Part 5 out of 7
"Tell me about it, Father!"
Soames became very still.
"What should you want to know about such things, at your age?"
"Is she alive?"
"And married?" Yes."
"It's Jon Forsyte's mother, isn't it? And she was your wife first."
It was said in a flash of intuition. Surely his opposition came from
his anxiety that she should not know of that old wound to his pride.
But she was startled. To see some one so old and calm wince as if
struck, to hear so sharp a note of pain in his voice!
"Who told you that? If your aunt! I can't bear the affair talked
"But, darling," said Fleur, softly, "it's so long ago."
"Long ago or not, I...."
Fleur stood stroking his arm.
"I've tried to forget," he said suddenly; "I don't wish to be
reminded." And then, as if venting some long and secret irritation,
he added: "In these days people don't understand. Grand passion,
indeed! No one knows what it is."
"I do," said Fleur, almost in a whisper.
Soames, who had turned his back on her, spun round.
"What are you talking of--a child like you!"
"Perhaps I've inherited it, Father."
"For her son, you see."
He was pale as a sheet, and she knew that she was as bad. They stood
staring at each other in the steamy heat, redolent of the mushy scent
of earth, of potted geranium, and of vines coming along fast.
"This is crazy," said Soames at last, between dry lips.
Scarcely moving her own, she murmured:
"Don't be angry, Father. I can't help it."
But she could see he wasn't angry; only scared, deeply scared.
"I thought that foolishness," he stammered, "was all forgotten."
"Oh, no! It's ten times what it was."
Soames kicked at the hot-water pipe. The hapless movement touched
her, who had no fear of her father--none.
"Dearest!" she said. "What must be, must, you know."
"Must!" repeated Soames. "You don't know what you're talking of.
Has that boy been told?"
The blood rushed into her cheeks.
He had turned from her again, and, with one shoulder a little raised,
stood staring fixedly at a joint in the pipes.
"It's most distasteful to me," he said suddenly; "nothing could be
more so. Son of that fellow! It's--it's--perverse!"
She had noted, almost unconsciously, that he did not say "son of that
woman," and again her intuition began working.
Did the ghost of that grand passion linger in some corner of his
She slipped her hand under his arm.
"Jon's father is quite ill and old; I saw him."
"Yes, I went there with Jon; I saw them both."
"Well, and what did they say to you?"
"Nothing. They were very polite."
"They would be." He resumed his contemplation of the pipe-joint, and
then said suddenly:
"I must think this over--I'll speak to you again to-night."
She knew this was final for the moment, and stole away, leaving him
still looking at the pipe-joint. She wandered into the fruit-garden,
among the raspberry and currant bushes, without impetus to pick and
eat. Two months ago--she was light-hearted! Even two days ago--
light-hearted, before Prosper Profond told her. Now she felt tangled
in a web-of passions, vested rights, oppressions and revolts, the
ties of love and hate. At this dark moment of discouragement there
seemed, even to her hold-fast nature, no way out. How deal with it--
how sway and bend things to her will, and get her heart's desire?
And, suddenly, round the corner of the high box hedge, she came plump
on her mother, walking swiftly, with an open letter in her hand. Her
bosom was heaving, her eyes dilated, her cheeks flushed. Instantly
Fleur thought: 'The yacht! Poor Mother!'
Annette gave her a wide startled look, and said:
"J'ai la migraine."
"I'm awfully sorry, Mother."
"Oh, yes! you and your father--sorry!"
"But, Mother--I am. I know what it feels like."
Annette's startled eyes grew wide, till the whites showed above them.
"Poor innocent!" she said.
Her mother--so self-possessed, and commonsensical--to look and speak
like this! It was all frightening! Her father, her mother, herself!
And only two months back they had seemed to have everything they
wanted in this world.
Annette crumpled the letter in her hand. Fleur knew that she must
ignore the sight.
"Can't I do anything for your head, Mother?"
Annette shook that head and walked on, swaying her hips.
'It's cruel,' thought Fleur, 'and I was glad! That man! What do men
come prowling for, disturbing everything! I suppose he's tired of
her. What business has he to be tired of my mother? What business!'
And at that thought, so natural and so peculiar, she uttered a little
She ought, of course, to be delighted, but what was there to be
delighted at? Her father didn't really care! Her mother did,
perhaps? She entered the orchard, and sat down under a cherry-tree.
A breeze sighed in the higher boughs; the sky seen through their
green was very blue and very white in cloud--those heavy white clouds
almost always present in river landscape. Bees, sheltering out of
the wind, hummed softly, and over the lush grass fell the thick shade
from those fruit-trees planted by her father five-and-twenty, years
ago. Birds were almost silent, the cuckoos had ceased to sing, but
wood-pigeons were cooing. The breath and drone and cooing of high
summer were not for long a sedative to her excited nerves. Crouched
over her knees she began to scheme. Her father must be made to back
her up. Why should he mind so long as she was happy? She had not
lived for nearly nineteen years without knowing that her future was
all he really cared about. She had, then, only to convince him that
her future could not be happy without Jon. He thought it a mad
fancy. How foolish the old were, thinking they could tell what the
young felt! Had not he confessed that he--when young--had loved with
a grand passion? He ought to understand! 'He piles up his money for
me,' she thought; 'but what's the use, if I'm not going to be happy?'
Money, and all it bought, did not bring happiness. Love only brought
that. The ox-eyed daisies in this orchard, which gave it such a
moony look sometimes, grew wild and happy, and had their hour. 'They
oughtn't to have called me Fleur,' she mused, 'if they didn't mean me
to have my hour, and be happy while it lasts.' Nothing real stood in
the way, like poverty, or disease--sentiment only, a ghost from the
unhappy past! Jon was right. They wouldn't let you live, these old
people! They made mistakes, committed crimes, and wanted their
children to go on paying! The breeze died away; midges began to
bite. She got up, plucked a piece of honeysuckle, and went in.
It was hot that night. Both she and her mother had put on thin, pale
low frocks. The dinner flowers were pale. Fleur was struck with the
pale look of everything; her father's face, her mother's shoulders;
the pale panelled walls, the pale grey velvety carpet, the lamp-
shade, even the soup was pale. There was not one spot of colour in
the room, not even wine in the pale glasses, for no one drank it.
What was not pale was black--her father's clothes, the butler's
clothes, her retriever stretched out exhausted in the window, the
curtains black with a cream pattern. A moth came in, and that was
pale. And silent was that half-mourning dinner in the heat.
Her father called her back as she was following her mother out.
She sat down beside him at the table, and, unpinning the pale
honeysuckle, put it to her nose.
"I've been thinking," he said.
"It's extremely painful for me to talk, but there's no help for it.
I don't know if you understand how much you are to me I've never
spoken of it, I didn't think it necessary; but--but you're
everything. Your mother--" he paused, staring at his finger-bowl of
"I've only you to look to. I've never had--never wanted anything
else, since you were born."
"I know," Fleur murmured.
Soames moistened his lips.
"You may think this a matter I can smooth over and arrange for you.
You're mistaken. I'm helpless."
Fleur did not speak.
"Quite apart from my own feelings," went on Soames with more
resolution, "those two are not amenable to anything I can say. They-
-they hate me, as people always hate those whom they have injured."
"He's their flesh and blood, her only child. Probably he means to
her what you mean to me. It's a deadlock."
"No," cried Fleur, "no, Father!"
Soames leaned back, the image of pale patience, as if resolved on the
betrayal of no emotion.
"Listen!" he said. "You're putting the feelings of two months--two
months--against the feelings of thirty-five years! What chance do
you think you have? Two months--your very first love affair, a
matter of half a dozen meetings, a few walks and talks, a few kisses-
-against, against what you can't imagine, what no one could who
hasn't been through it. Come, be reasonable, Fleur! It's midsummer
Fleur tore the honeysuckle into little, slow bits.
"The madness is in letting the past spoil it all.
"What do we care about the past? It's our lives, not yours."
Soames raised his hand to his forehead, where suddenly she saw
"Whose child are you?" he said. "Whose child is he? The present is
linked with the past, the future with both. There's no getting away
She had never heard philosophy pass those lips before. Impressed
even in her agitation, she leaned her elbows on the table, her chin
on her hands.
"But, Father, consider it practically. We want each other. There's
ever so much money, and nothing whatever in the way but sentiment.
Let's bury the past, Father."
His answer was a sigh.
"Besides," said Fleur gently, "you can't prevent us."
"I don't suppose," said Soames, "that if left to myself I should try
to prevent you; I must put up with things, I know, to keep your
affection. But it's not I who control this matter. That's what I
want you to realise before it's too late. If you go on thinking you
can get your way and encourage this feeling, the blow will be much
heavier when you find you can't."
"Oh!" cried Fleur, "help me, Father; you can help me, you know."
Soames made a startled movement of negation. "I?" he said bitterly.
"Help? I am the impediment--the just cause and impediment--isn't
that the jargon? You have my blood in your veins."
"Well, the fat's in the fire. If you persist in your wilfulness
you'll have yourself to blame. Come! Don't be foolish, my child--my
Fleur laid her forehead against his shoulder.
All was in such turmoil within her. But no good to show it! No good
at all! She broke away from him, and went out into the twilight,
distraught, but unconvinced. All was indeterminate and vague within
her, like the shapes and shadows in the garden, except--her will to
have. A poplar pierced up into the dark-blue sky and touched a white
star there. The dew wetted her shoes, and chilled her bare
shoulders. She went down to the river bank, and stood gazing at a
moonstreak on the darkening water. Suddenly she smelled tobacco
smoke, and a white figure emerged as if created by the moon. It was
young Mont in flannels, standing in his boat. She heard the tiny
hiss of his cigarette extinguished in the water.
"Fleur," came his voice, "don't be hard on a poor devil! I've been
"Come in my boat!"
"I'm not a water-nymph."
"Haven't you any romance in you? Don't be modern, Fleur!"
He appeared on the path within a yard of her.
"Fleur, I love you. Fleur!"
Fleur uttered a short laugh.
"Come again," she said, "when I haven't got my wish."
"What is your wish?"
"Fleur," said Mont, and his voice sounded strange, "don't mock me!
Even vivisected dogs are worth decent treatment before they're cut up
Fleur shook her head; but her lips were trembling.
"Well, you shouldn't make me jump. Give me a cigarette."
Mont gave her one, lighted it, and another for himself.
"I don't want to talk rot," he said, "but please imagine all the rot
that all the lovers that ever were have talked, and all my special
rot thrown in."
"Thank you, I have imagined it. Good-night!" They stood for a
moment facing each other in the shadow of an acacia-tree with very
moonlit blossoms, and the smoke from their cigarettes mingled in the
air between them.
"Also ran: 'Michael Mont'?" he said. Fleur turned abruptly toward
the house. On the lawn she stopped to look back. Michael Mont was
whirling his arms above him; she could see them dashing at his head;
then waving at the moonlit blossoms of the acacia. His voice just
reached her. "Jolly-jolly!" Fleur shook herself. She couldn't help
him, she had too much trouble of her own! On the verandah she
stopped very suddenly again. Her mother was sitting in the drawing-
room at her writing bureau, quite alone. There was nothing
remarkable in the expression of her face except its utter immobility.
But she looked desolate! Fleur went upstairs. At the door of her
room she paused. She could hear her father walking up and down, up
and down the picture-gallery.
'Yes,' she thought, jolly! Oh, Jon!'
When Fleur left him Jon stared at the Austrian. She was a thin woman
with a dark face and the concerned expression of one who has watched
every little good that life once had slip from her, one by one.
"No tea?" she said.
Susceptible to the disappointment in her voice, Jon murmured:
"No, really; thanks."
"A lil cup--it ready. A lil cup and cigarette."
Fleur was gone! Hours of remorse and indecision lay before him! And
with a heavy sense of disproportion he smiled, and said:
She brought in a little pot of tea with two little cups, and a silver
box of cigarettes on a little tray.
"Sugar? Miss Forsyte has much sugar--she buy my sugar, my friend's
sugar also. Miss Forsyte is a veree kind lady. I am happy to serve
her. You her brother?"
"Yes," said Jon, beginning to puff the second cigarette of his life.
"Very young brother," said the Austrian, with a little anxious smile,
which reminded him of the wag of a dog's tail.
"May I give you some?" he said. "And won't you sit down, please?"
The Austrian shook her head.
"Your father a very nice old man--the most nice old man I ever see.
Miss Forsyte tell me all about him. Is he better?"
Her words fell on Jon like a reproach. "Oh Yes, I think he's all
"I like to see him again," said the Austrian, putting a hand on her
heart; "he have veree kind heart."
"Yes," said Jon. And again her words seemed to him a reproach.
"He never give no trouble to no one, and smile so gentle."
"Yes, doesn't he?"
"He look at Miss Forsyte so funny sometimes. I tell him all my
story; he so sympatisch. Your mother--she nice and well?"
"He have her photograph on his dressing-table. Veree beautiful"
Jon gulped down his tea. This woman, with her concerned face and her
reminding words, was like the first and second murderers.
"Thank you," he said; "I must go now. May--may I leave this with
He put a ten-shilling note on the tray with a doubting hand and
gained the door. He heard the Austrian gasp, and hurried out. He
had just time to catch his train, and all the way to Victoria looked
at every face that passed, as lovers will, hoping against hope. On
reaching Worthing he put his luggage into the local train, and set
out across the Downs for Wansdon, trying to walk off his aching
irresolution. So long as he went full bat, he could enjoy the beauty
of those green slopes, stopping now and again to sprawl on the grass,
admire the perfection of a wild rose or listen to a lark's song. But
the war of motives within him was but postponed--the longing for
Fleur, and the hatred of deception. He came to the old chalk-pit
above Wansdon with his mind no more made up than when he started. To
see both sides of a question vigorously was at once Jon's strength
and weakness. He tramped in, just as the first dinner-bell rang.
His things had already been brought up. He had a hurried bath and
came down to find Holly alone--Val had gone to Town and would not be
back till the last train.
Since Val's advice to him to ask his sister what was the matter
between the two families, so much had happened--Fleur's disclosure in
the Green Park, her visit to Robin Hill, to-day's meeting--that there
seemed nothing to ask. He talked of Spain, his sunstroke, Val's
horses, their father's health. Holly startled him by saying that she
thought their father not at all well. She had been twice to Robin
Hill for the week-end. He had seemed fearfully languid, sometimes
even in pain, but had always refused to talk about himself.
"He's awfully dear and unselfish--don't you think, Jon?"
Feeling far from dear and unselfish himself, Jon answered: "Rather!"
"I think, he's been a simply perfect father, so long as I can
"Yes," answered Jon, very subdued.
"He's never interfered, and he's always seemed to understand. I
shall never forget his letting me go to South Africa in the Boer War
when I was in love with Val."
"That was before he married Mother, wasn't it?" said Jon suddenly.
"Oh! nothing. Only, wasn't she engaged to Fleur's father first?"
Holly put down the spoon she was using, and raised her eyes. Her
stare was circumspect. What did the boy know? Enough to make it
better to tell him? She could not decide. He looked strained and
worried, altogether older, but that might be the sunstroke.
"There was something," she said. "Of course we were out there, and
got no news of anything." She could not take the risk.
It was not her secret. Besides, she was in the dark about his
feelings now. Before Spain she had made sure he was in love; but
boys were boys; that was seven weeks ago, and all Spain between.
She saw that he knew she was putting him off, and added:
"Have you heard anything of Fleur?"
His face told her, then, more than the most elaborate explanations.
So he had not forgotten!
She said very quietly: "Fleur is awfully attractive, Jon, but you
know--Val and I don't really like her very much."
"We think she's got rather a 'having' nature."
"'Having'? I don't know what you mean. She--she--" he pushed his
dessert plate away, got up, and went to the window.
Holly, too, got up, and put her arm round his waist.
"Don't be angry, Jon dear. We can't all see people in the same
light, can we? You know, I believe each of us only has about one or
two people who can see the best that's in us, and bring it out. For
you I think it's your mother. I once saw her looking at a letter of
yours; it was wonderful to see her face. I think she's the most
beautiful woman I ever saw--Age doesn't seem to touch her."
Jon's face softened; then again became tense. Everybody--everybody
was against him and Fleur! It all strengthened the appeal of her
words: "Make sure of me--marry me, Jon!"
Here, where he had passed that wonderful week with her--the tug of
her enchantment, the ache in his heart increased with every minute
that she was not there to make the room, the garden, the very air
magical. Would he ever be able to live down here, not seeing her?
And he closed up utterly, going early to bed. It would not make him
healthy, wealthy, and wise, but it closeted him with memory of Fleur
in her fancy frock. He heard Val's arrival--the Ford discharging
cargo, then the stillness of the summer night stole back--with only
the bleating of very distant sheep, and a night-Jar's harsh purring.
He leaned far out. Cold moon--warm air--the Downs like silver!
Small wings, a stream bubbling, the rambler roses! God--how empty
all of it without her! In the Bible it was written: Thou shalt leave
father and mother and cleave to--Fleur!
Let him have pluck, and go and tell them! They couldn't stop him
marrying her--they wouldn't want to stop him when they knew how he
felt. Yes! He would go! Bold and open--Fleur was wrong!
The night-jar ceased, the sheep were silent; the only sound in the
darkness was the bubbling of the stream. And Jon in his bed slept,
freed from the worst of life's evils--indecision.
On the day of the cancelled meeting at the National Gallery began the
second anniversary of the resurrection of England's pride and glory--
or, more shortly, the top hat. "Lord's"--that festival which the
War had driven from the field--raised its light and dark blue flags
for the second time, displaying almost every feature of a glorious
past. Here, in the luncheon interval, were all species of female and
one species of male hat, protecting the multiple types of face
associated with "the classes." The observing Forsyte might discern
in the free or unconsidered seats a certain number of the squash-
hatted, but they hardly ventured on the grass; the old school--or
schools--could still rejoice that the proletariat was not yet paying
the necessary half-crown. Here was still a close borough, the only
one left on a large scale--for the papers were about to estimate the
attendance at ten thousand. And the ten thousand, all animated by
one hope, were asking each other one question: "Where are you
lunching?" Something wonderfully uplifting and reassuring in that
query and the sight of so many people like themselves voicing it!
What reserve power in the British realm--enough pigeons, lobsters,
lamb, salmon mayonnaise, strawberries, and bottles of champagne to
feed the lot! No miracle in prospect--no case of seven loaves and a
few fishes--faith rested on surer foundations. Six thousand top
hats, four thousand parasols would be doffed and furled, ten thousand
mouths all speaking the same English would be filled. There was life
in the old dog yet! Tradition! And again Tradition! How strong and
how elastic! Wars might rage, taxation prey, Trades Unions take
toll, and Europe perish of starvation; but the ten thousand would be
fed; and, within their ring fence, stroll upon green turf, wear their
top hats, and meet--themselves. The heart was sound, the pulse still
regular. E-ton! E-ton! Har-r-o-o-o-w!
Among the many Forsytes, present on a hunting-ground theirs, by
personal prescriptive right, or proxy, was Soames with his wife and
daughter. He had not been at either school, he took no interest in
cricket, but he wanted Fleur to show her frock, and he wanted to wear
his top hat parade it again in peace and plenty among his peers. He
walked sedately with Fleur between him and Annette. No women
equalled them, so far as he could see. They could walk, and hold
themselves up; there was substance in their good looks; the modern
woman had no build, no chest, no anything! He remembered suddenly
with what intoxication of pride he had walked round with Irene in the
first years of his first marriage. And how they used to lunch on the
drag which his mother would make his father have, because it was so
"chic"--all drags and carriages in those days, not these lumbering
great Stands! And how consistently Montague Dartie had drunk too
much. He supposed that people drank too much still, but there was
not the scope for it there used to be. He remembered George Forsyte-
-whose brothers Roger and Eustace had been at Harrow and Eton--
towering up on the top of the drag waving a light-blue flag with one
hand and a dark-blue flag with the other, and shouting "Etroow-
Harrton!" Just when everybody was silent, like the buffoon he had
always been; and Eustace got up to the nines below, too dandified to
wear any colour or take any notice. H'm! Old days, and Irene in
grey silk shot with palest green. He looked, sideways, at Fleur's
face. Rather colourless-no light, no eagerness! That love affair
was preying on her--a bad business! He looked beyond, at his wife's
face, rather more touched up than usual, a little disdainful--not
that she had any business to disdain, so far as he could see. She
was taking Profond's defection with curious quietude; or was his
"small" voyage just a blind? If so, he should refuse to see it!
Having promenaded round the pitch and in front of the pavilion, they
sought Winifred's table in the Bedouin Club tent. This Club--a new
"cock and hen"--had been founded in the interests of travel, and of a
gentleman with an old Scottish name, whose father had somewhat
strangely been called Levi. Winifred had joined, not because she had
travelled, but because instinct told her that a Club with such a name
and such a founder was bound to go far; if one didn't join at once
one might never have the chance. Its tent, with a text from the
Koran on an orange ground, and a small green camel embroidered over
the entrance, was the most striking on the ground. Outside it they
found Jack Cardigan in a dark blue tie (he had once played for
Harrow), batting with a Malacca cane to show how that fellow ought to
have hit that ball. He piloted them in. Assembled in Winifred's
corner were Imogen, Benedict with his young wife, Val Dartie without
Holly, Maud and her husband, and, after Soames and his two were
seated, one empty place.
"I'm expecting Prosper," said Winifred, "but he's so busy with his
Soames stole a glance. No movement in his wife's face! Whether that
fellow were coming or not, she evidently knew all about it. It did
not escape him that Fleur, too, looked at her mother. If Annette
didn't respect his feelings, she might think of Fleur's! The
conversation, very desultory, was syncopated by Jack Cardigan talking
about "mid-off." He cited all the "great mid-offs" from the
beginning of time, as if they had been a definite racial entity in
the composition of the British people. Soames had finished his
lobster, and was beginning on pigeon-pie, when he heard the words,
"I'm a small bit late, Mrs. Dartie," and saw that there was no longer
any empty place. That fellow was sitting between Annette and Imogen.
Soames ate steadily on, with an occasional word to Maud and Winifred.
Conversation buzzed around him. He heard the voice of Profond say:
"I think you're mistaken, Mrs. Forsyde; I'll--I'll bet Miss Forsyde
agrees with me."
"In what?" came Fleur's clear voice across the table.
"I was sayin', young gurls are much the same as they always were--
there's very small difference."
"Do you know so much about them?"
That sharp reply caught the ears of all, and Soames moved uneasily on
his thin green chair.
"Well, I don't know, I think they want their own small way, and I
think they always did."
"Oh, but--Prosper," Winifred interjected comfortably, "the girls in
the streets--the girls who've been in munitions, the little flappers
in the shops; their manners now really quite hit you in the eye."
At the word "hit" Jack Cardigan stopped his disquisition; and in the
silence Monsieur Profond said:
"It was inside before, now it's outside; that's all."
"But their morals!" cried Imogen.
"Just as moral as they ever were, Mrs. Cardigan, but they've got more
The saying, so cryptically cynical, received a little laugh from
Imogen, a slight opening of Jack Cardigan's mouth, and a creak from
Winifred said: "That's too bad, Prosper."
"What do you say, Mrs. Forsyde; don't you think human nature's always
Soames subdued a sudden longing to get up and kick the fellow. He
heard his wife reply:
"Human nature is not the same in England as anywhere else." That was
her confounded mockery!
"Well, I don't know much about this small country"--'No, thank God!'
thought Soames--"but I should say the pot was boilin' under the lid
everywhere. We all want pleasure, and we always did."
Damn the fellow! His cynicism was--was outrageous!
When lunch was over they broke up into couples for the digestive
promenade. Too proud to notice, Soames knew perfectly that Annette
and that fellow had gone prowling round together. Fleur was with
Val; she had chosen him, no doubt, because he knew that boy. He
himself had Winifred for partner. They walked in the bright,
circling stream, a little flushed and sated, for some minutes, till
"I wish we were back forty years, old boy!"
Before the eyes of her spirit an interminable procession of her own
"Lord's" frocks was passing, paid for with the money of her father,
to save a recurrent crisis. "It's been very amusing, after all.
Sometimes I even wish Monty was back. What do you think of people
"Precious little style. The thing began to go to pieces with
bicycles and motor-cars; the War has finished it."
"I wonder what's coming?" said Winifred in a voice dreamy from
pigeon-pie. "I'm not at all sure we shan't go back to crinolines and
pegtops. Look at that dress!"
Soames shook his head.
"There's money, but no faith in things. We don't lay by for the
future. These youngsters--it's all a short life and a merry one with
"There's a hat!" said Winifred. "I don't know--when you come to
think of the people killed and all that in the War, it's rather
wonderful, I think. There's no other country--Prosper says the rest
are all bankrupt, except America; and of course her men always took
their style in dress from us."
"Is that chap," said Soames, "really going to the South Seas?"
"Oh! one never knows where Prosper's going!"
"He's a sign of the times," muttered Soames, "if you like."
Winifred's hand gripped his arm.
"Don't turn your head," she said in a low voice, "but look to your
right in the front row of the Stand."
Soames looked as best he could under that limitation. A man in a
grey top hat, grey-bearded, with thin brown, folded cheeks, and a
certain elegance of posture, sat there with a woman in a lawn-
coloured frock, whose dark eyes were fixed on himself. Soames looked
quickly at his feet. How funnily feet moved, one after the other
like that! Winifred's voice said in his ear:
"Jolyon looks very ill; but he always had style. She doesn't change-
-except her hair."
"Why did you tell Fleur about that business?"
"I didn't; she picked it up. I always knew she would."
"Well, it's a mess. She's set her heart upon their boy."
"The little wretch," murmured Winifred. "She tried to take me in
about that. What shall you do, Soames?"
"Be guided by events."
They moved on, silent, in the almost solid crowd.
"Really," said Winifred suddenly; "it almost seems like Fate. Only
that's so old-fashioned. Look! there are George and Eustace!"
George Forsyte's lofty bulk had halted before them.
"Hallo, Soames!" he said. "Just met Profond and your wife. You'll
catch 'em if you put on pace. Did you ever go to see old Timothy?"
Soames nodded, and the streams forced them apart.
"I always liked old George," said Winifred. "He's so droll."
"I never did," said Soames. "Where's your seat? I shall go to mine.
Fleur may be back there."
Having seen Winifred to her seat, he regained his own, conscious of
small, white, distant figures running, the click of the bat, the
cheers and counter-cheers. No Fleur, and no Annette! You could
expect nothing of women nowadays! They had the vote. They were
"emancipated," and much good it was doing them! So Winifred would go
back, would she, and put up with Dartie all over again? To have the
past once more--to be sitting here as he had sat in '83 and '84,
before he was certain that his marriage with Irene had gone all
wrong, before her antagonism had become so glaring that with the best
will in the world he could not overlook it. The sight of her with
that fellow had brought all memory back. Even now he could not
understand why she had been so impracticable. She could love other
men; she had it in her! To himself, the one person she ought to have
loved, she had chosen to refuse her heart. It seemed to him,
fantastically, as he looked back, that all this modern relaxation of
marriage--though its forms and laws were the same as when he married
her--that all this modern looseness had come out of her revolt; it
seemed to him, fantastically, that she had started it, till all
decent ownership of anything had gone, or was on the point of going.
All came from her! And now--a pretty state of things! Homes! How
could you have them without mutual ownership? Not that he had ever
had a real home! But had that been his fault? He had done his best.
And his rewards were--those two sitting in that Stand, and this
affair of Fleur's!
And overcome by loneliness he thought: 'Shan't wait any longer! They
must find their own way back to the hotel--if they mean to come!'
Hailing a cab outside the ground, he said:
"Drive me to the Bayswater Road." His old aunts had never failed
him. To them he had meant an ever-welcome visitor. Though they were
gone, there, still, was Timothy!
Smither was standing in the open doorway.
"Mr. Soames! I was just taking the air. Cook will be so pleased."
"How is Mr. Timothy?"
"Not himself at all these last few days, sir; he's been talking a
great deal. Only this morning he was saying: 'My brother James, he's
getting old.' His mind wanders, Mr. Soames, and then he will talk of
them. He troubles about their investments. The other day he said:
'There's my brother Jolyon won't look at Consols'--he seemed quite
down about it. Come in, Mr. Soames, come in! It's such a pleasant
"Well," said Soames, "just for a few minutes."
"No," murmured Smither in the hall, where the air had the singular
freshness of the outside day, "we haven't been very satisfied with
him, not all this week. He's always been one to leave a titbit to
the end; but ever since Monday he's been eating it first. If you
notice a dog, Mr. Soames, at its dinner, it eats the meat first.
We've always thought it such a good sign of Mr. Timothy at his age to
leave it to the last, but now he seems to have lost all his self-
control; and, of course, it makes him leave the rest. The doctor
doesn't make anything of it, but"--Smither shook her head--"he seems
to think he's got to eat it first, in case he shouldn't get to it.
That and his talking makes us anxious."
"Has he said anything important?"
"I shouldn't like to say that, Mr. Soames; but he's turned against
his Will. He gets quite pettish--and after having had it out every
morning for years, it does seem funny. He said the other day: 'They
want my money.' It gave me such a turn, because, as I said to him,
nobody wants his money, I'm sure. And it does seem a pity he should
be thinking about money at his time of life. I took my courage in my
'ands. 'You know, Mr. Timothy,' I said, 'my dear mistress'--that's
Miss Forsyte, Mr. Soames, Miss Ann that trained me--'she never
thought about money,' I said, 'it was all character with her.' He
looked at me, I can't tell you how funny, and he said quite dry:
'Nobody wants my character.' Think of his saying a thing like that!
But sometimes he'll say something as sharp and sensible as anything."
Soames, who had been staring at an old print by the hat-rack,
thinking, 'That's got value!' murmured: "I'll go up and see him,
"Cook's with him," answered Smither above her corsets; "she will be
pleased to see you."
He mounted slowly, with the thought: 'Shan't care to live to be that
On the second floor, he paused, and tapped. The door was opened, and
he saw the round homely face of a woman about sixty.
"Mr. Soames!" she said: "Why! Mr. Soames!"
Soames nodded. "All right, Cook!" and entered.
Timothy was propped up in bed, with his hands joined before his
chest, and his eyes fixed on the ceiling, where a fly was standing
upside down. Soames stood at the foot of the bed, facing him.
"Uncle Timothy," he said, raising his voice. "Uncle Timothy!"
Timothy's eyes left the fly, and levelled themselves on his visitor.
Soames could see his pale tongue passing over his darkish lips.
"Uncle Timothy," he said again, "is there anything I can do for you?
Is there anything you'd like to say?"
"Ha!" said Timothy.
"I've come to look you up and see that everything's all right."
Timothy nodded. He seemed trying to get used to the apparition
"Have you got everything you want?"
"No," said Timothy.
"Can I get you anything?"
"No," said Timothy.
"I'm Soames, you know; your nephew, Soames Forsyte. Your brother
"I shall be delighted to do anything I can for you."
Timothy beckoned. Soames went close to him:
"You--" said Timothy in a voice which seemed to have outlived tone,
"you tell them all from me--you tell them all--" and his finger
tapped on Soames' arm, "to hold on--hold on--Consols are goin' up,"
and he nodded thrice.
"All right!" said Soames; "I will."
"Yes," said Timothy, and, fixing his eyes again on the ceiling, he
added: "That fly!"
Strangely moved, Soames looked at the Cook's pleasant fattish face,
all little puckers from staring at fires.
"That'll do him a world of good, sir," she said.
A mutter came from Timothy, but he was clearly speaking to himself,
and Soames went out with the cook.
"I wish I could make you a pink cream, Mr. Soames, like in old days;
you did so relish them. Good-bye, sir; it has been a pleasure."
"Take care of him, Cook, he is old."
And, shaking her crumpled hand, he went down-stairs. Smither was
still taking the air in the doorway.
"What do you think of him, Mr. Soames?"
"H'm!" Soames murmured: "He's lost touch."
"Yes," said Smither, "I was afraid you'd think that coming fresh out
of the world to see him like."
"Smither," said Soames, "we're all indebted to you."
"Oh, no, Mr. Soames, don't say that! It's a pleasure--he's such a
"Well, good-bye!" said Soames, and got into his taxi.
'Going up!' he thought; 'going up!'
Reaching the hotel at Knightsbridge he went to their sitting-room,
and rang for tea. Neither of them were in. And again that sense of
loneliness came over him. These hotels. What monstrous great places
they were now! He could remember when there was nothing bigger than
Long's or Brown's, Morley's or the Tavistock, and the heads that were
shaken over the Langham and the Grand. Hotels and Clubs--Clubs and
Hotels; no end to them now! And Soames, who had just been watching
at Lord's a miracle of tradition and continuity, fell into reverie
over the changes in that London where he had been born five-and-sixty
years before. Whether Consols were going up or not, London had
become a terrific property. No such property in the world, unless it
were New York! There was a lot of hysteria in the papers nowadays;
but any one who, like himself, could remember London sixty years ago,
and see it now, realised the fecundity and elasticity of wealth.
They had only to keep their heads, and go at it steadily. Why! he
remembered cobblestones, and stinking straw on the floor of your cab.
And old Timothy--what could be not have told them, if he had kept his
memory! Things were unsettled, people in a funk or in a hurry, but
here were London and the Thames, and out there the British Empire,
and the ends of the earth. "Consols are goin' up!" He should n't be
a bit surprised. It was the breed that counted. And all that was
bull-dogged in Soames stared for a moment out of his grey eyes, till
diverted by the print of a Victorian picture on the walls. The hotel
had bought three dozen of that little lot! The old hunting or
"Rake's Progress" prints in the old inns were worth looking at--but
this sentimental stuff--well, Victorianism had gone! "Tell them to
hold on!" old Timothy had said. But to what were they to hold on in
this modern welter of the "democratic principle"? Why, even privacy
was threatened! And at the thought that privacy might perish, Soames
pushed back his teacup and went to the window. Fancy owning no more
of Nature than the crowd out there owned of the flowers and trees and
waters of Hyde Park! No, no! Private possession underlay everything
worth having. The world had slipped its sanity a bit, as dogs now
and again at full moon slipped theirs and went off for a night's
rabbiting; but the world, like the dog, knew where its bread was
buttered and its bed warm, and would come back sure enough to the
only home worth having--to private ownership. The world was in its
second childhood for the moment, like old Timothy--eating its titbit
He heard a sound behind him, and saw that his wife and daughter had
"So you're back!" he said.
Fleur did not answer; she stood for a moment looking at him and her
mother, then passed into her bedroom. Annette poured herself out a
cup of tea.
"I am going to Paris, to my mother, Soames." "Oh! To your mother?"
"For how long?"
"I do not know."
"And when are you going?"
Was she really going to her mother? Odd, how indifferent he felt!
Odd, how clearly she had perceived the indifference he would feel so
long as there was no scandal. And suddenly between her and himself
he saw distinctly the face he had seen that afternoon--Irene's.
"Will you want money?"
"Thank you; I have enough."
"Very well. Let us know when you are coming back."
Annette put down the cake she was fingering, and, looking up through
darkened lashes, said:
"Shall I give Maman any message?"
Annette stretched herself, her hands on her waist, and said in
"What luck that you have never loved me, Soames!" Then rising, she
too left the room. Soames was glad she had spoken it in French--it
seemed to require no dealing with. Again that other face--pale,
dark-eyed, beautiful still! And there stirred far down within him
the ghost of warmth, as from sparks lingering beneath a mound of
flaky ash. And Fleur infatuated with her boy! Queer chance! Yet,
was there such a thing as chance? A man went down a street, a brick
fell on his head. Ah! that was chance, no doubt. But this!
"Inherited," his girl had said. She--she was "holding on"!
OLD JOLYON WALKS
Twofold impulse had made Jolyon say to his wife at breakfast
"Let's go up to Lord's!"
"Wanted"--something to abate the anxiety in which those two had lived
during the sixty hours since Jon had brought Fleur down. "Wanted"--
too, that which might assuage the pangs of memory in one who knew he
might lose them any day!
Fifty-eight years ago Jolyon had become an Eton boy, for old Jolyon's
whim had been that he should be canonised at the greatest possible
expense. Year after year he had gone to Lord's from Stanhope Gate
with a father whose youth in the eighteen-twenties had been passed
without polish in the game of cricket. Old Jolyon would speak quite
openly of swipes, full tosses, half and three-quarter balls; and
young Jolyon with the guileless snobbery of youth had trembled lest
his sire should be overheard. Only in this supreme matter of cricket
he had been nervous, for his father--in Crimean whiskers then--had
ever impressed him as the beau ideal. Though never canonised
himself, Old Jolyon's natural fastidiousness and balance had saved
him from the errors of the vulgar. How delicious, after howling in a
top hat and a sweltering heat, to go home with his father in a hansom
cab, bathe, dress, and forth to the "Disunion" Club, to dine off
white bait, cutlets, and a tart, and go--two "swells," old and young,
in lavender kid gloves--to the opera or play. And on Sunday, when
the match was over, and his top hat duly broken, down with his father
in a special hansom to the "Crown and Sceptre," and the terrace above
the river--the golden sixties when the world was simple, dandies
glamorous, Democracy not born, and the books of Whyte Melville coming
thick and fast.
A generation later, with his own boy, Jolly, Harrow-buttonholed with
corn-flowers--by old Jolyon's whim his grandson had been canonised at
a trifle less expense--again Jolyon had experienced the heat and
counter-passions of the day, and come back to the cool and the
strawberry beds of Robin Hill, and billiards after dinner, his boy
making the most heart-breaking flukes and trying to seem languid and
grown-up. Those two days each year he and his son had been alone
together in the world, one on each side--and Democracy just born!
And so, he had unearthed a grey top hat, borrowed a tiny bit of
light-blue ribbon from Irene, and gingerly, keeping cool, by car and
train and taxi, had reached Lord's Ground. There, beside her in a
lawn-coloured frock with narrow black edges, he had watched the game,
and felt the old thrill stir within him.
When Soames passed, the day was spoiled. Irene's face was distorted
by compression of the lips. No good to go on sitting here with
Soames or perhaps his daughter recurring in front of them, like
decimals. And he said:
"Well, dear, if you've had enough--let's go!"
That evening Jolyon felt exhausted. Not wanting her to see him thus,
he waited till she had begun to play, and stole off to the little
study. He opened the long window for air, and the door, that he
might still hear her music drifting in; and, settled in his father's
old armchair, closed his eyes, with his head against the worn brown
leather. Like that passage of the Cesar Franck Sonata--so had been
his life with her, a divine third movement. And now this business of
Jon's--this bad business! Drifted to the edge of consciousness, he
hardly knew if it were in sleep that he smelled the scent of a cigar,
and seemed to see his father in the blackness before his closed eyes.
That shape formed, went, and formed again; as if in the very chair
where he himself was sitting, he saw his father, black-coated, with.
knees crossed, glasses balanced between thumb and finger; saw the big
white moustaches, and the deep eyes looking up below a dome of
forehead and seeming to search his own, seeming to speak. "Are you
facing it, Jo? It's for you to decide. She's only a woman!" Ah!
how well he knew his father in that phrase; how all the Victorian Age
came up with it! And his answer "No, I've funked it--funked hurting
her and Jon and myself. I've got a heart; I've funked it." But the
old eyes, so much older, so much younger than his own, kept at it;
"It's your wife, your son; your past. Tackle it, my boy!" Was it a
message from walking spirit; or but the instinct of his sire living
on within him? And again came that scent of cigar smoke-from the old
saturated leather. Well! he would tackle it, write to Jon, and put
the whole thing down in black and white! And suddenly he breathed
with difficulty, with a sense of suffocation, as if his heart were
swollen. He got up and went out into the air. The stars were very
bright. He passed along the terrace round the corner of the house,
till, through the window of the music-room, he could see Irene at the
piano, with lamp-light falling on her powdery hair; withdrawn into
herself she seemed, her dark eyes staring straight before her, her
hands idle. Jolyon saw her raise those hands and clasp them over her
breast. 'It's Jon, with her,' he thought; 'all Jon! I'm dying out of
And, careful not to be seen, he stole back.
Next day, after a bad night, he sat down to his task. He wrote with
difficulty and many erasures.
"MY DEAREST BOY,
"You are old enough to understand how very difficult it is for elders
to give themselves away to their young. Especially when--like your
mother and myself, though I shall never think of her as anything but
young--their hearts are altogether set on him to whom they must
confess. I cannot say we are conscious of having sinned exactly--
people in real life very seldom are, I believe--but most persons
would say we had, and at all events our conduct, righteous or not,
has found us out. The truth is, my dear, we both have pasts, which
it is now my task to make known to you, because they so grievously
and deeply affect your future. Many, very many years ago, as far
back indeed as 1883, when she was only twenty, your mother had the
great and lasting misfortune to make an unhappy marriage--no, not
with me, Jon. Without money of her own, and with only a stepmother--
closely related to Jezebel--she was very unhappy in her home life.
It was Fleur's father that she married, my cousin Soames Forsyte. He
had pursued her very tenaciously and to do him justice was deeply in
love with her. Within a week she knew the fearful mistake she had
made. It was not his fault; it was her error of judgment--her
So far Jolyon had kept some semblance of irony, but now his subject
carried him away.
"Jon, I want to explain to you if I can--and it's very hard--how it
is that an unhappy marriage such as this can so easily come about.
You will of course say: 'If she didn't really love him how could she
ever have married him?' You would be right if it were not for one or
two rather terrible considerations. From this initial mistake of
hers all the subsequent trouble, sorrow, and tragedy have come, and
so I must make it clear to you if I can. You see, Jon, in those days
and even to this day--indeed, I don't see, for all the talk of
enlightenment, how it can well be otherwise--most girls are married
ignorant of the sexual side of life. Even if they know what it means
they have not experienced it. That's the crux. It is this actual
lack of experience, whatever verbal knowledge they have, which makes
all the difference and all the trouble. In a vast number of
marriages-and your mother's was one--girls are not and cannot be
certain whether they love the man they marry or not; they do not know
until after that act of union which makes the reality of marriage.
Now, in many, perhaps in most doubtful cases, this act cements and
strengthens the attachment, but in other cases, and your mother's
was one, it is a revelation of mistake, a destruction of such
attraction as there was. There is nothing more tragic in a woman's
life than such a revelation, growing daily, nightly clearer.
Coarse-grained and unthinking people are apt to laugh at such a
mistake, and say, 'What a fuss about nothing!' Narrow and self-
righteous people, only capable of judging the lives of others by
their own, are apt to condemn those who make this tragic error, to
condemn them for life to the dungeons they have made for themselves.
You know the expression: 'She has made her bed, she must lie on it!'
It is a hard-mouthed saying, quite unworthy of a gentleman or lady in
the best sense of those words; and I can use no stronger
condemnation. I have not been what is called a moral man, but I wish
to use no words to you, my dear, which will make you think lightly of
ties or contracts into which you enter. Heaven forbid! But with the
experience of a life behind me I do say that those who condemn the
victims of these tragic mistakes, condemn them and hold out no hands
to help them, are inhuman, or rather they would be if they had the
understanding to know what they are doing. But they haven't! Let
them go! They are as much anathema to me as I, no doubt, am to them.
I have had to say all this, because I am going to put you into a
position to judge your mother, and you are very young, without
experience of what life is. To go on with the story. After three
years of effort to subdue her shrinking--I was going to say her
loathing and it's not too strong a word, for shrinking soon becomes
loathing under such circumstances--three years of what to a
sensitive, beauty-loving nature like your mother's, Jon, was torment,
she met a young man who fell in love with her. He was the architect
of this very house that we live in now, he was building it for her
and Fleur's father to live in, a new prison to hold her, in place of
the one she inhabited with him in London. Perhaps that fact played
some part in what came of it. But in any case she, too, fell in love
with him. I know it's not necessary to explain to you that one does
not precisely choose with whom one will fall in love. It comes.
Very well! It came. I can imagine--though she never said much to me
about it--the struggle that then took place in her, because, Jon, she
was brought up strictly and was not light in her ideas--not at all.
However, this was an overwhelming feeling, and it came to pass that
they loved in deed as well as in thought. Then came a fearful
tragedy. I must tell you of it because if I don't you will never
understand the real situation that you have now to face. The man
whom she had married--Soames Forsyte, the father of Fleur one night,
at the height of her passion for this young man, forcibly reasserted
his rights over her. The next day she met her lover and told him of
it. Whether he committed suicide or whether he was accidentally run
over in his distraction, we never knew; but so it was. Think of your
mother as she was that evening when she heard of his death. I
happened to see her. Your grandfather sent me to help her if I
could. I only just saw her, before the door was shut against me by
her husband. But I have never forgotten her face, I can see it now.
I was not in love with her then, not for twelve years after, but I
have never for gotten. My dear boy--it is not easy to write like
this. But you see, I must. Your mother is wrapped up in you,
utterly, devotedly. I don't wish to write harshly of Soames Forsyte.
I don't think harshly of him. I have long been sorry for him;
perhaps I was sorry even then. As the world judges she was in error,
he within his rights. He loved her--in his way. She was his
property. That is the view he holds of life--of human feelings and
hearts--property. It's not his fault--so was he born. To me it is a
view that has always been abhorrent--so was I born! Knowing you as I
do, I feel it cannot be otherwise than abhorrent to you. Let me go
on with the story. Your mother fled from his house that night; for
twelve years she lived quietly alone without companionship of any
sort, until in 1899 her husband--you see, he was still her husband,
for he did not attempt to divorce her, and she of course had no right
to divorce him--became conscious, it seems, of the want of children,
and commenced a long attempt to induce her to go back to him and give
him a child. I was her trustee then, under your Grandfather's Will,
and I watched this going on. While watching, I became attached to
her, devotedly attached. His pressure increased, till one day she
came to me here and practically put herself under my protection. Her
husband, who was kept informed of all her movements, attempted to
force us apart by bringing a divorce suit, or possibly he really
meant it, I don't know; but anyway our names were publicly joined.
That decided us, and we became united in fact. She was divorced,
married me, and you were born. We have lived in perfect happiness,
at least I have, and I believe your mother also. Soames, soon after
the divorce, married Fleur's mother, and she was born. That is the
story, Jon. I have told it you, because by the affection which we
see you have formed for this man's daughter you are blindly moving
toward what must utterly destroy your mother's happiness, if not your
own. I don't wish to speak of myself, because at my age there's no
use supposing I shall cumber the ground much longer, besides, what I
should suffer would be mainly on her account, and on yours. But what
I want you to realise is that feelings of horror and aversion such as
those can never be buried or forgotten. They are alive in her to-day.
Only yesterday at Lord's we happened to see Soames Forsyte. Her
face, if you had seen it, would have convinced you. The idea that
you should marry his daughter is a nightmare to her, Jon. I have
nothing to say against Fleur save that she is his daughter. But your
children, if you married her, would be the grandchildren of Soames,
as much as of your mother, of a man who once owned your mother as a
man might own a slave. Think what that would mean. By such a
marriage you enter the camp which held your mother prisoner and
wherein she ate her heart out. You are just on the threshold of
life, you have only known this girl two months, and however deeply
you think you love her, I appeal to you to break it off at once.
Don't give your mother this rankling pain and humiliation during the
rest of her life. Young though she will always seem to me, she is
fifty-seven. Except for us two she has no one in the world. She
will soon have only you. Pluck up your spirit, Jon, and break away.
Don't put this cloud and barrier between you. Don't break her heart!
Bless you, my dear boy, and again forgive me for all the pain this
letter must bring you--we tried to spare it you, but Spain--it seems-
--was no good.
"Ever your devoted father
Having finished his confession, Jolyon sat with a thin cheek on his
hand, re-reading. There were things in it which hurt him so much,
when he thought of Jon reading them, that he nearly tore the letter
up. To speak of such things at all to a boy--his own boy--to speak
of them in relation to his own wife and the boy's own mother, seemed
dreadful to the reticence of his Forsyte soul. And yet without
speaking of them how make Jon understand the reality, the deep
cleavage, the ineffaceable scar? Without them, how justify this
stiffing of the boy's love? He might just as well not write at all!
He folded the confession, and put it in his pocket. It was--thank
Heaven!--Saturday; he had till Sunday evening to think it over; for
even if posted now it could not reach Jon till Monday. He felt a
curious relief at this delay, and at the fact that, whether sent or
not, it was written.
In the rose garden, which had taken the place of the old fernery, he
could see Irene snipping and pruning, with a little basket on her
arm. She was never idle, it seemed to him, and he envied her now
that he himself was idle nearly all his time. He went down to her.
She held up a stained glove and smiled. A piece of lace tied under
her chin concealed her hair, and her oval face with its still dark
brows looked very young.
"The green-fly are awful this year, and yet it's cold. You look
Jolyon took the confession from his pocket. "I've been writing this.
I think you ought to see it?"
"To Jon?" Her whole face had changed, in that instant, becoming
"Yes; the murder's out."
He gave it to her, and walked away among the roses. Presently,
seeing that she had finished reading and was standing quite still
with the sheets of the letter against her skirt, he came back to her.
"It's wonderfully put. I don't see how it could be put better.
Thank you, dear."
"Is there anything you would like left out?"
She shook her head.
"No; he must know all, if he's to understand."
"That's what I thought, but--I hate it!"
He had the feeling that he hated it more than she--to him sex was so
much easier to mention between man and woman than between man and
man; and she had always been more natural and frank, not deeply
secretive like his Forsyte self.
"I wonder if he will understand, even now, Jolyon? He's so young;
and he shrinks from the physical."
"He gets that shrinking from my father, he was as fastidious as a
girl in all such matters. Would it be better to rewrite the whole
thing, and just say you hated Soames?"
Irene shook her head.
"Hate's only a word. It conveys nothing. No, better as it is."
"Very well. It shall go to-morrow."
She raised her face to his, and in sight of the big house's many
creepered windows, he kissed her.
Late that same afternoon, Jolyon had a nap in the old armchair.
Face down on his knee was La Rotisserie de la Refine Pedauque, and
just before he fell asleep he had been thinking: 'As a people shall
we ever really like the French? Will they ever really like us!' He
himself had always liked the French, feeling at home with their wit,
their taste, their cooking. Irene and he had paid many visits to
France before the War, when Jon had been at his private school. His
romance with her had begun in Paris--his last and most enduring
romance. But the French--no Englishman could like them who could not
see them in some sort with the detached aesthetic eye! And with that
melancholy conclusion he had nodded off.
When he woke he saw Jon standing between him and the window. The boy
had evidently come in from the garden and was waiting for him to
wake. Jolyon smiled, still half asleep. How nice the chap looked--
sensitive, affectionate, straight! Then his heart gave a nasty jump;
and a quaking sensation overcame him. Jon! That confession! He
controlled himself with an effort. "Why, Jon, where did you spring
Jon bent over and kissed his forehead.
Only then he noticed the look on the boy's face.
"I came home to tell you something, Dad."
With all his might Jolyon tried to get the better of the jumping,
gurgling sensations within his chest.
"Well, sit down, old man. Have you seen your mother?"
"No." The boy's flushed look gave place to pallor; he sat down on
the arm of the old chair, as, in old days, Jolyon himself used to sit
beside his own father, installed in its recesses. Right up to the
time of the rupture in their relations he had been wont to perch
there--had he now reached such a moment with his own son? All his
life he had hated scenes like poison, avoided rows, gone on his own
way quietly and let others go on theirs. But now--it seemed--at the
very end of things, he had a scene before him more painful than any
he had avoided. He drew a visor down over his emotion, and waited
for his son to speak.
"Father," said Jon slowly, "Fleur and I are engaged."
'Exactly!' thought Jolyon, breathing with difficulty.
"I know that you and Mother don't like the idea. Fleur says that
Mother was engaged to her father before you married her. Of course I
don't know what happened, but it must be ages ago. I'm devoted to
her, Dad, and she says she is to me."
Jolyon uttered a queer sound, half laugh, half groan.
"You are nineteen, Jon, and I am seventy-two. How are we to
understand each other in a matter like this, eh?"
"You love Mother, Dad; you must know what we feel. It isn't fair to
us to let old things spoil our happiness, is it?"
Brought face to face with his confession, Jolyon resolved to do
without it if by any means he could. He laid his hand on the boy's
"Look, Jon! I might put you off with talk about your both being too
young and not knowing your own minds, and all that, but you wouldn't
listen, besides, it doesn't meet the case--Youth, unfortunately,
cures itself. You talk lightly about 'old things like that,' knowing
nothing--as you say truly--of what happened. Now, have I ever given
you reason to doubt my love for you, or my word?"
At a less anxious moment he might have been amused by the conflict
his words aroused--the boy's eager clasp, to reassure him on these
points, the dread on his face of what that reassurance would bring
forth; but he could only feel grateful for the squeeze.
"Very well, you can believe what I tell you. If you don't give up
this love affair, you will make Mother wretched to the end of her
days. Believe me, my dear, the past, whatever it was, can't be
buried--it can't indeed."
Jon got off the arm of the chair.
'The girl'--thought Jolyon--'there she goes--starting up before him--
life itself--eager, pretty, loving!'
"I can't, Father; how can I--just because you say that? Of course, I
"Jon, if you knew the story you would give this up without
hesitation; you would have to! Can't you believe me?"
"How can you tell what I should think? Father, I love her better
than anything in the world."
Jolyon's face twitched, and he said with painful slowness:
"Better than your mother, Jon?"
>From the boy's face, and his clenched fists Jolyon realised the
stress and struggle he was going through.
"I don't know," he burst out, "I don't know! But to give Fleur up
for nothing--for something I don't understand, for something that I
don't believe can really matter half so much, will make me--make me"
"Make you feel us unjust, put a barrier--yes. But that's better than
going on with this."
"I can't. Fleur loves me, and I love her. You want me to trust you;
why don't you trust me, Father? We wouldn't want to know anything--
we wouldn't let it make any difference. It'll only make us both love
you and Mother all the more."
Jolyon put his hand into his breast pocket, but brought it out again
empty, and sat, clucking his tongue against his teeth.
"Think what your mother's been to you, Jon! She has nothing but you;
I shan't last much longer."
"Why not? It isn't fair to--Why not?"
"Well," said Jolyon, rather coldly, "because the doctors tell me I
shan't; that's all."
"Oh, Dad!" cried Jon, and burst into tears.
This downbreak of his son, whom he had not seen cry since he was ten,
moved Jolyon terribly. He recognised to the full how fearfully soft
the boy's heart was, how much he would suffer in this business, and
in life generally. And he reached out his hand helplessly--not
wishing, indeed not daring to get up.
"Dear man," he said, "don't--or you'll make me!"
Jon smothered down his paroxysm, and stood with face averted, very
'What now?' thought Jolyon. 'What can I say to move him?'
"By the way, don't speak of that to Mother," he said; "she has enough
to frighten her with this affair of yours. I know how you feel.
But, Jon, you know her and me well enough to be sure we wouldn't wish
to spoil your happiness lightly. Why, my dear boy, we don't care for
anything but your happiness--at least, with me it's just yours and
Mother's and with her just yours. It's all the future for you both
that's at stake."
Jon turned. His face was deadly pale; his eyes, deep in his head,
seemed to burn.
"What is it? What is it? Don't keep me like this!"
Jolyon, who knew that he was beaten, thrust his hand again into his
breast pocket, and sat for a full minute, breathing with difficulty,
his eyes closed. The thought passed through his mind: 'I've had a
good long innings--some pretty bitter moments--this is the worst!'
Then he brought his hand out with the letter, and said with a sort of
fatigue: "Well, Jon, if you hadn't come to-day, I was going to send
you this. I wanted to spare you--I wanted to spare your mother and
myself, but I see it's no good. Read it, and I think I'll go into
the garden." He reached forward to get up.
Jon, who had taken the letter, said quickly, "No, I'll go"; and was
Jolyon sank back in his chair. A blue-bottle chose that moment to
come buzzing round him with a sort of fury; the sound was homely,
better than nothing.... Where had the boy gone to read his letter?
The wretched letter--the wretched story! A cruel business--cruel to
her--to Soames--to those two children--to himself!... His heart
thumped and pained him. Life--its loves--its work--its beauty--its
aching, and--its end! A good time; a fine time in spite of all;
until--you regretted that you had ever been born. Life--it wore you
down, yet did not make you want to die--that was the cunning evil!
Mistake to have a heart! Again the blue-bottle came buzzing--
bringing in all the heat and hum and scent of summer--yes, even the
scent--as of ripe fruits, dried grasses, sappy shrubs, and the
vanilla breath of cows. And out there somewhere in the fragrance Jon
would be reading that letter, turning and twisting its pages in his
trouble, his bewilderment and trouble--breaking his heart about it!
The thought made Jolyon acutely miserable. Jon was such a tender-
hearted chap, affectionate to his bones, and conscientious, too--it
was so unfair, so damned unfair! He remembered Irene saying to him
once: "Never was any one born more loving and lovable than Jon."
Poor little Jon! His world gone up the spout, all of a summer
afternoon! Youth took things so hard! And stirred, tormented by
that vision of Youth taking things hard, Jolyon got out of his chair,
and went to the window. The boy was nowhere visible. And he passed
out. If one could take any help to him now--one must!
He traversed the shrubbery, glanced into the walled garden--no Jon!
Nor where the peaches and the apricots were beginning to swell and
colour. He passed the Cupressus trees, dark and spiral, into the
meadow. Where had the boy got to? Had he rushed down to the
coppice--his old hunting-ground? Jolyon crossed the rows of hay.
They would cock it on Monday and be carrying the day after, if rain
held off. Often they had crossed this field together--hand in hand,
when Jon was a little chap. Dash it! The golden age was over by the
time one was ten! He came to the pond, where flies and gnats were
dancing over a bright reedy surface; and on into the coppice. It was
cool there, fragrant of larches. Still no Jon! He called. No
answer! On the log seat he sat down, nervous, anxious, forgetting
his own physical sensations. He had been wrong to let the
boy get away with that letter; he ought to have kept him under his
eye from the start! Greatly troubled, he got up to retrace his
steps. At the farm-buildings he called again, and looked into the
dark cow-house. There in the cool, and the scent of vanilla and
ammonia, away from flies, the three Alderneys were chewing the quiet
cud; just milked, waiting for evening, to be turned out again into
the lower field. One turned a lazy head, a lustrous eye; Jolyon
could see the slobber on its grey lower lip. He saw everything with
passionate clearness, in the agitation of his nerves--all that in his
time he had adored and tried to paint--wonder of light and shade and
colour. No wonder the legend put Christ into a manger--what more
devotional than the eyes and moon-white horns of a chewing cow in the
warm dusk! He called again. No answer! And he hurried away out of
the coppice, past the pond, up the hill. Oddly ironical--now he came
to think of it--if Jon had taken the gruel of his discovery down in
the coppice where his mother and Bosinney in those old days had made
the plunge of acknowledging their love. Where he himself, on the log
seat the Sunday morning he came back from Paris, had realised to the
full that Irene had become the world to him. That would have been
the place for Irony to tear the veil from before the eyes of Irene's
boy! But he was not here! Where had he got to? One must find the
A gleam of sun had come, sharpening to his hurrying senses all the
beauty of the afternoon, of the tall trees and lengthening shadows,
of the blue, and the white clouds, the scent of the hay, and the
cooing of the pigeons; and the flower shapes standing tall. He came
to the rosery, and the beauty of the roses in that sudden sunlight
seemed to him unearthly. "Rose, you Spaniard!" Wonderful three
words! There she had stood by that bush of dark red roses; had stood
to read and decide that Jon must know it all! He knew all now! Had
she chosen wrong? He bent and sniffed a rose, its petals brushed his
nose and trembling lips; nothing so soft as a rose-leaf's velvet,
except her neck--Irene! On across the lawn he went, up the slope, to
the oak-tree. Its top alone was glistening, for the sudden sun was
away over the house; the lower shade was thick, blessedly cool--he
was greatly overheated. He paused a minute with his hand on the rope
of the swing--Jolly, Holly--Jon! The old swing! And suddenly, he
felt horribly--deadly ill. 'I've over done it!' he thought: 'by
Jove! I've overdone it--after all!' He staggered up toward the
terrace, dragged himself up the steps, and fell against the wall of
the house. He leaned there gasping, his face buried in the honey-
suckle that he and she had taken such trouble with that it might
sweeten the air which drifted in. Its fragrance mingled with awful
pain. 'My love!' he thought; 'the boy!' And with a great effort he
tottered in through the long window, and sank into old Jolyon's
chair. The book was there, a pencil in it; he caught it up,
scribbled a word on the open page.... His hand dropped.... So it
was like this--was it?...
There was a great wrench; and darkness....
When Jon rushed away with the letter in his hand, he ran along the
terrace and round the corner of the house, in fear and confusion.
Leaning against the creepered wall he tore open the letter. It was
long--very long! This added to his fear, and he began reading. When
he came to the words: "It was Fleur's father that she married,"
everything seemed to spin before him. He was close to a window, and
entering by it, he passed, through music-room and hall, up to his
bedroom. Dipping his face in cold water, he sat on his bed, and went
on reading, dropping each finished page on the bed beside him. His
father's writing was easy to read--he knew it so well, though he had
never had a letter from him one quarter so long. He read with a dull
feeling--imagination only half at work. He best grasped, on that
first reading, the pain his father must have had in writing such a
letter. He let the last sheet fall, and in a sort of mental, moral
helplessness began to read the first again. It all seemed to him
disgusting--dead and disgusting. Then, suddenly, a hot wave of
horrified emotion tingled through him. He buried his face in his
hands. His mother! Fleur's father! He took up the letter again,
and read on mechanically. And again came the feeling that it was all
dead and disgusting; his own love so different! This letter said his
mother--and her father! An awful letter!
Property! Could there be men who looked on women as their property?
Faces seen in street and countryside came thronging up before him--
red, stock-fish faces; hard, dull faces; prim, dry faces; violent
faces; hundreds, thousands of them! How could he know what men who
had such faces thought and did? He held his head in his hands and
groaned. His mother! He caught up the letter and read on again:
"horror and aversion-alive in her to-day.... your children....
grandchildren.... of a man who once owned your mother as a man might
own a slave...." He got up from his bed. This cruel shadowy past,
lurking there to murder his love and Fleur's, was true, or his father
could never have written it. 'Why didn't they tell me the first
thing,' he thought, 'the day I first saw Fleur? They knew "I'd seen
her. They were afraid, and--now--I've--got it!' Overcome by misery
too acute for thought or reason, he crept into a dusky corner of the
room and sat down on the floor. He sat there, like some unhappy
little animal. There was comfort in dusk, and the floor--as if he
were back in those days when he played his battles sprawling all over
it. He sat there huddled, his hair ruffled, his hands clasped round
his knees, for how long he did not know. He was wrenched from his
blank wretchedness by the sound of the door opening from his mother's
room. The blinds were down over the windows of his room, shut up in
his absence, and from where he sat he could only hear a rustle, her
footsteps crossing, till beyond the bed he saw her standing before
his dressing-table. She had something in her hand. He hardly
breathed, hoping she would not see him, and go away. He saw her
touch things on the table as if they had some virtue in them, then
face the window-grey from head to foot like a ghost. The least turn
of her head, and she must see him! Her lips moved: "Oh! Jon!" She
was speaking to herself; the tone of her voice troubled Jon's heart.
He saw in her hand a little photograph. She held it toward the
light, looking at it--very small. He knew it--one of himself as a
tiny boy, which she always kept in her bag. His heart beat fast.
And, suddenly as if she had heard it, she turned her eyes and saw
him. At the gasp she gave, and the movement of her hands pressing
the photograph against her breast, he said:
"Yes, it's me."
She moved over to the bed, and sat down on it, quite close to him,
her hands still clasping her breast, her feet among the sheets of the
letter which had slipped to the floor. She saw them, and her hands
grasped the edge of the bed. She sat very upright, her dark eyes
fixed on him. At last she spoke.
"Well, Jon, you know, I see."
"You've seen Father?"
There was a long silence, till she said:
"Oh! my darling!"
"It's all right." The emotions in him were so, violent and so mixed
that he dared not move--resentment, despair, and yet a strange
yearning for the comfort of her hand on his forehead.
"What are you going to do?"
"I don't know."
There was another long silence, then she got up. She stood a moment,
very still, made a little movement with her hand, and said: "My
darling boy, my most darling boy, don't think of me--think of
yourself," and, passing round the foot of the bed, went back into her
Jon turned--curled into a sort of ball, as might a hedgehog--into the
corner made by the two walls.
He must have been twenty minutes there before a cry roused him. It
came from the terrace below. He got up, scared. Again came the cry:
"Jon!" His mother was calling! He ran out and down the stairs,
through the empty dining-room into the study. She was kneeling
before the old armchair, and his father was lying back quite white,
his head on his breast, one of his hands resting on an open book,
with a pencil clutched in it--more strangely still than anything he
had ever seen. She looked round wildly, and said:
"Oh! Jon--he's dead--he's dead!"
Jon flung himself down, and reaching over the arm of the chair, where
he had lately been sitting, put his lips to the forehead. Icy cold!
How could--how could Dad be dead, when only an hour ago--! His
mother's arms were round the knees; pressing her breast against them.
"Why--why wasn't I with him?" he heard her whisper. Then he saw the
tottering word "Irene" pencilled on the open page, and broke down
himself. It was his first sight of human death, and its unutterable
stillness blotted from him all other emotion; all else, then, was but
preliminary to this! All love and life, and joy, anxiety, and
sorrow, all movement, light and beauty, but a beginning to this
terrible white stillness. It made a dreadful mark on him; all seemed
suddenly little, futile, short. He mastered himself at last, got up,
and raised her.
"Mother! don't cry--Mother!"
Some hours later, when all was done that had to be, and his mother
was lying down, he saw his father alone, on the bed, covered with a
white sheet. He stood for a long time gazing at that face which had
never looked angry--always whimsical, and kind. "To be kind and keep
your end up--there's nothing else in it," he had once heard his
father say. How wonderfully Dad had acted up to that philosophy! He
understood now that his father had known for a long time past that
this would come suddenly--known, and not said a word. He gazed with
an awed and passionate reverence. The loneliness of it--just to
spare his mother and himself! His own trouble seemed small while he
was looking at that face. The word scribbled on the page! The
farewell word! Now his mother had no one but himself! He went up
close to the dead face--not changed at all, and yet completely
changed. He had heard his father say once that he did not believe in
consciousness surviving death, or that if it did it might be just
survival till the natural age limit of the body had been reached--the
natural term of its inherent vitality; so that if the body were
broken by accident, excess, violent disease, consciousness might
still persist till, in the course of Nature uninterfered with, it
would naturally have faded out. It had struck him because he had
never heard any one else suggest it. When the heart failed like
this--surely it was not quite natural! Perhaps his father's
consciousness was in the room with him. Above the bed hung a picture
of his father's father. Perhaps his consciousness, too, was still
alive; and his brother's--his half-brother, who had died in the
Transvaal. Were they all gathered round this bed? Jon kissed the
forehead, and stole back to his own room. The door between it and
his mother's was ajar; she had evidently been in--everything was
ready for him, even some biscuits and hot milk, and the letter no
longer on the floor. He ate and drank, watching the last light fade.
He did not try to see into the future--just stared at the dark
branches of the oak-tree, level with his window, and felt as if life
had stopped. Once in the night, turning in his heavy sleep, he was
conscious of something white and still, beside his bed, and started
His mother's voice said:
"It's only I, Jon dear!" Her hand pressed his forehead gently back;
her white figure disappeared.
Alone! He fell heavily asleep again, and dreamed he saw his mother's
name crawling on his bed.
The announcement in The Times of his cousin Jolyon's death affected
Soames quite simply. So that chap was gone! There had never been a
time in their two lives when love had not been lost between them.
That quick-blooded sentiment hatred had run its course long since in
Soames' heart, and he had refused to allow any recrudescence, but he
considered this early decease a piece of poetic justice. For twenty
years the fellow had enjoyed the reversion of his wife and house,
and--he was dead! The obituary notice, which appeared a little
later, paid Jolyon--he thought--too much attention. It spoke of that
"diligent and agreeable painter whose work we have come to look on as
typical of the best late-Victorian water-colour art." Soames, who
had almost mechanically preferred Mole, Morpin, and Caswell Baye, and
had always sniffed quite audibly when he came to one of his cousin's
on the line, turned The Times with a crackle.
He had to go up to Town that morning on Forsyte affairs, and was
fully conscious of Gradman's glance sidelong over his spectacles.
The old clerk had about him an aura of regretful congratulation. He
smelled, as it were, of old days. One could almost hear him
thinking: "Mr. Jolyon, ye-es--just my age, and gone--dear, dear! I
dare say she feels it. She was a mice-lookin' woman. Flesh is
flesh! They've given 'im a notice in the papers. Fancy!" His
atmosphere in fact caused Soames to handle certain leases and
conversions with exceptional swiftness.
"About that settlement on Miss Fleur, Mr. Soames?"
"I've thought better of that," answered Soames shortly.
"Ah! I'm glad of that. I thought you were a little hasty. The
times do change."
How this death would affect Fleur had begun to trouble Soames. He
was not certain that she knew of it--she seldom looked at the paper,
never at the births, marriages, and deaths.
He pressed matters on, and made his way to Green Street for lunch.
Winifred was almost doleful. Jack Cardigan had broken a splashboard,
so far as one could make out, and would not be "fit" for some time.
She could not get used to the idea.
"Did Profond ever get off?" he said suddenly.
"He got off," replied Winifred, "but where--I don't know."
Yes, there it was--impossible to tell anything! Not that he wanted
to know. Letters from Annette were coming from Dieppe, where she and
her mother were staying.
"You saw that fellow's death, I suppose?"
"Yes," said Winifred. "I'm sorry for--for his children. He was very
amiable." Soames uttered a rather queer sound. A suspicion of the
old deep truth--that men were judged in this world rather by what
they were than by what they did--crept and knocked resentfully at the
back doors of his mind.
"I know there was a superstition to that effect," he muttered.
"One must do him justice now he's dead."
"I should like to have done him justice before," said Soames; "but I
never had the chance. Have you got a 'Baronetage' here?"
"Yes; in that bottom row."
Soames took out a fat red book, and ran over the leaves.
"Mont-Sir Lawrence, 9th Bt., cr. 1620, e. s. of Geoffrey, 8th Bt.,
and Lavinia, daur. of Sir Charles Muskham, Bt., of Muskham Hall,
Shrops: marr. 1890 Emily, daur. of Conway Charwell, Esq., of
Condaford Grange, co. Oxon; 1 son, heir Michael Conway, b. 1895, 2
daurs. Residence: Lippinghall Manor, Folwell, Bucks. Clubs: Snooks':
Coffee House: Aeroplane. See BidIicott."
"H'm!" he said. "Did you ever know a publisher?"
"Alive, I mean."
"Monty knew one at his Club. He brought him here to dinner once.
Monty was always thinking of writing a book, you know, about how to
make money on the turf. He tried to interest that man."
"He put him on to a horse--for the Two Thousand. We didn't see him
again. He was rather smart, if I remember."
"Did it win?"
"No; it ran last, I think. You know Monty really was quite clever in
"Was he?" said Soames. "Can you see any connection between a sucking
baronet and publishing?"
"People do all sorts of things nowadays," replied Winifred. "The
great stunt seems not to be idle--so different from our time. To do
nothing was the thing then. But I suppose it'll come again."
"This young Mont that I'm speaking of is very sweet on Fleur. If it
would put an end to that other affair I might encourage it."
"Has he got style?" asked Winifred.
"He's no beauty; pleasant enough, with some scattered brains.
There's a good deal of land, I believe. He seems genuinely attached.
But I don't know."
"No," murmured Winifred; "it's--very difficult. I always found it
best to do nothing. It is such a bore about Jack; now we shan't get
away till after Bank Holiday. Well, the people are always amusing, I
shall go into the Park and watch them."
"If I were you," said Soames, "I should have a country cottage, and
be out of the way of holidays and strikes when you want."
"The country bores me," answered Winifred, "and I found the railway
strike quite exciting."
Winifred had always been noted for sang-froid.
Soames took his leave. All the way down to Reading he debated
whether he should tell Fleur of that boy's father's death. It did
not alter the situation except that he would be independent now, and
only have his mother's opposition to encounter. He would come into a
lot of money, no doubt, and perhaps the house--the house built for
Irene and himself--the house whose architect had wrought his domestic
ruin. His daughter--mistress of that house! That would be poetic
justice! Soames uttered a little mirthless laugh. He had designed
that house to re-establish his failing union, meant it for the seat
of his descendants, if he could have induced Irene to give him one!
Her son and Fleur! Their children would be, in some sort, offspring
of the union between himself and her!
The theatricality in that thought was repulsive to his sober sense.
And yet--it would be the easiest and wealthiest way out of the
impasse, now that Jolyon was gone. The juncture of two Forsyte
fortunes had a kind of conservative charm. And she--Irene-would be
linked to him once more. Nonsense! Absurd! He put the notion from
On arriving home he heard the click of billiard-balls, and through
the window saw young Mont sprawling over the table. Fleur, with her
cue akimbo, was watching with a smile. How pretty she looked! No
wonder that young fellow was out of his mind about her. A title--
land! There was little enough in land, these days; perhaps less in a
title. The old Forsytes had always had a kind of contempt for
titles, rather remote and artificial things--not worth the money they
cost, and having to do with the Court. They had all had that feeling
in differing measure--Soames remembered. Swithin, indeed, in his
most expansive days had once attended a Levee. He had come away
saying he shouldn't go again--"all that small fry." It was suspected
that he had looked too big in knee-breeches. Soames remembered how
his own mother had wished to be presented because of the fashionable
nature of the performance, and how his father had put his foot down
with unwonted decision. What did she want with that peacocking--
wasting time and money; there was nothing in it!
The instinct which had made and kept the English Commons the chief
power in the State, a feeling that their own world was good enough
and a little better than any other because it was their world, had
kept the old Forsytes singularly free of "flummery," as Nicholas had
been wont to call it when he had the gout. Soames' generation, more
self-conscious and ironical, had been saved by a sense of Swithin in
knee-breeches. While the third and the fourth generation, as it
seemed to him, laughed at everything.
However, there was no harm in the young fellow's being heir to a
title and estate--a thing one couldn't help. He entered quietly, as
Mont missed his shot. He noted the young man's eyes, fixed on Fleur
bending over in her turn; and the adoration in them almost touched
She paused with the cue poised on the bridge of her slim hand, and
shook her crop of short dark chestnut hair.