Indian Summer of a Forsyte and In Chancery
Part 3 out of 7
A shrug moved Jolyon's shoulders.
"I don't know at all. I imagine you may have both lived as if the
other were dead. It's usual in these cases."
Soames turned to the window. A few early fallen oak-leaves strewed
the terrace already, and were rolling round in the wind. Jolyon
saw the figures of Holly and Val Dartie moving across the lawn
towards the stables. 'I'm not going to run with the hare and hunt
with the hounds,' he thought. 'I must act for her. The Dad would
have wished that.' And for a swift moment he seemed to see his
father's figure in the old armchair, just beyond Soames, sitting
with knees crossed, The Times in his hand. It vanished.
"My father was fond of her," he said quietly.
"Why he should have been I don't know," Soames answered without
looking round. "She brought trouble to your daughter June; she
brought trouble to everyone. I gave her all she wanted. I would
have given her even--forgiveness--but she chose to leave me."
In Jolyon compassion was checked by the tone of that close voice.
What was there in the fellow that made it so difficult to be sorry
"I can go and see her, if you like," he said. "I suppose she might
be glad of a divorce, but I know nothing."
"Yes, please go. As I say, I know her address; but I've no wish to
see her." His tongue was busy with his lips, as if they were very
"You'll have some tea?" said Jolyon, stifling the words: 'And see
the house.' And he led the way into the hall. When he had rung
the bell and ordered tea, he went to his easel to turn his drawing
to the wall. He could not bear, somehow, that his work should be
seen by Soames, who was standing there in the middle of the great
room which had been designed expressly to afford wall space for his
own pictures. In his cousin's face, with its unseizable family
likeness to himself, and its chinny, narrow, concentrated look,
Jolyon saw that which moved him to the thought: 'That chap could
never forget anything--nor ever give himself away. He's pathetic!'
THE COLT AND THE FILLY
When young Val left the presence of the last generation he was
thinking: 'This is jolly dull! Uncle Soames does take the bun.
I wonder what this filly's like?' He anticipated no pleasure from
her society; and suddenly he saw her standing there looking at him.
Why, she was pretty! What luck!
"I'm afraid you don't know me," he said. "My name's Val Dartie--
I'm once removed, second cousin, something like that, you know. My
mother's name was Forsyte."
Holly, whose slim brown hand remained in his because she was too
shy to withdraw it, said:
"I don't know any of my relations. Are there many?"
"Tons. They're awful--most of them. At least, I don't know--some
of them. One's relations always are, aren't they?"
"I expect they think one awful too," said Holly.
"I don't know why they should. No one could think you awful, of
Holly looked at him--the wistful candour in those grey eyes gave
young Val a sudden feeling that he must protect her.
"I mean there are people and people," he added astutely. "Your dad
looks awfully decent, for instance."
"Oh yes!" said Holly fervently; "he is."
A flush mounted in Val's cheeks--that scene in the Pandemonium
promenade--the dark man with the pink carnation developing into his
own father! "But you know what the Forsytes are," he said almost
viciously. "Oh! I forgot; you don't."
"What are they?"
"Oh! fearfully careful; not sportsmen a bit. Look at Uncle
"I'd like to," said Holly.
Val resisted a desire to run his arm through hers. "Oh! no," he
said, "let's go out. You'll see him quite soon enough. What's
your brother like?"
Holly led the way on to the terrace and down to the lawn without
answering. How describe Jolly, who, ever since she remembered
anything, had been her lord, master, and ideal?
"Does he sit on you?" said Val shrewdly. "I shall be knowing him
at Oxford. Have you got any horses?"
Holly nodded. "Would you like to see the stables?"
They passed under the oak tree, through a thin shrubbery, into the
stable-yard. There under a clock-tower lay a fluffy brown-and-
white dog, so old that he did not get up, but faintly waved the
tail curled over his back.
"That's Balthasar," said Holly; "he's so old--awfully old, nearly
as old as I am. Poor old boy! He's devoted to Dad."
"Balthasar! That's a rum name. He isn't purebred you know."
"No! but he's a darling," and she bent down to stroke the dog.
Gentle and supple, with dark covered head and slim browned neck and
hands, she seemed to Val strange and sweet, like a thing slipped
between him and all previous knowledge.
"When grandfather died," she said, "he wouldn't eat for two days.
He saw him die, you know."
"Was that old Uncle Jolyon? Mother always says he was a topper."
"He was," said Holly simply, and opened the stable door.
In a loose-box stood a silver roan of about fifteen hands, with a
long black tail and mane. "This is mine--Fairy."
"Ah!" said Val, "she's a jolly palfrey. But you ought to bang her
tail. She'd look much smarter." Then catching her wondering look,
he thought suddenly: 'I don't know--anything she likes!' And he
took a long sniff of the stable air. "Horses are ripping, aren't
they? My Dad..." he stopped.
"Yes?" said Holly.
An impulse to unbosom himself almost overcame him--but not quite.
"Oh! I don't know he's often gone a mucker over them. I'm jolly
keen on them too--riding and hunting. I like racing awfully, as
well; I should like to be a gentleman rider." And oblivious of the
fact that he had but one more day in town, with two engagements, he
"I say, if I hire a gee to-morrow, will you come a ride in Richmond
Holly clasped her hands.
"Oh yes! I simply love riding. But there's Jolly's horse; why
don't you ride him? Here he is. We could go after tea."
Val looked doubtfully at his trousered legs.
He had imagined them immaculate before her eyes in high brown boots
and Bedford cords.
"I don't much like riding his horse," he said. "He mightn't like
it. Besides, Uncle Soames wants to get back, I expect. Not that I
believe in buckling under to him, you know. You haven't got an
uncle, have you? This is rather a good beast," he added,
scrutinising Jolly's horse, a dark brown, which was showing the
whites of its eyes. "You haven't got any hunting here, I suppose?"
"No; I don't know that I want to hunt. It must be awfully
exciting, of course; but it's cruel, isn't it? June says so."
"Cruel?" ejaculated Val. "Oh! that's all rot. Who's June?"
"My sister--my half-sister, you know--much older than me." She had
put her hands up to both cheeks of Jolly's horse, and was rubbing
her nose against its nose with a gentle snuffling noise which
seemed to have an hypnotic effect on the animal. Val contemplated
her cheek resting against the horse's nose, and her eyes gleaming
round at him. 'She's really a duck,' he thought.
They returned to the house less talkative, followed this time by
the dog Balthasar, walking more slowly than anything on earth, and
clearly expecting them not to exceed his speed limit.
"This is a ripping place," said Val from under the oak tree, where
they had paused to allow the dog Balthasar to come up.
"Yes," said Holly, and sighed. "Of course I want to go everywhere.
I wish I were a gipsy."
"Yes, gipsies are jolly," replied Val, with a conviction which had
just come to him; "you're rather like one, you know."
Holly's face shone suddenly and deeply, like dark leaves gilded by
"To go mad-rabbiting everywhere and see everything, and live in the
open--oh! wouldn't it be fun?"
"Let's do it!" said Val.
"Oh yes, let's!"
"It'd be grand sport, just you and I."
Then Holly perceived the quaintness and gushed.
"Well, we've got to do it," said Val obstinately, but reddening
"I believe in doing things you want to do. What's down there?"
"The kitchen-garden, and the pond and the coppice, and the farm."
"Let's go down!"
Holly glanced back at the house.
"It's tea-time, I expect; there's Dad beckoning."
Val, uttering a growly sound, followed her towards the house.
When they re-entered the hall gallery the sight of two middle-aged
Forsytes drinking tea together had its magical effect, and they
became quite silent. It was, indeed, an impressive spectacle. The
two were seated side by side on an arrangement in marqueterie which
looked like three silvery pink chairs made one, with a low
tea-table in front of them. They seemed to have taken up that
position, as far apart as the seat would permit, so that they need
not look at each other too much; and they were eating and drinking
rather than talking--Soames with his air of despising the tea-cake
as it disappeared, Jolyon of finding himself slightly amusing. To
the casual eye neither would have seemed greedy, but both were
getting through a good deal of sustenance. The two young ones
having been supplied with food, the process went on silent and
absorbative, till, with the advent of cigarettes, Jolyon said to
"And how's Uncle James?"
"Thanks, very shaky."
"We're a wonderful family, aren't we? The other day I was
calculating the average age of the ten old Forsytes from my
father's family Bible. I make it eighty-four already, and five
still living. They ought to beat the record;" and looking
whimsically at Soames, he added:
"We aren't the men they were, you know."
Soames smiled. 'Do you really think I shall admit that I'm not
their equal'; he seemed to be saying, 'or that I've got to give up
anything, especially life?'
"We may live to their age, perhaps," pursued Jolyon, "but self-
consciousness is a handicap, you know, and that's the difference
between us. We've lost conviction. How and when self-consciousness
was born I never can make out. My father had a little, but I don't
believe any other of the old Forsytes ever had a scrap. Never to
see yourself as others see you, it's a wonderful preservative. The
whole history of the last century is in the difference between us.
And between us and you," he added, gazing through a ring of smoke
at Val and Holly, uncomfortable under his quizzical regard,
"there'll be--another difference. I wonder what."
Soames took out his watch.
"We must go," he said, "if we're to catch our train."
"Uncle Soames never misses a train," muttered Val, with his mouth
"Why should I?" Soames answered simply.
"Oh! I don't know," grumbled Val, "other people do."
At the front door he gave Holly's slim brown hand a long and
"Look out for me to-morrow," he whispered; "three o'clock. I'll
wait for you in the road; it'll save time. We'll have a ripping
ride." He gazed back at her from the lodge gate, and, but for the
principles of a man about town, would have waved his hand. He felt
in no mood to tolerate his uncle's conversation. But he was not in
danger. Soames preserved a perfect muteness, busy with far-away
The yellow leaves came down about those two walking the mile and a
half which Soames had traversed so often in those long-ago days
when he came down to watch with secret pride the building of the
house--that house which was to have been the home of him and her
from whom he was now going to seek release. He looked back once,
up that endless vista of autumn lane between the yellowing hedges.
What an age ago! "I don't want to see her," he had said to Jolyon.
Was that true? 'I may have to,' he thought; and he shivered,
seized by one of those queer shudderings that they say mean
footsteps on one's grave. A chilly world! A queer world! And
glancing sidelong at his nephew, he thought: 'Wish I were his age!
I wonder what she's like now!'
JOLYON PROSECUTES TRUSTEESHIP
When those two were gone Jolyon did not return to his painting, for
daylight was failing, but went to the study, craving unconsciously
a revival of that momentary vision of his father sitting in the old
leather chair with his knees crossed and his straight eyes gazing
up from under the dome of his massive brow. Often in this little
room, cosiest in the house, Jolyon would catch a moment of
communion with his father. Not, indeed, that he had definitely any
faith in the persistence of the human spirit--the feeling was not
so logical--it was, rather, an atmospheric impact, like a scent, or
one of those strong animistic impressions from forms, or effects of
light, to which those with the artist's eye are especially prone.
Here only--in this little unchanged room where his father had spent
the most of his waking hours--could be retrieved the feeling that
he was not quite gone, that the steady counsel of that old spirit
and the warmth of his masterful lovability endured.
What would his father be advising now, in this sudden recrudescence
of an old tragedy--what would he say to this menace against her to
whom he had taken such a fancy in the last weeks of his life? 'I
must do my best for her,' thought Jolyon; 'he left her to me in his
will. But what is the best?'
And as if seeking to regain the sapience, the balance and shrewd
common sense of that old Forsyte, he sat down in the ancient chair
and crossed his knees. But he felt a mere shadow sitting there;
nor did any inspiration come, while the fingers of the wind tapped
on the darkening panes of the french-window.
'Go and see her?' he thought, 'or ask her to come down here?
What's her life been? What is it now, I wonder? Beastly to rake
up things at this time of day.' Again the figure of his cousin
standing with a hand on a front door of a fine olive-green leaped
out, vivid, like one of those figures from old-fashioned clocks
when the hour strikes; and his words sounded in Jolyon's ears
clearer than any chime: "I manage my own affairs. I've told you
once, I tell you again: We are not at home." The repugnance he had
then felt for Soames--for his flat-cheeked, shaven face full of
spiritual bull-doggedness; for his spare, square, sleek figure
slightly crouched as it were over the bone he could not digest--
came now again, fresh as ever, nay, with an odd increase. 'I
dislike him,' he thought, 'I dislike him to the very roots of me.
And that's lucky; it'll make it easier for me to back his wife.'
Half-artist, and half-Forsyte, Jolyon was constitutionally averse
from what he termed 'ructions'; unless angered, he conformed deeply
to that classic description of the she-dog, 'Er'd ruther run than
fight.' A little smile became settled in his beard. Ironical that
Soames should come down here--to this house, built for himself!
How he had gazed and gaped at this ruin of his past intention;
furtively nosing at the walls and stairway, appraising everything!
And intuitively Jolyon thought: 'I believe the fellow even now
would like to be living here. He could never leave off longing for
what he once owned! Well, I must act, somehow or other; but it's a
bore--a great bore.'
Late that evening he wrote to the Chelsea flat, asking if Irene
would see him.
The old century which had seen the plant of individualism flower so
wonderfully was setting in a sky orange with coming storms.
Rumours of war added to the briskness of a London turbulent at the
close of the summer holidays. And the streets to Jolyon, who was
not often up in town, had a feverish look, due to these new motor-
cars and cabs, of which he disapproved aesthetically. He counted
these vehicles from his hansom, and made the proportion of them one
in twenty. 'They were one in thirty about a year ago,' he thought;
'they've come to stay. Just so much more rattling round of wheels
and general stink'--for he was one of those rather rare Liberals
who object to anything new when it takes a material form; and he
instructed his driver to get down to the river quickly, out of the
traffic, desiring to look at the water through the mellowing screen
of plane-trees. At the little block of flats which stood back some
fifty yards from the Embankment, he told the cabman to wait, and
went up to the first floor.
Yes, Mrs. Heron was at home!
The effect of a settled if very modest income was at once apparent
to him remembering the threadbare refinement in that tiny flat
eight years ago when he announced her good fortune. Everything was
now fresh, dainty, and smelled of flowers. The general effect was
silvery with touches of black, hydrangea colour, and gold. 'A
woman of great taste,' he thought. Time had dealt gently with
Jolyon, for he was a Forsyte. But with Irene Time hardly seemed to
deal at all, or such was his impression. She appeared to him not a
day older, standing there in mole-coloured velvet corduroy, with
soft dark eyes and dark gold hair, with outstretched hand and a
"Won't you sit down?"
He had probably never occupied a chair with a fuller sense of
"You look absolutely unchanged," he said.
"And you look younger, Cousin Jolyon."
Jolyon ran his hands through his hair, whose thickness was still a
comfort to him.
"I'm ancient, but I don't feel it. That's one thing about paint-
ing, it keeps you young. Titian lived to ninety-nine, and had to
have plague to kill him off. Do you know, the first time I ever
saw you I thought of a picture by him?"
"When did you see me for the first time?"
"In the Botanical Gardens."
"How did you know me, if you'd never seen me before?"
"By someone who came up to you." He was looking at her hardily,
but her face did not change; and she said quietly:
"Yes; many lives ago."
"What is your recipe for youth, Irene?"
"People who don't live are wonderfully preserved."
H'm! a bitter little saying! People who don't live! But an
opening, and he took it. "You remember my Cousin Soames?"
He saw her smile faintly at that whimsicality, and at once went on:
"He came to see me the day before yesterday! He wants a divorce.
"I?" The word seemed startled out of her. "After twelve years?
It's rather late. Won't it be difficult?"
Jolyon looked hard into her face. "Unless...." he said.
"Unless I have a lover now. But I have never had one since."
What did he feel at the simplicity and candour of those words?
Relief, surprise, pity! Venus for twelve years without a lover!
"And yet," he said, "I suppose you would give a good deal to be
"I don't know. What does it matter, now?"
"But if you were to love again?"
"I should love." In that simple answer she seemed to sum up the
whole philosophy of one on whom the world had turned its back.
"Well! Is there anything you would like me to say to him?"
"Only that I'm sorry he's not free. He had his chance once. I
don't know why he didn't take it."
"Because he was a Forsyte; we never part with things, you know,
unless we want something in their place; and not always then."
Irene smiled. "Don't you, Cousin Jolyon?--I think you do."
"Of course, I'm a bit of a mongrel--not quite a pure Forsyte. I
never take the halfpennies off my cheques, I put them on," said
"Well, what does Soames want in place of me now?"
"I don't know; perhaps children."
She was silent for a little, looking down.
"Yes," she murmured; "it's hard. I would help him to be free if I
Jolyon gazed into his hat, his embarrassment was increasing fast;
so was his admiration, his wonder, and his pity. She was so
lovely, and so lonely; and altogether it was such a coil!
"Well," he said, "I shall have to see Soames. If there's anything
I can do for you I'm always at your service. You must think of me
as a wretched substitute for my father. At all events I'll let you
know what happens when I speak to Soames. He may supply the
She shook her head.
"You see, he has a lot to lose; and I have nothing. I should like
him to be free; but I don't see what I can do."
"Nor I at the moment," said Jolyon, and soon after took his leave.
He went down to his hansom. Half-past three! Soames would be at
his office still.
"To the Poultry," he called through the trap. In front of the
Houses of Parliament and in Whitehall, newsvendors were calling,
"Grave situation in the Transvaal!" but the cries hardly roused
him, absorbed in recollection of that very beautiful figure, of her
soft dark glance, and the words: "I have never had one since."
What on earth did such a woman do with her life, back-watered like
this? Solitary, unprotected, with every man's hand against her or
rather--reaching out to grasp her at the least sign. And year
after year she went on like that!
The word 'Poultry' above the passing citizens brought him back to
'Forsyte, Bustard and Forsyte,' in black letters on a ground the
colour of peasoup, spurred him to a sort of vigour, and he went up
the stone stairs muttering: "Fusty musty ownerships! Well, we
couldn't do without them!"
"I want Mr. Soames Forsyte," he said to the boy who opened the
"Mr. Jolyon Forsyte."
The youth looked at him curiously, never having seen a Forsyte with
a beard, and vanished.
The offices of 'Forsyte, Bustard and Forsyte' had slowly absorbed
the offices of 'Tooting and Bowles,' and occupied the whole of the
The firm consisted now of nothing but Soames and a number of
managing and articled clerks. The complete retirement of James
some six years ago had accelerated business, to which the final
touch of speed had been imparted when Bustard dropped off, worn
out, as many believed, by the suit of 'Fryer versus Forsyte,' more
in Chancery than ever and less likely to benefit its beneficiaries.
Soames, with his saner grasp of actualities, had never permitted it
to worry him; on the contrary, he had long perceived that
Providence had presented him therein with L200 a year net in
perpetuity, and--why not?
When Jolyon entered, his cousin was drawing out a list of holdings
in Consols, which in view of the rumours of war he was going to
advise his companies to put on the market at once, before other
companies did the same. He looked round, sidelong, and said:
"How are you? Just one minute. Sit down, won't you?" And having
entered three amounts, and set a ruler to keep his place, he turned
towards Jolyon, biting the side of his flat forefinger....
"Yes?" he said.
"I have seen her."
"She has remained faithful to memory."
Having said that, Jolyon was ashamed. His cousin had flushed a
dusky yellowish red. What had made him tease the poor brute!
"I was to tell you she is sorry you are not free. Twelve years is
a long time. You know your law, and what chance it gives you."
Soames uttered a curious little grunt, and the two remained a full
minute without speaking. 'Like wax!' thought Jolyon, watching that
close face, where the flush was fast subsiding. 'He'll never give
me a sign of what he's thinking, or going to do. Like wax!' And
he transferred his gaze to a plan of that flourishing town, 'By-
Street on Sea,' the future existence of which lay exposed on the
wall to the possessive instincts of the firm's clients. The whim-
sical thought flashed through him: 'I wonder if I shall get a bill
of costs for this--"To attending Mr. Jolyon Forsyte in the matter
of my divorce, to receiving his account of his visit to my wife,
and to advising him to go and see her again, sixteen and
Suddenly Soames said: "I can't go on like this. I tell you, I
can't go on like this." His eyes were shifting from side to side,
like an animal's when it looks for way of escape. 'He really
suffers,' thought Jolyon; 'I've no business to forget that, just
because I don't like him.'
"Surely," he said gently, "it lies with yourself. A man can always
put these things through if he'll take it on himself."
Soames turned square to him, with a sound which seemed to come from
somewhere very deep.
"Why should I suffer more than I've suffered already? Why should
Jolyon could only shrug his shoulders. His reason agreed, his
instinct rebelled; he could not have said why.
"Your father," went on Soames, "took an interest in her--why,
goodness knows! And I suppose you do too?" he gave Jolyon a sharp
look. "It seems to me that one only has to do another person a
wrong to get all the sympathy. I don't know in what way I was to
blame--I've never known. I always treated her well. I gave her
everything she could wish for. I wanted her."
Again Jolyon's reason nodded; again his instinct shook its head.
'What is it?' he thought; 'there must be something wrong in me.
Yet if there is, I'd rather be wrong than right.'
"After all," said Soames with a sort of glum fierceness, "she was
In a flash the thought went through his listener: 'There it is!
Ownerships! Well, we all own things. But--human beings! Pah!'
"You have to look at facts," he said drily, "or rather the want of
Soames gave him another quick suspicious look.
"The want of them?" he said. "Yes, but I am not so sure."
"I beg your pardon," replied Jolyon; "I've told you what she said.
It was explicit."
"My experience has not been one to promote blind confidence in her
word. We shall see."
Jolyon got up.
"Good-bye," he said curtly.
"Good-bye," returned Soames; and Jolyon went out trying to
understand the look, half-startled, half-menacing, on his cousin's
face. He sought Waterloo Station in a disturbed frame of mind, as
though the skin of his moral being had been scraped; and all the
way down in the train he thought of Irene in her lonely flat, and
of Soames in his lonely office, and of the strange paralysis of life
that lay on them both. 'In chancery!' he thought. 'Both their
necks in chancery--and her's so pretty!'
VAL HEARS THE NEWS
The keeping of engagements had not as yet been a conspicuous
feature in the life of young Val Dartie, so that when he broke two
and kept one, it was the latter event which caused him, if
anything, the greater surprise, while jogging back to town from
Robin Hill after his ride with Holly. She had been even prettier
than he had thought her yesterday, on her silver-roan, long-tailed
'palfrey'; and it seemed to him, self-critical in the brumous
October gloaming and the outskirts of London, that only his boots
had shone throughout their two-hour companionship. He took out his
new gold 'hunter'--present from James--and looked not at the time,
but at sections of his face in the glittering back of its opened
case. He had a temporary spot over one eyebrow, and it displeased
him, for it must have displeased her. Crum never had any spots.
Together with Crum rose the scene in the promenade of the
Pandemonium. To-day he had not had the faintest desire to unbosom
himself to Holly about his father. His father lacked poetry, the
stirrings of which he was feeling for the first time in his
nineteen years. The Liberty, with Cynthia Dark, that almost
mythical embodiment of rapture; the Pandemonium, with the woman of
uncertain age--both seemed to Val completely 'off,' fresh from
communion with this new, shy, dark-haired young cousin of his. She
rode 'Jolly well,' too, so that it had been all the more flattering
that she had let him lead her where he would in the long gallops of
Richmond Park, though she knew them so much better than he did.
Looking back on it all, he was mystified by the barrenness of his
speech; he felt that he could say 'an awful lot of fetching things'
if he had but the chance again, and the thought that he must go
back to Littlehampton on the morrow, and to Oxford on the twelfth--
'to that beastly exam,' too--without the faintest chance of first
seeing her again, caused darkness to settle on his spirit even more
quickly than on the evening. He should write to her, however, and
she had promised to answer. Perhaps, too, she would come up to
Oxford to see her brother. That thought was like the first star,
which came out as he rode into Padwick's livery stables in the
purlieus of Sloane Square. He got off and stretched himself
luxuriously, for he had ridden some twenty-five good miles. The
Dartie within him made him chaffer for five minutes with young
Padwick concerning the favourite for the Cambridgeshire; then with
the words, "Put the gee down to my account," he walked away, a
little wide at the knees, and flipping his boots with his knotty
little cane. 'I don't feel a bit inclined to go out,' he thought.
'I wonder if mother will stand fizz for my last night!' With
'fizz' and recollection, he could well pass a domestic evening.
When he came down, speckless after his bath, he found his mother
scrupulous in a low evening dress, and, to his annoyance, his Uncle
Soames. They stopped talking when he came in; then his uncle said:
"He'd better be told."
At those words, which meant something about his father, of course,
Val's first thought was of Holly. Was it anything beastly? His
mother began speaking.
"Your father," she said in her fashionably appointed voice, while
her fingers plucked rather pitifully at sea-green brocade, "your
father, my dear boy, has--is not at Newmarket; he's on his way to
South America. He--he's left us."
Val looked from her to Soames. Left them! Was he sorry? Was he
fond of his father? It seemed to him that he did not know. Then,
suddenly--as at a whiff of gardenias and cigars--his heart twitched
within him, and he was sorry. One's father belonged to one, could
not go off in this fashion--it was not done! Nor had he always
been the 'bounder' of the Pandemonium promenade. There were
precious memories of tailors' shops and horses, tips at school, and
general lavish kindness, when in luck.
"But why?" he said. Then, as a sportsman himself, was sorry he had
asked. The mask of his mother's face was all disturbed; and he
"All right, Mother, don't tell me! Only, what does it mean?"
"A divorce, Val, I'm afraid."
Val uttered a queer little grunt, and looked quickly at his uncle--
that uncle whom he had been taught to look on as a guarantee
against the consequences of having a father, even against the
Dartie blood in his own veins. The flat-checked visage seemed to
wince, and this upset him.
"It won't be public, will it?"
So vividly before him had come recollection of his own eyes glued
to the unsavoury details of many a divorce suit in the Public
"Can't it be done quietly somehow? It's so disgusting for--for
mother, and--and everybody."
"Everything will be done as quietly as it can, you may be sure."
"Yes--but, why is it necessary at all? Mother doesn't want to
Himself, the girls, their name tarnished in the sight of his
schoolfellows and of Crum, of the men at Oxford, of--Holly!
Unbearable! What was to be gained by it?
"Do you, Mother?" he said sharply.
Thus brought face to face with so much of her own feeling by the
one she loved best in the world, Winifred rose from the Empire
chair in which she had been sitting. She saw that her son would be
against her unless he was told everything; and, yet, how could she
tell him? Thus, still plucking at the green brocade, she stared
at Soames. Val, too, stared at Soames. Surely this embodiment of
respectability and the sense of property could not wish to bring
such a slur on his own sister!
Soames slowly passed a little inlaid paperknife over the smooth
surface of a marqueterie table; then, without looking at his
nephew, he began:
"You don't understand what your mother has had to put up with these
twenty years. This is only the last straw, Val." And glancing up
sideways at Winifred, he added:
"Shall I tell him?"
Winifred was silent. If he were not told, he would be against her!
Yet, how dreadful to be told such things of his own father!
Clenching her lips, she nodded.
Soames spoke in a rapid, even voice:
"He has always been a burden round your mother's neck. She has
paid his debts over and over again; he has often been drunk, abused
and threatened her; and now he is gone to Buenos Aires with a
dancer." And, as if distrusting the efficacy of those words on the
boy, he went on quickly:
"He took your mother's pearls to give to her."
Val jerked up his hand, then. At that signal of distress Winifred
"That'll do, Soames--stop!"
In the boy, the Dartie and the Forsyte were struggling. For debts,
drink, dancers, he had a certain sympathy; but the pearls--no! That
was too much! And suddenly he found his mother's hand squeezing
"You see," he heard Soames say, "we can't have it all begin over
again. There's a limit; we must strike while the iron's hot."
Val freed his hand.
"But--you're--never going to bring out that about the pearls! I
couldn't stand that--I simply couldn't!"
Winifred cried out:
"No, no, Val--oh no! That's only to show you how impossible your
father is!" And his uncle nodded. Somewhat assuaged, Val took out
a cigarette. His father had bought him that thin curved case. Oh!
it was unbearable--just as he was going up to Oxford!
"Can't mother be protected without?" he said. "I could look after
her. It could always be done later if it was really necessary."
A smile played for a moment round Soames' lips, and became bitter.
"You don't know what you're talking of; nothing's so fatal as delay
in such matters."
"I tell you, boy, nothing's so fatal. I know from experience."
His voice had the ring of exasperation. Val regarded him round-
eyed, never having known his uncle express any sort of feeling.
Oh! Yes--he remembered now--there had been an Aunt Irene, and
something had happened--something which people kept dark; he had
heard his father once use an unmentionable word of her.
"I don't want to speak ill of your father," Soames went on
doggedly, "but I know him well enough to be sure that he'll be back
on your mother's hands before a year's over. You can imagine what
that will mean to her and to all of you after this. The only thing
is to cut the knot for good."
In spite of himself, Val was impressed; and, happening to look at
his mother's face, he got what was perhaps his first real insight
into the fact that his own feelings were not always what mattered
"All right, mother," he said; "we'll back you up. Only I'd like to
know when it'll be. It's my first term, you know. I don't want to
be up there when it comes off."
"Oh! my dear boy," murmured Winifred, "it is a bore for you." So,
by habit, she phrased what, from the expression of her face, was
the most poignant regret. "When will it be, Soames?"
"Can't tell--not for months. We must get restitution first."
'What the deuce is that?' thought Val. 'What silly brutes lawyers
are! Not for months! I know one thing: I'm not going to dine in!'
And he said:
"Awfully sorry, mother, I've got to go out to dinner now."
Though it was his last night, Winifred nodded almost gratefully;
they both felt that they had gone quite far enough in the
expression of feeling.
Val sought the misty freedom of Green Street, reckless and
depressed. And not till he reached Piccadilly did he discover that
he had only eighteen-pence. One couldn't dine off eighteen-pence,
and he was very hungry. He looked longingly at the windows of the
Iseeum Club, where he had often eaten of the best with his father!
Those pearls! There was no getting over them! But the more he
brooded and the further he walked the hungrier he naturally became.
Short of trailing home, there were only two places where he could
go--his grandfather's in Park Lane, and Timothy's in the Bayswater
Road. Which was the less deplorable? At his grandfather's he
would probably get a better dinner on the spur of the moment. At
Timothy's they gave you a jolly good feed when they expected you,
not otherwise. He decided on Park Lane, not unmoved by the thought
that to go up to Oxford without affording his grandfather a chance
to tip him was hardly fair to either of them. His mother would
hear he had been there, of course, and might think it funny; but he
couldn't help that. He rang the bell.
"Hullo, Warmson, any dinner for me, d'you think?"
"They're just going in, Master Val. Mr. Forsyte will be very glad
to see you. He was saying at lunch that he never saw you
"Well, here I am. Kill the fatted calf, Warmson, let's have fizz."
Warmson smiled faintly--in his opinion Val was a young limb.
"I will ask Mrs. Forsyte, Master Val."
"I say," Val grumbled, taking off his overcoat, "I'm not at school
any more, you know."
Warmson, not without a sense of humour, opened the door beyond the
stag's-horn coat stand, with the words:
"Mr. Valerus, ma'am."
"Confound him!" thought Val, entering.
A warm embrace, a "Well, Val!" from Emily, and a rather quavery "So
there you are at last!" from James, restored his sense of dignity.
"Why didn't you let us know? There's only saddle of mutton.
Champagne, Warmson," said Emily. And they went in.
At the great dining-table, shortened to its utmost, under which so
many fashionable legs had rested, James sat at one end, Emily at
the other, Val half-way between them; and something of the
loneliness of his grandparents, now that all their four children
were flown, reached the boy's spirit. 'I hope I shall kick the
bucket long before I'm as old as grandfather,' he thought. 'Poor
old chap, he's as thin as a rail!' And lowering his voice while
his grandfather and Warmson were in discussion about sugar in the
soup, he said to Emily:
"It's pretty brutal at home, Granny. I suppose you know."
"Yes, dear boy."
"Uncle Soames was there when I left. I say, isn't there anything
to be done to prevent a divorce? Why is he so beastly keen on it?"
"Hush, my dear!" murmured Emily; "we're keeping it from your
James' voice sounded from the other end.
"What's that? What are you talking about?"
"About Val's college," returned Emily. "Young Pariser was there,
James; you remember--he nearly broke the Bank at Monte Carlo
James muttered that he did not know--Val must look after himself up
there, or he'd get into bad ways. And he looked at his grandson
with gloom, out of which affection distrustfully glimmered.
"What I'm afraid of," said Val to his plate, "is of being hard up,
By instinct he knew that the weak spot in that old man was fear of
insecurity for his grandchildren.
"Well," said James, and the soup in his spoon dribbled over,
"you'll have a good allowance; but you must keep within it."
"Of course," murmured Val; "if it is good. How much will it be,
"Three hundred and fifty; it's too much. I had next to nothing at
Val sighed. He had hoped for four, and been afraid of three. "I
don't know what your young cousin has," said James; "he's up there.
His father's a rich man."
"Aren't you?" asked Val hardily.
"I?" replied James, flustered. "I've got so many expenses. Your
father...." and he was silent.
"Cousin Jolyon's got an awfully jolly place. I went down there
with Uncle Soames--ripping stables."
"Ah!" murmured James profoundly. "That house--I knew how it would
be!" And he lapsed into gloomy meditation over his fish-bones.
His son's tragedy, and the deep cleavage it had caused in the
Forsyte family, had still the power to draw him down into a
whirlpool of doubts and misgivings. Val, who hankered to talk of
Robin Hill, because Robin Hill meant Holly, turned to Emily and
"Was that the house built for Uncle Soames?" And, receiving her
nod, went on: "I wish you'd tell me about him, Granny. What became
of Aunt Irene? Is she still going? He seems awfully worked-up
about something to-night."
Emily laid her finger on her lips, but the word Irene had caught
"What's that?" he said, staying a piece of mutton close to his
lips. "Who's been seeing her? I knew we hadn't heard the last of
"Now, James," said Emily, "eat your dinner. Nobody's been seeing
James put down his fork.
"There you go," he said. "I might die before you'd tell me of it.
Is Soames getting a divorce?"
"Nonsense," said Emily with incomparable aplomb; "Soames is much
James had sought his own throat, gathering the long white whiskers
together on the skin and bone of it.
"She--she was always...." he said, and with that enigmatic remark
the conversation lapsed, for Warmson had returned. But later, when
the saddle of mutton had been succeeded by sweet, savoury, and
dessert, and Val had received a cheque for twenty pounds and his
grandfather's kiss--like no other kiss in the world, from lips
pushed out with a sort of fearful suddenness, as if yielding to
weakness--he returned to the charge in the hall.
"Tell us about Uncle Soames, Granny. Why is he so keen on mother's
getting a divorce?"
"Your Uncle Soames," said Emily, and her voice had in it an
exaggerated assurance, "is a lawyer, my dear boy. He's sure to
"Is he?" muttered Val. "But what did become of Aunt Irene? I
remember she was jolly good-looking."
"She--er...." said Emily, "behaved very badly. We don't talk
"Well, I don't want everybody at Oxford to know about our affairs,"
ejaculated Val; "it's a brutal idea. Why couldn't father be pre-
vented without its being made public?"
Emily sighed. She had always lived rather in an atmosphere of
divorce, owing to her fashionable proclivities--so many of those
whose legs had been under her table having gained a certain notor-
iety. When, however, it touched her own family, she liked it no
better than other people. But she was eminently practical, and a
woman of courage, who never pursued a shadow in preference to its
"Your mother," she said, "will be happier if she's quite free, Val.
Good-night, my dear boy; and don't wear loud waistcoats up at
Oxford, they're not the thing just now. Here's a little present."
With another five pounds in his hand, and a little warmth in his
heart, for he was fond of his grandmother, he went out into Park
Lane. A wind had cleared the mist, the autumn leaves were
rustling, and the stars were shining. With all that money in his
pocket an impulse to 'see life' beset him; but he had not gone
forty yards in the direction of Piccadilly when Holly's shy face,
and her eyes with an imp dancing in their gravity, came up before
him, and his hand seemed to be tingling again from the pressure of
her warm gloved hand. 'No, dash it!' he thought, 'I'm going
SOAMES ENTERTAINS THE FUTURE
It was full late for the river, but the weather was lovely, and
summer lingered below the yellowing leaves. Soames took many looks
at the day from his riverside garden near Mapledurham that Sunday
With his own hands he put flowers about his little house-boat, and
equipped the punt, in which, after lunch, he proposed to take them
on the river. Placing those Chinese-looking cushions, he could not
tell whether or no he wished to take Annette alone. She was so
very pretty--could he trust himself not to say irrevocable words,
passing beyond the limits of discretion? Roses on the veranda were
still in bloom, and the hedges ever-green, so that there was almost
nothing of middle-aged autumn to chill the mood; yet was he
nervous, fidgety, strangely distrustful of his powers to steer just
the right course. This visit had been planned to produce in
Annette and her mother a due sense of his possessions, so that they
should be ready to receive with respect any overture he might later
be disposed to make. He dressed with great care, making himself
neither too young nor too old, very thankful that his hair was
still thick and smooth and had no grey in it. Three times he went
up to his picture-gallery. If they had any knowledge at all, they
must see at once that his collection alone was worth at least
thirty thousand pounds. He minutely inspected, too, the pretty
bedroom overlooking the river where they would take off their hats.
It would be her bedroom if--if the matter went through, and she
became his wife. Going up to the dressing-table he passed his hand
over the lilac-coloured pincushion, into which were stuck all kinds
of pins; a bowl of pot-pourri exhaled a scent that made his head
turn just a little. His wife! If only the whole thing could be
settled out of hand, and there was not the nightmare of this
divorce to be gone through first; and with gloom puckered on his
forehead, he looked out at the river shining beyond the roses and
the lawn. Madame Lamotte would never resist this prospect for her
child; Annette would never resist her mother. If only he were
free! He drove to the station to meet them. What taste French-
women had! Madame Lamotte was in black with touches of lilac
colour, Annette in greyish lilac linen, with cream coloured gloves
and hat. Rather pale she looked and Londony; and her blue eyes
were demure. Waiting for them to come down to lunch, Soames stood
in the open french-window of the diningroom moved by that sensuous
delight in sunshine and flowers and trees which only came to the
full when youth and beauty were there to share it with one. He had
ordered the lunch with intense consideration; the wine was a very
special Sauterne, the whole appointments of the meal perfect, the
coffee served on the veranda super-excellent. Madame Lamotte
accepted creme de menthe; Annette refused. Her manners were
charming, with just a suspicion of 'the conscious beauty' creeping
into them. 'Yes,' thought Soames, 'another year of London and that
sort of life, and she'll be spoiled.'
Madame was in sedate French raptures. "Adorable! Le soleil est si
bon! How everything is chic, is it not, Annette? Monsieur is a
real Monte Cristo." Annette murmured assent, with a look up at
Soames which he could not read. He proposed a turn on the river.
But to punt two persons when one of them looked so ravishing on
those Chinese cushions was merely to suffer from a sense of lost
opportunity; so they went but a short way towards Pangbourne,
drifting slowly back, with every now and then an autumn leaf
dropping on Annette or on her mother's black amplitude. And Soames
was not happy, worried by the thought: 'How--when--where--can I
say--what?' They did not yet even know that he was married. To
tell them he was married might jeopardise his every chance; yet, if
he did not definitely make them understand that he wished for
Annette's hand, it would be dropping into some other clutch before
he was free to claim it.
At tea, which they both took with lemon, Soames spoke of the
"There'll be war," he said.
Madame Lamotte lamented.
"Ces pauvres gens bergers!" Could they not be left to themselves?
Soames smiled--the question seemed to him absurd.
Surely as a woman of business she understood that the British could
not abandon their legitimate commercial interests.
"Ah! that!" But Madame Lamotte found that the English were a
little hypocrite. They were talking of justice and the Uitlanders,
not of business. Monsieur was the first who had spoken to her of
"The Boers are only half-civilised," remarked Soames; "they stand
in the way of progress. It will never do to let our suzerainty
"What does that mean to say? Suzerainty!"
"What a strange word!" Soames became eloquent, roused by these
threats to the principle of possession, and stimulated by Annette's
eyes fixed on him. He was delighted when presently she said:
"I think Monsieur is right. They should be taught a lesson." She
"Of course," he said, "we must act with moderation. I'm no jingo.
We must be firm without bullying. Will you come up and see my
pictures?" Moving from one to another of these treasures, he soon
perceived that they knew nothing. They passed his last Mauve, that
remarkable study of a 'Hay-cart going Home,' as if it were a
lithograph. He waited almost with awe to see how they would view
the jewel of his collection--an Israels whose price he had watched
ascending till he was now almost certain it had reached top value,
and would be better on the market again. They did not view it at
all. This was a shock; and yet to have in Annette a virgin taste
to form would be better than to have the silly, half-baked pre-
dilections of the English middle-class to deal with. At the end of
the gallery was a Meissonier of which he was rather ashamed--
Meissonier was so steadily going down. Madame Lamotte stopped
"Meissonier! Ah! What a jewel!" Soames took advantage of that
moment. Very gently touching Annette's arm, he said:
"How do you like my place, Annette?"
She did not shrink, did not respond; she looked at him full, looked
down, and murmured:
"Who would not like it? It is so beautiful!"
"Perhaps some day--" Soames said, and stopped.
So pretty she was, so self-possessed--she frightened him. Those
cornflower-blue eyes, the turn of that creamy neck, her delicate
curves--she was a standing temptation to indiscretion! No! No!
One must be sure of one's ground--much surer! 'If I hold off,' he
thought, 'it will tantalise her.' And he crossed over to Madame
Lamotte, who was still in front of the Meissonier.
"Yes, that's quite a good example of his later work. You must come
again, Madame, and see them lighted up. You must both come and
spend a night."
Enchanted, would it not be beautiful to see them lighted? By
moonlight too, the river must be ravishing!
"Thou art sentimental, Maman!"
Sentimental! That black-robed, comely, substantial Frenchwoman of
the world! And suddenly he was certain as he could be that there
was no sentiment in either of them. All the better. Of what use
sentiment? And yet....!
He drove to the station with them, and saw them into the train. To
the tightened pressure of his hand it seemed that Annette's fingers
responded just a little; her face smiled at him through the dark.
He went back to the carriage, brooding. "Go on home, Jordan," he
said to the coachman; "I'll walk." And he strode out into the
darkening lanes, caution and the desire of possession playing
see-saw within him. 'Bon soir, monsieur!' How softly she had said
it. To know what was in her mind! The French--they were like
cats--one could tell nothing! But--how pretty! What a perfect
young thing to hold in one's arms! What a mother for his heir!
And he thought, with a smile, of his family and their surprise at a
French wife, and their curiosity, and of the way he would play with
it and buffet it confound them!
The, poplars sighed in the darkness; an owl hooted. Shadows
deepened in the water. 'I will and must be free,' he thought. 'I
won't hang about any longer. I'll go and see Irene. If you want
things done, do them yourself. I must live again--live and move
and have my being.' And in echo to that queer biblicality church-
bells chimed the call to evening prayer.
AND VISITS THE PAST
On a Tuesday evening after dining at his club Soames set out to do
what required more courage and perhaps less delicacy than anything
he had yet undertaken in his life--save perhaps his birth, and one
other action. He chose the evening, indeed, partly because Irene
was more likely to be in, but mainly because he had failed to find
sufficient resolution by daylight, had needed wine to give him
He left his hansom on the Embankment, and walked up to the Old
Church, uncertain of the block of flats where he knew she lived.
He found it hiding behind a much larger mansion; and having read
the name, 'Mrs. Irene Heron'--Heron, forsooth! Her maiden name: so
she used that again, did she?--he stepped back into the road to
look up at the windows of the first floor. Light was coming
through in the corner fiat, and he could hear a piano being played.
He had never had a love of music, had secretly borne it a grudge in
the old days when so often she had turned to her piano, making of
it a refuge place into which she knew he could not enter. Repulse!
The long repulse, at first restrained and secret, at last open!
Bitter memory came with that sound. It must be she playing, and
thus almost assured of seeing her, he stood more undecided than
ever. Shivers of anticipation ran through him; his tongue felt
dry, his heart beat fast. 'I have no cause to be afraid,' he
thought. And then the lawyer stirred within him. Was he doing a
foolish thing? Ought he not to have arranged a formal meeting in
the presence of her trustee? No! Not before that fellow Jolyon,
who sympathised with her! Never! He crossed back into the
doorway, and, slowly, to keep down the beating of his heart,
mounted the single flight of stairs and rang the bell. When the
door was opened to him his sensations were regulated by the scent
which came--that perfume--from away back in the past, bringing
muffled remembrance: fragrance of a drawing-room he used to enter,
of a house he used to own--perfume of dried rose-leaves and honey!
"Say, Mr. Forsyte," he said, "your mistress will see me, I know."
He had thought this out; she would think it was Jolyon!
When the maid was gone and he was alone in the tiny hall, where the
light was dim from one pearly-shaded sconce, and walls, carpet,
everything was silvery, making the walled-in space all ghostly, he
could only think ridiculously: 'Shall I go in with my overcoat on,
or take it off?' The music ceased; the maid said from the doorway:
"Will you walk in, sir?"
Soames walked in. He noted mechanically that all was still
silvery, and that the upright piano was of satinwood. She had
risen and stood recoiled against it; her hand, placed on the keys
as if groping for support, had struck a sudden discord, held for a
moment, and released. The light from the shaded piano-candle fell
on her neck, leaving her face rather in shadow. She was in a black
evening dress, with a sort of mantilla over her shoulders--he did
not remember ever having seen her in black, and the thought passed
through him: 'She dresses even when she's alone.'
"You!" he heard her whisper.
Many times Soames had rehearsed this scene in fancy. Rehearsal
served him not at all. He simply could not speak. He had never
thought that the sight of this woman whom he had once so
passionately desired, so completely owned, and whom he had not seen
for twelve years, could affect him in this way. He had imagined
himself speaking and acting, half as man of business, half as
judge. And now it was as if he were in the presence not of a mere
woman and erring wife, but of some force, subtle and elusive as
atmo-sphere itself within him and outside. A kind of defensive
irony welled up in him.
"Yes, it's a queer visit! I hope you're well."
"Thank you. Will you sit down?"
She had moved away from the piano, and gone over to a window-seat,
sinking on to it, with her hands clasped in her lap. Light fell on
her there, so that Soames could see her face, eyes, hair, strangely
as he remembered them, strangely beautiful.
He sat down on the edge of a satinwood chair, upholstered with
silver-coloured stuff, close to where he was standing.
"You have not changed," he said.
"No? What have you come for?"
"To discuss things."
"I have heard what you want from your cousin."
"I am willing. I have always been."
The sound of her voice, reserved and close, the sight of her figure
watchfully poised, defensive, was helping him now. A thousand
memories of her, ever on the watch against him, stirred, and....
"Perhaps you will be good enough, then, to give me information on
which I can act. The law must be complied with."
"I have none to give you that you don't know of."
"Twelve years! Do you suppose I can believe that?"
"I don't suppose you will believe anything I say; but it's the
Soames looked at her hard. He had said that she had not changed;
now he perceived that she had. Not in face, except that it was
more beautiful; not in form, except that it was a little fuller--
no! She had changed spiritually. There was more of her, as it
were, something of activity and daring, where there had been sheer
passive resistance. 'Ah!' he thought, 'that's her independent
income! Confound Uncle Jolyon!'
"I suppose you're comfortably off now?" he said.
"Thank you, yes."
"Why didn't you let me provide for you? I would have, in spite of
A faint smile came on her lips; but she did not answer.
"You are still my wife," said Soames. Why he said that, what he
meant by it, he knew neither when he spoke nor after. It was a
truism almost preposterous, but its effect was startling. She rose
from the window-seat, and stood for a moment perfectly still,
looking at him. He could see her bosom heaving. Then she turned
to the window and threw it open.
"Why do that?" he said sharply. "You'll catch cold in that dress.
I'm not dangerous." And he uttered a little sad laugh.
She echoed it--faintly, bitterly.
"Rather odd habit," said Soames as bitterly. "Shut the window!"
She shut it and sat down again. She had developed power, this
woman--this--wife of his! He felt it issuing from her as she sat
there, in a sort of armour. And almost unconsciously he rose and
moved nearer; he wanted to see the expression on her face. Her
eyes met his unflinching. Heavens! how clear they were, and what
a dark brown against that white skin, and that burnt-amber hair!
And how white her shoulders.
Funny sensation this! He ought to hate her.
"You had better tell me," he said; "it's to your advantage to be
free as well as to mine. That old matter is too old."
"I have told you."
"Do you mean to tell me there has been nothing--nobody?"
"Nobody. You must go to your own life."
Stung by that retort, Soames moved towards the piano and back to
the hearth, to and fro, as he had been wont in the old days in
their drawing-room when his feelings were too much for him.
"That won't do," he said. "You deserted me. In common justice
it's for you...."
He saw her shrug those white shoulders, heard her murmur:
"Yes. Why didn't you divorce me then? Should I have cared?"
He stopped, and looked at her intently with a sort of curiosity.
What on earth did she do with herself, if she really lived quite
alone? And why had he not divorced her? The old feeling that she
had never understood him, never done him justice, bit him while he
stared at her.
"Why couldn't you have made me a good wife?" he said.
"Yes; it was a crime to marry you. I have paid for it. You will
find some way perhaps. You needn't mind my name, I have none to
lose. Now I think you had better go."
A sense of defeat--of being defrauded of his self-justification,
and of something else beyond power of explanation to himself, beset
Soames like the breath of a cold fog. Mechanically he reached up,
took from the mantel-shelf a little china bowl, reversed it, and
"Lowestoft. Where did you get this? I bought its fellow at
Jobson's." And, visited by the sudden memory of how, those many
years ago, he and she had bought china together, he remained
staring at the little bowl, as if it contained all the past. Her
voice roused him.
"Take it. I don't want it."
Soames put it back on the shelf.
"Will you shake hands?" he said.
A faint smile curved her lips. She held out her hand. It was cold
to his rather feverish touch. 'She's made of ice,' he thought--
'she was always made of ice!' But even as that thought darted
through him, his senses were assailed by the perfume of her dress
and body, as though the warmth within her, which had never been for
him, were struggling to show its presence. And he turned on his
heel. He walked out and away, as if someone with a whip were after
him, not even looking for a cab, glad of the empty Embankment and
the cold river, and the thick-strewn shadows of the plane-tree
leaves--confused, flurried, sore at heart, and vaguely disturbed,
as though he had made some deep mistake whose consequences he could
not foresee. And the fantastic thought suddenly assailed him
if instead of, 'I think you had better go,' she had said, 'I think
you had better stay!' What should he have felt, what would he have
done? That cursed attraction of her was there for him even now,
after all these years of estrangement and bitter thoughts. It was
there, ready to mount to his head at a sign, a touch. 'I was a
fool to go!' he muttered. 'I've advanced nothing. Who could
imagine? I never thought!' Memory, flown back to the first years
of his marriage, played him torturing tricks. She had not deserved
to keep her beauty--the beauty he had owned and known so well. And
a kind of bitterness at the tenacity of his own admiration welled
up in him. Most men would have hated the sight of her, as she had
deserved. She had spoiled his life, wounded his pride to death,
defrauded him of a son. And yet the mere sight of her, cold and
resisting as ever, had this power to upset him utterly! It was
some damned magnetism she had! And no wonder if, as she asserted;
she had lived untouched these last twelve years. So Bosinney--
cursed be his memory!--had lived on all this time with her! Soames
could not tell whether he was glad of that knowledge or no.
Nearing his Club at last he stopped to buy a paper. A headline
ran: 'Boers reported to repudiate suzerainty!' Suzerainty! 'Just
like her!' he thought: 'she always did. Suzerainty! I still have
it by rights. She must be awfully lonely in that wretched little
ON FORSYTE 'CHANGE
Soames belonged to two clubs, 'The Connoisseurs,' which he put on
his cards and seldom visited, and 'The Remove,' which he did not
put on his cards and frequented. He had joined this Liberal
institution five years ago, having made sure that its members were
now nearly all sound Conservatives in heart and pocket, if not in
principle. Uncle Nicholas had put him up. The fine reading-room
was decorated in the Adam style.
On entering that evening he glanced at the tape for any news about
the Transvaal, and noted that Consols were down seven-sixteenths
since the morning. He was turning away to seek the reading-room
when a voice behind him said:
"Well, Soames, that went off all right."
It was Uncle Nicholas, in a frock-coat and his special cut-away
collar, with a black tie passed through a ring. Heavens! How
young and dapper he looked at eighty-two!
"I think Roger'd have been pleased," his uncle went on. "The thing
was very well done. Blackley's? I'll make a note of them.
Buxton's done me no good. These Boers are upsetting me--that
fellow Chamberlain's driving the country into war. What do you
"Bound to come," murmured Soames.
Nicholas passed his hand over his thin, cleanshaven cheeks, very
rosy after his summer cure; a slight pout had gathered on his lips.
This business had revived all his Liberal principles.
"I mistrust that chap; he's a stormy petrel. House-property will
go down if there's war. You'll have trouble with Roger's estate.
I often told him he ought to get out of some of his houses. He was
an opinionated beggar."
'There was a pair of you!' thought Soames. But he never argued
with an uncle, in that way preserving their opinion of him as 'a
long-headed chap,' and the legal care of their property.
"They tell me at Timothy's," said Nicholas, lowering his voice,
"that Dartie has gone off at last. That'll be a relief to your
father. He was a rotten egg."
Again Soames nodded. If there was a subject on which the Forsytes
really agreed, it was the character of Montague Dartie.
"You take care," said Nicholas, "or he'll turn up again. Winifred
had better have the tooth out, I should say. No use preserving
what's gone bad."
Soames looked at him sideways. His nerves, exacerbated by the
interview he had just come through, disposed him to see a personal
allusion in those words.
"I'm advising her," he said shortly.
"Well," said Nicholas, "the brougham's waiting; I must get home.
I'm very poorly. Remember me to your father."
And having thus reconsecrated the ties of blood, he passed down the
steps at his youthful gait and was wrapped into his fur coat by the
'I've never known Uncle Nicholas other than "very poorly,"' mused
Soames, 'or seen him look other than everlasting. What a family!
Judging by him, I've got thirty-eight years of health before me.
Well, I'm not going to waste them.' And going over to a mirror he
stood looking at his face. Except for a line or two, and three or
four grey hairs in his little dark moustache, had he aged any more
than Irene? The prime of life--he and she in the very prime of
life! And a fantastic thought shot into his mind. Absurd!
Idiotic! But again it came. And genuinely alarmed by the recur-
rence, as one is by the second fit of shivering which presages a
feverish cold, he sat down on the weighing machine. Eleven stone!
He had not varied two pounds in twenty years. What age was she?
Nearly thirty-seven--not too old to have a child--not at all!
Thirty-seven on the ninth of next month. He remembered her
birthday well--he had always observed it religiously, even that
last birthday so soon before she left him, when he was almost
certain she was faithless. Four birthdays in his house. He had
looked forward to them, because his gifts had meant a semblance of
gratitude, a certain attempt at warmth. Except, indeed, that last
birthday--which had tempted him to be too religious! And he shied
away in thought. Memory heaps dead leaves on corpse-like deeds,
from under which they do but vaguely offend the sense. And then he
thought suddenly: 'I could send her a present for her birthday.
After all, we're Christians! Couldn't!--couldn't we join up
again!' And he uttered a deep sigh sitting there. Annette! Ah!
but between him and Annette was the need for that wretched divorce
suit! And how?
"A man can always work these things, if he'll take it on himself,"
Jolyon had said.
But why should he take the scandal on himself with his whole career
as a pillar of the law at stake? It was not fair! It was quix-
otic! Twelve years' separation in which he had taken no steps to
free himself put out of court the possibility of using her conduct
with Bosinney as a ground for divorcing her. By doing nothing to
secure relief he had acquiesced, even if the evidence could now be
gathered, which was more than doubtful. Besides, his own pride
would never let him use that old incident, he had suffered from it
too much. No! Nothing but fresh misconduct on her part--but she
had denied it; and--almost--he had believed her. Hung up! Utterly
He rose from the scooped-out red velvet seat with a feeling of
constriction about his vitals. He would never sleep with this
going on in him! And, taking coat and hat again, he went out,
moving eastward. In Trafalgar Square he became aware of some
special commotion travelling towards him out of the mouth of the
Strand. It materialised in newspaper men calling out so loudly
that no words whatever could be heard. He stopped to listen, and
one came by.
"Payper! Special! Ultimatium by Krooger! Declaration of war!"
Soames bought the paper. There it was in the stop press....! His
first thought was: 'The Boers are committing suicide.' His second:
'Is there anything still I ought to sell?' If so he had missed the
chance--there would certainly be a slump in the city to-morrow. He
swallowed this thought with a nod of defiance. That ultimatum was
insolent--sooner than let it pass he was prepared to lose money.
They wanted a lesson, and they would get it; but it would take
three months at least to bring them to heel. There weren't the
troops out there; always behind time, the Government! Confound
those newspaper rats! What was the use of waking everybody up?
Breakfast to-morrow was quite soon enough. And he thought with
alarm of his father. They would cry it down Park Lane. Hailing a
hansom, he got in and told the man to drive there.
James and Emily had just gone up to bed, and after communicating
the news to Warmson, Soames prepared to follow. He paused by
after-thought to say:
"What do you think of it, Warmson?"
The butler ceased passing a hat brush over the silk hat Soames had
taken off, and, inclining his face a little forward, said in a low
voice: "Well, sir, they 'aven't a chance, of course; but I'm told
they're very good shots. I've got a son in the Inniskillings."
"You, Warmson? Why, I didn't know you were married."
"No, sir. I don't talk of it. I expect he'll be going out."
The slighter shock Soames had felt on discovering that he knew so
little of one whom he thought he knew so well was lost in the
slight shock of discovering that the war might touch one
personally. Born in the year of the Crimean War, he had only come
to consciousness by the time the Indian Mutiny was over; since then
the many little wars of the British Empire had been entirely
professional, quite unconnected with the Forsytes and all they
stood for in the body politic. This war would surely be no
exception. But his mind ran hastily over his family. Two of the
Haymans, he had heard, were in some Yeomanry or other--it had
always been a pleasant thought, there was a certain distinction
about the Yeomanry; they wore, or used to wear, a blue uniform with
silver about it, and rode horses. And Archibald, he remembered,
had once on a time joined the Militia, but had given it up because
his father, Nicholas, had made such a fuss about his 'wasting his
time peacocking about in a uniform.' Recently he had heard
somewhere that young Nicholas' eldest, very young Nicholas, had
become a Volunteer. 'No,' thought Soames, mounting the stairs
slowly, 'there's nothing in that!'
He stood on the landing outside his parents' bed and dressing
rooms, debating whether or not to put his nose in and say a
reassuring word. Opening the landing window, he listened. The
rumble from Piccadilly was all the sound he heard, and with the
thought, 'If these motor-cars increase, it'll affect house
property,' he was about to pass on up to the room always kept ready
for him when he heard, distant as yet, the hoarse rushing call of a
newsvendor. There it was, and coming past the house! He knocked
on his mother's door and went in.
His father was sitting up in bed, with his ears pricked under the
white hair which Emily kept so beautifully cut. He looked pink,
and extraordinarily clean, in his setting of white sheet and
pillow, out of which the points of his high, thin, nightgowned
shoulders emerged in small peaks. His eyes alone, grey and
distrustful under their withered lids, were moving from the window
to Emily, who in a wrapper was walking up and down, squeezing a
rubber ball attached to a scent bottle. The room reeked faintly of
the eau-de-Cologne she was spraying.
"All right!" said Soames, "it's not a fire. The Boers have
declared war--that's all."
Emily stopped her spraying.
"Oh!" was all she said, and looked at James.
Soames, too, looked at his father. He was taking it differently
from their expectation, as if some thought, strange to them, were
working in him.
"H'm!" he muttered suddenly, "I shan't live to see the end of
"Nonsense, James! It'll be over by Christmas."
"What do you know about it?" James answered her with asperity.
"It's a pretty mess at this time of night, too!" He lapsed into
silence, and his wife and son, as if hypnotised, waited for him to
say: 'I can't tell--I don't know; I knew how it would be!' But he
did not. The grey eyes shifted, evidently seeing nothing in the
room; then movement occurred under the bedclothes, and the knees
were drawn up suddenly to a great height.
"They ought to send out Roberts. It all comes from that fellow
Gladstone and his Majuba."
The two listeners noted something beyond the usual in his voice,
something of real anxiety. It was as if he had said: 'I shall
never see the old country peaceful and safe again. I shall have to
die before I know she's won.' And in spite of the feeling that
James must not be encouraged to be fussy, they were touched.
Soames went up to the bedside and stroked his father's hand which
had emerged from under the bedclothes, long and wrinkled with
"Mark my words!" said James, "consols will go to par. For all I
know, Val may go and enlist."
"Oh, come, James!" cried Emily, "you talk as if there were danger."
Her comfortable voice seemed to soothe James for once.
"Well," he muttered, "I told you how it would be. I don't know,
I'm sure--nobody tells me anything. Are you sleeping here, my boy?"
The crisis was past, he would now compose himself to his normal
degree of anxiety; and, assuring his father that he was sleeping in
the house, Soames pressed his hand, and went up to his room.
The following afternoon witnessed the greatest crowd Timothy's had
known for many a year. On national occasions, such as this, it
was, indeed, almost impossible to avoid going there. Not that
there was any danger or rather only just enough to make it
necessary to assure each other that there was none.
Nicholas was there early. He had seen Soames the night before--
Soames had said it was bound to come. This old Kruger was in his
dotage--why, he must be seventy-five if he was a day!
(Nicholas was eighty-two.) What had Timothy said? He had had a fit
after Majuba. These Boers were a grasping lot! The dark-haired
Francie, who had arrived on his heels, with the contradictious
touch which became the free spirit of a daughter of Roger, chimed
"Kettle and pot, Uncle Nicholas. What price the Uitlanders?" What
price, indeed! A new expression, and believed to be due to her
Aunt Juley thought Francie ought not to say such a thing. Dear
Mrs. MacAnder's boy, Charlie MacAnder, was one, and no one could
call him grasping. At this Francie uttered one of her mots,
scandalising, and so frequently repeated:
"Well, his father's a Scotchman, and his mother's a cat."
Aunt Juley covered her ears, too late, but Aunt Hester smiled; as
for Nicholas, he pouted--witticism of which he was not the author
was hardly to his taste. Just then Marian Tweetyman arrived,
followed almost immediately by young Nicholas. On seeing his son,
"Well, I must be going," he said, "Nick here will tell you what'll
win the race." And with this hit at his eldest, who, as a pillar
of accountancy, and director of an insurance company, was no more
addicted to sport than his father had ever been, he departed. Dear
Nicholas! What race was that? Or was it only one of his jokes?
He was a wonderful man for his age! How many lumps would dear
Marian take? And how were Giles and Jesse? Aunt Juley supposed
their Yeomanry would be very busy now, guarding the coast, though
of course the Boers had no ships. But one never knew what the
French might do if they had the chance, especially since that
dreadful Fashoda scare, which had upset Timothy so terribly that he
had made no investments for months afterwards. It was the
ingratitude of the Boers that was so dreadful, after everything had
been done for them--Dr. Jameson imprisoned, and he was so nice,
Mrs. MacAnder had always said. And Sir Alfred Milner sent out to
talk to them--such a clever man! She didn't know what they wanted.
But at this moment occurred one of those sensations--so precious at
Timothy's--which great occasions sometimes bring forth:
"Miss June Forsyte."
Aunts Juley and Hester were on their feet at once, trembling from
smothered resentment, and old affection bubbling up, and pride at
the return of a prodigal June! Well, this was a surprise! Dear
June--after all these years! And how well she was looking! Not
changed at all! It was almost on their lips to add, 'And how is
your dear grandfather?' forgetting in that giddy moment that poor
dear Jolyon had been in his grave for seven years now.
Ever the most courageous and downright of all the Forsytes, June,
with her decided chin and her spirited eyes and her hair like
flame, sat down, slight and short, on a gilt chair with a bead-
worked seat, for all the world as if ten years had not elapsed
since she had been to see them--ten years of travel and
independence and devotion to lame ducks. Those ducks of late had
been all definitely painters, etchers, or sculptors, so that her
impatience with the Forsytes and their hopelessly inartistic
outlook had become intense. Indeed, she had almost ceased to
believe that her family existed, and looked round her now with a
sort of challenging directness which brought exquisite discomfort
to the roomful. She had not expected to meet any of them but 'the
poor old things'; and why she had come to see them she hardly knew,
except that, while on her way from Oxford Street to a studio in
Latimer Road, she had suddenly remembered them with compunction as
two long-neglected old lame ducks.
Aunt Juley broke the hush again. "We've just been saying, dear,
how dreadful it is about these Boers! And what an impudent thing
of that old Kruger!"
"Impudent!" said June. "I think he's quite right. What business
have we to meddle with them? If he turned out all those wretched
Uitlanders it would serve them right. They're only after money."
The silence of sensation was broken by Francie saying:
"What? Are you a pro-Boer?" (undoubtedly the first use of that
"Well! Why can't we leave them alone?" said June, just as, in the
open doorway, the maid said "Mr. Soames Forsyte." Sensation on
sensation! Greeting was almost held up by curiosity to see how
June and he would take this encounter, for it was shrewdly
suspected, if not quite known, that they had not met since that old
and lamentable affair of her fiance Bosinney with Soames' wife.
They were seen to just touch each other's hands, and look each at
the other's left eye only. Aunt Juley came at once to the rescue:
"Dear June is so original. Fancy, Soames, she thinks the Boers are
not to blame."
"They only want their independence," said June; "and why shouldn't
they have it?"
"Because," answered Soames, with his smile a little on one side,
"they happen to have agreed to our suzerainty."
"Suzerainty!" repeated June scornfully; "we shouldn't like anyone's
suzerainty over us."
"They got advantages in payment," replied Soames; "a contract is a
"Contracts are not always just," fumed out June, "and when they're
not, they ought to be broken. The Boers are much the weaker. We
could afford to be generous."
Soames sniffed. "That's mere sentiment," he said.
Aunt Hester, to whom nothing was more awful than any kind of
disagreement, here leaned forward and remarked decisively:
"What lovely weather it has been for the time of year?"
But June was not to be diverted.
"I don't know why sentiment should be sneered at. It's the best
thing in the world." She looked defiantly round, and Aunt Juley
had to intervene again:
"Have you bought any pictures lately, Soames?"
Her incomparable instinct for the wrong subject had not failed her.
Soames flushed. To disclose the name of his latest purchases would
be like walking into the jaws of disdain. For somehow they all
knew of June's predilection for 'genius' not yet on its legs, and
her contempt for 'success' unless she had had a finger in securing
"One or two," he muttered.
But June's face had changed; the Forsyte within her was seeing its
chance. Why should not Soames buy some of the pictures of Eric
Cobbley--her last lame duck? And she promptly opened her attack:
Did Soames know his work? It was so wonderful. He was the coming
Oh, yes, Soames knew his work. It was in his view 'splashy,' and
would never get hold of the public.
June blazed up.
"Of course it won't; that's the last thing one would wish for. I
thought you were a connoisseur, not a picture-dealer."
"Of course Soames is a connoisseur," Aunt Juley said hastily; "he
has wonderful taste--he can always tell beforehand what's going to
"Oh!" gasped June, and sprang up from the bead-covered chair, "I
hate that standard of success. Why can't people buy things because
they like them?"
"You mean," said Francie, "because you like them."
And in the slight pause young Nicholas was heard saying gently that
Violet (his fourth) was taking lessons in pastel, he didn't know if
they were any use.
"Well, good-bye, Auntie," said June; "I must get on," and kissing
her aunts, she looked defiantly round the room, said "Good-bye"
again, and went. A breeze seemed to pass out with her, as if
everyone had sighed.
The third sensation came before anyone had time to speak:
"Mr. James Forsyte."
James came in using a stick slightly and wrapped in a fur coat
which gave him a fictitious bulk.
Everyone stood up. James was so old; and he had not been at
Timothy's for nearly two years.
"It's hot in here," he said.
Soames divested him of his coat, and as he did so could not help
admiring the glossy way his father was turned out. James sat down,
all knees, elbows, frock-coat, and long white whiskers.
"What's the meaning of that?" he said.
Though there was no apparent sense in his words, they all knew that
he was referring to June. His eyes searched his son's face.
"I thought I'd come and see for myself. What have they answered
Soames took out an evening paper, and read the headline.
"'Instant action by our Government--state of war existing!'"
"Ah!" said James, and sighed. "I was afraid they'd cut and run
like old Gladstone. We shall finish with them this time."
All stared at him. James! Always fussy, nervous, anxious! James
with his continual, 'I told you how it would be!' and his pessimism,
and his cautious investments. There was something uncanny about
such resolution in this the oldest living Forsyte.
"Where's Timothy?" said James. "He ought to pay attention to
Aunt Juley said she didn't know; Timothy had not said much at lunch
to-day. Aunt Hester rose and threaded her way out of the room, and
Francie said rather maliciously:
"The Boers are a hard nut to crack, Uncle James."
"H'm!" muttered James. "Where do you get your information? Nobody
Young Nicholas remarked in his mild voice that Nick (his eldest)
was now going to drill regularly.
"Ah!" muttered James, and stared before him--his thoughts were on
Val. "He's got to look after his mother," he said, "he's got no
time for drilling and that, with that father of his." This cryptic
saying produced silence, until he spoke again.
"What did June want here?" And his eyes rested with suspicion on
all of them in turn. "Her father's a rich man now." The
conversation turned on Jolyon, and when he had been seen last. It
was supposed that he went abroad and saw all sorts of people now
that his wife was dead; his water-colours were on the line, and he
was a successful man. Francie went so far as to say:
"I should like to see him again; he was rather a dear."
Aunt Juley recalled how he had gone to sleep on the sofa one day,
where James was sitting. He had always been very amiable; what did
Knowing that Jolyon was Irene's trustee, all felt the delicacy of
this question, and looked at Soames with interest. A faint pink
had come up in his cheeks.
"He's going grey," he said.
Indeed! Had Soames seen him? Soames nodded, and the pink
James said suddenly: "Well--I don't know, I can't tell."
It so exactly expressed the sentiment of everybody present that
there was something behind everything, that nobody responded. But
at this moment Aunt Hester returned.
"Timothy," she said in a low voice, "Timothy has bought a map, and
he's put in--he's put in three flags."
Timothy had ....! A sigh went round the company.
If Timothy had indeed put in three flags already, well!--it showed
what the nation could do when it was roused. The war was as good
JOLYON FINDS OUT WHERE HE IS
Jolyon stood at the window in Holly's old night nursery, converted
into a studio, not because it had a north light, but for its view
over the prospect away to the Grand Stand at Epsom. He shifted to
the side window which overlooked the stableyard, and whistled down
to the dog Balthasar who lay for ever under the clock tower. The
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