Part 1 out of 7
This etext was produced by David Widger
[Spelling conforms to the original: "s's" instead of our "z's"; and
"c's" where we would have "s's"; and "...our" as in colour and
flavour; many interesting double consonants; etc.]
THE FORSYTE SAGA
VOLUME III--AWAKENING and TO LET
By John Galsworthy
Through the massive skylight illuminating the hall at Robin Hill, the
July sunlight at five o'clock fell just where the broad stairway
turned; and in that radiant streak little Jon Forsyte stood, blue-
linen-suited. His hair was shining, and his eyes, from beneath a
frown, for he was considering how to go downstairs, this last of
innumerable times, before the car brought his father and mother home.
Four at a time, and five at the bottom? Stale! Down the banisters?
But in which fashion? On his face, feet foremost? Very stale. On
his stomach, sideways? Paltry! On his back, with his arms stretched
down on both sides? Forbidden! Or on his face, head foremost, in a
manner unknown as yet to any but himself? Such was the cause of the
frown on the illuminated face of little Jon....
In that Summer of 1909 the simple souls who even then desired to
simplify the English tongue, had, of course, no cognizance of little
Jon, or they would have claimed him for a disciple. But one can be
too simple in this life, for his real name was Jolyon, and his living
father and dead half-brother had usurped of old the other
shortenings, Jo and Jolly. As a fact little Jon had done his best to
conform to convention and spell himself first Jhon, then John; not
till his father had explained the sheer necessity, had he spelled his
Up till now that father had possessed what was left of his heart by
the groom, Bob, who played the concertina, and his nurse "Da," who
wore the violet dress on Sundays, and enjoyed the name of Spraggins
in that private life lived at odd moments even by domestic servants.
His mother had only appeared to him, as it were in dreams, smelling
delicious, smoothing his forehead just before he fell asleep, and
sometimes docking his hair, of a golden brown colour. When he cut
his head open against the nursery fender she was there to be bled
over; and when he had nightmare she would sit on his bed and cuddle
his head against her neck. She was precious but remote, because "Da"
was so near, and there is hardly room for more than one woman at a
time in a man's heart. With his father, too, of course, he had
special bonds of union; for little Jon also meant to be a painter
when he grew up--with the one small difference, that his father
painted pictures, and little Jon intended to paint ceilings and
walls, standing on a board between two step-ladders, in a dirty-white
apron, and a lovely smell of whitewash. His father also took him
riding in Richmond Park, on his pony, Mouse, so-called because it was
Little Jon had been born with a silver spoon in a mouth which was
rather curly and large. He had never heard his father or his mother
speak in an angry voice, either to each other, himself, or anybody
else; the groom, Bob, Cook, Jane, Bella and the other servants, even
"Da," who alone restrained him in his courses, had special voices
when they talked to him. He was therefore of opinion that the world
was a place of perfect and perpetual gentility and freedom.
A child of 1901, he had come to consciousness when his country, just
over that bad attack of scarlet fever, the Boer War, was preparing
for the Liberal revival of 1906. Coercion was unpopular, parents had
exalted notions of giving their offspring a good time. They spoiled
their rods, spared their children, and anticipated the results with
enthusiasm. In choosing, moreover, for his father an amiable man of
fifty-two, who had already lost an only son, and for his mother a
woman of thirty-eight, whose first and only child he was, little Jon
had done well and wisely. What had saved him from becoming a cross
between a lap dog and a little prig, had been his father's adoration
of his mother, for even little Jon could see that she was not merely
just his mother, and that he played second fiddle to her in his
father's heart: What he played in his mother's heart he knew not yet.
As for "Auntie" June, his half-sister (but so old that she had grown
out of the relationship) she loved him, of course, but was too
sudden. His devoted "Da," too, had a Spartan touch. His bath was
cold and his knees were bare; he was not encouraged to be sorry for
himself. As to the vexed question of his education, little Jon
shared the theory of those who considered that children should not be
forced. He rather liked the Mademoiselle who came for two hours
every morning to teach him her language, together with history,
geography and sums; nor were the piano lessons which his mother gave
him disagreeable, for she had a way of luring him from tune to tune,
never making him practise one which did not give him pleasure, so
that he remained eager to convert ten thumbs into eight fingers.
Under his father he learned to draw pleasure-pigs and other animals.
He was not a highly educated little boy. Yet, on the whole, the
silver spoon stayed in his mouth without spoiling it, though "Da"
sometimes said that other children would do him a "world of good."
It was a disillusionment, then, when at the age of nearly seven she
held him down on his back, because he wanted to do something of which
she did not approve. This first interference with the free
individualism of a Forsyte drove him almost frantic. There was
something appalling in the utter helplessness of that position, and
the uncertainty as to whether it would ever come to an end. Suppose
she never let him get up any more! He suffered torture at the top of
his voice for fifty seconds. Worse than anything was his perception
that "Da" had taken all that time to realise the agony of fear he was
enduring. Thus, dreadfully, was revealed to him the lack of
imagination in the human being.
When he was let up he remained convinced that "Da" had done a
dreadful thing. Though he did not wish to bear witness against her,
he had been compelled, by fear of repetition, to seek his mother and
say: "Mum, don't let 'Da' hold me down on my back again."
His mother, her hands held up over her head, and in them two plaits
of hair--"couleur de feuille morte," as little Jon had not yet
learned to call it--had looked at him with eyes like little bits of
his brown velvet tunic, and answered:
"No, darling, I won't."
She, being in the nature of a goddess, little Jon was satisfied;
especially when, from under the dining-table at breakfast, where he
happened to be waiting for a mushroom, he had overheard her say to
"Then, will you tell 'Da,' dear, or shall I? She's so devoted to
him"; and his father's answer:
"Well, she mustn't show it that way. I know exactly what it feels
like to be held down on one's back. No Forsyte can stand it for a
Conscious that they did not know him to be under the table, little
Jon was visited by the quite new feeling of embarrassment, and stayed
where he was, ravaged by desire for the mushroom.
Such had been his first dip into the dark abysses of existence.
Nothing much had been revealed to him after that, till one day,
having gone down to the cow-house for his drink of milk fresh from
the cow, after Garratt had finished milking, he had seen Clover's
calf, dead. Inconsolable, and followed by an upset Garratt, he had
sought "Da"; but suddenly aware that she was not the person he
wanted, had rushed away to find his father, and had run into the arms
of his mother.
"Clover's calf's dead! Oh! Oh! It looked so soft!"
His mother's clasp, and her:
"Yes, darling, there, there!" had stayed his sobbing. But if
Clover's calf could die, anything could--not only bees, flies,
beetles and chickens--and look soft like that! This was appalling--
and soon forgotten!
The next thing had been to sit on a bumble bee, a poignant
experience, which his mother had understood much better than "Da";
and nothing of vital importance had happened after that till the year
turned; when, following a day of utter wretchedness, he had enjoyed a
disease composed of little spots, bed, honey in a spoon, and many
Tangerine oranges. It was then that the world had flowered. To
"Auntie" June he owed that flowering, for no sooner was he a little
lame duck than she came rushing down from London, bringing with her
the books which had nurtured her own Berserker spirit, born in the
noted year of 1869. Aged, and of many colours, they were stored with
the most formidable happenings. Of these she read to little Jon,
till he was allowed to read to himself; whereupon she whisked back to
London and left them with him in a heap. Those books cooked his
fancy, till he thought and dreamed of nothing but midshipmen and
dhows, pirates, rafts, sandal-wood traders, iron horses, sharks,
battles, Tartars, Red Indians, balloons, North Poles and other
extravagant delights. The moment he was suffered to get up, he
rigged his bed fore and aft, and set out from it in a narrow bath
across green seas of carpet, to a rock, which he climbed by means of
its mahogany drawer knobs, to sweep the horizon with his drinking
tumbler screwed to his eye, in search of rescuing sails. He made a
daily raft out of the towel stand, the tea tray, and his pillows. He
saved the juice from his French plums, bottled it in an empty
medicine bottle, and provisioned the raft with the rum that it
became; also with pemmican made out of little saved-up bits of
chicken sat on and dried at the fire; and with lime juice against
scurvy, extracted from the peel of his oranges and a little
economised juice. He made a North Pole one morning from the whole of
his bedclothes except the bolster, and reached it in a birch-bark
canoe (in private life the fender), after a terrible encounter with a
polar bear fashioned from the bolster and four skittles dressed up in
"Da's" nightgown. After that, his father, seeking to steady his
imagination, brought him Ivanboe, Bevis, a book about King Arthur,
and Tom Brown's Schooldays. He read the first, and for three days
built, defended and stormed Front de Boeuf's castle, taking every
part in the piece except those of Rebecca and Rowena; with piercing
cries of: "En avant, de Bracy!" and similar utterances. After
reading the book about King Arthur he became almost exclusively Sir
Lamorac de Galis, because, though there was very little about him, he
preferred his name to that of any other knight; and he rode his old
rocking-horse to death, armed with a long bamboo. Bevis he found
tame; besides, it required woods and animals, of which he had none in
his nursery, except his two cats, Fitz and Puck Forsyte, who
permitted no liberties. For Tom Brown he was as yet too young.
There was relief in the house when, after the fourth week, he was
permitted to go down and out.
The month being March the trees were exceptionally like the masts of
ships, and for little Jon that was a wonderful Spring, extremely hard
on his knees, suits, and the patience of "Da," who had the washing
and reparation of his clothes. Every morning the moment his
breakfast was over, he could be viewed by his mother and father,
whose windows looked out that way, coming from the study, crossing
the terrace, climbing the old oak tree, his face resolute and his
hair bright. He began the day thus because there was not time to go
far afield before his lessons. The old tree's variety never staled;
it had mainmast, foremast, top-gallant mast, and he could always come
down by the halyards--or ropes of the swing. After his lessons,
completed by eleven, he would go to the kitchen for a thin piece of
cheese, a biscuit and two French plums--provision enough for a jolly-
boat at least--and eat it in some imaginative way; then, armed to the
teeth with gun, pistols, and sword, he would begin the serious
climbing of the morning, encountering by the way innumerable slavers,
Indians, pirates, leopards, and bears. He was seldom seen at that
hour of the day without a cutlass in his teeth (like Dick Needham)
amid the rapid explosion of copper caps. And many were the gardeners
he brought down with yellow peas shot out of his little gun. He
lived a life of the most violent action.
"Jon," said his father to his mother, under the oak tree, "is
terrible. I'm afraid he's going to turn out a sailor, or something
hopeless. Do you see any sign of his appreciating beauty?"
"Not the faintest."
"Well, thank heaven he's no turn for wheels or engines! I can bear
anything but that. But I wish he'd take more interest in Nature."
"He's imaginative, Jolyon."
"Yes, in a sanguinary way. Does he love anyone just now?"
"No; only everyone. There never was anyone born more loving or more
lovable than Jon."
"Being your boy, Irene."
At this moment little Jon, lying along a branch high above them,
brought them down with two peas; but that fragment of talk lodged,
thick, in his small gizzard. Loving, lovable, imaginative,
The leaves also were thick by now, and it was time for his birthday,
which, occurring every year on the twelfth of May, was always
memorable for his chosen dinner of sweetbread, mushrooms, macaroons,
and ginger beer.
Between that eighth birthday, however, and the afternoon when he
stood in the July radiance at the turning of the stairway, several
important things had happened.
"Da," worn out by washing his knees, or moved by that mysterious
instinct which forces even nurses to desert their nurslings, left the
very day after his birthday in floods of tears "to be married"--of
all things--"to a man." Little Jon, from whom it had been kept, was
inconsolable for an afternoon. It ought not to have been kept from
him! Two large boxes of soldiers and some artillery, together with
The Young Buglers, which had been among his birthday presents,
cooperated with his grief in a sort of conversion, and instead of
seeking adventures in person and risking his own life, he began to
play imaginative games, in which he risked the lives of countless tin
soldiers, marbles, stones and beans. Of these forms of "chair a
canon" he made collections, and, using them alternately, fought the
Peninsular, the Seven Years, the Thirty Years, and other wars, about
which he had been reading of late in a big History of Europe which
had been his grandfather's. He altered them to suit his genius, and
fought them all over the floor in his day nursery, so that nobody
could come in, for fearing of disturbing Gustavus Adolphus, King of
Sweden, or treading on an army of Austrians. Because of the sound of
the word he was passionately addicted to the Austrians, and finding
there were so few battles in which they were successful he had to
invent them in his games. His favourite generals were Prince Eugene,
the Archduke Charles and Wallenstein. Tilly and Mack ("music-hall
turns" he heard his father call them one day, whatever that might
mean) one really could not love very much, Austrian though they were.
For euphonic reasons, too, he doted on Turenne.
This phase, which caused his parents anxiety, because it kept him
indoors when he ought to have been out, lasted through May and half
of June, till his father killed it by bringing home to him Tom Sawyer
and Huckleberry Finn. When he read those books something happened in
him, and he went out of doors again in passionate quest of a river.
There being none on the premises at Robin Hill, he had to make one
out of the pond, which fortunately had water lilies, dragonflies,
gnats, bullrushes, and three small willow trees. On this pond, after
his father and Garratt had ascertained by sounding that it had a
reliable bottom and was nowhere more than two feet deep, he was
allowed a little collapsible canoe, in which he spent hours and hours
paddling, and lying down out of sight of Indian Joe and other
enemies. On the shore of the pond, too, he built himself a wigwam
about four feet square, of old biscuit tins, roofed in by boughs. In
this he would make little fires, and cook the birds he had not shot
with his gun, hunting in the coppice and fields, or the fish he did
not catch in the pond because there were none. This occupied the
rest of June and that July, when his father and mother were away in
Ireland. He led a lonely life of "make believe" during those five
weeks of summer weather, with gun, wigwam, water and canoe; and,
however hard his active little brain tried to keep the sense of
beauty away, she did creep in on him for a second now and then,
perching on the wing of a dragon-fly, glistening on the water lilies,
or brushing his eyes with her blue as he Jay on his back in ambush.
"Auntie" June, who had been left in charge, had a "grown-up" in the
house, with a cough and a large piece of putty which he was making
into a face; so she hardly ever came down to see him in the pond.
Once, however, she brought with her two other "grown-ups." Little
Jon, who happened to have painted his naked self bright blue and
yellow in stripes out of his father's water-colour box, and put some
duck's feathers in his hair, saw them coming, and--ambushed himself
among the willows. As he had foreseen, they came at once to his
wigwam and knelt down to look inside, so that with a blood-curdling
yell he was able to take the scalps of "Auntie" June and the woman
"grown-up" in an almost complete manner before they kissed him. The
names of the two grown-ups were "Auntie" Holly and "Uncle" Val, who
had a brown face and a little limp, and laughed at him terribly. He
took a fancy to "Auntie" Holly, who seemed to be a sister too; but
they both went away the same afternoon and he did not see them again.
Three days before his father and mother were to come home "Auntie"
June also went off in a great hurry, taking the "grown-up" who
coughed and his piece of putty; and Mademoiselle said: "Poor man, he
was veree ill. I forbid you to go into his room, Jon." Little Jon,
who rarely did things merely because he was told not to, refrained
from going, though he was bored and lonely. In truth the day of the
pond was past, and he was filled to the brim of his soul with
restlessness and the want of something--not a tree, not a gun--
something soft. Those last two days had seemed months in spite of
Cast Up by the Sea, wherein he was reading about Mother Lee and her
terrible wrecking bonfire. He had gone up and down the stairs
perhaps a hundred times in those two days, and often from the day
nursery, where he slept now, had stolen into his mother's room,
looked at everything, without touching, and on into the dressing-
room; and standing on one leg beside the bath, like Slingsby, had
"Ho, ho, ho! Dog my cats!" mysteriously, to bring luck. Then,
stealing back, he had opened his mother's wardrobe, and taken a long
sniff which seemed to bring him nearer to--he didn't know what.
He had done this just before he stood in the streak of sunlight,
debating in which of the several ways he should slide down the
banisters. They all seemed silly, and in a sudden languor he began
descending the steps one by one. During that descent he could
remember his father quite distinctly--the short grey beard, the deep
eyes twinkling, the furrow between them, the funny smile, the thin
figure which always seemed so tall to little Jon; but his mother he
couldn't see. All that represented her was something swaying with
two dark eyes looking back at him; and the scent of her wardrobe.
Bella was in the hall, drawing aside the big curtains, and opening
the front door. Little Jon said, wheedling
"Yes, Master Jon."
"Do let's have tea under the oak tree when they come; I know they'd
like it best."
"You mean you'd like it best."
Little Jon considered.
"No, they would, to please me."
Bella smiled. "Very well, I'll take it out if you'll stay quiet here
and not get into mischief before they come."
Little Jon sat down on the bottom step, and nodded. Bella came
close, and looked him over.
"Get up!" she said.
Little Jon got up. She scrutinized him behind; he was not green, and
his knees seemed clean.
"All right!" she said. "My! Aren't you brown? Give me a kiss!"
And little Jon received a peck on his hair.
"What jam?" he asked. "I'm so tired of waiting."
"Gooseberry and strawberry."
Num! They were his favourites!
When she was gone he sat still for quite a minute. It was quiet in
the big hall open to its East end so that he could see one of his
trees, a brig sailing very slowly across the upper lawn. In the
outer hall shadows were slanting from the pillars. Little Jon got
up, jumped one of them, and walked round the clump of iris plants
which filled the pool of grey-white marble in the centre. The
flowers were pretty, but only smelled a very little. He stood in the
open doorway and looked out. Suppose!--suppose they didn't come! He
had waited so long that he felt he could not bear that, and his
attention slid at once from such finality to the dust motes in the
bluish sunlight coming in: Thrusting his hand up, he tried to catch
some. Bella ought to have dusted that piece of air! But perhaps
they weren't dust--only what sunlight was made of, and he looked to
see whether the sunlight out of doors was the same. It was not. He
had said he would stay quiet in the hall, but he simply couldn't any
more; and crossing the gravel of the drive he lay down on the grass
beyond. Pulling six daisies he named them carefully, Sir Lamorac,
Sir Tristram, Sir Lancelot, Sir Palimedes, Sir Bors, Sir Gawain, and
fought them in couples till only Sir Lamorac, whom he had selected
for a specially stout stalk, had his head on, and even he, after
three encounters, looked worn and waggly. A beetle was moving slowly
in the grass, which almost wanted cutting. Every blade was a small
tree, round whose trunk the beetle had to glide. Little Jon
stretched out Sir Lamorac, feet foremost, and stirred the creature
up. It scuttled painfully. Little Jon laughed, lost interest, and
sighed. His heart felt empty. He turned over and lay on his back.
There was a scent of honey from the lime trees in flower, and in the
sky the blue was beautiful, with a few white clouds which looked and
perhaps tasted like lemon ice. He could hear Bob playing: "Way down
upon de Suwannee ribber" on his concertina, and it made him nice and
sad. He turned over again and put his ear to the ground--Indians
could hear things coming ever so far--but he could hear nothing--only
the concertina! And almost instantly he did hear a grinding sound, a
faint toot. Yes! it was a car--coming--coming! Up he jumped.
Should he wait in the porch, or rush upstairs, and as they came in,
shout: "Look!" and slide slowly down the banisters, head foremost?
Should he? The car turned in at the drive. It was too late! And he
only waited, jumping up and down in his excitement. The car came
quickly, whirred, and stopped. His father got out, exactly like
life. He bent down and little Jon bobbed up--they bumped. His
"Bless us! Well, old man, you are brown!" Just as he would; and the
sense of expectation--of something wanted--bubbled unextinguished in
little Jon. Then, with a long, shy look he saw his mother, in a blue
dress, with a blue motor scarf over her cap and hair, smiling. He
jumped as high as ever he could, twined his legs behind her back, and
hugged. He heard her gasp, and felt her hugging back. His eyes,
very dark blue just then, looked into hers, very dark brown, till her
lips closed on his eyebrow, and, squeezing with all his might, he
heard her creak and laugh, and say:
"You are strong, Jon!"
He slid down at that, and rushed into the hall, dragging her by the
While he was eating his jam beneath the oak tree, he noticed things
about his mother that he had never seemed to see before, her cheeks
for instance were creamy, there were silver threads in her dark goldy
hair, her throat had no knob in it like Bella's, and she went in and
out softly. He noticed, too, some little lines running away from the
corners of her eyes, and a nice darkness under them. She was ever so
beautiful, more beautiful than "Da" or Mademoiselle, or "Auntie" June
or even "Auntie" Holly, to whom he had taken a fancy; even more
beautiful than Bella, who had pink cheeks and came out too suddenly
in places. This new beautifulness of his mother had a kind of
particular importance, and he ate less than he had expected to.
When tea was over his father wanted him to walk round the gardens.
He had a long conversation with his father about things in general,
avoiding his private life--Sir Lamorac, the Austrians, and the
emptiness he had felt these last three days, now so suddenly filled
up. His father told him of a place called Glensofantrim, where he
and his mother had been; and of the little people who came out of the
ground there when it was very quiet. Little Jon came to a halt, with
his heels apart.
"Do you really believe they do, Daddy?" "No, Jon, but I thought you
"You're younger than I; and they're fairies." Little Jon squared the
dimple in his chin.
"I don't believe in fairies. I never see any." "Ha!" said his
His father smiled his funny smile.
"No; she only sees Pan."
"The Goaty God who skips about in wild and beautiful places."
"Was he in Glensofantrim?"
"Mum said so."
Little Jon took his heels up, and led on.
"Did you see him?"
"No; I only saw Venus Anadyomene."
Little Jon reflected; Venus was in his book about the Greeks and
Trojans. Then Anna was her Christian and Dyomene her surname?
But it appeared, on inquiry, that it was one word, which meant rising
from the foam.
"Did she rise from the foam in Glensofantrim?"
"Yes; every day."
"What is she like, Daddy?"
"Oh! Then she must be..." but he stopped at that, rushed at a wall,
scrambled up, and promptly scrambled down again. The discovery that
his mother was beautiful was one which he felt must absolutely be
kept to himself. His father's cigar, however, took so long to smoke,
that at last he was compelled to say:
"I want to see what Mum's brought home. Do you mind, Daddy?"
He pitched the motive low, to absolve him from unmanliness, and was a
little disconcerted when his father looked at him right through,
heaved an important sigh, and answered:
"All right, old man, you go and love her."
He went, with a pretence of slowness, and then rushed, to make up.
He entered her bedroom from his own, the door being open. She was
still kneeling before a trunk, and he stood close to her, quite
She knelt up straight, and said:
"I thought I'd just come and see."
Having given and received another hug, he mounted the window-seat,
and tucking his legs up under him watched her unpack. He derived a
pleasure from the operation such as he had not yet known, partly
because she was taking out things which looked suspicious, and partly
because he liked to look at her. She moved differently from anybody
else, especially from Bella; she was certainly the refinedest-looking
person he had ever seen. She finished the trunk at last, and knelt
down in front of him.
"Have you missed us, Jon?"
Little Jon nodded, and having thus admitted his feelings, continued
"But you had 'Auntie' June?"
"Oh! she had a man with a cough."
His mother's face changed, and looked almost angry. He added
"He was a poor man, Mum; he coughed awfully; I--I liked him."
His mother put her hands behind his waist.
"You like everybody, Jon?"
Little Jon considered.
"Up to a point," he said: "Auntie June took me to church one Sunday."
"To church? Oh!"
"She wanted to see how it would affect me." "And did it?"
"Yes. I came over all funny, so she took me home again very quick.
I wasn't sick after all. I went to bed and had hot brandy and water,
and read The Boys of Beechwood. It was scrumptious."
His mother bit her lip.
"When was that?"
"Oh! about--a long time ago--I wanted her to take me again, but she
wouldn't. You and Daddy never go to church, do you?"
"No, we don't."
"Why don't you?"
His mother smiled.
"Well, dear, we both of us went when we were little. Perhaps we went
when we were too little."
"I see," said little Jon, "it's dangerous."
"You shall judge for yourself about all those things as you grow
Little Jon replied in a calculating manner:
"I don't want to grow up, much. I don't want to go to school." A
sudden overwhelming desire to say something more, to say what he
really felt, turned him red. "I--I want to stay with you, and be
your lover, Mum."
Then with an instinct to improve the situation, he added quickly "I
don't want to go to bed to-night, either. I'm simply tired of going
to bed, every night."
"Have you had any more nightmares?"
"Only about one. May I leave the door open into your room to-night,
"Yes, just a little." Little Jon heaved a sigh of satisfaction.
"What did you see in Glensofantrim?"
"Nothing but beauty, darling."
"What exactly is beauty?"
"What exactly is--Oh! Jon, that's a poser."
"Can I see it, for instance?" His mother got up, and sat beside
him. "You do, every day. The sky is beautiful, the stars, and
moonlit nights, and then the birds, the flowers, the trees--they're
all beautiful. Look out of the window--there's beauty for you, Jon."
"Oh! yes, that's the view. Is that all?"
"All? no. The sea is wonderfully beautiful, and the waves, with
their foam flying back."
"Did you rise from it every day, Mum?"
His mother smiled. "Well, we bathed."
Little Jon suddenly reached out and caught her neck in his hands.
"I know," he said mysteriously, "you're it, really, and all the rest
She sighed, laughed, said: "Oh! Jon!"
Little Jon said critically:
"Do you think Bella beautiful, for instance? I hardly do."
"Bella is young; that's something."
"But you look younger, Mum. If you bump against Bella she hurts."
"I don't believe 'Da' was beautiful, when I come to think of it; and
Mademoiselle's almost ugly."
"Mademoiselle has a very nice face." "Oh! yes; nice. I love your
little rays, Mum."
Little Jon put his finger to the outer corner of her eye.
"Oh! Those? But they're a sign of age."
"They come when you smile."
"But they usen't to."
"Oh! well, I like them. Do you love me, Mum?"
"I do--I do love you, darling."
"More than I thought you did?"
"Well, so do I; so that makes it even."
Conscious that he had never in his life so given himself away, he
felt a sudden reaction to the manliness of Sir Lamorac, Dick Needham,
Huck Finn, and other heroes.
"Shall I show you a thing or two?" he said; and slipping out of her
arms, he stood on his head. Then, fired by her obvious admiration,
he mounted the bed, and threw himself head foremost from his feet on
to his back, without touching anything with his hands. He did this
That evening, having inspected what they had brought, he stayed up to
dinner, sitting between them at the little round table they used when
they were alone. He was extremely excited. His mother wore a
French-grey dress, with creamy lace made out of little scriggly
roses, round her neck, which was browner than the lace. He kept
looking at her, till at last his father's funny smile made him
suddenly attentive to his slice of pineapple. It was later than he
had ever stayed up, when he went to bed. His mother went up with
him, and he undressed very slowly so as to keep her there. When at
last he had nothing on but his pyjamas, he said:
"Promise you won't go while I say my prayers!"
Kneeling down and plunging his face into the bed, little Jon hurried
up, under his breath, opening one eye now and then, to see her
standing perfectly still with a smile on her face. "Our Father"--so
went his last prayer, "which art in heaven, hallowed be thy Mum, thy
Kingdom Mum--on Earth as it is in heaven, give us this day our daily
Mum and forgive us our trespasses on earth as it is in heaven and
trespass against us, for thine is the evil the power and the glory
for ever and ever. Amum! Look out!" He sprang, and for a long
minute remained in her arms. Once in bed, he continued to hold her
"You won't shut the door any more than that, will you? Are you going
to be long, Mum?"
"I must go down and play to Daddy."
"Oh! well, I shall hear you."
"I hope not; you must go to sleep."
"I can sleep any night."
"Well, this is just a night like any other."
"Oh! no--it's extra special."
"On extra special nights one always sleeps soundest."
"But if I go to sleep, Mum, I shan't hear you come up."
"Well, when I do, I'll come in and give you a kiss, then if you're
awake you'll know, and if you're not you'll still know you've had
Little Jon sighed, "All right!" he said: "I suppose I must put up
with that. Mum?"
"What was her name that Daddy believes in? Venus Anna Diomedes?"
"Oh! my angel! Anadyomene."
"Yes! but I like my name for you much better."
"What is yours, Jon?"
Little Jon answered shyly:
"Guinevere! it's out of the Round Table--I've only just thought
of it, only of course her hair was down."
His mother's eyes, looking past him, seemed to float.
"You won't forget to come, Mum?"
"Not if you'll go to sleep."
"That's a bargain, then." And little Jon screwed up his eyes.
He felt her lips on his forehead, heard her footsteps; opened his
eyes to see her gliding through the doorway, and, sighing, screwed
them up again.
Then Time began.
For some ten minutes of it he tried loyally to sleep, counting a
great number of thistles in a row, "Da's" old recipe for bringing
slumber. He seemed to have been hours counting. It must, he
thought, be nearly time for her to come up now. He threw the
bedclothes back. "I'm hot!" he said, and his voice sounded funny in
the darkness, like someone else's. Why didn't she come? He sat up.
He must look! He got out of bed, went to the window and pulled the
curtain a slice aside. It wasn't dark, but he couldn't tell whether
because of daylight or the moon, which was very big. It had a funny,
wicked face, as if laughing at him, and he did not want to look at
it. Then, remembering that his mother had said moonlit nights were
beautiful, he continued to stare out in a general way. The trees
threw thick shadows, the lawn looked like spilt milk, and a long,
long way he could see; oh! very far; right over the world, and it all
looked different and swimmy. There was a lovely smell, too, in his
'I wish I had a dove like Noah!' he thought.
"The moony moon was round and bright,
It shone and shone and made it light."
After that rhyme, which came into his head all at once, he became
conscious of music, very soft-lovely! Mum playing! He bethought
himself of a macaroon he had, laid up in his chest of drawers, and,
getting it, came back to the window. He leaned out, now munching,
now holding his jaws to hear the music better. "Da" used to say that
angels played on harps in heaven; but it wasn't half so lovely as Mum
playing in the moony night, with him eating a macaroon. A cockchafer
buzzed by, a moth flew in his face, the music stopped, and little Jon
drew his head in. She must be coming! He didn't want to be found
awake. He got back into bed and pulled the clothes nearly over his
head; but he had left a streak of moonlight coming in. It fell
across the floor, near the foot of the bed, and he watched it moving
ever so slowly towards him, as if it were alive. The music began
again, but he could only just hear it now; sleepy music, pretty--
And time slipped by, the music rose, fell, ceased; the moonbeam crept
towards his face. Little Jon turned in his sleep till he lay on his
back, with one brown fist still grasping the bedclothes. The corners
of his eyes twitched--he had begun to dream. He dreamed he was
drinking milk out of a pan that was the moon, opposite a great black
cat which watched him with a funny smile like his father's. He heard
it whisper: "Don't drink too much!" It was the cat's milk, of course,
and he put out his hand amicably to stroke the creature; but it was
no longer there; the pan had become a bed, in which he was lying, and
when he tried to get out he couldn't find the edge; he couldn't find
it--he--he--couldn't get out! It was dreadful!
He whimpered in his sleep. The bed had begun to go round too; it was
outside him and inside him; going round and round, and getting fiery,
and Mother Lee out of Cast up by the Sea was stirring it! Oh! so
horrible she looked! Faster and faster!--till he and the bed and
Mother Lee and the moon and the cat were all one wheel going round
and round and up and up--awful--awful--awful!
A voice saying: "Darling, darling!" got through the wheel, and he
awoke, standing on his bed, with his eyes wide open.
There was his mother, with her hair like Guinevere's, and, clutching
her, he buried his face in it.
"It's all right, treasure. You're awake now. There! There! It's
But little Jon continued to say: "Oh! oh!"
Her voice went on, velvety in his ear:
"It was the moonlight, sweetheart, coming on your face."
Little Jon burbled into her nightgown
"You said it was beautiful. Oh!"
"Not to sleep in, Jon. Who let it in? Did you draw the curtains?"
"I wanted to see the time; I--I looked out, I--I heard you playing,
Mum; I--I ate my macaroon." But he was growing slowly comforted; and
the instinct to excuse his fear revived within him.
"Mother Lee went round in me and got all fiery," he mumbled.
"Well, Jon, what can you expect if you eat macaroons after you've
gone to bed?"
"Only one, Mum; it made the music ever so more beautiful. I was
waiting for you--I nearly thought it was to-morrow."
"My ducky, it's only just eleven now."
Little Jon was silent, rubbing his nose on her neck.
"Mum, is Daddy in your room?"
"Can I come?"
"If you wish, my precious."
Half himself again, little Jon drew back.
"You look different, Mum; ever so younger."
"It's my hair, darling."
Little Jon laid hold of it, thick, dark gold, with a few silver
"I like it," he said: "I like you best of all like this."
Taking her hand, he had begun dragging her towards the door. He shut
it as they passed, with a sigh of relief.
"Which side of the bed do you like, Mum?"
"The left side."
Wasting no time, giving her no chance to change her mind, little Jon
got into the bed, which seemed much softer than his own. He heaved
another sigh, screwed his head into the pillow and lay examining the
battle of chariots and swords and spears which always went on outside
blankets, where the little hairs stood up against the light.
"It wasn't anything, really, was it?" he said.
>From before her glass his mother answered:
"Nothing but the moon and your imagination heated up. You mustn't
get so excited, Jon."
But, still not quite in possession of his nerves, little Jon answered
"I wasn't afraid, really, of course!" And again he lay watching the
spears and chariots. It all seemed very long.
"Oh! Mum, do hurry up!"
"Darling, I have to plait my hair."
"Oh! not to-night. You'll only have to unplait it again to-morrow.
I'm sleepy now; if you don't come, I shan't be sleepy soon."
His mother stood up white and flowey before the winged mirror: he
could see three of her, with her neck turned and her hair bright
under the light, and her dark eyes smiling. It was unnecessary, and
"Do come, Mum; I'm waiting."
"Very well, my love, I'll come."
Little Jon closed his eyes. Everything was turning out most
satisfactory, only she must hurry up! He felt the bed shake, she was
getting in. And, still with his eyes closed, he said sleepily: "It's
nice, isn't it?"
He heard her voice say something, felt her lips touching his nose,
and, snuggling up beside her who lay awake and loved him with her
thoughts, he fell into the dreamless sleep, which rounded off his
"From out the fatal loins of those two foes
A pair of star-crossed lovers take their life."
--Romeo and Juliet.
TO CHARLES SCRIBNER
Soames Forsyte emerged from the Knightsbridge Hotel, where he was
staying, in the afternoon of the 12th of May, 1920, with the
intention of visiting a collection of pictures in a Gallery off Cork
Street, and looking into the Future. He walked. Since the War he
never took a cab if he could help it. Their drivers were, in his
view, an uncivil lot, though now that the War was over and supply
beginning to exceed demand again, getting more civil in accordance
with the custom of human nature. Still, he had not forgiven them,
deeply identifying them with gloomy memories, and now, dimly, like
all members, of their class, with revolution. The considerable
anxiety he had passed through during the War, and the more
considerable anxiety he had since undergone in the Peace, had
produced psychological consequences in a tenacious nature. He had,
mentally, so frequently experienced ruin, that he had ceased to
believe in its material probability. Paying away four thousand a
year in income and super tax, one could not very well be worse off!
A fortune of a quarter of a million, encumbered only by a wife and
one daughter, and very diversely invested, afforded substantial
guarantee even against that "wildcat notion" a levy on capital. And
as to confiscation of war profits, he was entirely in favour of it,
for he had none, and "serve the beggars right!" The price of
pictures, moreover, had, if anything, gone up, and he had done better
with his collection since the War began than ever before. Air-raids,
also, had acted beneficially on a spirit congenitally cautious, and
hardened a character already dogged. To be in danger of being
entirely dispersed inclined one to be less apprehensive of the more
partial dispersions involved in levies and taxation, while the habit
of condemning the impudence of the Germans had led naturally to
condemning that of Labour, if not openly at least in the sanctuary of
He walked. There was, moreover, time to spare, for Fleur was to meet
him at the Gallery at four o'clock, and it was as yet but half-past
two. It was good for him to walk--his liver was a little
constricted, and his nerves rather on edge. His wife was always out
when she was in Town, and his daughter would flibberty-gibbet all
over the place like most young women since the War. Still, he must
be thankful that she had been too young to do anything in that War
itself. Not, of course, that he had not supported the War from its
inception, with all his soul, but between that and supporting it with
the bodies of his wife and daughter, there had been a gap fixed by
something old-fashioned within him which abhorred emotional
extravagance. He had, for instance, strongly objected to Annette, so
attractive, and in 1914 only thirty-four, going to her native France,
her "chere patrie" as, under the stimulus of war, she had begun to
call it, to nurse her "braves poilus," forsooth! Ruining her health
and her looks! As if she were really a nurse! He had put a stopper
on it. Let her do needlework for them at home, or knit! She had not
gone, therefore, and had never been quite the same woman since. A
bad tendency of hers to mock at him, not openly, but in continual
little ways, had grown. As for Fleur, the War had resolved the vexed
problem whether or not she should go to school. She was better away
from her mother in her war mood, from the chance of air-raids, and
the impetus to do extravagant things; so he had placed her in a
seminary as far West as had seemed to him compatible with excellence,
and had missed her horribly. Fleur! He had never regretted the
somewhat outlandish name by which at her birth he had decided so
suddenly to call her--marked concession though it had been to the
French. Fleur! A pretty name--a pretty child! But restless--too
restless; and wilful! Knowing her power too over her father! Soames
often reflected on the mistake it was to dote on his daughter. To
get old and dote! Sixty-five! He was getting on; but he didn't feel
it, for, fortunately perhaps, considering Annette's youth and good
looks, his second marriage had turned out a cool affair. He had
known but one real passion in his life--for that first wife of his--
Irene. Yes, and that fellow, his cousin Jolyon, who had gone off
with her, was looking very shaky, they said. No wonder, at seventy-
two, after twenty years of a third marriage!
Soames paused a moment in his march to lean over the railings of the
Row. A suitable spot for reminiscence, half-way between that house
in Park Lane which had seen his birth and his parents' deaths, and
the little house in Montpellier Square where thirty-five years ago he
had enjoyed his first edition of matrimony. Now, after twenty years
of his second edition, that old tragedy seemed to him like a previous
existence--which had ended when Fleur was born in place of the son he
had hoped for. For many years he had ceased regretting, even
vaguely, the son who had not been born; Fleur filled the bill in his
heart. After all, she bore his name; and he was not looking forward
at all to the time when she would change it. Indeed, if he ever
thought of such a calamity, it was seasoned by the vague feeling that
he could make her rich enough to purchase perhaps and extinguish the
name of the fellow who married her--why not, since, as it seemed,
women were equal to men nowadays? And Soames, secretly convinced
that they were not, passed his curved hand over his face vigorously,
till it reached the comfort of his chin. Thanks to abstemious
habits, he had not grown fat and gabby; his nose was pale and thin,
his grey moustache close-clipped, his eyesight unimpaired. A slight
stoop closened and corrected the expansion given to his face by the
heightening of his forehead in the recession of his grey hair.
Little change had Time wrought in the "warmest" of the young
Forsytes, as the last of the old Forsytes--Timothy-now in his hundred
and first year, would have phrased it.
The shade from the plane-trees fell on his neat Homburg hat; he had
given up top hats--it was no use attracting attention to wealth in
days like these. Plane-trees! His thoughts travelled sharply to
Madrid--the Easter before the War, when, having to make up his mind
about that Goya picture, he had taken a voyage of discovery to study
the painter on his spot. The fellow had impressed him--great range,
real genius! Highly as the chap ranked, he would rank even higher
before they had finished with him. The second Goya craze would be
greater even than the first; oh, yes! And he had bought. On that
visit he had--as never before--commissioned a copy of a fresco
painting called "La Vendimia," wherein was the figure of a girl with
an arm akimbo, who had reminded him of his daughter. He had it now
in the Gallery at Mapledurham, and rather poor it was--you couldn't
copy Goya. He would still look at it, however, if his daughter were
not there, for the sake of something irresistibly reminiscent in the
light, erect balance of the figure, the width between the arching
eyebrows, the eager dreaming of the dark eyes. Curious that Fleur
should have dark eyes, when his own were grey--no pure Forsyte had
brown eyes--and her mother's blue! But of course her grandmother
Lamotte's eyes were dark as treacle!
He began to walk on again toward Hyde Park Corner. No greater change
in all England than in the Row! Born almost within hail of it, he
could remember it from 1860 on. Brought there as a child between the
crinolines to stare at tight-trousered dandies in whiskers, riding
with a cavalry seat; to watch the doffing of curly-brimmed and white
top hats; the leisurely air of it all, and the little bow-legged man
in a long red waistcoat who used to come among the fashion with dogs
on several strings, and try to sell one to his mother: King Charles
spaniels, Italian greyhounds, affectionate to her crinoline--you
never saw them now. You saw no quality of any sort, indeed, just
working people sitting in dull rows with nothing to stare at but a
few young bouncing females in pot hats, riding astride, or desultory
Colonials charging up and down on dismal-looking hacks; with, here
and there, little girls on ponies, or old gentlemen jogging their
livers, or an orderly trying a great galumphing cavalry horse; no
thoroughbreds, no grooms, no bowing, no scraping, no gossip--nothing;
only the trees the same--the trees in--different to the generations
and declensions of mankind. A democratic England--dishevelled,
hurried, noisy, and seemingly without an apex. And that something
fastidious in the soul of Soames turned over within him. Gone
forever, the close borough of rank and polish! Wealth there was--oh,
yes! wealth--he himself was a richer man than his father had ever
been; but manners, flavour, quality, all gone, engulfed in one vast,
ugly, shoulder-rubbing, petrol-smelling Cheerio. Little half-beaten
pockets of gentility and caste lurking here and there, dispersed and
chetif, as Annette would say; but nothing ever again firm and
coherent to look up to. And into this new hurly-burly of bad manners
and loose morals his daughter--flower of his life--was flung! And
when those Labour chaps got power--if they ever did--the worst was
yet to come.
He passed out under the archway, at last no longer--thank goodness!--
disfigured by the gungrey of its search-light. 'They'd better put a
search-light on to where they're all going,' he thought, 'and light
up their precious democracy!' And he directed his steps along the
Club fronts of Piccadilly. George Forsyte, of course, would be
sitting in the bay window of the Iseeum. The chap was so big now
that he was there nearly all his time, like some immovable, sardonic,
humorous eye noting the decline of men and things. And Soames
hurried, ever constitutionally uneasy beneath his cousin's glance.
George, who, as he had heard, had written a letter signed "Patriot"
in the middle of the War, complaining of the Government's hysteria in
docking the oats of race-horses. Yes, there he was, tall, ponderous,
neat, clean-shaven, with his smooth hair, hardly thinned, smelling,
no doubt, of the best hair-wash, and a pink paper in his hand. Well,
be didn't change! And for perhaps the first time in his life Soames
felt a kind of sympathy tapping in his waistcoat for that sardonic
kinsman. With his weight, his perfectly parted hair, and bull-like
gaze, he was a guarantee that the old order would take some shifting
yet. He saw George move the pink paper as if inviting him to ascend-
-the chap must want to ask something about his property. It was
still under Soames' control; for in the adoption of a sleeping
partnership at that painful period twenty years back when he had
divorced Irene, Soames had found himself almost insensibly retaining
control of all purely Forsyte affairs.
Hesitating for just a moment, he nodded and went in. Since the death
of his brother-in-law Montague Dartie, in Paris, which no one had
quite known what to make of, except that it was certainly not
suicide--the Iseeum Club had seemed more respectable to Soames.
George, too, he knew, had sown the last of his wild oats, and was
committed definitely to the joys of the table, eating only of the
very best so as to keep his weight down, and owning, as he said,
"just one or two old screws to give me an interest in life." He
joined his cousin, therefore, in the bay window without the
embarrassing sense of indiscretion he had been used to feel up there.
George put out a well-kept hand.
"Haven't seen you since the War," he said. "How's your wife?"
"Thanks," said Soames coldly, "well enough."
Some hidden jest curved, for a moment, George's fleshy face, and
gloated from his eye.
"That Belgian chap, Profond," he said, "is a member here now. He's a
"Quite!" muttered Soames. "What did you want to see me about?"
"Old Timothy; he might go off the hooks at any moment. I suppose
he's made his Will."
"Well, you or somebody ought to give him a look up--last of the old
lot; he's a hundred, you know. They say he's like a rummy. Where
are you goin' to put him? He ought to have a pyramid by rights."
Soames shook his head. "Highgate, the family vault."
"Well, I suppose the old girls would miss him, if he was anywhere
else. They say he still takes an interest in food. He might last
on, you know. Don't we get anything for the old Forsytes? Ten of
them--average age eighty-eight--I worked it out. That ought to be
equal to triplets."
"Is that all?" said Soames, "I must be getting on."
'You unsociable devil,' George's eyes seemed to answer. "Yes, that's
all: Look him up in his mausoleum--the old chap might want to
prophesy." The grin died on the rich curves of his face, and he
added: "Haven't you attorneys invented a way yet of dodging this
damned income tax? It hits the fixed inherited income like the very
deuce. I used to have two thousand five hundred a year; now I've got
a beggarly fifteen hundred, and the price of living doubled."
"Ah!" murmured Soames, "the turf's in danger."
Over George's face moved a gleam of sardonic self-defence.
"Well," he said, "they brought me up to do nothing, and here I am in
the sear and yellow, getting poorer every day. These Labour chaps
mean to have the lot before they've done. What are you going to do
for a living when it comes? I shall work a six-hour day teaching
politicians how to see a joke. Take my tip, Soames; go into
Parliament, make sure of your four hundred--and employ me."
And, as Soames retired, he resumed his seat in the bay window.
Soames moved along Piccadilly deep in reflections excited by his
cousin's words. He himself had always been a worker and a saver,
George always a drone and a spender; and yet, if confiscation once
began, it was he--the worker and the saver--who would be looted!
That was the negation of all virtue, the overturning of all Forsyte
principles. Could civilization be built on any other? He did not
think so. Well, they wouldn't confiscate his pictures, for they
wouldn't know their worth. But what would they be worth, if these
maniacs once began to milk capital? A drug on the market. 'I don't
care about myself,' he thought; 'I could live on five hundred a year,
and never know the difference, at my age.' But Fleur! This fortune,
so widely invested, these treasures so carefully chosen and amassed,
were all for--her. And if it should turn out that he couldn't give
or leave them to her--well, life had no meaning, and what was the use
of going in to look at this crazy, futuristic stuff with the view of
seeing whether it had any future?
Arriving at the Gallery off Cork Street, however, he paid his
shilling, picked up a catalogue, and entered. Some ten persons were
prowling round. Soames took steps and came on what looked to him
like a lamp-post bent by collision with a motor omnibus. It was
advanced some three paces from the wall, and was described in his
catalogue as "Jupiter." He examined it with curiosity, having
recently turned some of his attention to sculpture. 'If that's
Jupiter,' he thought, 'I wonder what Juno's like.' And suddenly he
saw her, opposite. She appeared to him like nothing so much as a
pump with two handles, lightly clad in snow. He was still gazing at
her, when two of the prowlers halted on his left. "Epatant!" he
heard one say.
"Jargon!" growled Soames to himself.
The other's boyish voice replied
"Missed it, old bean; he's pulling your leg. When Jove and Juno
created he them, he was saying: 'I'll see how much these fools will
swallow.' And they've lapped up the lot."
"You young duffer! Vospovitch is an innovator. Don't you see that
he's brought satire into sculpture? The future of plastic art, of
music, painting, and even architecture, has set in satiric. It was
bound to. People are tired--the bottom's tumbled out of sentiment."
"Well, I'm quite equal to taking a little interest in beauty. I was
through the War. You've dropped your handkerchief, sir."
Soames saw a handkerchief held out in front of him. He took it with
some natural suspicion, and approached it to his nose. It had the
right scent--of distant Eau de Cologne--and his initials in a corner.
Slightly reassured, he raised his eyes to the young man's face. It
had rather fawn-like ears, a laughing mouth, with half a toothbrush
growing out of it on each side, and small lively eyes, above a
normally dressed appearance.
"Thank you," he said; and moved by a sort of irritation, added: "Glad
to hear you like beauty; that's rare, nowadays."
"I dote on it," said the young man; "but you and I are the last of
the old guard, sir."
"If you really care for pictures," he said, "here's my card. I can
show you some quite good ones any Sunday, if you're down the river
and care to look in."
"Awfully nice of you, sir. I'll drop in like a bird. My name's
Mont-Michael." And he took off his hat.
Soames, already regretting his impulse, raised his own slightly in
response, with a downward look at the young man's companion, who had
a purple tie, dreadful little sluglike whiskers, and a scornful look-
-as if he were a poet!
It was the first indiscretion he had committed for so long that he
went and sat down in an alcove. What had possessed him to give his
card to a rackety young fellow, who went about with a thing like
that? And Fleur, always at the back of his thoughts, started out
like a filigree figure from a clock when the hour strikes. On the
screen opposite the alcove was a large canvas with a great many
square tomato-coloured blobs on it, and nothing else, so far as
Soames could see from where he sat. He looked at his catalogue: "No.
32 'The Future Town'--Paul Post." 'I suppose that's satiric too,' he
thought. 'What a thing!' But his second impulse was more cautious.
It did not do to condemn hurriedly. There had been those stripey,
streaky creations of Monet's, which had turned out such trumps; and
then the stippled school; and Gauguin. Why, even since the Post-
Impressionists there had been one or two painters not to be sneezed
at. During the thirty-eight years of his connoisseur's life, indeed,
he had marked so many "movements," seen the tides of taste and
technique so ebb and flow, that there was really no telling anything
except that there was money to be made out of every change of
fashion. This too might quite well be a case where one must subdue
primordial instinct, or lose the market. He got up and stood before
the picture, trying hard to see it with the eyes of other people.
Above the tomato blobs was what he took to be a sunset, till some one
passing said: "He's got the airplanes wonderfully, don't you think!"
Below the tomato blobs was a band of white with vertical black
stripes, to which he could assign no meaning whatever, till some one
else came by, murmuring: "What expression he gets with his
foreground!" Expression? Of what? Soames went back to his seat.
The thing was "rich," as his father would have said, and he wouldn't
give a damn for it. Expression! Ah! they were all Expressionists
now, he had heard, on the Continent. So it was coming here too, was
it? He remembered the first wave of influenza in 1887--or '8--
hatched in China, so they said. He wondered where this--this
Expressionism had been hatched. The thing was a regular disease!
He had become conscious of a woman and a youth standing between him
and the "Future Town." Their backs were turned; but very suddenly
Soames put his catalogue before his face, and drawing his hat
forward, gazed through the slit between. No mistaking that back,
elegant as ever though the hair above had gone grey. Irene! His
divorced wife--Irene! And this, no doubt, was--her son--by that
fellow Jolyon Forsyte--their boy, six months older than his own girl!
And mumbling over in his mind the bitter days of his divorce, he rose
to get out of sight, but quickly sat down again. She had turned her
head to speak to her boy; her profile was still so youthful that it
made her grey hair seem powdery, as if fancy-dressed; and her lips
were smiling as Soames, first possessor of them, had never seen them
smile. Grudgingly he admitted her still beautiful and in figure
almost as young as ever. And how that boy smiled back at her!
Emotion squeezed Soames' heart. The sight infringed his sense of
justice. He grudged her that boy's smile--it went beyond what Fleur
gave him, and it was undeserved. Their son might have been his son;
Fleur might have been her daughter, if she had kept straight! He
lowered his catalogue. If she saw him, all the better! A reminder
of her conduct in the presence of her son, who probably knew nothing
of it, would be a salutary touch from the finger of that Nemesis
which surely must soon or late visit her! Then, half-conscious that
such a thought was extravagant for a Forsyte of his age, Soames took
out his watch. Past four! Fleur was late. She had gone to his
niece Imogen Cardigan's, and there they would keep her smoking
cigarettes and gossiping, and that. He heard the boy laugh, and say
eagerly: "I say, Mum, is this by one of Auntie June's lame ducks?"
"Paul Post--I believe it is, darling."
The word produced a little shock in Soames; he had never heard her
use it. And then she saw him. His eyes must have had in them
something of George Forsyte's sardonic look; for her gloved hand
crisped the folds of her frock, her eyebrows rose, her face went
stony. She moved on.
"It is a caution," said the boy, catching her arm again.
Soames stared after them. That boy was good-looking, with a Forsyte
chin, and eyes deep-grey, deep in; but with something sunny, like a
glass of old sherry spilled over him; his smile perhaps, his hair.
Better than they deserved--those two! They passed from his view into
the next room, and Soames continued to regard the Future Town, but
saw it not. A little smile snarled up his lips. He was despising
the vehemence of his own feelings after all these years. Ghosts!
And yet as one grew old--was there anything but what was ghost-like
left? Yes, there was Fleur! He fixed his eyes on the entrance. She
was due; but she would keep him waiting, of course! And suddenly he
became aware of a sort of human breeze--a short, slight form clad in
a sea-green djibbah with a metal belt and a fillet binding unruly
red-gold hair all streaked with grey. She was talking to the Gallery
attendants, and something familiar riveted his gaze--in her eyes, her
chin, her hair, her spirit--something which suggested a thin Skye
terrier just before its dinner. Surely June Forsyte! His cousin
June--and coming straight to his recess! She sat down beside him,
deep in thought, took out a tablet, and made a pencil note. Soames
sat unmoving. A confounded thing, cousinship! "Disgusting!" he
heard her murmur; then, as if resenting the presence of an
overhearing stranger, she looked at him. The worst had happened.
Soames turned his head a very little.
"How are you?" he said. "Haven't seen you for twenty years."
"No. Whatever made you come here?"
"My sins," said Soames. "What stuff!"
"Stuff? Oh, yes--of course; it hasn't arrived yet.
"It never will," said Soames; "it must be making a dead loss."
"Of course it is."
"How d'you know?"
"It's my Gallery."
Soames sniffed from sheer surprise.
"Yours? What on earth makes you run a show like this?"
"I don't treat Art as if it were grocery."
Soames pointed to the Future Town. "Look at that! Who's going to
live in a town like that, or with it on his walls?"
June contemplated the picture for a moment.
"It's a vision," she said.
There was silence, then June rose. 'Crazylooking creature!' he
"Well," he said, "you'll find your young stepbrother here with a
woman I used to know. If you take my advice, you'll close this
June looked back at him. "Oh! You Forsyte!" she said, and moved on.
About her light, fly-away figure, passing so suddenly away, was a
look of dangerous decisions. Forsyte! Of course, he was a Forsyte!
And so was she! But from the time when, as a mere girl, she brought
Bosinney into his life to wreck it, he had never hit it off with June
and never would! And here she was, unmarried to this day, owning a
Gallery!... And suddenly it came to Soames how little he knew now of
his own family. The old aunts at Timothy's had been dead so many
years; there was no clearing-house for news. What had they all done
in the War? Young Roger's boy had been wounded, St. John Hayman's
second son killed; young Nicholas' eldest had got an O. B. E., or
whatever they gave them. They had all joined up somehow, he
believed. That boy of Jolyon's and Irene's, he supposed, had been
too young; his own generation, of course, too old, though Giles
Hayman had driven a car for the Red Cross--and Jesse Hayman been a
special constable--those "Dromios" had always been of a sporting
type! As for himself, he had given a motor ambulance, read the
papers till he was sick of them, passed through much anxiety, bought
no clothes, lost seven pounds in weight; he didn't know what more he
could have done at his age. Indeed, thinking it over, it struck him
that he and his family had taken this war very differently to that
affair with the Boers, which had been supposed to tax all the
resources of the Empire. In that old war, of course, his nephew Val
Dartie had been wounded, that fellow Jolyon's first son had died of
enteric, "the Dromios" had gone out on horses, and June had been a
nurse; but all that had seemed in the nature of a portent, while in
this war everybody had done "their bit," so far as he could make out,
as a matter of course. It seemed to show the growth of something or
other--or perhaps the decline of something else. Had the Forsytes
become less individual, or more Imperial, or less provincial? Or was
it simply that one hated Germans?... Why didn't Fleur come, so that
he could get away? He saw those three return together from the other
room and pass back along the far side of the screen. The boy was
standing before the Juno now. And, suddenly, on the other side of
her, Soames saw--his daughter, with eyebrows raised, as well they
might be. He could see her eyes glint sideways at the boy, and the
boy look back at her. Then Irene slipped her hand through his arm,
and drew him on. Soames saw him glancing round, and Fleur looking
after them as the three went out.
A voice said cheerfully: "Bit thick, isn't it, sir?"
The young man who had handed him his handkerchief was again passing.
"I don't know what we're coming to."
"Oh! That's all right, sir," answered the young man cheerfully; "they
Fleur's voice said: "Hallo, Father! Here you are!" precisely as if
he had been keeping her waiting.
The young man, snatching off his hat, passed on.
"Well," said Soames, looking her up and down, "you're a punctual sort
of young woman!"
This treasured possession of his life was of medium height and
colour, with short, dark chestnut hair; her wide-apart brown eyes
were set in whites so clear that they glinted when they moved, and
yet in repose were almost dreamy under very white, black-lashed lids,
held over them in a sort of suspense. She had a charming profile,
and nothing of her father in her face save a decided chin. Aware
that his expression was softening as he looked at her, Soames frowned
to preserve the unemotionalism proper to a Forsyte. He knew she was
only too inclined to take advantage of his weakness.
Slipping her hand under his arm, she said:
"Who was that?"
"He picked up my handkerchief. We talked about the pictures."
"You're not going to buy that, Father?"
"No," said Soames grimly; "nor that Juno you've been looking at."
Fleur dragged at his arm. "Oh! Let's go! It's a ghastly show."
In the doorway they passed the young man called Mont and his partner.
But Soames had hung out a board marked "Trespassers will be
prosecuted," and he barely acknowledged the young fellow's salute.
"Well," he said in the street, "whom did you meet at Imogen's?"
"Aunt Winifred, and that Monsieur Profond."
"Oh!" muttered Soames; "that chap! What does your aunt see in him?"
"I don't know. He looks pretty deep--mother says she likes him."
"Cousin Val and his wife were there, too."
"What!" said Soames. "I thought they were back in South Africa."
"Oh, no! They've sold their farm. Cousin Val is going to train
race-horses on the Sussex Downs. They've got a jolly old manor-
house; they asked me down there."
Soames coughed: the news was distasteful to him. "What's his wife
"Very quiet, but nice, I think."
Soames coughed again. "He's a rackety chap, your Cousin Val."
"Oh! no, Father; they're awfully devoted. I promised to go--Saturday
to Wednesday next."
"Training race-horses!" said Soames. It was extravagant, but not the
reason for his distaste. Why the deuce couldn't his nephew have
stayed out in South Africa? His own divorce had been bad enough,
without his nephew's marriage to the daughter of the co-respondent; a
half-sister too of June, and of that boy whom Fleur had just been
looking at from under the pump-handle. If he didn't look out, she
would come to know all about that old disgrace! Unpleasant things!
They were round him this afternoon like a swarm of bees!
"I don't like it!" he said.
"I want to see the race-horses," murmured Fleur; "and they've
promised I shall ride. Cousin Val can't walk much, you know; but he
can ride perfectly. He's going to show me their gallops."
"Racing!" said Soames. "It's a pity the War didn't knock that on the
head. He's taking after his father, I'm afraid."
"I don't know anything about his father."
"No," said Soames, grimly. "He took an interest in horses and broke
his neck in Paris, walking down-stairs. Good riddance for your
aunt." He frowned, recollecting the inquiry into those stairs which
he had attended in Paris six years ago, because. Montague Dartie
could not attend it himself--perfectly normal stairs in a house where
they played baccarat. Either his winnings or the way he had
celebrated them had gone to his brother-in-law's head. The French
procedure had been very loose; he had had a lot of trouble
A sound from Fleur distracted his attention. "Look! The people who
were in the Gallery with us."
"What people?" muttered Soames, who knew perfectly well.
"I think that woman's beautiful."
"Come into this pastry-cook's," said Soames abruptly, and tightening
his grip on her arm he turned into a confectioner's. It was--for
him--a surprising thing to do, and he said rather anxiously: "What
will you have?"
"Oh! I don't want anything. I had a cocktail and a tremendous
"We must have something now we're here," muttered Soames, keeping
hold of her arm.
"Two teas," he said; "and two of those nougat things."
But no sooner was his body seated than his soul sprang up. Those
three--those three were coming in! He heard Irene say something to
her boy, and his answer:
"Oh! no, Mum; this place is all right. My stunt." And the three sat
At that moment, most awkward of his existence, crowded with ghosts
and shadows from his past, in presence of the only two women he had
ever loved--his divorced wife and his daughter by her successor--
Soames was not so much afraid of them as of his cousin June. She
might make a scene--she might introduce those two children--she was
capable of anything. He bit too hastily at the nougat, and it stuck
to his plate. Working at it with his finger, he glanced at Fleur.
She was masticating dreamily, but her eyes were on the boy. The
Forsyte in him said: "Think, feel, and you're done for!" And he
wiggled his finger desperately. Plate! Did Jolyon wear a plate?
Did that woman wear a plate? Time had been when he had seen her
wearing nothing! That was something, anyway, which had never been
stolen from him. And she knew it, though she might sit there calm
and self-possessed, as if she had never been his wife. An acid
humour stirred in his Forsyte blood; a subtle pain divided by hair's
breadth from pleasure. If only June did not suddenly bring her
hornets about his ears! The boy was talking.
"Of course, Auntie June"--so he called his half-sister "Auntie," did
he?--well, she must be fifty, if she was a day!--" it's jolly good of
you to encourage them. Only--hang it all!" Soames stole a glance.
Irene's startled eyes were bent watchfully on her boy. She--she had
these devotions--for Bosinney--for that boy's father--for this boy!
He touched Fleur's arm, and said:
"Well, have you had enough?"
"One more, Father, please."
She would be sick! He went to the counter to pay. When he turned
round again he saw Fleur standing near the door, holding a
handkerchief which the boy had evidently just handed to her.
"F. F.," he heard her say. "Fleur Forsyte--it's mine all right.
Thank you ever so."
Good God! She had caught the trick from what he'd told her in the
"Forsyte? Why--that's my name too. Perhaps we're cousins."
"Really! We must be. There aren't any others. I live at
Mapledurham; where do you?"
Question and answer had been so rapid that all was over before he
could lift a finger. He saw Irene's face alive with startled
feeling, gave the slightest shake of his head, and slipped his arm
"Come along!" he said.
She did not move.
"Didn't you hear, Father? Isn't it queer--our name's the same. Are
"What's that?" he said. "Forsyte? Distant, perhaps."
"My name's Jolyon, sir. Jon, for short."
"Oh! Ah!" said Soames. "Yes. Distant. How are you? Very good of
He moved on.
"Thanks awfully," Fleur was saying. "Au revoir!"
"Au revoir!" he heard the boy reply.
FINE FLEUR FORSYTE
Emerging from the "pastry-cook's," Soames' first impulse was to vent
his nerves by saying to his daughter: 'Dropping your hand-kerchief!'
to which her reply might well be: 'I picked that up from you!' His
second impulse therefore was to let sleeping dogs lie. But she would
surely question him. He gave her a sidelong look, and found she was
giving him the same. She said softly:
"Why don't you like those cousins, Father?" Soames lifted the corner
of his lip.
"What made you think that?"
"Cela se voit."
'That sees itself!' What a way of putting it! After twenty years of
a French wife Soames had still little sympathy with her language; a
theatrical affair and connected in his mind with all the refinements
of domestic irony.
"How?" he asked.
"You must know them; and you didn't make a sign. I saw them looking
"I've never seen the boy in my life," replied Soames with perfect
"No; but you've seen the others, dear."
Soames gave her another look. What had she picked up? Had her Aunt
Winifred, or Imogen, or Val Dartie and his wife, been talking? Every
breath of the old scandal had been carefully kept from her at home,
and Winifred warned many times that he wouldn't have a whisper of it
reach her for the world. So far as she ought to know, he had never
been married before. But her dark eyes, whose southern glint and
clearness often almost frightened him, met his with perfect
"Well," he said, "your grandfather and his brother had a quarrel.
The two families don't know each other."
'Now, what does she mean by that?' he thought. The word was to him
extravagant and dangerous--it was as if she had said: "How jolly!"
"And they'll continue not to know each, other," he added, but
instantly regretted the challenge in those words. Fleur was smiling.
In this age, when young people prided themselves on going their own
ways and paying no attention to any sort of decent prejudice, he had
said the very thing to excite her wilfulness. Then, recollecting the
expression on Irene's face, he breathed again.
"What sort of a quarrel?" he heard Fleur say.
"About a house. It's ancient history for you. Your grandfather died
the day you were born. He was ninety."
"Ninety? Are there many Forsytes besides those in the Red Book?"
"I don't know," said Soames. "They're all dispersed now. The old
ones are dead, except Timothy."
Fleur clasped her hands.
"Timothy? Isn't that delicious?"
"Not at all," said Soames. It offended him that she should think
"Timothy" delicious--a kind of insult to his breed. This new
generation mocked at anything solid and tenacious. "You go and see
the old boy. He might want to prophesy." Ah! If Timothy could see
the disquiet England of his great-nephews and great-nieces, he would
certainly give tongue. And involuntarily he glanced up at the
Iseeum; yes--George was still in the window, with the same pink paper
in his hand.
"Where is Robin Hill, Father?"
Robin Hill! Robin Hill, round which all that tragedy had centred!
What did she want to know for?
"In Surrey," he muttered; "not far from Richmond. Why?"
"Is the house there?"
"That they quarrelled about."
"Yes. But what's all that to do with you? We're going home to-
morrow--you'd better be thinking about your frocks."
"Bless you! They're all thought about. A family feud? It's like
the Bible, or Mark Twain--awfully exciting. What did you do in the
"Never you mind."
"Oh! But if I'm to keep it up?"
"Who said you were to keep it up?"
"I? I said it had nothing to do with you."
"Just what I think, you know; so that's all right."
She was too sharp for him; fine, as Annette sometimes called her.
Nothing for it but to distract her attention.
"There's a bit of rosaline point in here," he said, stopping before a
shop, "that I thought you might like."
When he had paid for it and they had resumed their progress, Fleur
"Don't you think that boy's mother is the most beautiful woman of her
age you've ever seen?"
Soames shivered. Uncanny, the way she stuck to it!
"I don't know that I noticed her."
"Dear, I saw the corner of your eye."
"You see everything--and a great deal more, it seems to me!"
"What's her husband like? He must be your first cousin, if your
fathers were brothers."
"Dead, for all I know," said Soames, with sudden vehemence. "I
haven't seen him for twenty years."
"What was he?"
"That's quite jolly."
The words: "If you want to please me you'll put those people out of
your head," sprang to Soames' lips, but he choked them back--he must
not let her see his feelings.
"He once insulted me," he said.
Her quick eyes rested on his face.
"I see! You didn't avenge it, and it rankles. Poor Father! You let
me have a go!"
It was really like lying in the dark with a mosquito hovering above
his face. Such pertinacity in Fleur was new to him, and, as they
reached the hotel, he said grimly:
"I did my best. And that's enough about these people. I'm going up
"I shall sit here."
With a parting look at her extended in a chair--a look half-
resentful, half-adoring--Soames moved into the lift and was
transported to their suite on the fourth floor. He stood by the
window of the sitting-room which gave view over Hyde Park, and
drummed a finger on its pane. His feelings were confused, tetchy,
troubled. The throb of that old wound, scarred over by Time and new
interests, was mingled with displeasure and anxiety, and a slight
pain in his chest where that nougat stuff had disagreed. Had Annette
come in? Not that she was any good to him in such a difficulty.
Whenever she had questioned him about his first marriage, he had
always shut her up; she knew nothing of it, save that it had been the
great passion of his life, and his marriage with herself but domestic
makeshift. She had always kept the grudge of that up her sleeve, as
it were, and used it commercially. He listened. A sound--the vague
murmur of a woman's movements--was coming through the door. She was
in. He tapped.
"I," said Soames.
She had been changing her frock, and was still imperfectly clothed; a
striking figure before her glass. There was a certain magnificence
about her arms, shoulders, hair, which had darkened since he first
knew her, about the turn of her neck, the silkiness of her garments,
her dark-lashed, greyblue eyes--she was certainly as handsome at
forty as she had ever been. A fine possession, an excellent
housekeeper, a sensible and affectionate enough mother. If only she
weren't always so frankly cynical about the relations between them!
Soames, who had no more real affection for her than she had for him,
suffered from a kind of English grievance in that she had never
dropped even the thinnest veil of sentiment over their partnership.
Like most of his countrymen and women, he held the view that marriage
should be based on mutual love, but that when from a marriage love
had disappeared, or, been found never to have really existed--so that
it was manifestly not based on love--you must not admit it. There it
was, and the love was not--but there you were, and must continue to
be! Thus you had it both ways, and were not tarred with cynicism,
realism, and immorality like the French. Moreover, it was necessary
in the interests of property. He knew that she knew that they both
knew there was no love between them, but he still expected her not to
admit in words or conduct such a thing, and he could never understand
what she meant when she talked of the hypocrisy of the English. He
"Whom have you got at 'The Shelter' next week?"
Annette went on touching her lips delicately with salve--he always
wished she wouldn't do that.
"Your sister Winifred, and the Car-r-digans"--she took up a tiny
stick of black--"and Prosper Profond."
"That Belgian chap? Why him?"
Annette turned her neck lazily, touched one eyelash, and said:
"He amuses Winifred."
"I want some one to amuse Fleur; she's restive."
"R-restive?" repeated Annette. "Is it the first time you see that,
my friend? She was born r-restive, as you call it."
Would she never get that affected roll out of her r's?
He touched the dress she had taken off, and asked:
"What have you been doing?"
Annette looked at him, reflected in her glass. Her just-brightened
lips smiled, rather full, rather ironical.
"Enjoying myself," she said.
"Oh!" answered Soames glumly. "Ribbandry, I suppose."
It was his word for all that incomprehensible running in and out of
shops that women went in for. "Has Fleur got her summer dresses?"
"You don't ask if I have mine."
"You don't care whether I do or not."
"Quite right. Well, she has; and I have mine--terribly expensive."
"H'm!" said Soames. "What does that chap Profond do in England?"
Annette raised the eyebrows she had just finished.
"Ah!" said Soames; "he's a sleepy chap."
"Sometimes," answered Annette, and her face had a sort of quiet
enjoyment. "But sometimes very amusing."
"He's got a touch of the tar-brush about him."
Annette stretched herself.
"Tar-brush?" she said. "What is that? His mother was Armenienne."
"That's it, then," muttered Soames. "Does he know anything about
"He knows about everything--a man of the world."
"Well, get some one for Fleur. I want to distract her. She's going
off on Saturday to Val Dartie and his wife; I don't like it."
Since the reason could not be explained without going into family
history, Soames merely answered:
"Racketing about. There's too much of it."
"I like that little Mrs. Val; she is very quiet and clever."
"I know nothing of her except--This thing's new." And Soames took
up a creation from the bed.
Annette received it from him.
"Would you hook me?" she said.
Soames hooked. Glancing once over her shoulder into the glass, he
saw the expression on her face, faintly amused, faintly contemptuous,
as much as to say: "Thanks! You will never learn!" No, thank God,
he wasn't a Frenchman! He finished with a jerk, and the words: "It's
too low here." And he went to the door, with the wish to get away
from her and go down to Fleur again.
Annette stayed a powder-puff, and said with startling suddenness
"Que to es grossier!"
He knew the expression--he had reason to. The first time she had
used it he had thought it meant "What a grocer you are!" and had not
known whether to be relieved or not when better informed. He
resented the word--he was not coarse! If he was coarse, what was
that chap in the room beyond his, who made those horrible noises in
the morning when he cleared his throat, or those people in the Lounge
who thought it well-bred to say nothing but what the whole world
could hear at the top of their voices--quacking inanity! Coarse,
because he had said her dress was low! Well, so it was! He went out
Coming into the Lounge from the far end, he at once saw Fleur where
he had left her. She sat with crossed knees, slowly balancing a foot
in silk stocking and grey shoe, sure sign that she was dreaming. Her
eyes showed it too--they went off like that sometimes. And then, in
a moment, she would come to life, and be as quick and restless as a
monkey. And she knew so much, so self-assured, and not yet nineteen.
What was that odious word? Flapper! Dreadful young creatures--
squealing and squawking and showing their legs! The worst of them