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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 168

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Henry James's story involves the Moreens, a married couple, and their son, Morgan. The Moreens hire a young man, Pemberton, to work as Morgan's tutor.

The Moreens are educated, artsy people who seem well-off, but actually are anything but that. Their finances are stretched thin. Living in hotels, they sometimes move on to avoid paying bills. Later they basically try to sell their son to his tutor.

Pemberton takes the position to earn money. Initially wary of the moody boy, he realizes that his family's situation is causing him stress. His emotional nature entangles him in the family, and he decides he could do a better job caring for Morgan than his own parents. He leaves the family for a better job, but then returns to the Moreens.

Morgan is an eleven-year-old boy with a heart condition so serious he cannot attend school. He suffers from the instability of his family's peripatetic lifestyle and develops a strong attachment to Pemberton. His heart finally gives out and he dies.