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“I’ve been down to Folkestone — it was necessary I should see her!” I forget whether he had come straight from the station; he was at any rate out of breath with his news, which it took me however a minute to interpret.
During this period and several others Pemberton was quite aware of how he and his comrade might strike people; wandering languidly through the Jardin des Plantes as if they had nowhere to go, sitting on the winter days in the galleries of the Louvre, so splendidly ironical to the homeless, as if for the advantage of the calorifere. They joked about it sometimes: it was the sort of joke that was perfectly within the boy’s compass. They figured themselves as part of the vast vague hand-to-mouth multitude of the enormous city and pretended they were proud of their position in it — it showed them “such a lot of life” and made them conscious of a democratic brotherhood. If Pemberton couldn’t feel a sympathy in destitution with his small companion — for after all Morgan’s fond parents would never have let him really suffer — the boy would at least feel it with him, so it came to the same thing. He used sometimes to wonder what people would think they were — to fancy they were looked askance at, as if it might be a suspected case of kidnapping. Morgan wouldn’t be taken for a young patrician with a preceptor — he wasn’t smart enough; though he might pass for his companion’s sickly little brother. Now and then he had a five-franc piece, and except once, when they bought a couple of lovely neckties, one of which he made Pemberton accept, they laid it out scientifically in old books. This was sure to be a great day, always spent on the quays, in a rummage of the dusty boxes that garnish the parapets. Such occasions helped them to live, for their books ran low very soon after the beginning of their acquaintance. Pemberton had a good many in England, but he was obliged to write to a friend and ask him kindly to get some fellow to give him something for them.
On the other hand it’s impossible to take an American by surprise; he’s ashamed to confess he hasn’t the wit to do a thing another man has had the wit to think of. Besides being as good as his neighbour he must therefore be as clever — which is an affliction only to people who are afraid he may be cleverer. If this general efficiency and spontaneity of the people — the union of the sense of freedom with the love of knowledge — isn’t the very essence of a high civilisation I don’t know what a high civilisation is. I felt this greater ease on my first railroad journey — felt the blessing of sitting in a train where I could move about, where I could stretch my legs and come and go, where I had a seat and a window to myself, where there were chairs and tables and food and drink. The villainous little boxes on the European trains, in which you’re stuck down in a corner with doubled-up knees, opposite to a row of people, often most offensive types, who stare at you for ten hours on end — these were part of my two years’ ordeal. The large free way of doing things here is everywhere a pleasure. In London, at my hotel, they used to come to me on Saturday to make me order my Sunday’s dinner, and when I asked for a sheet of paper they put it into the bill. The meagreness, the stinginess, the perpetual expectation of a sixpence, used to exasperate me. Of course I saw a great many people who were pleasant; but as I’m writing to you and not to one of them I may say that they were dreadfully apt to be dull. The imagination among the people I see here is more flexible, and then they have the advantage of a larger horizon. It’s not bounded on the north by the British aristocracy and on the south by the scrutin de liste. (I mix up the countries a little, but they’re not worth the keeping apart.) The absence of little conventional measurements, of little cut-and-dried judgements, is an immense refreshment. We’re more analytic, more discriminating, more familiar with realities. As for manners, there are bad manners everywhere, but an aristocracy is bad manners organised. (I don’t mean that they mayn’t be polite among themselves, but they’re rude to every one else.) The sight of all these growing millions simply minding their business is impressive to me — more so than all the gilt buttons and padded chests of the Old World; and there’s a certain powerful type of “practical” American (you’ll find him chiefly in the West) who doesn’t “blow” as I do (I’m not practical) but who quietly feels that he has the Future in his vitals — a type that strikes me more than any I met in your favourite countries.
“And my carriage,” “And mine,” “And mine!” shouted twenty more voices. And down they all trooped to the hall: Lady Blanche Bluenose and Lady Max among the very first; leaving only the Field-Marshal and one or two men, who roared with laughter ready to split.
I had never heard of Lord Iffield, but her mention of his having been at Boulogne helped me to give him a niche. Mrs. Meldrum had incidentally thrown a certain light on the manners of Mrs. Floyd-Taylor, Flora’s recent hostess in that charming town, a lady who, it appeared, had a special vocation for helping rich young men to find a use for their leisure. She had always one or other in hand and she had apparently on this occasion pointed her lesson at the rare creature on the opposite coast. I had a vague idea that Boulogne was not a resort of the aristocracy; at the same time there might very well have been a strong attraction there even for one of the darlings of fortune. I could perfectly understand in any case that such a darling should be drawn to Folkestone by Flora Saunt. But it was not in truth of these things I was thinking; what was uppermost in my mind was a matter which, though it had no sort of keeping, insisted just then on coming out.
They went up to the dark mass Job had pointed out. There on a heap of weed, thrown up by the late storm, lay the wooden nymph, the paint almost washed away, and there, with its arms tightly clasped about her neck, lay a strange creature, half fish, half human.
2.Liza as usual met him with shining face. But today somehow she seemed to him particularly pale, yellow, long, and weak.>