Part 7 out of 7
"You shan't have to wait till to-morrow morning; I'll go down and
bring him up. Don't fuss!"
"There you go--always so cock-a-hoop. He mayn't come in at all."
"Well, if he doesn't come in you won't catch him by standing out
here in your dressing-gown."
Soames rounded the last bend and came in sight of his father's tall
figure wrapped in a brown silk quilted gown, stooping over the
balustrade above. Light fell on his silvery hair and whiskers,
investing his head with, a sort of halo.
"Here he is!" he heard him say in a voice which sounded injured,
and his mother's comfortable answer from the bedroom door:
"That's all right. Come in, and I'll brush your hair." James
extended a thin, crooked finger, oddly like the beckoning of a
skeleton, and passed through the doorway of his bedroom.
'What is it?' thought Soames. 'What has he got hold of now?'
His father was sitting before the dressing-table sideways to the
mirror, while Emily slowly passed two silver-backed brushes through
and through his hair. She would do this several times a day, for
it had on him something of the effect produced on a cat by
scratching between its ears.
"There you are!" he said. "I've been waiting."
Soames stroked his shoulder, and, taking up a silver button-hook,
examined the mark on it.
"Well," he said, "you're looking better."
James shook his head.
"I want to say something. Your mother hasn't heard." He announced
Emily's ignorance of what he hadn't told her, as if it were a
"Your father's been in a great state all the evening. I'm sure I
don't know what about."
The faint 'whisk-whisk' of the brushes continued the soothing of
"No! you know nothing," said James. "Soames can tell me." And,
fixing his grey eyes, in which there was a look of strain,
uncomfortable to watch, on his son, he muttered:
"I'm getting on, Soames. At my age I can't tell. I might die any
time. There'll be a lot of money. There's Rachel and Cicely got
no children; and Val's out there--that chap his father will get
hold of all he can. And somebody'll pick up Imogen, I shouldn't
Soames listened vaguely--he had heard all this before. Whish-
whish! went the brushes.
"If that's all!" said Emily.
"All!" cried James; "it's nothing. I'm coming to that." And again
his eyes strained pitifully at Soames.
"It's you, my boy," he said suddenly; "you ought to get a divorce."
That word, from those of all lips, was almost too much for Soames'
composure. His eyes reconcentrated themselves quickly on the
buttonhook, and as if in apology James hurried on:
"I don't know what's become of her--they say she's abroad. Your
Uncle Swithin used to admire her--he was a funny fellow." (So he
always alluded to his dead twin-'The Stout and the Lean of it,'
they had been called.) "She wouldn't be alone, I should say." And
with that summing-up of the effect of beauty on human nature, he
was silent, watching his son with eyes doubting as a bird's.
Soames, too, was silent. Whish-whish went the brushes.
"Come, James! Soames knows best. It's his 'business."
"Ah!" said James, and the word came from deep down; "but there's
all my money, and there's his--who's it to go to? And when he dies
the name goes out."
Soames replaced the button-hook on the lace and pink silk of the
"The name?" said Emily, "there are all the other Forsytes."
"As if that helped me," muttered James. "I shall be in my grave,
and there'll be nobody, unless he marries again."
"You're quite right," said Soames quietly; "I'm getting a divorce."
James' eyes almost started from his head.
"What?" he cried. "There! nobody tells me anything."
"Well," said Emily, "who would have imagined you wanted it? My
dear boy, that is a surprise, after all these years."
"It'll be a scandal," muttered James, as if to himself; "but I
can't help that. Don't brush so hard. When'll it come on?"
"Before the Long Vacation; it's not defended."
James' lips moved in secret calculation. "I shan't live to see my
grandson," he muttered.
Emily ceased brushing. "Of course you will, James. Soames will be
as quick as he can."
There was a long silence, till James reached out his arm.
"Here! let's have the eau-de-Cologne," and, putting it to his nose,
he moved his forehead in the direction of his son. Soames bent
over and kissed that brow just where the hair began. A relaxing
quiver passed over James' face, as though the wheels of anxiety
within were running down.
"I'll get to bed," he said; "I shan't want to see the papers when
that comes. They're a morbid lot; I can't pay attention to them,
I'm too old."
Queerly affected, Soames went to the door; he heard his father say:
"Here, I'm tired. I'll say a prayer in bed."
And his mother answering
"That's right, James; it'll be ever so much more comfy."
OUT OF THE WEB
On Forsyte 'Change the announcement of Jolly's death, among a
batch of troopers, caused mixed sensation. Strange to read that
Jolyon Forsyte (fifth of the name in direct descent) had died of
disease in the service of his country, and not be able to feel it
personally. It revived the old grudge against his father for
having estranged himself. For such was still the prestige of old
Jolyon that the other Forsytes could never quite feel, as might
have been expected, that it was they who had cut off his
descendants for irregularity. The news increased, of course, the
interest and anxiety about Val; but then Val's name was Dartie, and
even if he were killed in battle or got the Victoria Cross, it
would not be at all the same as if his name were Forsyte. Not even
casualty or glory to the Haymans would be really satisfactory.
Family pride felt defrauded.
How the rumour arose, then, that 'something very dreadful, my
dear,' was pending, no one, least of all Soames, could tell, secret
as he kept everything. Possibly some eye had seen 'Forsyte v.
Forsyte and Forsyte,' in the cause list; and had added it to 'Irene
in Paris with a fair beard.' Possibly some wall at Park Lane had
ears. The fact remained that it was known--whispered among the
old, discussed among the young--that family pride must soon receive
Soames, paying one, of his Sunday visits to Timothy's--paying it
with the feeling that after the suit came on he would be paying no
more--felt knowledge in the air as he came in. Nobody, of course,
dared speak of it before him, but each of the four other Forsytes
present held their breath, aware that nothing could prevent Aunt
Juley from making them all uncomfortable. She looked so piteously
at Soames, she checked herself on the point of speech so often,
that Aunt Hester excused herself and said she must go and bathe
Timothy's eye--he had a sty coming. Soames, impassive, slightly
supercilious, did not stay long. He went out with a curse stifled
behind his pale, just smiling lips.
Fortunately for the peace of his mind, cruelly tortured by the
coming scandal, he was kept busy day and night with plans for his
retirement--for he had come to that grim conclusion. To go on
seeing all those people who had known him as a 'long-headed chap,'
an astute adviser--after that--no! The fastidiousness and pride
which was so strangely, so inextricably blended in him with
possessive obtuseness, revolted against the thought. He would
retire, live privately, go on buying pictures, make a great name as
a collector--after all, his heart was more in that than it had ever
been in Law. In pursuance of this now fixed resolve, he had to get
ready to amalgamate his business with another firm without letting
people know, for that would excite curiosity and make humiliation
cast its shadow before. He had pitched on the firm of Cuthcott,
Holliday and Kingson, two of whom were dead. The full name after
the amalgamation would therefore be Cuthcott, Holliday, Kingson,
Forsyte, Bustard and Forsyte. But after debate as to which of the
dead still had any influence with the living, it was decided to
reduce the title to Cuthcott, Kingson and Forsyte, of whom Kingson
would be the active and Soames the sleeping partner. For leaving
his name, prestige, and clients behind him, Soames would receive
One night, as befitted a man who had arrived at so important a
stage of his career, he made a calculation of what he was worth,
and after writing off liberally for depreciation by the war, found
his value to be some hundred and thirty thousand pounds. At his
father's death, which could not, alas, be delayed much longer, he
must come into at least another fifty thousand, and his yearly
expenditure at present just reached two. Standing among his
pictures, he saw before him a future full of bargains earned by the
trained faculty of knowing better than other people. Selling what
was about to decline, keeping what was still going up, and
exercising judicious insight into future taste, he would make a
unique collection, which at his death would pass to the nation
under the title 'Forsyte Bequest.'
If the divorce went through, he had determined on his line with
Madame Lamotte. She had, he knew, but one real ambition--to live
on her 'renter' in Paris near her grandchildren. He would buy the
goodwill of the Restaurant Bretagne at a fancy price. Madame would
live like a Queen-Mother in Paris on the interest, invested as she
would know how. (Incidentally Soames meant to put a capable
manager in her place, and make the restaurant pay good interest on
his money. There were great possibilities in Soho.) On Annette he
would promise to settle fifteen thousand pounds (whether designedly
or not), precisely the sum old Jolyon had settled on 'that woman.'
A letter from Jolyon's solicitor to his own had disclosed the fact
that 'those two' were in Italy. And an opportunity had been duly
given for noting that they had first stayed at an hotel in London.
The matter was clear as daylight, and would be disposed of in half
an hour or so; but during that half-hour he, Soames, would go down
to hell; and after that half-hour all bearers of the Forsyte name
would feel the bloom was off the rose. He had no illusions like
Shakespeare that roses by any other name would smell as sweet. The
name was a possession, a concrete, unstained piece of property, the
value of which would be reduced some twenty per cent. at least.
Unless it were Roger, who had once refused to stand for Parliament,
and--oh, irony!--Jolyon, hung on the line, there had never been a
distinguished Forsyte. But that very lack of distinction was the
name's greatest asset. It was a private name, intensely
individual, and his own property; it had never been exploited for
good or evil by intrusive report. He and each member of his family
owned it wholly, sanely, secretly, without any more interference
from the public than had been necessitated by their births, their
marriages, their deaths. And during these weeks of waiting and
preparing to drop the Law, he conceived for that Law a bitter
distaste, so deeply did he resent its coming violation of his name,
forced on him by the need he felt to perpetuate that name in a
lawful manner. The monstrous injustice of the whole thing excited
in him a perpetual suppressed fury. He had asked no better than to
live in spotless domesticity, and now he must go into the witness
box, after all these futile, barren years, and proclaim his failure
to keep his wife--incur the pity, the amusement, the contempt of
his kind. It was all upside down. She and that fellow ought to be
the sufferers, and they--were in Italy! In these weeks the Law he
had served so faithfully, looked on so reverently as the guardian
of all property, seemed to him quite pitiful. What could be more
insane than to tell a man that he owned his wife, and punish him
when someone unlawfully took her away from him? Did the Law not
know that a man's name was to him the apple of his eye, that it was
far harder to be regarded as cuckold than as seducer? He actually
envied Jolyon the reputation of succeeding where he, Soames, had
failed. The question of damages worried him, too. He wanted to
make that fellow suffer, but he remembered his cousin's words, "I
shall be very happy," with the uneasy feeling that to claim damages
would make not Jolyon but himself suffer; he felt uncannily that
Jolyon would rather like to pay them--the chap was so loose.
Besides, to claim damages was not the thing to do. The claim,
indeed, had been made almost mechanically; and as the hour drew
near Soames saw in it just another dodge of this insensitive and
topsy-turvy Law to make him ridiculous; so that people might sneer
and say: "Oh, yes, he got quite a good price for her!" And he
gave instructions that his Counsel should state that the money
would be given to a Home for Fallen Women. He was a long time
hitting off exactly the right charity; but, having pitched on it,
he used to wake up in the night and think: 'It won't do, too lurid;
it'll draw attention. Something quieter--better taste.' He did
not care for dogs, or he would have named them; and it was in
desperation at last--for his knowledge of charities was limited--
that he decided on the blind. That could not be inappropriate, and
it would make the Jury assess the damages high.
A good many suits were dropping out of the list, which happened to
be exceptionally thin that summer, so that his case would be
reached before August. As the day grew nearer, Winifred was his
only comfort. She showed the fellow-feeling of one who had been
through the mill, and was the 'femme-sole' in whom he confided,
well knowing that she would not let Dartie into her confidence.
That ruffian would be only too rejoiced! At the end of July, on
the afternoon before the case, he went in to see her. They had not
yet been able to leave town, because Dartie had already spent their
summer holiday, and Winifred dared not go to her father for more
money while he was waiting not to be told anything about this
affair of Soames.
Soames found her with a letter in her hand.
"That from Val," he asked gloomily. "What does he say?"
"He says he's married," said Winifred.
"Whom to, for Goodness' sake?"
Winifred looked up at him.
"To Holly Forsyte, Jolyon's daughter."
"He got leave and did it. I didn't even know he knew her.
Awkward, isn't it?"
Soames uttered a short laugh at that characteristic minimisation.
"Awkward! Well, I don't suppose they'll hear about this till they
come back. They'd better stay out there. That fellow will give
"But I want Val back," said Winifred almost piteously; "I miss him,
he helps me to get on."
"I know," murmured Soames. "How's Dartie behaving now?"
"It might be worse; but it's always money. Would you like me to
come down to the Court to-morrow, Soames?"
Soames stretched out his hand for hers. The gesture so betrayed
the loneliness in him that she pressed it between her two.
"Never mind, old boy. You'll feel ever so much better when it's
"I don't know what I've done," said Soames huskily; "I never have.
It's all upside down. I was fond of her; I've always been."
Winifred saw a drop of blood ooze out of his lip, and the sight
stirred her profoundly.
"Of course," she said, "it's been too bad of her all along! But
what shall I do about this marriage of Val's, Soames? I don't know
how to write to him, with this coming on. You've seen that child.
Is she pretty?"
"Yes, she's pretty," said Soames. "Dark--lady-like enough."
'That doesn't sound so bad,' thought Winifred. 'Jolyon had style.'
"It is a coil," she said. "What will father say?
"Mustn't be told," said Soames. "The war'll soon be over now,
you'd better let Val take to farming out there."
It was tantamount to saying that his nephew was lost.
"I haven't told Monty," Winifred murmured desolately.
The case was reached before noon next day, and was over in little
more than half an hour. Soames--pale, spruce, sad-eyed in the
witness-box--had suffered so much beforehand that he took it all
like one dead. The moment the decree nisi was pronounced he left
the Courts of Justice.
Four hours until he became public property! 'Solicitor's divorce
suit!' A surly, dogged anger replaced that dead feeling within
him. 'Damn them all!' he thought; 'I won't run away. I'll act as
if nothing had happened.' And in the sweltering heat of Fleet
Street and Ludgate Hill he walked all the way to his City Club,
lunched, and went back to his office. He worked there stolidly
throughout the afternoon.
On his way out he saw that his clerks knew, and answered their
involuntary glances with a look so sardonic that they were
immediately withdrawn. In front of St. Paul's, he stopped to buy
the most gentlemanly of the evening papers. Yes! there he was!
'Well-known solicitor's divorce. Cousin co-respondent. Damages
given to the blind'--so, they had got that in! At every other
face, he thought: 'I wonder if you know!' And suddenly he felt
queer, as if something were racing round in his head.
What was this? He was letting it get hold of him! He mustn't! He
would be ill. He mustn't think! He would get down to the river
and row about, and fish. 'I'm not going to be laid up,' he
It flashed across him that he had something of importance to do
before he went out of town. Madame Lamotte! He must explain the
Law. Another six months before he was really free! Only he did
not want to see Annette! And he passed his hand over the top of
his head--it was very hot.
He branched off through Covent Garden. On this sultry day of late
July the garbage-tainted air of the old market offended him, and
Soho seemed more than ever the disenchanted home of rapscallionism.
Alone, the Restaurant Bretagne, neat, daintily painted, with its
blue tubs and the dwarf trees therein, retained an aloof and
Frenchified self-respect. It was the slack hour, and pale trim
waitresses were preparing the little tables for dinner. Soames
went through into the private part. To his discomfiture Annette
answered his knock. She, too, looked pale and dragged down by the
"You are quite a stranger," she said languidly.
"I haven't wished to be; I've been busy."
"Where's your mother, Annette? I've got some news for her."
"Mother is not in."
It seemed to Soames that she looked at him in a queer way. What
did she know? How much had her mother told her? The worry of
trying to make that out gave him an alarming feeling in the head.
He gripped the edge of the table, and dizzily saw Annette come
forward, her eyes clear with surprise. He shut his own and said:
"It's all right. I've had a touch of the sun, I think." The sun!
What he had was a touch of 'darkness! Annette's voice, French and
"Sit down, it will pass, then." Her hand pressed his shoulder, and
Soames sank into a chair. When the dark feeling dispersed, and he
opened his eyes, she was looking down at him. What an inscrutable
and odd expression for a girl of twenty!
"Do you feel better?"
"It's nothing," said Soames. Instinct told him that to be feeble
before her was not helping him--age was enough handicap without
that. Will-power was his fortune with Annette, he had lost ground
these latter months from indecision--he could not afford to lose
any more. He got up, and said:
"I'll write to your mother. I'm going down to my river house for a
long holiday. I want you both to come there presently and stay.
It's just at its best. You will, won't you?"
"It will be veree nice." A pretty little roll of that 'r' but no
enthusiasm. And rather sadly he added:
"You're feeling the heat; too, aren't you, Annette? It'll do you
good to be on the river. Good-night." Annette swayed forward.
There was a sort of compunction in the movement.
"Are you fit to go? Shall I give you some coffee?"
"No," said Soames firmly. "Give me your hand."
She held out her hand, and Soames raised it to his lips. When he
looked up, her face wore again that strange expression. 'I can't
tell,' he thought, as he went out; 'but I mustn't think--I mustn't
But worry he did, walking toward Pall Mall. English, not of her
religion, middle-aged, scarred as it were by domestic tragedy, what
had he to give her? Only wealth, social position, leisure,
admiration! It was much, but was it enough for a beautiful girl of
twenty? He felt so ignorant about Annette. He had, too, a curious
fear of the French nature of her mother and herself. They knew so
well what they wanted. They were almost Forsytes. They would
never grasp a shadow and miss a substance
The tremendous effort it was to write a simple note to Madame
Lamotte when he reached his Club warned him still further that he
was at the end of his tether.
"MY DEAR MADAME (he said),
"You will see by the enclosed newspaper cutting that I obtained my
decree of divorce to-day. By the English Law I shall not, however,
be free to marry again till the decree is confirmed six months
hence. In the meanwhile I have the honor to ask to be considered a
formal suitor for the hand of your daughter. I shall write again
in a few days and beg you both to come and stay at my river house.
"I am, dear Madame,
Having sealed and posted this letter, he went into the dining-room.
Three mouthfuls of soup convinced him that he could not eat; and,
causing a cab to be summoned, he drove to Paddington Station and
took the first train to Reading. He reached his house just as the
sun went down, and wandered out on to the lawn. The air was
drenched with the scent of pinks and picotees in his flower-
borders. A stealing coolness came off the river.
Rest-peace! Let a poor fellow rest! Let not worry and shame and
anger chase like evil nightbirds in his head! Like those doves
perched half-sleeping on their dovecot, like the furry creatures in
the woods on the far side, and the simple folk in their cottages,
like the trees and the river itself, whitening fast in twilight,
like the darkening cornflower-blue sky where stars were coming up--
let him cease from himself, and rest!
PASSING OF AN AGE
The marriage of Soames with Annette took place in Paris on the last
day of January, 1901, with such privacy that not even Emily was
told until it was accomplished.
The day after the wedding he brought her to one of those quiet
hotels in London where greater expense can be incurred for less
result than anywhere else under heaven. Her beauty in the best
Parisian frocks was giving him more satisfaction than if he had
collected a perfect bit of china, or a jewel of a picture; he
looked forward to the moment when he would exhibit her in Park
Lane, in Green Street, and at Timothy's.
If some one had asked him in those days, "In confidence--are you in
love with this girl?" he would have replied: "In love? What is
love? If you mean do I feel to her as I did towards Irene in those
old days when I first met her and she would not have me; when I
sighed and starved after her and couldn't rest a minute until she
yielded--no! If you mean do I admire her youth and prettiness, do
my senses ache a little when I see her moving about--yes! Do I
think she will keep me straight, make me a creditable wife and a
good mother for my children?--again, yes!"
"What more do I need? and what more do three-quarters of the women
who are married get from the men who marry them?" And if the
enquirer had pursued his query, "And do you think it was fair to
have tempted this girl to give herself to you for life unless you
have really touched her heart?" he would have answered: "The French
see these things differently from us. They look at marriage from
the point of view of establishments and children; and, from my own
experience, I am not at all sure that theirs is not the sensible
view. I shall not expect this time more than I can get, or she can
give. Years hence I shouldn't be surprised if I have trouble with
her; but I shall be getting old, I shall have children by then. I
shall shut my eyes. I have had my great passion; hers is perhaps
to come--I don't suppose it will be for me. I offer her a great
deal, and I don't expect much in return, except children, or at
least a son. But one thing I am sure of--she has very good sense!"
And if, insatiate, the enquirer had gone on, "You do not look,
then, for spiritual union in this marriage?" Soames would have
lifted his sideway smile, and rejoined: "That's as it may be. If I
get satisfaction for my senses, perpetuation of myself; good taste
and good humour in the house; it is all I can expect at my age. I
am not likely to be going out of my way towards any far-fetched
sentimentalism." Whereon, the enquirer must in good taste have
The Queen was dead, and the air of the greatest city upon earth
grey with unshed tears. Fur-coated and top-hatted, with Annette
beside him in dark furs, Soames crossed Park Lane on the morning of
the funeral procession, to the rails in Hyde Park. Little moved
though he ever was by public matters, this event, supremely
symbolical, this summing-up of a long rich period, impressed his
fancy. In '37, when she came to the throne, 'Superior Dosset' was
still building houses to make London hideous; and James, a
stripling of twenty-six, just laying the foundations of his
practice in the Law. Coaches still ran; men wore stocks, shaved
their upper lips, ate oysters out of barrels; 'tigers' swung behind
cabriolets; women said, 'La!' and owned no property; there were
manners in the land, and pigsties for the poor; unhappy devils were
hanged for little crimes, and Dickens had but just begun to write.
Well-nigh two generations had slipped by--of steamboats, railways,
telegraphs, bicycles, electric light, telephones, and now these
motorcars--of such accumulated wealth, that eight per cent. had
become three, and Forsytes were numbered by the thousand! Morals
had changed, manners had changed, men had become monkeys twice-
removed, God had become Mammon--Mammon so respectable as to deceive
himself: Sixty-four years that favoured property, and had made the
upper middle class; buttressed, chiselled, polished it, till it was
almost indistinguishable in manners, morals, speech, appearance,
habit, and soul from the nobility. An epoch which had gilded
individual liberty so that if a man had money, he was free in law
and fact, and if he had not money he was free in law and not in
fact. An era which had canonised hypocrisy, so that to seem to be
respectable was to be. A great Age, whose transmuting influence
nothing had escaped save the nature of man and the nature of the
And to witness the passing of this Age, London--its pet and fancy--
was pouring forth her citizens through every gate into Hyde Park,
hub of Victorianism, happy hunting-ground of Forsytes. Under the
grey heavens, whose drizzle just kept off, the dark concourse
gathered to see the show. The 'good old' Queen, full of years and
virtue, had emerged from her seclusion for the last time to make a
London holiday. From Houndsditch, Acton, Ealing, Hampstead,
Islington, and Bethnal Green; from Hackney, Hornsey, Leytonstone,
Battersea, and Fulham; and from those green pastures where Forsytes
flourish--Mayfair and Kensington, St. James' and Belgravia,
Bayswater and Chelsea and the Regent's Park, the people swarmed
down on to the roads where death would presently pass with dusky
pomp and pageantry. Never again would a Queen reign so long, or
people have a chance to see so much history buried for their money.
A pity the war dragged on, and that the Wreath of Victory could not
be laid upon her coffin! All else would be there to follow and
commemorate--soldiers, sailors, foreign princes, half-masted
bunting, tolling bells, and above all the surging, great,
dark-coated crowd, with perhaps a simple sadness here and there
deep in hearts beneath black clothes put on by regulation. After
all, more than a Queen was going to her rest, a woman who had
braved sorrow, lived well and wisely according to her lights.
Out in the crowd against the railings, with his arm hooked in
Annette's, Soames waited. Yes! the Age was passing! What with
this Trade Unionism, and Labour fellows in the House of Commons,
with continental fiction, and something in the general feel of
everything, not to be expressed in words, things were very
different; he recalled the crowd on Mafeking night, and George
Forsyte saying: "They're all socialists, they want our goods."
Like James, Soames didn't know, he couldn't tell--with Edward on
the throne! Things would never be as safe again as under good old
Viccy! Convulsively he pressed his young wife's arm. There, at
any rate, was something substantially his own, domestically certain
again at last; something which made property worth while--a real
thing once more. Pressed close against her and trying to ward
others off, Soames was content. The crowd swayed round them, ate
sandwiches and dropped crumbs; boys who had climbed the plane-trees
chattered above like monkeys, threw twigs and orange-peel. It was
past time; they should be coming soon! And, suddenly, a little
behind them to the left, he saw a tallish man with a soft hat and
short grizzling beard, and a tallish woman in a little round fur
cap and veil. Jolyon and Irene talking, smiling at each other,
close together like Annette and himself! They had not seen him;
and stealthily, with a very queer feeling in his heart, Soames
watched those two. They looked happy! What had they come here
for--inherently illicit creatures, rebels from the Victorian ideal?
What business had they in this crowd? Each of them twice exiled by
morality--making a boast, as it were, of love and laxity! He
watched them fascinated; admitting grudgingly even with his arm
thrust through Annette's that--that she--Irene--No! he would not
admit it; and he turned his eyes away. He would not see them, and
let the old bitterness, the old longing rise up within him! And
then Annette turned to him and said: "Those two people, Soames;
they know you, I am sure. Who are they?"
Soames nosed sideways.
"There, you see them; just turning away. They know you."
"No," Soames answered; "a mistake, my dear."
"A lovely face! And how she walk! Elle est tres distinguee!"
Soames looked then. Into his life, out of his life she had walked
like that swaying and erect, remote, unseizable; ever eluding the
contact of his soul! He turned abruptly from that receding
vision of the past.
"You'd better attend," he said, "they're coming now!"
But while he stood, grasping her arm, seemingly intent on the head
of the procession, he was quivering with the sense of always
missing something, with instinctive regret that he had not got them
Slow came the music and the march, till, in silence, the long line
wound in through the Park gate. He heard Annette whisper, "How sad
it is and beautiful!" felt the clutch of her hand as she stood up
on tiptoe; and the crowd's emotion gripped him. There it was--the
bier of the Queen, coffin of the Age slow passing! And as it went
by there came a murmuring groan from all the long line of those who
watched, a sound such as Soames had never heard, so unconscious,
primitive, deep and wild, that neither he nor any knew whether they
had joined in uttering it. Strange sound, indeed! Tribute of an
Age to its own death.... Ah! Ah!.... The hold on life had
slipped. That which had seemed eternal was gone! The Queen--God
It moved on with the bier, that travelling groan, as a fire moves
on over grass in a thin line; it kept step, and marched alongside
down the dense crowds mile after mile. It was a human sound, and
yet inhuman, pushed out by animal subconsciousness, by intimate
knowledge of universal death and change. None of us--none of us
can hold on for ever!
It left silence for a little--a very little time, till tongues
began, eager to retrieve interest in the show. Soames lingered
just long enough to gratify Annette, then took her out of the Park
to lunch at his father's in Park Lane....
James had spent the morning gazing out of his bedroom window. The
last show he would see, last of so many! So she was gone! Well,
she was getting an old woman. Swithin and he had seen her crowned-
-slim slip of a girl, not so old as Imogen! She had got very stout
of late. Jolyon and he had seen her married to that German chap,
her husband--he had turned out all right before he died, and left
her with that son of his. And he remembered the many evenings he
and his brothers and their cronies had wagged their heads over
their wine and walnuts and that fellow in his salad days. And now
he had come to the throne. They said he had steadied down--he
didn't know--couldn't tell! He'd make the money fly still, he
shouldn't wonder. What a lot of people out there! It didn't seem
so very long since he and Swithin stood in the crowd outside
Westminster Abbey when she was crowned, and Swithin had taken him
to Cremorne afterwards--racketty chap, Swithin; no, it didn't seem
much longer ago than Jubilee Year, when he had joined with Roger in
renting a balcony in Piccadilly.
Jolyon, Swithin, Roger all gone, and he would be ninety in August!
And there was Soames married again to a French girl. The French
were a queer lot, but they made good mothers, he had heard. Things
changed! They said this German Emperor was here for the funeral,
his telegram to old Kruger had been in shocking taste. He should
not be surprised if that chap made trouble some day. Change! H'm!
Well, they must look after themselves when he was gone: he didn't
know where he'd be! And now Emily had asked Dartie to lunch, with
Winifred and Imogen, to meet Soames' wife--she was always doing
something. And there was Irene living with that fellow Jolyon,
they said. He'd marry her now, he supposed.
'My brother Jolyon,' he thought, 'what would he have said to it
all?' And somehow the utter impossibility of knowing what his elder
brother, once so looked up to, would have said, so worried James
that he got up from his chair by the window, and began slowly,
feebly to pace the room.
'She was a pretty thing, too,' he thought; 'I was fond of her.
Perhaps Soames didn't suit her--I don't know--I can't tell. We
never had any trouble with our wives.' Women had changed
everything had changed! And now the Queen was dead--well, there it
was! A movement in the crowd brought him to a standstill at the
window, his nose touching the pane and whitening from the chill of
it. They had got her as far as Hyde Park Corner--they were passing
now! Why didn't Emily come up here where she could see, instead of
fussing about lunch. He missed her at that moment--missed her!
Through the bare branches of the plane-trees he could just see the
procession, could see the hats coming off the people's heads--a lot
of them would catch colds, he shouldn't wonder! A voice behind him
"You've got a capital view here, James!"
"There you are!" muttered James; "why didn't you come before? You
might have missed it!"
And he was silent, staring with all his might.
"What's the noise?" he asked suddenly.
"There's no noise," returned Emily; "what are you thinking of?--
they wouldn't cheer."
"I can hear it."
No sound came through those double panes; what James heard was the
groaning in his own heart at sight of his Age passing.
"Don't you ever tell me where I'm buried," he said suddenly. "I
shan't want to know." And he turned from the window. There she
went, the old Queen; she'd had a lot of anxiety--she'd be glad to
be out of it, he should think!
Emily took up the hair-brushes.
"There'll be just time to brush your head," she said, "before they
come. You must look your best, James."
"Ah!" muttered James; "they say she's pretty."
The meeting with his new daughter-in-law took place in the
dining-room. James was seated by the fire when she was brought in.
He placed, his hands on the arms of the chair and slowly raised
himself. Stooping and immaculate in his frock-coat, thin as a line
in Euclid, he received Annette's hand in his; and the anxious eyes
of his furrowed face, which had lost its colour now, doubted above
her. A little warmth came into them and into his cheeks, refracted
from her bloom.
"How are you?" he said. "You've been to see the Queen, I suppose?
Did you have a good crossing?"
In this way he greeted her from whom he hoped for a grandson of his
Gazing at him, so old, thin, white, and spotless, Annette murmured
something in French which James did not understand.
"Yes, yes," he said, "you want your lunch, I expect. Soames, ring
the bell; we won't wait for that chap Dartie." But just then they
arrived. Dartie had refused to go out of his way to see 'the old
girl.' With an early cocktail beside him, he had taken a 'squint'
from the smoking-room of the Iseeum, so that Winifred and Imogen
had been obliged to come back from the Park to fetch him thence.
His brown eyes rested on Annette with a stare of almost startled
satisfaction. The second beauty that fellow Soames had picked up!
What women could see in him! Well, she would play him the same
trick as the other, no doubt; but in the meantime he was a lucky
devil! And he brushed up his moustache, having in nine months of
Green Street domesticity regained almost all his flesh and his
assurance. Despite the comfortable efforts of Emily, Winifred's
composure, Imogen's enquiring friendliness, Dartie's showing-off,
and James' solicitude about her food, it was not, Soames felt, a
successful lunch for his bride. He took her away very soon.
"That Monsieur Dartie," said Annette in the cab, "je n'aime pas ce
"No, by George!" said Soames.
"Your sister is veree amiable, and the girl is pretty. Your father
is veree old. I think your mother has trouble with him; I should
not like to be her."
Soames nodded at the shrewdness, the clear hard judgment in his
young wife; but it disquieted him a little. The thought may have
just flashed through him, too: 'When I'm eighty she'll be
fifty-five, having trouble with me!'
"There's just one other house of my relations I must take you to,"
he said; "you'll find it funny, but we must get it over; and then
we'll dine and go to the theatre."
In this way he prepared her for Timothy's. But Timothy's was
different. They were delighted to see dear Soames after this long
long time; and so this was Annette!
"You are so pretty, my dear; almost too young and pretty for dear
Soames, aren't you? But he's very attentive and careful--such a
good hush...." Aunt Juley checked herself, and placed her lips
just under each of Annette's eyes--she afterwards described them to
Francie, who dropped in, as: "Cornflower-blue, so pretty, I quite
wanted to kiss them. I must say dear Soames is a perfect
connoisseur. In her French way, and not so very French either, I
think she's as pretty--though not so distinguished, not so
alluring--as Irene. Because she was alluring, wasn't she? with
that white skin and those dark eyes, and that hair, couleur de--
what was it? I always forget."
"Feuille morte," Francie prompted.
"Of course, dead leaves--so strange. I remember when I was a girl,
before we came to London, we had a foxhound puppy--to 'walk' it was
called then; it had a tan top to its head and a white chest, and
beautiful dark brown eyes, and it was a lady."
"Yes, auntie," said Francie, "but I don't see the connection."
"Oh!" replied Aunt Juley, rather flustered, "it was so alluring,
and her eyes and hair, you know...." She was silent, as if
surprised in some indelicacy. "Feuille morte," she added suddenly;
"Hester--do remember that!"....
Considerable debate took place between the two sisters whether
Timothy should or should not be summoned to see Annette.
"Oh, don't bother!" said Soames.
"But it's no trouble, only of course Annette's being French might
upset him a little. He was so scared about Fashoda. I think
perhaps we had better not run the risk, Hester. It's nice to have
her all to ourselves, isn't it? And how are you, Soames? Have you
quite got over your...."
Hester interposed hurriedly:
"What do you think of London, Annette?"
Soames, disquieted, awaited the reply. It came, sensible,
composed: "Oh! I know London. I have visited before."
He had never ventured to speak to her on the subject of the
restaurant. The French had different notions about gentility, and
to shrink from connection with it might seem to her ridiculous; he
had waited to be married before mentioning it; and now he wished he
"And what part do you know best?" said Aunt Juley.
"Soho," said Annette simply.
Soames snapped his jaw.
"Soho?" repeated Aunt Juley; "Soho?"
'That'll go round the family,' thought Soames.
"It's very French, and interesting," he said.
"Yes," murmured Aunt Juley, "your Uncle Roger had some houses there
once; he was always having to turn the tenants out, I remember."
Soames changed the subject to Mapledurham.
"Of course," said Aunt Juley, "you will be going down there soon to
settle in. We are all so looking forward to the time when Annette
has a dear little...."
"Juley!" cried Aunt Hester desperately, "ring tea!"
Soames dared not wait for tea, and took Annette away.
"I shouldn't mention Soho if I were you," he said in the cab.
"It's rather a shady part of London; and you're altogether above
that restaurant business now; I mean," he added, "I want you to
know nice people, and the English are fearful snobs."
Annette's clear eyes opened; a little smile came on her lips.
"Yes?" she said.
'H'm!' thought Soames, 'that's meant for me!' and he looked at her
hard. 'She's got good business instincts,' he thought. 'I must
make her grasp it once for all!'
"Look here, Annette! it's very simple, only it wants
understanding. Our professional and leisured classes still think
themselves a cut above our business classes, except of course the
very rich. It may be stupid, but there it is, you see. It isn't
advisable in England to let people know that you ran a restaurant
or kept a shop or were in any kind of trade. It may have been
extremely creditable, but it puts a sort of label on you; you don't
have such a good time, or meet such nice people--that's all."
"I see," said Annette; "it is the same in France."
"Oh!" murmured Soames, at once relieved and taken aback. "Of
course, class is everything, really."
"Yes," said Annette; "comme vous etes sage."
'That's all right,' thought Soames, watching her lips, 'only she's
pretty cynical.' His knowledge of French was not yet such as to
make him grieve that she had not said 'tu.' He slipped his arm
round her, and murmured with an effort:
"Et vous etes ma belle femme."
Annette went off into a little fit of laughter.
"Oh, non!" she said. "Oh, non! ne parlez pas Francais, Soames.
What is that old lady, your aunt, looking forward to?"
Soames bit his lip. "God knows!" he said; "she's always saying
something;" but he knew better than God.
The war dragged on. Nicholas had been heard to say that it would
cost three hundred millions if it cost a penny before they'd done
with it! The income-tax was seriously threatened. Still, there
would be South Africa for their money, once for all. And though
the possessive instinct felt badly shaken at three o'clock in the
morning, it recovered by breakfast-time with the recollection that
one gets nothing in this world without paying for it. So, on the
whole, people went about their business much as if there were no
war, no concentration camps, no slippery de Wet, no feeling on the
Continent, no anything unpleasant. Indeed, the attitude of the
nation was typified by Timothy's map, whose animation was
suspended--for Timothy no longer moved the flags, and they could
not move themselves, not even backwards and forwards as they should
Suspended animation went further; it invaded Forsyte 'Change, and
produced a general uncertainty as to what was going to happen next.
The announcement in the marriage column of The Times, 'Jolyon
Forsyte to Irene, only daughter of the late Professor Heron,' had
occasioned doubt whether Irene had been justly described. And yet,
on the whole, relief was felt that she had not been entered as
'Irene, late the wife,' or 'the divorced wife,' 'of Soames
Forsyte.' Altogether, there had been a kind of sublimity from the
first about the way the family had taken that 'affair.' As James
had phrased it, 'There it was!' No use to fuss! Nothing to be had
out of admitting that it had been a 'nasty jar'--in the phraseology
of the day.
But what would happen now that both Soames and Jolyon were married
again? That was very intriguing. George was known to have laid
Eustace six to four on a little Jolyon before a little Soames.
George was so droll! It was rumoured, too, that he and Dartie had
a bet as to whether James would attain the age of ninety, though
which of them had backed James no one knew.
Early in May, Winifred came round to say that Val had been wounded
in the leg by a spent bullet, and was to be discharged. His wife
was nursing him. He would have a little limp--nothing to speak of.
He wanted his grandfather to buy him a farm out there where he
could breed horses. Her father was giving Holly eight hundred a
year, so they could be quite comfortable, because his grandfather
would give Val five, he had said; but as to the farm, he didn't
know--couldn't tell: he didn't want Val to go throwing away his
"But you know," said Winifred, "he must do something."
Aunt Hester thought that perhaps his dear grandfather was wise,
because if he didn't buy a farm it couldn't turn out badly.
"But Val loves horses," said Winifred. "It'd be such an occupation
Aunt Juley thought that horses were very uncertain, had not
Montague found them so?
"Val's different," said Winifred; "he takes after me."
Aunt Juley was sure that dear Val was very clever. "I always
remember," she added, "how he gave his bad penny to a beggar. His
dear grandfather was so pleased. He thought it showed such
presence of mind. I remember his saying that he ought to go into
Aunt Hester chimed in: Did not Winifred think that it was much
better for the young people to be secure and not run any risk at
"Well," said Winifred, "if they were in London, perhaps; in London
it's amusing to do nothing. But out there, of course, he'll simply
get bored to death."
Aunt Hester thought that it would be nice for him to work, if he
were quite sure not to lose by it. It was not as if they had no
money. Timothy, of course, had done so well by retiring. Aunt
Juley wanted to know what Montague had said.
Winifred did not tell her, for Montague had merely remarked: "Wait
till the old man dies."
At this moment Francie was announced. Her eyes were brimming with
"Well," she said, "what do you think of it?"
"Of what, dear?"
"In The Times this morning."
"We haven't seen it, we always read it after dinner; Timothy has it
Francie rolled her eyes.
"Do you think you ought to tell us?" said Aunt Juley. "What was
"Irene's had a son at Robin Hill."
Aunt Juley drew in her breath. "But," she said, "they were only
married in March!"
"Yes, Auntie; isn't it interesting?"
"Well," said Winifred, "I'm glad. I was sorry for Jolyon losing
his boy. It might have been Val."
Aunt Juley seemed to go into a sort of dream. "I wonder," she
murmured, "what dear Soames will think? He has so wanted to have a
son himself. A little bird has always told me that."
"Well," said Winifred, "he's going to--bar accidents."
Gladness trickled out of Aunt Juley's eyes.
"How delightful!" she said. "When?"
Such a lucky month! But she did wish it could be sooner. It was a
long time for James to wait, at his age!
To wait! They dreaded it for James, but they were used to it
themselves. Indeed, it was their great distraction. To wait! For
The Times to read; for one or other of their nieces or nephews to
come in and cheer them up; for news of Nicholas' health; for that
decision of Christopher's about going on the stage; for information
concerning the mine of Mrs. MacAnder's nephew; for the doctor to
come about Hester's inclination to wake up early in the morning;
for books from the library which were always out; for Timothy to
have a cold; for a nice quiet warm day, not too hot, when they
could take a turn in Kensington Gardens. To wait, one on each side
of the hearth in the drawing-room, for the clock between them to
strike; their thin, veined, knuckled hands plying knitting-needles
and crochet-hooks, their hair ordered to stop--like Canute's waves-
-from any further advance in colour. To wait in their black silks
or satins for the Court to say that Hester might wear her dark
green, and Juley her darker maroon. To wait, slowly turning over
and over, in their old minds the little joys and sorrows, events
and expectancies, of their little family world, as cows chew
patient cuds in a familiar field. And this new event was so well
worth waiting for. Soames had always been their pet, with his
tendency to give them pictures, and his almost weekly visits which
they missed so much, and his need for their sympathy evoked by the
wreck of his first marriage. This new event--the birth of an heir
to Soames--was so important for him, and for his dear father, too,
that James might not have to die without some certainty about
things. James did so dislike uncertainty; and with Montague, of
course, he could not feel really satisfied to leave no grand-
children but the young Darties. After all, one's own name did
count! And as James' ninetieth birthday neared they wondered what
precautions he was taking. He would be the first of the Forsytes to
reach that age, and set, as it were, a new standard in holding on
to life. That was so important, they felt, at their ages eighty-
seven and eighty-five; though they did not want to think of
themselves when they had Timothy, who was not yet eighty-two, to
think of. There was, of course, a better world. 'In my Father's
house are many mansions' was one of Aunt Juley's favourite sayings-
-it always comforted her, with its suggestion of house property,
which had made the fortune of dear Roger. The Bible was, indeed, a
great resource, and on very fine Sundays there was church in the
morning; and sometimes Juley would steal into Timothy's study when
she was sure he was out, and just put an open New Testament
casually among the books on his little table--he was a great
reader, of course, having been a publisher. But she had noticed
that Timothy was always cross at dinner afterwards. And Smither
had told her more than once that she had picked books off the floor
in doing the room. Still, with all that, they did feel that heaven
could not be quite so cosy as the rooms in which they and Timothy
had been waiting so long. Aunt Hester, especially, could not bear
the thought of the exertion. Any change, or rather the thought of
a change--for there never was any--always upset her very much.
Aunt Juley, who had more spirit, sometimes thought it would be
quite exciting; she had so enjoyed that visit to Brighton the year
dear Susan died. But then Brighton one knew was nice, and it was
so difficult to tell what heaven would be like, so on the whole she
was more than content to wait.
On the morning of James' birthday, August the 5th, they felt
extraordinary animation, and little notes passed between them by
the hand of Smither while they were having breakfast in their beds.
Smither must go round and take their love and little presents and
find out how Mr. James was, and whether he had passed a good night
with all the excitement. And on the way back would Smither call in
at Green Street--it was a little out of her way, but she could take
the bus up Bond Street afterwards; it would be a nice little change
for her--and ask dear Mrs. Dartie to be sure and look in before she
went out of town.
All this Smither did--an undeniable servant trained many years ago
under Aunt Ann to a perfection not now procurable. Mr. James, so
Mrs. James said, had passed an excellent night, he sent his love;
Mrs. James had said he was very funny and had complained that he
didn't know what all the fuss was about. Oh! and Mrs. Dartie sent
her love, and she would come to tea.
Aunts Juley and Hester, rather hurt that their presents had not
received special mention--they forgot every year that James could
not bear to receive presents, 'throwing away their money on him,'
as he always called it--were 'delighted'; it showed that James was
in good spirits, and that was so important for him. And they began
to wait for Winifred. She came at four, bringing Imogen, and Maud,
just back from school, and 'getting such a pretty girl, too,' so
that it was extremely difficult to ask for news about Annette.
Aunt Juley, however, summoned courage to enquire whether Winifred
had heard anything, and if Soames was anxious.
"Uncle Soames is always anxious, Auntie," interrupted Imogen; "he
can't be happy now he's got it."
The words struck familiarly on Aunt Juley's ears. Ah! yes; that
funny drawing of George's, which had not been shown them! But what
did Imogen mean? That her uncle always wanted more than he could
have? It was not at all nice to think like that.
Imogen's voice rose clear and clipped:
"Imagine! Annette's only two years older than me; it must be awful
for her, married to Uncle Soames."
Aunt Juley lifted her hands in horror.
"My dear," she said, "you don't know what you're talking about.
Your Uncle Soames is a match for anybody. He's a very clever man,
and good-looking and wealthy, and most considerate and careful, and
not at all old, considering everything."
Imogen, turning her luscious glance from one to the other of the
'old dears,' only smiled.
"I hope," said Aunt Juley quite severely, "that you will marry as
good a man."
"I shan't marry a good man, Auntie," murmured Imogen; "they're
"If you go on like this," replied Aunt Juley, still very much
upset, "you won't marry anybody. We'd better not pursue the
subject;" and turning to Winifred, she said: "How is Montague?"
That evening, while they were waiting for dinner, she murmured:
"I've told Smither to get up half a bottle of the sweet champagne,
Hester. I think we ought to drink dear James' health, and--and the
health of Soames' wife; only, let's keep that quite secret. I'll
Just say like this, 'And you know, Hester!' and then we'll drink.
It might upset Timothy."
"It's more likely to upset us," said Aunt Nester. "But we must, I
suppose; for such an occasion."
"Yes," said Aunt Juley rapturously, "it is an occasion! Only fancy
if he has a dear little boy, to carry the family on! I do feel it
so important, now that Irene has had a son. Winifred says George
is calling Jolyon 'The Three-Decker,' because of his three
families, you know! George is droll. And fancy! Irene is living
after all in the house Soames had built for them both. It does
seem hard on dear Soames; and he's always been so regular."
That night in bed, excited and a little flushed still by her glass
of wine and the secrecy of the second toast, she lay with her
prayer-book opened flat, and her eyes fixed on a ceiling yellowed
by the light from her reading-lamp. Young things! It was so nice
for them all! And she would be so happy if she could see dear
Soames happy. But, of course, he must be now, in spite of what
Imogen had said. He would have all that he wanted: property, and
wife, and children! And he would live to a green old age, like his
dear father, and forget all about Irene and that dreadful case. If
only she herself could be here to buy his children their first
rocking-horse! Smither should choose it for her at the stores,
nice and dappled. Ah! how Roger used to rock her until she fell
off! Oh dear! that was a long time ago! It was! 'In my Father's
house are many mansions--'A little scrattling noise caught her ear-
-'but no mice!' she thought mechanically. The noise increased.
There! it was a mouse! How naughty of Smither to say there wasn't!
It would be eating through the wainscot before they knew where they
were, and they would have to have the builders in. They were such
destructive things! And she lay, with her eyes just moving,
following in her mind that little scrattling sound, and waiting for
sleep to release her from it.
BIRTH OF A FORSYTE
Soames walked out of the garden door, crossed the lawn, stood on
the path above the river, turned round and walked back to the
garden door, without having realised that he had moved. The sound
of wheels crunching the drive convinced him that time had passed,
and the doctor gone. What, exactly, had he said?
"This is the position, Mr. Forsyte. I can make pretty certain of
her life if I operate, but the baby will be born dead. If I don't
operate, the baby will most probably be born alive, but it's a
great risk for the mother--a great risk. In either case I don't
think she can ever have another child. In her state she obviously
can't decide for herself, and we can't wait for her mother. It's
for you to make the decision, while I'm getting what's necessary.
I shall be back within the hour."
The decision! What a decision! No time to get a specialist down!
No time for anything!
The sound of wheels died away, but Soames still stood intent; then,
suddenly covering his ears, he walked back to the river. To come
before its time like this, with no chance to foresee anything, not
even to get her mother here! It was for her mother to make that
decision, and she couldn't arrive from Paris till to-night! If
only he could have understood the doctor's jargon, the medical
niceties, so as to be sure he was weighing the chances properly;
but they were Greek to him--like a legal problem to a layman. And
yet he must decide! He brought his hand away from his brow wet,
though the air was chilly. These sounds which came from her room!
To go back there would only make it more difficult. He must be
calm, clear. On the one hand life, nearly certain, of his young
wife, death quite certain, of his child; and--no more children
afterwards! On the other, death perhaps of his wife, nearly
certain life for the child; and--no more children afterwards!
Which to choose?.... It had rained this last fortnight--the river
was very full, and in the water, collected round the little
house-boat moored by his landing-stage, were many leaves from the
woods above, brought off by a frost. Leaves fell, lives drifted
down--Death! To decide about death! And no one to give him a
hand. Life lost was lost for good. Let nothing go that you could
keep; for, if it went, you couldn't get it back. It left you bare,
like those trees when they lost their leaves; barer and barer until
you, too, withered and came down. And, by a queer somersault of
thought, he seemed to see not Annette lying up there behind that
window-pane on which the sun was shining, but Irene lying in their
bedroom in Montpellier Square, as it might conceivably have been
her fate to lie, sixteen years ago. Would he have hesitated then?
Not a moment! Operate, operate! Make certain of her life! No
decision--a mere instinctive cry for help, in spite of his know-
ledge, even then, that she did not love him! But this! Ah! there
was nothing overmastering in his feeling for Annette! Many times
these last months, especially since she had been growing fright-
ened, he had wondered. She had a will of her own, was selfish in
her French way. And yet--so pretty! What would she wish--to take
the risk. 'I know she wants the child,' he thought. 'If it's born
dead, and no more chance afterwards--it'll upset her terribly. No
more chance! All for nothing! Married life with her for years and
years without a child. Nothing to steady her! She's too young.
Nothing to look forward to, for her--for me! For me!' He struck
his hands against his chest! Why couldn't he think without
bringing himself in--get out of himself and see what he ought to
do? The thought hurt him, then lost edge, as if it had come in
contact with a breastplate. Out of oneself! Impossible! Out into
soundless, scentless, touchless, sightless space! The very idea
was ghastly, futile! And touching there the bedrock of reality,
the bottom of his Forsyte spirit, Soames rested for a moment. When
one ceased, all ceased; it might go on, but there'd be nothing in
He looked at his watch. In half an hour the doctor would be back.
He must decide! If against the operation and she died, how face
her mother and the doctor afterwards? How face his own conscience?
It was his child that she was having. If for the operation--then
he condemned them both to childlessness. And for what else had he
married her but to have a lawful heir? And his father--at death's
door, waiting for the news! 'It's cruel!' he thought; 'I ought
never to have such a thing to settle! It's cruel!' He turned
towards the house. Some deep, simple way of deciding! He took out
a coin, and put it back. If he spun it, he knew he would not abide
by what came up! He went into the dining-room, furthest away from
that room whence the sounds issued. The doctor had said there was
a chance. In here that chance seemed greater; the river did not
flow, nor the leaves fall. A fire was burning. Soames unlocked
the tantalus. He hardly ever touched spirits, but now--he poured
himself out some whisky and drank it neat, craving a faster flow of
blood. 'That fellow Jolyon,' he thought; 'he had children already.
He has the woman I really loved; and now a son by her! And I--I'm
asked to destroy my only child! Annette can't die; it's not
possible. She's strong!'
He was still standing sullenly at the sideboard when he heard the
doctor's carriage, and went out to him. He had to wait for him to
"The situation's the same. Have you decided?"
"Yes," said Soames; "don't operate!"
"Not? You understand--the risk's great?"
In Soames' set face nothing moved but the lips.
"You said there was a chance?"
"A chance, yes; not much of one."
"You say the baby must be born dead if you do?"
"Do you still think that in any case she can't have another?"
"One can't be absolutely sure, but it's most unlikely."
"She's strong," said Soames; "we'll take the risk."
The doctor looked at him very gravely. "It's on your shoulders,"
he said; "with my own wife, I couldn't."
Soames' chin jerked up as if someone had hit him.
"Am I of any use up there?" he asked.
"No; keep away."
"I shall be in my picture-gallery, then; you know where."
The doctor nodded, and went upstairs.
Soames continued to stand, listening. 'By this time to-morrow,' he
thought, 'I may have her death on my hands.' No! it was unfair--
monstrous, to put it that way! Sullenness dropped on him again,
and he went up to the gallery. He stood at the window. The wind
was in the north; it was cold, clear; very blue sky, heavy ragged
white clouds chasing across; the river blue, too, through the
screen of goldening trees; the woods all rich with colour, glowing,
burnished-an early autumn. If it were his own life, would he be
taking that risk? 'But she'd take the risk of losing me,' he
thought, 'sooner than lose her child! She doesn't really love me!'
What could one expect--a girl and French? The one thing really
vital to them both, vital to their marriage and their futures, was
a child! 'I've been through a lot for this,' he thought, 'I'll
hold on--hold on. There's a chance of keeping both--a chance!'
One kept till things were taken--one naturally kept! He began
walking round the gallery. He had made one purchase lately which
he knew was a fortune in itself, and he halted before it--a girl
with dull gold hair which looked like filaments of metal gazing at
a little golden monster she was holding in her hand. Even at this
tortured moment he could just feel the extraordinary nature of the
bargain he had made--admire the quality of the table, the floor,
the chair, the girl's figure, the absorbed expression on her face,
the dull gold filaments of her hair, the bright gold of the little
monster. Collecting pictures; growing richer, richer! What use,
if....! He turned his back abruptly on the picture, and went to
the window. Some of his doves had flown up from their perches
round the dovecot, and were stretching their wings in the wind. In
the clear sharp sunlight their whiteness almost flashed. They flew
far, making a flung-up hieroglyphic against the sky. Annette fed
the doves; it was pretty to see her. They took it out of her hand;
they knew she was matter-of-fact. A choking sensation came into
his throat. She would not--could nod die! She was too--too
sensible; and she was strong, really strong, like her mother, in
spite of her fair prettiness
It was already growing dark when at last he opened the door, and
stood listening. Not a sound! A milky twilight crept about the
stairway and the landings below. He had turned back when a sound
caught his ear. Peering down, he saw a black shape moving, and his
heart stood still. What was it? Death? The shape of Death coming
from her door? No! only a maid without cap or apron. She came to
the foot of his flight of stairs and said breathlessly:
"The doctor wants to see you, sir."
He ran down. She stood flat against the wall to let him pass, and
"Oh, Sir! it's over."
"Over?" said Soames, with a sort of menace; "what d'you mean?"
"It's born, sir."
He dashed up the four steps in front of him, and came suddenly on
the doctor in the dim passage. The man was wiping his brow.
"Well?" he said; "quick!"
"Both living; it's all right, I think."
Soames stood quite still, covering his eyes.
"I congratulate you," he heard the doctor say; "it was touch and
Soames let fall the hand which was covering his face.
"Thanks," he said; "thanks very much. What is it?"
"Daughter--luckily; a son would have killed her--the head."
"The utmost care of both," he hearts the doctor say, "and we shall
do. When does the mother come?"
"To-night, between nine and ten, I hope."
"I'll stay till then. Do you want to see them?"
"Not now," said Soames; "before you go. I'll have dinner sent up
to you." And he went downstairs.
Relief unspeakable, and yet--a daughter! It seemed to him unfair.
To have taken that risk--to have been through this agony--and what
agony!--for a daughter! He stood before the blazing fire of wood
logs in the hall, touching it with his toe and trying to readjust
himself. 'My father!' he thought. A bitter disappointment, no
disguising it! One never got all one wanted in this life! And
there was no other--at least, if there was, it was no use!
While he was standing there, a telegram was brought him.
"Come up at once, your father sinking fast.
He read it with a choking sensation. One would have thought he
couldn't feel anything after these last hours, but he felt this.
Half-past seven, a train from Reading at nine, and madame's train,
if she had caught it, came in at eight-forty--he would meet that,
and go on. He ordered the carriage, ate some dinner mechanically,
and went upstairs. The doctor came out to him.
"I won't go in," said Soames with relief. "My father's dying; I
have to--go up. Is it all right?"
The doctor's face expressed a kind of doubting admiration. 'If
they were all as unemotional' he might have been saying.
"Yes, I think you may go with an easy mind. You'll be down soon?"
"To-morrow," said Soames. "Here's the address."
The doctor seemed to hover on the verge of sympathy.
"Good-night!" said Soames abruptly, and turned away. He put on his
fur coat. Death! It was a chilly business. He smoked a cigarette
in the carriage--one of his rare cigarettes. The night was windy
and flew on black wings; the carriage lights had to search out the
way. His father! That old, old man! A comfortless night--to die!
The London train came in just as he reached the station, and Madame
Lamotte, substantial, dark-clothed, very yellow in the lamplight,
came towards the exit with a dressing-bag.
"This all you have?" asked Soames.
"But yes; I had not the time. How is my little one?"
"Doing well--both. A girl!"
"A girl! What joy! I had a frightful crossing!"
Her black bulk, solid, unreduced by the frightful crossing, climbed
into the brougham.
"And you, mon cher?"
"My father's dying," said Soames between his teeth. "I'm going up.
Give my love to Annette."
"Tiens!" murmured Madame Lamotte; "quel malheur!"
Soames took his hat off, and moved towards his train. 'The
French!' he thought.
JAMES IS TOLD
A simple cold, caught in the room with double windows, where the
air and the people who saw him were filtered, as it were, the room
he had not left since the middle of September--and James was in
deep waters. A little cold, passing his little strength and flying
quickly to his lungs. "He mustn't catch cold," the doctor had
declared, and he had gone and caught it. When he first felt it in
his throat he had said to his nurse--for he had one now--"There, I
knew how it would be, airing the room like that!" For a whole day
he was highly nervous about himself and went in advance of all
precautions and remedies; drawing every breath with extreme care
and having his temperature taken every hour. Emily was not
But next morning when she went in the nurse whispered: "He won't
have his temperature taken."
Emily crossed to the side of the bed where he was lying, and said
softly, "How do you feel, James?" holding the thermometer to his
lips. James looked up at her.
"What's the good of that?" he murmured huskily; "I don't want to
Then she was alarmed. He breathed with difficulty, he looked
terribly frail, white, with faint red discolorations. She had 'had
trouble' with him, Goodness knew; but he was James, had been James
for nearly fifty years; she couldn't remember or imagine life
without James--James, behind all his fussiness, his pessimism, his
crusty shell, deeply affectionate, really kind and generous to them
All that day and the next he hardly uttered a word, but there was
in his eyes a noticing of everything done for him, a look on his
face which told her he was fighting; and she did not lose hope.
His very stillness, the way he conserved every little scrap of
energy, showed the tenacity with which he was fighting. It touched
her deeply; and though her face was composed and comfortable in the
sick-room, tears ran down her cheeks when she was out of it.
About tea-time on the third day--she had just changed her dress,
keeping her appearance so as not to alarm him, because he noticed
everything--she saw a difference. 'It's no use; I'm tired,' was
written plainly across that white face, and when she went up to
him, he muttered: "Send for Soames."
"Yes, James," she said comfortably; "all right--at once." And she
kissed his forehead. A tear dropped there, and as she wiped it off
she saw that his eyes looked grateful. Much upset, and without
hope now, she sent Soames the telegram.
When he entered out of the black windy night, the big house was
still as a grave. Warmson's broad face looked almost narrow; he
took the fur coat with a sort of added care, saying:
"Will you have a glass of wine, sir?"
Soames shook his head, and his eyebrows made enquiry.
Warmson's lips twitched. "He's asking for you, sir;" and suddenly
he blew his nose. "It's a long time, sir," he said, "that I've
been with Mr. Forsyte--a long time."
Soames left him folding the coat, and began to mount the stairs.
This house, where he had been born and sheltered, had never seemed
to him so warm, and rich, and cosy, as during this last pilgrimage
to his father's room. It was not his taste; but in its own sub-
stantial, lincrusta way it was the acme of comfort and security.
And the night was so dark and windy; the grave so cold and lonely
He paused outside the door. No sound came from within. He turned
the handle softly and was in the room before he was perceived. The
light was shaded. His mother and Winifred were sitting on the far
side of the bed; the nurse was moving away from the near side where
was an empty chair. 'For me!' thought Soames. As he moved from
the door his mother and sister rose, but he signed with his hand
and they sat down again. He went up to the chair and stood looking
at his father. James' breathing was as if strangled; his eyes were
closed. And in Soames, looking on his father so worn and white and
wasted, listening to his strangled breathing, there rose a
passionate vehemence of anger against Nature, cruel, inexorable
Nature, kneeling on the chest of that wisp of a body, slowly
pressing out the breath, pressing out the life of the being who was
dearest to him in the world. His father, of all men, had lived a
careful life, moderate, abstemious, and this was his reward--to
have life slowly, painfully squeezed out of him! And, without
knowing that he spoke, he said: "It's cruel!"
He saw his mother cover her eyes and Winifred bow her face towards
the bed. Women! They put up with things so much. better than
men. He took a step nearer to his father. For three days James
had not been shaved, and his lips and chin were covered with hair,
hardly more snowy than his forehead. It softened his face, gave it
a queer look already not of this world. His eyes opened. Soames
went quite close and bent over. The lips moved.
"Here I am, Father:"
"Um--what--what news? They never tell...." the voice died, and a
flood of emotion made Soames' face work so that he could not speak.
Tell him?--yes. But what? He made a great effort, got his lips
together, and said:
"Good news, dear, good--Annette, a son."
"Ah!" It was the queerest sound, ugly, relieved, pitiful,
triumphant--like the noise a baby makes getting what it wants. The
eyes closed, and that strangled sound of breathing began again.
Soames recoiled to the chair and stonily sat down. The lie he had
told, based, as it were, on some deep, temperamental instinct that
after death James would not know the truth, had taken away all
power of feeling for the moment. His arm brushed against
something. It was his father's naked foot. In the struggle to
breathe he had pushed it out from under the clothes. Soames took
it in his hand, a cold foot, light and thin, white, very cold.
What use to put it back, to wrap up that which must be colder soon!
He warmed it mechanically with his hand, listening to his father's
laboured breathing; while the power of feeling rose again within
him. A little sob, quickly smothered, came from Winifred, but his
mother sat unmoving with her eyes fixed on James. Soames signed to
"Where's the doctor?" he whispered.
"He's been sent for."
"Can't you do anything to ease his breathing?"
"Only an injection; and he can't stand it. The doctor said, while
he was fighting...."
"He's not fighting," whispered Soames, "he's being slowly
smothered. It's awful."
James stirred uneasily, as if he knew what they were saying.
Soames rose and bent over him. James feebly moved his two hands,
and Soames took them.
"He wants to be pulled up," whispered the nurse.
Soames pulled. He thought he pulled gently, but a look almost of
anger passed over James' face. The nurse plumped the pillows.
Soames laid the hands down, and bending over kissed his father's
forehead. As he was raising himself again, James' eyes bent on him
a look which seemed to come from the very depths of what was left
within. 'I'm done, my boy,' it seemed to say, 'take care of them,
take care of yourself; take care--I leave it all to you.'
"Yes, Yes," Soames whispered, "yes, yes."
Behind him the nurse did he knew, not what, for his father made a
tiny movement of repulsion as if resenting that interference; and
almost at once his breathing eased away, became quiet; he lay very
still. The strained expression on his face passed, a curious white
tranquillity took its place. His eyelids quivered, rested; the
whole face rested; at ease. Only by the faint puffing of his lips
could they tell that he was breathing. Soames sank back on his
chair, and fell to cherishing the foot again. He heard the nurse
quietly crying over there by the fire; curious that she, a
stranger, should be the only one of them who cried! He heard the
quiet lick and flutter of the fire flames. One more old Forsyte
going to his long rest--wonderful, they were!--wonderful how he had
held on! His mother and Winifred were leaning forward, hanging on
the sight of James' lips. But Soames bent sideways over the feet,
warming them both; they gave him comfort, colder and colder though
they grew. Suddenly he started up; a sound, a dreadful sound such
as he had never heard, was coming from his father's lips, as if an
outraged heart had broken with a long moan. What a strong heart,
to have uttered that farewell! It ceased. Soaines looked into the
face. No motion; no breath! Dead! He kissed the brow, turned
round and went out of the room. He ran upstairs to the bedroom,
his old bedroom, still kept for him; flung himself face down on the
bed, and broke into sobs which he stilled with the pillow....
A little later he went downstairs and passed into the room. James
lay alone, wonderfully calm, free from shadow and anxiety, with the
gravity on his ravaged face which underlies great age, the worn
fine gravity of old coins.
Soames looked steadily at that face, at the fire, at all the room
with windows thrown open to the London night.
"Good-bye!" he whispered, and went out.
He had much to see to, that night and all next day. A telegram at
breakfast reassured him about Annette, and he only caught the last
train back to Reading, with Emily's kiss on his forehead and in his
ears her words:
"I don't know what I should have done without you, my dear boy."
He reached his house at midnight. The weather had changed, was
mild again, as though, having finished its work and sent a Forsyte
to his last account, it could relax. A second telegram, received
at dinner-time, had confirmed the good news of Annette, and,
instead of going in, Soames passed down through the garden in the
moonlight to his houseboat. He could sleep there quite well.
Bitterly tired, he lay down on the sofa in his fur coat and fell
asleep. He woke soon after dawn and went on deck. He stood
against the rail, looking west where the river swept round in a
wide curve under the woods. In Soames, appreciation of natural
beauty was curiously like that of his farmer ancestors, a sense of
grievance if it wasn't there, sharpened, no doubt, and civilised,
by his researches among landscape painting. But dawn has power to
fertilise the most matter-of-fact vision, and he was stirred. It
was another world from the river he knew, under that remote cool
light; a world into which man had not entered, an unreal world,
like some strange shore sighted by discovery. Its colour was not
the colour of convention, was hardly colour at all; its shapes were
brooding yet distinct; its silence stunning; it had no scent. Why
it should move him he could not tell, unless it were that he felt
so alone in it, bare of all relationship and all possessions. Into
such a world his father might be voyaging, for all resemblance it
had to the world he had left. And Soames took refuge from it in
wondering what painter could have done it justice. The white-grey
water was like--like the belly of a fish! Was it possible that
this world on which he looked was all private property, except the
water--and even that was tapped! No tree, no shrub, not a blade of
grass, not a bird or beast, not even a fish that was not owned.
And once on a time all this was jungle and marsh and water, and
weird creatures roamed and sported without human cognizance to give
them names; rotting luxuriance had rioted where those tall, care-
fully planted woods came down to the water, and marsh-misted reeds
on that far side had covered all the pasture. Well! they had got
it under, kennelled it all up, labelled it, and stowed it in
lawyers' offices. And a good thing too! But once in a way, as
now, the ghost of the past came out to haunt and brood and whisper
to any human who chanced to be awake: 'Out of my unowned loneliness
you all came, into it some day you will all return.'
And Soames, who felt the chill and the eeriness of that world-new
to him and so very old: the world, unowned, visiting the scene of
its past--went down and made himself tea on a spirit-lamp. When he
had drunk it, he took out writing materials and wrote two
"On the 20th instant at his residence in Park Lane, James Forsyte,
in his ninety-first year. Funeral at noon on the 24th at Highgate.
No flowers by request."
"On the 20th instant at The Shelter; Mapledurham, Annette, wife of
Soames Forsyte, of a daughter." And underneath on the
blottingpaper he traced the word "son."
It was eight o'clock in an ordinary autumn world when he went
across to the house. Bushes across the river stood round and
bright-coloured out of a milky haze; the wood-smoke went up blue
and straight; and his doves cooed, preening their feathers in the
He stole up to his dressing-room, bathed, shaved, put on fresh
linen and dark clothes.
Madame Lamotte was beginning her breakfast when he went down.
She looked at his clothes, said, "Don't tell me!" and pressed his
hand. "Annette is prettee well. But the doctor say she can never
have no more children. You knew that?" Soames nodded. "It's a
pity. Mais la petite est adorable. Du cafe?"
Soames got away from her as soon as he could. She offended him--
solid, matter-of-fact, quick, clear--French. He could not bear her
vowels, her 'r's'; he resented the way she had looked at him, as if
it were his fault that Annette could never bear him a son! His
fault! He even resented her cheap adoration of the daughter he had
not yet seen.
Curious how he jibbed away from sight of his wife and child!
One would have thought he must have rushed up at the first moment.
On the contrary, he had a sort of physical shrinking from it--
fastidious possessor that he was. He was afraid of what Annette
was thinking of him, author of her agonies, afraid of the look of
the baby, afraid of showing his disappointment with the present
He spent an hour walking up and down the drawing-room before he
could screw his courage up to mount the stairs and knock on the
door of their room.
Madame Lamotte opened it.
"Ah! At last you come! Elle vous attend!" She passed him, and
Soames went in with his noiseless step, his jaw firmly set, his
Annette was very pale and very pretty lying there. The baby was
hidden away somewhere; he could not see it. He went up to the bed,
and with sudden emotion bent and kissed her forehead.
"Here you are then, Soames," she said. "I am not so bad now. But
I suffered terribly, terribly. I am glad I cannot have any more.
Oh! how I suffered!"
Soames stood silent, stroking her hand; words of endearment, of
sympathy, absolutely would not come; the thought passed through
him: 'An English girl wouldn't have said that!' At this moment he
knew with certainty that he would never be near to her in spirit
and in truth, nor she to him. He had collected her--that was all!
And Jolyon's words came rushing into his mind: "I should imagine
you will be glad to have your neck out of chancery." Well, he had
got it out! Had he got it in again?
"We must feed you up," he said, "you'll soon be strong."
"Don't you want to see baby, Soames? She is asleep."
"Of course," said Soames, "very much."
He passed round the foot of the bed to the other side and stood
staring. For the first moment what he saw was much what he had
expected to see--a baby. But as he stared and the baby breathed
and made little sleeping movements with its tiny features, it
seemed to assume an individual shape, grew to be like a picture, a
thing he would know again; not repulsive, strangely bud-like and
touching. It had dark hair. He touched it with his finger, he
wanted to see its eyes. They opened, they were dark--whether blue
or brown he could not tell. The eyes winked, stared, they had a
sort of sleepy depth in them. And suddenly his heart felt queer,
warm, as if elated.
"Ma petite fleur!" Annette said softly.
"Fleur," repeated Soames: "Fleur! we'll call her that."
The sense of triumph and renewed possession swelled within him.
By God! this--this thing was his!