Awakening & To Let
Part 2 out of 7
bad dreams, the best of them powdered angels! Fleur was not a
flapper, not one of those slangy, ill-bred young females. And yet
she was frighteningly self-willed, and full of life, and determined
to enjoy it. Enjoy! The word brought no puritan terror to Soames;
but it brought the terror suited to his temperament. He had always
been afraid to enjoy to-day for fear he might not enjoy tomorrow so
much. And it was terrifying to feel that his daughter was divested
of that safeguard. The very way she sat in that chair showed it--
lost in her dream. He had never been lost in a dream himself--there
was nothing to be had out of it; and where she got it from he did not
know! Certainly not from Annette! And yet Annette, as a young girl,
when he was hanging about her, had once had a flowery look. Well,
she had lost it now!
Fleur rose from her chair-swiftly, restlessly; and flung herself down
at a writing-table. Seizing ink and writing paper, she began to
write as if she had not time to breathe before she got her letter
written. And suddenly she saw him. The air of desperate absorption
vanished, she smiled, waved a kiss, made a pretty face as if she were
a little puzzled and a little bored.
Ah! She was "fine"--"fine!"
AT ROBIN HILL
Jolyon Forsyte had spent his boy's nineteenth birthday at Robin Hill,
quietly going into his affairs. He did everything quietly now,
because his heart was in a poor way, and, like all his family, he
disliked the idea of dying. He had never realised how much till one
day, two years ago, he had gone to his doctor about certain symptoms,
and been told:
"At any moment, on any overstrain."
He had taken it with a smile--the natural Forsyte reaction against an
unpleasant truth. But with an increase of symptoms in the train on
the way home, he had realised to the full the sentence hanging over
him. To leave Irene, his boy, his home, his work--though he did
little enough work now! To leave them for unknown darkness, for the
unimaginable state, for such nothingness that he would not even be
conscious of wind stirring leaves above his grave, nor of the scent
of earth and grass. Of such nothingness that, however hard he might
try to conceive it, he never could, and must still hover on the hope
that he might see again those he loved! To realise this was to
endure very poignant spiritual anguish. Before he reached home that
day he had determined to keep it from Irene. He would have to be
more careful than man had ever been, for the least thing would give
it away and make her as wretched as himself, almost. His doctor had
passed him sound in other respects, and seventy was nothing of an
age--he would last a long time yet, if he could.
Such a conclusion, followed out for nearly two years, develops to the
full the subtler side of character. Naturally not abrupt, except
when nervously excited, Jolyon had become control incarnate. The sad
patience of old people who cannot exert themselves was masked by a
smile which his lips preserved even in private. He devised
continually all manner of cover to conceal his enforced lack of
Mocking himself for so doing, he counterfeited conversion to the
Simple Life; gave up wine and cigars, drank a special kind of coffee
with no coffee in it. In short, he made himself as safe as a Forsyte
in his condition could, under the rose of his mild irony. Secure
from discovery, since his wife and son had gone up to Town, he had
spent the fine May day quietly arranging his papers, that he might
die to-morrow without inconveniencing any one, giving in fact a final
polish to his terrestrial state. Having docketed and enclosed it in
his father's old Chinese cabinet, he put the key into an envelope,
wrote the words outside: "Key of the Chinese cabinet, wherein will be
found the exact state of me, J. F.," and put it in his breast-
pocket, where it would be always about him, in case of accident.
Then, ringing for tea, he went out to have it under the old oak-tree.
All are under sentence of death; Jolyon, whose sentence was but a
little more precise and pressing, had become so used to it that he
thought habitually, like other people, of other things. He thought
of his son now.
Jon was nineteen that day, and Jon had come of late to a decision.
Educated neither at Eton like his father, nor at Harrow, like his
dead half-brother, but at one of those establishments which, designed
to avoid the evil and contain the good of the Public School system,
may or may not contain the evil and avoid the good, Jon had left in
April perfectly ignorant of whit he wanted to become. The War, which
had promised to go on for ever, had ended just as he was about to
join the Army, six months before his time. It had taken him ever
since to get used to the idea that he could now choose for himself.
He had held with his father several discussions, from which, under a
cheery show of being ready for anything--except, of course, the
Church, Army, Law, Stage, Stock Exchange, Medicine, Business, and
Engineering--Jolyon had gathered rather clearly that Jon wanted to go
in for nothing. He himself had felt exactly like that at the same
age. With him that pleasant vacuity had soon been ended by an early
marriage, and its unhappy consequences. Forced to become an
underwriter at Lloyd's, he had regained prosperity before his
artistic talent had outcropped. But having--as the simple say--
"learned" his boy to draw pigs and other animals, he knew that Jon
would never be a painter, and inclined to the conclusion that his
aversion from everything else meant that he was going to be a writer.
Holding, however, the view that experience was necessary even for
that profession, there seemed to Jolyon nothing in the meantime, for
Jon, but University, travel, and perhaps the eating of dinners for
the Bar. After that one would see, or more probably one would not.
In face of these proffered allurements, however, Jon had remained
Such discussions with his son had confirmed in Jolyon a doubt whether
the world had really changed. People said that it was a new age.
With the profundity of one not too long for any age, Jolyon perceived
that under slightly different surfaces the era was precisely what it
had been. Mankind was still divided into two species: The few who
had "speculation" in their souls, and the many who had none, with a
belt of hybrids like himself in the middle. Jon appeared to have
speculation; it seemed to his father a bad lookout.
With something deeper, therefore, than his usual smile, he had heard
the boy say, a fortnight ago: "I should like to try farming, Dad; if
it won't cost you too much. It seems to be about the only sort of
life that doesn't hurt anybody; except art, and of course that's out
of the question for me."
Jolyon subdued his smile, and answered:
"All right; you shall skip back to where we were under the first
Jolyon in 1760. It'll prove the cycle theory, and incidentally, no
doubt, you may grow a better turnip than he did."
A little dashed, Jon had answered:
"But don't you think it's a good scheme, Dad?"
"'Twill serve, my dear; and if you should really take to it, you'll
do more good than most men, which is little enough."
To himself, however, he had said: 'But he won't take to it. I give
him four years. Still, it's healthy, and harmless.'
After turning the matter over and consulting with Irene, he wrote to
his daughter, Mrs. Val Dartie, asking if they knew of a farmer near
them on the Downs who would take Jon as an apprentice. Holly's
answer had been enthusiastic. There was an excellent man quite
close; she and Val would love Jon to live with them.
The boy was due to go to-morrow.
Sipping weak tea with lemon in it, Jolyon gazed through the leaves of
the old oak-tree at that view which had appeared to him desirable for
thirty-two years. The tree beneath which he sat seemed not a day
older! So young, the little leaves of brownish gold; so old, the
whitey-grey-green of its thick rough trunk. A tree of memories,
which would live on hundreds of years yet, unless some barbarian cut
it down--would see old England out at the pace things were going! He
remembered a night three years before, when, looking from his window,
with his arm close round Irene, he had watched a German aeroplane
hovering, it seemed, right over the old tree. Next day they had
found a bomb hole in a field on Gage's farm. That was before he knew
that he was under sentence of death. He could almost have wished the
bomb had finished him. It would have saved a lot of hanging about,
many hours of cold fear in the pit of his stomach. He had counted on
living to the normal Forsyte age of eighty-five or more, when Irene
would be seventy. As it was, she would miss him. Still there was
Jon, more important in her life than himself; Jon, who adored his
Under that tree, where old Jolyon--waiting for Irene to come to him
across the lawn--had breathed his last, Jolyon wondered, whimsically,
whether, having put everything in such perfect order, he had not
better close his own eyes and drift away. There was something
undignified in o parasitically clinging on to the effortless close of
a life wherein he regretted two things only--the long division
between his father and himself when he was young, and the lateness of
his union o with Irene.
>From where he sat he could see a cluster of apple-trees in blossom.
Nothing in Nature moved him so much as fruit-trees in blossom; and
his heart ached suddenly because he might never see them flower
again. Spring! Decidedly no man ought to have to die while his
heart was still young enough to love beauty! Blackbirds sang
recklessly in the shrubbery, swallows were flying high, the leaves
above him glistened; and over the fields was every imaginable tint of
early foliage, burnished by the level sunlight, away to where the
distant "smoke-bush" blue was trailed along the horizon. Irene's
flowers in their narrow beds had startling individuality that
evening, little deep assertions of gay life. Only Chinese and
Japanese painters, and perhaps Leonardo, had known how to get that
startling little ego into each painted flower, and bird, and beast--
the ego, yet the sense of species, the universality of life as well.
They were the fellows! 'I've made nothing that will live!' thought
Jolyon; 'I've been an amateur--a mere lover, not a creator. Still, I
shall leave Jon behind me when I go.' What luck that the boy had
not been caught by that ghastly war! He might so easily have been
killed, like poor Jolly twenty years ago out in the Transvaal. Jon
would do something some day--if the Age didn't spoil him--an
imaginative chap! His whim to take up farming was but a bit of
sentiment, and about as likely to last. And just then he saw them
coming up the field: Irene and the boy; walking from the station,
with their arms linked. And getting up, he strolled down through the
new rose garden to meet them....
Irene came into his room that night and sat down by the window. She
sat there without speaking till he said:
"What is it, my love?"
"We had an encounter to-day."
Soames! He had kept that name out of his thoughts these last two
years; conscious that it was bad for him. And, now, his heart moved
in a disconcerting manner, as if it had side-slipped within his
Irene went on quietly:
"He and his daughter were in the Gallery, and afterward at the
confectioner's where we had tea."
Jolyon went over and put his hand on her shoulder.
"How did he look?"
"Grey; but otherwise much the same."
"And the daughter?"
"Pretty. At least, Jon thought so."
Jolyon's heart side-slipped again. His wife's face had a strained
and puzzled look.
"You didn't-?" he began.
"No; but Jon knows their name. The girl dropped her handkerchief and
he picked it up."
Jolyon sat down on his bed. An evil chance!
"June was with you. Did she put her foot into it?"
"No; but it was all very queer and strained, and Jon could see it
Jolyon drew a long breath, and said:
"I've often wondered whether we've been right to keep it from him.
He'll find out some day."
"The later the better, Jolyon; the young have such cheap, hard
judgment. When you were nineteen what would you have thought of your
mother if she had done what I have?"
Yes! There it was! Jon worshipped his mother; and knew nothing of
the tragedies, the inexorable necessities of life, nothing of the
prisoned grief in an unhappy marriage, nothing of jealousy or
passion--knew nothing at all, as yet!
"What have you told him?" he said at last.
"That they were relations, but we didn't know them; that you had
never cared much for your family, or they for you. I expect he will
be asking you."
Jolyon smiled. "This promises to take the place of air-raids," he
said. "After all, one misses them."
Irene looked up at him.
"We've known it would come some day."
He answered her with sudden energy:
"I could never stand seeing Jon blame you. He shan't do that, even
in thought. He has imagination; and he'll understand if it's put to
him properly. I think I had better tell him before he gets to know
"Not yet, Jolyon."
That was like her--she had no foresight, and never went to meet
trouble. Still--who knew?--she might be right. It was ill going
against a mother's instinct. It might be well to let the boy go on,
if possible, till experience had given him some touchstone by which
he could judge the values of that old tragedy; till love, jealousy,
longing, had deepened his charity. All the same, one must take
precautions--every precaution possible! And, long after Irene had
left him, he lay awake turning over those precautions. He must write
to Holly, telling her that Jon knew nothing as yet of family history.
Holly was discreet, she would make sure of her husband, she would see
to it! Jon could take the letter with him when he went to-morrow.
And so the day on which he had put the polish on his material estate
died out with the chiming of the stable clock; and another began for
Jolyon in the shadow of a spiritual disorder which could not be so
rounded off and polished....
But Jon, whose room had once been his day nursery, lay awake too, the
prey of a sensation disputed by those who have never known it, "love
at first sight!" He had felt it beginning in him with the glint of
those dark eyes gazing into his athwart the Juno--a conviction that
this was his 'dream'; so that what followed had seemed to him at once
natural and miraculous. Fleur! Her name alone was almost enough for
one who was terribly susceptible to the charm of words. In a
homoeopathic Age, when boys and girls were co-educated, and mixed up
in early life till sex was almost abolished, Jon was singularly old-
fashioned. His modern school took boys only, and his holidays had
been spent at Robin Hill with boy friends, or his parents alone. He
had never, therefore, been inoculated against the germs of love by
small doses of the poison. And now in the dark his temperature was
mounting fast. He lay awake, featuring Fleur--as they called it--
recalling her words, especially that "Au revoir!" so soft and
He was still so wide awake at dawn that he got up, slipped on tennis
shoes, trousers, and a sweater, and in silence crept downstairs and
out through the study window. It was just light; there was a smell
of grass. 'Fleur!' he thought; 'Fleur!' It was mysteriously white
out of doors, with nothing awake except the birds just beginning to
chirp. 'I'll go down into the coppice,' he thought. He ran down
through the fields, reached the pond just as the sun rose, and passed
into the coppice. Bluebells carpeted the ground there; among the
larch-trees there was mystery--the air, as it were, composed of that
romantic quality. Jon sniffed its freshness, and stared at the
bluebells in the sharpening light. Fleur! It rhymed with her! And
she lived at Mapleduram--a jolly name, too, on the river somewhere.
He could find it in the atlas presently. He would write to her. But
would she answer? Oh! She must. She had said "Au revoir!" Not
good-bye! What luck that she had dropped her handkerchief! He would
never have known her but for that. And the more he thought of that
handkerchief, the more amazing his luck seemed. Fleur! It certainly
rhymed with her! Rhythm thronged his head; words jostled to be
joined together; he was on the verge of a poem.
Jon remained in this condition for more than half an hour, then
returned to the house, and getting a ladder, climbed in at his
bedroom window out of sheer exhilaration. Then, remembering that the
study window was open, he went down and shut it, first removing the
ladder, so as to obliterate all traces of his feeling. The thing was
too deep to be revealed to mortal soul-even-to his mother.
There are houses whose souls have passed into the limbo of Time,
leaving their bodies in the limbo of London. Such was not quite the
condition of "Timothy's" on the Bayswater Road, for Timothy's soul
still had one foot in Timothy Forsyte's body, and Smither kept the
atmosphere unchanging, of camphor and port wine and house whose
windows are only opened to air it twice a day.
To Forsyte imagination that house was now a sort of Chinese pill-box,
a series of layers in the last of which was Timothy. One did not
reach him, or so it was reported by members of the family who, out of
old-time habit or absentmindedness, would drive up once in a blue
moon and ask after their surviving uncle. Such were Francie, now
quite emancipated from God (she frankly avowed atheism), Euphemia,
emancipated from old Nicholas, and Winifred Dartie from her "man of
the world." But, after all, everybody was emancipated now, or said
they were--perhaps not quite the same thing!
When Soames, therefore, took it on his way to Paddington station on
the morning after that encounter, it was hardly with the expectation
of seeing Timothy in the flesh. His heart made a faint demonstration
within him while he stood in full south sunlight on the newly
whitened doorstep of that little house where four Forsytes had once
lived, and now but one dwelt on like a winter fly; the house into
which Soames had come and out of which he had gone times without
number, divested of, or burdened with, fardels of family gossip; the
house of the "old people" of another century, another age.
The sight of Smither--still corseted up to the armpits because the
new fashion which came in as they were going out about 1903 had never
been considered "nice" by Aunts Juley and Hester--brought a pale
friendliness to Soames' lips; Smither, still faithfully arranged to
old pattern in every detail, an invaluable servant--none such left--
smiling back at him, with the words: "Why! it's Mr. Soames, after all
this time! And how are you, sir? Mr. Timothy will be so pleased to
know you've been."
"How is he?"
"Oh! he keeps fairly bobbish for his age, sir; but of course he's a
wonderful man. As I said to Mrs. Dartie when she was here last: It
would please Miss Forsyte and Mrs. Juley and Miss Hester to see how
he relishes a baked apple still. But he's quite deaf. And a mercy,
I always think. For what we should have done with him in the air-
raids, I don't know."
"Ah!" said Soames. "What did you do with him?"
"We just left him in his bed, and had the bell run down into the
cellar, so that Cook and I could hear him if he rang. It would never
have done to let him know there was a war on. As I said to Cook, 'If
Mr. Timothy rings, they may do what they like--I'm going up. My dear
mistresses would have a fit if they could see him ringing and nobody
going to him.' But he slept through them all beautiful. And the one
in the daytime he was having his bath. It was a mercy, because he
might have noticed the people in the street all looking up--he often
looks out of the window."
"Quite!" murmured Soames. Smither was getting garrulous! "I just
want to look round and see if there's anything to be done."
"Yes, sir. I don't think there's anything except a smell of mice in
the dining-room that we don't know how to get rid of. It's funny
they should be there, and not a crumb, since Mr. Timothy took to not
coming down, just before the War. But they're nasty little things;
you never know where they'll take you next."
"Does he leave his bed?"--
"Oh! yes, sir; he takes nice exercise between his bed and the window
in the morning, not to risk a change of air. And he's quite
comfortable in himself; has his Will out every day regular. It's a
great consolation to him--that."
"Well, Smither, I want to see him, if I can; in case he has anything
to say to me."
Smither coloured up above her corsets.
"It will be an occasion!" she said. "Shall I take you round the
house, sir, while I send Cook to break it to him?"
"No, you go to him," said Soames. "I can go round the house by
One could not confess to sentiment before another, and Soames felt
that he was going to be sentimental nosing round those rooms so
saturated with the past. When Smither, creaking with excitement, had
left him, Soames entered the dining-room and sniffed. In his opinion
it wasn't mice, but incipient wood-rot, and he examined the
panelling. Whether it was worth a coat of paint, at Timothy's age,
he was not sure. The room had always been the most modern in the
house; and only a faint smile curled Soames' lips and nostrils.
Walls of a rich green surmounted the oak dado; a heavy metal
chandelier hung by a chain from a ceiling divided by imitation beams.
The pictures had been bought by Timothy, a bargain, one day at
Jobson's sixty years ago--three Snyder "still lifes," two faintly
coloured drawings of a boy and a girl, rather charming, which bore
the initials "J. R."--Timothy had always believed they might turn out
to be Joshua Reynolds, but Soames, who admired them, had discovered
that they were only John Robinson; and a doubtful Morland of a white
pony being shod. Deep-red plush curtains, ten high-backed dark
mahogany chairs with deep-red plush seats, a Turkey carpet, and a
mahogany dining-table as large as the room was small, such was an
apartment which Soames could remember unchanged in soul or body since
he was four years old. He looked especially at the two drawings, and
thought: 'I shall buy those at the sale.'
>From the dining-room he passed into Timothy's study. He did not
remember ever having been in that room. It was lined from floor to
ceiling with volumes, and he looked at them with curiosity. One wall
seemed devoted to educational books, which Timothy's firm had
published two generations back-sometimes as many as twenty copies of
one book. Soames read their titles and shuddered. The middle wall
had precisely the same books as used to be in the library at his own
father's in Park Lane, from which he deduced the fancy that James and
his youngest brother had gone out together one day and bought a brace
of small libraries. The third wall he approached with more
excitement. Here, surely, Timothy's own taste would be found. It
was. The books were dummies. The fourth wall was all heavily
curtained window. And turned toward it was a large chair with a
mahogany reading-stand attached, on which a yellowish and folded copy
of The Times, dated July 6, 1914, the day Timothy first failed to
come down, as if in preparation for the War, seemed waiting for him
still. In a corner stood a large globe of that world never visited
by Timothy, deeply convinced of the unreality of everything but
England, and permanently upset by the sea, on which he had been very
sick one Sunday afternoon in 1836, out of a pleasure boat off the
pier at Brighton, with Juley and Hester, Swithin and Hatty Chessman;
all due to Swithin, who was always taking things into his head, and
who, thank goodness, had been sick too. Soames knew all about it,
having heard the tale fifty times at least from one or other of them.
He went up to the globe, and gave it a spin; it emitted a faint creak
and moved about an inch, bringing into his purview a daddy-long-legs
which had died on it in latitude 44.
'Mausoleum!' he thought. 'George was right!' And he went out and up
the stairs. On the half-landing he stopped before the case of
stuffed humming-birds which had delighted his childhood. They looked
not a day older, suspended on wires above pampas-grass. If the case
were opened the birds would not begin to hum, but the whole thing
would crumble, he suspected. It wouldn't be worth putting that into
the sale! And suddenly he was caught by a memory of Aunt Ann--dear
old Aunt Ann--holding him by the hand in front of that case and
saying: "Look, Soamey! Aren't they bright and pretty, dear little
humming-birds!" Soames remembered his own answer: "They don't hum,
Auntie." He must have been six, in a black velveteen suit with a
light-blue collar-he remembered that suit well! Aunt Ann with her
ringlets, and her spidery kind hands, and her grave old aquiline
smile--a fine old lady, Aunt Ann! He moved on up to the drawing-room
door. There on each side of it were the groups of miniatures. Those
he would certainly buy in! The miniatures of his four aunts, one of
his Uncle Swithin adolescent, and one of his Uncle Nicholas as a boy.
They had all been painted by a young lady friend of the family at a
time, 1830, about, when miniatures were considered very genteel, and
lasting too, painted as they were on ivory. Many a time had he heard
the tale of that young lady: "Very talented, my dear; she had quite a
weakness for Swithin, and very soon after she went into a consumption
and died: so like Keats--we often spoke of it."
Well, there they were! Ann, Juley, Hester, Susan--quite a small
child; Swithin, with sky-blue eyes, pink cheeks, yellow curls, white
waistcoat-large as life; and Nicholas, like Cupid with an eye on
heaven. Now he came to think of it, Uncle Nick had always been
rather like that--a wonderful man to the last. Yes, she must have
had talent, and miniatures always had a certain back-watered cachet
of their own, little subject to the currents of competition on
aesthetic Change. Soames opened the drawing-room door. The room was
dusted, the furniture uncovered, the curtains drawn back, precisely
as if his aunts still dwelt there patiently waiting. And a thought
came to him: When Timothy died--why not? Would it not be almost a
duty to preserve this house--like Carlyle's--and put up a tablet, and
show it? "Specimen of mid-Victorian abode--entrance, one shilling,
with catalogue." After all, it was the completest thing, and perhaps
the deadest in the London of to-day. Perfect in its special taste
and culture, if, that is, he took down and carried over to his own
collection the four Barbizon pictures he had given them. The still
sky-blue walls, tile green curtains patterned with red flowers and
ferns; the crewel-worked fire-screen before the cast-iron grate; the
mahogany cupboard with glass windows, full of little knickknacks; the
beaded footstools; Keats, Shelley, Southey, Cowper, Coleridge,
Byron's Corsair (but nothing else), and the Victorian poets in a
bookshelf row; the marqueterie cabinet lined with dim red plush, full
of family relics: Hester's first fan; the buckles of their mother's
father's shoes; three bottled scorpions; and one very yellow
elephant's tusk, sent home from India by Great-uncle Edgar Forsyte,
who had been in jute; a yellow bit of paper propped up, with spidery
writing on it, recording God knew what! And the pictures crowding on
the walls--all water-colours save those four Barbizons looking like
tile foreigners they were, and doubtful customers at that--pictures
bright and illustrative, "Telling the Bees," "Hey for the Ferry!" and
two in the style of Frith, all thimblerig and crinolines, given them
by Swithin. Oh! many, many pictures at which Soames had gazed a
thousand times in supercilious fascination; a marvellous collection
of bright, smooth gilt frames.
And the boudoir-grand piano, beautifully dusted, hermetically sealed
as ever; and Aunt Juley's album of pressed seaweed on it. And the
gilt-legged chairs, stronger than they looked. And on one side of
the fireplace the sofa of crimson silk, where Aunt Ann, and after her
Aunt Juley, had been wont to sit, facing the light and bolt upright.
And on the other side of the fire the one really easy chair, back to
the light, for Aunt Hester. Soames screwed up his eyes; he seemed to
see them sitting there. Ah! and the atmosphere--even now, of too
many stuffs and washed lace curtains, lavender in bags, and dried
bees' wings. 'No,' he thought, 'there's nothing like it left; it
ought to be preserved.' And, by George, they might laugh at it, but
for a standard of gentle life never departed from, for fastidiousness
of skin and eye and nose and feeling, it beat to-day hollow--to-day
with its Tubes and cars, its perpetual smoking, its cross-legged,
bare-necked girls visible up to the knees and down to the waist if
you took the trouble (agreeable to the satyr within each Forsyte but
hardly his idea of a lady), with their feet, too, screwed round the
legs of their chairs while they ate, and their "So longs," and their
"Old Beans," and their laughter--girls who gave him the shudders
whenever he thought of Fleur in contact with them; and the hard-eyed,
capable, older women who managed life and gave him the shudders too.
No! his old aunts, if they never opened their minds, their eyes, or
very much their windows, at least had manners, and a standard, and
reverence for past and future.
With rather a choky feeling he closed the door and went tiptoeing up-
stairs. He looked in at a place on the way: H'm! in perfect order of
the eighties, with a sort of yellow oilskin paper on the walls. At
the top of the stairs he hesitated between four doors. Which of them
was Timothy's? And he listened. A sound, as of a child slowly
dragging a hobby-horse about, came to his ears. That must be
Timothy! He tapped, and a door was opened by Smither, very red in
Mr. Timothy was taking his walk, and she had not been able to get him
to attend. If Mr. Soames would come into the back-room, he could see
him through the door.
Soames went into the back-room and stood watching.
The last of the old Forsytes was on his feet, moving with the most
impressive slowness, and an air of perfect concentration on his own
affairs, backward and forward between the foot of his bed and the
window, a distance of some twelve feet. The lower part of his square
face, no longer clean-shaven, was covered with snowy beard clipped as
short as it could be, and his chin looked as broad as his brow where
the hair was also quite white, while nose and cheeks and brow were a
good yellow. One hand held a stout stick, and the other grasped the
skirt of his Jaeger dressing-gown, from under which could be seen his
bed-socked ankles and feet thrust into Jaeger slippers. The
expression on his face was that of a crossed child, intent on
something that he has not got. Each time he turned he stumped the
stick, and then dragged it, as if to show that he could do without
"He still looks strong," said Soames under his breath.
"Oh! yes, sir. You should see him take his bath--it's wonderful; he
does enjoy it so."
Those quite loud words gave Soames an insight. Timothy had resumed
"Does he take any interest in things generally?" he said, also loud.
"Oh I yes, sir; his food and his Will. It's quite a sight to see him
turn it over and over, not to read it, of course; and every now and
then he asks the price of Consols, and I write it on a slate for him-
very large. Of course, I always write the same, what they were when
he last took notice, in 1914. We got the doctor to forbid him to
read the paper when the War broke out. Oh! he did take on about that
at first. But he soon came round, because he knew it tired him; and
he's a wonder to conserve energy as he used to call it when my dear
mistresses were alive, bless their hearts! How he did go on at them
about that; they were always so active, if you remember, Mr. Soames."
"What would happen if I were to go in?" asked Soames: "Would he
remember me? I made his Will, you know, after Miss Hester died in
"Oh! that, sir," replied Smither doubtfully, "I couldn't take on me
to say. I think he might; he really is a wonderful man for his age."
Soames moved into the doorway, and waiting for Timothy to turn, said
in a loud voice: "Uncle Timothy!"
Timothy trailed back half-way, and halted.
"Eh?" he said.
"Soames," cried Soames at the top of his voice, holding out his hand,
"No!" said Timothy, and stumping his stick loudly on the floor, he
continued his walk.
"It doesn't seem to work," said Soames.
"No, sir," replied Smither, rather crestfallen; "you see, he hasn't
finished his walk. It always was one thing at a time with him. I
expect he'll ask me this afternoon if you came about the gas, and a
pretty job I shall have to make him understand."
"Do you think he ought to have a man about him?"
Smither held up her hands. "A man! Oh! no. Cook and me can manage
perfectly. A strange man about would send him crazy in no time. And
my mistresses wouldn't like the idea of a man in the house. Besides,
we're so--proud of him."
"I suppose the doctor comes?"
"Every morning. He makes special terms for such a quantity, and Mr.
Timothy's so used, he doesn't take a bit of notice, except to put out
"Well," said Soames, turning away, "it's rather sad and painful to
"Oh! sir," returned Smither anxiously, "you mustn't think that. Now
that he can't worry about things, he quite enjoys his life, really he
does. As I say to Cook, Mr. Timothy is more of a man than he ever
was. You see, when he's not walkin', or takin' his bath, he's
eatin', and when he's not eatin', he's sleepin'; and there it is.
There isn't an ache or a care about him anywhere."
"Well," said Soames, "there's something in that. I'll go down. By
the way, let me see his Will."
"I should have to take my time about that, sir; he keeps it under his
pillow, and he'd see me, while he's active."
"I only want to know if it's the one I made," said Soames; "you take
a look at its date some time, and let me know."
"Yes, sir; but I'm sure it's the same, because me and Cook witnessed,
you remember, and there's our names on it still, and we've only done
"Quite," said Soames. He did remember. Smither and Jane had been
proper witnesses, having been left nothing in the Will that they
might have no interest in Timothy's death. It had been--he fully
admitted--an almost improper precaution, but Timothy had wished it,
and, after all, Aunt Hester had provided for them amply.
"Very well," he said; "good-bye, Smither. Look after him, and if he
should say anything at any time, put it down, and let me know."
"Oh I yes, Mr. Soames; I'll be sure to do that. It's been such a
pleasant change to see you. Cook will be quite excited when I tell
Soames shook her hand and went down-stairs. He stood for fully two
minutes by the hat-stand whereon he had hung his hat so many times.
'So it all passes,' he was thinking; 'passes and begins again. Poor
old chap!' And he listened, if perchance the sound of Timothy
trailing his hobby-horse might come down the well of the stairs; or
some ghost of an old face show over the bannisters, and an old voice
say: 'Why, it's dear Soames, and we were only saying that we hadn't
seen him for a week!'
Nothing--nothing! Just the scent of camphor, and dust-motes in a
sunbeam through the fanlight over the door. The little old house! A
mausoleum! And, turning on his heel, he went out, and caught his
THE NATIVE HEATH
"His foot's upon his native heath,
His name's--Val Dartie."
With some such feeling did Val Dartie, in the fortieth year of his
age, set out that same Thursday morning very early from the old
manor-house he had taken on the north side of the Sussex Downs. His
destination was Newmarket, and he had not been there since the autumn
of 1899, when he stole over from Oxford for the Cambridgeshire. He
paused at the door to give his wife a kiss, and put a flask of port
into his pocket.
"Don't overtire your leg, Val, and don't bet too much."
With the pressure of her chest against his own, and her eyes looking
into his, Val felt both leg and pocket safe. He should be moderate;
Holly was always right--she had a natural aptitude. It did not seem
so remarkable to him, perhaps, as it might to others, that--half
Dartie as he was--he should have been perfectly faithful to his young
first cousin during the twenty years since he married her
romantically out in the Boer War; and faithful without any feeling of
sacrifice or boredom--she was so quick, so slyly always a little in
front of his mood. Being first cousins they had decided, rather
needlessly, to have no children; and, though a little sallower, she
had kept her looks, her slimness, and the colour of her dark hair.
Val particularly admired the life of her own she carried on, besides
carrying on his, and riding better every year. She kept up her
music, she read an awful lot--novels, poetry, all sorts of stuff.
Out on their farm in Cape colony she had looked after all the
"nigger" babies and women in a miraculous manner. She was, in fact,
clever; yet made no fuss about it, and had no "side." Though not
remarkable for humility, Val had come to have the feeling that she
was his superior, and he did not grudge it--a great tribute. It
might be noted that he never looked at Holly without her knowing of
it, but that she looked at him sometimes unawares.
He had kissed her in the porch because he should not be doing so on
the platform, though she was going to the station with him, to drive
the car back. Tanned and wrinkled by Colonial weather and the wiles
inseparable from horses, and handicapped by the leg which, weakened
in the Boer War, had probably saved his life in the War just past,
Val was still much as he had been in the days of his courtship; his
smile as wide and charming, his eyelashes, if anything, thicker and
darker, his eyes screwed up under them, as bright a grey, his
freckles rather deeper, his hair a little grizzled at the sides. He
gave the impression of one who has lived actively with horses in a
Twisting the car sharp round at the gate, he said:
"When is young Jon coming?"
"Is there anything you want for him? I could bring it down on
"No; but you might come by the same train as Fleur--one-forty."
Val gave the Ford full rein; he still drove like a man in a new
country on bad roads, who refuses to compromise, and expects heaven
at every hole.
"That's a young woman who knows her way about," he said. "I say, has
it struck you?"
"Yes," said Holly.
"Uncle Soames and your Dad--bit awkward, isn't it?"
"She won't know, and he won't know, and nothing must be said, of
course. It's only for five days, Val."
"Stable secret! Righto!" If Holly thought it safe, it was.
Glancing slyly round at him, she said: "Did you notice how
beautifully she asked herself?"
"Well, she did. What do you think of her, Val?"
"Pretty and clever; but she might run out at any corner if she got
her monkey up, I should say."
"I'm wondering," Holly murmured, "whether she is the modern young
woman. One feels at sea coming home into all this."
"You? You get the hang of things so quick."
Holly slid her hand into his coat-pocket.
"You keep one in the know," said Val encouraged. "What do you think
of that Belgian fellow, Profond?"
"I think he's rather 'a good devil.'"
"He seems to me a queer fish for a friend of our family. In fact,
our family is in pretty queer waters, with Uncle Soames marrying a
Frenchwoman, and your Dad marrying Soames's first. Our grandfathers
would have had fits!"
"So would anybody's, my dear."
"This car," Val said suddenly, "wants rousing; she doesn't get her
hind legs under her uphill. I shall have to give her her head on the
slope if I'm to catch that train."
There was that about horses which had prevented him from ever really
sympathising with a car, and the running of the Ford under his
guidance compared with its running under that of Holly was always
noticeable. He caught the train.
"Take care going home; she'll throw you down if she can. Good-bye,
"Good-bye," called Holly, and kissed her hand.
In the train, after quarter of an hour's indecision between thoughts
of Holly, his morning paper, the look of the bright day, and his dim
memory of Newmarket, Val plunged into the recesses of a small square
book, all names, pedigrees, tap-roots, and notes about the make and
shape of horses. The Forsyte in him was bent on the acquisition of a
certain strain of blood, and he was subduing resolutely as yet the
Dartie hankering for a Nutter. On getting back to England, after the
profitable sale of his South African farm and stud, and observing
that the sun seldom shone, Val had said to himself: "I've absolutely
got to have an interest in life, or this country will give me the
blues. Hunting's not enough, I'll breed and I'll train." With just
that extra pinch of shrewdness and decision imparted by long
residence in a new country, Val had seen the weak point of modern
breeding. They were all hypnotised by fashion and high price. He
should buy for looks, and let names go hang! And here he was
already, hypnotised by the prestige of a certain strain of blood!
Half-consciously, he thought: 'There's something in this damned
climate which makes one go round in a ring. All the same, I must
have a strain of Mayfly blood.'
In this mood he reached the Mecca of his hopes. It was one of those
quiet meetings favourable to such as wish to look into horses, rather
than into the mouths of bookmakers; and Val clung to the paddock.
His twenty years of Colonial life, divesting him of the dandyism in
which he had been bred, had left him the essential neatness of the
horseman, and given him a queer and rather blighting eye over what he
called "the silly haw-haw" of some Englishmen, the "flapping
cockatoory" of some English-women--Holly had none of that and Holly
was his model. Observant, quick, resourceful, Val went straight to
the heart of a transaction, a horse, a drink; and he was on his way
to the heart of a Mayfly filly, when a slow voice said at his elbow:
"Mr. Val Dartie? How's Mrs. Val Dartie? She's well, I hope." And
he saw beside him the Belgian he had met at his sister Imogen's.
"Prosper Profond--I met you at lunch," said the voice.
"How are you?" murmured Val.
"I'm very well," replied Monsieur Profond, smiling with a certain
inimitable slowness. "A good devil," Holly had called him. Well!
He looked a little like a devil, with his dark, clipped, pointed
beard; a sleepy one though, and good-humoured, with fine eyes,
"Here's a gentleman wants to know you--cousin of yours--Mr. George
Val saw a large form, and a face clean-shaven, bull-like, a little
lowering, with sardonic humour bubbling behind a full grey eye; he
remembered it dimly from old days when he would dine with his father
at the Iseeum Club.
"I used to go racing with your father," George was saying: "How's the
stud? Like to buy one of my screws?"
Val grinned, to hide the sudden feeling that the bottom had fallen
out of breeding. They believed in nothing over here, not even in
horses. George Forsyte, Prosper Profond! The devil himself was not
more disillusioned than those two.
"Didn't know you were a racing man," he said to Monsieur Profond.
"I'm not. I don't care for it. I'm a yachtin' man. I don't care
for yachtin' either, but I like to see my friends. I've got some
lunch, Mr. Val Dartie, just a small lunch, if you'd like to 'ave
some; not much--just a small one--in my car."
"Thanks," said Val; "very good of you. I'll come along in about
quarter of an hour."
"Over there. Mr. Forsyde's comin'," and Monsieur Profond "poinded"
with a yellow-gloved finger; "small car, with a small lunch"; he
moved on, groomed, sleepy, and remote, George Forsyte following,
neat, huge, and with his jesting air.
Val remained gazing at the Mayfly filly. George Forsyte, of course,
was an old chap, but this Profond might be about his own age; Val
felt extremely young, as if the Mayfly filly were a toy at which
those two had laughed. The animal had lost reality.
"That 'small' mare"--he seemed to hear the voice of Monsieur Profond-
-"what do you see in her?--we must all die!"
And George Forsyte, crony of his father, racing still! The Mayfly
strain--was it any better than any other? He might just as well have
a flutter with his money instead.
"No, by gum!" he muttered suddenly, "if it's no good breeding horses,
it's no good doing anything. What did I come for? I'll buy her."
He stood back and watched the ebb of the paddock visitors toward the
stand. Natty old chips, shrewd portly fellows, Jews, trainers
looking as if they had never been guilty of seeing a horse in their
lives; tall, flapping, languid women, or brisk, loud-voiced women;
young men with an air as if trying to take it seriously--two or three
of them with only one arm.
'Life over here's a game!' thought Val. 'Muffin bell rings, horses
run, money changes hands; ring again, run again, money changes back.'
But, alarmed at his own philosophy, he went to the paddock gate to
watch the Mayfly filly canter down. She moved well; and he made his
way over to the "small" car. The "small" lunch was the sort a man
dreams of but seldom gets; and when it was concluded Monsieur Profond
walked back with him to the paddock.
"Your wife's a nice woman," was his surprising remark.
"Nicest woman I know," returned Val dryly.
"Yes," said Monsieur Profond; "she has a nice face. I admire nice
Val looked at him suspiciously, but something kindly and direct in
the heavy diabolism of his companion disarmed him for the moment.
"Any time you like to come on my yacht, I'll give her a small
"Thanks," said Val, in arms again, "she hates the sea."
"So do I," said Monsieur Profond.
"Then why do you yacht?"
The Belgian's eyes smiled. "Oh! I don't know. I've done everything;
it's the last thing I'm doin'."
"It must be d-d expensive. I should want more reason than that."
Monsieur Prosper Profond raised his eyebrows, and puffed out a heavy
"I'm an easy-goin' man," he said.
"Were you in the War?" asked Val.
"Ye-es. I've done that too. I was gassed; it was a small bit
unpleasant." He smiled with a deep and sleepy air of prosperity, as
if he had caught it from his name.
Whether his saying "small" when he ought to have said "little" was
genuine mistake or affectation Val could not decide; the fellow was
evidently capable of anything.
Among the ring of buyers round the Mayfly filly who had won her race,
Monsieur Profond said:
"You goin' to bid?"
Val nodded. With this sleepy Satan at his elbow, he felt in need of
faith. Though placed above the ultimate blows of Providence by the
forethought of a grand-father who had tied him up a thousand a year
to which was added the thousand a year tied up for Holly by her
grand-father, Val was not flush of capital that he could touch,
having spent most of what he had realised from his South African farm
on his establishment in Sussex. And very soon he was thinking: 'Dash
it! she's going beyond me!' His limit-six hundred-was exceeded; he
dropped out of the bidding. The Mayfly filly passed under the hammer
at seven hundred and fifty guineas. He was turning away vexed when
the slow voice of Monsieur Profond said in his ear:
"Well, I've bought that small filly, but I don't want her; you take
her and give her to your wife."
Val looked at the fellow with renewed suspicion, but the good humour
in his eyes was such that he really could not take offence.
"I made a small lot of money in the War," began Monsieur Profond in
answer to that look. "I 'ad armament shares. I like to give it
away. I'm always makin' money. I want very small lot myself. I
like my friends to 'ave it."
"I'll buy her of you at the price you gave," said Val with sudden
"No," said Monsieur Profond. "You take her. I don' want her."
"Hang it! one doesn't--"
"Why not?" smiled Monsieur Profond. "I'm a friend of your family."
"Seven hundred and fifty guineas is not a box of cigars," said Val
"All right; you keep her for me till I want her, and do what you like
"So long as she's yours," said Val. "I don't mind that."
"That's all right," murmured Monsieur Profond, and moved away.
Val watched; he might be "a good devil," but then again he might not.
He saw him rejoin George Forsyte, and thereafter saw him no more.
He spent those nights after racing at his mother's house in Green
Winifred Dartie at sixty-two was marvellously preserved, considering
the three-and-thirty years during which she had put up with Montague
Dartie, till almost happily released by a French staircase. It was
to her a vehement satisfaction to have her favourite son back from
South Africa after all this time, to feel him so little changed, and
to have taken a fancy to his wife. Winifred, who in the late
seventies, before her marriage, had been in the vanguard of freedom,
pleasure, and fashion, confessed her youth outclassed by the
donzellas of the day. They seemed, for instance, to regard marriage
as an incident, and Winifred sometimes regretted that she had not
done the same; a second, third, fourth incident might have secured
her a partner of less dazzling inebriety; though, after all, he had
left her Val, Imogen, Maud, Benedict (almost a colonel and unharmed
by the War)--none of whom had been divorced as yet. The steadiness of
her children often amazed one who remembered their father; but, as
she was fond of believing, they were really all Forsytes, favouring
herself, with the exception, perhaps, of Imogen. Her brother's
"little girl" Fleur frankly puzzled Winifred. The child was as
restless as any of these modern young women--"She's a small flame in
a draught," Prosper Profond had said one day after dinner--but she
did not flop, or talk at the top of her voice. The steady Forsyteism
in Winifred's own character instinctively resented the feeling in the
air, the modern girl's habits and her motto: "All's much of a
muchness! Spend, to-morrow we shall be poor!" She found it a saving
grace in Fleur that, having set her heart on a thing, she had no
change of heart until she got it--though--what happened after, Fleur
was, of course, too young to have made evident. The child was a
"very pretty little thing," too, and quite a credit to take about,
with her mother's French taste and gift for wearing clothes;
everybody turned to look at Fleur--great consideration to Winifred, a
lover of the style and distinction which had so cruelly deceived her
in the case of Montague Dartie.
In discussing her with Val, at breakfast on Saturday morning,
Winifred dwelt on the family skeleton.
"That little affair of your father-in-law and your Aunt Irene, Val--
it's old as the hills, of course, Fleur need know nothing about it--
making a fuss. Your Uncle Soames is very particular about that. So
you'll be careful."
"Yes! But it's dashed awkward--Holly's young half-brother is coming
to live with us while he learns farming. He's there already."
"Oh!" said Winifred. "That is a gaff! What is he like?"
"Only saw him once--at Robin Hill, when we were home in 1909; he was
naked and painted blue and yellow in stripes--a jolly little chap."
Winifred thought that "rather nice," and added comfortably: "Well,
Holly's sensible; she'll know how to deal with it. I shan't tell
your uncle. It'll only bother him. It's a great comfort to have you
back, my dear boy, now that I'm getting on."
"Getting on! Why! you're as young as ever. That chap Profond,
Mother, is he all right?"
"Prosper Profond! Oh! the most amusing man I know."
Val grunted, and recounted the story of the Mayfly filly.
"That's so like him," murmured Winifred. "He does all sorts of
"Well," said Val shrewdly, "our family haven't been too lucky with
that kind of cattle; they're too light-hearted for us."
It was true, and Winifred's blue study lasted a full minute before
"Oh! well! He's a foreigner, Val; one must make allowances."
"All right, I'll use his filly and make it up to him, somehow."
And soon after he gave her his blessing, received a kiss, and left
her for his bookmaker's, the Iseeum Club, and Victoria station.
Mrs. Val Dartie, after twenty years of South Africa, had fallen
deeply in love, fortunately with something of her own, for the object
of her passion was the prospect in front of her windows, the cool
clear light on the green Downs. It was England again, at last!
England more beautiful than she had dreamed. Chance had, in fact,
guided the Val Darties to a spot where the South Downs had real charm
when the sun shone. Holly had enough of her father's eye to
apprehend the rare quality of their outlines and chalky radiance; to
go up there by the ravine-like lane and wander along toward
Chanctonbury or Amberley, was still a delight which she hardly
attempted to share with Val, whose admiration of Nature was confused
by a Forsyte's instinct for getting something out of it, such as the
condition of the turf for his horses' exercise.
Driving the Ford home with a certain humouring, smoothness, she
promised herself that the first use she would make of Jon would be to
take him up there, and show him "the view" under this May-day sky.
She was looking forward to her young half-brother with a motherliness
not exhausted by Val. A three-day visit to Robin Hill, soon after
their arrival home, had yielded no sight of him--he was still at
school; so that her recollection, like Val's, was of a little sunny-
haired boy, striped blue and yellow, down by the pond.
Those three days at Robin Hill had been exciting, sad, embarrassing.
Memories of her dead brother, memories of Val's courtship; the ageing
of her father, not seen for twenty years, something funereal in his
ironic gentleness which did not escape one who had much subtle
instinct; above all, the presence of her stepmother, whom she could
still vaguely remember as the "lady in grey" of days when she was
little and grandfather alive and Mademoiselle Beauce so cross because
that intruder gave her music lessons--all these confused and
tantalised a spirit which had longed to find Robin Hill untroubled.
But Holly was adept at keeping things to herself, and all had seemed
to go quite well.
Her father had kissed her when she left him, with lips which she was
sure had trembled.
"Well, my dear," he said, "the War hasn't changed Robin Hill, has it?
If only you could have brought Jolly back with you! I say, can you
stand this spiritualistic racket? When the oak-tree dies, it dies,
>From the warmth of her embrace he probably divined that he had let
the cat out of the bag, for he rode off at once on irony.
"Spiritualism--queer word, when the more they manifest the more they
prove that they've got hold of matter."
"How?" said Holly.
"Why! Look at their photographs of auric presences. You must have
something material for light and shade to fall on before you can take
a photograph. No, it'll end in our calling all matter spirit, or all
spirit matter--I don't know which."
"But don't you believe in survival, Dad?"
Jolyon had looked at her, and the sad whimsicality of his face
impressed her deeply.
"Well, my dear, I should like to get something out of death. I've
been looking into it a bit. But for the life of me I can't find
anything that telepathy, sub-consciousness, and emanation from the
storehouse of this world can't account for just as well. Wish I
could! Wishes father thought but they don't breed evidence."
Holly had pressed her lips again to his forehead with the feeling
that it confirmed his theory that all matter was becoming spirit--his
brow felt, somehow, so insubstantial.
But the most poignant memory of that little visit had been watching,
unobserved, her stepmother reading to herself a letter from Jon. It
was--she decided--the prettiest sight she had ever seen. Irene, lost
as it were in the letter of her boy, stood at a window where the
light fell on her face and her fine grey hair; her lips were moving,
smiling, her dark eyes laughing, dancing, and the hand which did not
hold the letter was pressed against her breast. Holly withdrew as
from a vision of perfect love, convinced that Jon must be nice.
When she saw him coming out of the station with a kit-bag in either
hand, she was confirmed in her predisposition. He was a little like
Jolly, that long-lost idol of her childhood, but eager-looking and
less formal, with deeper eyes and brighter-coloured hair, for he wore
no hat; altogether a very interesting "little" brother!
His tentative politeness charmed one who was accustomed to assurance
in the youthful manner; he was disturbed because she was to drive him
home, instead of his driving her. Shouldn't he have a shot? They
hadn't a car at Robin Hill since the War, of course, and he had only
driven once, and landed up a bank, so she oughtn't to mind his
trying. His laugh, soft and infectious, was very attractive, though
that word, she had heard, was now quite old-fashioned. When they
reached the house he pulled out a crumpled letter which she read
while he was washing--a quite short letter, which must have cost her
father many a pang to write.
"You and Val will not forget, I trust, that Jon knows nothing of
family history. His mother and I think he is too young at present.
The boy is very dear, and the apple of her eye. Verbum sapientibus.
your loving father,
That was all; but it renewed in Holly an uneasy regret that Fleur was
After tea she fulfilled that promise to herself and took Jon up the
hill. They had a long talk, sitting above an old chalk-pit grown
over with brambles and goosepenny. Milkwort and liverwort starred
the green slope, the larks sang, and thrushes in the brake, and now
and then a gull flighting inland would wheel very white against the
paling sky, where the vague moon was coming up. Delicious fragrance
came to them, as if little invisible creatures were running and
treading scent out of the blades of grass.
Jon, who had fallen silent, said rather suddenly:
"I say, this is wonderful! There's no fat on it at all. Gull's
flight and sheep-bells"
"'Gull's flight and sheep-bells'! You're a poet, my dear!"
"Oh, Golly! No go!"
"Try! I used to at your age."
"Did you? Mother says 'try' too; but I'm so rotten. Have you any of
yours for me to see?"
"My dear," Holly murmured, "I've been married nineteen years. I only
wrote verses when I wanted to be."
"Oh!" said Jon, and turned over on his face: the one cheek she could
see was a charming colour. Was Jon "touched in the wind," then, as
Val would have called it? Already? But, if so, all the better, he
would take no notice of young Fleur. Besides, on Monday he would
begin his farming. And she smiled. Was it Burns who followed the
plough, or only Piers Plowman? Nearly every young man and most young
women seemed to be poets now, judging from the number of their books
she had read out in South Africa, importing them from Hatchus and
Bumphards; and quite good--oh! quite; much better than she had been
herself! But then poetry had only really come in since her day--with
motor-cars. Another long talk after dinner over a wood fire in the
low hall, and there seemed little left to know about Jon except
anything of real importance. Holly parted from him at his bedroom
door, having seen twice over that he had everything, with the
conviction that she would love him, and Val would like him. He was
eager, but did not gush; he was a splendid listener, sympathetic,
reticent about himself. He evidently loved their father, and adored
his mother. He liked riding, rowing, and fencing better than games.
He saved moths from candles, and couldn't bear spiders, but put them
out of doors in screws of paper sooner than kill them. In a word, he
was amiable. She went to sleep, thinking that he would suffer
horribly if anybody hurt him; but who would hurt him?
Jon, on the other hand, sat awake at his window with a bit of paper
and a pencil, writing his first "real poem" by the light of a candle
because there was not enough moon to see by, only enough to make the
night seem fluttery and as if engraved on silver. Just the night for
Fleur to walk, and turn her eyes, and lead on-over the hills and far
away. And Jon, deeply furrowed in his ingenuous brow, made marks on
the paper and rubbed them out and wrote them in again, and did all
that was necessary for the completion of a work of art; and he had a
feeling such as the winds of Spring must have, trying their first
songs among the coming blossom. Jon was one of those boys (not many)
in whom a home-trained love of beauty had survived school life. He
had had to keep it to himself, of course, so that not even the
drawing-master knew of it; but it was there, fastidious and clear
within him. And his poem seemed to him as lame and stilted as the
night was winged. But he kept it, all the same. It was a "beast,"
but better than nothing as an expression of the inexpressible. And
he thought with a sort of discomfiture: 'I shan't be able to show it
to Mother.' He slept terribly well, when he did sleep, overwhelmed
To avoid the awkwardness of questions which could not be answered,
all that had been told Jon was:
"There's a girl coming down with Val for the week-end."
For the same reason, all that had been told Fleur was: "We've got a
youngster staying with us."
The two yearlings, as Val called them in his thoughts, met therefore
in a manner which for unpreparedness left nothing to be desired.
They were thus introduced by Holly:
"This is Jon, my little brother; Fleur's a cousin of ours, Jon."
Jon, who was coming in through a French window out of strong
sunlight, was so confounded by the providential nature of this
miracle, that he had time to hear Fleur say calmly: "Oh, how do you
do?" as if he had never seen her, and to understand dimly from the
quickest imaginable little movement of her head that he never had
seen her. He bowed therefore over her hand in an intoxicated manner,
and became more silent than the grave. He knew better than to speak.
Once in his early life, surprised reading by a nightlight, he had
said fatuously "I was just turning over the leaves, Mum," and his
mother had replied: "Jon, never tell stories, because of your face
nobody will ever believe them."
The saying had permanently undermined the confidence necessary to the
success of spoken untruth. He listened therefore to Fleur's swift
and rapt allusions to the jolliness of everything, plied her with
scones and jam, and got away as soon as might be. They say that in
delirium tremens you see a fixed object, preferably dark, which
suddenly changes shape and position. Jon saw the fixed object; it
had dark eyes and passably dark hair, and changed its position, but
never its shape. The knowledge that between him and that object
there was already a secret understanding (however impossible to
understand) thrilled him so that he waited feverishly, and began to
copy out his poem--which of course he would never dare to--show her--
till the sound of horses' hoofs roused him, and, leaning from his
window, he saw her riding forth with Val. It was clear that she
wasted no time, but the sight filled him with grief. He wasted his.
If he had not bolted, in his fearful ecstasy, he might have been
asked to go too. And from his window he sat and watched them
disappear, appear again in the chine of the road, vanish, and emerge
once more for a minute clear on the outline of the Down. 'Silly
brute!' he thought; 'I always miss my chances.'
Why couldn't he be self-confident and ready? And, leaning his chin
on his hands, he imagined the ride he might have had with her. A
week-end was but a week-end, and he had missed three hours of it.
Did he know any one except himself who would have been such a flat?
He did not.
He dressed for dinner early, and was first down. He would miss no
more. But he missed Fleur, who came down last. He sat opposite her
at dinner, and it was terrible--impossible to say anything for fear
of saying the wrong thing, impossible to keep his eyes fixed on her
in the only natural way; in sum, impossible to treat normally one
with whom in fancy he had already been over the hills and far away;
conscious, too, all the time, that he must seem to her, to all of
them, a dumb gawk. Yes, it was terrible! And she was talking so
well--swooping with swift wing this way and that. Wonderful how she
had learned an art which he found so disgustingly difficult. She
must think him hopeless indeed!
His sister's eyes, fixed on him with a certain astonishment, obliged
him at last to look at Fleur; but instantly her eyes, very wide and
eager, seeming to say, "Oh! for goodness' sake!" obliged him to look
at Val, where a grin obliged him to look at his cutlet--that, at
least, had no eyes, and no grin, and he ate it hastily.
"Jon is going to be a farmer," he heard Holly say; "a farmer and a
He glanced up reproachfully, caught the comic lift of her eyebrow
just like their father's, laughed, and felt better.
Val recounted the incident of Monsieur Prosper Profond; nothing could
have been more favourable, for, in relating it, he regarded Holly,
who in turn regarded him, while Fleur seemed to be regarding with a
slight frown some thought of her own, and Jon was really free to look
at her at last. She had on a white frock, very simple and well made;
her arms were bare, and her hair had a white rose in it. In just
that swift moment of free vision, after such intense discomfort, Jon
saw her sublimated, as one sees in the dark a slender white fruit-
tree; caught her like a verse of poetry flashed before the eyes of
the mind, or a tune which floats out in the distance and dies.
He wondered giddily how old she was--she seemed so much more self-
possessed and experienced than himself. Why mustn't he say they had
met? He remembered suddenly his mother's face; puzzled, hurt-
looking, when she answered: "Yes, they're relations, but we don't
know them." Impossible that his mother, who loved beauty, should not
admire Fleur if she did know her.
Alone with Val after dinner, he sipped port deferentially and
answered the advances of this new-found brother-in-law. As to riding
(always the first consideration with Val) he could have the young
chestnut, saddle and unsaddle it himself, and generally look after it
when he brought it in. Jon said he was accustomed to all that at
home, and saw that he had gone up one in his host's estimation.
"Fleur," said Val, "can't ride much yet, but she's keen. Of course,
her father doesn't know a horse from a cart-wheel. Does your Dad
"He used to; but now he's--you know, he's--"He stopped, so hating the
word "old." His father was old, and yet not old; no--never!
"Quite," muttered Val. "I used to know your brother up at Oxford,
ages ago, the one who died in the Boer War. We had a fight in New
College Gardens. That was a queer business," he added, musing; "a
good deal came out of it."
Jon's eyes opened wide; all was pushing him toward historical
research, when his sister's voice said gently from the doorway:
"Come along, you two," and he rose, his heart pushing him toward
something far more modern.
Fleur having declared that it was "simply too wonderful to stay
indoors," they all went out. Moonlight was frosting the dew, and an
old sundial threw a long shadow. Two box hedges at right angles,
dark and square, barred off the orchard. Fleur turned through that
"Come on!" she called. Jon glanced at the others, and followed. She
was running among the trees like a ghost. All was lovely and
foamlike above her, and there was a scent of old trunks, and of
nettles. She vanished. He thought he had lost her, then almost ran
into her standing quite still.
"Isn't it jolly?" she cried, and Jon answered:
She reached up, twisted off a blossom and, twirling it in her
"I suppose I can call you Jon?"
"I should think so just."
"All right! But you know there's a feud between our families?"
Jon stammered: "Feud? Why?"
"It's ever so romantic and silly. That's why I pretended we hadn't
met. Shall we get up early to-morrow morning and go for a walk
before breakfast and have it out? I hate being slow about things,
Jon murmured a rapturous assent.
"Six o'clock, then. I think your mother's beautiful"
Jon said fervently: "Yes, she is."
"I love all kinds of beauty," went on Fleur, "when it's exciting. I
don't like Greek things a bit."
"What! Not Euripides?"
"Euripides? Oh! no, I can't bear Greek plays; they're so long. I
think beauty's always swift. I like to look at one picture, for
instance, and then run off. I can't bear a lot of things together.
Look!" She held up her blossom in the moonlight. "That's better
than all the orchard, I think."
And, suddenly, with her other hand she caught Jon's.
"Of all things in the world, don't you think caution's the most
awful? Smell the moonlight!"
She thrust the blossom against his face; Jon agreed giddily that of
all things in the world caution was the worst, and bending over,
kissed the hand which held his.
"That's nice and old-fashioned," said Fleur calmly. "You're
frightfully silent, Jon. Still I like silence when it's swift." She
let go his hand. "Did you think I dropped my handkerchief on
"No!" cried Jon, intensely shocked.
"Well, I did, of course. Let's get back, or they'll think we're
doing this on purpose too." And again she ran like a ghost among the
trees. Jon followed, with love in his heart, Spring in his heart,
and over all the moonlit white unearthly blossom. They came out
where they had gone in, Fleur walking demurely.
"It's quite wonderful in there," she said dreamily to Holly.
Jon preserved silence, hoping against hope that she might be thinking
She bade him a casual and demure good-night, which made him think he
had been dreaming....
In her bedroom Fleur had flung off her gown, and, wrapped in a
shapeless garment, with the white flower still in her hair, she
looked like a mousme, sitting cross-legged on her bed, writing by
"I believe I'm in love. I've got it in the neck, only the feeling is
really lower down. He's a second cousin-such a child, about six
months older and ten years younger than I am. Boys always fall in
love with their seniors, and girls with their juniors or with old men
of forty. Don't laugh, but his eyes are the truest things I ever
saw; and he's quite divinely silent! We had a most romantic first
meeting in London under the Vospovitch Juno. And now he's sleeping
in the next room and the moonlight's on the blossom; and to-morrow
morning, before anybody's awake, we're going to walk off into Down
fairyland. There's a feud between our families, which makes it
really exciting. Yes! and I may have to use subterfuge and come on
you for invitations--if so, you'll know why! My father doesn't want
us to know each other, but I can't help that. Life's too short.
He's got the most beautiful mother, with lovely silvery hair and a
young face with dark eyes. I'm staying with his sister--who married
my cousin; it's all mixed up, but I mean to pump her to-morrow.
We've often talked about love being a spoil-sport; well, that's all
tosh, it's the beginning of sport, and the sooner you feel it, my
dear, the better for you.
"Jon (not simplified spelling, but short for Jolyon, which is a name
in my family, they say) is the sort that lights up and goes out;
about five feet ten, still growing, and I believe he's going to be a
poet. If you laugh at me I've done with you forever. I perceive all
sorts of difficulties, but you know when I really want a thing I get
it. One of the chief effects of love is that you see the air sort of
inhabited, like seeing a face in the moon; and you feel--you feel
dancey and soft at the same time, with a funny sensation--like a
continual first sniff of orange--blossom--Just above your stays.
This is my first, and I feel as if it were going to be my last, which
is absurd, of course, by all the laws of Nature and morality. If you
mock me I will smite you, and if you tell anybody I will never
forgive you. So much so, that I almost don't think I'll send this
letter. Anyway, I'll sleep over it. So good-night, my Cherry--oh!
IDYLL ON GRASS
When those two young Forsytes emerged from the chine lane, and set
their faces east toward the sun, there was not a cloud in heaven, and
the Downs were dewy. They had come at a good bat up the slope and
were a little out of breath; if they had anything to say they did not
say it, but marched in the early awkwardness of unbreakfasted morning
under the songs of the larks. The stealing out had been fun, but
with the freedom of the tops the sense of conspiracy ceased, and gave
place to dumbness.
"We've made one blooming error," said Fleur, when they had gone half
a mile. "I'm hungry."
Jon produced a stick of chocolate. They shared it and their tongues
were loosened. They discussed the nature of their homes and previous
existences, which had a kind of fascinating unreality up on that
lonely height. There remained but one thing solid in Jon's past--his
mother; but one thing solid in Fleur's--her father; and of these
figures, as though seen in the distance with disapproving faces, they
The Down dipped and rose again toward Chanctonbury Ring; a sparkle of
far sea came into view, a sparrow-hawk hovered in the sun's eye so
that the blood-nourished brown of his wings gleamed nearly red. Jon
had a passion for birds, and an aptitude for sitting very still to
watch them; keen-sighted, and with a memory for what interested him,
on birds he was almost worth listening to. But in Chanctonbury Ring
there were none--its great beech temple was empty of life, and almost
chilly at this early hour; they came out willingly again into the sun
on the far side. It was Fleur's turn now. She spoke of dogs, and
the way people treated them. It was wicked to keep them on chains!
She would like to flog people who did that. Jon was astonished to
find her so humanitarian. She knew a dog, it seemed, which some
farmer near her home kept chained up at the end of his chicken run,
in all weathers, till it had almost lost its voice from barking!
"And the misery is," she said vehemently, "that if the poor thing
didn't bark at every one who passes it wouldn't be kept there. I do
think men are cunning brutes. I've let it go twice, on the sly; it's
nearly bitten me both times, and then it goes simply mad with joy;
but it always runs back home at last, and they chain it up again. If
I had my way, I'd chain that man up." Jon saw her teeth and her eyes
gleam. "I'd brand him on his forehead with the word 'Brute'; that
would teach him!"
Jon agreed that it would be a good remedy.
"It's their sense of property," he said, "which makes people chain
things. The last generation thought of nothing but property; and
that's why there was the War."
"Oh!" said Fleur, "I never thought of that. Your people and mine
quarrelled about property. And anyway we've all got it--at least, I
suppose your people have."
"Oh! yes, luckily; I don't suppose I shall be any good at making
"If you were, I don't believe I should like you."
Jon slipped his hand tremulously under her arm. Fleur looked
straight before her and chanted:
"Jon, Jon, the farmer's son,
Stole a pig, and away he run!"
Jon's arm crept round her waist.
"This is rather sudden," said Fleur calmly; "do you often do it?"
Jon dropped his arm. But when she laughed his arm stole back again;
and Fleur began to sing:
"O who will oer the downs so free,
O who will with me ride?
O who will up and follow me---"
Jon sang. The larks joined in, sheep-bells, and an early morning
church far away over in Steyning. They went on from tune to tune,
till Fleur said:
"My God! I am hungry now!"
"Oh! I am sorry!"
She looked round into his face.
"Jon, you're rather a darling."
And she pressed his hand against her waist. Jon almost reeled from
happiness. A yellow-and-white dog coursing a hare startled them
apart. They watched the two vanish down the slope, till Fleur said
with a sigh: "He'll never catch it, thank goodness! What's the time?
Mine's stopped. I never wound it."
Jon looked at his watch. "By Jove!" he said, "mine's stopped; too."
They walked on again, but only hand in hand.
"If the grass is dry," said Fleur, "let's sit down for half a
Jon took off his coat, and they shared it.
"Smell! Actually wild thyme!"
With his arm round her waist again, they sat some minutes in silence.
"We are goats!" cried Fleur, jumping up; "we shall be most fearfully
late, and look so silly, and put them on their guard. Look here, Jon
We only came out to get an appetite for breakfast, and lost our way.
"Yes," said Jon.
"It's serious; there'll be a stopper put on us. Are you a good
"I believe not very; but I can try."
"You know," she said, "I realize that they don't mean us to be
"I told you why."
"But that's silly."
"Yes; but you don't know my father!"
"I suppose he's fearfully fond of you."
"You see, I'm an only child. And so are you--of your mother. Isn't
it a bore? There's so much expected of one. By the time they've
done expecting, one's as good as dead."
"Yes," muttered Jon, "life's beastly short. One wants to live
forever, and know everything."
"And love everybody?"
"No," cried Jon; "I only want to love once--you."
"Indeed! You're coming on! Oh! Look! There's the chalk-pit; we
can't be very far now. Let's run."
Jon followed, wondering fearfully if he had offended her.
The chalk-pit was full of sunshine and the murmuration of bees.
Fleur flung back her hair.
"Well," she said, "in case of accidents, you may give me one kiss,
Jon," and she pushed her cheek forward. With ecstasy he kissed that
hot soft cheek.
"Now, remember! We lost our way; and leave it to me as much as you
can. I'm going to be rather beastly to you; it's safer; try and be
beastly to me!"
Jon shook his head. "That's impossible."
"Just to please me; till five o'clock, at all events."
"Anybody will be able to see through it," said Jon gloomily.
"Well, do your best. Look! There they are! Wave your hat! Oh! you
haven't got one. Well, I'll cooee! Get a little away from me, and
Five minutes later, entering the house and doing his utmost to look
sulky, Jon heard her clear voice in the dining-room:
"Oh! I'm simply ravenous! He's going to be a farmer--and he loses
his way! The boy's an idiot!"
Lunch was over and Soames mounted to the picture-gallery in his house
near Mapleduram. He had what Annette called "a grief." Fleur was
not yet home. She had been expected on Wednesday; had wired that it
would be Friday; and again on Friday that it would be Sunday
afternoon; and here were her aunt, and her cousins the Cardigans, and
this fellow Profond, and everything flat as a pancake for the want of
her. He stood before his Gauguin--sorest point of his collection.
He had bought the ugly great thing with two early Matisses before the
War, because there was such a fuss about those Post-Impressionist
chaps. He was wondering whether Profond would take them off his
hands--the fellow seemed not to know what to do with his money--when
he heard his sister's voice say: "I think that's a horrid thing,
Soames," and saw that Winifred had followed him up.
"Oh! you do?" he said dryly; "I gave five hundred for it."
"Fancy! Women aren't made like that even if they are black."
Soames uttered a glum laugh. "You didn't come up to tell me that."
"No. Do you know that Jolyon's boy is staying with Val and his
Soames spun round.
"Yes," drawled Winifred; "he's gone to live with them there while he
Soames had turned away, but her voice pursued him as he walked up and
down. "I warned Val that neither of them was to be spoken to about
"Why didn't you tell me before?"
Winifred shrugged her substantial shoulders.
"Fleur does what she likes. You've always spoiled her. Besides, my
dear boy, what's the harm?"
"The harm!" muttered Soames. "Why, she--" he checked himself. The
Juno, the handkerchief, Fleur's eyes, her questions, and now this
delay in her return--the symptoms seemed to him so sinister that,
faithful to his nature, he could not part with them.
"I think you take too much care," said Winifred. "If I were you, I
should tell her of that old matter. It's no good thinking that girls
in these days are as they used to be. Where they pick up their
knowledge I can't tell, but they seem to know everything."
Over Soames' face, closely composed, passed a sort of spasm, and
Winifred added hastily:
"If you don't like to speak of it, I could for you."
Soames shook his head. Unless there was absolute necessity the
thought that his adored daughter should learn of that old scandal
hurt his pride too much.
"No," he said, "not yet. Never if I can help it.
"Nonsense, my dear. Think what people are!"
"Twenty years is a long time," muttered Soames. "Outside our family,
who's likely to remember?"
Winifred was silenced. She inclined more and more to that peace and
quietness of which Montague Dartie had deprived her in her youth.
And, since pictures always depressed her, she soon went down again.
Soames passed into the corner where, side by side, hung his real Goya
and the copy of the fresco "La Vendimia." His acquisition of the
real Goya rather beautifully illustrated the cobweb of vested
interests and passions which mesh the bright-winged fly of human
life. The real Goya's noble owner's ancestor had come into
possession of it during some Spanish war--it was in a word loot. The
noble owner had remained in ignorance of its value until in the
nineties an enterprising critic discovered that a Spanish painter
named Goya was a genius. It was only a fair Goya, but almost unique
in England, and the noble owner became a marked man. Having many
possessions and that aristocratic culture which, independent of mere
sensuous enjoyment, is founded on the sounder principle that one must
know everything and be fearfully interested in life, he had fully
intended to keep an article which contributed to his reputation while
he was alive, and to leave it to the nation after he was dead.
Fortunately for Soames, the House of Lords was violently attacked in
1909, and the noble owner became alarmed and angry. 'If,' he said to
himself, 'they think they can have it both ways they are very much
mistaken. So long as they leave me in quiet enjoyment the nation can
have some of my pictures at my death. But if the nation is going to
bait me, and rob me like this, I'm damned if I won't sell the lot.
They can't have my private property and my public spirit-both.' He
brooded in this fashion for several months till one morning, after
reading the speech of a certain statesman, he telegraphed to his
agent to come down and bring Bodkin. On going over the collection
Bodkin, than whose opinion on market values none was more sought,
pronounced that with a free hand to sell to America, Germany, and
other places where there was an interest in art, a lot more money
could be made than by selling in England. The noble owner's public
spirit--he said--was well known but the pictures were unique. The
noble owner put this opinion in his pipe and smoked it for a year.
At the end of that time he read another speech by the same statesman,
and telegraphed to his agents: "Give Bodkin a free hand." It was at
this juncture that Bodkin conceived the idea which salved the Goya
and two other unique pictures for the native country of the noble
owner. With one hand Bodkin proffered the pictures to the foreign
market, with the other he formed a list of private British
collectors. Having obtained what he considered the highest possible
bids from across the seas, he submitted pictures and bids to the
private British collectors, and invited them, of their public spirit,
to outbid. In three instances (including the Goya) out of twenty-one
he was successful. And why? One of the private collectors made
buttons--he had made so many that he desired that his wife should be
called Lady "Buttons." He therefore bought a unique picture at great
cost, and gave it to the nation. It was "part," his friends said,
"of his general game." The second of the private collectors was an
Americophobe, and bought an unique picture to "spite the damned
Yanks." The third of the private collectors was Soames, who--more
sober than either of the, others--bought after a visit to Madrid,
because he was certain that Goya was still on the up grade. Goya was
not booming at the moment, but he would come again; and, looking at
that portrait, Hogarthian, Manetesque in its directness, but with its
own queer sharp beauty of paint, he was perfectly satisfied still
that he had made no error, heavy though the price had been--heaviest
he had ever paid. And next to it was hanging the copy of "La
Vendimia." There she was--the little wretch-looking back at him in
her dreamy mood, the mood he loved best because he felt so much safer
when she looked like that.
He was still gazing when the scent of a cigar impinged on his
nostrils, and a voice said:
"Well, Mr. Forsyde, what you goin' to do with this small lot?"
That Belgian chap, whose mother-as if Flemish blood were not enough--
had been Armenian! Subduing a natural irritation, he said:
"Are you a judge of pictures?"
"Well, I've got a few myself."
"Ye-es, I rather like them."
"What do you think of this?" said Soames, pointing to the Gauguin.
Monsieur Profond protruded his lower lip and short pointed beard.
"Rather fine, I think," he said; "do you want to sell it?"
Soames checked his instinctive "Not particularly"--he would not
chaffer with this alien.
"Yes," he said.
"What do you want for it?"
"What I gave."
"All right," said Monsieur Profond. "I'll be glad to take that small
picture. Post-Impressionists--they're awful dead, but they're
amusin'. I don' care for pictures much, but I've got some, just a
"What do you care for?"
Monsieur Profond shrugged his shoulders.
"Life's awful like a lot of monkeys scramblin' for empty nuts."
"You're young," said Soames. If the fellow must make a
generalization, he needn't suggest that the forms of property lacked
"I don' worry," replied Monsieur Profond smiling; "we're born, and we
die. Half the world's starvin'. I feed a small lot of babies out in
my mother's country; but what's the use? Might as well throw my
money in the river."
Soames looked at him, and turned back toward his Goya. He didn't
know what the fellow wanted.
"What shall I make my cheque for?" pursued Monsieur Profond.
"Five hundred," said Soames shortly; "but I don't want you to take it
if you don't care for it more than that."
"That's all right," said Monsieur Profond; "I'll be 'appy to 'ave
He wrote a cheque with a fountain-pen heavily chased with gold.
Soames watched the process uneasily. How on earth had the fellow
known that he wanted to sell that picture? Monsieur Profond held out
"The English are awful funny about pictures," he said. "So are the
French, so are my people. They're all awful funny."
"I don't understand you," said Soames stiffly.
"It's like hats," said Monsieur Profond enigmatically, "small or
large, turnin' up or down--just the fashion. Awful funny." And,
smiling, he drifted out of the gallery again, blue and solid like the
smoke of his excellent cigar.
Soames had taken the cheque, feeling as if the intrinsic value of
ownership had been called in question. 'He's a cosmopolitan,' he
thought, watching Profond emerge from under the verandah with
Annette, and saunter down the lawn toward the river. What his wife
saw in the fellow he didn't know, unless it was that he could speak
her language; and there passed in Soames what Monsieur Profond would
have called a "small doubt" whether Annette was not too handsome to
be walking with any one so "cosmopolitan." Even at that distance he
could see the blue fumes from Profond's cigar wreath out in the quiet
sunlight; and his grey buckskin shoes, and his grey hat--the fellow
was a dandy! And he could see the quick turn of his wife's head, so
very straight on her desirable neck and shoulders. That turn of her
neck always seemed to him a little too showy, and in the "Queen of
all I survey" manner--not quite distinguished. He watched them walk
along the path at the bottom of the garden. A young man in flannels
joined them down there--a Sunday caller no doubt, from up the river.
He went back to his Goya. He was still staring at that replica of
Fleur, and worrying over Winifred's news, when his wife's voice said:
"Mr. Michael Mont, Soames. You invited him to see your pictures."
There was the cheerful young man of the Gallery off Cork Street!
"Turned up, you see, sir; I live only four miles from Pangbourne.
Jolly day, isn't it?"
Confronted with the results of his expansiveness, Soames scrutinized
his visitor. The young man's mouth was excessively large and curly--
he seemed always grinning. Why didn't he grow the rest of those
idiotic little moustaches, which made him look like a music-hall
buffoon? What on earth were young men about, deliberately lowering
their class with these tooth-brushes, or little slug whiskers? Ugh!
Affected young idiots! In other respects he was presentable, and his
flannels very clean.
"Happy to see you!" he said.
The young man, who had been turning his head from side to side,
became transfixed. "I say!" he said, "'some' picture!"
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