rain lashed the lagoon, Pemberton, for exercise and even somewhat for
warmth--the Moreens were horribly frugal about fires; it was a cause of
suffering to their inmate--walked up and down the big bare sala with his
pupil. The scagliola floor was cold, the high battered casements shook
in the storm, and the stately decay of the place was unrelieved by a
particle of furniture. Pemberton's spirits were low, and it came over
him that the fortune of the Moreens was now even lower. A blast of
desolation, a portent of disgrace and disaster, seemed to draw through
the comfortless hall. Mr. Moreen and Ulick were in the Piazza, looking
out for something, strolling drearily, in mackintoshes, under the
arcades; but still, in spite of mackintoshes, unmistakeable men of the
world. Paula and Amy were in bed--it might have been thought they were
staying there to keep warm. Pemberton looked askance at the boy at his
side, to see to what extent he was conscious of these dark omens. But
Morgan, luckily for him, was now mainly conscious of growing taller and
stronger and indeed of being in his fifteenth year. This fact was
intensely interesting to him and the basis of a private theory--which,
however, he had imparted to his tutor--that in a little while he should
stand on his own feet. He considered that the situation would
change--that in short he should be "finished," grown up, producible in
the world of affairs and ready to prove himself of sterling ability.
Sharply as he was capable at times of analysing, as he called it, his
life, there were happy hours when he remained, as he also called it--and
as the name, really, of their right ideal--"jolly" superficial; the proof
of which was his fundamental assumption that he should presently go to
Oxford, to Pemberton's college, and, aided and abetted by Pemberton, do
the most wonderful things. It depressed the young man to see how little
in such a project he took account of ways and means: in other connexions
he mostly kept to the measure. Pemberton tried to imagine the Moreens at
Oxford and fortunately failed; yet unless they were to adopt it as a
residence there would be no modus vivendi for Morgan. How could he live
without an allowance, and where was the allowance to come from? He,
Pemberton, might live on Morgan; but how could Morgan live on _him_? What
was to become of him anyhow? Somehow the fact that he was a big boy now,
with better prospects of health, made the question of his future more
difficult. So long as he was markedly frail the great consideration he
inspired seemed enough of an answer to it. But at the bottom of
Pemberton's heart was the recognition of his probably being strong enough
to live and not yet strong enough to struggle or to thrive. Morgan
himself at any rate was in the first flush of the rosiest consciousness
of adolescence, so that the beating of the tempest seemed to him after
all but the voice of life and the challenge of fate. He had on his
shabby little overcoat, with the collar up, but was enjoying his walk.

It was interrupted at last by the appearance of his mother at the end of
the sala. She beckoned him to come to her, and while Pemberton saw him,
complaisant, pass down the long vista and over the damp false marble, he
wondered what was in the air. Mrs. Moreen said a word to the boy and
made him go into the room she had quitted. Then, having closed the door
after him, she directed her steps swiftly to Pemberton. There was
something in the air, but his wildest flight of fancy wouldn't have
suggested what it proved to be. She signified that she had made a
pretext to get Morgan out of the way, and then she enquired--without
hesitation--if the young man could favour her with the loan of three
louis. While, before bursting into a laugh, he stared at her with
surprise, she declared that she was awfully pressed for the money; she
was desperate for it--it would save her life.

"Dear lady, c'est trop fort!" Pemberton laughed in the manner and with
the borrowed grace of idiom that marked the best colloquial, the best
anecdotic, moments of his friends themselves. "Where in the world do you
suppose I should get three louis, du train dont vous allez?"

"I thought you worked--wrote things. Don't they pay you?"

"Not a penny."

"Are you such a fool as to work for nothing?"

"You ought surely to know that."

Mrs. Moreen stared, then she coloured a little. Pemberton saw she had
quite forgotten the terms--if "terms" they could be called--that he had
ended by accepting from herself; they had burdened her memory as little
as her conscience. "Oh yes, I see what you mean--you've been very nice
about that; but why drag it in so often?" She had been perfectly urbane
with him ever since the rough scene of explanation in his room the
morning he made her accept _his_ "terms"--the necessity of his making his
case known to Morgan. She had felt no resentment after seeing there was
no danger Morgan would take the matter up with her. Indeed, attributing
this immunity to the good taste of his influence with the boy, she had
once said to Pemberton "My dear fellow, it's an immense comfort you're a
gentleman." She repeated this in substance now. "Of course you're a
gentleman--that's a bother the less!" Pemberton reminded her that he had
not "dragged in" anything that wasn't already in as much as his foot was
in his shoe; and she also repeated her prayer that, somewhere and
somehow, he would find her sixty francs. He took the liberty of hinting
that if he could find them it wouldn't be to lend them to _her_--as to
which he consciously did himself injustice, knowing that if he had them
he would certainly put them at her disposal. He accused himself, at
bottom and not unveraciously, of a fantastic, a demoralised sympathy with
her. If misery made strange bedfellows it also made strange sympathies.
It was moreover a part of the abasement of living with such people that
one had to make vulgar retorts, quite out of one's own tradition of good
manners. "Morgan, Morgan, to what pass have I come for you?" he groaned
while Mrs. Moreen floated voluminously down the sala again to liberate
the boy, wailing as she went that everything was too odious.

Before their young friend was liberated there came a thump at the door
communicating with the staircase, followed by the apparition of a
dripping youth who poked in his head. Pemberton recognised him as the
bearer of a telegram and recognised the telegram as addressed to himself.
Morgan came back as, after glancing at the signature--that of a relative
in London--he was reading the words: "Found a jolly job for you,
engagement to coach opulent youth on own terms. Come at once." The
answer happily was paid and the messenger waited. Morgan, who had drawn
near, waited too and looked hard at Pemberton; and Pemberton, after a
moment, having met his look, handed him the telegram. It was really by
wise looks--they knew each other so well now--that, while the telegraph-
boy, in his waterproof cape, made a great puddle on the floor, the thing
was settled between them. Pemberton wrote the answer with a pencil
against the frescoed wall, and the messenger departed. When he had gone
the young man explained himself.

"I'll make a tremendous charge; I'll earn a lot of money in a short time,
and we'll live on it."

"Well, I hope the opulent youth will be a dismal dunce--he probably
will--" Morgan parenthesised--"and keep you a long time a-hammering of it
in."

"Of course the longer he keeps me the more we shall have for our old
age."

"But suppose _they_ don't pay you!" Morgan awfully suggested.

"Oh there are not two such--!" But Pemberton pulled up; he had been on
the point of using too invidious a term. Instead of this he said "Two
such fatalities."

Morgan flushed--the tears came to his eyes. "Dites toujours two such
rascally crews!" Then in a different tone he added: "Happy opulent
youth!"

"Not if he's a dismal dunce."

"Oh they're happier then. But you can't have everything, can you?" the
boy smiled.

Pemberton held him fast, hands on his shoulders--he had never loved him
so. "What will become of you, what will you do?" He thought of Mrs.
Moreen, desperate for sixty francs.

"I shall become an homme fait." And then as if he recognised all the
bearings of Pemberton's allusion: "I shall get on with them better when
you're not here."

"Ah don't say that--it sounds as if I set you against them!"

"You do--the sight of you. It's all right; you know what I mean. I
shall be beautiful. I'll take their affairs in hand; I'll marry my
sisters."

"You'll marry yourself!" joked Pemberton; as high, rather tense
pleasantry would evidently be the right, or the safest, tone for their
separation.

It was, however, not purely in this strain that Morgan suddenly asked:
"But I say--how will you get to your jolly job? You'll have to telegraph
to the opulent youth for money to come on."

Pemberton bethought himself. "They won't like that, will they?"

"Oh look out for them!"

Then Pemberton brought out his remedy. "I'll go to the American Consul;
I'll borrow some money of him--just for the few days, on the strength of
the telegram."

Morgan was hilarious. "Show him the telegram--then collar the money and
stay!"

Pemberton entered into the joke sufficiently to reply that for Morgan he
was really capable of that; but the boy, growing more serious, and to
prove he hadn't meant what he said, not only hurried him off to the
Consulate--since he was to start that evening, as he had wired to his
friend--but made sure of their affair by going with him. They splashed
through the tortuous perforations and over the humpbacked bridges, and
they passed through the Piazza, where they saw Mr. Moreen and Ulick go
into a jeweller's shop. The Consul proved accommodating--Pemberton said
it wasn't the letter, but Morgan's grand air--and on their way back they
went into Saint Mark's for a hushed ten minutes. Later they took up and
kept up the fun of it to the very end; and it seemed to Pemberton a part
of that fun that Mrs. Moreen, who was very angry when he had announced
her his intention, should charge him, grotesquely and vulgarly and in
reference to the loan she had vainly endeavoured to effect, with bolting
lest they should "get something out" of him. On the other hand he had to
do Mr. Moreen and Ulick the justice to recognise that when on coming in
they heard the cruel news they took it like perfect men of the world.


Henry James

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