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  • 1906
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so much more assured and old than himself. He often thought, ‘Glad I’m a painter’ for he had long dropped under-writing at Lloyds– ‘it’s so innocuous. You can’t look down on a painter–you can’t take him seriously enough.’ For Jolly, who had a sort of natural lordliness, had passed at once into a very small set, who secretly amused his father. The boy had fair hair which curled a little, and his grandfather’s deepset iron-grey eyes. He was well-built and very upright, and always pleased Jolyon’s aesthetic sense, so that he was a tiny bit afraid of him, as artists ever are of those of their own sex whom they admire physically. On that occasion, however, he actually did screw up his courage to give his son advice, and this was it:

“Look here, old man, you’re bound to get into debt; mind you come to me at once. Of course, I’ll always pay them. But you might remember that one respects oneself more afterwards if one pays one’s own way. And don’t ever borrow, except from me, will you?”

And Jolly had said:

“All right, Dad, I won’t,” and he never had.

“And there’s just one other thing. I don’t know much about morality and that, but there is this: It’s always worth while before you do anything to consider whether it’s going to hurt another person more than is absolutely necessary.”

Jolly had looked thoughtful, and nodded, and presently had squeezed his father’s hand. And Jolyon had thought: ‘I wonder if I had the right to say that?’ He always had a sort of dread of losing the dumb confidence they had in each other; remembering how for long years he had lost his own father’s, so that there had been nothing between them but love at a great distance. He under-estimated, no doubt, the change in the spirit of the age since he himself went up to Cambridge in ’65; and perhaps he underestimated, too, his boy’s power of understanding that he was tolerant to the very bone. It was that tolerance of his, and possibly his scepticism, which ever made his relations towards June so queerly defensive. She was such a decided mortal; knew her own mind so terribly well; wanted things so inexorably until she got them–and then, indeed, often dropped them like a hot potato. Her mother had been like that, whence had come all those tears. Not that his incompatibility with his daughter was anything like what it had been with the first Mrs. Young Jolyon. One could be amused where a daughter was concerned; in a wife’s case one could not be amused. To see June set her heart and jaw on a thing until she got it was all right, because it was never anything which interfered fundamentally with Jolyon’s liberty–the one thing on which his jaw was also absolutely rigid, a considerable jaw, under that short grizzling beard. Nor was there ever any necessity for real heart-to-heart encounters. One could break away into irony–as indeed he often had to. But the real trouble with June was that she had never appealed to his aesthetic sense, though she might well have, with her red-gold hair and her viking-coloured eyes, and that touch of the Berserker in her spirit. It was very different with Holly, soft and quiet, shy and affectionate, with a playful imp in her somewhere. He watched this younger daughter of his through the duckling stage with extraordinary interest. Would she come out a swan? With her sallow oval face and her grey wistful eyes and those long dark lashes, she might, or she might not. Only this last year had he been able to guess. Yes, she would be a swan–rather a dark one, always a shy one, but an authentic swan. She was eighteen now, and Mademoiselle Beauce was gone–the excellent lady had removed, after eleven years haunted by her continuous reminiscences of the ‘well- brrred little Tayleurs,’ to another family whose bosom would now be agitated by her reminiscences of the ‘well-brrred little Forsytes.’ She had taught Holly to speak French like herself.

Portraiture was not Jolyon’s forte, but he had already drawn his younger daughter three times, and was drawing her a fourth, on the afternoon of October 4th, 1899, when a card was brought to him which caused his eyebrows to go up:



But here the Forsyte Saga must digress again….

To return from a long travel in Spain to a darkened house, to a little daughter bewildered with tears, to the sight of a loved father lying peaceful in his last sleep, had never been, was never likely to be, forgotten by so impressionable and warm-hearted a man as Jolyon. A sense as of mystery, too, clung to that sad day, and about the end of one whose life had been so well-ordered, balanced, and above-board. It seemed incredible that his father could thus have vanished without, as it were, announcing his intention, without last words to his son, and due farewells. And those incoherent allusions of little Holly to ‘the lady in grey,’ of Mademoiselle Beauce to a Madame Errant (as it sounded) involved all things in a mist, lifted a little when he read his father’s will and the codicil thereto. It had been his duty as executor of that will and codicil to inform Irene, wife of his cousin Soames, of her life interest in fifteen thousand pounds. He had called on her to explain that the existing investment in India Stock, ear-marked to meet the charge, would produce for her the interesting net sum of L430 odd a year, clear of income tax. This was but the third time he had seen his cousin Soames’ wife–if indeed she was still his wife, of which he was not quite sure. He remembered having seen her sitting in the Botanical Gardens waiting for Bosinney–a passive, fascinating figure, reminding him of Titian’s ‘Heavenly Love,’ and again, when, charged by his father, he had gone to Montpellier Square on the afternoon when Bosinney’s death was known. He still recalled vividly her sudden appearance in the drawing-room doorway on that occasion–her beautiful face, passing from wild eagerness of hope to stony despair; remembered the compassion he had felt, Soames’ snarling smile, his words, “We are not at home!” and the slam of the front door.

This third time he saw a face and form more beautiful–freed from that warp of wild hope and despair. Looking at her, he thought: ‘Yes, you are just what the Dad would have admired!’ And the strange story of his father’s Indian summer became slowly clear to him. She spoke of old Jolyon with reverence and tears in her eyes. “He was so wonderfully kind to me; I don’t know why. He looked so beautiful and peaceful sitting in that chair under the tree; it was I who first came on him sitting there, you know. Such a lovely day. I don’t think an end could have been happier. We should all like to go out like that.”

‘Quite right!’ he had thought. ‘We should all a like to go out in full summer with beauty stepping towards us across a lawn.’ And looking round the little, almost empty drawing-room, he had asked her what she was going to do now. “I am going to live again a little, Cousin Jolyon. It’s wonderful to have money of one’s own. I’ve never had any. I shall keep this flat, I think; I’m used to it; but I shall be able to go to Italy.”

“Exactly!” Jolyon had murmured, looking at her faintly smiling lips; and he had gone away thinking: ‘A fascinating woman! What a waste! I’m glad the Dad left her that money.’ He had not seen her again, but every quarter he had signed her cheque, forwarding it to her bank, with a note to the Chelsea flat to say that he had done so; and always he had received a note in acknowledgment, generally from the flat, but sometimes from Italy; so that her personality had become embodied in slightly scented grey paper, an upright fine handwriting, and the words, ‘Dear Cousin Jolyon.’ Man of property that he now was, the slender cheque he signed often gave rise to the thought: ‘Well, I suppose she just manages’; sliding into a vague wonder how she was faring otherwise in a world of men not wont to let beauty go unpossessed. At first Holly had spoken of her sometimes, but ‘ladies in grey’ soon fade from children’s memories; and the tightening of June’s lips in those first weeks after her grandfather’s death whenever her former friend’s name was mentioned, had discouraged allusion. Only once, indeed, had June spoken definitely: “I’ve forgiven her. I’m frightfully glad she’s independent now….”

On receiving Soames’ card, Jolyon said to the maid–for he could not abide butlers–“Show him into the study, please, and say I’ll be there in a minute”; and then he looked at Holly and asked:

“Do you remember ‘the lady in grey,’ who used to give you music- lessons?”

“Oh yes, why? Has she come?”

Jolyon shook his head, and, changing his holland blouse for a coat, was silent, perceiving suddenly that such history was not for those young ears. His face, in fact, became whimsical perplexity incarnate while he journeyed towards the study.

Standing by the french-window, looking out across the terrace at the oak tree, were two figures, middle-aged and young, and he thought: ‘Who’s that boy? Surely they never had a child.’

The elder figure turned. The meeting of those two Forsytes of the second generation, so much more sophisticated than the first, in the house built for the one and owned and occupied by the other, was marked by subtle defensiveness beneath distinct attempt at cordiality. ‘Has he come about his wife?’ Jolyon was thinking; and Soames, ‘How shall I begin?’ while Val, brought to break the ice, stood negligently scrutinising this ‘bearded pard’ from under his dark, thick eyelashes.

“This is Val Dartie,” said Soames, “my sister’s son. He’s just going up to Oxford. I thought I’d like him to know your boy.”

“Ah! I’m sorry Jolly’s away. What college?”

“B.N.C.,” replied Val.

“Jolly’s at the ‘House,’ but he’ll be delighted to look you up.”

“Thanks awfully.”

“Holly’s in–if you could put up with a female relation, she’d show you round. You’ll find her in the hall if you go through the curtains. I was just painting her.”

With another “Thanks, awfully!” Val vanished, leaving the two cousins with the ice unbroken.

“I see you’ve some drawings at the ‘Water Colours,'” said Soames.

Jolyon winced. He had been out of touch with the Forsyte family at large for twenty-six years, but they were connected in his mind with Frith’s ‘Derby Day’ and Landseer prints. He had heard from June that Soames was a connoisseur, which made it worse. He had become aware, too, of a curious sensation of repugnance.

“I haven’t seen you for a long time,” he said.

“No,” answered Soames between close lips, “not since–as a matter of fact, it’s about that I’ve come. You’re her trustee, I’m told.”

Jolyon nodded.

“Twelve years is a long time,” said Soames rapidly: “I–I’m tired of it.”

Jolyon found no more appropriate answer than:

“Won’t you smoke?”

“No, thanks.”

Jolyon himself lit a cigarette.

“I wish to be free,” said Soames abruptly.

“I don’t see her,” murmured Jolyon through the fume of his cigarette.

“But you know where she lives, I suppose?”

Jolyon nodded. He did not mean to give her address without permission. Soames seemed to divine his thought.

“I don’t want her address,” he said; “I know it.”

“What exactly do you want?”

“She deserted me. I want a divorce.”

“Rather late in the day, isn’t it?”

“Yes,” said Soames. And there was a silence.

“I don’t know much about these things–at least, I’ve forgotten,” said Jolyon with a wry smile. He himself had had to wait for death to grant him a divorce from the first Mrs. Jolyon. “Do you wish me to see her about it?”

Soames raised his eyes to his cousin’s face. “I suppose there’s someone,” he said.

A shrug moved Jolyon’s shoulders.

“I don’t know at all. I imagine you may have both lived as if the other were dead. It’s usual in these cases.”

Soames turned to the window. A few early fallen oak-leaves strewed the terrace already, and were rolling round in the wind. Jolyon saw the figures of Holly and Val Dartie moving across the lawn towards the stables. ‘I’m not going to run with the hare and hunt with the hounds,’ he thought. ‘I must act for her. The Dad would have wished that.’ And for a swift moment he seemed to see his father’s figure in the old armchair, just beyond Soames, sitting with knees crossed, The Times in his hand. It vanished.

“My father was fond of her,” he said quietly.

“Why he should have been I don’t know,” Soames answered without looking round. “She brought trouble to your daughter June; she brought trouble to everyone. I gave her all she wanted. I would have given her even–forgiveness–but she chose to leave me.”

In Jolyon compassion was checked by the tone of that close voice. What was there in the fellow that made it so difficult to be sorry for him?

“I can go and see her, if you like,” he said. “I suppose she might be glad of a divorce, but I know nothing.”

Soames nodded.

“Yes, please go. As I say, I know her address; but I’ve no wish to see her.” His tongue was busy with his lips, as if they were very dry.

“You’ll have some tea?” said Jolyon, stifling the words: ‘And see the house.’ And he led the way into the hall. When he had rung the bell and ordered tea, he went to his easel to turn his drawing to the wall. He could not bear, somehow, that his work should be seen by Soames, who was standing there in the middle of the great room which had been designed expressly to afford wall space for his own pictures. In his cousin’s face, with its unseizable family likeness to himself, and its chinny, narrow, concentrated look, Jolyon saw that which moved him to the thought: ‘That chap could never forget anything–nor ever give himself away. He’s pathetic!’



When young Val left the presence of the last generation he was thinking: ‘This is jolly dull! Uncle Soames does take the bun. I wonder what this filly’s like?’ He anticipated no pleasure from her society; and suddenly he saw her standing there looking at him. Why, she was pretty! What luck!

“I’m afraid you don’t know me,” he said. “My name’s Val Dartie– I’m once removed, second cousin, something like that, you know. My mother’s name was Forsyte.”

Holly, whose slim brown hand remained in his because she was too shy to withdraw it, said:

“I don’t know any of my relations. Are there many?”

“Tons. They’re awful–most of them. At least, I don’t know–some of them. One’s relations always are, aren’t they?”

“I expect they think one awful too,” said Holly.

“I don’t know why they should. No one could think you awful, of course.”

Holly looked at him–the wistful candour in those grey eyes gave young Val a sudden feeling that he must protect her.

“I mean there are people and people,” he added astutely. “Your dad looks awfully decent, for instance.”

“Oh yes!” said Holly fervently; “he is.”

A flush mounted in Val’s cheeks–that scene in the Pandemonium promenade–the dark man with the pink carnation developing into his own father! “But you know what the Forsytes are,” he said almost viciously. “Oh! I forgot; you don’t.”

“What are they?”

“Oh! fearfully careful; not sportsmen a bit. Look at Uncle Soames!”

“I’d like to,” said Holly.

Val resisted a desire to run his arm through hers. “Oh! no,” he said, “let’s go out. You’ll see him quite soon enough. What’s your brother like?”

Holly led the way on to the terrace and down to the lawn without answering. How describe Jolly, who, ever since she remembered anything, had been her lord, master, and ideal?

“Does he sit on you?” said Val shrewdly. “I shall be knowing him at Oxford. Have you got any horses?”

Holly nodded. “Would you like to see the stables?”


They passed under the oak tree, through a thin shrubbery, into the stable-yard. There under a clock-tower lay a fluffy brown-and- white dog, so old that he did not get up, but faintly waved the tail curled over his back.

“That’s Balthasar,” said Holly; “he’s so old–awfully old, nearly as old as I am. Poor old boy! He’s devoted to Dad.”

“Balthasar! That’s a rum name. He isn’t purebred you know.”

“No! but he’s a darling,” and she bent down to stroke the dog. Gentle and supple, with dark covered head and slim browned neck and hands, she seemed to Val strange and sweet, like a thing slipped between him and all previous knowledge.

“When grandfather died,” she said, “he wouldn’t eat for two days. He saw him die, you know.”

“Was that old Uncle Jolyon? Mother always says he was a topper.”

“He was,” said Holly simply, and opened the stable door.

In a loose-box stood a silver roan of about fifteen hands, with a long black tail and mane. “This is mine–Fairy.”

“Ah!” said Val, “she’s a jolly palfrey. But you ought to bang her tail. She’d look much smarter.” Then catching her wondering look, he thought suddenly: ‘I don’t know–anything she likes!’ And he took a long sniff of the stable air. “Horses are ripping, aren’t they? My Dad…” he stopped.

“Yes?” said Holly.

An impulse to unbosom himself almost overcame him–but not quite. “Oh! I don’t know he’s often gone a mucker over them. I’m jolly keen on them too–riding and hunting. I like racing awfully, as well; I should like to be a gentleman rider.” And oblivious of the fact that he had but one more day in town, with two engagements, he plumped out:

“I say, if I hire a gee to-morrow, will you come a ride in Richmond Park?”

Holly clasped her hands.

“Oh yes! I simply love riding. But there’s Jolly’s horse; why don’t you ride him? Here he is. We could go after tea.”

Val looked doubtfully at his trousered legs.

He had imagined them immaculate before her eyes in high brown boots and Bedford cords.

“I don’t much like riding his horse,” he said. “He mightn’t like it. Besides, Uncle Soames wants to get back, I expect. Not that I believe in buckling under to him, you know. You haven’t got an uncle, have you? This is rather a good beast,” he added, scrutinising Jolly’s horse, a dark brown, which was showing the whites of its eyes. “You haven’t got any hunting here, I suppose?”

“No; I don’t know that I want to hunt. It must be awfully exciting, of course; but it’s cruel, isn’t it? June says so.”

“Cruel?” ejaculated Val. “Oh! that’s all rot. Who’s June?”

“My sister–my half-sister, you know–much older than me.” She had put her hands up to both cheeks of Jolly’s horse, and was rubbing her nose against its nose with a gentle snuffling noise which seemed to have an hypnotic effect on the animal. Val contemplated her cheek resting against the horse’s nose, and her eyes gleaming round at him. ‘She’s really a duck,’ he thought.

They returned to the house less talkative, followed this time by the dog Balthasar, walking more slowly than anything on earth, and clearly expecting them not to exceed his speed limit.

“This is a ripping place,” said Val from under the oak tree, where they had paused to allow the dog Balthasar to come up.

“Yes,” said Holly, and sighed. “Of course I want to go everywhere. I wish I were a gipsy.”

“Yes, gipsies are jolly,” replied Val, with a conviction which had just come to him; “you’re rather like one, you know.”

Holly’s face shone suddenly and deeply, like dark leaves gilded by the sun.

“To go mad-rabbiting everywhere and see everything, and live in the open–oh! wouldn’t it be fun?”

“Let’s do it!” said Val.

“Oh yes, let’s!”

“It’d be grand sport, just you and I.”

Then Holly perceived the quaintness and gushed.

“Well, we’ve got to do it,” said Val obstinately, but reddening too.

“I believe in doing things you want to do. What’s down there?”

“The kitchen-garden, and the pond and the coppice, and the farm.”

“Let’s go down!”

Holly glanced back at the house.

“It’s tea-time, I expect; there’s Dad beckoning.”

Val, uttering a growly sound, followed her towards the house.

When they re-entered the hall gallery the sight of two middle-aged Forsytes drinking tea together had its magical effect, and they became quite silent. It was, indeed, an impressive spectacle. The two were seated side by side on an arrangement in marqueterie which looked like three silvery pink chairs made one, with a low tea-table in front of them. They seemed to have taken up that position, as far apart as the seat would permit, so that they need not look at each other too much; and they were eating and drinking rather than talking–Soames with his air of despising the tea-cake as it disappeared, Jolyon of finding himself slightly amusing. To the casual eye neither would have seemed greedy, but both were getting through a good deal of sustenance. The two young ones having been supplied with food, the process went on silent and absorbative, till, with the advent of cigarettes, Jolyon said to Soames:

“And how’s Uncle James?”

“Thanks, very shaky.”

“We’re a wonderful family, aren’t we? The other day I was calculating the average age of the ten old Forsytes from my father’s family Bible. I make it eighty-four already, and five still living. They ought to beat the record;” and looking whimsically at Soames, he added:

“We aren’t the men they were, you know.”

Soames smiled. ‘Do you really think I shall admit that I’m not their equal’; he seemed to be saying, ‘or that I’ve got to give up anything, especially life?’

“We may live to their age, perhaps,” pursued Jolyon, “but self- consciousness is a handicap, you know, and that’s the difference between us. We’ve lost conviction. How and when self-consciousness was born I never can make out. My father had a little, but I don’t believe any other of the old Forsytes ever had a scrap. Never to see yourself as others see you, it’s a wonderful preservative. The whole history of the last century is in the difference between us. And between us and you,” he added, gazing through a ring of smoke at Val and Holly, uncomfortable under his quizzical regard, “there’ll be–another difference. I wonder what.”

Soames took out his watch.

“We must go,” he said, “if we’re to catch our train.”

“Uncle Soames never misses a train,” muttered Val, with his mouth full.

“Why should I?” Soames answered simply.

“Oh! I don’t know,” grumbled Val, “other people do.”

At the front door he gave Holly’s slim brown hand a long and surreptitious squeeze.

“Look out for me to-morrow,” he whispered; “three o’clock. I’ll wait for you in the road; it’ll save time. We’ll have a ripping ride.” He gazed back at her from the lodge gate, and, but for the principles of a man about town, would have waved his hand. He felt in no mood to tolerate his uncle’s conversation. But he was not in danger. Soames preserved a perfect muteness, busy with far-away thoughts.

The yellow leaves came down about those two walking the mile and a half which Soames had traversed so often in those long-ago days when he came down to watch with secret pride the building of the house–that house which was to have been the home of him and her from whom he was now going to seek release. He looked back once, up that endless vista of autumn lane between the yellowing hedges. What an age ago! “I don’t want to see her,” he had said to Jolyon. Was that true? ‘I may have to,’ he thought; and he shivered, seized by one of those queer shudderings that they say mean footsteps on one’s grave. A chilly world! A queer world! And glancing sidelong at his nephew, he thought: ‘Wish I were his age! I wonder what she’s like now!’



When those two were gone Jolyon did not return to his painting, for daylight was failing, but went to the study, craving unconsciously a revival of that momentary vision of his father sitting in the old leather chair with his knees crossed and his straight eyes gazing up from under the dome of his massive brow. Often in this little room, cosiest in the house, Jolyon would catch a moment of communion with his father. Not, indeed, that he had definitely any faith in the persistence of the human spirit–the feeling was not so logical–it was, rather, an atmospheric impact, like a scent, or one of those strong animistic impressions from forms, or effects of light, to which those with the artist’s eye are especially prone. Here only–in this little unchanged room where his father had spent the most of his waking hours–could be retrieved the feeling that he was not quite gone, that the steady counsel of that old spirit and the warmth of his masterful lovability endured.

What would his father be advising now, in this sudden recrudescence of an old tragedy–what would he say to this menace against her to whom he had taken such a fancy in the last weeks of his life? ‘I must do my best for her,’ thought Jolyon; ‘he left her to me in his will. But what is the best?’

And as if seeking to regain the sapience, the balance and shrewd common sense of that old Forsyte, he sat down in the ancient chair and crossed his knees. But he felt a mere shadow sitting there; nor did any inspiration come, while the fingers of the wind tapped on the darkening panes of the french-window.

‘Go and see her?’ he thought, ‘or ask her to come down here? What’s her life been? What is it now, I wonder? Beastly to rake up things at this time of day.’ Again the figure of his cousin standing with a hand on a front door of a fine olive-green leaped out, vivid, like one of those figures from old-fashioned clocks when the hour strikes; and his words sounded in Jolyon’s ears clearer than any chime: “I manage my own affairs. I’ve told you once, I tell you again: We are not at home.” The repugnance he had then felt for Soames–for his flat-cheeked, shaven face full of spiritual bull-doggedness; for his spare, square, sleek figure slightly crouched as it were over the bone he could not digest– came now again, fresh as ever, nay, with an odd increase. ‘I dislike him,’ he thought, ‘I dislike him to the very roots of me. And that’s lucky; it’ll make it easier for me to back his wife.’ Half-artist, and half-Forsyte, Jolyon was constitutionally averse from what he termed ‘ructions’; unless angered, he conformed deeply to that classic description of the she-dog, ‘Er’d ruther run than fight.’ A little smile became settled in his beard. Ironical that Soames should come down here–to this house, built for himself! How he had gazed and gaped at this ruin of his past intention; furtively nosing at the walls and stairway, appraising everything! And intuitively Jolyon thought: ‘I believe the fellow even now would like to be living here. He could never leave off longing for what he once owned! Well, I must act, somehow or other; but it’s a bore–a great bore.’

Late that evening he wrote to the Chelsea flat, asking if Irene would see him.

The old century which had seen the plant of individualism flower so wonderfully was setting in a sky orange with coming storms. Rumours of war added to the briskness of a London turbulent at the close of the summer holidays. And the streets to Jolyon, who was not often up in town, had a feverish look, due to these new motor- cars and cabs, of which he disapproved aesthetically. He counted these vehicles from his hansom, and made the proportion of them one in twenty. ‘They were one in thirty about a year ago,’ he thought; ‘they’ve come to stay. Just so much more rattling round of wheels and general stink’–for he was one of those rather rare Liberals who object to anything new when it takes a material form; and he instructed his driver to get down to the river quickly, out of the traffic, desiring to look at the water through the mellowing screen of plane-trees. At the little block of flats which stood back some fifty yards from the Embankment, he told the cabman to wait, and went up to the first floor.

Yes, Mrs. Heron was at home!

The effect of a settled if very modest income was at once apparent to him remembering the threadbare refinement in that tiny flat eight years ago when he announced her good fortune. Everything was now fresh, dainty, and smelled of flowers. The general effect was silvery with touches of black, hydrangea colour, and gold. ‘A woman of great taste,’ he thought. Time had dealt gently with Jolyon, for he was a Forsyte. But with Irene Time hardly seemed to deal at all, or such was his impression. She appeared to him not a day older, standing there in mole-coloured velvet corduroy, with soft dark eyes and dark gold hair, with outstretched hand and a little smile.

“Won’t you sit down?”

He had probably never occupied a chair with a fuller sense of embarrassment.

“You look absolutely unchanged,” he said.

“And you look younger, Cousin Jolyon.”

Jolyon ran his hands through his hair, whose thickness was still a comfort to him.

“I’m ancient, but I don’t feel it. That’s one thing about paint- ing, it keeps you young. Titian lived to ninety-nine, and had to have plague to kill him off. Do you know, the first time I ever saw you I thought of a picture by him?”

“When did you see me for the first time?”

“In the Botanical Gardens.”

“How did you know me, if you’d never seen me before?”

“By someone who came up to you.” He was looking at her hardily, but her face did not change; and she said quietly:

“Yes; many lives ago.”

“What is your recipe for youth, Irene?”

“People who don’t live are wonderfully preserved.”

H’m! a bitter little saying! People who don’t live! But an opening, and he took it. “You remember my Cousin Soames?”

He saw her smile faintly at that whimsicality, and at once went on:

“He came to see me the day before yesterday! He wants a divorce. Do you?”

“I?” The word seemed startled out of her. “After twelve years? It’s rather late. Won’t it be difficult?”

Jolyon looked hard into her face. “Unless….” he said.

“Unless I have a lover now. But I have never had one since.”

What did he feel at the simplicity and candour of those words? Relief, surprise, pity! Venus for twelve years without a lover!

“And yet,” he said, “I suppose you would give a good deal to be free, too?”

“I don’t know. What does it matter, now?”

“But if you were to love again?”

“I should love.” In that simple answer she seemed to sum up the whole philosophy of one on whom the world had turned its back.

“Well! Is there anything you would like me to say to him?”

“Only that I’m sorry he’s not free. He had his chance once. I don’t know why he didn’t take it.”

“Because he was a Forsyte; we never part with things, you know, unless we want something in their place; and not always then.”

Irene smiled. “Don’t you, Cousin Jolyon?–I think you do.”

“Of course, I’m a bit of a mongrel–not quite a pure Forsyte. I never take the halfpennies off my cheques, I put them on,” said Jolyon uneasily.

“Well, what does Soames want in place of me now?”

“I don’t know; perhaps children.”

She was silent for a little, looking down.

“Yes,” she murmured; “it’s hard. I would help him to be free if I could.”

Jolyon gazed into his hat, his embarrassment was increasing fast; so was his admiration, his wonder, and his pity. She was so lovely, and so lonely; and altogether it was such a coil!

“Well,” he said, “I shall have to see Soames. If there’s anything I can do for you I’m always at your service. You must think of me as a wretched substitute for my father. At all events I’ll let you know what happens when I speak to Soames. He may supply the material himself.”

She shook her head.

“You see, he has a lot to lose; and I have nothing. I should like him to be free; but I don’t see what I can do.”

“Nor I at the moment,” said Jolyon, and soon after took his leave. He went down to his hansom. Half-past three! Soames would be at his office still.

“To the Poultry,” he called through the trap. In front of the Houses of Parliament and in Whitehall, newsvendors were calling, “Grave situation in the Transvaal!” but the cries hardly roused him, absorbed in recollection of that very beautiful figure, of her soft dark glance, and the words: “I have never had one since.” What on earth did such a woman do with her life, back-watered like this? Solitary, unprotected, with every man’s hand against her or rather–reaching out to grasp her at the least sign. And year after year she went on like that!

The word ‘Poultry’ above the passing citizens brought him back to reality.

‘Forsyte, Bustard and Forsyte,’ in black letters on a ground the colour of peasoup, spurred him to a sort of vigour, and he went up the stone stairs muttering: “Fusty musty ownerships! Well, we couldn’t do without them!”

“I want Mr. Soames Forsyte,” he said to the boy who opened the door.

“What name?”

“Mr. Jolyon Forsyte.”

The youth looked at him curiously, never having seen a Forsyte with a beard, and vanished.

The offices of ‘Forsyte, Bustard and Forsyte’ had slowly absorbed the offices of ‘Tooting and Bowles,’ and occupied the whole of the first floor.

The firm consisted now of nothing but Soames and a number of managing and articled clerks. The complete retirement of James some six years ago had accelerated business, to which the final touch of speed had been imparted when Bustard dropped off, worn out, as many believed, by the suit of ‘Fryer versus Forsyte,’ more in Chancery than ever and less likely to benefit its beneficiaries. Soames, with his saner grasp of actualities, had never permitted it to worry him; on the contrary, he had long perceived that Providence had presented him therein with L200 a year net in perpetuity, and–why not?

When Jolyon entered, his cousin was drawing out a list of holdings in Consols, which in view of the rumours of war he was going to advise his companies to put on the market at once, before other companies did the same. He looked round, sidelong, and said:

“How are you? Just one minute. Sit down, won’t you?” And having entered three amounts, and set a ruler to keep his place, he turned towards Jolyon, biting the side of his flat forefinger….

“Yes?” he said.

“I have seen her.”

Soames frowned.


“She has remained faithful to memory.”

Having said that, Jolyon was ashamed. His cousin had flushed a dusky yellowish red. What had made him tease the poor brute!

“I was to tell you she is sorry you are not free. Twelve years is a long time. You know your law, and what chance it gives you.” Soames uttered a curious little grunt, and the two remained a full minute without speaking. ‘Like wax!’ thought Jolyon, watching that close face, where the flush was fast subsiding. ‘He’ll never give me a sign of what he’s thinking, or going to do. Like wax!’ And he transferred his gaze to a plan of that flourishing town, ‘By- Street on Sea,’ the future existence of which lay exposed on the wall to the possessive instincts of the firm’s clients. The whim- sical thought flashed through him: ‘I wonder if I shall get a bill of costs for this–“To attending Mr. Jolyon Forsyte in the matter of my divorce, to receiving his account of his visit to my wife, and to advising him to go and see her again, sixteen and eightpence.”‘

Suddenly Soames said: “I can’t go on like this. I tell you, I can’t go on like this.” His eyes were shifting from side to side, like an animal’s when it looks for way of escape. ‘He really suffers,’ thought Jolyon; ‘I’ve no business to forget that, just because I don’t like him.’

“Surely,” he said gently, “it lies with yourself. A man can always put these things through if he’ll take it on himself.”

Soames turned square to him, with a sound which seemed to come from somewhere very deep.

“Why should I suffer more than I’ve suffered already? Why should I?”

Jolyon could only shrug his shoulders. His reason agreed, his instinct rebelled; he could not have said why.

“Your father,” went on Soames, “took an interest in her–why, goodness knows! And I suppose you do too?” he gave Jolyon a sharp look. “It seems to me that one only has to do another person a wrong to get all the sympathy. I don’t know in what way I was to blame–I’ve never known. I always treated her well. I gave her everything she could wish for. I wanted her.”

Again Jolyon’s reason nodded; again his instinct shook its head. ‘What is it?’ he thought; ‘there must be something wrong in me. Yet if there is, I’d rather be wrong than right.’

“After all,” said Soames with a sort of glum fierceness, “she was my wife.”

In a flash the thought went through his listener: ‘There it is! Ownerships! Well, we all own things. But–human beings! Pah!’

“You have to look at facts,” he said drily, “or rather the want of them.”

Soames gave him another quick suspicious look.

“The want of them?” he said. “Yes, but I am not so sure.”

“I beg your pardon,” replied Jolyon; “I’ve told you what she said. It was explicit.”

“My experience has not been one to promote blind confidence in her word. We shall see.”

Jolyon got up.

“Good-bye,” he said curtly.

“Good-bye,” returned Soames; and Jolyon went out trying to understand the look, half-startled, half-menacing, on his cousin’s face. He sought Waterloo Station in a disturbed frame of mind, as though the skin of his moral being had been scraped; and all the way down in the train he thought of Irene in her lonely flat, and of Soames in his lonely office, and of the strange paralysis of life that lay on them both. ‘In chancery!’ he thought. ‘Both their necks in chancery–and her’s so pretty!’



The keeping of engagements had not as yet been a conspicuous feature in the life of young Val Dartie, so that when he broke two and kept one, it was the latter event which caused him, if anything, the greater surprise, while jogging back to town from Robin Hill after his ride with Holly. She had been even prettier than he had thought her yesterday, on her silver-roan, long-tailed ‘palfrey’; and it seemed to him, self-critical in the brumous October gloaming and the outskirts of London, that only his boots had shone throughout their two-hour companionship. He took out his new gold ‘hunter’–present from James–and looked not at the time, but at sections of his face in the glittering back of its opened case. He had a temporary spot over one eyebrow, and it displeased him, for it must have displeased her. Crum never had any spots. Together with Crum rose the scene in the promenade of the Pandemonium. To-day he had not had the faintest desire to unbosom himself to Holly about his father. His father lacked poetry, the stirrings of which he was feeling for the first time in his nineteen years. The Liberty, with Cynthia Dark, that almost mythical embodiment of rapture; the Pandemonium, with the woman of uncertain age–both seemed to Val completely ‘off,’ fresh from communion with this new, shy, dark-haired young cousin of his. She rode ‘Jolly well,’ too, so that it had been all the more flattering that she had let him lead her where he would in the long gallops of Richmond Park, though she knew them so much better than he did. Looking back on it all, he was mystified by the barrenness of his speech; he felt that he could say ‘an awful lot of fetching things’ if he had but the chance again, and the thought that he must go back to Littlehampton on the morrow, and to Oxford on the twelfth– ‘to that beastly exam,’ too–without the faintest chance of first seeing her again, caused darkness to settle on his spirit even more quickly than on the evening. He should write to her, however, and she had promised to answer. Perhaps, too, she would come up to Oxford to see her brother. That thought was like the first star, which came out as he rode into Padwick’s livery stables in the purlieus of Sloane Square. He got off and stretched himself luxuriously, for he had ridden some twenty-five good miles. The Dartie within him made him chaffer for five minutes with young Padwick concerning the favourite for the Cambridgeshire; then with the words, “Put the gee down to my account,” he walked away, a little wide at the knees, and flipping his boots with his knotty little cane. ‘I don’t feel a bit inclined to go out,’ he thought. ‘I wonder if mother will stand fizz for my last night!’ With ‘fizz’ and recollection, he could well pass a domestic evening.

When he came down, speckless after his bath, he found his mother scrupulous in a low evening dress, and, to his annoyance, his Uncle Soames. They stopped talking when he came in; then his uncle said:

“He’d better be told.”

At those words, which meant something about his father, of course, Val’s first thought was of Holly. Was it anything beastly? His mother began speaking.

“Your father,” she said in her fashionably appointed voice, while her fingers plucked rather pitifully at sea-green brocade, “your father, my dear boy, has–is not at Newmarket; he’s on his way to South America. He–he’s left us.”

Val looked from her to Soames. Left them! Was he sorry? Was he fond of his father? It seemed to him that he did not know. Then, suddenly–as at a whiff of gardenias and cigars–his heart twitched within him, and he was sorry. One’s father belonged to one, could not go off in this fashion–it was not done! Nor had he always been the ‘bounder’ of the Pandemonium promenade. There were precious memories of tailors’ shops and horses, tips at school, and general lavish kindness, when in luck.

“But why?” he said. Then, as a sportsman himself, was sorry he had asked. The mask of his mother’s face was all disturbed; and he burst out:

“All right, Mother, don’t tell me! Only, what does it mean?”

“A divorce, Val, I’m afraid.”

Val uttered a queer little grunt, and looked quickly at his uncle– that uncle whom he had been taught to look on as a guarantee against the consequences of having a father, even against the Dartie blood in his own veins. The flat-checked visage seemed to wince, and this upset him.

“It won’t be public, will it?”

So vividly before him had come recollection of his own eyes glued to the unsavoury details of many a divorce suit in the Public Press.

“Can’t it be done quietly somehow? It’s so disgusting for–for mother, and–and everybody.”

“Everything will be done as quietly as it can, you may be sure.”

“Yes–but, why is it necessary at all? Mother doesn’t want to marry again.”

Himself, the girls, their name tarnished in the sight of his schoolfellows and of Crum, of the men at Oxford, of–Holly! Unbearable! What was to be gained by it?

“Do you, Mother?” he said sharply.

Thus brought face to face with so much of her own feeling by the one she loved best in the world, Winifred rose from the Empire chair in which she had been sitting. She saw that her son would be against her unless he was told everything; and, yet, how could she tell him? Thus, still plucking at the green brocade, she stared at Soames. Val, too, stared at Soames. Surely this embodiment of respectability and the sense of property could not wish to bring such a slur on his own sister!

Soames slowly passed a little inlaid paperknife over the smooth surface of a marqueterie table; then, without looking at his nephew, he began:

“You don’t understand what your mother has had to put up with these twenty years. This is only the last straw, Val.” And glancing up sideways at Winifred, he added:

“Shall I tell him?”

Winifred was silent. If he were not told, he would be against her! Yet, how dreadful to be told such things of his own father! Clenching her lips, she nodded.

Soames spoke in a rapid, even voice:

“He has always been a burden round your mother’s neck. She has paid his debts over and over again; he has often been drunk, abused and threatened her; and now he is gone to Buenos Aires with a dancer.” And, as if distrusting the efficacy of those words on the boy, he went on quickly:

“He took your mother’s pearls to give to her.”

Val jerked up his hand, then. At that signal of distress Winifred cried out:

“That’ll do, Soames–stop!”

In the boy, the Dartie and the Forsyte were struggling. For debts, drink, dancers, he had a certain sympathy; but the pearls–no! That was too much! And suddenly he found his mother’s hand squeezing his.

“You see,” he heard Soames say, “we can’t have it all begin over again. There’s a limit; we must strike while the iron’s hot.”

Val freed his hand.

“But–you’re–never going to bring out that about the pearls! I couldn’t stand that–I simply couldn’t!”

Winifred cried out:

“No, no, Val–oh no! That’s only to show you how impossible your father is!” And his uncle nodded. Somewhat assuaged, Val took out a cigarette. His father had bought him that thin curved case. Oh! it was unbearable–just as he was going up to Oxford!

“Can’t mother be protected without?” he said. “I could look after her. It could always be done later if it was really necessary.”

A smile played for a moment round Soames’ lips, and became bitter.

“You don’t know what you’re talking of; nothing’s so fatal as delay in such matters.”


“I tell you, boy, nothing’s so fatal. I know from experience.”

His voice had the ring of exasperation. Val regarded him round- eyed, never having known his uncle express any sort of feeling. Oh! Yes–he remembered now–there had been an Aunt Irene, and something had happened–something which people kept dark; he had heard his father once use an unmentionable word of her.

“I don’t want to speak ill of your father,” Soames went on doggedly, “but I know him well enough to be sure that he’ll be back on your mother’s hands before a year’s over. You can imagine what that will mean to her and to all of you after this. The only thing is to cut the knot for good.”

In spite of himself, Val was impressed; and, happening to look at his mother’s face, he got what was perhaps his first real insight into the fact that his own feelings were not always what mattered most.

“All right, mother,” he said; “we’ll back you up. Only I’d like to know when it’ll be. It’s my first term, you know. I don’t want to be up there when it comes off.”

“Oh! my dear boy,” murmured Winifred, “it is a bore for you.” So, by habit, she phrased what, from the expression of her face, was the most poignant regret. “When will it be, Soames?”

“Can’t tell–not for months. We must get restitution first.”

‘What the deuce is that?’ thought Val. ‘What silly brutes lawyers are! Not for months! I know one thing: I’m not going to dine in!’ And he said:

“Awfully sorry, mother, I’ve got to go out to dinner now.”

Though it was his last night, Winifred nodded almost gratefully; they both felt that they had gone quite far enough in the expression of feeling.

Val sought the misty freedom of Green Street, reckless and depressed. And not till he reached Piccadilly did he discover that he had only eighteen-pence. One couldn’t dine off eighteen-pence, and he was very hungry. He looked longingly at the windows of the Iseeum Club, where he had often eaten of the best with his father! Those pearls! There was no getting over them! But the more he brooded and the further he walked the hungrier he naturally became. Short of trailing home, there were only two places where he could go–his grandfather’s in Park Lane, and Timothy’s in the Bayswater Road. Which was the less deplorable? At his grandfather’s he would probably get a better dinner on the spur of the moment. At Timothy’s they gave you a jolly good feed when they expected you, not otherwise. He decided on Park Lane, not unmoved by the thought that to go up to Oxford without affording his grandfather a chance to tip him was hardly fair to either of them. His mother would hear he had been there, of course, and might think it funny; but he couldn’t help that. He rang the bell.

“Hullo, Warmson, any dinner for me, d’you think?”

“They’re just going in, Master Val. Mr. Forsyte will be very glad to see you. He was saying at lunch that he never saw you nowadays.”

Val grinned.

“Well, here I am. Kill the fatted calf, Warmson, let’s have fizz.”

Warmson smiled faintly–in his opinion Val was a young limb.

“I will ask Mrs. Forsyte, Master Val.”

“I say,” Val grumbled, taking off his overcoat, “I’m not at school any more, you know.”

Warmson, not without a sense of humour, opened the door beyond the stag’s-horn coat stand, with the words:

“Mr. Valerus, ma’am.”

“Confound him!” thought Val, entering.

A warm embrace, a “Well, Val!” from Emily, and a rather quavery “So there you are at last!” from James, restored his sense of dignity.

“Why didn’t you let us know? There’s only saddle of mutton. Champagne, Warmson,” said Emily. And they went in.

At the great dining-table, shortened to its utmost, under which so many fashionable legs had rested, James sat at one end, Emily at the other, Val half-way between them; and something of the loneliness of his grandparents, now that all their four children were flown, reached the boy’s spirit. ‘I hope I shall kick the bucket long before I’m as old as grandfather,’ he thought. ‘Poor old chap, he’s as thin as a rail!’ And lowering his voice while his grandfather and Warmson were in discussion about sugar in the soup, he said to Emily:

“It’s pretty brutal at home, Granny. I suppose you know.”

“Yes, dear boy.”

“Uncle Soames was there when I left. I say, isn’t there anything to be done to prevent a divorce? Why is he so beastly keen on it?”

“Hush, my dear!” murmured Emily; “we’re keeping it from your grandfather.”

James’ voice sounded from the other end.

“What’s that? What are you talking about?”

“About Val’s college,” returned Emily. “Young Pariser was there, James; you remember–he nearly broke the Bank at Monte Carlo afterwards.”

James muttered that he did not know–Val must look after himself up there, or he’d get into bad ways. And he looked at his grandson with gloom, out of which affection distrustfully glimmered.

“What I’m afraid of,” said Val to his plate, “is of being hard up, you know.”

By instinct he knew that the weak spot in that old man was fear of insecurity for his grandchildren.

“Well,” said James, and the soup in his spoon dribbled over, “you’ll have a good allowance; but you must keep within it.”

“Of course,” murmured Val; “if it is good. How much will it be, Grandfather?”

“Three hundred and fifty; it’s too much. I had next to nothing at your age.”

Val sighed. He had hoped for four, and been afraid of three. “I don’t know what your young cousin has,” said James; “he’s up there. His father’s a rich man.”

“Aren’t you?” asked Val hardily.

“I?” replied James, flustered. “I’ve got so many expenses. Your father….” and he was silent.

“Cousin Jolyon’s got an awfully jolly place. I went down there with Uncle Soames–ripping stables.”

“Ah!” murmured James profoundly. “That house–I knew how it would be!” And he lapsed into gloomy meditation over his fish-bones. His son’s tragedy, and the deep cleavage it had caused in the Forsyte family, had still the power to draw him down into a whirlpool of doubts and misgivings. Val, who hankered to talk of Robin Hill, because Robin Hill meant Holly, turned to Emily and said:

“Was that the house built for Uncle Soames?” And, receiving her nod, went on: “I wish you’d tell me about him, Granny. What became of Aunt Irene? Is she still going? He seems awfully worked-up about something to-night.”

Emily laid her finger on her lips, but the word Irene had caught James’ ear.

“What’s that?” he said, staying a piece of mutton close to his lips. “Who’s been seeing her? I knew we hadn’t heard the last of that.”

“Now, James,” said Emily, “eat your dinner. Nobody’s been seeing anybody.”

James put down his fork.

“There you go,” he said. “I might die before you’d tell me of it. Is Soames getting a divorce?”

“Nonsense,” said Emily with incomparable aplomb; “Soames is much too sensible.”

James had sought his own throat, gathering the long white whiskers together on the skin and bone of it.

“She–she was always….” he said, and with that enigmatic remark the conversation lapsed, for Warmson had returned. But later, when the saddle of mutton had been succeeded by sweet, savoury, and dessert, and Val had received a cheque for twenty pounds and his grandfather’s kiss–like no other kiss in the world, from lips pushed out with a sort of fearful suddenness, as if yielding to weakness–he returned to the charge in the hall.

“Tell us about Uncle Soames, Granny. Why is he so keen on mother’s getting a divorce?”

“Your Uncle Soames,” said Emily, and her voice had in it an exaggerated assurance, “is a lawyer, my dear boy. He’s sure to know best.”

“Is he?” muttered Val. “But what did become of Aunt Irene? I remember she was jolly good-looking.”

“She–er….” said Emily, “behaved very badly. We don’t talk about it.”

“Well, I don’t want everybody at Oxford to know about our affairs,” ejaculated Val; “it’s a brutal idea. Why couldn’t father be pre- vented without its being made public?”

Emily sighed. She had always lived rather in an atmosphere of divorce, owing to her fashionable proclivities–so many of those whose legs had been under her table having gained a certain notor- iety. When, however, it touched her own family, she liked it no better than other people. But she was eminently practical, and a woman of courage, who never pursued a shadow in preference to its substance.

“Your mother,” she said, “will be happier if she’s quite free, Val. Good-night, my dear boy; and don’t wear loud waistcoats up at Oxford, they’re not the thing just now. Here’s a little present.”

With another five pounds in his hand, and a little warmth in his heart, for he was fond of his grandmother, he went out into Park Lane. A wind had cleared the mist, the autumn leaves were rustling, and the stars were shining. With all that money in his pocket an impulse to ‘see life’ beset him; but he had not gone forty yards in the direction of Piccadilly when Holly’s shy face, and her eyes with an imp dancing in their gravity, came up before him, and his hand seemed to be tingling again from the pressure of her warm gloved hand. ‘No, dash it!’ he thought, ‘I’m going home!’



It was full late for the river, but the weather was lovely, and summer lingered below the yellowing leaves. Soames took many looks at the day from his riverside garden near Mapledurham that Sunday morning.

With his own hands he put flowers about his little house-boat, and equipped the punt, in which, after lunch, he proposed to take them on the river. Placing those Chinese-looking cushions, he could not tell whether or no he wished to take Annette alone. She was so very pretty–could he trust himself not to say irrevocable words, passing beyond the limits of discretion? Roses on the veranda were still in bloom, and the hedges ever-green, so that there was almost nothing of middle-aged autumn to chill the mood; yet was he nervous, fidgety, strangely distrustful of his powers to steer just the right course. This visit had been planned to produce in Annette and her mother a due sense of his possessions, so that they should be ready to receive with respect any overture he might later be disposed to make. He dressed with great care, making himself neither too young nor too old, very thankful that his hair was still thick and smooth and had no grey in it. Three times he went up to his picture-gallery. If they had any knowledge at all, they must see at once that his collection alone was worth at least thirty thousand pounds. He minutely inspected, too, the pretty bedroom overlooking the river where they would take off their hats. It would be her bedroom if–if the matter went through, and she became his wife. Going up to the dressing-table he passed his hand over the lilac-coloured pincushion, into which were stuck all kinds of pins; a bowl of pot-pourri exhaled a scent that made his head turn just a little. His wife! If only the whole thing could be settled out of hand, and there was not the nightmare of this divorce to be gone through first; and with gloom puckered on his forehead, he looked out at the river shining beyond the roses and the lawn. Madame Lamotte would never resist this prospect for her child; Annette would never resist her mother. If only he were free! He drove to the station to meet them. What taste French- women had! Madame Lamotte was in black with touches of lilac colour, Annette in greyish lilac linen, with cream coloured gloves and hat. Rather pale she looked and Londony; and her blue eyes were demure. Waiting for them to come down to lunch, Soames stood in the open french-window of the diningroom moved by that sensuous delight in sunshine and flowers and trees which only came to the full when youth and beauty were there to share it with one. He had ordered the lunch with intense consideration; the wine was a very special Sauterne, the whole appointments of the meal perfect, the coffee served on the veranda super-excellent. Madame Lamotte accepted creme de menthe; Annette refused. Her manners were charming, with just a suspicion of ‘the conscious beauty’ creeping into them. ‘Yes,’ thought Soames, ‘another year of London and that sort of life, and she’ll be spoiled.’

Madame was in sedate French raptures. “Adorable! Le soleil est si bon! How everything is chic, is it not, Annette? Monsieur is a real Monte Cristo.” Annette murmured assent, with a look up at Soames which he could not read. He proposed a turn on the river. But to punt two persons when one of them looked so ravishing on those Chinese cushions was merely to suffer from a sense of lost opportunity; so they went but a short way towards Pangbourne, drifting slowly back, with every now and then an autumn leaf dropping on Annette or on her mother’s black amplitude. And Soames was not happy, worried by the thought: ‘How–when–where–can I say–what?’ They did not yet even know that he was married. To tell them he was married might jeopardise his every chance; yet, if he did not definitely make them understand that he wished for Annette’s hand, it would be dropping into some other clutch before he was free to claim it.

At tea, which they both took with lemon, Soames spoke of the Transvaal.

“There’ll be war,” he said.

Madame Lamotte lamented.

“Ces pauvres gens bergers!” Could they not be left to themselves?

Soames smiled–the question seemed to him absurd.

Surely as a woman of business she understood that the British could not abandon their legitimate commercial interests.

“Ah! that!” But Madame Lamotte found that the English were a little hypocrite. They were talking of justice and the Uitlanders, not of business. Monsieur was the first who had spoken to her of that.

“The Boers are only half-civilised,” remarked Soames; “they stand in the way of progress. It will never do to let our suzerainty go.”

“What does that mean to say? Suzerainty!”

“What a strange word!” Soames became eloquent, roused by these threats to the principle of possession, and stimulated by Annette’s eyes fixed on him. He was delighted when presently she said:

“I think Monsieur is right. They should be taught a lesson.” She was sensible!

“Of course,” he said, “we must act with moderation. I’m no jingo. We must be firm without bullying. Will you come up and see my pictures?” Moving from one to another of these treasures, he soon perceived that they knew nothing. They passed his last Mauve, that remarkable study of a ‘Hay-cart going Home,’ as if it were a lithograph. He waited almost with awe to see how they would view the jewel of his collection–an Israels whose price he had watched ascending till he was now almost certain it had reached top value, and would be better on the market again. They did not view it at all. This was a shock; and yet to have in Annette a virgin taste to form would be better than to have the silly, half-baked pre- dilections of the English middle-class to deal with. At the end of the gallery was a Meissonier of which he was rather ashamed– Meissonier was so steadily going down. Madame Lamotte stopped before it.

“Meissonier! Ah! What a jewel!” Soames took advantage of that moment. Very gently touching Annette’s arm, he said:

“How do you like my place, Annette?”

She did not shrink, did not respond; she looked at him full, looked down, and murmured:

“Who would not like it? It is so beautiful!”

“Perhaps some day–” Soames said, and stopped.

So pretty she was, so self-possessed–she frightened him. Those cornflower-blue eyes, the turn of that creamy neck, her delicate curves–she was a standing temptation to indiscretion! No! No! One must be sure of one’s ground–much surer! ‘If I hold off,’ he thought, ‘it will tantalise her.’ And he crossed over to Madame Lamotte, who was still in front of the Meissonier.

“Yes, that’s quite a good example of his later work. You must come again, Madame, and see them lighted up. You must both come and spend a night.”

Enchanted, would it not be beautiful to see them lighted? By moonlight too, the river must be ravishing!

Annette murmured:

“Thou art sentimental, Maman!”

Sentimental! That black-robed, comely, substantial Frenchwoman of the world! And suddenly he was certain as he could be that there was no sentiment in either of them. All the better. Of what use sentiment? And yet….!

He drove to the station with them, and saw them into the train. To the tightened pressure of his hand it seemed that Annette’s fingers responded just a little; her face smiled at him through the dark.

He went back to the carriage, brooding. “Go on home, Jordan,” he said to the coachman; “I’ll walk.” And he strode out into the darkening lanes, caution and the desire of possession playing see-saw within him. ‘Bon soir, monsieur!’ How softly she had said it. To know what was in her mind! The French–they were like cats–one could tell nothing! But–how pretty! What a perfect young thing to hold in one’s arms! What a mother for his heir! And he thought, with a smile, of his family and their surprise at a French wife, and their curiosity, and of the way he would play with it and buffet it confound them!

The, poplars sighed in the darkness; an owl hooted. Shadows deepened in the water. ‘I will and must be free,’ he thought. ‘I won’t hang about any longer. I’ll go and see Irene. If you want things done, do them yourself. I must live again–live and move and have my being.’ And in echo to that queer biblicality church- bells chimed the call to evening prayer.



On a Tuesday evening after dining at his club Soames set out to do what required more courage and perhaps less delicacy than anything he had yet undertaken in his life–save perhaps his birth, and one other action. He chose the evening, indeed, partly because Irene was more likely to be in, but mainly because he had failed to find sufficient resolution by daylight, had needed wine to give him extra daring.

He left his hansom on the Embankment, and walked up to the Old Church, uncertain of the block of flats where he knew she lived. He found it hiding behind a much larger mansion; and having read the name, ‘Mrs. Irene Heron’–Heron, forsooth! Her maiden name: so she used that again, did she?–he stepped back into the road to look up at the windows of the first floor. Light was coming through in the corner fiat, and he could hear a piano being played. He had never had a love of music, had secretly borne it a grudge in the old days when so often she had turned to her piano, making of it a refuge place into which she knew he could not enter. Repulse! The long repulse, at first restrained and secret, at last open! Bitter memory came with that sound. It must be she playing, and thus almost assured of seeing her, he stood more undecided than ever. Shivers of anticipation ran through him; his tongue felt dry, his heart beat fast. ‘I have no cause to be afraid,’ he thought. And then the lawyer stirred within him. Was he doing a foolish thing? Ought he not to have arranged a formal meeting in the presence of her trustee? No! Not before that fellow Jolyon, who sympathised with her! Never! He crossed back into the doorway, and, slowly, to keep down the beating of his heart, mounted the single flight of stairs and rang the bell. When the door was opened to him his sensations were regulated by the scent which came–that perfume–from away back in the past, bringing muffled remembrance: fragrance of a drawing-room he used to enter, of a house he used to own–perfume of dried rose-leaves and honey!

“Say, Mr. Forsyte,” he said, “your mistress will see me, I know.” He had thought this out; she would think it was Jolyon!

When the maid was gone and he was alone in the tiny hall, where the light was dim from one pearly-shaded sconce, and walls, carpet, everything was silvery, making the walled-in space all ghostly, he could only think ridiculously: ‘Shall I go in with my overcoat on, or take it off?’ The music ceased; the maid said from the doorway:

“Will you walk in, sir?”

Soames walked in. He noted mechanically that all was still silvery, and that the upright piano was of satinwood. She had risen and stood recoiled against it; her hand, placed on the keys as if groping for support, had struck a sudden discord, held for a moment, and released. The light from the shaded piano-candle fell on her neck, leaving her face rather in shadow. She was in a black evening dress, with a sort of mantilla over her shoulders–he did not remember ever having seen her in black, and the thought passed through him: ‘She dresses even when she’s alone.’

“You!” he heard her whisper.

Many times Soames had rehearsed this scene in fancy. Rehearsal served him not at all. He simply could not speak. He had never thought that the sight of this woman whom he had once so passionately desired, so completely owned, and whom he had not seen for twelve years, could affect him in this way. He had imagined himself speaking and acting, half as man of business, half as judge. And now it was as if he were in the presence not of a mere woman and erring wife, but of some force, subtle and elusive as atmo-sphere itself within him and outside. A kind of defensive irony welled up in him.

“Yes, it’s a queer visit! I hope you’re well.”

“Thank you. Will you sit down?”

She had moved away from the piano, and gone over to a window-seat, sinking on to it, with her hands clasped in her lap. Light fell on her there, so that Soames could see her face, eyes, hair, strangely as he remembered them, strangely beautiful.

He sat down on the edge of a satinwood chair, upholstered with silver-coloured stuff, close to where he was standing.

“You have not changed,” he said.

“No? What have you come for?”

“To discuss things.”

“I have heard what you want from your cousin.”


“I am willing. I have always been.”

The sound of her voice, reserved and close, the sight of her figure watchfully poised, defensive, was helping him now. A thousand memories of her, ever on the watch against him, stirred, and….

“Perhaps you will be good enough, then, to give me information on which I can act. The law must be complied with.”

“I have none to give you that you don’t know of.”

“Twelve years! Do you suppose I can believe that?”

“I don’t suppose you will believe anything I say; but it’s the truth.”

Soames looked at her hard. He had said that she had not changed; now he perceived that she had. Not in face, except that it was more beautiful; not in form, except that it was a little fuller– no! She had changed spiritually. There was more of her, as it were, something of activity and daring, where there had been sheer passive resistance. ‘Ah!’ he thought, ‘that’s her independent income! Confound Uncle Jolyon!’

“I suppose you’re comfortably off now?” he said.

“Thank you, yes.”

“Why didn’t you let me provide for you? I would have, in spite of everything.”

A faint smile came on her lips; but she did not answer.

“You are still my wife,” said Soames. Why he said that, what he meant by it, he knew neither when he spoke nor after. It was a truism almost preposterous, but its effect was startling. She rose from the window-seat, and stood for a moment perfectly still, looking at him. He could see her bosom heaving. Then she turned to the window and threw it open.

“Why do that?” he said sharply. “You’ll catch cold in that dress. I’m not dangerous.” And he uttered a little sad laugh.

She echoed it–faintly, bitterly.

“It was–habit.”

“Rather odd habit,” said Soames as bitterly. “Shut the window!”

She shut it and sat down again. She had developed power, this woman–this–wife of his! He felt it issuing from her as she sat there, in a sort of armour. And almost unconsciously he rose and moved nearer; he wanted to see the expression on her face. Her eyes met his unflinching. Heavens! how clear they were, and what a dark brown against that white skin, and that burnt-amber hair! And how white her shoulders.

Funny sensation this! He ought to hate her.

“You had better tell me,” he said; “it’s to your advantage to be free as well as to mine. That old matter is too old.”

“I have told you.”

“Do you mean to tell me there has been nothing–nobody?”

“Nobody. You must go to your own life.”

Stung by that retort, Soames moved towards the piano and back to the hearth, to and fro, as he had been wont in the old days in their drawing-room when his feelings were too much for him.

“That won’t do,” he said. “You deserted me. In common justice it’s for you….”

He saw her shrug those white shoulders, heard her murmur:

“Yes. Why didn’t you divorce me then? Should I have cared?”

He stopped, and looked at her intently with a sort of curiosity. What on earth did she do with herself, if she really lived quite alone? And why had he not divorced her? The old feeling that she had never understood him, never done him justice, bit him while he stared at her.

“Why couldn’t you have made me a good wife?” he said.

“Yes; it was a crime to marry you. I have paid for it. You will find some way perhaps. You needn’t mind my name, I have none to lose. Now I think you had better go.”

A sense of defeat–of being defrauded of his self-justification, and of something else beyond power of explanation to himself, beset Soames like the breath of a cold fog. Mechanically he reached up, took from the mantel-shelf a little china bowl, reversed it, and said:

“Lowestoft. Where did you get this? I bought its fellow at Jobson’s.” And, visited by the sudden memory of how, those many years ago, he and she had bought china together, he remained staring at the little bowl, as if it contained all the past. Her voice roused him.

“Take it. I don’t want it.”

Soames put it back on the shelf.

“Will you shake hands?” he said.

A faint smile curved her lips. She held out her hand. It was cold to his rather feverish touch. ‘She’s made of ice,’ he thought– ‘she was always made of ice!’ But even as that thought darted through him, his senses were assailed by the perfume of her dress and body, as though the warmth within her, which had never been for him, were struggling to show its presence. And he turned on his heel. He walked out and away, as if someone with a whip were after him, not even looking for a cab, glad of the empty Embankment and the cold river, and the thick-strewn shadows of the plane-tree leaves–confused, flurried, sore at heart, and vaguely disturbed, as though he had made some deep mistake whose consequences he could not foresee. And the fantastic thought suddenly assailed him if instead of, ‘I think you had better go,’ she had said, ‘I think you had better stay!’ What should he have felt, what would he have done? That cursed attraction of her was there for him even now, after all these years of estrangement and bitter thoughts. It was there, ready to mount to his head at a sign, a touch. ‘I was a fool to go!’ he muttered. ‘I’ve advanced nothing. Who could imagine? I never thought!’ Memory, flown back to the first years of his marriage, played him torturing tricks. She had not deserved to keep her beauty–the beauty he had owned and known so well. And a kind of bitterness at the tenacity of his own admiration welled up in him. Most men would have hated the sight of her, as she had deserved. She had spoiled his life, wounded his pride to death, defrauded him of a son. And yet the mere sight of her, cold and resisting as ever, had this power to upset him utterly! It was some damned magnetism she had! And no wonder if, as she asserted; she had lived untouched these last twelve years. So Bosinney– cursed be his memory!–had lived on all this time with her! Soames could not tell whether he was glad of that knowledge or no.

Nearing his Club at last he stopped to buy a paper. A headline ran: ‘Boers reported to repudiate suzerainty!’ Suzerainty! ‘Just like her!’ he thought: ‘she always did. Suzerainty! I still have it by rights. She must be awfully lonely in that wretched little flat!’



Soames belonged to two clubs, ‘The Connoisseurs,’ which he put on his cards and seldom visited, and ‘The Remove,’ which he did not put on his cards and frequented. He had joined this Liberal institution five years ago, having made sure that its members were now nearly all sound Conservatives in heart and pocket, if not in principle. Uncle Nicholas had put him up. The fine reading-room was decorated in the Adam style.

On entering that evening he glanced at the tape for any news about the Transvaal, and noted that Consols were down seven-sixteenths since the morning. He was turning away to seek the reading-room when a voice behind him said:

“Well, Soames, that went off all right.”

It was Uncle Nicholas, in a frock-coat and his special cut-away collar, with a black tie passed through a ring. Heavens! How young and dapper he looked at eighty-two!

“I think Roger’d have been pleased,” his uncle went on. “The thing was very well done. Blackley’s? I’ll make a note of them. Buxton’s done me no good. These Boers are upsetting me–that fellow Chamberlain’s driving the country into war. What do you think?”

“Bound to come,” murmured Soames.

Nicholas passed his hand over his thin, cleanshaven cheeks, very rosy after his summer cure; a slight pout had gathered on his lips. This business had revived all his Liberal principles.

“I mistrust that chap; he’s a stormy petrel. House-property will go down if there’s war. You’ll have trouble with Roger’s estate. I often told him he ought to get out of some of his houses. He was an opinionated beggar.”

‘There was a pair of you!’ thought Soames. But he never argued with an uncle, in that way preserving their opinion of him as ‘a long-headed chap,’ and the legal care of their property.

“They tell me at Timothy’s,” said Nicholas, lowering his voice, “that Dartie has gone off at last. That’ll be a relief to your father. He was a rotten egg.”

Again Soames nodded. If there was a subject on which the Forsytes really agreed, it was the character of Montague Dartie.

“You take care,” said Nicholas, “or he’ll turn up again. Winifred had better have the tooth out, I should say. No use preserving what’s gone bad.”

Soames looked at him sideways. His nerves, exacerbated by the interview he had just come through, disposed him to see a personal allusion in those words.

“I’m advising her,” he said shortly.

“Well,” said Nicholas, “the brougham’s waiting; I must get home. I’m very poorly. Remember me to your father.”

And having thus reconsecrated the ties of blood, he passed down the steps at his youthful gait and was wrapped into his fur coat by the junior porter.

‘I’ve never known Uncle Nicholas other than “very poorly,”‘ mused Soames, ‘or seen him look other than everlasting. What a family! Judging by him, I’ve got thirty-eight years of health before me. Well, I’m not going to waste them.’ And going over to a mirror he stood looking at his face. Except for a line or two, and three or four grey hairs in his little dark moustache, had he aged any more than Irene? The prime of life–he and she in the very prime of life! And a fantastic thought shot into his mind. Absurd! Idiotic! But again it came. And genuinely alarmed by the recur- rence, as one is by the second fit of shivering which presages a feverish cold, he sat down on the weighing machine. Eleven stone! He had not varied two pounds in twenty years. What age was she? Nearly thirty-seven–not too old to have a child–not at all! Thirty-seven on the ninth of next month. He remembered her birthday well–he had always observed it religiously, even that last birthday so soon before she left him, when he was almost certain she was faithless. Four birthdays in his house. He had looked forward to them, because his gifts had meant a semblance of gratitude, a certain attempt at warmth. Except, indeed, that last birthday–which had tempted him to be too religious! And he shied away in thought. Memory heaps dead leaves on corpse-like deeds, from under which they do but vaguely offend the sense. And then he thought suddenly: ‘I could send her a present for her birthday. After all, we’re Christians! Couldn’t!–couldn’t we join up again!’ And he uttered a deep sigh sitting there. Annette! Ah! but between him and Annette was the need for that wretched divorce suit! And how?

“A man can always work these things, if he’ll take it on himself,” Jolyon had said.

But why should he take the scandal on himself with his whole career as a pillar of the law at stake? It was not fair! It was quix- otic! Twelve years’ separation in which he had taken no steps to free himself put out of court the possibility of using her conduct with Bosinney as a ground for divorcing her. By doing nothing to secure relief he had acquiesced, even if the evidence could now be gathered, which was more than doubtful. Besides, his own pride would never let him use that old incident, he had suffered from it too much. No! Nothing but fresh misconduct on her part–but she had denied it; and–almost–he had believed her. Hung up! Utterly hung up!

He rose from the scooped-out red velvet seat with a feeling of constriction about his vitals. He would never sleep with this going on in him! And, taking coat and hat again, he went out, moving eastward. In Trafalgar Square he became aware of some special commotion travelling towards him out of the mouth of the Strand. It materialised in newspaper men calling out so loudly that no words whatever could be heard. He stopped to listen, and one came by.

“Payper! Special! Ultimatium by Krooger! Declaration of war!” Soames bought the paper. There it was in the stop press….! His first thought was: ‘The Boers are committing suicide.’ His second: ‘Is there anything still I ought to sell?’ If so he had missed the chance–there would certainly be a slump in the city to-morrow. He swallowed this thought with a nod of defiance. That ultimatum was insolent–sooner than let it pass he was prepared to lose money. They wanted a lesson, and they would get it; but it would take three months at least to bring them to heel. There weren’t the troops out there; always behind time, the Government! Confound those newspaper rats! What was the use of waking everybody up? Breakfast to-morrow was quite soon enough. And he thought with alarm of his father. They would cry it down Park Lane. Hailing a hansom, he got in and told the man to drive there.

James and Emily had just gone up to bed, and after communicating the news to Warmson, Soames prepared to follow. He paused by after-thought to say:

“What do you think of it, Warmson?”

The butler ceased passing a hat brush over the silk hat Soames had taken off, and, inclining his face a little forward, said in a low voice: “Well, sir, they ‘aven’t a chance, of course; but I’m told they’re very good shots. I’ve got a son in the Inniskillings.”

“You, Warmson? Why, I didn’t know you were married.”

“No, sir. I don’t talk of it. I expect he’ll be going out.”

The slighter shock Soames had felt on discovering that he knew so little of one whom he thought he knew so well was lost in the slight shock of discovering that the war might touch one personally. Born in the year of the Crimean War, he had only come to consciousness by the time the Indian Mutiny was over; since then the many little wars of the British Empire had been entirely professional, quite unconnected with the Forsytes and all they stood for in the body politic. This war would surely be no exception. But his mind ran hastily over his family. Two of the Haymans, he had heard, were in some Yeomanry or other–it had always been a pleasant thought, there was a certain distinction about the Yeomanry; they wore, or used to wear, a blue uniform with silver about it, and rode horses. And Archibald, he remembered, had once on a time joined the Militia, but had given it up because his father, Nicholas, had made such a fuss about his ‘wasting his time peacocking about in a uniform.’ Recently he had heard somewhere that young Nicholas’ eldest, very young Nicholas, had become a Volunteer. ‘No,’ thought Soames, mounting the stairs slowly, ‘there’s nothing in that!’

He stood on the landing outside his parents’ bed and dressing rooms, debating whether or not to put his nose in and say a reassuring word. Opening the landing window, he listened. The rumble from Piccadilly was all the sound he heard, and with the thought, ‘If these motor-cars increase, it’ll affect house property,’ he was about to pass on up to the room always kept ready for him when he heard, distant as yet, the hoarse rushing call of a newsvendor. There it was, and coming past the house! He knocked on his mother’s door and went in.

His father was sitting up in bed, with his ears pricked under the white hair which Emily kept so beautifully cut. He looked pink, and extraordinarily clean, in his setting of white sheet and pillow, out of which the points of his high, thin, nightgowned shoulders emerged in small peaks. His eyes alone, grey and distrustful under their withered lids, were moving from the window to Emily, who in a wrapper was walking up and down, squeezing a rubber ball attached to a scent bottle. The room reeked faintly of the eau-de-Cologne she was spraying.

“All right!” said Soames, “it’s not a fire. The Boers have declared war–that’s all.”

Emily stopped her spraying.

“Oh!” was all she said, and looked at James.

Soames, too, looked at his father. He was taking it differently from their expectation, as if some thought, strange to them, were working in him.

“H’m!” he muttered suddenly, “I shan’t live to see the end of this.”

“Nonsense, James! It’ll be over by Christmas.”

“What do you know about it?” James answered her with asperity. “It’s a pretty mess at this time of night, too!” He lapsed into silence, and his wife and son, as if hypnotised, waited for him to say: ‘I can’t tell–I don’t know; I knew how it would be!’ But he did not. The grey eyes shifted, evidently seeing nothing in the room; then movement occurred under the bedclothes, and the knees were drawn up suddenly to a great height.

“They ought to send out Roberts. It all comes from that fellow Gladstone and his Majuba.”

The two listeners noted something beyond the usual in his voice, something of real anxiety. It was as if he had said: ‘I shall never see the old country peaceful and safe again. I shall have to die before I know she’s won.’ And in spite of the feeling that James must not be encouraged to be fussy, they were touched. Soames went up to the bedside and stroked his father’s hand which had emerged from under the bedclothes, long and wrinkled with veins.

“Mark my words!” said James, “consols will go to par. For all I know, Val may go and enlist.”

“Oh, come, James!” cried Emily, “you talk as if there were danger.”

Her comfortable voice seemed to soothe James for once.

“Well,” he muttered, “I told you how it would be. I don’t know, I’m sure–nobody tells me anything. Are you sleeping here, my boy?”

The crisis was past, he would now compose himself to his normal degree of anxiety; and, assuring his father that he was sleeping in the house, Soames pressed his hand, and went up to his room.

The following afternoon witnessed the greatest crowd Timothy’s had known for many a year. On national occasions, such as this, it was, indeed, almost impossible to avoid going there. Not that there was any danger or rather only just enough to make it necessary to assure each other that there was none.

Nicholas was there early. He had seen Soames the night before– Soames had said it was bound to come. This old Kruger was in his dotage–why, he must be seventy-five if he was a day!

(Nicholas was eighty-two.) What had Timothy said? He had had a fit after Majuba. These Boers were a grasping lot! The dark-haired Francie, who had arrived on his heels, with the contradictious touch which became the free spirit of a daughter of Roger, chimed in:

“Kettle and pot, Uncle Nicholas. What price the Uitlanders?” What price, indeed! A new expression, and believed to be due to her brother George.

Aunt Juley thought Francie ought not to say such a thing. Dear Mrs. MacAnder’s boy, Charlie MacAnder, was one, and no one could call him grasping. At this Francie uttered one of her mots, scandalising, and so frequently repeated:

“Well, his father’s a Scotchman, and his mother’s a cat.”

Aunt Juley covered her ears, too late, but Aunt Hester smiled; as for Nicholas, he pouted–witticism of which he was not the author was hardly to his taste. Just then Marian Tweetyman arrived, followed almost immediately by young Nicholas. On seeing his son, Nicholas rose.

“Well, I must be going,” he said, “Nick here will tell you what’ll win the race.” And with this hit at his eldest, who, as a pillar