Part 8 out of 21
fellow to set much store by a financial crisis. And so he too
rejected this theory of suicide, the dead man's face rose too
clearly before him. Gone in the heyday of his summer--and to
believe thus that an accident had cut Bosinney off in the full
sweep of his passion was more than ever pitiful to young Jolyon.
Then came a vision of Soames' home as it now was, and must be
hereafter. The streak of lightning had flashed its clear uncanny
gleam on bare bones with grinning spaces between, the disguising
flesh was gone....
In the dining-room at Stanhope Gate old Jolyon was sitting alone
when his son came in. He looked very wan in his great armchair.
And his eyes travelling round the walls with their pictures of
still life, and the masterpiece 'Dutch fishing-boats at Sunset'
seemed as though passing their gaze over his life with its hopes,
its gains, its achievements.
"Ah! Jo!" he said, "is that you? I've told poor little June.
But that's not all of it. Are you going to Soames'? She's
brought it on herself, I suppose; but somehow I can't bear to
think of her, shut up there--and all alone." And holding up his
thin, veined hand, he clenched it.
After leaving James and old Jolyon in the mortuary of the
hospital, Soames hurried aimlessly along the streets.
The tragic event of Bosinney's death altered the complexion of
everything. There was no longer the same feeling that to lose a
minute would be fatal, nor would he now risk communicating the
fact of his wife's flight to anyone till the inquest was over.
That morning he had risen early, before the postman came, had
taken the first-post letters from the box himself, and, though
there had been none from Irene, he had made an opportunity of
telling Bilson that her mistress was at the sea; he would
probably, he said, be going down himself from Saturday to Monday.
This had given him time to breathe, time to leave no stone
unturned to find her.
But now, cut off from taking steps by Bosinney's death--that
strange death, to think of which was like putting a hot iron to
his heart, like lifting a great weight from it--he did not know
how to pass his day; and he wandered here and there through the
streets, looking at every face he met, devoured by a hundred
And as he wandered, he thought of him who had finished his
wandering, his prowling, and would never haunt his house again.
Already in the afternoon he passed posters announcing the
identity of the dead man, and bought the papers to see what they
said. He would stop their mouths if he could, and he went into
the City, and was closeted with Boulter for a long time.
On his way home, passing the steps of Jobson's about half past
four, he met George Forsyte, who held out an evening paper to
"Here! Have you seen this about the poor Buccaneer?"
Soames answered stonily: "Yes."
George stared at him. He had never liked Soames; he now held him
responsible for Bosinney's death. Soames had done for him--done
for him by that act of property that had sent the Buccaneer to
run amok that fatal afternoon.
'The poor fellow,' he was thinking, 'was so cracked with
jealousy, so cracked for his vengeance, that he heard nothing of
the omnibus in that infernal fog.'
Soames had done for him! And this judgment was in George's eyes.
"They talk of suicide here," he said at last. "That cat won't
Soames shook his head. "An accident," he muttered.
Clenching his fist on the paper, George crammed it into his
pocket. He could not resist a parting shot.
"H'mm! All flourishing at home? Any little Soameses yet?"
With a face as white as the steps of Jobson's, and a lip raised
as if snarling, Soames brushed past him and was gone....
On reaching home, and entering the little lighted hall with his
latchkey, the first thing that caught his eye was his wife's
gold-mounted umbrella lying on the rug chest. Flinging off his
fur coat, he hurried to the drawing-room.
The curtains were drawn for the night, a bright fire of
cedar-logs burned in the grate, and by its light he saw Irene
sitting in her usual corner on the sofa. He shut the door
softly, and went towards her. She did not move, and did not seem
to see him.
"So you've come back?" he said. "Why are you sitting here in the
Then he caught sight of her face, so white and motionless that it
seemed as though the blood must have stopped flowing in her
veins; and her eyes, that looked enormous, like the great, wide,
startled brown eyes of an owl.
Huddled in her grey fur against the sofa cushions, she had a
strange resemblance to a captive owl, bunched fir its soft
feathers against the wires of a cage. The supple erectness of
her figure was gone, as though she had been broken by cruel
exercise; as though there were no longer any reason for being
beautiful, and supple, and erect.
"So you've come back," he repeated.
She never looked up, and never spoke, the firelight playing over
her motionless figure.
Suddenly she tried to rise, but he prevented her; it was then
that he understood.
She had come back like an animal wounded to death, not knowing
where to turn, not knowing what she was doing. The sight of her
figure, huddled in the fur, was enough.
He knew then for certain that Bosinney had been her lover; knew
that she had seen the report of his death--perhaps, like himself,
had bought a paper at the draughty corner of a street, and read
She had come back then of her own accord, to the cage she had
pined to be free of--and taking in all the tremendous
significance of this, he longed to cry: "Take your hated body,
that I love, out of my house! Take away that pitiful white face,
so cruel and soft--before I crush it. Get out of my sight; never
let me see you again!"
And, at those unspoken words, he seemed to see her rise and move
away, like a woman in a terrible dream, from which she was
fighting to awake--rise and go out into the dark and cold, without
a thought of him, without so much as the knowledge of his
Then he cried, contradicting what he had not yet spoken, "No;
stay there!" And turning away from her, he sat down in his
accustomed chair on the other side of the hearth.
They sat in silence.
And Soames thought: 'Why is all this? Why should I suffer so?
What have I done? It is not my fault!'
Again he looked at her, huddled like a bird that is shot and
dying, whose poor breast you see panting as the air is taken from
it, whose poor eyes look at you who have shot it, with a slow,
soft, unseeing look, taking farewell of all that is good--of the
sun, and the air, and its mate.
So they sat, by the firelight, in the silence, one on each side
of the hearth.
And the fume of the burning cedar logs, that he loved so well,
seemed to grip Soames by the throat till he could bear it no
longer. And going out into the hall he flung the door wide, to
gulp down the cold air that came in; then without hat or overcoat
went out into the Square.
Along the garden rails a half-starved cat came rubbing her way
towards him, and Soames thought: 'Suffering! when will it cease,
At a front door across the way was a man of his acquaintance
named Rutter, scraping his boots, with an air of 'I am master
here.' And Soames walked on.
From far in the clear air the bells of the church where he and
Irene had been married were pealing in 'practice' for the advent
of Christ, the chimes ringing out above the sound of traffic. He
felt a craving for strong drink, to lull him to indifference, or
rouse him to fury. If only he could burst out of himself, out of
this web that for the first time in his life he felt around him.
If only he could surrender to the thought: 'Divorce her--turn her
out! She has forgotten you. Forget her!'
If only he could surrender to the thought: 'Let her go--she has
If only he could surrender to the desire: 'Make a slave of her--
she is in your power!'
If only even he could surrender to the sudden vision: 'What does
it all matter?' Forget himself for a minute, forget that it
mattered what he did, forget that whatever he did he must
If only he could act on an impulse!
He could forget nothing; surrender to no thought, vision, or
desire; it was all too serious; too close around him, an
On the far side of the Square newspaper boys were calling their
evening wares, and the ghoulish cries mingled and jangled with
the sound of those church bells.
Soames covered his ears. The thought flashed across him that but
for a chance, he himself, and not Bosinney, might be lying dead,
and she, instead of crouching there like a shot bird with those
Something soft touched his legs, the cat was rubbing herself
against them. And a sob that shook him from head to foot burst
from Soames' chest. Then all was still again in the dark, where
the houses seemed to stare at him, each with a master and
mistress of its own, and a secret story of happiness or sorrow.
And suddenly he saw that his own door was open, and black against
the light from the hall a man standing with his back turned.
Something slid too in his breast, and he stole up close behind.
He could see his own fur coat flung across the carved oak chair;
the Persian rugs; the silver bowls, the rows of porcelain plates
arranged along the walls, and this unknown man who was standing
And sharply he asked: "What is it you want, sir?"
The visitor turned. It was young Jolyon.
"The door was open," he said. "Might I see your wife for a
minute, I have a message for her?"
Soames gave him a strange, sidelong stare.
"My wife can see no one," he muttered doggedly.
Young Jolyon answered gently: "I shouldn't keep her a minute."
Soames brushed by him and barred the way.
"She can see no one," he said again.
Young Jolyon's glance shot past him into the hall, and Soames
turned. There in the drawing-room doorway stood Irene, her eyes
were wild and eager, her lips were parted, her hands out-
stretched. In the sight of both men that light vanished from
her face; her hands dropped to her sides; she stood like stone.
Soames spun round, and met his visitor's eyes, and at the look he
saw in them, a sound like a snarl escaped him. He drew his lips
back in the ghost of a smile.
"This is my house," he said; "I manage my own affairs. I've told
you once--I tell you again; we are not at home."
And in young Jolyon's face he slammed the door.
THE FORSYTE SAGA
Indian Summer of a Forsyte
TO ANDRE CHEVRILLON
Indian Summer of a Forsyte
"And Summer's lease hath all
too short a date."
In the last day of May in the early 'nineties, about six o'clock of
the evening, old Jolyon Forsyte sat under the oak tree below the
terrace of his house at Robin Hill. He was waiting for the midges
to bite him, before abandoning the glory of the afternoon. His
thin brown hand, where blue veins stood out, held the end of a
cigar in its tapering, long-nailed fingers--a pointed polished nail
had survived with him from those earlier Victorian days when to
touch nothing, even with the tips of the fingers, had been so
distinguished. His domed forehead, great white moustache, lean
cheeks, and long lean jaw were covered from the westering sunshine
by an old brown Panama hat. His legs were crossed; in all his
attitude was serenity and a kind of elegance, as of an old man who
every morning put eau de Cologne upon his silk handkerchief. At
his feet lay a woolly brown-and-white dog trying to be a
Pomeranian--the dog Balthasar between whom and old Jolyon primal
aversion had changed into attachment with the years. Close to his
chair was a swing, and on the swing was seated one of Holly's dolls
--called 'Duffer Alice'--with her body fallen over her legs and her
doleful nose buried in a black petticoat. She was never out of
disgrace, so it did not matter to her how she sat. Below the oak
tree the lawn dipped down a bank, stretched to the fernery, and,
beyond that refinement, became fields, dropping to the pond, the
coppice, and the prospect--'Fine, remarkable'--at which Swithin
Forsyte, from under this very tree, had stared five years ago when
he drove down with Irene to look at the house. Old Jolyon had
heard of his brother's exploit--that drive which had become quite
celebrated on Forsyte 'Change. Swithin! And the fellow had gone
and died, last November, at the age of only seventy-nine, renewing
the doubt whether Forsytes could live for ever, which had first
arisen when Aunt Ann passed away. Died! and left only Jolyon and
James, Roger and Nicholas and Timothy, Julia, Hester, Susan! And
old Jolyon thought: 'Eighty-five! I don't feel it--except when I
get that pain.'
His memory went searching. He had not felt his age since he had
bought his nephew Soames' ill-starred house and settled into it
here at Robin Hill over three years ago. It was as if he had been
getting younger every spring, living in the country with his son
and his grandchildren--June, and the little ones of the second
marriage, Jolly and Holly; living down here out of the racket of
London and the cackle of Forsyte 'Change,' free of his boards, in a
delicious atmosphere of no work and all play, with plenty of
occupation in the perfecting and mellowing of the house and its
twenty acres, and in ministering to the whims of Holly and Jolly.
All the knots and crankiness, which had gathered in his heart
during that long and tragic business of June, Soames, Irene his
wife, and poor young Bosinney, had been smoothed out. Even June
had thrown off her melancholy at last--witness this travel in Spain
she was taking now with her father and her stepmother. Curiously
perfect peace was left by their departure; blissful, yet blank,
because his son was not there. Jo was never anything but a comfort
and a pleasure to him nowadays--an amiable chap; but women,
somehow--even the best--got a little on one's nerves, unless of
course one admired them.
Far-off a cuckoo called; a wood-pigeon was cooing from the first
elm-tree in the field, and how the daisies and buttercups had
sprung up after the last mowing! The wind had got into the sou'-
west, too--a delicious air, sappy! He pushed his hat back and let
the sun fall on his chin and cheek. Somehow, to-day, he wanted
company--wanted a pretty face to look at. People treated the old as
if they wanted nothing. And with the un-Forsytean philosophy which
ever intruded on his soul, he thought: 'One's never had enough.
With a foot in the grave one'll want something, I shouldn't be
surprised!' Down here--away from the exigencies of affairs--his
grandchildren, and the flowers, trees, birds of his little domain,
to say nothing of sun and moon and stars above them, said, 'Open,
sesame,' to him day and night. And sesame had opened--how much,
perhaps, he did not know. He had always been responsive to what
they had begun to call 'Nature,' genuinely, almost religiously
responsive, though he had never lost his habit of calling a sunset
a sunset and a view a view, however deeply they might move him.
But nowadays Nature actually made him ache, he appreciated it so.
Every one of these calm, bright, lengthening days, with Holly's
hand in his, and the dog Balthasar in front looking studiously for
what he never found, he would stroll, watching the roses open,
fruit budding on the walls, sunlight brightening the oak leaves and
saplings in the coppice, watching the water-lily leaves unfold and
glisten, and the silvery young corn of the one wheat field;
listening to the starlings and skylarks, and the Alderney cows
chewing the cud, flicking slow their tufted tails; and every one of
these fine days he ached a little from sheer love of it all,
feeling perhaps, deep down, that he had not very much longer to
enjoy it. The thought that some day--perhaps not ten years hence,
perhaps not five--all this world would be taken away from him,
before he had exhausted his powers of loving it, seemed to him in
the nature of an injustice brooding over his horizon. If anything
came after this life, it wouldn't be what he wanted; not Robin
Hill, and flowers and birds and pretty faces--too few, even now, of
those about him! With the years his dislike of humbug had
increased; the orthodoxy he had worn in the 'sixties, as he had
worn side-whiskers out of sheer exuberance, had long dropped off,
leaving him reverent before three things alone--beauty, upright
conduct, and the sense of property; and the greatest of these now
was beauty. He had always had wide interests, and, indeed could
still read The Times, but he was liable at any moment to put it
down if he heard a blackbird sing. Upright conduct, property--
somehow, they were tiring; the blackbirds and the sunsets never
tired him, only gave him an uneasy feeling that he could not get
enough of them. Staring into the stilly radiance of the early
evening and at the little gold and white flowers on the lawn, a
thought came to him: This weather was like the music of 'Orfeo,'
which he had recently heard at Covent Garden. A beautiful opera,
not like Meyerbeer, nor even quite Mozart, but, in its way, perhaps
even more lovely; something classical and of the Golden Age about
it, chaste and mellow, and the Ravogli 'almost worthy of the old
days'--highest praise he could bestow. The yearning of Orpheus for
the beauty he was losing, for his love going down to Hades, as in
life love and beauty did go--the yearning which sang and throbbed
through the golden music, stirred also in the lingering beauty of
the world that evening. And with the tip of his cork-soled,
elastic-sided boot he involuntarily stirred the ribs of the dog
Balthasar, causing the animal to wake and attack his fleas; for
though he was supposed to have none, nothing could persuade him of
the fact. When he had finished he rubbed the place he had been
scratching against his master's calf, and settled down again with
his chin over the instep of the disturbing boot. And into old
Jolyon's mind came a sudden recollection--a face he had seen at
that opera three weeks ago--Irene, the wife of his precious nephew
Soames, that man of property! Though he had not met her since the
day of the 'At Home' in his old house at Stanhope Gate, which
celebrated his granddaughter June's ill-starred engagement to young
Bosinney, he had remembered her at once, for he had always admired
her--a very pretty creature. After the death of young Bosinney,
whose mistress she had so reprehensibly become, he had heard that
she had left Soames at once. Goodness only knew what she had been
doing since. That sight of her face--a side view--in the row in
front, had been literally the only reminder these three years that
she was still alive. No one ever spoke of her. And yet Jo had
told him something once--something which had upset him completely.
The boy had got it from George Forsyte, he believed, who had seen
Bosinney in the fog the day he was run over--something which
explained the young fellow's distress--an act of Soames towards his
wife--a shocking act. Jo had seen her, too, that afternoon, after
the news was out, seen her for a moment, and his description had
always lingered in old Jolyon's mind--'wild and lost' he had called
her. And next day June had gone there--bottled up her feelings and
gone there, and the maid had cried and told her how her mistress
had slipped out in the night and vanished. A tragic business
altogether! One thing was certain--Soames had never been able to
lay hands on her again. And he was living at Brighton, and
journeying up and down--a fitting fate, the man of property! For
when he once took a dislike to anyone--as he had to his nephew--old
Jolyon never got over it. He remembered still the sense of relief
with which he had heard the news of Irene's disappearance. It had
been shocking to think of her a prisoner in that house to which she
must have wandered back, when Jo saw her, wandered back for a
moment--like a wounded animal to its hole after seeing that news,
'Tragic death of an Architect,' in the street. Her face had struck
him very much the other night--more beautiful than he had remembered, but like a mask, with something going on beneath it. A young
woman still--twenty-eight perhaps. Ah, well! Very likely she
had another lover by now. But at this subversive thought--for
married women should never love: once, even, had been too much--his
instep rose, and with it the dog Balthasar's head. The sagacious
animal stood up and looked into old Jolyon's face. 'Walk?' he
seemed to say; and old Jolyon answered: "Come on, old chap!"
Slowly, as was their wont, they crossed among the constellations of
buttercups and daisies, and entered the fernery. This feature,
where very little grew as yet, had been judiciously dropped below
the level of the lawn so that it might come up again on the level
of the other lawn and give the impression of irregularity, so
important in horticulture. Its rocks and earth were beloved of the
dog Balthasar, who sometimes found a mole there. Old Jolyon made a
point of passing through it because, though it was not beautiful,
he intended that it should be, some day, and he would think: 'I
must get Varr to come down and look at it; he's better than Beech.'
For plants, like houses and human complaints, required the best
expert consideration. It was inhabited by snails, and if
accompanied by his grandchildren, he would point to one and tell
them the story of the little boy who said: 'Have plummers got
leggers, Mother? 'No, sonny.' 'Then darned if I haven't been and
swallowed a snileybob.' And when they skipped and clutched his
hand, thinking of the snileybob going down the little boy's 'red
lane,' his eyes would twinkle. Emerging from the fernery, he
opened the wicket gate, which just there led into the first field,
a large and park-like area, out of which, within brick walls, the
vegetable garden had been carved. Old Jolyon avoided this, which
did not suit his mood, and made down the hill towards the pond.
Balthasar, who knew a water-rat or two, gambolled in front, at the
gait which marks an oldish dog who takes the same walk every day.
Arrived at the edge, old Jolyon stood, noting another water-lily
opened since yesterday; he would show it to Holly to-morrow, when
'his little sweet' had got over the upset which had followed on her
eating a tomato at lunch--her little arrangements were very
delicate. Now that Jolly had gone to school--his first term--Holly
was with him nearly all day long, and he missed her badly. He felt
that pain too, which often bothered him now, a little dragging at
his left side. He looked back up the hill. Really, poor young
Bosinney had made an uncommonly good job of the house; he would
have done very well for himself if he had lived! And where was he
now? Perhaps, still haunting this, the site of his last work, of
his tragic love affair. Or was Philip Bosinney's spirit diffused
in the general? Who could say? That dog was getting his legs
muddy! And he moved towards the coppice. There had been the most
delightful lot of bluebells, and he knew where some still lingered
like little patches of sky fallen in between the trees, away out
of the sun. He passed the cow-houses and the hen-houses there
installed, and pursued a path into the thick of the saplings,
making for one of the bluebell plots. Balthasar, preceding him
once more, uttered a low growl. Old Jolyon stirred him with his
foot, but the dog remained motionless, just where there was no room
to pass, and the hair rose slowly along the centre of his woolly
back. Whether from the growl and the look of the dog's stivered
hair, or from the sensation which a man feels in a wood, old Jolyon
also felt something move along his spine. And then the path
turned, and there was an old mossy log, and on it a woman sitting.
Her face was turned away, and he had just time to think: 'She's
trespassing--I must have a board put up!' before she turned.
Powers above! The face he had seen at the opera--the very woman he
had just been thinking of! In that confused moment he saw things
blurred, as if a spirit--queer effect--the slant of sunlight
perhaps on her violet-grey frock! And then she rose and stood
smiling, her head a little to one side. Old Jolyon thought: 'How
pretty she is!' She did not speak, neither did he; and he realized
why with a certain admiration. She was here no doubt because of
some memory, and did not mean to try and get out of it by vulgar
"Don't let that dog touch your frock," he said; "he's got wet feet.
Come here, you!"
But the dog Balthasar went on towards the visitor, who put her hand
down and stroked his head. Old Jolyon said quickly:
"I saw you at the opera the other night; you didn't notice me."
"Oh, yes! I did."
He felt a subtle flattery in that, as though she had added: 'Do you
think one could miss seeing you?'
"They're all in Spain," he remarked abruptly. "I'm alone; I drove
up for the opera. The Ravogli's good. Have you seen the cow-
In a situation so charged with mystery and something very like
emotion he moved instinctively towards that bit of property, and
she moved beside him. Her figure swayed faintly, like the best
kind of French figures; her dress, too, was a sort of French grey.
He noticed two or three silver threads in her amber-coloured hair,
strange hair with those dark eyes of hers, and that creamy-pale
face. A sudden sidelong look from the velvety brown eyes disturbed
him. It seemed to come from deep and far, from another world
almost, or at all events from some one not living very much in
this. And he said mechanically
"Where are you living now?"
"I have a little flat in Chelsea."
He did not want to hear what she was doing, did not want to hear
anything; but the perverse word came out:
She nodded. It was a relief to know that. And it came into his
mind that, but for a twist of fate, she would have been mistress of
this coppice, showing these cow-houses to him, a visitor.
"All Alderneys," he muttered; "they give the best milk. This one's
a pretty creature. Woa, Myrtle!"
The fawn-coloured cow, with eyes as soft and brown as Irene's own,
was standing absolutely still, not having long been milked. She
looked round at them out of the corner of those lustrous, mild,
cynical eyes, and from her grey lips a little dribble of saliva
threaded its way towards the straw. The scent of hay and vanilla
and ammonia rose in the dim light of the cool cow-house; and old
"You must come up and have some dinner with me. I'll send you home
in the carriage."
He perceived a struggle going on within her; natural, no doubt,
with her memories. But he wanted her company; a pretty face, a
charming figure, beauty! He had been alone all the afternoon.
Perhaps his eyes were wistful, for she answered: "Thank you, Uncle
Jolyon. I should like to."
He rubbed his hands, and said:
"Capital! Let's go up, then!" And, preceded by the dog Balthasar,
they ascended through the field. The sun was almost level in their
faces now, and he could see, not only those silver threads, but
little lines, just deep enough to stamp her beauty with a coin-like
fineness--the special look of life unshared with others. "I'll
take her in by the terrace," he thought: "I won't make a common
visitor of her."
"What do you do all day?" he said.
"Teach music; I have another interest, too."
"Work!" said old Jolyon, picking up the doll from off the swing,
and smoothing its black petticoat. "Nothing like it, is there? I
don't do any now. I'm getting on. What interest is that?"
"Trying to help women who've come to grief." Old Jolyon did not
quite understand. "To grief?" he repeated; then realised with a
shock that she meant exactly what he would have meant himself if he
had used that expression. Assisting the Magdalenes of London!
What a weird and terrifying interest! And, curiosity overcoming
his natural shrinking, he asked:
"Why? What do you do for them?"
"Not much. I've no money to spare. I can only give sympathy and
Involuntarily old Jolyon's hand sought his purse. He said hastily:
"How d'you get hold of them?"
"I go to a hospital."
"A hospital! Phew!"
"What hurts me most is that once they nearly all had some sort of
Old Jolyon straightened the doll. "Beauty!" he ejaculated: "Ha!
Yes! A sad business!" and he moved towards the house. Through a
French window, under sun-blinds not yet drawn up, he preceded her
into the room where he was wont to study The Times and the sheets
of an agricultural magazine, with huge illustrations of mangold
wurzels, and the like, which provided Holly with material for her
"Dinner's in half an hour. You'd like to wash your hands! I'll
take you to June's room."
He saw her looking round eagerly; what changes since she had last
visited this house with her husband, or her lover, or both perhaps-
-he did not know, could not say! All that was dark, and he wished
to leave it so. But what changes! And in the hall he said:
"My boy Jo's a painter, you know. He's got a lot of taste. It
isn't mine, of course, but I've let him have his way."
She was standing very still, her eyes roaming through the hall and
music room, as it now was--all thrown into one, under the great
skylight. Old Jolyon had an odd impression of her. Was she trying
to conjure somebody from the shades of that space where the
colouring was all pearl-grey and silver? He would have had gold
himself; more lively and solid. But Jo had French tastes, and it
had come out shadowy like that, with an effect as of the fume of
cigarettes the chap was always smoking, broken here and there by a
little blaze of blue or crimson colour. It was not his dream!
Mentally he had hung this space with those gold-framed masterpieces
of still and stiller life which he had bought in days when quantity
was precious. And now where were they? Sold for a song! That
something which made him, alone among Forsytes, move with the times
had warned him against the struggle to retain them. But in his
study he still had 'Dutch Fishing Boats at Sunset.'
He began to mount the stairs with her, slowly, for he felt his
"These are the bathrooms," he said, "and other arrangements. I've
had them tiled. The nurseries are along there. And this is Jo's
and his wife's. They all communicate. But you remember, I
Irene nodded. They passed on, up the gallery and entered a large
room with a small bed, and several windows.
"This is mine," he said. The walls were covered with the
photographs of children and watercolour sketches, and he added
"These are Jo's. The view's first-rate. You can see the Grand
Stand at Epsom in clear weather."
The sun was down now, behind the house, and over the 'prospect' a
luminous haze had settled, emanation of the long and prosperous
day. Few houses showed, but fields and trees faintly glistened,
away to a loom of downs.
"The country's changing," he said abruptly, "but there it'll be
when we're all gone. Look at those thrushes--the birds are sweet
here in the mornings. I'm glad to have washed my hands of London."
Her face was close to the window pane, and he was struck by its
mournful look. 'Wish I could make her look happy!' he thought. 'A
pretty face, but sad!' And taking up his can of hot water he went
out into the gallery.
"This is June's room," he said, opening the next door and putting
the can down; "I think you'll find everything." And closing the
door behind her he went back to his own room. Brushing his hair
with his great ebony brushes, and dabbing his forehead with eau de
Cologne, he mused. She had come so strangely--a sort of visit-
ation; mysterious, even romantic, as if his desire for company, for
beauty, had been fulfilled by whatever it was which fulfilled that
sort of thing. And before the mirror he straightened his still
upright figure, passed the brushes over his great white moustache,
touched up his eyebrows with eau de Cologne, and rang the bell.
"I forgot to let them know that I have a lady to dinner with me.
Let cook do something extra, and tell Beacon to have the landau and
pair at half-past ten to drive her back to Town to-night. Is Miss
The maid thought not. And old Jolyon, passing down the gallery,
stole on tiptoe towards the nursery, and opened the door whose
hinges he kept specially oiled that he might slip in and out in the
evenings without being heard.
But Holly was asleep, and lay like a miniature Madonna, of that
type which the old painters could not tell from Venus, when they
had completed her. Her long dark lashes clung to her cheeks; on
her face was perfect peace--her little arrangements were evidently
all right again. And old Jolyon, in the twilight of the room,
stood adoring her! It was so charming, solemn, and loving--that
little face. He had more than his share of the blessed capacity of
living again in the young. They were to him his future life--all
of a future life that his fundamental pagan sanity perhaps
admitted. There she was with everything before her, and his
blood--some of it--in her tiny veins. There she was, his little
companion, to be made as happy as ever he could make her, so that
she knew nothing but love. His heart swelled, and he went out,
stilling the sound of his patent-leather boots. In the corridor an
eccentric notion attacked him: To think that children should come
to that which Irene had told him she was helping! Women who were
all, once, little things like this one sleeping there! 'I must
give her a cheque!' he mused; 'Can't bear to think of them!' They
had never borne reflecting on, those poor outcasts; wounding too
deeply the core of true refinement hidden under layers of
conformity to the sense of property--wounding too grievously the
deepest thing in him--a love of beauty which could give him, even
now, a flutter of the heart, thinking of his evening in the society
of a pretty woman. And he went downstairs, through the swinging
doors, to the back regions. There, in the wine-cellar, was a hock
worth at least two pounds a bottle, a Steinberg Cabinet, better
than any Johannisberg that ever went down throat; a wine of
perfect bouquet, sweet as a nectarine--nectar indeed! He got a
bottle out, handling it like a baby, and holding it level to the
light, to look. Enshrined in its coat of dust, that mellow
coloured, slender-necked bottle gave him deep pleasure. Three
years to settle down again since the move from Town--ought to be in
prime condition! Thirty-five years ago he had bought it--thank God
he had kept his palate, and earned the right to drink it. She
would appreciate this; not a spice of acidity in a dozen. He wiped
the bottle, drew the cork with his own hands, put his nose down,
inhaled its perfume, and went back to the music room.
Irene was standing by the piano; she had taken off her hat and a
lace scarf she had been wearing, so that her gold-coloured hair was
visible, and the pallor of her neck. In her grey frock she made a
pretty picture for old Jolyon, against the rosewood of the piano.
He gave her his arm, and solemnly they went. The room, which had
been designed to enable twenty-four people to dine in comfort, held
now but a little round table. In his present solitude the big
dining-table oppressed old Jolyon; he had caused it to be removed
till his son came back. Here in the company of two really good
copies of Raphael Madonnas he was wont to dine alone. It was the
only disconsolate hour of his day, this summer weather. He had
never been a large eater, like that great chap Swithin, or Sylvanus
Heythorp, or Anthony Thornworthy, those cronies of past times; and
to dine alone, overlooked by the Madonnas, was to him but a
sorrowful occupation, which he got through quickly, that he might
come to the more spiritual enjoyment of his coffee and cigar. But
this evening was a different matter! His eyes twinkled at her
across the little table and he spoke of Italy and Switzerland,
telling her stories of his travels there, and other experiences
which he could no longer recount to his son and grand-daughter
because they knew them. This fresh audience was precious to him;
he had never become one of those old men who ramble round and round
the fields of reminiscence. Himself quickly fatigued by the
insensitive, he instinctively avoided fatiguing others, and his
natural flirtatiousness towards beauty guarded him specially in his
relations with a woman. He would have liked to draw her out, but
though she murmured and smiled and seemed to be enjoying what he
told her, he remained conscious of that mysterious remoteness which
constituted half her fascination. He could not bear women who
threw their shoulders and eyes at you, and chattered away; or hard-
mouthed women who laid down the law and knew more than you did.
There was only one quality in a woman that appealed to him--charm;
and the quieter it was, the more he liked it. And this one had
charm, shadowy as afternoon sunlight on those Italian hills and
valleys he had loved. The feeling, too, that she was, as it were,
apart, cloistered, made her seem nearer to himself, a strangely
desirable companion. When a man is very old and quite out of the
running, he loves to feel secure from the rivalries of youth, for
he would still be first in the heart of beauty. And he drank his
hock, and watched her lips, and felt nearly young. But the dog
Balthasar lay watching her lips too, and despising in his heart the
interruptions of their talk, and the tilting of those greenish
glasses full of a golden fluid which was distasteful to him.
The light was just failing when they went back into the music-room.
And, cigar in mouth, old Jolyon said:
"Play me some Chopin."
By the cigars they smoke, and the composers they love, ye shall
know the texture of men's souls. Old Jolyon could not bear a
strong cigar or Wagner's music. He loved Beethoven and Mozart,
Handel and Gluck, and Schumann, and, for some occult reason, the
operas of Meyerbeer; but of late years he had been seduced by
Chopin, just as in painting he had succumbed to Botticelli. In
yielding to these tastes he had been conscious of divergence from
the standard of the Golden Age. Their poetry was not that of
Milton and Byron and Tennyson; of Raphael and Titian; Mozart and
Beethoven. It was, as it were, behind a veil; their poetry hit no
one in the face, but slipped its fingers under the ribs and turned
and twisted, and melted up the heart. And, never certain that this
was healthy, he did not care a rap so long as he could see the
pictures of the one or hear the music of the other.
Irene sat down at the piano under the electric lamp festooned with
pearl-grey, and old Jolyon, in an armchair, whence he could see
her, crossed his legs and drew slowly at his cigar. She sat a few
moments with her hands on the keys, evidently searching her mind
for what to give him. Then she began and within old Jolyon there
arose a sorrowful pleasure, not quite like anything else in the
world. He fell slowly into a trance, interrupted only by the
movements of taking the cigar out of his mouth at long intervals,
and replacing it. She was there, and the hock within him, and the
scent of tobacco; but there, too, was a world of sunshine lingering
into moonlight, and pools with storks upon them, and bluish trees
above, glowing with blurs of wine-red roses, and fields of lavender
where milk-white cows were grazing, and a woman all shadowy, with
dark eyes and a white neck, smiled, holding out her arms; and
through air which was like music a star dropped and was caught on a
cow's horn. He opened his eyes. Beautiful piece; she played well-
-the touch of an angel! And he closed them again. He felt mirac-
ulously sad and happy, as one does, standing under a lime-tree in
full honey flower. Not live one's own life again, but just stand
there and bask in the smile of a woman's eyes, and enjoy the
bouquet! And he jerked his hand; the dog Balthasar had reached up
and licked it.
"Beautiful!" He said: "Go on--more Chopin!"
She began to play again. This time the resemblance between her and
'Chopin' struck him. The swaying he had noticed in her walk was in
her playing too, and the Nocturne she had chosen and the soft
darkness of her eyes, the light on her hair, as of moonlight from a
golden moon. Seductive, yes; but nothing of Delilah in her or in
that music. A long blue spiral from his cigar ascended and
dispersed. 'So we go out!' he thought. 'No more beauty! Nothing?'
Again Irene stopped.
"Would you like some Gluck? He used to write his music in a sunlit
garden, with a bottle of Rhine wine beside him."
"Ah! yes. Let's have 'Orfeo.'" Round about him now were fields of
gold and silver flowers, white forms swaying in the sunlight,
bright birds flying to and fro. All was summer. Lingering waves
of sweetness and regret flooded his soul. Some cigar ash dropped,
and taking out a silk handkerchief to brush it off, he inhaled a
mingled scent as of snuff and eau de Cologne. 'Ah!' he thought,
'Indian summer--that's all!' and he said: "You haven't played me
She did not answer; did not move. He was conscious of something--
some strange upset. Suddenly he saw her rise and turn away, and a
pang of remorse shot through him. What a clumsy chap! Like
Orpheus, she of course--she too was looking for her lost one in the
hall of memory! And disturbed to the heart, he got up from his
chair. She had gone to the great window at the far end. Gingerly
he followed. Her hands were folded over her breast; he could just
see her cheek, very white. And, quite emotionalized, he said:
"There, there, my love!" The words had escaped him mechanically,
for they were those he used to Holly when she had a pain, but their
effect was instantaneously distressing. She raised her arms,
covered her face with them, and wept.
Old Jolyon stood gazing at her with eyes very deep from age. The
passionate shame she seemed feeling at her abandonment, so unlike
the control and quietude of her whole presence was as if she had
never before broken down in the presence of another being.
"There, there--there, there!" he murmured, and putting his hand out
reverently, touched her. She turned, and leaned the arms which
covered her face against him. Old Jolyon stood very still, keeping
one thin hand on her shoulder. Let her cry her heart out--it would
do her good.
And the dog Balthasar, puzzled, sat down on his stern to examine
The window was still open, the curtains had not been drawn, the
last of daylight from without mingled with faint intrusion from the
lamp within; there was a scent of new-mown grass. With the wisdom
of a long life old Jolyon did not speak. Even grief sobbed itself
out in time; only Time was good for sorrow--Time who saw the
passing of each mood, each emotion in turn; Time the layer-to-rest.
There came into his mind the words: 'As panteth the hart after
cooling streams'--but they were of no use to him. Then, conscious
of a scent of violets, he knew she was drying her eyes. He put his
chin forward, pressed his moustache against her forehead, and felt
her shake with a quivering of her whole body, as of a tree which
shakes itself free of raindrops. She put his hand to her lips, as
if saying: "All over now! Forgive me!"
The kiss filled him with a strange comfort; he led her back to
where she had been so upset. And the dog Balthasar, following,
laid the bone of one of the cutlets they had eaten at their feet.
Anxious to obliterate the memory of that emotion, he could think of
nothing better than china; and moving with her slowly from cabinet
to cabinet, he kept taking up bits of Dresden and Lowestoft and
Chelsea, turning them round and round with his thin, veined hands,
whose skin, faintly freckled, had such an aged look.
"I bought this at Jobson's," he would say; "cost me thirty pounds.
It's very old. That dog leaves his bones all over the place. This
old 'ship-bowl' I picked up at the sale when that precious rip, the
Marquis, came to grief. But you don't remember. Here's a nice
piece of Chelsea. Now, what would you say this was?" And he was
comforted, feeling that, with her taste, she was taking a real
interest in these things; for, after all, nothing better composes
the nerves than a doubtful piece of china.
When the crunch of the carriage wheels was heard at last, he said:
"You must come again; you must come to lunch, then I can show you
these by daylight, and my little sweet--she's a dear little thing.
This dog seems to have taken a fancy to you."
For Balthasar, feeling that she was about to leave, was rubbing his
side against her leg. Going out under the porch with her, he said:
"He'll get you up in an hour and a quarter. Take this for your
protegees," and he slipped a cheque for fifty pounds into her hand.
He saw her brightened eyes, and heard her murmur: "Oh! Uncle
Jolyon!" and a real throb of pleasure went through him. That meant
one or two poor creatures helped a little, and it meant that she
would come again. He put his hand in at the window and grasped
hers once more. The carriage rolled away. He stood looking at the
moon and the shadows of the trees, and thought: 'A sweet night!
Two days of rain, and summer set in bland and sunny. Old Jolyon
walked and talked with Holly. At first he felt taller and full of
a new vigour; then he felt restless. Almost every afternoon they
would enter the coppice, and walk as far as the log. 'Well, she's
not there!' he would think, 'of course not!' And he would feel a
little shorter, and drag his feet walking up the hill home, with
his hand clapped to his left side. Now and then the thought would
move in him: 'Did she come--or did I dream it?' and he would stare
at space, while the dog Balthasar stared at him. Of course she
would not come again! He opened the letters from Spain with less
excitement. They were not returning till July; he felt, oddly,
that he could bear it. Every day at dinner he screwed up his eyes
and looked at where she had sat. She was not there, so he
unscrewed his eyes again.
On the seventh afternoon he thought: 'I must go up and get some
boots.' He ordered Beacon, and set out. Passing from Putney
towards Hyde Park he reflected: 'I might as well go to Chelsea and
see her.' And he called out: "Just drive me to where you took that
lady the other night." The coachman turned his broad red face, and
his juicy lips answered: "The lady in grey, sir?"
"Yes, the lady in grey." What other ladies were there! Stodgy
The carriage stopped before a small three-storied block of flats,
standing a little back from the river. With a practised eye old
Jolyon saw that they were cheap. 'I should think about sixty pound
a year,' he mused; and entering, he looked at the name-board. The
name 'Forsyte' was not on it, but against 'First Floor, Flat C'
were the words: 'Mrs. Irene Heron.' Ah! She had taken her maiden
name again! And somehow this pleased him. He went upstairs
slowly, feeling his side a little. He stood a moment, before
ringing, to lose the feeling of drag and fluttering there. She
would not be in! And then--Boots! The thought was black. What did
he want with boots at his age? He could not wear out all those he
"Your mistress at home?"
"Say Mr. Jolyon Forsyte."
"Yes, sir, will you come this way?"
Old Jolyon followed a very little maid--not more than sixteen one
would say--into a very small drawing-room where the sun-blinds were
drawn. It held a cottage piano and little else save a vague
fragrance and good taste. He stood in the middle, with his top
hat in his hand, and thought: 'I expect she's very badly off!'
There was a mirror above the fireplace, and he saw himself
reflected. An old-looking chap! He heard a rustle, and turned
round. She was so close that his moustache almost brushed her
forehead, just under her hair.
"I was driving up," he said. "Thought I'd look in on you, and ask
you how you got up the other night."
And, seeing her smile, he felt suddenly relieved. She was really
glad to see him, perhaps.
"Would you like to put on your hat and come for a drive in the
But while she was gone to put her hat on, he frowned. The Park!
James and Emily! Mrs. Nicholas, or some other member of his
precious family would be there very likely, prancing up and down.
And they would go and wag their tongues about having seen him with
her, afterwards. Better not! He did not wish to revive the echoes
of the past on Forsyte 'Change. He removed a white hair from the
lapel of his closely-buttoned-up frock coat, and passed his hand
over his cheeks, moustache, and square chin. It felt very hollow
there under the cheekbones. He had not been eating much lately--he
had better get that little whippersnapper who attended Holly to
give him a tonic. But she had come back and when they were in the
carriage, he said:
"Suppose we go and sit in Kensington Gardens instead?" and added
with a twinkle: "No prancing up and down there," as if she had been
in the secret of his thoughts.
Leaving the carriage, they entered those select precincts, and
strolled towards the water.
"You've gone back to your maiden name, I see," he said: "I'm not
She slipped her hand under his arm: "Has June forgiven me, Uncle
He answered gently: "Yes--yes; of course, why not?"
"And have you?"
"I? I forgave you as soon as I saw how the land really lay." And
perhaps he had; his instinct had always been to forgive the
She drew a deep breath. "I never regretted--I couldn't. Did you
ever love very deeply, Uncle Jolyon?"
At that strange question old Jolyon stared before him. Had he? He
did not seem to remember that he ever had. But he did not like to
say this to the young woman whose hand was touching his arm, whose
life was suspended, as it were, by memory of a tragic love. And he
thought: 'If I had met you when I was young I--I might have made a
fool of myself, perhaps.' And a longing to escape in generalities
"Love's a queer thing," he said, "fatal thing often. It was the
Greeks--wasn't it?--made love into a goddess; they were right, I
dare say, but then they lived in the Golden Age."
"Phil adored them."
Phil! The word jarred him, for suddenly--with his power to see all
round a thing, he perceived why she was putting up with him like
this. She wanted to talk about her lover! Well! If it was any
pleasure to her! And he said: "Ah! There was a bit of the sculptor
in him, I fancy."
"Yes. He loved balance and symmetry; he loved the whole-hearted
way the Greeks gave themselves to art."
Balance! The chap had no balance at all, if he remembered; as for
symmetry--clean-built enough he was, no doubt; but those queer eyes
of his, and high cheek-bones--Symmetry?
"You're of the Golden Age, too, Uncle Jolyon."
Old Jolyon looked round at her. Was she chaffing him? No, her
eyes were soft as velvet. Was she flattering him? But if so, why?
There was nothing to be had out of an old chap like him.
"Phil thought so. He used to say: 'But I can never tell him that I
Ah! There it was again. Her dead lover; her desire to talk of him!
And he pressed her arm, half resentful of those memories, half
grateful, as if he recognised what a link they were between herself
"He was a very talented young fellow," he murmured. "It's hot; I
feel the heat nowadays. Let's sit down."
They took two chairs beneath a chestnut tree whose broad leaves
covered them from the peaceful glory of the afternoon. A pleasure
to sit there and watch her, and feel that she liked to be with him.
And the wish to increase that liking, if he could, made him go on:
"I expect he showed you a side of him I never saw. He'd be at his
best with you. His ideas of art were a little new--to me "--he had
stiffed the word 'fangled.'
"Yes: but he used to say you had a real sense of beauty." Old
Jolyon thought: 'The devil he did!' but answered with a twinkle:
"Well, I have, or I shouldn't be sitting here with you." She was
fascinating when she smiled with her eyes, like that!
"He thought you had one of those hearts that never grow old. Phil
had real insight."
He was not taken in by this flattery spoken out of the past, out of
a longing to talk of her dead lover--not a bit; and yet it was
precious to hear, because she pleased his eyes and heart which
--quite true!--had never grown old. Was that because--unlike her and
her dead lover, he had never loved to desperation, had always kept
his balance, his sense of symmetry. Well! It had left him power,
at eighty-four, to admire beauty. And he thought, 'If I were a
painter or a sculptor! But I'm an old chap. Make hay while the
A couple with arms entwined crossed on the grass before them, at
the edge of the shadow from their tree. The sunlight fell cruelly
on their pale, squashed, unkempt young faces. "We're an ugly lot!"
said old Jolyon suddenly. "It amazes me to see how--love triumphs
"Love triumphs over everything!"
"The young think so," he muttered.
"Love has no age, no limit, and no death."
With that glow in her pale face, her breast heaving, her eyes so
large and dark and soft, she looked like Venus come to life! But
this extravagance brought instant reaction, and, twinkling, he
said: "Well, if it had limits, we shouldn't be born; for by George!
it's got a lot to put up with."
Then, removing his top hat, he brushed it round with a cuff. The
great clumsy thing heated his forehead; in these days he often got
a rush of blood to the head--his circulation was not what it had
She still sat gazing straight before her, and suddenly she
"It's strange enough that I'm alive."
Those words of Jo's 'Wild and lost' came back to him.
"Ah!" he said: "my son saw you for a moment--that day."
"Was it your son? I heard a voice in the hall; I thought for a
second it was--Phil."
Old Jolyon saw her lips tremble. She put her hand over them, took
it away again, and went on calmly: "That night I went to the
Embankment; a woman caught me by the dress. She told me about
herself. When one knows that others suffer, one's ashamed."
"One of those?"
She nodded, and horror stirred within old Jolyon, the horror of one
who has never known a struggle with desperation. Almost against
his will he muttered: "Tell me, won't you?"
"I didn't care whether I lived or died. When you're like that,
Fate ceases to want to kill you. She took care of me three days--
she never left me. I had no money. That's why I do what I can for
But old Jolyon was thinking: 'No money!' What fate could compare
with that? Every other was involved in it.
"I wish you had come to me," he said. "Why didn't you?" But Irene
did not answer.
"Because my name was Forsyte, I suppose? Or was it June who kept
you away? How are you getting on now?" His eyes involuntarily
swept her body. Perhaps even now she was--! And yet she wasn't
"Oh! with my fifty pounds a year, I make just enough." The answer
did not reassure him; he had lost confidence. And that fellow
Soames! But his sense of justice stifled condemnation. No, she
would certainly have died rather than take another penny from him.
Soft as she looked, there must be strength in her somewhere--
strength and fidelity. But what business had young Bosinney to
have got run over and left her stranded like this!
"Well, you must come to me now," he said, "for anything you want,
or I shall be quite cut up." And putting on his hat, he rose.
"Let's go and get some tea. I told that lazy chap to put the
horses up for an hour, and come for me at your place. We'll take a
cab presently; I can't walk as I used to."
He enjoyed that stroll to the Kensington end of the gardens--the
sound of her voice, the glancing of her eyes, the subtle beauty of
a charming form moving beside him. He enjoyed their tea at
Ruffel's in the High Street, and came out thence with a great box
of chocolates swung on his little finger. He enjoyed the drive
back to Chelsea in a hansom, smoking his cigar. She had promised
to come down next Sunday and play to him again, and already in
thought he was plucking carnations and early roses for her to carry
back to town. It was a pleasure to give her a little pleasure, if
it WERE pleasure from an old chap like him! The carriage was
already there when they arrived. Just like that fellow, who was
always late when he was wanted! Old Jolyon went in for a minute to
say good-bye. The little dark hall of the flat was impregnated
with a disagreeable odour of patchouli, and on a bench against the
wall--its only furniture--he saw a figure sitting. He heard Irene
say softly: "Just one minute." In the little drawing-room when the
door was shut, he asked gravely: "One of your protegees?"
"Yes. Now thanks to you, I can do something for her."
He stood, staring, and stroking that chin whose strength had
frightened so many in its time. The idea of her thus actually in
contact with this outcast grieved and frightened him. What could
she do for them? Nothing. Only soil and make trouble for herself,
perhaps. And he said: "Take care, my dear! The world puts the
worst construction on everything."
"I know that."
He was abashed by her quiet smile. "Well then--Sunday," he
She put her cheek forward for him to kiss.
"Good-bye," he said again; "take care of yourself." And he went
out, not looking towards the figure on the bench. He drove home by
way of Hammersmith; that he might stop at a place he knew of and
tell them to send her in two dozen of their best Burgundy. She
must want picking-up sometimes! Only in Richmond Park did he
remember that he had gone up to order himself some boots, and was
surprised that he could have had so paltry an idea.
The little spirits of the past which throng an old man's days had
never pushed their faces up to his so seldom as in the seventy
hours elapsing before Sunday came. The spirit of the future, with
the charm of the unknown, put up her lips instead. Old Jolyon was
not restless now, and paid no visits to the log, because she was
coming to lunch. There is wonderful finality about a meal; it
removes a world of doubts, for no one misses meals except for
reasons beyond control. He played many games with Holly on the
lawn, pitching them up to her who was batting so as to be ready to
bowl to Jolly in the holidays. For she was not a Forsyte, but
Jolly was--and Forsytes always bat, until they have resigned and
reached the age of eighty-five. The dog Balthasar, in attendance,
lay on the ball as often as he could, and the page-boy fielded,
till his face was like the harvest moon. And because the time was
getting shorter, each day was longer and more golden than the last.
On Friday night he took a liver pill, his side hurt him rather, and
though it was not the liver side, there is no remedy like that.
Anyone telling him that he had found a new excitement in life and
that excitement was not good for him, would have been met by one of
those steady and rather defiant looks of his deep-set iron-grey
eyes, which seemed to say: 'I know my own business best.' He
always had and always would.
On Sunday morning, when Holly had gone with her governess to
church, he visited the strawberry beds. There, accompanied by the
dog Balthasar, he examined the plants narrowly and succeeded in
finding at least two dozen berries which were really ripe.
Stooping was not good for him, and he became very dizzy and red in
the forehead. Having placed the strawberries in a dish on the
dining-table, he washed his hands and bathed his forehead with eau
de Cologne. There, before the mirror, it occurred to him that he
was thinner. What a 'threadpaper' he had been when he was young!
It was nice to be slim--he could not bear a fat chap; and yet
perhaps his cheeks were too thin! She was to arrive by train at
half-past twelve and walk up, entering from the road past Drage's
farm at the far end of the coppice. And, having looked into June's
room to see that there was hot water ready, he set forth to meet
her, leisurely, for his heart was beating. The air smelled sweet,
larks sang, and the Grand Stand at Epsom was visible. A perfect
day! On just such a one, no doubt, six years ago, Soames had
brought young Bosinney down with him to look at the site before
they began to build. It was Bosinney who had pitched on the exact
spot for the house--as June had often told him. In these days he
was thinking much about that young fellow, as if his spirit were
really haunting the field of his last work, on the chance of
seeing--her. Bosinney--the one man who had possessed her heart, to
whom she had given her whole self with rapture! At his age one
could not, of course, imagine such things, but there stirred in him
a queer vague aching--as it were the ghost of an impersonal
jealousy; and a feeling, too, more generous, of pity for that love
so early lost. All over in a few poor months! Well, well! He
looked at his watch before entering the coppice--only a quarter
past, twenty-five minutes to wait! And then, turning the corner of
the path, he saw her exactly where he had seen her the first time,
on the log; and realised that she must have come by the earlier
train to sit there alone for a couple of hours at least. Two hours
of her society missed! What memory could make that log so dear to
her? His face showed what he was thinking, for she said at once:
"Forgive me, Uncle Jolyon; it was here that I first knew."
"Yes, yes; there it is for you whenever you like. You're looking a
little Londony; you're giving too many lessons."
That she should have to give lessons worried him. Lessons to a
parcel of young girls thumping out scales with their thick fingers.
"Where do you go to give them?" he asked.
"They're mostly Jewish families, luckily."
Old Jolyon stared; to all Forsytes Jews seem strange and doubtful.
"They love music, and they're very kind."
"They had better be, by George!" He took her arm--his side always
hurt him a little going uphill--and said:
"Did you ever see anything like those buttercups? They came like
that in a night."
Her eyes seemed really to fly over the field, like bees after the
flowers and the honey. "I wanted you to see them--wouldn't let
them turn the cows in yet." Then, remembering that she had come to
talk about Bosinney, he pointed to the clock-tower over the
"I expect he wouldn't have let me put that there--had no notion of
time, if I remember."
But, pressing his arm to her, she talked of flowers instead, and he
knew it was done that he might not feel she came because of her
"The best flower I can show you," he said, with a sort of triumph,
"is my little sweet. She'll be back from Church directly. There's
something about her which reminds me a little of you," and it did
not seem to him peculiar that he had put it thus, instead of
saying: "There's something about you which reminds me a little of
her." Ah! And here she was!
Holly, followed closely by her elderly French governess, whose
digestion had been ruined twenty-two years ago in the siege of
Strasbourg, came rushing towards them from under the oak tree. She
stopped about a dozen yards away, to pat Balthasar and pretend that
this was all she had in her mind. Old Jolyon, who knew better,
"Well, my darling, here's the lady in grey I promised you."
Holly raised herself and looked up. He watched the two of them
with a twinkle, Irene smiling, Holly beginning with grave inquiry,
passing into a shy smile too, and then to something deeper. She
had a sense of beauty, that child--knew what was what! He enjoyed
the sight of the kiss between them.
"Mrs. Heron, Mam'zelle Beauce. Well, Mam'zelle--good sermon?"
For, now that he had not much more time before him, the only part
of the service connected with this world absorbed what interest in
church remained to him. Mam'zelle Beauce stretched out a spidery
hand clad in a black kid glove--she had been in the best families--
and the rather sad eyes of her lean yellowish face seemed to ask:
"Are you well-brrred?" Whenever Holly or Jolly did anything
unpleasing to her--a not uncommon occurrence--she would say to them:
"The little Tayleurs never did that--they were such well-brrred
little children." Jolly hated the little Tayleurs; Holly wondered
dreadfully how it was she fell so short of them. 'A thin rum
little soul,' old Jolyon thought her--Mam'zelle Beauce.
Luncheon was a successful meal, the mushrooms which he himself had
picked in the mushroom house, his chosen strawberries, and another
bottle of the Steinberg cabinet filled him with a certain aromatic
spirituality, and a conviction that he would have a touch of eczema
After lunch they sat under the oak tree drinking Turkish coffee.
It was no matter of grief to him when Mademoiselle Beauce withdrew
to write her Sunday letter to her sister, whose future had been
endangered in the past by swallowing a pin--an event held up daily
in warning to the children to eat slowly and digest what they had
eaten. At the foot of the bank, on a carriage rug, Holly and the
dog Balthasar teased and loved each other, and in the shade old
Jolyon with his legs crossed and his cigar luxuriously savoured,
gazed at Irene sitting in the swing. A light, vaguely swaying,
grey figure with a fleck of sunlight here and there upon it, lips
just opened, eyes dark and soft under lids a little drooped. She
looked content; surely it did her good to come and see him! The
selfishness of age had not set its proper grip on him, for he could
still feel pleasure in the pleasure of others, realising that what
he wanted, though much, was not quite all that mattered.
"It's quiet here," he said; "you mustn't come down if you find it
dull. But it's a pleasure to see you. My little sweet is the
only face which gives me any pleasure, except yours."
From her smile he knew that she was not beyond liking to be
appreciated, and this reassured him. "That's not humbug," he said.
"I never told a woman I admired her when I didn't. In fact I
don't know when I've told a woman I admired her, except my wife in
the old days; and wives are funny." He was silent, but resumed
"She used to expect me to say it more often than I felt it, and
there we were." Her face looked mysteriously troubled, and,
afraid that he had said something painful, he hurried on: "When my
little sweet marries, I hope she'll find someone who knows what
women feel. I shan't be here to see it, but there's too much
topsy-turvydom in marriage; I don't want her to pitch up against
that." And, aware that he had made bad worse, he added: "That dog
A silence followed. Of what was she thinking, this pretty creature
whose life was spoiled; who had done with love, and yet was made
for love? Some day when he was gone, perhaps, she would find
another mate--not so disorderly as that young fellow who had got
himself run over. Ah! but her husband?
"Does Soames never trouble you?" he asked.
She shook her head. Her face had closed up suddenly. For all her
softness there was something irreconcilable about her. And a
glimpse of light on the inexorable nature of sex antipathies
strayed into a brain which, belonging to early Victorian civil-
isation--so much older than this of his old age--had never thought
about such primitive things.
"That's a comfort," he said. "You can see the Grand Stand to-day.
Shall we take a turn round?"
Through the flower and fruit garden, against whose high outer walls
peach trees and nectarines were trained to the sun, through the
stables, the vinery, the mushroom house, the asparagus beds, the
rosery, the summer-house, he conducted her--even into the kitchen
garden to see the tiny green peas which Holly loved to scoop out of
their pods with her finger, and lick up from the palm of her little
brown hand. Many delightful things he showed her, while Holly and
the dog Balthasar danced ahead, or came to them at intervals for
attention. It was one of the happiest afternoons he had ever
spent, but it tired him and he was glad to sit down in the music
room and let her give him tea. A special little friend of Holly's
had come in--a fair child with short hair like a boy's. And the
two sported in the distance, under the stairs, on the stairs, and
up in the gallery. Old Jolyon begged for Chopin. She played
studies, mazurkas, waltzes, till the two children, creeping near,
stood at the foot of the piano their dark and golden heads bent
forward, listening. Old Jolyon watched.
"Let's see you dance, you two!"
Shyly, with a false start, they began. Bobbing and circling,
earnest, not very adroit, they went past and past his chair to the
strains of that waltz. He watched them and the face of her who was
playing turned smiling towards those little dancers thinking:
'Sweetest picture I've seen for ages.'
A voice said:
"Hollee! Mais enfin--qu'est-ce que tu fais la--danser, le dimanche!
But the children came close to old Jolyon, knowing that he would
save them, and gazed into a face which was decidedly 'caught out.'
"Better the day, better the deed, Mam'zelle. It's all my doing.
Trot along, chicks, and have your tea."
And, when they were gone, followed by the dog Balthasar, who took
every meal, he looked at Irene with a twinkle and said:
"Well, there we are! Aren't they sweet? Have you any little ones
among your pupils?"
"Yes, three--two of them darlings."
Old Jolyon sighed; he had an insatiable appetite for the very
young. "My little sweet," he said, "is devoted to music; she'll be
a musician some day. You wouldn't give me your opinion of her
playing, I suppose?"
"Of course I will."
"You wouldn't like--" but he stifled the words "to give her
lessons." The idea that she gave lessons was unpleasant to him;
yet it would mean that he would see her regularly. She left the
piano and came over to his chair.
"I would like, very much; but there is--June. When are they coming
Old Jolyon frowned. "Not till the middle of next month. What does
"You said June had forgiven me; but she could never forget, Uncle
Forget! She must forget, if he wanted her to.
But as if answering, Irene shook her head. "You know she couldn't;
one doesn't forget."
Always that wretched past! And he said with a sort of vexed
"Well, we shall see."
He talked to her an hour or more, of the children, and a hundred
little things, till the carriage came round to take her home. And
when she had gone he went back to his chair, and sat there
smoothing his face and chin, dreaming over the day.
That evening after dinner he went to his study and took a sheet of
paper. He stayed for some minutes without writing, then rose and
stood under the masterpiece 'Dutch Fishing Boats at Sunset.' He
was not thinking of that picture, but of his life. He was going to
leave her something in his Will; nothing could so have stirred the
stilly deeps of thought and memory. He was going to leave her a
portion of his wealth, of his aspirations, deeds, qualities, work--
all that had made that wealth; going to leave her, too, a part of
all he had missed in life, by his sane and steady pursuit of
wealth. All! What had he missed? 'Dutch Fishing Boats' responded
blankly; he crossed to the French window, and drawing the curtain
aside, opened it. A wind had got up, and one of last year's oak
leaves which had somehow survived the gardener's brooms, was
dragging itself with a tiny clicking rustle along the stone terrace
in the twilight. Except for that it was very quiet out there, and
he could smell the heliotrope watered not long since. A bat went
by. A bird uttered its last 'cheep.' And right above the oak tree
the first star shone. Faust in the opera had bartered his soul for
some fresh years of youth. Morbid notion! No such bargain was
possible, that was real tragedy! No making oneself new again for
love or life or anything. Nothing left to do but enjoy beauty from
afar off while you could, and leave it something in your Will. But
how much? And, as if he could not make that calculation looking out
into the mild freedom of the country night, he turned back and went
up to the chimney-piece. There were his pet bronzes--a Cleopatra
with the asp at her breast; a Socrates; a greyhound playing with
her puppy; a strong man reining in some horses. 'They last!' he
thought, and a pang went through his heart. They had a thousand
years of life before them!
'How much?' Well! enough at all events to save her getting old
before her time, to keep the lines out of her face as long as
possible, and grey from soiling that bright hair. He might live
another five years. She would be well over thirty by then. 'How
much?' She had none of his blood in her! In loyalty to the tenor
of his life for forty years and more, ever since he married and
founded that mysterious thing, a family, came this warning thought-
-None of his blood, no right to anything! It was a luxury then,
this notion. An extravagance, a petting of an old man's whim, one
of those things done in dotage. His real future was vested in
those who had his blood, in whom he would live on when he was gone.
He turned away from the bronzes and stood looking at the old
leather chair in which he had sat and smoked so many hundreds of
cigars. And suddenly he seemed to see her sitting there in her
grey dress, fragrant, soft, dark-eyed, graceful, looking up at him.
Why! She cared nothing for him, really; all she cared for was that
lost lover of hers. But she was there, whether she would or no,
giving him pleasure with her beauty and grace. One had no right to
inflict an old man's company, no right to ask her down to play to
him and let him look at her--for no reward! Pleasure must be paid
for in this world. 'How much?' After all, there was plenty; his
son and his three grandchildren would never miss that little lump.
He had made it himself, nearly every penny; he could leave it where
he liked, allow himself this little pleasure. He went back to the
bureau. 'Well, I'm going to,' he thought, 'let them think what
they like. I'm going to!' And he sat down.
'How much?' Ten thousand, twenty thousand--how much? If only with
his money he could buy one year, one month of youth. And startled
by that thought, he wrote quickly:
'DEAR HERRING,--Draw me a codicil to this effect: "I leave to my
niece Irene Forsyte, born Irene Heron, by which name she now goes,
fifteen thousand pounds free of legacy duty."
When he had sealed and stamped the envelope, he went back to the
window and drew in a long breath. It was dark, but many stars
He woke at half-past two, an hour which long experience had taught
him brings panic intensity to all awkward thoughts. Experience had
also taught him that a further waking at the proper hour of eight
showed the folly of such panic. On this particular morning the
thought which gathered rapid momentum was that if he became ill, at
his age not improbable, he would not see her. From this it was but
a step to realisation that he would be cut off, too, when his son
and June returned from Spain. How could he justify desire for the
company of one who had stolen--early morning does not mince words--
June's lover? That lover was dead; but June was a stubborn little
thing; warm-hearted, but stubborn as wood, and--quite true--not one
who forgot! By the middle of next month they would be back. He
had barely five weeks left to enjoy the new interest which had come
into what remained of his life. Darkness showed up to him absurdly
clear the nature of his feeling. Admiration for beauty--a craving
to see that which delighted his eyes.
Preposterous, at his age! And yet--what other reason was there for
asking June to undergo such painful reminder, and how prevent his
son and his son's wife from thinking him very queer? He would be
reduced to sneaking up to London, which tired him; and the least
indisposition would cut him off even from that. He lay with eyes
open, setting his jaw against the prospect, and calling himself an
old fool, while his heart beat loudly, and then seemed to stop
beating altogether. He had seen the dawn lighting the window
chinks, heard the birds chirp and twitter, and the cocks crow,
before he fell asleep again, and awoke tired but sane. Five weeks
before he need bother, at his age an eternity! But that early
morning panic had left its mark, had slightly fevered the will of
one who had always had his own way. He would see her as often as
he wished! Why not go up to town and make that codicil at his
solicitor's instead of writing about it; she might like to go to
the opera! But, by train, for he would not have that fat chap
Beacon grinning behind his back. Servants were such fools; and, as
likely as not, they had known all the past history of Irene and
young Bosinney--servants knew everything, and suspected the rest.
He wrote to her that morning:
"MY DEAR IRENE,--I have to be up in town to-morrow. If you
would like to have a look in at the opera, come and dine
with me quietly ...."
But where? It was decades since he had dined anywhere in London
save at his Club or at a private house. Ah! that new-fangled place
close to Covent Garden....
"Let me have a line to-morrow morning to the Piedmont Hotel whether
to expect you there at 7 o'clock."
She would understand that he just wanted to give her a little
pleasure; for the idea that she should guess he had this itch to
see her was instinctively unpleasant to him; it was not seemly that
one so old should go out of his way to see beauty, especially in a
The journey next day, short though it was, and the visit to his
lawyer's, tired him. It was hot too, and after dressing for dinner
he lay down on the sofa in his bedroom to rest a little. He must
have had a sort of fainting fit, for he came to himself feeling
very queer; and with some difficulty rose and rang the bell. Why!
it was past seven! And there he was and she would be waiting. But
suddenly the dizziness came on again, and he was obliged to relapse
on the sofa. He heard the maid's voice say:
"Did you ring, sir?"
"Yes, come here"; he could not see her clearly, for the cloud in
front of his eyes. "I'm not well, I want some sal volatile."
"Yes, sir." Her voice sounded frightened.
Old Jolyon made an effort.
"Don't go. Take this message to my niece--a lady waiting in the
hall--a lady in grey. Say Mr. Forsyte is not well--the heat. He
is very sorry; if he is not down directly, she is not to wait
When she was gone, he thought feebly: 'Why did I say a lady in
grey--she may be in anything. Sal volatile!' He did not go off
again, yet was not conscious of how Irene came to be standing
beside him, holding smelling salts to his nose, and pushing a
pillow up behind his head. He heard her say anxiously: "Dear Uncle
Jolyon, what is it?" was dimly conscious of the soft pressure of
her lips on his hand; then drew a long breath of smelling salts,
suddenly discovered strength in them, and sneezed.
"Ha!" he said, "it's nothing. How did you get here? Go down and
dine--the tickets are on the dressing-table. I shall be all right
in a minute."
He felt her cool hand on his forehead, smelled violets, and sat
divided between a sort of pleasure and a determination to be all
"Why! You are in grey!" he said. "Help me up." Once on his feet
he gave himself a shake.
"What business had I to go off like that!" And he moved very
slowly to the glass. What a cadaverous chap! Her voice, behind
"You mustn't come down, Uncle; you must rest."
"Fiddlesticks! A glass of champagne'll soon set me to rights. I
can't have you missing the opera."
But the journey down the corridor was troublesome. What carpets
they had in these newfangled places, so thick that you tripped up
in them at every step! In the lift he noticed how concerned she
looked, and said with the ghost of a twinkle:
"I'm a pretty host."
When the lift stopped he had to hold firmly to the seat to prevent
its slipping under him; but after soup and a glass of champagne he
felt much better, and began to enjoy an infirmity which had brought
such solicitude into her manner towards him.
"I should have liked you for a daughter," he said suddenly; and
watching the smile in her eyes, went on:
"You mustn't get wrapped up in the past at your time of life;
plenty of that when you get to my age. That's a nice dress--I like
"I made it myself."
Ah! A woman who could make herself a pretty frock had not lost her
interest in life.
"Make hay while the sun shines," he said; "and drink that up. I
want to see some colour in your cheeks. We mustn't waste life; it
doesn't do. There's a new Marguerite to-night; let's hope she
won't be fat. And Mephisto--anything more dreadful than a fat chap
playing the Devil I can't imagine."
But they did not go to the opera after all, for in getting up from
dinner the dizziness came over him again, and she insisted on his
staying quiet and going to bed early. When he parted from her at
the door of the hotel, having paid the cabman to drive her to
Chelsea, he sat down again for a moment to enjoy the memory of her
words: "You are such a darling to me, Uncle Jolyon!" Why! Who
wouldn't be! He would have liked to stay up another day and take
her to the Zoo, but two days running of him would bore her to
death. No, he must wait till next Sunday; she had promised to come
then. They would settle those lessons for Holly, if only for a
month. It would be something. That little Mam'zelle Beauce
wouldn't like it, but she would have to lump it. And crushing his
old opera hat against his chest he sought the lift.
He drove to Waterloo next morning, struggling with a desire to say:
'Drive me to Chelsea.' But his sense of proportion was too strong.
Besides, he still felt shaky, and did not want to risk another
aberration like that of last night, away from home. Holly, too,
was expecting him, and what he had in his bag for her. Not that
there was any cupboard love in his little sweet--she was a bundle
of affection. Then, with the rather bitter cynicism of the old, he
wondered for a second whether it was not cupboard love which made
Irene put up with him. No, she was not that sort either. She had,
if anything, too little notion of how to butter her bread, no sense
of property, poor thing! Besides, he had not breathed a word about
that codicil, nor should he--sufficient unto the day was the good
In the victoria which met him at the station Holly was restraining
the dog Balthasar, and their caresses made 'jubey' his drive home.
All the rest of that fine hot day and most of the next he was
content and peaceful, reposing in the shade, while the long
lingering sunshine showered gold on the lawns and the flowers. But
on Thursday evening at his lonely dinner he began to count the
hours; sixty-five till he would go down to meet her again in the
little coppice, and walk up through the fields at her side. He had
intended to consult the doctor about his fainting fit, but the
fellow would be sure to insist on quiet, no excitement and all
that; and he did not mean to be tied by the leg, did not want to be
told of an infirmity--if there were one, could not afford to hear
of it at his time of life, now that this new interest had come.
And he carefully avoided making any mention of it in a letter to
his son. It would only bring them back with a run! How far this
silence was due to consideration for their pleasure, how far to
regard for his own, he did not pause to consider.
That night in his study he had just finished his cigar and was
dozing off, when he heard the rustle of a gown, and was conscious
of a scent of violets. Opening his eyes he saw her, dressed in
grey, standing by the fireplace, holding out her arms. The odd
thing was that, though those arms seemed to hold nothing, they were
curved as if round someone's neck, and her own neck was bent back,
her lips open, her eyes closed. She vanished at once, and there
were the mantelpiece and his bronzes. But those bronzes and the
mantelpiece had not been there when she was, only the fireplace and
the wall! Shaken and troubled, he got up. 'I must take medicine,'
he thought; 'I can't be well.' His heart beat too fast, he had an
asthmatic feeling in the chest; and going to the window, he opened
it to get some air. A dog was barking far away, one of the dogs at
Gage's farm no doubt, beyond the coppice. A beautiful still night,
but dark. 'I dropped off,' he mused, 'that's it! And yet I'll
swear my eyes were open!' A sound like a sigh seemed to answer.
"What's that?" he said sharply, "who's there?"
Putting his hand to his side to still the beating of his heart, he
stepped out on the terrace. Something soft scurried by in the
dark. "Shoo!" It was that great grey cat. 'Young Bosinney was
like a great cat!' he thought. 'It was him in there, that she--
that she was--He's got her still!' He walked to the edge of the
terrace, and looked down into the darkness; he could just see the
powdering of the daisies on the unmown lawn. Here to-day and gone
to-morrow! And there came the moon, who saw all, young and old,
alive and dead, and didn't care a dump! His own turn soon. For a
single day of youth he would give what was left! And he turned
again towards the house. He could see the windows of the night
nursery up there. His little sweet would be asleep. 'Hope that
dog won't wake her!' he thought. 'What is it makes us love, and
makes us die! I must go to bed.'
And across the terrace stones, growing grey in the moonlight, he
passed back within.
How should an old man live his days if not in dreaming of his
well-spent past? In that, at all events, there is no agitating
warmth, only pale winter sunshine. The shell can withstand the
gentle beating of the dynamos of memory. The present he should
distrust; the future shun. From beneath thick shade he should
watch the sunlight creeping at his toes. If there be sun of
summer, let him not go out into it, mistaking it for the
Indian-summer sun! Thus peradventure he shall decline softly,
slowly, imperceptibly, until impatient Nature clutches his
wind-pipe and he gasps away to death some early morning before the
world is aired, and they put on his tombstone: 'In the fulness of
years!' yea! If he preserve his principles in perfect order, a
Forsyte may live on long after he is dead.
Old Jolyon was conscious of all this, and yet there was in him that
which transcended Forsyteism. For it is written that a Forsyte
shall not love beauty more than reason; nor his own way more than
his own health. And something beat within him in these days that
with each throb fretted at the thinning shell. His sagacity knew
this, but it knew too that he could not stop that beating, nor
would if he could. And yet, if you had told him he was living on
his capital, he would have stared you down. No, no; a man did not
live on his capital; it was not done! The shibboleths of the past
are ever more real than the actualities of the present. And he, to
whom living on one's capital had always been anathema, could not
have borne to have applied so gross a phrase to his own case.
Pleasure is healthful; beauty good to see; to live again in the
youth of the young--and what else on earth was he doing!
Methodically, as had been the way of his whole life, he now
arranged his time. On Tuesdays he journeyed up to town by train;
Irene came and dined with him. And they went to the opera. On
Thursdays he drove to town, and, putting that fat chap and his
horses up, met her in Kensington Gardens, picking up the carriage
after he had left her, and driving home again in time for dinner.
He threw out the casual formula that he had business in London on
those two days. On Wednesdays and Saturdays she came down to give
Holly music lessons. The greater the pleasure he took in her
society, the more scrupulously fastidious he became, just a matter-
of-fact and friendly uncle. Not even in feeling, really, was he
more--for, after all, there was his age. And yet, if she were late
he fidgeted himself to death. If she missed coming, which happened
twice, his eyes grew sad as an old dog's, and he failed to sleep.
And so a month went by--a month of summer in the fields, and in his
heart, with summer's heat and the fatigue thereof. Who could have
believed a few weeks back that he would have looked forward to his
son's and his grand-daughter's return with something like dread!
There was such a delicious freedom, such recovery of that
independence a man enjoys before he founds a family, about these
weeks of lovely weather, and this new companionship with one who
demanded nothing, and remained always a little unknown, retaining
the fascination of mystery. It was like a draught of wine to him
who has been drinking water for so long that he has almost
forgotten the stir wine brings to his blood, the narcotic to his
brain. The flowers were coloured brighter, scents and music and
the sunlight had a living value--were no longer mere reminders of
past enjoyment. There was something now to live for which stirred
him continually to anticipation. He lived in that, not in
retrospection; the difference is considerable to any so old as he.
The pleasures of the table, never of much consequence to one
naturally abstemious, had lost all value. He ate little, without
knowing what he ate; and every day grew thinner and more worn to
look at. He was again a 'threadpaper'; and to this thinned form
his massive forehead, with hollows at the temples, gave more
dignity than ever. He was very well aware that he ought to see the
doctor, but liberty was too sweet. He could not afford to pet his
frequent shortness of breath and the pain in his side at the
expense of liberty. Return to the vegetable existence he had led
among the agricultural journals with the life-size mangold wurzels,
before this new attraction came into his life--no! He exceeded his
allowance of cigars. Two a day had always been his rule. Now he
smoked three and sometimes four--a man will when he is filled with
the creative spirit. But very often he thought: 'I must give up
smoking, and coffee; I must give up rattling up to town.' But he
did not; there was no one in any sort of authority to notice him,
and this was a priceless boon.
The servants perhaps wondered, but they were, naturally, dumb.
Mam'zelle Beauce was too concerned with her own digestion, and too
'wellbrrred' to make personal allusions. Holly had not as yet an
eye for the relative appearance of him who was her plaything and
her god. It was left for Irene herself to beg him to eat more, to
rest in the hot part of the day, to take a tonic, and so forth.
But she did not tell him that she was the a cause of his thinness--
for one cannot see the havoc oneself is working. A man of eighty-
five has no passions, but the Beauty which produces passion works
on in the old way, till death closes the eyes which crave the sight
On the first day of the second week in July he received a letter
from his son in Paris to say that they would all be back on Friday.
This had always been more sure than Fate; but, with the pathetic
improvidence given to the old, that they may endure to the end, he
had never quite admitted it. Now he did, and something would have
to be done. He had ceased to be able to imagine life without this
new interest, but that which is not imagined sometimes exists, as
Forsytes are perpetually finding to their cost. He sat in his old
leather chair, doubling up the letter, and mumbling with his lips
the end of an unlighted cigar. After to-morrow his Tuesday
expeditions to town would have to be abandoned. He could still
drive up, perhaps, once a week, on the pretext of seeing his man of
business. But even that would be dependent on his health, for now
they would begin to fuss about him. The lessons! The lessons must
go on! She must swallow down her scruples, and June must put her
feelings in her pocket. She had done so once, on the day after the
news of Bosinney's death; what she had done then, she could surely
do again now. Four years since that injury was inflicted on her--
not Christian to keep the memory of old sores alive. June's will
was strong, but his was stronger, for his sands were running out.
Irene was soft, surely she would do this for him, subdue her
natural shrinking, sooner than give him pain! The lessons must
continue; for if they did, he was secure. And lighting his cigar
at last, he began trying to shape out how to put it to them all,
and explain this strange intimacy; how to veil and wrap it away
from the naked truth--that he could not bear to be deprived of the
sight of beauty. Ah! Holly! Holly was fond of her, Holly liked
her lessons. She would save him--his little sweet! And with that
happy thought he became serene, and wondered what he had been
worrying about so fearfully. He must not worry, it left him always
curiously weak, and as if but half present in his own body.
That evening after dinner he had a return of the dizziness, though
he did not faint. He would not ring the bell, because he knew it
would mean a fuss, and make his going up on the morrow more
conspicuous. When one grew old, the whole world was in conspiracy
to limit freedom, and for what reason?--just to keep the breath in
him a little longer. He did not want it at such cost. Only the
dog Balthasar saw his lonely recovery from that weakness; anxiously
watched his master go to the sideboard and drink some brandy,
instead of giving him a biscuit. When at last old Jolyon felt able
to tackle the stairs he went up to bed. And, though still shaky
next morning, the thought of the evening sustained and strengthened
him. It was always such a pleasure to give her a good dinner--he
suspected her of undereating when she was alone; and, at the opera
to watch her eyes glow and brighten, the unconscious smiling of her
lips. She hadn't much pleasure, and this was the last time he
would be able to give her that treat. But when he was packing his
bag he caught himself wishing that he had not the fatigue of
dressing for dinner before him, and the exertion, too, of telling
her about June's return.
The opera that evening was 'Carmen,' and he chose the last
entr'acte to break the news, instinctively putting it off till the
She took it quietly, queerly; in fact, he did not know how she had
taken it before the wayward music lifted up again and silence
became necessary. The mask was down over her face, that mask
behind which so much went on that he could not see. She wanted
time to think it over, no doubt! He would not press her, for she
would be coming to give her lesson to-morrow afternoon, and he
should see her then when she had got used to the idea. In the cab
he talked only of the Carmen; he had seen better in the old days,
but this one was not bad at all. When he took her hand to say
good-night, she bent quickly forward and kissed his forehead.
"Good-bye, dear Uncle Jolyon, you have been so sweet to me."
"To-morrow then," he said. "Good-night. Sleep well." She echoed
softly: "Sleep welll" and from the cab window, already moving away,
he saw her face screwed round towards him, and her hand put out in
a gesture which seemed to linger.
He sought his room slowly. They never gave him the same, and he
could not get used to these 'spick-and-spandy' bedrooms with new
furniture and grey-green carpets sprinkled all over with pink
roses. He was wakeful and that wretched Habanera kept throbbing in
His French had never been equal to its words, but its sense he
knew, if it had any sense, a gipsy thing--wild and unaccountable.
Well, there was in life something which upset all your care and
plans--something which made men and women dance to its pipes. And
he lay staring from deep-sunk eyes into the darkness where the
unaccountable held sway. You thought you had hold of life, but it
slipped away behind you, took you by the scruff of the neck, forced
you here and forced you there, and then, likely as not, squeezed
life out of you! It took the very stars like that, he shouldn't
wonder, rubbed their noses together and flung them apart; it had
never done playing its pranks. Five million people in this great
blunderbuss of a town, and all of them at the mercy of that Life-