Awakening & To Let
Part 3 out of 7
Soames saw, with mixed sensations, that he had addressed the remark
to the Goya copy.
"Yes," he said dryly, "that's not a Goya. It's a copy. I had it
painted because it reminded me of my daughter."
"By Jove! I thought I knew the face, sir. Is she here?"
The frankness of his interest almost disarmed Soames.
"She'll be in after tea," he said. "Shall we go round the pictures?"
And Soames began that round which never tired him. He had not
anticipated much intelligence from one who had mistaken a copy for an
original, but as they passed from section to section, period to
period, he was startled by the young man's frank and relevant
remarks. Natively shrewd himself, and even sensuous beneath his
mask, Soames had not spent thirty-eight years over his one hobby
without knowing something more about pictures than their market
values. He was, as it were, the missing link between the artist and
the commercial public. Art for art's sake and all that, of course,
was cant. But aesthetics and good taste were necessary. The
appreciation of enough persons of good taste was what gave a work of
art its permanent market value, or in other words made it "a work of
art." There was no real cleavage. And he was sufficiently
accustomed to sheep-like and unseeing visitors, to be intrigued by
one who did not hesitate to say of Mauve: "Good old haystacks!" or of
James Maris: "Didn't he just paint and paper 'em! Mathew was the
real swell, sir; you could dig into his surfaces!" It was after the
young man had whistled before a Whistler, with the words, "D'you
think he ever really saw a naked woman, sir?" that Soames remarked:
"What are you, Mr. Mont, if I may ask?"
"I, sir? I was going to be a painter, but the War knocked that.
Then in the trenches, you know, I used to dream of the Stock
Exchange, snug and warm and just noisy enough. But the Peace knocked
that, shares seem off, don't they? I've only been demobbed about a
year. What do you recommend, sir?"
"Have you got money?"
"Well," answered the young man, "I've got a father; I kept him alive
during the War, so he's bound to keep me alive now. Though, of
course, there's the question whether he ought to be allowed to hang
on to his property. What do you think about that, sir?"
Soames, pale and defensive, smiled.
"The old man has fits when I tell him he may have to work yet. He's
got land, you know; it's a fatal disease."
"This is my real Goya," said Soames dryly.
"By George! He was a swell. I saw a Goya in Munich once that bowled
me middle stump. A most evil-looking old woman in the most gorgeous
lace. He made no compromise with the public taste. That old boy was
'some' explosive; he must have smashed up a lot of convention in his
day. Couldn't he just paint! He makes Velasquez stiff, don't you
"I have no Velasquez," said Soames.
The young man stared. "No," he said; "only nations or profiteers can
afford him, I suppose. I say, why shouldn't all the bankrupt nations
sell their Velasquez and Titians and other swells to the profiteers
by force, and then pass a law that any one who holds a picture by an
Old Master--see schedule--must hang it in a public gallery? There
seems something in that."
"Shall we go down to tea?" said Soames.
The young man's ears seemed to droop on his skull. 'He's not dense,'
thought Soames, following him off the premises.
Goya, with his satiric and surpassing precision, his original "line,"
and the daring of his light and shade, could have reproduced to
admiration the group assembled round Annette's tea-tray in the ingle-
nook below. He alone, perhaps, of painters would have done justice
to the sunlight filtering through a screen of creeper, to the lovely
pallor of brass, the old cut glasses, the thin slices of lemon in
pale amber tea; justice to Annette in her black lacey dress; there
was something of the fair Spaniard in her beauty, though it lacked
the spirituality of that rare type; to Winifred's grey-haired,
corseted solidity; to Soames, of a certain grey and flat-cheeked
distinction; to the vivacious Michael Mont, pointed in ear and eye;
to Imogen, dark, luscious of glance, growing a little stout; to
Prosper Profond, with his expression as who should say, "Well, Mr.
Goya, what's the use of paintin' this small party?" finally, to Jack
Cardigan, with his shining stare and tanned sanguinity betraying the
moving principle: "I'm English, and I live to be fit."
Curious, by the way, that Imogen, who as a girl had declared solemnly
one day at Timothy's that she would never marry a good man--they were
so dull--should have married Jack Cardigan, in whom health had so
destroyed all traces of original sin, that she might have retired to
rest with ten thousand other Englishmen without knowing the
difference from the one she had chosen to repose beside. "Oh!" she
would say of him, in her "amusing" way, "Jack keeps himself so
fearfully fit; he's never had a day's illness in his life. He went
right through the War without a finger-ache. You really can't
imagine how fit he is!" Indeed, he was so "fit" that he couldn't see
when she was flirting, which was such a comfort in a way. All the
same she was quite fond of him, so far as one could be of a sports-
machine, and of the two little Cardigans made after his pattern. Her
eyes just then were comparing him maliciously with Prosper Profond.
There was no "small" sport or game which Monsieur Profond had not
played at too, it seemed, from skittles to tarpon-fishing, and worn
out every one. Imogen would sometimes wish that they had worn out
Jack, who continued to play at them and talk of them with the simple
zeal of a school-girl learning hockey; at the age of Great-uncle
Timothy she well knew that Jack would be playing carpet golf in her
bedroom, and "wiping somebody's eye."
He was telling them now how he had "pipped the pro--a charmin'
fellow, playin' a very good game," at the last hole this morning; and
how he had pulled down to Caversham since lunch, and trying to incite
Prosper Profond to play him a set of tennis after tea--do him good-
"keep him fit.
"But what's the use of keepin' fit?" said Monsieur Profond.
"Yes, sir," murmured Michael Mont, "what do you keep fit for?"
"Jack," cried Imogen, enchanted, "what do you keep fit for?"
Jack Cardigan stared with all his health. The questions were like
the buzz of a mosquito, and he put up his hand to wipe them away.
During the War, of course, he had kept fit to kill Germans; now that
it was over he either did not know, or shrank in delicacy from
explanation of his moving principle.
"But he's right," said Monsieur Profond unexpectedly, "there's
nothin' left but keepin' fit."
The saying, too deep for Sunday afternoon, would have passed
unanswered, but for the mercurial nature of young Mont.
"Good!" he cried. "That's the great discovery of the War. We all
thought we were progressing--now we know we're only changing."
"For the worse," said Monsieur Profond genially.
"How you are cheerful, Prosper!" murmured Annette.
"You come and play tennis!" said Jack Cardigan; "you've got the hump.
We'll soon take that down. D'you play, Mr. Mont?"
"I hit the ball about, sir."
At this juncture Soames rose, ruffled in that deep instinct of
preparation for the future which guided his existence.
"When Fleur comes--" he heard Jack Cardigan say.
Ah! and why didn't she come? He passed through drawing-room, hall,
and porch out on to the drive, and stood there listening for the car.
All was still and Sundayfied; the lilacs in full flower scented the
air. There were white clouds, like the feathers of ducks gilded by
the sunlight. Memory of the day when Fleur was born, and he had
waited in such agony with her life and her mother's balanced in his
hands, came to him sharply. He had saved her then, to be the flower
of his life. And now! was she going to give him trouble--pain--give
him trouble? He did not like the look of things! A blackbird broke
in on his reverie with an evening song--a great big fellow up in that
acacia-tree. Soames had taken quite an interest in his birds of late
years; he and Fleur would walk round and watch them; her eyes were
sharp as needles, and she knew every nest. He saw her dog, a
retriever, lying on the drive in a patch of sunlight, and called to
him. "Hallo, old fellow-waiting for her too!" The dog came slowly
with a grudging tail, and Soames mechanically laid a pat on his head.
The dog, the bird, the lilac, all were part of Fleur for him; no
more, no less. 'Too fond of her!' he thought, 'too fond!' He was
like a man uninsured, with his ships at sea. Uninsured again--as in
that other time, so long ago, when he would wander dumb and jealous
in the wilderness of London, longing for that woman--his first wife--
the mother of this infernal boy. Ah! There was the car at last! It
drew up, it had luggage, but no Fleur.
"Miss Fleur is walking up, sir, by the towing-path."
Walking all those miles? Soames stared. The man's face had the
beginning of a smile on it. What was he grinning at? And very
quickly he turned, saying, "All right, Sims!" and went into the
house. He mounted to the picture-gallery once more. He had from
there a view of the river bank, and stood with his eyes fixed on it,
oblivious of the fact that it would be an hour at least before her
figure showed there. Walking up! And that fellow's grin! The boy--!
He turned abruptly from the window. He couldn't spy on her. If she
wanted to keep things from him--she must; he could not spy on her.
His heart felt empty, and bitterness mounted from it into his very
mouth. The staccato shouts of Jack Cardigan pursuing the ball, the
laugh of young Mont rose in the stillness and came in. He hoped they
were making that chap Profond run. And the girl in "La Vendimia"
stood with her arm akimbo arid her dreamy eyes looking past him.
'I've done all I could for you,' he thought, 'since you were no
higher than my knee. You aren't going to--to--hurt me, are you?'
But the Goya copy answered not, brilliant in colour just beginning to
tone down. 'There's no real life in it,' thought Soames. 'Why
doesn't she come?'
Among those four Forsytes of the third, and, as one might say, fourth
generation, at Wansdon under the Downs, a week-end prolonged unto the
ninth day had stretched the crossing threads of tenacity almost to
snapping-point. Never had Fleur been so "fine," Holly so watchful,
Val so stable-secretive, Jon so silent and disturbed. What he
learned of farming in that week might have been balanced on the point
of a penknife and puffed off. He, whose nature was essentially
averse from intrigue, and whose adoration of Fleur disposed him to
think that any need for concealing it was "skittles," chafed and
fretted, yet obeyed, taking what relief he could in the few moments
when they were alone. On Thursday, while they were standing in the
bay window of the drawing-room, dressed for dinner, she said to him:
"Jon, I'm going home on Sunday by the 3.40 from Paddington; if you
were to go home on Saturday you could come up on Sunday and take me
down, and just get back here by the last train, after. You were
going home anyway, weren't you?"
"Anything to be with you," he said; "only why need I pretend--"
Fleur slipped her little finger into his palm:
"You have no instinct, Jon; you must leave things to me. It's
serious about our people. We've simply got to be secret at present,
if we want to be together." The door was opened, and she added
loudly: "You are a duffer, Jon."
Something turned over within Jon; he could not bear this subterfuge
about a feeling so natural, so overwhelming, and so sweet.
On Friday night about eleven he had packed his bag, and was leaning
out of his window, half miserable, and half lost in a dream of
Paddington station, when he heard a tiny sound, as of a finger-nail
tapping on his door. He rushed to it and listened. Again the sound.
It was a nail. He opened. Oh! What a lovely thing came in!
"I wanted to show you my fancy dress," it said, and struck an
attitude at the foot of his bed.
Jon drew a long breath and leaned against the door. The apparition
wore white muslin on its head, a fichu round its bare neck over a
wine-coloured dress, fulled out below its slender waist.
It held one arm akimbo, and the other raised, right-angled, holding a
fan which touched its head.
"This ought to be a basket of grapes," it whispered, "but I haven't
got it here. It's my Goya dress. And this is the attitude in the
picture. Do you like it?"
"It's a dream."
The apparition pirouetted. "Touch it, and see."
Jon knelt down and took the skirt reverently.
"Grape colour," came the whisper, "all grapes--La Vendimia--the
Jon's fingers scarcely touched each side of the waist; he looked up,
with adoring eyes.
"Oh! Jon," it whispered; bent, kissed his forehead, pirouetted again,
and, gliding out, was gone.
Jon stayed on his knees, and his head fell forward against the bed.
How long he stayed like that he did not know. The little noises--of
the tapping nail, the feet, the skirts rustling--as in a dream--went
on about him; and before his closed eyes the figure stood and smiled
and whispered, a faint perfume of narcissus lingering in the air.
And his forehead where it had been kissed had a little cool place
between the brows, like the imprint of a flower. Love filled his
soul, that love of boy for girl which knows so little, hopes so much,
would not brush the down off for the world, and must become in time a
fragrant memory--a searing passion--a humdrum mateship--or, once in
many times, vintage full and sweet with sunset colour on the grapes.
Enough has been said about Jon Forsyte here and in another place to
show what long marches lay between him and his great-great-
grandfather, the first Jolyon, in Dorset down by the sea. Jon was
sensitive as a girl, more sensitive than nine out of ten girls of the
day; imaginative as one of his half-sister June's "lame duck"
painters; affectionate as a son of his father and his mother
naturally would be. And yet, in his inner tissue, there was
something of the old founder of his family, a secret tenacity of
soul, a dread of showing his feelings, a determination not to know
when he was beaten. Sensitive, imaginative, affectionate boys get a
bad time at school, but Jon had instinctively kept his nature dark,
and been but normally unhappy there. Only with his mother had he, up
till then, been absolutely frank and natural; and when he went home
to Robin Hill that Saturday his heart was heavy because Fleur had
said that he must not be frank and natural with her from whom he had
never yet kept anything, must not even tell her that they had met
again, unless he found that she knew already. So intolerable did
this seem to him that he was very near to telegraphing an excuse and
staying up in London. And the first thing his mother said to him
"So you've had our little friend of the confectioner's there, Jon.
What is she like on second thoughts?"
With relief, and a high colour, Jon answered:
"Oh! awfully jolly, Mum."
Her arm pressed his.
Jon had never loved her so much as in that minute which seemed to
falsify Fleur's fears and to release his soul. He turned to look at
her, but something in her smiling face--something which only he
perhaps would have caught--stopped the words bubbling up in him.
Could fear go with a smile? If so, there was fear in her face. And
out of Jon tumbled quite other words, about farming, Holly, and the
Downs. Talking fast, he waited for her to come back to Fleur. But
she did not. Nor did his father mention her, though of course he,
too, must know. What deprivation, and killing of reality was in his
silence about Fleur--when he was so full of her; when his mother was
so full of Jon, and his father so full of his mother! And so the
trio spent the evening of that Saturday.
After dinner his mother played; she seemed to play all the things he
liked best, and he sat with one knee clasped, and his hair standing
up where his fingers had run through it. He gazed at his mother
while she played, but he saw Fleur--Fleur in the moonlit orchard,
Fleur in the sunlit gravel-pit, Fleur in that fancy dress, swaying,
whispering, stooping, kissing his forehead. Once, while he listened,
he forgot himself and glanced at his father in that other easy chair.
What was Dad looking like that for? The expression on his face was
so sad and puzzling. It filled him with a sort of remorse, so that
he got up and went and sat on the arm of his father's chair. From
there he could not see his face; and again he saw Fleur--in his
mother's hands, slim and white on the keys, in the profile of her
face and her powdery hair; and down the long room in the open window
where the May night walked outside.
When he went up to bed his mother came into his room. She stood at
the window, and said:
"Those cypresses your grandfather planted down there have done
wonderfully. I always think they look beautiful under a dropping
moon. I wish you had known your grandfather, Jon."
"Were you married to father when he was alive?" asked Jon suddenly.
"No, dear; he died in '92--very old--eighty-five, I think."
"Is Father like him?"
"A little, but more subtle, and not quite so solid."
"I know, from grandfather's portrait; who painted that?"
"One of June's 'lame ducks.' But it's quite good."
Jon slipped his hand through his mother's arm. "Tell me about the
family quarrel, Mum."
He felt her arm quivering. "No, dear; that's for your Father some
day, if he thinks fit."
"Then it was serious," said Jon, with a catch in his breath.
"Yes." And there was a silence, during which neither knew whether
the arm or the hand within it were quivering most.
"Some people," said Irene softly, "think the moon on her back is
evil; to me she's always lovely. Look at those cypress shadows!
Jon, Father says we may go to Italy, you and I, for two months.
Would you like?"
Jon took his hand from under her arm; his sensation was so sharp and
so confused. Italy with his mother! A fortnight ago it would have
been perfection; now it filled him with dismay; he felt that the
sudden suggestion had to do with Fleur. He stammered out:
"Oh! yes; only--I don't know. Ought I--now I've just begun? I'd
like to think it over."
Her voice answered, cool and gentle:
"Yes, dear; think it over. But better now than when you've begun
farming seriously. Italy with you! It would be nice!"
Jon put his arm round her waist, still slim and firm as a girl's.
"Do you think you ought to leave Father?" he said feebly, feeling
"Father suggested it; he thinks you ought to see Italy at least
before you settle down to anything."
The sense of meanness died in Jon; he knew, yes--he knew--that his
father and his mother were not speaking frankly, no more than he
himself. They wanted to keep him from Fleur. His heart hardened.
And, as if she felt that process going on, his mother said:
"Good-night, darling. Have a good sleep and think it over. But it
would be lovely!"
She pressed him to her so quickly that he did not see her face. Jon
stood feeling exactly as he used to when he was a naughty little boy;
sore because he was not loving, and because he was justified in his
But Irene, after she had stood a moment in her own room, passed
through the dressing-room between it and her husband's.
"He will think it over, Jolyon."
Watching her lips that wore a little drawn smile, Jolyon said
"You had better let me tell him, and have done with it. After all,
Jon has the instincts of a gentleman. He has only to understand--"
"Only! He can't understand; that's impossible."
"I believe I could have at his age."
Irene caught his hand. "You were always more of a realist than Jon;
and never so innocent."
"That's true," said Jolyon. "It's queer, isn't it? You and I would
tell our stories to the world without a particle of shame; but our
own boy stumps us."
"We've never cared whether the world approves or not."
"Jon would not disapprove of us!"
"Oh! Jolyon, yes. He's in love, I feel he's in love. And he'd say:
'My mother once married without love! How could she have!' It'll
seem to him a crime! And so it was!"
Jolyon took her hand, and said with a wry smile:
"Ah! why on earth are we born young? Now, if only we were born old
and grew younger year by year, we should understand how things
happen, and drop all our cursed intolerance. But you know if the boy
is really in love, he won't forget, even if he goes to Italy. We're
a tenacious breed; and he'll know by instinct why he's being sent.
Nothing will really cure him but the shock of being told."
"Let me try, anyway."
Jolyon stood a moment without speaking. Between this devil and this
deep sea--the pain of a dreaded disclosure and the grief of losing
his wife for two months--he secretly hoped for the devil; yet if she
wished for the deep sea he must put up with it. After all, it would
be training for that departure from which there would be no return.
And, taking her in his arms, he kissed her eyes, and said:
"As you will, my love."
That "small" emotion, love, grows amazingly when threatened with
extinction. Jon reached Paddington station half an hour before his
time and a full week after, as it seemed to him. He stood at the
appointed bookstall, amid a crowd of Sunday travellers, in a Harris
tweed suit exhaling, as it were, the emotion of his thumping heart.
He read the names of the novels on the book-stall, and bought one at
last, to avoid being regarded with suspicion by the book-stall clerk.
It was called "The Heart of the Trail!" which must mean something,
though it did not seem to. He also bought "The Lady's Mirror" and
"The Landsman." Every minute was an hour long, and full of horrid
imaginings. After nineteen had passed, he saw her with a bag and a
porter wheeling her luggage. She came swiftly; she came cool. She
greeted him as if he were a brother.
"First class," she said to the porter, "corner seats; opposite."
Jon admired her frightful self-possession.
"Can't we get a carriage to ourselves," he whispered.
"No good; it's a stopping train. After Maidenhead perhaps. Look
Jon screwed his features into a scowl. They got in--with two other
beasts!--oh! heaven! He tipped the porter unnaturally, in his
confusion. The brute deserved nothing for putting them in there, and
looking as if he knew all about it into the bargain.
Fleur hid herself behind "The Lady's Mirror." Jon imitated her
behind "The Landsman." The train started. Fleur let "The Lady's
Mirror" fall and leaned forward.
"Well?" she said.
"It's seemed about fifteen days."
She nodded, and Jon's face lighted up at once.
"Look natural," murmured Fleur, and went off into a bubble of
laughter. It hurt him. How could he look natural with Italy hanging
over him? He had meant to break it to her gently, but now he blurted
"They want me to go to Italy with Mother for two months."
Fleur drooped her eyelids; turned a little pale, and bit her lips.
"Oh!" she said. It was all, but it was much.
That "Oh!" was like the quick drawback of the wrist in fencing ready
for riposte. It came.
"You must go!"
"Go?" said Jon in a strangled voice.
"But--two months--it's ghastly."
"No," said Fleur, "six weeks. You'll have forgotten me by then.
We'll meet in the National Gallery the day after you get back."
"But suppose you've forgotten me," he muttered into the noise of the
Fleur shook her head.
"Some other beast--" murmured Jon.
Her foot touched his.
"No other beast," she said, lifting "The Lady's Mirror."
The train stopped; two passengers got out, and one got in.
'I shall die,' thought Jon, 'if we're not alone at all.'
The train went on; and again Fleur leaned forward.
"I never let go," she said; "do you?"
Jon shook his head vehemently.
"Never!" he said. "Will you write to me?"
"No; but you can--to my Club."
She had a Club; she was wonderful!
"Did you pump Holly?" he muttered.
"Yes, but I got nothing. I didn't dare pump hard."
"What can it be?" cried Jon.
"I shall find out all right."
A long silence followed till Fleur said: "This is Maidenhead; stand
The train stopped. The remaining passenger got out. Fleur drew down
"Quick!" she cried. "Hang out! Look as much of a beast as you can."
Jon blew his nose, and scowled; never in all his life had he scowled
like that! An old lady recoiled, a young one tried the handle. It
turned, but the door would not open. The train moved, the young lady
darted to another carriage.
"What luck!" cried Jon. "It Jammed."
"Yes," said Fleur; "I was holding it."
The train moved out, and Jon fell on his knees.
"Look out for the corridor," she whispered; "and--quick!"
Her lips met his. And though their kiss only lasted perhaps ten
seconds, Jon's soul left his body and went so far beyond, that, when
he was again sitting opposite that demure figure, he was pale as
death. He heard her sigh, and the sound seemed to him the most
precious he had ever heard--an exquisite declaration that he meant
something to her.
"Six weeks isn't really long," she said; "and you can easily make it
six if you keep your head out there, and never seem to think of me."
"This is just what's really wanted, Jon, to convince them, don't you
see? If we're just as bad when you come back they'll stop being
ridiculous about it. Only, I'm sorry it's not Spain; there's a girl
in a Goya picture at Madrid who's like me, Father says. Only she
isn't--we've got a copy of her."
It was to Jon like a ray of sunshine piercing through a fog. "I'll
make it Spain," he said, "Mother won't mind; she's never been there.
And my Father thinks a lot of Goya."
"Oh! yes, he's a painter--isn't he?"
"Only water-colour," said Jon, with honesty.
"When we come to Reading, Jon, get out first and go down to Caversham
lock and wait for me. I'll send the car home and we'll walk by the
Jon seized her hand in gratitude, and they sat silent, with the world
well lost, and one eye on the corridor. But the train seemed to run
twice as fast now, and its sound was almost lost in that of Jon's
"We're getting near," said Fleur; "the towing-path's awfully exposed.
One more! Oh! Jon, don't forget me."
Jon answered with his kiss. And very soon, a flushed, distracted-
looking youth could have been seen--as they say--leaping from the
train and hurrying along the platform, searching his pockets for his
When at last she rejoined him on the towing-path a little beyond
Caversham lock he had made an effort, and regained some measure of
equanimity. If they had to part, he would not make a scene! A
breeze by the bright river threw the white side of the willow leaves
up into the sunlight, and followed those two with its faint rustle.
"I told our chauffeur that I was train-giddy," said Fleur. "Did you
look pretty natural as you went out?"
"I don't know. What is natural?"
"It's natural to you to look seriously happy. When I first saw you I
thought you weren't a bit like other people."
"Exactly what I thought when I saw you. I knew at once I should
never love anybody else."
"We're absurdly young. And love's young dream is out of date, Jon.
Besides, it's awfully wasteful. Think of all the fun you might have.
You haven't begun, even; it's a shame, really. And there's me. I
Confusion came on Jon's spirit. How could she say such things just
as they were going to part?
"If you feel like that," he said, "I can't go. I shall tell Mother
that I ought to try and work. There's always the condition of the
"The condition of the world!"
Jon thrust his hands deep into his pockets.
"But there is," he said; "think of the people starving!"
Fleur shook her head. "No, no, I never, never will make myself
miserable for nothing."
"Nothing! But there's an awful state of things, and of course one
ought to help."
"Oh! yes, I know all that. But you can't help people, Jon; they're
hopeless. When you pull them out they only get into another hole.
Look at them, still fighting and plotting and struggling, though
they're dying in heaps all the time. Idiots!"
"Aren't you sorry for them?"
"Oh! sorry--yes, but I'm not going to make myself unhappy about it;
that's no good."
And they were silent, disturbed by this first glimpse of each other's
"I think people are brutes and idiots," said Fleur stubbornly.
"I think they're poor wretches," said Jon. It was as if they had
quarrelled--and at this supreme and awful moment, with parting
visible out there in that last gap of the willows!
"Well, go and help your poor wretches, and don't think of me."
Jon stood still. Sweat broke out on his forehead, and his limbs
trembled. Fleur too had stopped, and was frowning at the river.
"I must believe in things," said Jon with a sort of agony; "we're all
meant to enjoy life."
Fleur laughed. "Yes; and that's what you won't do, if you don't take
care. But perhaps your idea of enjoyment is to make yourself
wretched. There are lots of people like that, of course."
She was pale, her eyes had darkened, her lips had thinned. Was it
Fleur thus staring at the water? Jon had an unreal feeling as if he
were passing through the scene in a book where the lover has to
choose between love and duty. But just then she looked round at him.
Never was anything so intoxicating as that vivacious look. It acted
on him exactly as the tug of a chain acts on a dog--brought him up to
her with his tail wagging and his tongue out.
"Don't let's be silly," she said, "time's too short. Look, Jon, you
can just see where I've got to cross the river. There, round the
bend, where the woods begin."
Jon saw a gable, a chimney or two, a patch of wall through the trees-
-and felt his heart sink.
"I mustn't dawdle any more. It's no good going beyond the next
hedge, it gets all open. Let's get on to it and say good-bye."
They went side by side, hand in hand, silently toward the hedge,
where the may-flower, both pink and white, was in full bloom.
"My Club's the 'Talisman,' Stratton Street, Piccadilly. Letters
there will be quite safe, and I'm almost always up once a week."
Jon nodded. His face had become extremely set, his eyes stared
straight before him.
"To-day's the twenty-third of May," said Fleur; "on the ninth of July
I shall be in front of the 'Bacchus and Ariadne' at three o'clock;
"If you feel as bad as I it's all right. Let those people pass!"
A man and woman airing their children went by strung out in Sunday
The last of them passed the wicket gate.
"Domesticity!" said Fleur, and blotted herself against the hawthorn
hedge. The blossom sprayed out above her head, and one pink cluster
brushed her cheek. Jon put up his hand jealously to keep it off.
"Good-bye, Jon." For a second they stood with hands hard clasped.
Then their lips met for the third time, and when they parted Fleur
broke away and fled through the wicket gate. Jon stood where she had
left him, with his forehead against that pink cluster. Gone! For an
eternity--for seven weeks all but two days! And here he was, wasting
the last sight of her! He rushed to the gate. She was walking
swiftly on the heels of the straggling children. She turned her
head, he saw her hand make a little flitting gesture; then she sped
on, and the trailing family blotted her out from his view.
The words of a comic song--
"Paddington groan-worst ever known--
He gave a sepulchral Paddington groan--"
came into his head, and he sped incontinently back to Reading
station. All the way up to London and down to Wansdon he sat with
"The Heart of the Trail" open on his knee, knitting in his head a
poem so full of feeling that it would not rhyme.
Fleur sped on. She had need of rapid motion; she was late, and
wanted all her wits about her when she got in. She passed the
islands, the station, and hotel, and was about to take the ferry,
when she saw a skiff with a young man standing up in it, and holding
to the bushes.
"Miss Forsyte," he said; "let me put you across. I've come on
She looked at him in blank amazement.
"It's all right, I've been having tea with your people. I thought
I'd save you the last bit. It's on my way, I'm just off back to
Pangbourne. My name's Mont. I saw you at the picture-gallery--you
remember--when your father invited me to see his pictures."
"Oh!" said Fleur; "yes--the handkerchief."
To this young man she owed Jon; and, taking his hand, she stepped
down into the skiff. Still emotional, and a little out of breath,
she sat silent; not so the young man. She had never heard any one
say so much in so short a time. He told her his age, twenty-four;
his weight, ten stone eleven; his place of residence, not far away;
described his sensations under fire, and what it felt like to be
gassed; criticized the Juno, mentioned his own conception of that
goddess; commented on the Goya copy, said Fleur was not too awfully
like it; sketched in rapidly the condition of England; spoke of
Monsieur Profond--or whatever his name was--as "an awful sport";
thought her father had some "ripping" pictures and some rather "dug-
up"; hoped he might row down again and take her on the river because
he was quite trustworthy; inquired her opinion of Tchekov, gave her
his own; wished they could go to the Russian ballet together some
time--considered the name Fleur Forsyte simply topping; cursed his
people for giving him the name of Michael on the top of Mont;
outlined his father, and said that if she wanted a good book she
should read "Job"; his father was rather like Job while Job still had
"But Job didn't have land," Fleur murmured; "he only had flocks and
herds and moved on."
"Ah!" answered Michael Mont, "I wish my gov'nor would move on. Not
that I want his land. Land's an awful bore in these days, don't you
"We never have it in my family," said Fleur. "We have everything
else. I believe one of my great-uncles once had a sentimental farm
in Dorset, because we came from there originally, but it cost him
more than it made him happy."
"Did he sell it?"
"No; he kept it."
"Because nobody would buy it."
"Good for the old boy!"
"No, it wasn't good for him. Father says it soured him. His name
"What a corking name!"
"Do you know that we're getting farther off, not nearer? This river
"Splendid!" cried Mont, dipping his sculls vaguely; "it's good to
meet a girl who's got wit."
"But better to meet a young man who's got it in the plural."
Young Mont raised a hand to tear his hair.
"Look out!" cried Fleur. "Your scull!"
"All right! It's thick enough to bear a scratch."
"Do you mind sculling?" said Fleur severely. "I want to get in."
"Ah!" said Mont; "but when you get in, you see, I shan't see you any
more to-day. Fini, as the French girl said when she jumped on her
bed after saying her prayers. Don't you bless the day that gave you
a French mother, and a name like yours?"
"I like my name, but Father gave it me. Mother wanted me called
"Which is absurd. Do you mind calling me M. M. and letting me call
you F. F.? It's in the spirit of the age."
"I don't mind anything, so long as I get in."
Mont caught a little crab, and answered: "That was a nasty one!"
"I am." And he did for several strokes, looking at her with rueful
eagerness. "Of course, you know," he ejaculated, pausing, "that I
came to see you, not your father's pictures."
"If you don't row, I shall get out and swim."
"Really and truly? Then I could come in after you."
"Mr. Mont, I'm late and tired; please put me on shore at once."
When she stepped out on to the garden landing-stage he rose, and
grasping his hair with both hands, looked at her.
"Don't!" cried the irrepressible Mont. "I know you're going to say:
'Out, damned hair!'"
Fleur whisked round, threw him a wave of her hand. "Good-bye, Mr.
M.M.!" she called, and was gone among the rose-trees. She looked at
her wrist-watch and the windows of the house. It struck her as
curiously uninhabited. Past six! The pigeons were just gathering to
roost, and sunlight slanted on the dovecot, on their snowy feathers,
and beyond in a shower on the top boughs of the woods. The click of
billiard-balls came from the ingle-nook--Jack Cardigan, no doubt; a
faint rustling, too, from an eucalyptus-tree, startling Southerner in
this old English garden. She reached the verandah and was passing
in, but stopped at the sound of voices from the drawing-room to her
left. Mother! Monsieur Profond! From behind the verandah screen
which fenced the ingle-nook she heard these words:
"I don't, Annette."
Did Father know that he called her mother "Annette"? Always on the
side of her Father--as children are ever on one side or the other in
houses where relations are a little strained--she stood, uncertain.
Her mother was speaking in her low, pleasing, slightly metallic
voice--one word she caught: "Demain." And Profond's answer: "All
right." Fleur frowned. A little sound came out into the stillness.
Then Profond's voice: "I'm takin' a small stroll."
Fleur darted through the window into the morning-room. There he came
from the drawing-room, crossing the verandah, down the lawn; and the
click of billiard-balls which, in listening for other sounds, she had
ceased to hear, began again. She shook herself, passed into the
hall, and opened the drawing-room door. Her mother was sitting on
the sofa between the windows, her knees crossed, her head resting on
a cushion, her lips half parted, her eyes half closed. She looked
"Ah! Here you are, Fleur! Your father is beginning to fuss."
"Where is he?"
"In the picture-gallery. Go up!"
"What are you going to do to-morrow, Mother?"
"To-morrow? I go up to London with your aunt."
"I thought you might be. Will you get me a quite plain parasol?"
"Green. They're all going back, I suppose."
"Yes, all; you will console your father. Kiss me, then."
Fleur crossed the room, stooped, received a kiss on her forehead, and
went out past the impress of a form on the sofa-cushions in the other
corner. She ran up-stairs.
Fleur was by no means the old-fashioned daughter who demands the
regulation of her parents' lives in accordance with the standard
imposed upon herself. She claimed to regulate her own life, not
those of others; besides, an unerring instinct for what was likely to
advantage her own case was already at work. In a disturbed domestic
atmosphere the heart she had set on Jon would have a better chance.
None the less was she offended, as a flower by a crisping wind. If
that man had really been kissing her mother it was--serious, and her
father ought to know. "Demain!" "All right!" And her mother going
up to Town! She turned into her bedroom and hung out of the window
to cool her face, which had suddenly grown very hot. Jon must be at
the station by now! What did her father know about Jon? Probably
She changed her dress, so as to look as if she had been in some time,
and ran up to the gallery.
Soames was standing stubbornly still before his Alfred Stevens--the
picture he loved best. He did not turn at the sound of the door, but
she knew he had heard, and she knew he was hurt. She came up softly
behind him, put her arms round his neck, and poked her face over his
shoulder till her cheek lay against his. It was an advance which had
never yet failed, but it failed her now, and she augured the worst.
"Well," he said stonily, "so you've come!"
"Is that all," murmured Fleur, "from a bad parent?" And she rubbed
her cheek against his.
Soames shook his head so far as that was possible.
"Why do you keep me on tenterhooks like this, putting me off and
"Darling, it was very harmless."
"Harmless! Much you know what's harmless and what isn't."
Fleur dropped her arms.
"Well, then, dear, suppose you tell me; and be quite frank about it."
And she went over to the window-seat.
Her father had turned from his picture, and was staring at his feet.
He looked very grey. 'He has nice small feet,' she thought, catching
his eye, at once averted from her.
"You're my only comfort," said Soames suddenly, "and you go on like
Fleur's heart began to beat.
"Like what, dear?"
Again Soames gave her a look which, but for the affection in it,
might have been called furtive.
"You know what I told you," he said. "I don't choose to have
anything to do with that branch of our family."
"Yes, ducky, but I don't know why I shouldn't."
Soames turned on his heel.
"I'm not going into the reasons," he said; "you ought to trust me,
The way he spoke those words affected Fleur, but she thought of Jon,
and was silent, tapping her foot against the wainscot. Unconsciously
she had assumed a modern attitude, with one leg twisted in and out of
the other, with her chin on one bent wrist, her other arm across her
chest, and its hand hugging her elbow; there was not a line of her
that was not involuted, and yet--in spite of all--she retained a
"You knew my wishes," Soames went on, "and yet you stayed on there
four days. And I suppose that boy came with you to-day."
Fleur kept her eyes on him.
"I don't ask you anything," said Soames; "I make no inquisition where
Fleur suddenly stood up, leaning out at the window with her chin on
her hands. The sun had sunk behind trees, the pigeons were perched,
quite still, on the edge of the dove-cot; the click of the billiard-
balls mounted, and a faint radiance shone out below where Jack
Cardigan had turned the light up.
"Will it make you any happier," she said suddenly, "if I promise you
not to see him for say--the next six weeks?" She was not prepared for
a sort of tremble in the blankness of his voice.
"Six weeks? Six years--sixty years more like. Don't delude
yourself, Fleur; don't delude yourself!"
Fleur turned in alarm.
"Father, what is it?"
Soames came close enough to see her face.
"Don't tell me," he said, "that you're foolish enough to have any
feeling beyond caprice. That would be too much!" And he laughed.
Fleur, who had never heard him laugh like that, thought: 'Then it is
deep! Oh! what is it?' And putting her hand through his arm she
"No, of course; caprice. Only, I like my caprices and I don't like
"Mine!" said Soames bitterly, and turned away.
The light outside had chilled, and threw a chalky whiteness on the
river. The trees had lost all gaiety of colour. She felt a sudden
hunger for Jon's face, for his hands, and the feel of his lips again
on hers. And pressing her arms tight across her breast she forced
out a little light laugh.
"O la! la! What a small fuss! as Profond would say. Father, I don't
like that man."
She saw him stop, and take something out of his breast pocket.
"You don't?" he said. "Why?"
"Nothing," murmured Fleur; "just caprice!"
"No," said Soames; "not caprice!" And he tore what was in his hands
across. "You're right. I don't like him either!"
"Look!" said Fleur softly. "There he goes! I hate his shoes; they
don't make any noise."
Down in the failing light Prosper Profond moved, his hands in his
side pockets, whistling softly in his beard; he stopped, and glanced
up at the sky, as if saying: "I don't think much of that small moon."
Fleur drew back. "Isn't he a great cat?" she whispered; and the
sharp click of the billiard-balls rose, as if Jack Cardigan had
capped the cat, the moon, caprice, and tragedy with: "In off the
Monsieur Profond had resumed his stroll, to a teasing little tune in
his beard. What was it? Oh! yes, from "Rigoletto": "Donna a
mobile." Just what he would think! She squeezed her father's arm.
"Prowling!" she muttered, as he turned the corner of the house. It
was past that disillusioned moment which divides the day and night-
still and lingering and warm, with hawthorn scent and lilac scent
clinging on the riverside air. A blackbird suddenly burst out. Jon
would be in London by now; in the Park perhaps, crossing the
Serpentine, thinking of her! A little sound beside her made her turn
her eyes; her father was again tearing the paper in his hands. Fleur
saw it was a cheque.
"I shan't sell him my Gauguin," he said. "I don't know what your
aunt and Imogen see in him."
"Your mother!" said Soames.
'Poor Father!' she thought. 'He never looks happy--not really happy.
I don't want to make him worse, but of course I shall have to, when
Jon comes back. Oh! well, sufficient unto the night!'
"I'm going to dress," she said.
In her room she had a fancy to put on her "freak" dress. It was of
gold tissue with little trousers of the same, tightly drawn in at the
ankles, a page's cape slung from the shoulders, little gold shoes,
and a gold-winged Mercury helmet; and all over her were tiny gold
bells, especially on the helmet; so that if she shook her head she
pealed. When she was dressed she felt quite sick because Jon could
not see her; it even seemed a pity that the sprightly young man
Michael Mont would not have a view. But the gong had sounded, and
she went down.
She made a sensation in the drawing-room. Winifred thought it "Most
amusing." Imogen was enraptured. Jack Cardigan called it
"stunning," "ripping," "topping," and "corking."
Monsieur Profond, smiling with his eyes, said: "That's a nice small
dress!" Her mother, very handsome in black, sat looking at her, and
said nothing. It remained for her father to apply the test of common
sense. "What did you put on that thing for? You're not going to
Fleur spun round, and the bells pealed.
Soames stared at her, and, turning away, gave his arm to Winifred.
Jack Cardigan took her mother. Prosper Profond took Imogen. Fleur
went in by herself, with her bells jingling....
The "small" moon had soon dropped down, and May night had fallen soft
and warm, enwrapping with its grape-bloom colour and its scents the
billion caprices, intrigues, passions, longings, and regrets of men
and women. Happy was Jack Cardigan who snored into Imogen's white
shoulder, fit as a flea; or Timothy in his "mausoleum," too old for
anything but baby's slumber. For so many lay awake, or dreamed,
teased by the criss-cross of the world.
The dew fell and the flowers closed; cattle grazed on in the river
meadows, feeling with their tongues for the grass they could not see;
and the sheep on the Downs lay quiet as stones. Pheasants in the
tall trees of the Pangbourne woods, larks on their grassy nests above
the gravel-pit at Wansdon, swallows in the eaves at Robin Hill, and
the sparrows of Mayfair, all made a dreamless night of it, soothed by
the lack of wind. The Mayfly filly, hardly accustomed to her new
quarters, scraped at her straw a little; and the few night-flitting
things--bats, moths, owls--were vigorous in the warm darkness; but
the peace of night lay in the brain of all day-time Nature,
colourless and still. Men and women, alone, riding the hobby-horses
of anxiety or love, burned their wavering tapers of dream and thought
into the lonely hours.
Fleur, leaning out of her window, heard the hall clock's muffled
chime of twelve, the tiny splash of a fish, the sudden shaking of an
aspen's leaves in the puffs of breeze that rose along the river, the
distant rumble of a night train, and time and again the sounds which
none can put a name to in the darkness, soft obscure expressions of
uncatalogued emotions from man and beast, bird and machine, or,
maybe, from departed Forsytes, Darties, Cardigans, taking night
strolls back into a world which had once suited their embodied
spirits. But Fleur heeded not these sounds; her spirit, far from
disembodied, fled with swift wing from railway-carriage to flowery
hedge, straining after Jon, tenacious of his forbidden image, and the
sound of his voice, which was taboo. And she crinkled her nose,
retrieving from the perfume of the riverside night that moment when
his hand slipped between the mayflowers and her cheek. Long she
leaned out in her freak dress, keen to burn her wings at life's
candle; while the moths brushed her cheeks on their pilgrimage to the
lamp on her dressing-table, ignorant that in a Forsyte's house there
is no open flame. But at last even she felt sleepy, and, forgetting
her bells, drew quickly in.
Through the open window of his room, alongside Annette's, Soames,
wakeful too, heard their thin faint tinkle, as it might be shaken
from stars, or the dewdrops falling from a flower, if one could hear
'Caprice!' he thought. 'I can't tell. She's wilful. What shall I
And long into the "small" night he brooded.
MOTHER AND SON
To say that Jon Forsyte accompanied his mother to Spain unwillingly
would scarcely have been adequate. He went as a well-natured dog
goes for a walk with its mistress, leaving a choice mutton-bone on
the lawn. He went looking back at it. Forsytes deprived of their
mutton-bones are wont to sulk. But Jon had little sulkiness in his
composition. He adored his mother, and it was his first travel.
Spain had become Italy by his simply saying: "I'd rather go to Spain,
Mum; you've been to Italy so many times; I'd like it new to both of
The fellow was subtle besides being naive. He never forgot that he
was going to shorten the proposed two months into six weeks, and must
therefore show no sign of wishing to do so. For one with so enticing
a mutton-bone and so fixed an idea, he made a good enough travelling
companion, indifferent to where or when he arrived, superior to food,
and thoroughly appreciative of a country strange to the most
travelled Englishman. Fleur's wisdom in refusing to write to him was
profound, for he reached each new place entirely without hope or
fever, and could concentrate immediate attention on the donkeys and
tumbling bells, the priests, patios, beggars, children, crowing
cocks, sombreros, cactus-hedges, old high white villages, goats,
olive-trees, greening plains, singing birds in tiny cages,
watersellers, sunsets, melons, mules, great churches, pictures, and
swimming grey-brown mountains of a fascinating land.
It was already hot, and they enjoyed an absence of their compatriots.
Jon, who, so far as he knew, had no blood in him which was not
English, was often innately unhappy in the presence of his own
countrymen. He felt they had no nonsense about them, and took a more
practical view of things than himself. He confided to his mother
that he must be an unsociable beast--it was jolly to be away from
everybody who could talk about the things people did talk about. To
which Irene had replied simply:
"Yes, Jon, I know."
In this isolation he had unparalleled opportunities of appreciating
what few sons can apprehend, the whole-heartedness of a mother's
love. Knowledge of something kept from her made him, no doubt,
unduly sensitive; and a Southern people stimulated his admiration for
her type of beauty, which he had been accustomed to hear called
Spanish, but which he now perceived to be no such thing. Her beauty
was neither English, French, Spanish, nor Italian--it was special!
He appreciated, too, as never before, his mother's subtlety of
instinct. He could not tell, for instance, whether she had noticed
his absorption in that Goya picture, "La Vendimia," or whether she
knew that he had slipped back there after lunch and again next
morning, to stand before it full half an hour, a second and third
time. It was not Fleur, of course, but like enough to give him
heartache--so dear to lovers--remembering her standing at the foot of
his bed with her hand held above her head. To keep a postcard
reproduction of this picture in his pocket and slip it out to look at
became for Jon one of those bad habits which soon or late disclose
themselves to eyes sharpened by love, fear, or jealousy. And his
mother's were sharpened by all three. In Granada he was fairly
caught, sitting on a sun-warmed stone bench in a little battlemented
garden on the Alhambra hill, whence he ought to have been looking at
the view. His mother, he had thought, was examining the potted
stocks between the polled acacias, when her voice said:
"Is that your favourite Goya, Jon?"
He checked, too late, a movement such as he might have made at school
to conceal some surreptitious document, and answered: "Yes."
"It certainly is most charming; but I think I prefer the 'Quitasol'
Your father would go crazy about Goya; I don't believe he saw them
when he was in Spain in '92."
In '92--nine years before he had been born! What had been the
previous existences of his father and his mother? If they had a
right to share in his future, surely he had a right to share in their
pasts. He looked up at her. But something in her face--a look of
life hard-lived, the mysterious impress of emotions, experience, and
suffering-seemed, with its incalculable depth, its purchased
sanctity, to make curiosity impertinent. His mother must have had a
wonderfully interesting life; she was so beautiful, and so--so--but
he could not frame what he felt about her. He got up, and stood
gazing down at the town, at the plain all green with crops, and the
ring of mountains glamorous in sinking sunlight. Her life was like
the past of this old Moorish city, full, deep, remote--his own life
as yet such a baby of a thing, hopelessly ignorant and innocent!
They said that in those mountains to the West, which rose sheer from
the blue-green plain, as if out of a sea, Phoenicians had dwelt--a
dark, strange, secret race, above the land! His mother's life was as
unknown to him, as secret, as that Phoenician past was to the town
down there, whose cocks crowed and whose children played and
clamoured so gaily, day in, day out. He felt aggrieved that she
should know all about him and he nothing about her except that she
loved him and his father, and was beautiful. His callow ignorance--
he had not even had the advantage of the War, like nearly everybody
else!--made him small in his own eyes.
That night, from the balcony of his bedroom, he gazed down on the
roof of the town--as if inlaid with honeycomb of jet, ivory, and
gold; and, long after, he lay awake, listening to the cry of the
sentry as the hours struck, and forming in his head these lines:
"Voice in the night crying, down in the old sleeping
Spanish city darkened under her white stars!
"What says the voice-its clear-lingering anguish?
Just the watchman, telling his dateless tale of safety?
Just a road-man, flinging to the moon his song?
"No! Tis one deprived, whose lover's heart is weeping,
Just his cry: 'How long?'"
The word "deprived" seemed to him cold and unsatisfactory, but
"bereaved" was too final, and no other word of two syllables short-
long came to him, which would enable him to keep "whose lover's heart
is weeping." It was past two by the time he had finished it, and
past three before he went to sleep, having said it over to himself at
least twenty-four times. Next day he wrote it out and enclosed it in
one of those letters to Fleur which he always finished before he went
down, so as to have his mind free and companionable.
About noon that same day, on the tiled terrace of their hotel, he
felt a sudden dull pain in the back of his head, a queer sensation in
the eyes, and sickness. The sun had touched him too affectionately.
The next three days were passed in semi-darkness, and a dulled,
aching indifference to all except the feel of ice on his forehead and
his mother's smile. She never moved from his room, never relaxed her
noiseless vigilance, which seemed to Jon angelic. But there were
moments when he was extremely sorry for himself, and wished terribly
that Fleur could see him. Several times he took a poignant imaginary
leave of her and of the earth, tears oozing out of his eyes. He even
prepared the message he would send to her by his mother--who would
regret to her dying day that she had ever sought to separate them--
his poor mother! He was not slow, however, in perceiving that he had
now his excuse for going home.
Toward half-past six each evening came a "gasgacha" of bells--a
cascade of tumbling chimes, mounting from the city below and falling
back chime on chime. After listening to them on the fourth day he
"I'd like to be back in England, Mum, the sun's too hot."
"Very well, darling. As soon as you're fit to travel" And at once
he felt better, and--meaner.
They had been out five weeks when they turned toward home. Jon's
head was restored to its pristine clarity, but he was confined to a
hat lined by his mother with many layers of orange and green silk and
he still walked from choice in the shade. As the long struggle of
discretion between them drew to its close, he wondered more and more
whether she could see his eagerness to get back to that which she had
brought him away from. Condemned by Spanish Providence to spend a
day in Madrid between their trains, it was but natural to go again to
the Prado. Jon was elaborately casual this time before his Goya
girl. Now that he was going back to her, he could afford a lesser
scrutiny. It was his mother who lingered before the picture, saying:
"The face and the figure of the girl are exquisite."
Jon heard her uneasily. Did she understand? But he felt once more
that he was no match for her in self-control and subtlety. She
could, in some supersensitive way, of which he had not the secret,
feel the pulse of his thoughts; she knew by instinct what he hoped
and feared and wished. It made him terribly uncomfortable and
guilty, having, beyond most boys, a conscience. He wished she would
be frank with him, he almost hoped for an open struggle. But none
came, and steadily, silently, they travelled north. Thus did he
first learn how much better than men women play a waiting game. In
Paris they had again to pause for a day. Jon was grieved because it
lasted two, owing to certain matters in connection with a dressmaker;
as if his mother, who looked beautiful in anything, had any need of
dresses! The happiest moment of his travel was that when he stepped
on to the Folkestone boat.
Standing by the bulwark rail, with her arm in his, she said
"I'm afraid you haven't enjoyed it much, Jon. But you've been very
sweet to me."
Jon squeezed her arm.
"Oh I yes, I've enjoyed it awfully-except for my head lately."
And now that the end had come, he really had, feeling a sort of
glamour over the past weeks--a kind of painful pleasure, such as he
had tried to screw into those lines about the voice in the night
crying; a feeling such as he had known as a small boy listening
avidly to Chopin, yet wanting to cry. And he wondered why it was
that he couldn't say to her quite simply what she had said to him:
"You were very sweet to me." Odd--one never could be nice and
natural like that! He substituted the words: "I expect we shall be
They were, and reached London somewhat attenuated, having been away
six weeks and two days, without a single allusion to the subject
which had hardly ever ceased to occupy their minds.
FATHERS AND DAUGHTERS
Deprived of his wife and son by the Spanish adventure, Jolyon found
the solitude at Robin Hill intolerable. A philosopher when he has
all that he wants is different from a philosopher when he has not.
Accustomed, however, to the idea, if not to the reality of
resignation, he would perhaps have faced it out but for his daughter
June. He was a "lame duck" now, and on her conscience. Having
achieved--momentarily--the rescue of an etcher in low circumstances,
which she happened to have in hand, she appeared at Robin Hill a
fortnight after Irene and Jon had gone. June was living now in a
tiny house with a big studio at Chiswick. A Forsyte of the best
period, so far as the lack of responsibility was concerned, she had
overcome the difficulty of a reduced income in a manner satisfactory
to herself and her father. The rent of the Gallery off Cork Street
which he had bought for her and her increased income tax happening to
balance, it had been quite simpl--she no longer paid him the rent.
The Gallery might be expected now at any time, after eighteen years
of barren usufruct, to pay its way, so that she was sure her father
would not feel it. Through this device she still had twelve hundred
a year, and by reducing what she ate, and, in place of two Belgians
in a poor way, employing one Austrian in a poorer, practically the
same surplus for the relief of genius. After three days at Robin
Hill she carried her father back with her to Town. In those three
days she had stumbled on the secret he had kept for two years, and
had instantly decided to cure him. She knew, in fact, the very man.
He had done wonders with. Paul Post--that painter a little in
advance of Futurism; and she was impatient with her father because
his eyebrows would go up, and because he had heard of neither. Of
course, if he hadn't "faith" he would never get well! It was absurd
not to have faith in the man who had healed Paul Post so that he had
only just relapsed, from having overworked, or overlived, himself
again. The great thing about this healer was that he relied on
Nature. He had made a special study of the symptoms of Nature--when
his patient failed in any natural symptom he supplied the poison
which caused it--and there you were! She was extremely hopeful. Her
father had clearly not been living a natural life at Robin Hill, and
she intended to provide the symptoms. He was--she felt--out of touch
with the times, which was not natural; his heart wanted stimulating.
In the little Chiswick house she and the Austrian--a grateful soul,
so devoted to June for rescuing her that she was in danger of decease
from overwork--stimulated Jolyon in all sorts of ways, preparing him
for his cure. But they could not keep his eyebrows down; as, for
example, when the Austrian woke him at eight o'clock just as he was
going to sleep, or June took The Times away from him, because it was
unnatural to read "that stuff" when he ought to be taking an interest
in "life." He never failed, indeed, to be astonished at her
resource, especially in the evenings. For his benefit, as she
declared, though he suspected that she also got something out of it,
she assembled the Age so far as it was satellite to genius; and with
some solemnity it would move up and down the studio before him in the
Fox-trot, and that more mental form of dancing--the One-step--which
so pulled against the music, that Jolyon's eyebrows would be almost
lost in his hair from wonder at the strain it must impose on the
dancer's will-power. Aware that, hung on the line in the Water
Colour Society, he was a back number to those with any pretension to
be called artists, he would sit in the darkest corner he could find,
and wonder about rhythm, on which so long ago he had been raised.
And when June brought some girl or young man up to him, he would rise
humbly to their level so far as that was possible, and think: 'Dear
me! This is very dull for them!' Having his father's perennial
sympathy with Youth, he used to get very tired from entering into
their points of view. But it was all stimulating, and he never
failed in admiration of his daughter's indomitable spirit. Even
genius itself attended these gatherings now and then, with its nose
on one side; and June always introduced it to her father. This, she
felt, was exceptionally good for him, for genius was a natural
symptom he had never had--fond as she was of him.
Certain as a man can be that she was his own daughter, he often
wondered whence she got herself--her red-gold hair, now greyed into a
special colour; her direct, spirited face, so different from his own
rather folded and subtilised countenance, her little lithe figure,
when he and most of the Forsytes were tall. And he would dwell on
the origin of species, and debate whether she might be Danish or
Celtic. Celtic, he thought, from her pugnacity, and her taste in
fillets and djibbahs. It was not too much to say that he preferred
her to the Age with which she was surrounded, youthful though, for
the greater part, it was. She took, however, too much interest in
his teeth, for he still had some of those natural symptoms. Her
dentist at once found "Staphylococcus aureus present in pure culture"
(which might cause boils, of course), and wanted to take out all the
teeth he had and supply him with two complete sets of unnatural
symptoms. Jolyon's native tenacity was roused, and in the studio
that evening he developed his objections. He had never had any
boils, and his own teeth would last his time. Of course--June
admitted--they would last his time if he didn't have them out! But
if he had more teeth he would have a better heart and his time would
be longer. His recalcitrance--she said--was a symptom of his whole
attitude; he was taking it lying down. He ought to be fighting.
When was he going to see the man who had cured Paul Post? Jolyon was
very sorry, but the fact was he was not going to see him. June
chafed. Pondridge--she said--the healer, was such a fine man, and he
had such difficulty in making two ends meet, and getting his theories
recognised. It was just such indifference and prejudice as her
father manifested which was keeping him back. It would be so
splendid for both of them!
"I perceive," said Jolyon, "that you are trying to kill two birds
with one stone."
"To cure, you mean!" cried June.
"My dear, it's the same thing."
June protested. It was unfair to say that without a trial.
Jolyon thought he might not have the chance, of saying it after.
"Dad!" cried June, "you're hopeless."
"That," said Jolyon, "is a fact, but I wish to remain hopeless as
long as possible. I shall let sleeping dogs lie, my child. They are
quiet at present."
"That's not giving science a chance," cried June. "You've no idea
how devoted Pondridge is. He puts his science before everything."
"Just," replied Jolyon, puffing the mild cigarette to which he was
reduced, "as Mr. Paul Post puts his art, eh? Art for Art's sake--
Science for the sake of Science. I know those enthusiastic egomaniac
gentry. They vivisect you without blinking. I'm enough of a Forsyte
to give them the go-by, June."
"Dad," said June, "if you only knew how old-fashioned that sounds!
Nobody can afford to be half-hearted nowadays."
"I'm afraid," murmured Jolyon, with his smile, "that's the only
natural symptom with which Mr. Pondridge need not supply me. We are
born to be extreme or to be moderate, my dear; though, if you'll
forgive my saying so, half the people nowadays who believe they're
extreme are really very moderate. I'm getting on as well as I can
expect, and I must leave it at that."
June was silent, having experienced in her time the inexorable
character of her father's amiable obstinacy so far as his own freedom
of action was concerned.
How he came to let her know why Irene had taken Jon to Spain puzzled
Jolyon, for he had little confidence in her discretion. After she
had brooded on the news, it brought a rather sharp discussion, during
which he perceived to the full the fundamental opposition between her
active temperament and his wife's passivity. He even gathered that a
little soreness still remained from that generation-old struggle
between them over the body of Philip Bosinney, in which the passive
had so signally triumphed over the active principle.
According to June, it was foolish and even cowardly to hide the past
from Jon. Sheer opportunism, she called it.
"Which," Jolyon put in mildly, "is the working principle of real
life, my dear."
"Oh!" cried June, "you don't really defend her for not telling Jon,
Dad. If it were left to you, you would."
"I might, but simply because I know he must find out, which will be
worse than if we told him."
"Then why don't you tell him? It's just sleeping dogs again."
"My dear," said Jolyon, "I wouldn't for the world go against Irene's
instinct. He's her boy."
"Yours too," cried June.
"What is a man's instinct compared with a mother's?"
"Well, I think it's very weak of you."
"I dare say," said Jolyon, "I dare say."
And that was all she got from him; but the matter rankled in her
brain. She could not bear sleeping dogs. And there stirred in her a
tortuous impulse to push the matter toward decision. Jon ought to be
told, so that either his feeling might be nipped in the bud, or,
flowering in spite of the past, come to fruition. And she determined
to see Fleur, and judge for herself. When June determined on
anything, delicacy became a somewhat minor consideration. After all,
she was Soames' cousin, and they were both interested in pictures.
She would go and tell him that he ought to buy a Paul Post, or
perhaps a piece of sculpture by Boris Strumolowski, and of course she
would say nothing to her father. She went on the following Sunday,
looking so determined that she had some difficulty in getting a cab
at Reading station. The river country was lovely in those days of
her own month, and June ached at its loveliness. She who had passed
through this life without knowing what union was had a love of
natural beauty which was almost madness. And when she came to that
choice spot where Soames had pitched his tent, she dismissed her cab,
because, business over, she wanted to revel in the bright water and
the woods. She appeared at his front door, therefore, as a mere
pedestrian, and sent in her card. It was in June's character to know
that when her nerves were fluttering she was doing something worth
while. If one's nerves did not flutter, she was taking the line of
least resistance, and knew that nobleness was not obliging her. She
was conducted to a drawing-room, which, though not in her style,
showed every mark of fastidious elegance. Thinking, 'Too much taste-
-too many knick-knacks,' she saw in an old lacquer-framed mirror the
figure of a girl coming in from the verandah. Clothed in white, and
holding some white roses in her hand, she had, reflected in that
silvery-grey pool of glass, a vision-like appearance, as if a pretty
ghost had come out of the green garden.
"How do you do?" said June, turning round. "I'm a cousin of your
"Oh, yes; I saw you in that confectioner's."
"With my young stepbrother. Is your father in?"
"He will be directly. He's only gone for a little walk."
June slightly narrowed her blue eyes, and lifted her decided chin.
"Your name's Fleur, isn't it? I've heard of you from Holly. What do
you think of Jon?"
The girl lifted the roses in her hand, looked at them, and answered
"He's quite a nice boy."
"Not a bit like Holly or me, is he?"
"Not a bit."
'She's cool,' thought June.
And suddenly the girl said: "I wish you'd tell me why our families
don't get on?"
Confronted with the question she had advised her father to answer,
June was silent; whether because this girl was trying to get
something out of her, or simply because what one would do
theoretically is not always what one will do when
it comes to the point.
"You know," said the girl, "the surest way to make people find out
the worst is to keep them ignorant. My father's told me it was a
quarrel about property. But I don't believe it; we've both got
heaps. They wouldn't have been so bourgeois as all that."
June flushed. The word applied to her grandfather and father
"My grandfather," she said, "was very generous, and my father is,
too; neither of them was in the least bourgeois."
"Well, what was it then?" repeated the girl: Conscious that this
young Forsyte meant having what she wanted, June at once determined
to prevent her, and to get something for herself instead.
"Why do you want to know?"
The girl smelled at her roses. "I only want to know because they
won't tell me."
"Well, it was about property, but there's more than one kind."
"That makes it worse. Now I really must know."
June's small and resolute face quivered. She was wearing a round
cap, and her hair had fluffed out under it. She looked quite young
at that moment, rejuvenated by encounter.
"You know," she said, "I saw you drop your handkerchief. Is there
anything between you and Jon? Because, if so, you'd better drop that
The girl grew paler, but she smiled.
"If there were, that isn't the way to make me."
At the gallantry of that reply, June held out her hand.
"I like you; but I don't like your father; I never have. We may as
well be frank."
"Did you come down to tell him that?"
June laughed. "No; I came down to see you."
"How delightful of you."
This girl could fence.
"I'm two and a half times your age," said June, "but I quite
sympathize. It's horrid not to have one's own way."
The girl smiled again. "I really think you might tell me."
How the child stuck to her point
"It's not my secret. But I'll see what I can do, because I think
both you and Jon ought to be told. And now I'll say good-bye."
"Won't you wait and see Father?"
June shook her head. "How can I get over to the other side?"
"I'll row you across."
"Look!" said June impulsively, "next time you're in London, come and
see me. This is where I live. I generally have young people in the
evening. But I shouldn't tell your father that you're coming."
The girl nodded.
Watching her scull the skiff across, June thought: 'She's awfully
pretty and well made. I never thought Soames would have a daughter
as pretty as this. She and Jon would make a lovely couple.
The instinct to couple, starved within herself, was always at work
in June. She stood watching Fleur row back; the girl took her hand
off a scull to wave farewell, and June walked languidly on between
the meadows and the river, with an ache in her heart. Youth to
youth, like the dragon-flies chasing each other, and love like the
sun warming them through and through. Her youth! So long ago--when
Phil and she--And since? Nothing--no one had been quite what she had
wanted. And so she had missed it all. But what a coil was round
those two young things, if they really were in love, as Holly would
have it--as her father, and Irene, and Soames himself seemed to
dread. What a coil, and what a barrier! And the itch for the
future, the contempt, as it were, for what was overpast, which forms
the active principle, moved in the heart of one who ever believed
that what one wanted was more important than what other people did
not want. From the bank, awhile, in the warm summer stillness, she
watched the water-lily plants and willow leaves, the fishes rising;
sniffed the scent of grass and meadow-sweet, wondering how she could
force everybody to be happy. Jon and Fleur! Two little lame ducks--
charming callow yellow little ducks! A great pity! Surely something
could be done! One must not take such situations lying down. She
walked on, and reached a station, hot and cross.
That evening, faithful to the impulse toward direct action, which
made many people avoid her, she said to her father:
"Dad, I've been down to see young Fleur. I think she's very
attractive. It's no good hiding our heads under our wings, is it?"
The startled Jolyon set down his barley-water, and began crumbling
"It's what you appear to be doing," he said. "Do you realise whose
daughter she is?"
"Can't the dead past bury its dead?"
"Certain things can never be buried."
"I disagree," said June. "It's that which stands in the way of all
happiness and progress. You don't understand the Age, Dad. It's got
no use for outgrown things. Why do you think it matters so terribly
that Jon should know about his mother? Who pays any attention to
that sort of thing now? The marriage laws are just as they were when
Soames and Irene couldn't get a divorce, and you had to come in.
We've moved, and they haven't. So nobody cares. Marriage without a
decent chance of relief is only a sort of slave-owning; people
oughtn't to own each other. Everybody sees that now. If Irene broke
such laws, what does it matter?"
"It's not for me to disagree there," said Jolyon; "but that's all
quite beside the mark. This is a matter of human feeling."
"Of course it is," cried June, "the human feeling of those two young
"My dear," said Jolyon with gentle exasperation; "you're talking
"I'm not. If they prove to be really fond of each other, why should
they be made unhappy because of the past?"
"You haven't lived that past. I have--through the feelings of my
wife; through my own nerves and my imagination, as only one who is
June, too, rose, and began to wander restlessly.
"If," she said suddenly, "she were the daughter of Philip Bosinney, I
could understand you better. Irene loved him, she never loved
Jolyon uttered a deep sound-the sort of noise an Italian peasant
woman utters to her mule. His heart had begun beating furiously, but
he paid no attention to it, quite carried away by his feelings.
"That shows how little you understand. Neither I nor Jon, if I know
him, would mind a love-past. It's the brutality of a union without
love. This girl is the daughter of the man who once owned Jon's
mother as a negro-slave was owned. You can't lay that ghost; don't
try to, June! It's asking us to see Jon joined to the flesh and
blood of the man who possessed Jon's mother against her will. It's
no good mincing words; I want it clear once for all. And now I
mustn't talk any more, or I shall have to sit up with this all
night." And, putting his hand over his heart, Jolyon turned his back
on his daughter and stood looking at the river Thames.
June, who by nature never saw a hornet's nest until she had put her
head into it, was seriously alarmed. She came and slipped her arm
through his. Not convinced that he was right, and she herself wrong,
because that was not natural to her, she was yet profoundly impressed
by the obvious fact that the subject was very bad for him. She
rubbed her cheek against his shoulder, and said nothing.
After taking her elderly cousin across, Fleur did not land at once,
but pulled in among the reeds, into the sunshine. The peaceful
beauty of the afternoon seduced for a little one not much given to
the vague and poetic. In the field beyond the bank where her skiff
lay up, a machine drawn by a grey horse was turning an early field of
hay. She watched the grass cascading over and behind the light
wheels with fascination--it looked so cool and fresh. The click and
swish blended with the rustle of the willows and the poplars, and the
cooing of a wood-pigeon, in a true river song. Alongside, in the
deep green water, weeds, like yellow snakes, were writhing and nosing
with the current; pied cattle on the farther side stood in the shade
lazily swishing their tails. It was an afternoon to dream. And she
took out Jon's letters--not flowery effusions, but haunted in their
recital of things seen and done by a longing very agreeable to her,
and all ending "Your devoted J." Fleur was not sentimental, her
desires were ever concrete and concentrated, but what poetry there
was in the daughter of Soames and Annette had certainly in those
weeks of waiting gathered round her memories of Jon. They all
belonged to grass and blossom, flowers and running water. She
enjoyed him in the scents absorbed by her crinkling nose. The stars
could persuade her that she was standing beside him in the centre of
the map of Spain; and of an early morning the dewy cobwebs, the hazy
sparkle and promise of the day down in the garden, were Jon
personified to her.
Two white swans came majestically by, while she was reading his
letters, followed by their brood of six young swans in a line, with
just so much water between each tail and head, a flotilla of grey
destroyers. Fleur thrust her letters back, got out her sculls, and
pulled up to the landing-stage. Crossing the lawn, she wondered
whether she should tell her father of June's visit. If he learned of
it from the butler, he might think it odd if she did not. It gave
her, too, another chance to startle out of him the reason of the
feud. She went, therefore, up the road to meet him.
Soames had gone to look at a patch of ground on which the Local
Authorities were proposing to erect a Sanatorium for people with weak
lungs. Faithful to his native individualism, he took no part in
local affairs, content to pay the rates which were always going up.
He could not, however, remain indifferent to this new and dangerous
scheme. The site was not half a mile from his own house. He was
quite of opinion that the country should stamp out tuberculosis; but
this was not the place. It should be done farther away. He took,
indeed, an attitude common to all true Forsytes, that disability of
any sort in other people was not his affair, and the State should do
its business without prejudicing in any way the natural advantages
which he had acquired or inherited. Francie, the most free-spirited
Forsyte of his generation (except perhaps that fellow Jolyon) had
once asked him in her malicious way: "Did you ever see the name
Forsyte in a subscription list, Soames? "That was as it might be,
but a Sanatorium would depreciate the neighbourhood, and he should
certainly sign the petition which was being got up against it.
Returning with this decision fresh within him, he saw Fleur coming.
She was showing him more affection of late, and the quiet time down
here with her in this summer weather had been making him feel quite
young; Annette was always running up to Town for one thing or
another, so that he had Fleur to himself almost as much as he could
wish. To be sure, young Mont had formed a habit of appearing on his
motor-cycle almost every other day. Thank goodness, the young fellow
had shaved off his half-toothbrushes, and no longer looked like a
mountebank! With a girl friend of Fleur's who was staying in the
house, and a neighbouring youth or so, they made two couples after
dinner, in the hall, to the music of the electric pianola, which
performed Fox-trots unassisted, with a surprised shine on its
expressive surface. Annette, even, now and then passed gracefully up
and down in the arms of one or other of the young men. And Soames,
coming to the drawing-room door, would lift his nose a little
sideways, and watch them, waiting to catch a smile from Fleur; then
move back to his chair by the drawing-room hearth, to peruse The
Times or some other collector's price list. To his ever-anxious eyes
Fleur showed no signs of remembering that caprice of hers.
When she reached him on the dusty road, he slipped his hand within
"Who, do you think, has been to see you, Dad? She couldn't wait!
"I never guess," said Soames uneasily. "Who?"
"Your cousin, June Forsyte."
Quite unconsciously Soames gripped her arm. "What did she want?"
"I don't know. But it was rather breaking through the feud, wasn't
"Feud? What feud?"
"The one that exists in your imagination, dear."
Soames dropped her arm. Was she mocking, or trying to draw him on?
"I suppose she wanted me to buy a picture," he said at last.
"I don't think so. Perhaps it was just family affection."
"She's only a first cousin once removed," muttered Soames.
"And the daughter of your enemy."
"What d'you mean by that?"
"I beg your pardon, dear; I thought he was."
"Enemy!" repeated Soames. "It's ancient history. I don't know where
you get your notions."
"From June Forsyte."
It had come to her as an inspiration that if he thought she knew, or
were on the edge of knowledge, he would tell her.
Soames was startled, but she had underrated his caution and tenacity.
"If you know," he said coldly, "why do you plague me?"
Fleur saw that she had overreached herself.
"I don't want to plague you, darling. As you say, why want to know
more? Why want to know anything of that 'small' mystery--Je m'en
fiche, as Profond says?"
"That chap!" said Soames profoundly.
That chap, indeed, played a considerable, if invisible, part this
summer--for he had not turned up again. Ever since the Sunday when
Fleur had drawn attention to him prowling on the lawn, Soames had
thought of him a good deal, and always in connection with Annette,
for no reason, except that she was looking handsomer than for some
time past. His possessive instinct, subtle, less formal, more
elastic since the War, kept all misgiving underground. As one looks
on some American river, quiet and pleasant, knowing that an alligator
perhaps is lying in the mud with his snout just raised and
indistinguishable from a snag of wood--so Soames looked on the river
of his own existence, subconscious of Monsieur Profond, refusing to
see more than the suspicion of his snout. He had at this epoch in
his life practically all he wanted, and was as nearly happy as his
nature would permit. His senses were at rest; his affections found
all the vent they needed in his daughter; his collection was well
known, his money well invested; his health excellent, save for a
touch of liver now and again; he had not yet begun to worry seriously
about what would happen after death, inclining to think that nothing
would happen. He resembled one of his own gilt-edged securities, and
to knock the gilt off by seeing anything he could avoid seeing would
be, he felt instinctively, perverse and retrogressive. Those two
crumpled rose-leaves, Fleur's caprice and Monsieur Profond's snout,
would level away if he lay on them industriously.
That evening Chance, which visits the lives of even the best-invested
Forsytes, put a clue into Fleur's hands. Her father came down to
dinner without a handkerchief, and had occasion to blow his nose.
"I'll get you one, dear," she had said, and ran upstairs. In the
sachet where she sought for it--an old sachet of very faded silk--
there were two compartments: one held handkerchiefs; the other was
buttoned, and contained something flat and hard. By some childish
impulse Fleur unbuttoned it. There was a frame and in it a
photograph of herself as a little girl. She gazed at it, fascinated,
as one is by one's own presentment. It slipped under her fidgeting
thumb, and she saw that another photograph was behind. She pressed
her own down further, and perceived a face, which she seemed to know,
of a young woman, very good-looking, in a very old style of evening
dress. Slipping her own photograph up over it again, she took out a
handkerchief and went down. Only on the stairs did she identify that
face. Surely--surely Jon's mother! The conviction came as a shock.
And she stood still in a flurry of thought. Why, of course! Jon's
father had married the woman her father had wanted to marry, had
cheated him out of her, perhaps. Then, afraid of showing by her
manner that she had lighted on his secret, she refused to think
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