Indian Summer of a Forsyte and In Chancery
Part 6 out of 7
that mean that you're against me?"
"Bluntly," said Jolyon, "I'm against any woman living with any man
whom she definitely dislikes. It appears to me rotten."
"And I suppose each time you see her you put your opinions into her
"I am not likely to be seeing her."
"Not going back to Paris?"
"Not so far as I know," said Jolyon, conscious of the intent
watchfulness in Soames' face.
"Well, that's all I had to say. Anyone who comes between man and
wife, you know, incurs heavy responsibility."
Jolyon rose and made him a slight bow.
"Good-bye," he said, and, without offering to shake hands, moved
away, leaving Soames staring after him. 'We Forsytes,' thought
Jolyon, hailing a cab, 'are very civilised. With simpler folk that
might have come to a row. If it weren't for my boy going to the
war....' The war! A gust of his old doubt swept over him. A
precious war! Domination of peoples or of women! Attempts to
master and possess those who did not want you! The negation of
gentle decency! Possession, vested rights; and anyone 'agin' 'em--
outcast! 'Thank Heaven!' he thought, 'I always felt "agin" 'em,
anyway!' Yes! Even before his first disastrous marriage he could
remember fuming over the bludgeoning of Ireland, or the matrimonial
suits of women trying to be free of men they loathed. Parsons
would have it that freedom of soul and body were quite different
things! Pernicious doctrine! Body and soul could not thus be
separated. Free will was the strength of any tie, and not its
weakness. 'I ought to have told Soames,' he thought, 'that I think
him comic. Ah! but he's tragic, too!' Was there anything,
indeed, more tragic in the world than a man enslaved by his own
possessive instinct, who couldn't see the sky for it, or even enter
fully into what another person felt! 'I must write and warn her,'
he thought; 'he's going to have another try.' And all the way home
to Robin Hill he rebelled at the strength of that duty to his son
which prevented him from posting back to Paris....
But Soames sat long in his chair, the prey of a no less gnawing
ache--a jealous ache, as if it had been revealed to him that this
fellow held precedence of himself, and had spun fresh threads of
resistance to his way out. 'Does that mean that you're against
me?' he had got nothing out of that disingenuous question.
Feminist! Phrasey fellow! 'I mustn't rush things,' he thought.
'I have some breathing space; he's not going back to Paris, unless
he was lying. I'll let the spring come!' Though how the spring
could serve him, save by adding to his ache, he could not tell.
And gazing down into the street, where figures were passing from
pool to pool of the light from the high lamps, he thought: 'Nothing
seems any good--nothing seems worth while. I'm loney--that's the
He closed his eyes; and at once he seemed to see Irene, in a dark
street below a church--passing, turning her neck so that he caught
the gleam of her eyes and her white forehead under a little dark
hat, which had gold spangles on it and a veil hanging down behind.
He opened his eyes--so vividly he had seen her! A woman was
passing below, but not she! Oh no, there was nothing there!
'HERE WE ARE AGAIN!'
Imogen's frocks for her first season exercised the judgment of her
mother and the purse of her grandfather all through the month of
March. With Forsyte tenacity Winifred quested for perfection. It
took her mind off the slowly approaching rite which would give her
a freedom but doubtfully desired; took her mind, too, off her boy
and his fast approaching departure for a war from which the news
remained disquieting. Like bees busy on summer flowers, or bright
gadflies hovering and darting over spiky autumn blossoms, she and
her 'little daughter,' tall nearly as herself and with a bust
measurement not far inferior, hovered in the shops of Regent
Street, the establishments of Hanover Square and of Bond Street,
lost in consideration and the feel of fabrics. Dozens of young
women of striking deportment and peculiar gait paraded before
Winifred and Imogen, draped in 'creations.' The models--'Very new,
modom; quite the latest thing--' which those two reluctantly turned
down, would have filled a museum; the models which they were
obliged to have nearly emptied James' bank. It was no good doing
things by halves, Winifred felt, in view of the need for making
this first and sole untarnished season a conspicuous success.
Their patience in trying the patience of those impersonal creatures
who swam about before them could alone have been displayed by such
as were moved by faith. It was for Winifred a long prostration
before her dear goddess Fashion, fervent as a Catholic might make
before the Virgin; for Imogen an experience by no means too
unpleasant--she often looked so nice, and flattery was implicit
everywhere: in a word it was 'amusing.'
On the afternoon of the 20th of March, having, as it were, gutted
Skywards, they had sought refreshment over the way at Caramel and
Baker's, and, stored with chocolate frothed at the top with cream,
turned homewards through Berkeley Square of an evening touched with
spring. Opening the door--freshly painted a light olive-green;
nothing neglected that year to give Imogen a good send-off--
Winifred passed towards the silver basket to see if anyone had
called, and suddenly her nostrils twitched. What was that scent?
Imogen had taken up a novel sent from the library, and stood
absorbed. Rather sharply, because of the queer feeling in her
breast, Winifred said:
"Take that up, dear, and have a rest before dinner."
Imogen, still reading, passed up the stairs. Winifred heard the
door of her room slammed to, and drew a long savouring breath. Was
it spring tickling her senses--whipping up nostalgia for her
'clown,' against all wisdom and outraged virtue? A male scent! A
faint reek of cigars and lavender-water not smelt since that early
autumn night six months ago, when she had called him 'the limit.'
Whence came it, or was it ghost of scent--sheer emanation from
memory? She looked round her. Nothing--not a thing, no tiniest
disturbance of her hall, nor of the diningroom. A little day-dream
of a scent--illusory, saddening, silly! In the silver basket were
new cards, two with 'Mr. and Mrs. Polegate Thom,' and one with 'Mr.
Polegate Thom' thereon; she sniffed them, but they smelled severe.
'I must be tired,' she thought, 'I'll go and lie down.' Upstairs
the drawing-room was darkened, waiting for some hand to give it
evening light; and she passed on up to her bedroom. This, too, was
half-curtained and dim, for it was six o'clock. Winifred threw off
her coat--that scent again!--then stood, as if shot, transfixed
against the bed-rail. Something dark had risen from the sofa in
the far corner. A word of horror--in her family--escaped her:
"It's I--Monty," said a voice.
Clutching the bed-rail, Winifred reached up and turned the switch
of the light hanging above her dressing-table. He appeared just on
the rim of the light's circumference, emblazoned from the absence
of his watch-chain down to boots neat and sooty brown, but--yes!--
split at the toecap. His chest and face were shadowy. Surely he
was thin--or was it a trick of the light? He advanced, lighted now
from toe-cap to the top of his dark head--surely a little grizzled!
His complexion had darkened, sallowed; his black moustache had lost
boldness, become sardonic; there were lines which she did not know
about his face. There was no pin in his tie. His suit--ah!--she
knew that--but how unpressed, unglossy! She stared again at the
toe-cap of his boot. Something big and relentless had been 'at
him,' had turned and twisted, raked and scraped him. And she
stayed, not speaking, motionless, staring at that crack across the
"Well!" he said, "I got the order. I'm back."
Winifred's bosom began to heave. The nostalgia for her husband
which had rushed up with that scent was struggling with a deeper
jealousy than any she had felt yet. There he was--a dark, and as
if harried, shadow of his sleek and brazen self! What force had
done this to him--squeezed him like an orange to its dry rind!
"I'm back," he said again. "I've had a beastly time. By God! I
came steerage. I've got nothing but what I stand up in, and that
"And who has the rest?" cried Winifred, suddenly alive. "How dared
you come? You knew it was just for divorce that you got that order
to come back. Don't touch me!"
They held each to the rail of the big bed where they had spent so
many years of nights together. Many times, yes--many times she had
wanted him back. But now that he had come she was filled with this
cold and deadly resentment. He put his hand up to his moustache;
but did not frizz and twist it in the old familiar way, he just
pulled it downwards.
"Gad!" he said: "If you knew the time I've had!"
"I'm glad I don't!"
"Are the kids all right?"
Winifred nodded. "How did you get in?"
"With my key."
"Then the maids don't know. You can't stay here, Monty."
He uttered a little sardonic laugh.
"Well, look at me! That--that damned...."
"If you mention her," cried Winifred, "I go straight out to Park
Lane and I don't come back."
Suddenly he did a simple thing, but so uncharacteristic that it
moved her. He shut his eyes. It was as if he had said: 'All
right! I'm dead to the world!'
"You can have a room for the night," she said; "your things are
still here. Only Imogen is at home."
He leaned back against the bed-rail. "Well, it's in your hands,"
and his own made a writhing movement. "I've been through it. You
needn't hit too hard--it isn't worth while. I've been frightened;
I've been frightened, Freddie."
That old pet name, disused for years and years, sent a shiver
'What am I to do with him?' she thought. 'What in God's name am I
to do with him?'
"Got a cigarette?"
She gave him one from a little box she kept up there for when she
couldn't sleep at night, and lighted it. With that action the
matter-of-fact side of her nature came to life again.
"Go and have a hot bath. I'll put some clothes out for you in the
dressing-room. We can talk later."
He nodded, and fixed his eyes on her--they looked half-dead, or was
it that the folds in the lids had become heavier?
'He's not the same,' she thought. He would never be quite the same
again! But what would he be?
"All right!" he said, and went towards the door. He even moved
differently, like a man who has lost illusion and doubts whether it
is worth while to move at all.
When he was gone, and she heard the water in the bath running, she
put out a complete set of garments on the bed in his dressing-room,
then went downstairs and fetched up the biscuit box and whisky.
Putting on her coat again, and listening a moment at the bathroom
door, she went down and out. In the street she hesitated. Past
seven o'clock! Would Soames be at his Club or at Park Lane? She
turned towards the latter. Back!
Soames had always feared it--she had sometimes hoped it.... Back!
So like him--clown that he was--with this: 'Here we are again!' to
make fools of them all--of the Law, of Soames, of herself!
Yet to have done with the Law, not to have that murky cloud hanging
over her and the children! What a relief! Ah! but how to accept
his return? That 'woman' had ravaged him, taken from him passion
such as he had never bestowed on herself, such as she had not
thought him capable of. There was the sting! That selfish,
blatant 'clown' of hers, whom she herself had never really stirred,
had been swept and ungarnished by another woman! Insulting! Too
insulting! Not right, not decent to take him back! And yet she
had asked for him; the Law perhaps would make her now! He was as
much her husband as ever--she had put herself out of court! And
all he wanted, no doubt, was money--to keep him in cigars and
lavender-water! That scent! 'After all, I'm not old,' she
thought, 'not old yet!' But that woman who had reduced him to
those words: 'I've been through it. I've been frightened--
frightened, Freddie!' She neared her father's house, driven this
way and that, while all the time the Forsyte undertow was drawing
her to deep conclusion that after all he was her property, to be
held against a robbing world. And so she came to James'.
"Mr. Soames? In his room? I'll go up; don't say I'm here."
Her brother was dressing. She found him before a mirror, tying a
black bow with an air of despising its ends.
"Hullo!" he said, contemplating her in the glass; "what's wrong?"
"Monty!" said Winifred stonily.
Soames spun round. "What!"
"Hoist," muttered Soames, "with our own petard. Why the deuce
didn't you let me try cruelty? I always knew it was too much risk
"Oh! Don't talk about that! What shall I do?"
Soames answered, with a deep, deep sound.
"Well?" said Winifred impatiently.
"What has he to say for himself?"
"Nothing. One of his boots is split across the toe."
Soames stared at her.
"Ah!" he said, "of course! On his beam ends. So--it begins again!
This'll about finish father."
"Can't we keep it from him?"
"Impossible. He has an uncanny flair for anything that's
And he brooded, with fingers hooked into his blue silk braces.
"There ought to be some way in law," he muttered, "to make him
"No," cried Winifred, "I won't be made a fool of again; I'd sooner
put up with him."
The two stared at each other. Their hearts were full of feeling,
but they could give it no expression--Forsytes that they were.
"Where did you leave him?"
"In the bath," and Winifred gave a little bitter laugh. "The only
thing he's brought back is lavender-water."
"Steady!" said Soames, "you're thoroughly upset. I'll go back with
"What's the use?"
"We ought to make terms with him."
"Terms! It'll always be the same. When he recovers--cards and
betting, drink and ....!" She was silent, remembering the look on
her husband's face. The burnt child--the burnt child. Perhaps...!
"Recovers?" replied Soames: "Is he ill?"
"No; burnt out; that's all."
Soames took his waistcoat from a chair and put it on, he took his
coat and got into it, he scented his handkerchief with eau-de-
Cologne, threaded his watch-chain, and said: "We haven't any luck."
And in the midst of her own trouble Winifred was sorry for him, as
if in that little saying he had revealed deep trouble of his own.
"I'd like to see mother," she said.
"She'll be with father in their room. Come down quietly to the
study. I'll get her."
Winifred stole down to the little dark study, chiefly remarkable
for a Canaletto too doubtful to be placed elsewhere, and a fine
collection of Law Reports unopened for many years. Here she stood,
with her back to maroon-coloured curtains close-drawn, staring at
the empty grate, till her mother came in followed by Soames.
"Oh! my poor dear!" said Emily: "How miserable you look in here!
This is too bad of him, really!"
As a family they had so guarded themselves from the expression of
all unfashionable emotion that it was impossible to go up and give
her daughter a good hug. But there was comfort in her cushioned
voice, and her still dimpled shoulders under some rare black lace.
Summoning pride and the desire not to distress her mother, Winifred
said in her most off-hand voice:
"It's all right, Mother; no good fussing."
"I don't see," said Emily, looking at Soames, "why Winifred
shouldn't tell him that she'll prosecute him if he doesn't keep off
the premises. He took her pearls; and if he's not brought them
back, that's quite enough."
Winifred smiled. They would all plunge about with suggestions of
this and that, but she knew already what she would be doing, and
that was--nothing. The feeling that, after all, she had won a sort
of victory, retained her property, was every moment gaining ground
in her. No! if she wanted to punish him, she could do it at home
without the world knowing.
" Well," said Emily, "come into the diningroom comfortably--you
must stay and have dinner with us. Leave it to me to tell your
father." And, as Winifred moved towards the door, she turned out
the light. Not till then did they see the disaster in the
There, attracted by light from a room never lighted, James was
standing with his duncoloured camel-hair shawl folded about him, so
that his arms were not free and his silvered head looked cut off
from his fashionably trousered legs as if by an expanse of desert.
He stood, inimitably stork-like, with an expression as if he saw
before him a frog too large to swallow.
"What's all this?" he said. "Tell your father? You never tell me
The moment found Emily without reply. It was Winifred who went up
to him, and, laying one hand on each of his swathed, helpless arms,
"Monty's not gone bankrupt, Father. He's only come back."
They all three expected something serious to happen, and were glad
she had kept that grip of his arms, but they did not know the depth
of root in that shadowy old Forsyte. Something wry occurred about
his shaven mouth and chin, something scratchy between those long
silvery whiskers. Then he said with a sort of dignity: "He'll be
the death of me. I knew how it would be."
"You mustn't worry, Father," said Winifred calmly. "I mean to make
"Ah!" said James. "Here, take this thing off, I'm hot." They
unwound the shawl. He turned, and walked firmly to the dining-
"I don't want any soup," he said to Warmson, and sat down in his
chair. They all sat down too, Winifred still in her hat, while
Warmson laid the fourth place. When he left the room, James said:
"What's he brought back?"
James concentrated his eyes on his own image in a tablespoon.
"Divorce!" he muttered; "rubbish! What was I about? I ought to
have paid him an allowance to stay out of England. Soames you go
and propose it to him."
It seemed so right and simple a suggestion that even Winifred was
surprised when she said: "No, I'll keep him now he's back; he must
just behave--that's all."
They all looked at her. It had always been known that Winifred had
"Out there!" said James elliptically, "who knows what cut-throats!
You look for his revolver! Don't go to bed without. You ought to
have Warmson to sleep in the house. I'll see him myself tomorrow."
They were touched by this declaration, and Emily said comfortably:
"That's right, James, we won't have any nonsense."
"Ah!" muttered James darkly, "I can't tell."
The advent of Warmson with fish diverted conversation.
When, directly after dinner, Winifred went over to kiss her father
good-night, he looked up with eyes so full of question and distress
that she put all the comfort she could into her voice.
"It's all right, Daddy, dear; don't worry. I shan't need anyone--
he's quite bland. I shall only be upset if you worry. Good-night,
James repeated the words, "Bless you!" as if he did not quite know
what they meant, and his eyes followed her to the door.
She reached home before nine, and went straight upstairs.
Dartie was lying on the bed in his dressing-room, fully redressed
in a blue serge suit and pumps; his arms were crossed behind his
head, and an extinct cigarette drooped from his mouth.
Winifred remembered ridiculously the flowers in her window-boxes
after a blazing summer day; the way they lay, or rather stood--
parched, yet rested by the sun's retreat. It was as if a little
dew had come already on her burnt-up husband.
He said apathetically: "I suppose you've been to Park Lane. How's
the old man?"
Winifred could not help the bitter answer: "Not dead."
He winced, actually he winced.
"Understand, Monty," she said, "I will not have him worried. If
you aren't going to behave yourself, you may go back, you may go
anywhere. Have you had dinner?"
"Would you like some?"
He shrugged his shoulders.
"Imogen offered me some. I didn't want any."
Imogen! In the plenitude of emotion Winifred had forgotten her.
"So you've seen her? What did she say?"
"She gave me a kiss."
With mortification Winifred saw his dark sardonic face relaxed.
'Yes!' she thought, 'he cares for her, not for me a bit.'
Dartie's eyes were moving from side to side.
"Does she know about me?" he said.
It flashed through Winifred that here was the weapon she needed.
He minded their knowing!
"No. Val knows. The others don't; they only know you went away."
She heard him sigh with relief.
"But they shall know," she said firmly, "if you give me cause."
"All right!" he muttered, "hit me! I'm down!"
Winifred went up to the bed. "Look here, Monty! I don't want to
hit you. I don't want to hurt you. I shan't allude to anything.
I'm not going to worry. What's the use?" She was silent a moment.
"I can't stand any more, though, and I won't! You'd better know.
You've made me suffer. But I used to be fond of you. For the sake
of that...." She met the heavy-lidded gaze of his brown eyes with
the downward stare of her green-grey eyes; touched his hand
suddenly, turned her back, and went into her room.
She sat there a long time before her glass, fingering her rings,
thinking of this subdued dark man, almost a stranger to her, on the
bed in the other room; resolutely not 'worrying,' but gnawed by
jealousy of what he had been through, and now and again just
visited by pity.
Soames doggedly let the spring come--no easy task for one conscious
that time was flying, his birds in the bush no nearer the hand, no
issue from the web anywhere visible. Mr. Polteed reported nothing,
except that his watch went on--costing a lot of money. Val and his
cousin were gone to the war, whence came news more favourable;
Dartie was behaving himself so far; James had retained his health;
business prospered almost terribly--there was nothing to worry
Soames except that he was 'held up,' could make no step in any
He did not exactly avoid Soho, for he could not afford to let them
think that he had 'piped off,' as James would have put it--he might
want to 'pipe on' again at any minute. But he had to be so
restrained and cautious that he would often pass the door of the
Restaurant Bretagne without going in, and wander out of the
purlieus of that region which always gave him the feeling of having
been possessively irregular.
He wandered thus one May night into Regent Street and the most
amazing crowd he had ever seen; a shrieking, whistling, dancing,
jostling, grotesque and formidably jovial crowd, with false noses
and mouth-organs, penny whistles and long feathers, every appanage
of idiocy, as it seemed to him. Mafeking! Of course, it had been
relieved! Good! But was that an excuse? Who were these people,
what were they, where had they come from into the West End? His
face was tickled, his ears whistled into. Girls cried: 'Keep your
hair on, stucco!' A youth so knocked off his top-hat that he
recovered it with difficulty. Crackers were exploding beneath his
nose, between his feet. He was bewildered, exasperated, offended.
This stream of people came from every quarter, as if impulse had
unlocked flood-gates, let flow waters of whose existence he had
heard, perhaps, but believed in never. This, then, was the
populace, the innumerable living negation of gentility and
Forsyteism. This was--egad!--Democracy! It stank, yelled, was
hideous! In the East End, or even Soho, perhaps--but here in
Regent Street, in Piccadilly! What were the police about! In
1900, Soames, with his Forsyte thousands, had never seen the
cauldron with the lid off; and now looking into it, could hardly
believe his scorching eyes. The whole thing was unspeakable!
These people had no restraint, they seemed to think him funny; such
swarms of them, rude, coarse, laughing--and what laughter!
Nothing sacred to them! He shouldn't be surprised if they began to
break windows. In Pall Mall, past those august dwellings, to enter
which people paid sixty pounds, this shrieking, whistling, dancing
dervish of a crowd was swarming. From the Club windows his own
kind were looking out on them with regulated amusement. They
didn't realise! Why, this was serious--might come to anything!
The crowd was cheerful, but some day they would come in different
mood! He remembered there had been a mob in the late eighties,
when he was at Brighton; they had smashed things and made speeches.
But more than dread, he felt a deep surprise. They were hysterical
--it wasn't English! And all about the relief of a little town as
big as--Watford, six thousand miles away. Restraint, reserve!
Those qualities to him more dear almost than life, those
indispensable attributes of property and culture, where were they?
It wasn't English! No, it wasn't English! So Soames brooded,
threading his way on. It was as if he had suddenly caught sight of
someone cutting the covenant 'for quiet possession' out of his
legal documents; or of a monster lurking and stalking out in the
future, casting its shadow before. Their want of stolidity, their
want of reverence! It was like discovering that nine-tenths of the
people of England were foreigners. And if that were so--then,
anything might happen!
At Hyde Park Corner he ran into George Forsyte, very sunburnt from
racing, holding a false nose in his hand.
"Hallo, Soames!" he said, "have a nose!"
Soames responded with a pale smile.
"Got this from one of these sportsmen," went on George, who had
evidently been dining; "had to lay him out--for trying to bash my
hat. I say, one of these days we shall have to fight these chaps,
they're getting so damned cheeky--all radicals and socialists.
They want our goods. You tell Uncle James that, it'll make him
'In vino veritas,' thought Soames, but he only nodded, and passed
on up Hamilton Place. There was but a trickle of roysterers in
Park Lane, not very noisy. And looking up at the houses he
thought: 'After all, we're the backbone of the country. They won't
upset us easily. Possession's nine points of the law.'
But, as he closed the door of his father's house behind him, all
that queer outlandish nightmare in the streets passed out of his
mind almost as completely as if, having dreamed it, he had awakened
in the warm clean morning comfort of his spring-mattressed bed.
Walking into the centre of the great empty drawing-room, he stood
A wife! Somebody to talk things over with. One had a right! Damn
it! One had a right!
SOAMES IN PARIS
Soames had travelled little. Aged nineteen he had made the 'petty
tour' with his father, mother, and Winifred--Brussels, the Rhine,
Switzerland, and home by way of Paris. Aged twenty-seven, just
when he began to take interest in pictures, he had spent five hot
weeks in Italy, looking into the Renaissance--not so much in it as
he had been led to expect--and a fortnight in Paris on his way
back, looking into himself, as became a Forsyte surrounded by
people so strongly self-centred and 'foreign' as the French. His
knowledge of their language being derived from his public school,
he did not understand them when they spoke. Silence he had found
better for all parties; one did not make a fool of oneself. He had
disliked the look of the men's clothes, the closed-in cabs, the
theatres which looked like bee-hives, the Galleries which smelled
of beeswax. He was too cautious and too shy to explore that side
of Paris supposed by Forsytes to constitute its attraction under
the rose; and as for a collector's bargain--not one to be had! As
Nicholas might have put it--they were a grasping lot. He had come
back uneasy, saying Paris was overrated.
When, therefore, in June of 1900 he went to Paris, it was but his
third attempt on the centre of civilisation. This time, however,
the mountain was going to Mahomet; for he felt by now more deeply
civilised than Paris, and perhaps he really was. Moreover, he had
a definite objective. This was no mere genuflexion to a shrine of
taste and immorality, but the prosecution of his own legitimate
affairs. He went, indeed, because things were getting past a joke.
The watch went on and on, and--nothing--nothing! Jolyon had never
returned to Paris, and no one else was 'suspect!' Busy with new
and very confidential matters, Soames was realising more than ever
how essential reputation is to a solicitor. But at night and in
his leisure moments he was ravaged by the thought that time was
always flying and money flowing in, and his own future as much 'in
irons' as ever. Since Mafeking night he had become aware that a
'young fool of a doctor' was hanging round Annette. Twice he had
come across him--a cheerful young fool, not more than thirty.
Nothing annoyed Soames so much as cheerfulness--an indecent,
extravagant sort of quality, which had no relation to facts. The
mixture of his desires and hopes was, in a word, becoming torture;
and lately the thought had come to him that perhaps Irene knew she
was being shadowed: It was this which finally decided him to go and
see for himself; to go and once more try to break down her
repugnance, her refusal to make her own and his path comparatively
smooth once more. If he failed again--well, he would see what she
did with herself, anyway!
He went to an hotel in the Rue Caumartin, highly recommended to
Forsytes, where practically nobody spoke French. He had formed no
plan. He did not want to startle her; yet must contrive that she
had no chance to evade him by flight. And next morning he set out
in bright weather.
Paris had an air of gaiety, a sparkle over its star-shape which
almost annoyed Soames. He stepped gravely, his nose lifted a
little sideways in real curiosity. He desired now to understand
things French. Was not Annette French? There was much to be got
out of his visit, if he could only get it. In this laudable mood
and the Place de la Concorde he was nearly run down three times.
He came on the 'Cours la Reine,' where Irene's hotel was situated,
almost too suddenly, for he had not yet fixed on his procedure.
Crossing over to the river side, he noted the building, white and
cheerful-looking, with green sunblinds, seen through a screen of
plane-tree leaves. And, conscious that it would be far better to
meet her casually in some open place than to risk a call, he sat
down on a bench whence he could watch the entrance. It was not
quite eleven o'clock, and improbable that she had yet gone out.
Some pigeons were strutting and preening their feathers in the
pools of sunlight between the shadows of the plane-trees. A
workman in a blue blouse passed, and threw them crumbs from the
paper which contained his dinner. A 'bonne' coiffed with ribbon
shepherded two little girls with pig-tails and frilled drawers. A
cab meandered by, whose cocher wore a blue coat and a black-glazed
hat. To Soames a kind of affectation seemed to cling about it all,
a sort of picturesqueness which was out of date. A theatrical
people, the French! He lit one of his rare cigarettes, with a
sense of injury that Fate should be casting his life into out-
landish waters. He shouldn't wonder if Irene quite enjoyed this
foreign life; she had never been properly English--even to look at!
And he began considering which of those windows could be hers under
the green sunblinds. How could he word what he had come to say so
that it might pierce the defence of her proud obstinacy? He threw
the fag-end of his cigarette at a pigeon, with the thought: 'I
can't stay here for ever twiddling my thumbs. Better give it up
and call on her in the late afternoon.' But he still sat on, heard
twelve strike, and then half-past. 'I'll wait till one,' he
thought, 'while I'm about it.' But just then he started up, and
shrinkingly sat down again. A woman had come out in a cream-
coloured frock, and was moving away under a fawn-coloured parasol.
Irene herself! He waited till she was too far away to recognise
him, then set out after her. She was strolling as though she had
no particular objective; moving, if he remembered rightly, toward
the Bois de Boulogne. For half an hour at least he kept his
distance on the far side of the way till she had passed into the
Bois itself. Was she going to meet someone after all? Some
confounded Frenchman--one of those 'Bel Ami' chaps, perhaps, who
had nothing to do but hang about women--for he had read that book
with difficulty and a sort of disgusted fascination. He followed
doggedly along a shady alley, losing sight of her now and then when
the path curved. And it came back to him how, long ago, one night
in Hyde Park he had slid and sneaked from tree to tree, from seat
to seat, hunting blindly, ridiculously, in burning jealousy for her
and young Bosinney. The path bent sharply, and, hurrying, he came
on her sitting in front of a small fountain--a little green-bronze
Niobe veiled in hair to her slender hips, gazing at the pool she
had wept: He came on her so suddenly that he was past before he
could turn and take off his hat. She did not start up. She had
always had great self-command--it was one of the things he most
admired in her, one of his greatest grievances against her, because
he had never been able to tell what she was thinking. Had she
realised that he was following? Her self-possession made him
angry; and, disdaining to explain his presence, he pointed to the
mournful little Niobe, and said:
"That's rather a good thing."
He could see, then, that she was struggling to preserve her
"I didn't want to startle you; is this one of your haunts?"
"A little lonely." As he spoke, a lady, strolling by, paused to
look at the fountain and passed on.
Irene's eyes followed her.
"No," she said, prodding the ground with her parasol, "never
lonely. One has always one's shadow."
Soames understood; and, looking at her hard, he exclaimed:
"Well, it's your own fault. You can be free of it at any moment.
Irene, come back to me, and be free."
"Don't!" cried Soames, stamping his foot; "it's inhuman. Listen!
Is there any condition I can make which will bring you back to me?
If I promise you a separate house--and just a visit now and then?"
Irene rose, something wild suddenly in her face and figure.
"None! None! None! You may hunt me to the grave. I will not
Outraged and on edge, Soames recoiled.
"Don't make a scene!" he said sharply. And they both stood
motionless, staring at the little Niobe, whose greenish flesh the
sunlight was burnishing.
"That's your last word, then," muttered Soames, clenching his
hands; "you condemn us both."
Irene bent her head. "I can't come back. Good-bye!"
A feeling of monstrous injustice flared up in Soames.
"Stop!" he said, "and listen to me a moment. You gave me a sacred
vow--you came to me without a penny. You had all I could give you.
You broke that vow without cause, you made me a by-word; you
refused me a child; you've left me in prison; you--you still move
me so that I want you--I want you. Well, what do you think of
Irene turned, her face was deadly pale, her eyes burning dark.
"God made me as I am," she said; "wicked if you like--but not so
wicked that I'll give myself again to a man I hate."
The sunlight gleamed on her hair as she moved away, and seemed to
lay a caress all down her clinging cream-coloured frock.
Soames could neither speak nor move. That word 'hate'--so extreme,
so primitive--made all the Forsyte in him tremble. With a deep
imprecation he strode away from where she had vanished, and ran
almost into the arms of the lady sauntering back--the fool, the
He was soon dripping with perspiration, in the depths of the Bois.
'Well,' he thought, 'I need have no consideration for her now; she
has not a grain of it for me. I'll show her this very day that
she's my wife still.'
But on the way home to his hotel, he was forced to the conclusion
that he did not know what he meant. One could not make scenes in
public, and short of scenes in public what was there he could do?
He almost cursed his own thin-skinnedness. She might deserve no
consideration; but he--alas! deserved some at his own hands. And
sitting lunchless in the hall of his hotel, with tourists passing
every moment, Baedeker in hand, he was visited by black dejection.
In irons! His whole life, with every natural instinct and every
decent yearning gagged and fettered, and all because Fate had
driven him seventeen years ago to set his heart upon this woman--so
utterly, that even now he had no real heart to set on any other!
Cursed was the day he had met her, and his eyes for seeing in her
anything but the cruel Venus she was! And yet, still seeing her
with the sunlight on the clinging China crepe of her gown, he
uttered a little groan, so that a tourist who was passing, thought:
'Man in pain! Let's see! what did I have for lunch?'
Later, in front of a cafe near the Opera, over a glass of cold tea
with lemon and a straw in it, he took the malicious resolution to
go and dine at her hotel. If she were there, he would speak to
her; if she were not, he would leave a note. He dressed carefully,
and wrote as follows:
"Your idyll with that fellow Jolyon Forsyte is known to me at all
events. If you pursue it, understand that I will leave no stone
unturned to make things unbearable for him. 'S. F.'"
He sealed this note but did not address it, refusing to write the
maiden name which she had impudently resumed, or to put the word
Forsyte on the envelope lest she should tear it up unread. Then he
went out, and made his way through the glowing streets, abandoned
to evening pleasure-seekers. Entering her hotel, he took his seat
in a far corner of the dining-room whence he could see all
entrances and exits. She was not there. He ate little, quickly,
watchfully. She did not come. He lingered in the lounge over his
coffee, drank two liqueurs of brandy. But still she did not come.
He went over to the keyboard and examined the names. Number
twelve, on the first floor! And he determined to take the note up
himself. He mounted red-carpeted stairs, past a little salon;
eight-ten-twelve! Should he knock, push the note under, or....?
He looked furtively round and turned the handle. The door opened,
but into a little space leading to another door; he knocked on
that--no answer. The door was locked. It fitted very closely to
the floor; the note would not go under. He thrust it back into his
pocket, and stood a moment listening. He felt somehow certain that
she was not there. And suddenly he came away, passing the little
salon down the stairs. He stopped at the bureau and said:
"Will you kindly see that Mrs. Heron has this note?"
"Madame Heron left to-day, Monsieur--suddenly, about three o'clock.
There was illness in her family."
Soames compressed his lips. "Oh!" he said; "do you know her
"Non, Monsieur. England, I think."
Soames put the note back into his pocket and went out. He hailed
an open horse-cab which was passing.
"Drive me anywhere!"
The man, who, obviously, did not understand, smiled, and waved his
whip. And Soames was borne along in that little yellow-wheeled
Victoria all over star-shaped Paris, with here and there a pause,
and the question, "C'est par ici, Monsieur?" "No, go on," till the
man gave it up in despair, and the yellow-wheeled chariot continued
to roll between the tall, flat-fronted shuttered houses and plane-
tree avenues--a little Flying Dutchman of a cab.
'Like my life,' thought Soames, 'without object, on and on!'
IN THE WEB
Soames returned to England the following day, and on the third
morning received a visit from Mr. Polteed, who wore a flower and
carried a brown billycock hat. Soames motioned him to a seat.
"The news from the war is not so bad, is it?" said Mr. Polteed. "I
hope I see you well, sir."
Mr. Polteed leaned forward, smiled, opened his hand, looked into
it, and said softly:
"I think we've done your business for you at last."
"What?" ejaculated Soames.
"Nineteen reports quite suddenly what I think we shall be justified
in calling conclusive evidence," and Mr. Polteed paused.
"On the 10th instant, after witnessing an interview between 17 and
a party, earlier in the day, 19 can swear to having seen him coming
out of her bedroom in the hotel about ten o'clock in the evening.
With a little care in the giving of the evidence that will be
enough, especially as 17 has left Paris--no doubt with the party in
question. In fact, they both slipped off, and we haven't got on to
them again, yet; but we shall--we shall. She's worked hard under
very difficult circumstances, and I'm glad she's brought it off at
last." Mr. Polteed took out a cigarette, tapped its end against
the table, looked at Soames, and put it back. The expression on
his client's face was not encouraging.
"Who is this new person?" said Soames abruptly.
"That we don't know. She'll swear to the fact, and she's got his
Mr. Polteed took out a letter, and began reading:
"'Middle-aged, medium height, blue dittoes in afternoon, evening
dress at night, pale, dark hair, small dark moustache, flat cheeks,
good chin, grey eyes, small feet, guilty look....'"
Soames rose and went to the window. He stood there in sardonic
fury. Congenital idiot--spidery congenital idiot! Seven months at
fifteen pounds a week--to be tracked down as his own wife's lover!
Guilty look! He threw the window open.
"It's hot," he said, and came back to his seat.
Crossing his knees, he bent a supercilious glance on Mr. Polteed.
"I doubt if that's quite good enough," he said, drawling the words,
"with no name or address. I think you may let that lady have a
rest, and take up our friend 47 at this end." Whether Polteed had
spotted him he could not tell; but he had a mental vision of him in
the midst of his cronies dissolved in inextinguishable laughter.
'Guilty look!' Damnation!
Mr. Polteed said in a tone of urgency, almost of pathos: "I assure
you we have put it through sometimes on less than that. It's
Paris, you know. Attractive woman living alone. Why not risk it,
sir? We might screw it up a peg."
Soames had sudden insight. The fellow's professional zeal was
stirred: 'Greatest triumph of my career; got a man his divorce
through a visit to his own wife's bedroom! Something to talk of
there, when I retire!' And for one wild moment he thought: 'Why
not?' After all, hundreds of men of medium height had small feet
and a guilty look!
"I'm not authorised to take any risk!" he said shortly.
Mr. Polteed looked up.
"Pity," he said, "quite a pity! That other affair seemed very
"Never mind that. Please watch 47, and take care not to find a
mare's nest. Good-morning!"
Mr. Polteed's eye glinted at the words 'mare's nest!'
"Very good. You shall be kept informed."
And Soames was alone again. The spidery, dirty, ridiculous
business! Laying his arms on the table, he leaned his forehead on
them. Full ten minutes he rested thus, till a managing clerk
roused him with the draft prospectus of a new issue of shares, very
desirable, in Manifold and Topping's. That afternoon he left work
early and made his way to the Restaurant Bretagne. Only Madame
Lamotte was in. Would Monsieur have tea with her?
When they were seated at right angles to each other in the little
room, he said abruptly
"I want a talk with you, Madame."
The quick lift of her clear brown eyes told him that she had long
expected such words.
"I have to ask you something first: That young doctor--what's his
name? Is there anything between him and Annette?"
Her whole personality had become, as it were, like jet--clear-cut,
black, hard, shining.
"Annette is young," she said; "so is monsieur le docteur. Between
young people things move quickly; but Annette is a good daughter.
Ah! what a jewel of a nature!"
The least little smile twisted Soames' lips.
"Nothing definite, then?"
"But definite--no, indeed! The young man is veree nice, but--what
would you? There is no money at present."
She raised her willow-patterned tea-cup; Soames did the same.
Their eyes met.
"I am a married man," he said, "living apart from my wife for many
years. I am seeking to divorce her."
Madame Lamotte put down her cup. Indeed! What tragic things there
were! The entire absence of sentiment in her inspired a queer
species of contempt in Soames.
"I am a rich man," he added, fully conscious that the remark was
not in good taste. "It is useless to say more at present, but I
think you understand."
Madame's eyes, so open that the whites showed above them, looked at
him very straight.
"Ah! ca--mais nous avons le temps!" was all she said. "Another
little cup?" Soames refused, and, taking his leave, walked
He had got that off his mind; she would not let Annette commit
herself with that cheerful young ass until....! But what chance of
his ever being able to say: 'I'm free.' What chance? The future
had lost all semblance of reality. He felt like a fly, entangled
in cobweb filaments, watching the desirable freedom of the air with
He was short of exercise, and wandered on to Kensington Gardens,
and down Queen's Gate towards Chelsea. Perhaps she had gone back
to her flat. That at all events he could find out. For since that
last and most ignominious repulse his wounded self-respect had
taken refuge again in the feeling that she must have a lover. He
arrived before the little Mansions at the dinner-hour. No need to
enquire! A grey-haired lady was watering the flower-boxes in her
window. It was evidently let. And he walked slowly past again,
along the river--an evening of clear, quiet beauty, all harmony and
comfort, except within his heart.
On the afternoon that Soames crossed to France a cablegram was
received by Jolyon at Robin Hill:
"Your son down with enteric no immediate danger will cable again."
It reached a household already agitated by the imminent departure
of June, whose berth was booked for the following day. She was,
indeed, in the act of confiding Eric Cobbley and his family to her
father's care when the message arrived.
The resolution to become a Red Cross nurse, taken under stimulus of
Jolly's enlistment, had been loyally fulfilled with the irritation
and regret which all Forsytes feel at what curtails their
individual liberties. Enthusiastic at first about the
'wonderfulness' of the work, she had begun after a month to feel
that she could train herself so much better than others could train
her. And if Holly had not insisted on following her example, and
being trained too, she must inevitably have 'cried off.' The
departure of Jolly and Val with their troop in April had further
stiffened her failing resolve. But now, on the point of departure,
the thought of leaving Eric Cobbley, with a wife and two children,
adrift in the cold waters of an unappreciative world weighed on her
so that she was still in danger of backing out. The reading of
that cablegram, with its disquieting reality, clinched the matter.
She saw herself already nursing Jolly--for of course they would let
her nurse her own brother! Jolyon--ever wide and doubtful--had no
such hope. Poor June!
Could any Forsyte of her generation grasp how rude and brutal life
was? Ever since he knew of his boy's arrival at Cape Town the
thought of him had been a kind of recurrent sickness in Jolyon. He
could not get reconciled to the feeling that Jolly was in danger
all the time. The cablegram, grave though it was, was almost a
relief. He was now safe from bullets, anyway. And yet--this
enteric was a virulent disease! The Times was full of deaths
therefrom. Why could he not be lying out there in that up-country
hospital, and his boy safe at home? The un-Forsytean self-sacrifice
of his three children, indeed, had quite bewildered Jolyon. He
would eagerly change places with Jolly, because he loved his boy;
but no such personal motive was influencing them. He could only
think that it marked the decline of the Forsyte type.
Late that afternoon Holly came out to him under the old oak-tree.
She had grown up very much during these last months of hospital
training away from home. And, seeing her approach, he thought:
'She has more sense than June, child though she is; more wisdom.
Thank God she isn't going out.' She had seated herself in the
swing, very silent and still. 'She feels this,' thought Jolyon,
'as much as I' and, seeing her eyes fixed on him, he said: "Don't
take it to heart too much, my child. If he weren't ill, he might
be in much greater danger."
Holly got out of the swing.
"I want to tell you something, Dad. It was through me that Jolly
enlisted and went out."
"When you were away in Paris, Val Dartie and I fell in love. We
used to ride in Richmond Park; we got engaged. Jolly found it out,
and thought he ought to stop it; so he dared Val to enlist. It was
all my fault, Dad; and I want to go out too. Because if anything
happens to either of them I should feel awful. Besides, I'm just
as much trained as June."
Jolyon gazed at her in a stupefaction that was tinged with irony.
So this was the answer to the riddle he had been asking himself;
and his three children were Forsytes after all. Surely Holly might
have told him all this before! But he smothered the sarcastic
sayings on his lips. Tenderness to the young was perhaps the most
sacred article of his belief. He had got, no doubt, what he
deserved. Engaged! So this was why he had so lost touch with her!
And to young Val Dartie--nephew of Soames--in the other camp! It
was all terribly distasteful. He closed his easel, and set his
drawing against the tree.
"Have you told June?"
"Yes; she says she'll get me into her cabin somehow. It's a single
cabin; but one of us could sleep on the floor. If you consent,
she'll go up now and get permission."
'Consent?' thought Jolyon. 'Rather late in the day to ask for
that!' But again he checked himself.
"You're too young, my dear; they won't let you."
"June knows some people that she helped to go to Cape Town. If
they won't let me nurse yet, I could stay with them and go on
training there. Let me go, Dad!"
Jolyon smiled because he could have cried.
"I never stop anyone from doing anything," he said.
Holly flung her arms round his neck.
"Oh! Dad, you are the best in the world."
'That means the worst,' thought Jolyon. If he had ever doubted his
creed of tolerance he did so then.
"I'm not friendly with Val's family," he said, "and I don't know
Val, but Jolly didn't like him."
Holly looked at the distance and said:
"I love him."
"That settles it," said Jolyon dryly, then catching the expression
on her face, he kissed her, with the thought: 'Is anything more
pathetic than the faith of the young?' Unless he actually forbade
her going it was obvious that he must make the best of it, so he
went up to town with June. Whether due to her persistence, or the
fact that the official they saw was an old school friend of
Jolyon's, they obtained permission for Holly to share the single
cabin. He took them to Surbiton station the following evening, and
they duly slid away from him, provided with money, invalid foods,
and those letters of credit without which Forsytes do not travel.
He drove back to Robin Hill under a brilliant sky to his late
dinner, served with an added care by servants trying to show him
that they sympathised, eaten with an added scrupulousness to show
them that he appreciated their sympathy. But it was a real relief
to get to his cigar on the terrace of flag-stones--cunningly chosen
by young Bosinney for shape and colour--with night closing in
around him, so beautiful a night, hardly whispering in the trees,
and smelling so sweet that it made him ache. The grass was
drenched with dew, and he kept to those flagstones, up and down,
till presently it began to seem to him that he was one of three,
not wheeling, but turning right about at each end, so that his
father was always nearest to the house, and his son always nearest
to the terrace edge. Each had an arm lightly within his arm; he
dared not lift his hand to his cigar lest he should disturb them,
and it burned away, dripping ash on him, till it dropped from his
lips, at last, which were getting hot. They left him then, and his
arms felt chilly. Three Jolyons in one Jolyon they had walked.
He stood still, counting the sounds--a carriage passing on the
highroad, a distant train, the dog at Gage's farm, the whispering
trees, the groom playing on his penny whistle. A multitude of
stars up there--bright and silent, so far off! No moon as yet!
Just enough light to show him the dark flags and swords of the iris
flowers along the terrace edge--his favourite flower that had the
night's own colour on its curving crumpled petals. He turned round
to the house. Big, unlighted, not a soul beside himself to live in
all that part of it. Stark loneliness! He could not go on living
here alone. And yet, so long as there was beauty, why should a man
feel lonely? The answer--as to some idiot's riddle--was: Because
he did. The greater the beauty, the greater the loneliness, for at
the back of beauty was harmony, and at the back of harmony was--
union. Beauty could not comfort if the soul were out of it. The
night, maddeningly lovely, with bloom of grapes on it in starshine,
and the breath of grass and honey coming from it, he could not
enjoy, while she who was to him the life of beauty, its embodiment
and essence, was cut off from him, utterly cut off now, he felt, by
He made a poor fist of sleeping, striving too hard after that
resignation which Forsytes find difficult to reach, bred to their
own way and left so comfortably off by their fathers. But after
dawn he dozed off, and soon was dreaming a strange dream.
He was on a stage with immensely high rich curtains--high as the
very stars--stretching in a semi-circle from footlights to
footlights. He himself was very small, a little black restless
figure roaming up and down; and the odd thing was that he was not
altogether himself, but Soames as well, so that he was not only
experiencing but watching. This figure of himself and Soames was
trying to find a way out through the curtains, which, heavy and
dark, kept him in. Several times he had crossed in front of them
before he saw with delight a sudden narrow rift--a tall chink of
beauty the colour of iris flowers, like a glimpse of Paradise,
remote, ineffable. Stepping quickly forward to pass into it, he
found the curtains closing before him. Bitterly disappointed he--
or was it Soames?--moved on, and there was the chink again through
the parted curtains, which again closed too soon. This went on and
on and he never got through till he woke with the word "Irene" on
his lips. The dream disturbed him badly, especially that
identification of himself with Soames.
Next morning, finding it impossible to work, he spent hours riding
Jolly's horse in search of fatigue. And on the second day he made
up his mind to move to London and see if he could not get
permission to follow his daughters to South Africa. He had just
begun to pack the following morning when he received this letter:
"MY DEAR JOLYON,
"You will be surprised to see how near I am to you. Paris became
impossible--and I have come here to be within reach of your advice.
I would so love to see you again. Since you left Paris I don't
think I have met anyone I could really talk to. Is all well with
you and with your boy? No one knows, I think, that I am here at
"Always your friend,
Irene within three miles of him!--and again in flight! He stood
with a very queer smile on his lips. This was more than he had
About noon he set out on foot across Richmond Park, and as he went
along, he thought: 'Richmond Park! By Jove, it suits us Forsytes!'
Not that Forsytes lived there--nobody lived there save royalty,
rangers, and the deer--but in Richmond Park Nature was allowed to
go so far and no further, putting up a brave show of being natural,
seeming to say: 'Look at my instincts--they are almost passions,
very nearly out of hand, but not quite, of course; the very hub of
possession is to possess oneself.' Yes! Richmond Park possessed
itself, even on that bright day of June, with arrowy cuckoos
shifting the tree-points of their calls, and the wood doves
announcing high summer.
The Green Hotel, which Jolyon entered at one o'clock, stood nearly
opposite that more famous hostelry, the Crown and Sceptre; it was
modest, highly respectable, never out of cold beef, gooseberry
tart, and a dowager or two, so that a carriage and pair was almost
always standing before the door.
In a room draped in chintz so slippery as to forbid all emotion,
Irene was sitting on a piano stool covered with crewel work,
playing 'Hansel and Gretel' out of an old score. Above her on a
wall, not yet Morris-papered, was a print of the Queen on a pony,
amongst deer-hounds, Scotch. caps, and slain stags; beside her in a
pot on the window-sill was a white and rosy fuchsia. The
Victorianism of the room almost talked; and in her clinging frock
Irene seemed to Jolyon like Venus emerging from the shell of the
"If the proprietor had eyes," he said, "he would show you the door;
you have broken through his decorations." Thus lightly he
smothered up an emotional moment. Having eaten cold beef, pickled
walnut, gooseberry tart, and drunk stone-bottle ginger-beer, they
walked into the Park, and light talk was succeeded by the silence
Jolyon had dreaded.
"You haven't told me about Paris," he said at last.
"No. I've been shadowed for a long time; one gets used to that.
But then Soames came. By the little Niobe--the same story; would I
go back to him?"
She had spoken without raising her eyes, but she looked up now.
Those dark eyes clinging to his said as no words could have: 'I
have come to an end; if you want me, here I am.'
For sheer emotional intensity had he ever--old as he was--passed
through such a moment?
The words: 'Irene, I adore you!' almost escaped him. Then, with a
clearness of which he would not have believed mental vision
capable, he saw Jolly lying with a white face turned to a white
"My boy is very ill out there," he said quietly.
Irene slipped her arm through his.
"Let's walk on; I understand."
No miserable explanation to attempt! She had understood! And they
walked on among the bracken, knee-high already, between the
rabbitholes and the oak-trees, talking of Jolly. He left her two
hours later at the Richmond Hill Gate, and turned towards home.
'She knows of my feeling for her, then,' he thought. Of course!
One could not keep knowledge of that from such a woman!
OVER THE RIVER
Jolly was tired to death of dreams. They had left him now too wan
and weak to dream again; left him to lie torpid, faintly
remembering far-off things; just able to turn his eyes and gaze
through the window near his cot at the trickle of river running by
in the sands, at the straggling milk-bush of the Karoo beyond. He
knew what the Karoo was now, even if he had not seen a Boer roll
over like a rabbit, or heard the whine of flying bullets. This
pestilence had sneaked on him before he had smelled powder. A
thirsty day and a rash drink, or perhaps a tainted fruit--who knew?
Not he, who had not even strength left to grudge the evil thing its
victory--just enough to know that there were many lying here with
him, that he was sore with frenzied dreaming; just enough to watch
that thread of river and be able to remember faintly those far-away
The sun was nearly down. It would be cooler soon. He would have
liked to know the time--to feel his old watch, so butter-smooth, to
hear the repeater strike. It would have been friendly, home-like.
He had not even strength to remember that the old watch was last
wound the day he began to lie here. The pulse of his brain beat so
feebly that faces which came and went, nurse's, doctor's,
orderly's, were indistinguishable, just one indifferent face; and
the words spoken about him meant all the same thing, and that
almost nothing. Those things he used to do, though far and faint,
were more distinct--walking past the foot of the old steps at
Harrow 'bill'--'Here, sir! Here, sir!'--wrapping boots in the
Westminster Gazette, greenish paper, shining boots--grandfather
coming from somewhere dark--a smell of earth--the mushroom house!
Robin Hill! Burying poor old Balthasar in the leaves! Dad!
Consciousness came again with noticing that the river had no water
in it--someone was speaking too. Want anything? No. What could
one want? Too weak to want--only to hear his watch strike....
Holly! She wouldn't bowl properly. Oh! Pitch them up! Not
sneaks!... 'Back her, Two and Bow!' He was Two!... Consciousness
came once more with a sense of the violet dusk outside, and a
rising blood-red crescent moon. His eyes rested on it fascinated;
in the long minutes of brain-nothingness it went moving up and
"He's going, doctor!" Not pack boots again? Never? 'Mind your
form, Two!' Don't cry! Go quietly--over the river--sleep!...
Dark? If somebody would--strike--his--watch!...
A sealed letter in the handwriting of Mr. Polteed remained unopened
in Soames' pocket throughout two hours of sustained attention to
the affairs of the 'New Colliery Company,' which, declining almost
from the moment of old Jolyon's retirement from the Chairmanship,
had lately run down so fast that there was now nothing for it but a
'winding-up.' He took the letter out to lunch at his City Club,
sacred to him for the meals he had eaten there with his father in
the early seventies, when James used to like him to come and see
for himself the nature of his future life.
Here in a remote corner before a plate of roast mutton and mashed
potato, he read:
"In accordance with your suggestion we have duly taken the matter
up at the other end with gratifying results. Observation of 47 has
enabled us to locate 17 at the Green Hotel, Richmond. The two have
been observed to meet daily during the past week in Richmond Park.
Nothing absolutely crucial has so far been notified. But in
conjunction with what we had from Paris at the beginning of the
year, I am confident we could now satisfy the Court. We shall, of
course, continue to watch the matter until we hear from you.
"Very faithfully yours,
Soames read it through twice and beckoned to the waiter:
"Take this away; it's cold."
"Shall I bring you some more, sir?"
"No. Get me some coffee in the other room."
And, paying for what he had not eaten, he went out, passing two
acquaintances without sign of recognition.
'Satisfy the Court!' he thought, sitting at a little round marble
table with the coffee before him. That fellow Jolyon! He poured
out his coffee, sweetened and drank it. He would disgrace him in
the eyes of his own children! And rising, with that resolution hot
within him, he found for the first time the inconvenience of being
his own solicitor. He could not treat this scandalous matter in
his own office. He must commit the soul of his private dignity to
a stranger, some other professional dealer in family dishonour.
Who was there he could go to? Linkman and Laver in Budge Row,
perhaps--reliable, not too conspicuous, only nodding acquaintances.
But before he saw them he must see Polteed again. But at this
thought Soames had a moment of sheer weakness. To part with his
secret? How find the words? How subject himself to contempt and
secret laughter? Yet, after all, the fellow knew already--oh yes,
he knew! And, feeling that he must finish with it now, he took a
cab into the West End.
In this hot weather the window of Mr. Polteed's room was positively
open, and the only precaution was a wire gauze, preventing the
intrusion of flies. Two or three had tried to come in, and been
caught, so that they seemed to be clinging there with the intention
of being devoured presently. Mr. Polteed, following the direction
of his client's eye, rose apologetically and closed the window.
'Posing ass!' thought Soames. Like all who fundamentally believe
in themselves he was rising to the occasion, and, with his little
sideway smile, he said: "I've had your letter. I'm going to act.
I suppose you know who the lady you've been watching really is?"
Mr. Polteed's expression at that moment was a masterpiece. It so
clearly said: 'Well, what do you think? But mere professional
knowledge, I assure you--pray forgive it!' He made a little half
airy movement with his hand, as who should say: 'Such things--such
things will happen to us all!'
"Very well, then," said Soames, moistening his lips: "there's no
need to say more. I'm instructing Linkman and Laver of Budge Row
to act for me. I don't want to hear your evidence, but kindly make
your report to them at five o'clock, and continue to observe the
Mr. Polteed half closed his eyes, as if to comply at once. "My
dear sir," he said.
"Are you convinced," asked Soames with sudden energy, "that there
The faintest movement occurred to Mr. Polteed's shoulders.
"You can risk it," he murmured; "with what we have, and human
nature, you can risk it."
Soames rose. "You will ask for Mr. Linkman. Thanks; don't get
up." He could not bear Mr. Polteed to slide as usual between him
and the door. In the sunlight of Piccadilly he wiped his forehead.
This had been the worst of it--he could stand the strangers better.
And he went back into the City to do what still lay before him.
That evening in Park Lane, watching his father dine, he was
overwhelmed by his old longing for a son--a son, to watch him eat
as he went down the years, to be taken on his knee as James on a
time had been wont to take him; a son of his own begetting, who
could understand him because he was the same flesh and blood--
understand, and comfort him, and become more rich and cultured than
himself because he would start even better off. To get old--like
that thin, grey wiry-frail figure sitting there--and be quite alone
with possessions heaping up around him; to take no interest in
anything because it had no future and must pass away from him to
hands and mouths and eyes for whom he cared no jot! No! He would
force it through now, and be free to marry, and have a son to care
for him before he grew to be like the old old man his father,
wistfully watching now his sweetbread, now his son.
In that mood he went up to bed. But, lying warm between those fine
linen sheets of Emily's providing, he was visited by memories and
torture. Visions of Irene, almost the solid feeling of her body,
beset him. Why had he ever been fool enough to see her again, and
let this flood back on him so that it was pain to think of her with
that fellow--that stealing fellow.
A SUMMER DAY
His boy was seldom absent from Jolyon's mind in the days which
followed the first walk with Irene in Richmond Park. No further
news had come; enquiries at the War Office elicited nothing; nor
could he expect to hear from June and Holly for three weeks at
least. In these days he felt how insufficient were his memories of
Jolly, and what an amateur of a father he had been. There was not
a single memory in which anger played a part; not one
reconciliation, because there had never been a rupture; nor one
heart-to-heart confidence, not even when Jolly's mother died.
Nothing but half-ironical affection. He had been too afraid of
committing himself in any direction, for fear of losing his
liberty, or interfering with that of his boy.
Only in Irene's presence had he relief, highly complicated by the
ever-growing perception of how divided he was between her and his
son. With Jolly was bound up all that sense of continuity and
social creed of which he had drunk deeply in his youth and again
during his boy's public school and varsity life--all that sense of
not going back on what father and son expected of each other. With
Irene was bound up all his delight in beauty and in Nature. And he
seemed to know less and less which was the stronger within him.
From such sentimental paralysis he was rudely awakened, however,
one afternoon, just as he was starting off to Richmond, by a young
man with a bicycle and a face oddly familiar, who came forward
"Mr. Jolyon Forsyte? Thank you!" Placing an envelope in Jolyon's
hand he wheeled off the path and rode away. Bewildered, Jolyon
"Admiralty Probate and Divorce, Forsyte v. Forsyte and Forsyte!"
A sensation of shame and disgust was followed by the instant
reaction 'Why, here's the very thing you want, and you don't like
it!' But she must have had one too; and he must go to her at once.
He turned things over as he went along. It was an ironical busi-
ness. For, whatever the Scriptures said about the heart, it took
more than mere longings to satisfy the law. They could perfectly
well defend this suit, or at least in good faith try to. But the
idea of doing so revolted Jolyon. If not her lover in deed he was
in desire, and he knew that she was ready to come to him. Her face
had told him so. Not that he exaggerated her feeling for him. She
had had her grand passion, and he could not expect another from her
at his age. But she had trust in him, affection for him, and must
feel that he would be a refuge. Surely she would not ask him to
defend the suit, knowing that he adored her! Thank Heaven she had
not that maddening British conscientiousness which refused
happiness for the sake of refusing! She must rejoice at this
chance of being free after seventeen years of death in life! As to
publicity, the fat was in the fire! To defend the suit would not
take away the slur. Jolyon had all the proper feeling of a Forsyte
whose privacy is threatened: If he was to be hung by the Law, by
all means let it be for a sheep! Moreover the notion of standing
in a witness box and swearing to the truth that no gesture, not
even a word of love had passed between them seemed to him more
degrading than to take the tacit stigma of being an adulterer--more
truly degrading, considering the feeling in his heart, and just as
bad and painful for his children. The thought of explaining away,
if he could, before a judge and twelve average Englishmen, their
meetings in Paris, and the walks in Richmond Park, horrified him.
The brutality and hypocritical censoriousness of the whole process;
the probability that they would not be believed--the mere vision of
her, whom he looked on as the embodiment of Nature and of Beauty,
standing there before all those suspicious, gloating eyes was
hideous to him. No, no! To defend a suit only made a London
holiday, and sold the newspapers. A thousand times better accept
what Soames and the gods had sent!
'Besides,' he thought honestly, 'who knows whether, even for my
boy's sake, I could have stood this state of things much longer?
Anyway, her neck will be out of chancery at last!' Thus absorbed,
he was hardly conscious of the heavy heat. The sky had become
overcast, purplish with little streaks of white. A heavy heat-drop
plashed a little star pattern in the dust of the road as he entered
the Park. 'Phew!' he thought, 'thunder! I hope she's not come to
meet me; there's a ducking up there!' But at that very minute he
saw Irene coming towards the Gate. 'We must scuttle back to Robin
Hill,' he thought.
The storm had passed over the Poultry at four o'clock, bringing
welcome distraction to the clerks in every office. Soames was
drinking a cup of tea when a note was brought in to him:
"Forsyte v. Forsyte and Forsyte
"In accordance with your instructions, we beg to inform you that we
personally served the respondent and co-respondent in this suit
to-day, at Richmond, and Robin Hill, respectively.
"LINKMAN AND LAVER."
For some minutes Soames stared at that note. Ever since he had
given those instructions he had been tempted to annul them. It was
so scandalous, such a general disgrace! The evidence, too, what he
had heard of it, had never seemed to him conclusive; somehow, he
believed less and less that those two had gone all lengths. But
this, of course, would drive them to it; and he suffered from the
thought. That fellow to have her love, where he had failed! Was
it too late? Now that they had been brought up sharp by service of
this petition, had he not a lever with which he could force them
apart? 'But if I don't act at once,' he thought, 'it will be too
late, now they've had this thing. I'll go and see him; I'll go
And, sick with nervous anxiety, he sent out for one of the
'new-fangled' motor-cabs. It might take a long time to run that
fellow to ground, and Goodness knew what decision they might come
to after such a shock! 'If I were a theatrical ass,' he thought,
'I suppose I should be taking a horse-whip or a pistol or
something!' He took instead a bundle of papers in the case of
'Magentie versus Wake,' intending to read them on the way down. He
did not even open them, but sat quite still, jolted and jarred,
unconscious of the draught down the back of his neck, or the smell
of petrol. He must be guided by the fellow's attitude; the great
thing was to keep his head!
London had already begun to disgorge its workers as he neared
Putney Bridge; the ant-heap was on the move outwards. What a lot
of ants, all with a living to get, holding on by their eyelids in
the great scramble! Perhaps for the first time in his life Soames
thought: 'I could let go if I liked! Nothing could touch me; I
could snap my fingers, live as I wished--enjoy myself!' No! One
could not live as he had and just drop it all--settle down in
Capua, to spend the money and reputation he had made. A man's life
was what he possessed and sought to possess. Only fools thought
otherwise--fools, and socialists, and libertines!
The cab was passing villas now, going a great pace. 'Fifteen miles
an hour, I should think!' he mused; 'this'll take people out of
town to live!' and he thought of its bearing on the portions of
London owned by his father--he himself had never taken to that form
of investment, the gambler in him having all the outlet needed in
his pictures. And the cab sped on, down the hill past Wimbledon
Common. This interview! Surely a man of fifty-two with grown-up
children, and hung on the line, would not be reckless. 'He won't
want to disgrace the family,' he thought; 'he was as fond of his
father as I am of mine, and they were brothers. That woman brings
destruction--what is it in her? I've never known.' The cab
branched off, along the side of a wood, and he heard a late cuckoo
calling, almost the first he had heard that year. He was now
almost opposite the site he had originally chosen for his house,
and which had been so unceremoniously rejected by Bosinney in
favour of his own choice. He began passing his handkerchief over
his face and hands, taking deep breaths to give him steadiness.
'Keep one's head,' he thought, 'keep one's head!'
The cab turned in at the drive which might have been his own, and
the sound of music met him. He had forgotten the fellow's
"I may be out again directly," he said to the driver, "or I may be
kept some time"; and he rang the bell.
Following the maid through the curtains into the inner hall, he
felt relieved that the impact of this meeting would be broken by
June or Holly, whichever was playing in there, so that with
complete surprise he saw Irene at the piano, and Jolyon sitting in
an armchair listening. They both stood up. Blood surged into
Soames' brain, and all his resolution to be guided by this or that
left him utterly. The look of his farmer forbears--dogged
Forsytes down by the sea, from 'Superior Dosset' back--grinned
out of his face.
"Very pretty!" he said.
He heard the fellow murmur:
"This is hardly the place--we'll go to the study, if you don't
mind." And they both passed him through the curtain opening. In
the little room to which he followed them, Irene stood by the open
window, and the 'fellow' close to her by a big chair. Soames
pulled the door to behind him with a slam; the sound carried him
back all those years to the day when he had shut out Jolyon--shut
him out for meddling with his affairs.
"Well," he said, "what have you to say for yourselves?"
The fellow had the effrontery to smile.
"What we have received to-day has taken away your right to ask. I
should imagine you will be glad to have your neck out of chancery."
"Oh!" said Soames; "you think so! I came to tell you that I'll
divorce her with every circumstance of disgrace to you both, unless
you swear to keep clear of each other from now on."
He was astonished at his fluency, because his mind was stammering
and his hands twitching. Neither of them answered; but their faces
seemed to him as if contemptuous.
"Well," he said; "you--Irene?"
Her lips moved, but Jolyon laid his hand on her arm.
"Let her alone!" said Soames furiously. "Irene, will you swear
"Oh! and you?"
"So then you're guilty, are you?"
"Yes, guilty." It was Irene speaking in that serene voice, with
that unreached air which had maddened him so often; and, carried
beyond himself, he cried:
"You are a devil"
"Go out! Leave this house, or I'll do you an injury."
That fellow to talk of injuries! Did he know how near his throat
was to being scragged?
"A trustee," he said, "embezzling trust property! A thief,
stealing his cousin's wife."
"Call me what you like. You have chosen your part, we have chosen
ours. Go out!"
If he had brought a weapon Soames might have used it at that
"I'll make you pay!" he said.
"I shall be very happy."
At that deadly turning of the meaning of his speech by the son of
him who had nicknamed him 'the man of property,' Soames stood
glaring. It was ridiculous!
There they were, kept from violence by some secret force. No blow
possible, no words to meet the case. But he could not, did not
know how to turn and go away. His eyes fastened on Irene's face--
the last time he would ever see that fatal face--the last time, no
"You," he said suddenly, "I hope you'll treat him as you treated
He saw her wince, and with a sensation not quite triumph, not quite
relief, he wrenched open the door, passed out through the hall, and
got into his cab. He lolled against the cushion with his eyes
shut. Never in his life had he been so near to murderous violence,
never so thrown away the restraint which was his second nature. He
had a stripped and naked feeling, as if all virtue had gone out of
him--life meaningless, mind-striking work. Sunlight streamed in on
him, but he felt cold. The scene he had passed through had gone
from him already, what was before him would not materialise, he
could catch on to nothing; and he felt frightened, as if he had
been hanging over the edge of a precipice, as if with another turn
of the screw sanity would have failed him. 'I'm not fit for it,'
he thought; 'I mustn't--I'm not fit for it.' The cab sped on, and
in mechanical procession trees, houses, people passed, but had no
significance. 'I feel very queer,' he thought; 'I'll take a
Turkish bath.--I've been very near to something. It won't do.'
The cab whirred its way back over the bridge, up the Fulham Road,
along the Park.
"To the Hammam," said Soames.
Curious that on so warm a summer day, heat should be so comforting!
Crossing into the hot room he met George Forsyte coming out, red
"Hallo!" said George; "what are you training for? You've not got
Buffoon! Soames passed him with his sideway smile. Lying back,
rubbing his skin uneasily for the first signs of perspiration, he
thought: 'Let them laugh! I won't feel anything! I can't stand
violence! It's not good for me!'
A SUMMER NIGHT
Soames left dead silence in the little study. "Thank you for that
good lie," said Jolyon suddenly. "Come out--the air in here is not
what it was!"
In front of a long high southerly wall on which were trained
peach-trees the two walked up and down in silence. Old Jolyon had
planted some cupressus-trees, at intervals, between this grassy
terrace and the dipping meadow full of buttercups and ox-eyed
daisies; for twelve years they had flourished, till their dark
spiral shapes had quite a look of Italy. Birds fluttered softly in
the wet shrubbery; the swallows swooped past, with a steel-blue
sheen on their swift little bodies; the grass felt springy beneath
the feet, its green refreshed; butterflies chased each other.
After that painful scene the quiet of Nature was wonderfully
poignant. Under the sun-soaked wall ran a narrow strip of
garden-bed full of mignonette and pansies, and from the bees came a
low hum in which all other sounds were set--the mooing of a cow
deprived of her calf, the calling of a cuckoo from an elm-tree at
the bottom of the meadow. Who would have thought that behind them,
within ten miles, London began--that London of the Forsytes, with
its wealth, its misery; its dirt and noise; its jumbled stone isles
of beauty, its grey sea of hideous brick and stucco? That London
which had seen Irene's early tragedy, and Jolyon's own hard days;
that web; that princely workhouse of the possessive instinct!
And while they walked Jolyon pondered those words: 'I hope you'll
treat him as you treated me.' That would depend on himself. Could
he trust himself? Did Nature permit a Forsyte not to make a slave
of what he adored? Could beauty be confided to him? Or should she
not be just a visitor, coming when she would, possessed for moments
which passed, to return only at her own choosing? 'We are a breed
of spoilers!' thought Jolyon, 'close and greedy; the bloom of life
is not safe with us. Let her come to me as she will, when she
will, not at all if she will not. Let me be just her stand-by, her
perching-place; never-never her cage!'
She was the chink of beauty in his dream. Was he to pass through
the curtains now and reach her? Was the rich stuff of many
possessions, the close encircling fabric of the possessive instinct
walling in that little black figure of himself, and Soames--was it
to be rent so that he could pass through into his vision, find
there something not of the senses only? 'Let me,' he thought, 'ah!
let me only know how not to grasp and destroy!'
But at dinner there were plans to be made. To-night she would go
back to the hotel, but tomorrow he would take her up to London. He
must instruct his solicitor--Jack Herring. Not a finger must be
raised to hinder the process of the Law. Damages exemplary,
judicial strictures, costs, what they liked--let it go through at
the first moment, so that her neck might be out of chancery at
last! To-morrow he would see Herring--they would go and see him
together. And then--abroad, leaving no doubt, no difficulty about
evidence, making the lie she had told into the truth. He looked
round at her; and it seemed to his adoring eyes that more than a
woman was sitting there. The spirit of universal beauty, deep,
mysterious, which the old painters, Titian, Giorgione, Botticelli,
had known how to capture and transfer to the faces of their women--
this flying beauty seemed to him imprinted on her brow, her hair,
her lips, and in her eyes.
'And this is to be mine!' he thought. 'It frightens me!'
After dinner they went out on to the terrace to have coffee. They
sat there long, the evening was so lovely, watching the summer
night come very slowly on. It was still warm and the air smelled
of lime blossom--early this summer. Two bats were flighting with
the faint mysterious little noise they make. He had placed the
chairs in front of the study window, and moths flew past to visit
the discreet light in there. There was no wind, and not a whisper
in the old oak-tree twenty yards away! The moon rose from behind
the copse, nearly full; and the two lights struggled, till
moonlight conquered, changing the colour and quality of all the
garden, stealing along the flagstones, reaching their feet,
climbing up, changing their faces.
"Well," said Jolyon at last, "you'll be tired, dear; we'd better
start. The maid will show you Holly's room," and he rang the study
bell. The maid who came handed him a telegram. Watching her take
Irene away, he thought: 'This must have come an hour or more ago,
and she didn't bring it out to us! That shows! Well, we'll be
hung for a sheep soon!' And, opening the telegram, he read:
"JOLYON FORSYTE, Robin Hill.--Your son passed painlessly away on
June 20th. Deep sympathy"--some name unknown to him.
He dropped it, spun round, stood motionless. The moon shone in on
him; a moth flew in his face. The first day of all that he had not
thought almost ceaselessly of Jolly. He went blindly towards the
window, struck against the old armchair--his father's--and sank
down on to the arm of it. He sat there huddled' forward, staring
into the night. Gone out like a candle flame; far from home, from
love, all by himself, in the dark! His boy! From a little chap
always so good to him--so friendly! Twenty years old, and cut down
like grass--to have no life at all! 'I didn't really know him,' he
thought, 'and he didn't know me; but we loved each other. It's
only love that matters.'
To die out there--lonely--wanting them--wanting home! This seemed
to his Forsyte heart more painful, more pitiful than death itself.
No shelter, no protection, no love at the last! And all the deeply
rooted clanship in him, the family feeling and essential clinging
to his own flesh and blood which had been so strong in old Jolyon
was so strong in all the Forsytes--felt outraged, cut, and torn by
his boy's lonely passing. Better far if he had died in battle,
without time to long for them to come to him, to call out for them,
perhaps, in his delirium!
The moon had passed behind the oak-tree now, endowing it with
uncanny life, so that it seemed watching him--the oak-tree his boy
had been so fond of climbing, out of which he had once fallen and
hurt himself, and hadn't cried!
The door creaked. He saw Irene come in, pick up the telegram and
read it. He heard the faint rustle of her dress. She sank on her
knees close to him, and he forced himself to smile at her. She
stretched up her arms and drew his head down on her shoulder. The
perfume and warmth of her encircled him; her presence gained slowly
his whole being.
JAMES IN WAITING
Sweated to serenity, Soames dined at the Remove and turned his face
toward Park Lane. His father had been unwell lately. This would
have to be kept from him! Never till that moment had he realised
how much the dread of bringing James' grey hairs down with sorrow
to the grave had counted with him; how intimately it was bound up
with his own shrinking from scandal. His affection for his father,
always deep, had increased of late years with the knowledge that
James looked on him as the real prop of his decline. It seemed
pitiful that one who had been so careful all his life and done so
much for the family name--so that it was almost a byword for solid,
wealthy respectability--should at his last gasp have to see it in
all the newspapers. This was like lending a hand to Death, that
final enemy of Forsytes. 'I must tell mother,' he thought, 'and
when it comes on, we must keep the papers from him somehow. He
sees hardly anyone.' Letting himself in with his latchkey, he was
beginning to ascend he stairs when he became conscious of commotion
on the second-floor landing. His mother's voice was saying:
"Now, James, you'll catch cold. Why can't you wait quietly?"
His father's answering
"Wait? I'm always waiting. Why doesn't he come in?"
"You can speak to him to-morrow morning, instead of making a guy of
yourself on the landing."
"He'll go up to bed, I shouldn't wonder. I shan't sleep."
"Now come back to bed, James."
"Um! I might die before to-morrow morning for all you can tell."
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