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  • 1906
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of accountancy, and director of an insurance company, was no more addicted to sport than his father had ever been, he departed. Dear Nicholas! What race was that? Or was it only one of his jokes? He was a wonderful man for his age! How many lumps would dear Marian take? And how were Giles and Jesse? Aunt Juley supposed their Yeomanry would be very busy now, guarding the coast, though of course the Boers had no ships. But one never knew what the French might do if they had the chance, especially since that dreadful Fashoda scare, which had upset Timothy so terribly that he had made no investments for months afterwards. It was the ingratitude of the Boers that was so dreadful, after everything had been done for them–Dr. Jameson imprisoned, and he was so nice, Mrs. MacAnder had always said. And Sir Alfred Milner sent out to talk to them–such a clever man! She didn’t know what they wanted.

But at this moment occurred one of those sensations–so precious at Timothy’s–which great occasions sometimes bring forth:

“Miss June Forsyte.”

Aunts Juley and Hester were on their feet at once, trembling from smothered resentment, and old affection bubbling up, and pride at the return of a prodigal June! Well, this was a surprise! Dear June–after all these years! And how well she was looking! Not changed at all! It was almost on their lips to add, ‘And how is your dear grandfather?’ forgetting in that giddy moment that poor dear Jolyon had been in his grave for seven years now.

Ever the most courageous and downright of all the Forsytes, June, with her decided chin and her spirited eyes and her hair like flame, sat down, slight and short, on a gilt chair with a bead- worked seat, for all the world as if ten years had not elapsed since she had been to see them–ten years of travel and independence and devotion to lame ducks. Those ducks of late had been all definitely painters, etchers, or sculptors, so that her impatience with the Forsytes and their hopelessly inartistic outlook had become intense. Indeed, she had almost ceased to believe that her family existed, and looked round her now with a sort of challenging directness which brought exquisite discomfort to the roomful. She had not expected to meet any of them but ‘the poor old things’; and why she had come to see them she hardly knew, except that, while on her way from Oxford Street to a studio in Latimer Road, she had suddenly remembered them with compunction as two long-neglected old lame ducks.

Aunt Juley broke the hush again. “We’ve just been saying, dear, how dreadful it is about these Boers! And what an impudent thing of that old Kruger!”

“Impudent!” said June. “I think he’s quite right. What business have we to meddle with them? If he turned out all those wretched Uitlanders it would serve them right. They’re only after money.”

The silence of sensation was broken by Francie saying:

“What? Are you a pro-Boer?” (undoubtedly the first use of that expression).

“Well! Why can’t we leave them alone?” said June, just as, in the open doorway, the maid said “Mr. Soames Forsyte.” Sensation on sensation! Greeting was almost held up by curiosity to see how June and he would take this encounter, for it was shrewdly suspected, if not quite known, that they had not met since that old and lamentable affair of her fiance Bosinney with Soames’ wife. They were seen to just touch each other’s hands, and look each at the other’s left eye only. Aunt Juley came at once to the rescue:

“Dear June is so original. Fancy, Soames, she thinks the Boers are not to blame.”

“They only want their independence,” said June; “and why shouldn’t they have it?”

“Because,” answered Soames, with his smile a little on one side, “they happen to have agreed to our suzerainty.”

“Suzerainty!” repeated June scornfully; “we shouldn’t like anyone’s suzerainty over us.”

“They got advantages in payment,” replied Soames; “a contract is a contract.”

“Contracts are not always just,” fumed out June, “and when they’re not, they ought to be broken. The Boers are much the weaker. We could afford to be generous.”

Soames sniffed. “That’s mere sentiment,” he said.

Aunt Hester, to whom nothing was more awful than any kind of disagreement, here leaned forward and remarked decisively:

“What lovely weather it has been for the time of year?”

But June was not to be diverted.

“I don’t know why sentiment should be sneered at. It’s the best thing in the world.” She looked defiantly round, and Aunt Juley had to intervene again:

“Have you bought any pictures lately, Soames?”

Her incomparable instinct for the wrong subject had not failed her. Soames flushed. To disclose the name of his latest purchases would be like walking into the jaws of disdain. For somehow they all knew of June’s predilection for ‘genius’ not yet on its legs, and her contempt for ‘success’ unless she had had a finger in securing it.

“One or two,” he muttered.

But June’s face had changed; the Forsyte within her was seeing its chance. Why should not Soames buy some of the pictures of Eric Cobbley–her last lame duck? And she promptly opened her attack: Did Soames know his work? It was so wonderful. He was the coming man.

Oh, yes, Soames knew his work. It was in his view ‘splashy,’ and would never get hold of the public.

June blazed up.

“Of course it won’t; that’s the last thing one would wish for. I thought you were a connoisseur, not a picture-dealer.”

“Of course Soames is a connoisseur,” Aunt Juley said hastily; “he has wonderful taste–he can always tell beforehand what’s going to be successful.”

“Oh!” gasped June, and sprang up from the bead-covered chair, “I hate that standard of success. Why can’t people buy things because they like them?”

“You mean,” said Francie, “because you like them.”

And in the slight pause young Nicholas was heard saying gently that Violet (his fourth) was taking lessons in pastel, he didn’t know if they were any use.

“Well, good-bye, Auntie,” said June; “I must get on,” and kissing her aunts, she looked defiantly round the room, said “Good-bye” again, and went. A breeze seemed to pass out with her, as if everyone had sighed.

The third sensation came before anyone had time to speak:

“Mr. James Forsyte.”

James came in using a stick slightly and wrapped in a fur coat which gave him a fictitious bulk.

Everyone stood up. James was so old; and he had not been at Timothy’s for nearly two years.

“It’s hot in here,” he said.

Soames divested him of his coat, and as he did so could not help admiring the glossy way his father was turned out. James sat down, all knees, elbows, frock-coat, and long white whiskers.

“What’s the meaning of that?” he said.

Though there was no apparent sense in his words, they all knew that he was referring to June. His eyes searched his son’s face.

“I thought I’d come and see for myself. What have they answered Kruger?”

Soames took out an evening paper, and read the headline.

“‘Instant action by our Government–state of war existing!'”

“Ah!” said James, and sighed. “I was afraid they’d cut and run like old Gladstone. We shall finish with them this time.”

All stared at him. James! Always fussy, nervous, anxious! James with his continual, ‘I told you how it would be!’ and his pessimism, and his cautious investments. There was something uncanny about such resolution in this the oldest living Forsyte.

“Where’s Timothy?” said James. “He ought to pay attention to this.”

Aunt Juley said she didn’t know; Timothy had not said much at lunch to-day. Aunt Hester rose and threaded her way out of the room, and Francie said rather maliciously:

“The Boers are a hard nut to crack, Uncle James.”

“H’m!” muttered James. “Where do you get your information? Nobody tells me.”

Young Nicholas remarked in his mild voice that Nick (his eldest) was now going to drill regularly.

“Ah!” muttered James, and stared before him–his thoughts were on Val. “He’s got to look after his mother,” he said, “he’s got no time for drilling and that, with that father of his.” This cryptic saying produced silence, until he spoke again.

“What did June want here?” And his eyes rested with suspicion on all of them in turn. “Her father’s a rich man now.” The conversation turned on Jolyon, and when he had been seen last. It was supposed that he went abroad and saw all sorts of people now that his wife was dead; his water-colours were on the line, and he was a successful man. Francie went so far as to say:

“I should like to see him again; he was rather a dear.”

Aunt Juley recalled how he had gone to sleep on the sofa one day, where James was sitting. He had always been very amiable; what did Soames think?

Knowing that Jolyon was Irene’s trustee, all felt the delicacy of this question, and looked at Soames with interest. A faint pink had come up in his cheeks.

“He’s going grey,” he said.

Indeed! Had Soames seen him? Soames nodded, and the pink vanished.

James said suddenly: “Well–I don’t know, I can’t tell.”

It so exactly expressed the sentiment of everybody present that there was something behind everything, that nobody responded. But at this moment Aunt Hester returned.

“Timothy,” she said in a low voice, “Timothy has bought a map, and he’s put in–he’s put in three flags.”

Timothy had ….! A sigh went round the company.

If Timothy had indeed put in three flags already, well!–it showed what the nation could do when it was roused. The war was as good as over.

CHAPTER XIII

JOLYON FINDS OUT WHERE HE IS

Jolyon stood at the window in Holly’s old night nursery, converted into a studio, not because it had a north light, but for its view over the prospect away to the Grand Stand at Epsom. He shifted to the side window which overlooked the stableyard, and whistled down to the dog Balthasar who lay for ever under the clock tower. The old dog looked up and wagged his tail. ‘Poor old boy!’ thought Jolyon, shifting back to the other window.

He had been restless all this week, since his attempt to prosecute trusteeship, uneasy in his conscience which was ever acute, disturbed in his sense of compassion which was easily excited, and with a queer sensation as if his feeling for beauty had received some definite embodiment. Autumn was getting hold of the old oak-tree, its leaves were browning. Sunshine had been plentiful and hot this summer. As with trees, so with men’s lives! ‘I ought to live long,’ thought Jolyon; ‘I’m getting mildewed for want of heat. If I can’t work, I shall be off to Paris.’ But memory of Paris gave him no pleasure. Besides, how could he go? He must stay and see what Soames was going to do. ‘I’m her trustee. I can’t leave her unprotected,’ he thought. It had been striking him as curious how very clearly he could still see Irene in her little drawing-room which he had only twice entered. Her beauty must have a sort of poignant harmony! No literal portrait would ever do her justice; the essence of her was–ah I what?… The noise of hoofs called him back to the other window. Holly was riding into the yard on her long-tailed ‘palfrey.’ She looked up and he waved to her. She had been rather silent lately; getting old, he supposed, beginning to want her future, as they all did–youngsters!

Time was certainly the devil! And with the feeling that to waste this swift-travelling commodity was unforgivable folly, he took up his brush. But it was no use; he could not concentrate his eye– besides, the light was going. ‘I’ll go up to town,’ he thought. In the hall a servant met him.

“A lady to see you, sir; Mrs. Heron.”

Extraordinary coincidence! Passing into the picture-gallery, as it was still called, he saw Irene standing over by the window.

She came towards him saying:

“I’ve been trespassing; I came up through the coppice and garden. I always used to come that way to see Uncle Jolyon.”

“You couldn’t trespass here,” replied Jolyon; “history makes that impossible. I was just thinking of you.”

Irene smiled. And it was as if something shone through; not mere spirituality–serener, completer, more alluring.

“History!” she answered; “I once told Uncle Jolyon that love was for ever. Well, it isn’t. Only aversion lasts.”

Jolyon stared at her. Had she got over Bosinney at last?

“Yes!” he said, “aversion’s deeper than love or hate because it’s a natural product of the nerves, and we don’t change them.”

“I came to tell you that Soames has been to see me. He said a thing that frightened me. He said: ‘You are still my wife!'”

“What!” ejaculated Jolyon. “You ought not to live alone.” And he continued to stare at her, afflicted by the thought that where Beauty was, nothing ever ran quite straight, which, no doubt, was why so many people looked on it as immoral.

“What more?”

“He asked me to shake hands.

“Did you?”

“Yes. When he came in I’m sure he didn’t want to; he changed while he was there.”

“Ah! you certainly ought not to go on living there alone.”

“I know no woman I could ask; and I can’t take a lover to order, Cousin Jolyon.”

“Heaven forbid!” said Jolyon. “What a damnable position! Will you stay to dinner? No? Well, let me see you back to town; I wanted to go up this evening.”

“Truly?”

“Truly. I’ll be ready in five minutes.”

On that walk to the station they talked of pictures and music, contrasting the English and French characters and the difference in their attitude to Art. But to Jolyon the colours in the hedges of the long straight lane, the twittering of chaffinches who kept pace with them, the perfume of weeds being already burned, the turn of her neck, the fascination of those dark eyes bent on him now and then, the lure of her whole figure, made a deeper impression than the remarks they exchanged. Unconsciously he held himself straighter, walked with a more elastic step.

In the train he put her through a sort of catechism as to what she did with her days.

Made her dresses, shopped, visited a hospital, played her piano, translated from the French.

She had regular work from a publisher, it seemed, which supplemented her income a little. She seldom went out in the evening. “I’ve been living alone so long, you see, that I don’t mind it a bit. I believe I’m naturally solitary.”

“I don’t believe that,” said Jolyon. “Do you know many people?”

“Very few.”

At Waterloo they took a hansom, and he drove with her to the door of her mansions. Squeezing her hand at parting, he said:

“You know, you could always come to us at Robin Hill; you must let me know everything that happens. Good-bye, Irene.”

“Good-bye,” she answered softly.

Jolyon climbed back into his cab, wondering why he had not asked her to dine and go to the theatre with him. Solitary, starved, hung-up life that she had! “Hotch Potch Club,” he said through the trap-door. As his hansom debouched on to the Embankment, a man in top-hat and overcoat passed, walking quickly, so close to the wall that he seemed to be scraping it.

‘By Jove!’ thought Jolyon; ‘Soames himself! What’s he up to now?’ And, stopping the cab round the corner, he got out and retraced his steps to where he could see the entrance to the mansions. Soames had halted in front of them, and was looking up at the light in her windows. ‘If he goes in,’ thought Jolyon, ‘what shall I do? What have I the right to do?’ What the fellow had said was true. She was still his wife, absolutely without protection from annoyance! ‘Well, if he goes in,’ he thought, ‘I follow.’ And he began moving towards the mansions. Again Soames advanced; he was in the very entrance now. But suddenly he stopped, spun round on his heel, and came back towards the river. ‘What now?’ thought Jolyon. ‘In a dozen steps he’ll recognise me.’ And he turned tail. His cousin’s footsteps kept pace with his own. But he reached his cab, and got in before Soames had turned the corner. “Go on!” he said through the trap. Soames’ figure ranged up alongside.

“Hansom!” he said. “Engaged? Hallo!”

“Hallo!” answered Jolyon. “You?”

The quick suspicion on his cousin’s face, white in the lamplight, decided him.

“I can give you a lift,” he said, “if you’re going West.”

“Thanks,” answered Soames, and got in.

“I’ve been seeing Irene,” said Jolyon when the cab had started.

“Indeed!”

“You went to see her yesterday yourself, I understand.”

“I did,” said Soames; “she’s my wife, you know.”

The tone, the half-lifted sneering lip, roused sudden anger in Jolyon; but he subdued it.

“You ought to know best,” he said, “but if you want a divorce it’s not very wise to go seeing her, is it? One can’t run with the hare and hunt with the hounds?”

“You’re very good to warn me,” said Soames, “but I have not made up my mind.”

“She has,” said Jolyon, looking straight before him; “you can’t take things up, you know, as they were twelve years ago.”

“That remains to be seen.”

“Look here!” said Jolyon, “she’s in a damnable position, and I am the only person with any legal say in her affairs.”

“Except myself,” retorted Soames, “who am also in a damnable position. Hers is what she made for herself; mine what she made for me. I am not at all sure that in her own interests I shan’t require her to return to me.”

“What!” exclaimed Jolyon; and a shiver went through his whole body.

“I don’t know what you may mean by ‘what,'” answered Soames coldly; “your say in her affairs is confined to paying out her income; please bear that in mind. In choosing not to disgrace her by a divorce, I retained my rights, and, as I say, I am not at all sure that I shan’t require to exercise them.”

“My God!” ejaculated Jolyon, and he uttered a short laugh.

“Yes,” said Soames, and there was a deadly quality in his voice. “I’ve not forgotten the nickname your father gave me, ‘The man of property’! I’m not called names for nothing.”

“This is fantastic,” murmured Jolyon. Well, the fellow couldn’t force his wife to live with him. Those days were past, anyway! And he looked around at Soames with the thought: ‘Is he real, this man?’ But Soames looked very real, sitting square yet almost elegant with the clipped moustache on his pale face, and a tooth showing where a lip was lifted in a fixed smile. There was a long silence, while Jolyon thought: ‘Instead of helping her, I’ve made things worse.’ Suddenly Soames said:

“It would be the best thing that could happen to her in many ways.”

At those words such a turmoil began taking place in Jolyon that he could barely sit still in the cab. It was as if he were boxed up with hundreds of thousands of his countrymen, boxed up with that something in the national character which had always been to him revolting, something which he knew to be extremely natural and yet which seemed to him inexplicable–their intense belief in contracts and vested rights, their complacent sense of virtue in the exaction of those rights. Here beside him in the cab was the very embodiment, the corporeal sum as it were, of the possessive instinct–his own kinsman, too! It was uncanny and intolerable! ‘But there’s something more in it than that!’ he thought with a sick feeling. ‘The dog, they say, returns to his vomit! The sight of her has reawakened something. Beauty! The devil’s in it!’

“As I say,” said Soames, “I have not made up my mind. I shall be obliged if you will kindly leave her quite alone.”

Jolyon bit his lips; he who had always hated rows almost welcomed the thought of one now.

“I can give you no such promise,” he said shortly.

“Very well,” said Soames, “then we know where we are. I’ll get down here.” And stopping the cab he got out without word or sign of farewell. Jolyon travelled on to his Club.

The first news of the war was being called in the streets, but he paid no attention. What could he do to help her? If only his father were alive! He could have done so much! But why could he not do all that his father could have done? Was he not old enough?–turned fifty and twice married, with grown-up daughters and a son. ‘Queer,’ he thought. ‘If she were plain I shouldn’t be thinking twice about it. Beauty is the devil, when you’re sen- sitive to it!’ And into the Club reading-room he went with a disturbed heart. In that very room he and Bosinney had talked one summer afternoon; he well remembered even now the disguised and secret lecture he had given that young man in the interests of June, the diagnosis of the Forsytes he had hazarded; and how he had wondered what sort of woman it was he was warning him against. And now! He was almost in want of a warning himself. ‘It’s deuced funny!’ he thought, ‘really deuced funny!’

CHAPTER XIV

SOAMES DISCOVERS WHAT HE WANTS

It is so much easier to say, “Then we know where we are,” than to mean anything particular by the words. And in saying them Soames did but vent the jealous rankling of his instincts. He got out of the cab in a state of wary anger–with himself for not having seen Irene, with Jolyon for having seen her; and now with his inability to tell exactly what he wanted.

He had abandoned the cab because he could not bear to remain seated beside his cousin, and walking briskly eastwards he thought: ‘I wouldn’t trust that fellow Jolyon a yard. Once outcast, always outcast!’ The chap had a natural sympathy with–with–laxity (he had shied at the word sin, because it was too melodramatic for use by a Forsyte).

Indecision in desire was to him a new feeling. He was like a child between a promised toy and an old one which had been taken away from him; and he was astonished at himself. Only last Sunday desire had seemed simple–just his freedom and Annette. ‘I’ll go and dine there,’ he thought. To see her might bring back his singleness of intention, calm his exasperation, clear his mind.

The restaurant was fairly full–a good many foreigners and folk whom, from their appearance, he took to be literary or artistic. Scraps of conversation came his way through the clatter of plates and glasses. He distinctly heard the Boers sympathised with, the British Government blamed. ‘Don’t think much of their clientele,’ he thought. He went stolidly through his dinner and special coffee without making his presence known, and when at last he had finished, was careful not to be seen going towards the sanctum of Madame Lamotte. They were, as he entered, having supper–such a much nicer-looking supper than the dinner he had eaten that he felt a kind of grief–and they greeted him with a surprise so seemingly genuine that he thought with sudden suspicion: ‘I believe they knew I was here all the time.’ He gave Annette a look furtive and searching. So pretty, seemingly so candid; could she be angling for him? He turned to Madame Lamotte and said:

“I’ve been dining here.”

Really! If she had only known! There were dishes she could have recommended; what a pity! Soames was confirmed in his suspicion. ‘I must look out what I’m doing!’ he thought sharply.

“Another little cup of very special coffee, monsieur; a liqueur, Grand Marnier?” and Madame Lamotte rose to order these delicacies.

Alone with Annette Soames said, “Well, Annette?” with a defensive little smile about his lips.

The girl blushed. This, which last Sunday would have set his nerves tingling, now gave him much the same feeling a man has when a dog that he owns wriggles and looks at him. He had a curious sense of power, as if he could have said to her, ‘Come and kiss me,’ and she would have come. And yet–it was strange–but there seemed another face and form in the room too; and the itch in his nerves, was it for that–or for this? He jerked his head towards the restaurant and said: “You have some queer customers. Do you like this life?”

Annette looked up at him for a moment, looked down, and played with her fork.

“No,” she said, “I do not like it.”

‘I’ve got her,’ thought Soames, ‘if I want her. But do I want her?’ She was graceful, she was pretty–very pretty; she was fresh, she had taste of a kind. His eyes travelled round the little room; but the eyes of his mind went another journey–a half-light, and silvery walls, a satinwood piano, a woman standing against it, reined back as it were from him–a woman with white shoulders that he knew, and dark eyes that he had sought to know, and hair like dull dark amber. And as in an artist who strives for the unrealisable and is ever thirsty, so there rose in him at that moment the thirst of the old passion he had never satisfied.

“Well,” he said calmly, “you’re young. There’s everything before you.”

Annette shook her head.

“I think sometimes there is nothing before me but hard work. I am not so in love with work as mother.”

“Your mother is a wonder,” said Soames, faintly mocking; “she will never let failure lodge in her house.”

Annette sighed. “It must be wonderful to be rich.”

“Oh! You’ll be rich some day,” answered Soames, still with that faint mockery; “don’t be afraid.”

Annette shrugged her shoulders. “Monsieur is very kind.” And between her pouting lips she put a chocolate.

‘Yes, my dear,’ thought Soames, ‘they’re very pretty.’

Madame Lamotte, with coffee and liqueur, put an end to that colloquy. Soames did not stay long.

Outside in the streets of Soho, which always gave him such a feeling of property improperly owned, he mused. If only Irene had given him a son, he wouldn’t now be squirming after women! The thought had jumped out of its little dark sentry-box in his inner consciousness. A son–something to look forward to, something to make the rest of life worth while, something to leave himself to, some perpetuity of self. ‘If I had a son,’ he thought bitterly, ‘a proper legal son, I could make shift to go on as I used. One woman’s much the same as another, after all.’ But as he walked he shook his head. No! One woman was not the same as another. Many a time had he tried to think that in the old days of his thwarted married life; and he had always failed. He was failing now. He was trying to think Annette the same as that other. But she was not, she had not the lure of that old passion. ‘And Irene’s my wife,’ he thought, ‘my legal wife. I have done nothing to put her away from me. Why shouldn’t she come back to me? It’s the right thing, the lawful thing. It makes no scandal, no disturbance. If it’s disagreeable to her–but why should it be? I’m not a leper, and she–she’s no longer in love!’ Why should he be put to the shifts and the sordid disgraces and the lurking defeats of the Divorce Court, when there she was like an empty house only waiting to be retaken into use and possession by him who legally owned her? To one so secretive as Soames the thought of reentry into quiet possession of his own property with nothing given away to the world was intensely alluring. ‘No,’ he mused, ‘I’m glad I went to see that girl. I know now what I want most. If only Irene will come back I’ll be as considerate as she wishes; she could live her own life; but perhaps–perhaps she would come round to me.’ There was a lump in his throat. And doggedly along by the railings of the Green Park, towards his father’s house, he went, trying to tread on his shadow walking before him in the brilliant moonlight.

PART II

CHAPTER I

THE THIRD GENERATION

Jolly Forsyte was strolling down High Street, Oxford, on a November afternoon; Val Dartie was strolling up. Jolly had just changed out of boating flannels and was on his way to the ‘Frying-pan,’ to which he had recently been elected. Val had just changed out of riding clothes and was on his way to the fire–a bookmaker’s in Cornmarket.

“Hallo!” said Jolly.

“Hallo!” replied Val.

The cousins had met but twice, Jolly, the second-year man, having invited the freshman to breakfast; and last evening they had seen each other again under somewhat exotic circumstances.

Over a tailor’s in the Cornmarket resided one of those privileged young beings called minors, whose inheritances are large, whose parents are dead, whose guardians are remote, and whose instincts are vicious. At nineteen he had commenced one of those careers attractive and inexplicable to ordinary mortals for whom a single bankruptcy is good as a feast. Already famous for having the only roulette table then to be found in Oxford, he was anticipating his expectations at a dazzling rate. He out-crummed Crum, though of a sanguine and rather beefy type which lacked the latter’s fascinating languor. For Val it had been in the nature of baptism to be taken there to play roulette; in the nature of confirmation to get back into college, after hours, through a window whose bars were deceptive. Once, during that evening of delight, glancing up from the seductive green before him, he had caught sight, through a cloud of smoke, of his cousin standing opposite. ‘Rouge gagne, impair, et manque!’ He had not seen him again.

“Come in to the Frying-pan and have tea,” said Jolly, and they went in.

A stranger, seeing them together, would have noticed an unseizable resemblance between these second cousins of the third generations of Forsytes; the same bone formation in face, though Jolly’s eyes were darker grey, his hair lighter and more wavy.

“Tea and buttered buns, waiter, please,” said Jolly.

“Have one of my cigarettes?” said Val. “I saw you last night. How did you do?”

“I didn’t play.”

“I won fifteen quid.”

Though desirous of repeating a whimsical comment on gambling he had once heard his father make–‘When you’re fleeced you’re sick, and when you fleece you’re sorry–Jolly contented himself with:

“Rotten game, I think; I was at school with that chap. He’s an awful fool.”

“Oh! I don’t know,” said Val, as one might speak in defence of a disparaged god; “he’s a pretty good sport.”

They exchanged whiffs in silence.

“You met my people, didn’t you?” said Jolly. “They’re coming up to-morrow.”

Val grew a little red.

“Really! I can give you a rare good tip for the Manchester November handicap.”

“Thanks, I only take interest in the classic races.”

“You can’t make any money over them,” said Val.

“I hate the ring,” said Jolly; “there’s such a row and stink. I like the paddock.”

“I like to back my judgment,”‘ answered Val.

Jolly smiled; his smile was like his father’s.

“I haven’t got any. I always lose money if I bet.”

“You have to buy experience, of course.”

“Yes, but it’s all messed-up with doing people in the eye.”

“Of course, or they’ll do you–that’s the excitement.”

Jolly looked a little scornful.

“What do you do with yourself? Row?”

“No–ride, and drive about. I’m going to play polo next term, if I can get my granddad to stump up.”

“That’s old Uncle James, isn’t it? What’s he like?”

“Older than forty hills,” said Val, “and always thinking he’s going to be ruined.”

“I suppose my granddad and he were brothers.”

“I don’t believe any of that old lot were sportsmen,” said Val; “they must have worshipped money.”

“Mine didn’t!” said Jolly warmly.

Val flipped the ash off his cigarette.

“Money’s only fit to spend,” he said; “I wish the deuce I had more.”

Jolly gave him that direct upward look of judgment which he had inherited from old Jolyon: One didn’t talk about money! And again there was silence, while they drank tea and ate the buttered buns.

“Where are your people going to stay?” asked Val, elaborately casual.

“‘Rainbow.’ What do you think of the war?”

“Rotten, so far. The Boers aren’t sports a bit. Why don’t they come out into the open?”

“Why should they? They’ve got everything against them except their way of fighting. I rather admire them.”

“They can ride and shoot,” admitted Val, “but they’re a lousy lot. Do you know Crum?”

“Of Merton? Only by sight. He’s in that fast set too, isn’t he? Rather La-di-da and Brummagem.”

Val said fixedly: “He’s a friend of mine.”

“Oh! Sorry!” And they sat awkwardly staring past each other, having pitched on their pet points of snobbery. For Jolly was forming himself unconsciously on a set whose motto was:

‘We defy you to bore us. Life isn’t half long enough, and we’re going to talk faster and more crisply, do more and know more, and dwell less on any subject than you can possibly imagine. We are “the best”–made of wire and whipcord.’ And Val was unconsciously forming himself on a set whose motto was: ‘We defy you to interest or excite us. We have had every sensation, or if we haven’t, we pretend we have. We are so exhausted with living that no hours are too small for us. We will lose our shirts with equanimity. We have flown fast and are past everything. All is cigarette smoke. Bismillah!’ Competitive spirit, bone-deep in the English, was obliging those two young Forsytes to have ideals; and at the close of a century ideals are mixed. The aristocracy had already in the main adopted the ‘jumping-Jesus’ principle; though here and there one like Crum–who was an ‘honourable’–stood starkly languid for that gambler’s Nirvana which had been the summum bonum of the old ‘dandies’ and of ‘the mashers’ in the eighties. And round Crum were still gathered a forlorn hope of blue-bloods with a plutocratic following.

But there was between the cousins another far less obvious antipathy–coming from the unseizable family resemblance, which each perhaps resented; or from some half-consciousness of that old feud persisting still between their branches of the clan, formed within them by odd words or half-hints dropped by their elders. And Jolly, tinkling his teaspoon, was musing: ‘His tie-pin and his waistcoat and his drawl and his betting–good Lord!’

And Val, finishing his bun, was thinking: ‘He’s rather a young beast!’

“I suppose you’ll be meeting your people?” he said, getting up. “I wish you’d tell them I should like to show them over B.N.C.–not that there’s anything much there–if they’d care to come.”

“Thanks, I’ll ask them.”

“Would they lunch? I’ve got rather a decent scout.”

Jolly doubted if they would have time.

“You’ll ask them, though?”

“Very good of you,” said Jolly, fully meaning that they should not go; but, instinctively polite, he added: “You’d better come and have dinner with us to-morrow.”

“Rather. What time?”

“Seven-thirty.”

“Dress?”

“No.” And they parted, a subtle antagonism alive within them.

Holly and her father arrived by a midday train. It was her first visit to the city of spires and dreams, and she was very silent, looking almost shyly at the brother who was part of this wonderful place. After lunch she wandered, examining his household gods with intense curiosity. Jolly’s sitting-room was panelled, and Art represented by a set of Bartolozzi prints which had belonged to old Jolyon, and by college photographs–of young men, live young men, a little heroic, and to be compared with her memories of Val. Jolyon also scrutinised with care that evidence of his boy’s character and tastes.

Jolly was anxious that they should see him rowing, so they set forth to the river. Holly, between her brother and her father, felt elated when heads were turned and eyes rested on her. That they might see him to the best advantage they left him at the Barge and crossed the river to the towing-path. Slight in build–for of all the Forsytes only old Swithin and George were beefy–Jolly was rowing ‘Two’ in a trial eight. He looked very earnest and strenuous. With pride Jolyon thought him the best-looking boy of the lot; Holly, as became a sister, was more struck by one or two of the others, but would not have said so for the world. The river was bright that afternoon, the meadows lush, the trees still beautiful with colour. Distinguished peace clung around the old city; Jolyon promised himself a day’s sketching if the weather held. The Eight passed a second time, spurting home along the Barges–Jolly’s face was very set, so as not to show that he was blown. They returned across the river and waited for him.

“Oh!” said Jolly in the Christ Church meadows, “I had to ask that chap Val Dartie to dine with us to-night. He wanted to give you lunch and show you B.N.C., so I thought I’d better; then you needn’t go. I don’t like him much.”

Holly’s rather sallow face had become suffused with pink.

“Why not?”

“Oh! I don’t know. He seems to me rather showy and bad form. What are his people like, Dad? He’s only a second cousin, isn’t he?”

Jolyon took refuge in a smile.

“Ask Holly,” he said; “she saw his uncle.”

“I liked Val,” Holly answered, staring at the ground before her; “his uncle looked–awfully different.” She stole a glance at Jolly from under her lashes.

“Did you ever,” said Jolyon with whimsical intention, “hear our family history, my dears? It’s quite a fairy tale. The first Jolyon Forsyte–at all events the first we know anything of, and that would be your great-great-grandfather–dwelt in the land of Dorset on the edge of the sea, being by profession an ‘agriculturalist,’ as your great-aunt put it, and the son of an agriculturist–farmers, in fact; your grandfather used to call them, ‘Very small beer.'” He looked at Jolly to see how his lordliness was standing it, and with the other eye noted Holly’s malicious pleasure in the slight drop of her brother’s face.

“We may suppose him thick and sturdy, standing for England as it was before the Industrial Era began. The second Jolyon Forsyte– your great-grandfather, Jolly; better known as Superior Dosset Forsyte–built houses, so the chronicle runs, begat ten children, and migrated to London town. It is known that he drank sherry. We may suppose him representing the England of Napoleon’s wars, and general unrest. The eldest of his six sons was the third Jolyon, your grandfather, my dears–tea merchant and chairman of companies, one of the soundest Englishmen who ever lived–and to me the dearest.” Jolyon’s voice had lost its irony, and his son and daughter gazed at him solemnly, “He was just and tenacious, tender and young at heart. You remember him, and I remember him. Pass to the others! Your great-uncle James, that’s young Val’s grand- father, had a son called Soames–whereby hangs a tale of no love lost, and I don’t think I’ll tell it you. James and the other eight children of ‘Superior Dosset,’ of whom there are still five alive, may be said to have represented Victorian England, with its principles of trade and individualism at five per cent. and your money back–if you know what that means. At all events they’ve turned thirty thousand pounds into a cool million between them in the course of their long lives. They never did a wild thing– unless it was your great-uncle Swithin, who I believe was once swindled at thimble-rig, and was called ‘Four-in-hand Forsyte’ because he drove a pair. Their day is passing, and their type, not altogether for the advantage of the country. They were pedestrian, but they too were sound. I am the fourth Jolyon Forsyte–a poor holder of the name–“

“No, Dad,” said Jolly, and Holly squeezed his hand.

“Yes,” repeated Jolyon, “a poor specimen, representing, I’m afraid, nothing but the end of the century, unearned income, amateurism, and individual liberty–a different thing from individualism, Jolly. You are the fifth Jolyon Forsyte, old man, and you open the ball of the new century.”

As he spoke they turned in through the college gates, and Holly said: “It’s fascinating, Dad.”

None of them quite knew what she meant. Jolly was grave.

The Rainbow, distinguished, as only an Oxford hostel can be, for lack of modernity, provided one small oak-panelled private sitting- room, in which Holly sat to receive, white-frocked, shy, and alone, when the only guest arrived. Rather as one would touch a moth, Val took her hand. And wouldn’t she wear this ‘measly flower’? It would look ripping in her hair. He removed a gardenia from his coat.

“Oh! No, thank you–I couldn’t!” But she took it and pinned it at her neck, having suddenly remembered that word ‘showy’! Val’s buttonhole would give offence; and she so much wanted Jolly to like him. Did she realise that Val was at his best and quietest in her presence, and was that, perhaps, half the secret of his attraction for her?

“I never said anything about our ride, Val.”

“Rather not! It’s just between us.”

By the uneasiness of his hands and the fidgeting of his feet he was giving her a sense of power very delicious; a soft feeling too–the wish to make him happy.

“Do tell me about Oxford. It must be ever so lovely.”

Val admitted that it was frightfully decent to do what you liked; the lectures were nothing; and there were some very good chaps. “Only,” he added, “of course I wish I was in town, and could come down and see you.”

Holly moved one hand shyly on her knee, and her glance dropped.

“You haven’t forgotten,” he said, suddenly gathering courage, “that we’re going mad-rabbiting together?”

Holly smiled.

“Oh! That was only make-believe. One can’t do that sort of thing after one’s grown up, you know.”

“Dash it! cousins can,” said Val. “Next Long Vac.–it begins in June, you know, and goes on for ever–we’ll watch our chance.”

But, though the thrill of conspiracy ran through her veins, Holly shook her head. “It won’t come off,” she murmured.

“Won’t it!” said Val fervently; “who’s going to stop it? Not your father or your brother.”

At this moment Jolyon and Jolly came in; and romance fled into Val’s patent leather and Holly’s white satin toes, where it itched and tingled during an evening not conspicuous for open-heartedness.

Sensitive to atmosphere, Jolyon soon felt the latent antagonism between the boys, and was puzzled by Holly; so he became un- consciously ironical, which is fatal to the expansiveness of youth. A letter, handed to him after dinner, reduced him to a silence hardly broken till Jolly and Val rose to go. He went out with them, smoking his cigar, and walked with his son to the gates of Christ Church. Turning back, he took out the letter and read it again beneath a lamp.

“DEAR JOLYON,

“Soames came again to-night–my thirty-seventh birthday. You were right, I mustn’t stay here. I’m going to-morrow to the Piedmont Hotel, but I won’t go abroad without seeing you. I feel lonely and down-hearted.

“Yours affectionately,

“IRENE.”

He folded the letter back into his pocket and walked on, astonished at the violence of his feelings. What had the fellow said or done?

He turned into High Street, down the Turf, and on among a maze of spires and domes and long college fronts and walls, bright or darkshadowed in the strong moonlight. In this very heart of England’s gentility it was difficult to realise that a lonely woman could be importuned or hunted, but what else could her letter mean? Soames must have been pressing her to go back to him again, with public opinion and the Law on his side, too! ‘Eighteen-ninety- nine!,’ he thought, gazing at the broken glass shining on the top of a villa garden wall; ‘but when it comes to property we’re still a heathen people! I’ll go up to-morrow morning. I dare say it’ll be best for her to go abroad.’ Yet the thought displeased him. Why should Soames hunt her out of England! Besides, he might follow, and out there she would be still more helpless against the attentions of her own husband! ‘I must tread warily,’ he thought; ‘that fellow could make himself very nasty. I didn’t like his manner in the cab the other night.’ His thoughts turned to his daughter June. Could she help? Once on a time Irene had been her greatest friend, and now she was a ‘lame duck,’ such as must appeal to June’s nature! He determined to wire to his daughter to meet him at Paddington Station. Retracing his steps towards the Rainbow he questioned his own sensations. Would he be upsetting himself over every woman in like case? No! he would not. The candour of this conclusion discomfited him; and, finding that Holly had gone up to bed, he sought his own room. But he could not sleep, and sat for a long time at his window, huddled in an overcoat, watching the moonlight on the roofs.

Next door Holly too was awake, thinking of the lashes above and below Val’s eyes, especially below; and of what she could do to make Jolly like him better. The scent of the gardenia was strong in her little bedroom, and pleasant to her.

And Val, leaning out of his first-floor window in B.N.C., was gazing at a moonlit quadrangle without seeing it at all, seeing instead Holly, slim and white-frocked, as she sat beside the fire when he first went in.

But Jolly, in his bedroom narrow as a ghost, lay with a hand beneath his cheek and dreamed he was with Val in one boat, rowing a race against him, while his father was calling from the towpath: ‘Two! Get your hands away there, bless you!’

CHAPTER II

SOAMES PUTS IT TO THE TOUCH

Of all those radiant firms which emblazon with their windows the West End of London, Gaves and Cortegal were considered by Soames the most ‘attractive’ word just coming into fashion. He had never had his Uncle Swithin’s taste in precious stones, and the abandonment by Irene when she left his house in 1887 of all the glittering things he had given her had disgusted him with this form of investment. But he still knew a diamond when he saw one, and during the week before her birthday he had taken occasion, on his way into the Poultry or his way out therefrom, to dally a little before the greater jewellers where one got, if not one’s money’s worth, at least a certain cachet with the goods.

Constant cogitation since his drive with Jolyon had convinced him more and more of the supreme importance of this moment in his life, the supreme need for taking steps and those not wrong. And, alongside the dry and reasoned sense that it was now or never with his self-preservation, now or never if he were to range himself and found a family, went the secret urge of his senses roused by the sight of her who had once been a passionately desired wife, and the conviction that it was a sin against common sense and the decent secrecy of Forsytes to waste the wife he had.

In an opinion on Winifred’s case, Dreamer, Q.C.–he would much have preferred Waterbuck, but they had made him a judge (so late in the day as to rouse the usual suspicion of a political job)–had advised that they should go forward and obtain restitution of conjugal rights, a point which to Soames had never been in doubt. When they had obtained a decree to that effect they must wait to see if it was obeyed. If not, it would constitute legal desertion, and they should obtain evidence of misconduct and file their petition for divorce. All of which Soames knew perfectly well. They had marked him ten and one. This simplicity in his sister’s case only made him the more desperate about the difficulty in his own. Everything, in fact, was driving him towards the simple solution of Irene’s return. If it were still against the grain with her, had he not feelings to subdue, injury to forgive, pain to forget? He at least had never injured her, and this was a world of compromise! He could offer her so much more than she had now. He would be prepared to make a liberal settlement on her which could not be upset. He often scrutinised his image in these days. He had never been a peacock like that fellow Dartie, or fancied himself a woman’s man, but he had a certain belief in his own appearance–not unjustly, for it was well-coupled and preserved, neat, healthy, pale, unblemished by drink or excess of any kind. The Forsyte jaw and the concentration of his face were, in his eyes, virtues. So far as he could tell there was no feature of him which need inspire dislike.

Thoughts and yearnings, with which one lives daily, become natural, even if far-fetched in their inception. If he could only give tangible proof enough of his determination to let bygones be bygones, and to do all in his power to please her, why should she not come back to him?

He entered Gaves and Cortegal’s therefore, on the morning of November the 9th, to buy a certain diamond brooch. “Four twenty-five and dirt cheap, sir, at the money. It’s a lady’s brooch.” There was that in his mood which made him accept without demur. And he went on into the Poultry with the flat green morocco case in his breast pocket. Several times that day he opened it to look at the seven soft shining stones in their velvet oval nest.

“If the lady doesn’t like it, sir, happy to exchange it any time. But there’s no fear of that.” If only there were not! He got through a vast amount of work, only soother of the nerves he knew. A cablegram came while he was in the office with details from the agent in Buenos Aires, and the name and address of a stewardess who would be prepared to swear to what was necessary. It was a timely spur to Soames, with his rooted distaste for the washing of dirty linen in public. And when he set forth by Underground to Victoria Station he received a fresh impetus towards the renewal of his married life from the account in his evening paper of a fashionable divorce suit. The homing instinct of all true Forsytes in anxiety and trouble, the corporate tendency which kept them strong and solid, made him choose to dine at Park Lane. He neither could nor would breath a word to his people of his intention–too reticent and proud–but the thought that at least they would be glad if they knew, and wish him luck, was heartening.

James was in lugubrious mood, for the fire which the impudence of Kruger’s ultimatum had lit in him had been cold-watered by the poor success of the last month, and the exhortations to effort in The Times. He didn’t know where it would end. Soames sought to cheer him by the continual use of the word Buller. But James couldn’t tell! There was Colley–and he got stuck on that hill, and this Ladysmith was down in a hollow, and altogether it looked to him a ‘pretty kettle of fish’; he thought they ought to be sending the sailors–they were the chaps, they did a lot of good in the Crimea. Soames shifted the ground of consolation. Winifred had heard from Val that there had been a ‘rag’ and a bonfire on Guy Fawkes Day at Oxford, and that he had escaped detection by blacking his face.

“Ah!” James muttered, “he’s a clever little chap.” But he shook his head shortly afterwards and remarked that he didn’t know what would become of him, and looking wistfully at his son, murmured on that Soames had never had a boy. He would have liked a grandson of his own name. And now–well, there it was!

Soames flinched. He had not expected such a challenge to disclose the secret in his heart. And Emily, who saw him wince, said:

“Nonsense, James; don’t talk like that!”

But James, not looking anyone in the face, muttered on. There were Roger and Nicholas and Jolyon; they all had grandsons. And Swithin and Timothy had never married. He had done his best; but he would soon be gone now. And, as though he had uttered words of profound consolation, he was silent, eating brains with a fork and a piece of bread, and swallowing the bread.

Soames excused himself directly after dinner. It was not really cold, but he put on his fur coat, which served to fortify him against the fits of nervous shivering to which he had been subject all day. Subconsciously, he knew that he looked better thus than in an ordinary black overcoat. Then, feeling the morocco case flat against his heart, he sallied forth. He was no smoker, but he lit a cigarette, and smoked it gingerly as he walked along. He moved slowly down the Row towards Knightsbridge, timing himself to get to Chelsea at nine-fifteen. What did she do with herself evening after evening in that little hole? How mysterious women were! One lived alongside and knew nothing of them. What could she have seen in that fellow Bosinney to send her mad? For there was madness after all in what she had done–crazy moonstruck madness, in which all sense of values had been lost, and her life and his life ruined! And for a moment he was filled with a sort of exaltation, as though he were a man read of in a story who, possessed by the Christian spirit, would restore to her all the prizes of existence, forgiving and forgetting, and becoming the godfather of her future. Under a tree opposite Knightsbridge Barracks, where the moon-light struck down clear and white, he took out once more the morocco case, and let the beams draw colour from those stones. Yes, they were of the first water! But, at the hard closing snap of the case, another cold shiver ran through his nerves; and he walked on faster, clenching his gloved hands in the pockets of his coat, almost hoping she would not be in. The thought of how mysterious she was again beset him. Dining alone there night after night–in an evening dress, too, as if she were making believe to be in society! Playing the piano–to herself! Not even a dog or cat, so far as he had seen. And that reminded him suddenly of the mare he kept for station work at Mapledurham. If ever he went to the stable, there she was quite alone, half asleep, and yet, on her home journeys going more freely than on her way out, as if longing to be back and lonely in her stable! ‘I would treat her well,’ he thought incoherently. ‘I would be very careful.’ And all that capacity for home life of which a mocking Fate seemed for ever to have deprived him swelled suddenly in Soames, so that he dreamed dreams opposite South Kensington Station. In the King’s Road a man came slithering out of a public house playing a concertina. Soames watched him for a moment dance crazily on the pavement to his own drawling jagged sounds, then crossed over to avoid contact with this piece of drunken foolery. A night in the lock-up! What asses people were! But the man had noticed his movement of avoidance, and streams of genial blasphemy followed him across the street. ‘I hope they’ll run him in,’ thought Soames viciously. ‘To have ruffians like that about, with women out alone!’ A woman’s figure in front had induced this thought. Her walk seemed oddly familiar, and when she turned the corner for which he was bound, his heart began to beat. He hastened on to the corner to make certain. Yes! It was Irene; he could not mistake her walk in that little drab street. She threaded two more turnings, and from the last corner he saw her enter her block of flats. To make sure of her now, he ran those few paces, hurried up the stairs, and caught her standing at her door. He heard the latchkey in the lock, and reached her side just as she turned round, startled, in the open doorway.

“Don’t be alarmed,” he said, breathless. “I happened to see you. Let me come in a minute.”

She had put her hand up to her breast, her face was colourless, her eyes widened by alarm. Then seeming to master herself, she inclined her head, and said: “Very well.”

Soames closed the door. He, too, had need to recover, and when she had passed into the sitting-room, waited a full minute, taking deep breaths to still the beating of his heart. At this moment, so fraught with the future, to take out that morocco case seemed crude. Yet, not to take it out left him there before her with no preliminary excuse for coming. And in this dilemma he was seized with impatience at all this paraphernalia of excuse and justification. This was a scene–it could be nothing else, and he must face it. He heard her voice, uncomfortably, pathetically soft:

“Why have you come again? Didn’t you understand that I would rather you did not?”

He noticed her clothes–a dark brown velvet corduroy, a sable boa, a small round toque of the same. They suited her admirably. She had money to spare for dress, evidently! He said abruptly:

“It’s your birthday. I brought you this,” and he held out to her the green morocco case.

“Oh! No-no!”

Soames pressed the clasp; the seven stones gleamed out on the pale grey velvet.

“Why not?” he said. “Just as a sign that you don’t bear me ill- feeling any longer.”

“I couldn’t.”

Soames took it out of the case.

“Let me just see how it looks.”

She shrank back.

He followed, thrusting his hand with the brooch in it against the front of her dress. She shrank again.

Soames dropped his hand.

“Irene,” he said, “let bygones be bygones. If I can, surely you might. Let’s begin again, as if nothing had been. Won’t you?” His voice was wistful, and his eyes, resting on her face, had in them a sort of supplication.

She, who was standing literally with her back against the wall, gave a little gulp, and that was all her answer. Soames went on:

“Can you really want to live all your days half-dead in this little hole? Come back to me, and I’ll give you all you want. You shall live your own life; I swear it.”

He saw her face quiver ironically.

“Yes,” he repeated, “but I mean it this time. I’ll only ask one thing. I just want–I just want a son. Don’t look like that! I want one. It’s hard.” His voice had grown hurried, so that he hardly knew it for his own, and twice he jerked his head back as if struggling for breath. It was the sight of her eyes fixed on him, dark with a sort of fascinated fright, which pulled him together and changed that painful incoherence to anger.

“Is it so very unnatural?” he said between his teeth, “Is it unnatural to want a child from one’s own wife? You wrecked our life and put this blight on everything. We go on only half alive, and without any future. Is it so very unflattering to you that in spite of everything I–I still want you for my wife? Speak, for Goodness’ sake! do speak.”

Irene seemed to try, but did not succeed.

“I don’t want to frighten you,” said Soames more gently. “Heaven knows. I only want you to see that I can’t go on like this. I want you back. I want you.”

Irene raised one hand and covered the lower part of her face, but her eyes never moved from his, as though she trusted in them to keep him at bay. And all those years, barren and bitter, since– ah! when?–almost since he had first known her, surged up in one great wave of recollection in Soames; and a spasm that for his life he could not control constricted his face.

“It’s not too late,” he said; “it’s not–if you’ll only believe it.”

Irene uncovered her lips, and both her hands made a writhing gesture in front of her breast. Soames seized them.

“Don’t!” she said under her breath. But he stood holding on to them, trying to stare into her eyes which did not waver. Then she said quietly:

“I am alone here. You won’t behave again as you once behaved.”

Dropping her hands as though they had been hot irons, he turned away. Was it possible that there could be such relentless unforgiveness! Could that one act of violent possession be still alive within her? Did it bar him thus utterly? And doggedly he said, without looking up:

“I am not going till you’ve answered me. I am offering what few men would bring themselves to offer, I want a–a reasonable answer.”

And almost with surprise he heard her say:

“You can’t have a reasonable answer. Reason has nothing to do with it. You can only have the brutal truth: I would rather die.”

Soames stared at her.

“Oh!” he said. And there intervened in him a sort of paralysis of speech and movement, the kind of quivering which comes when a man has received a deadly insult, and does not yet know how he is going to take it, or rather what it is going to do with him.

“Oh!” he said again, “as bad as that? Indeed! You would rather die. That’s pretty!”

“I am sorry. You wanted me to answer. I can’t help the truth, can I?”

At that queer spiritual appeal Soames turned for relief to actuality. He snapped the brooch back into its case and put it in his pocket.

“The truth!” he said; “there’s no such thing with women. It’s nerves–nerves.”

He heard the whisper:

“Yes; nerves don’t lie. Haven’t you discovered that?” He was silent, obsessed by the thought: ‘I will hate this woman. I will hate her.’ That was the trouble! If only he could! He shot a glance at her who stood unmoving against the wall with her head up and her hands clasped, for all the world as if she were going to be shot. And he said quickly:

“I don’t believe a word of it. You have a lover. If you hadn’t, you wouldn’t be such a–such a little idiot.” He was conscious, before the expression in her eyes, that he had uttered something of a non-sequitur, and dropped back too abruptly into the verbal freedom of his connubial days. He turned away to the door. But he could not go out. Something within him–that most deep and secret Forsyte quality, the impossibility of letting go, the impossibility of seeing the fantastic and forlorn nature of his own tenacity– prevented him. He turned about again, and there stood, with his back against the door, as hers was against the wall opposite, quite unconscious of anything ridiculous in this separation by the whole width of the room.

“Do you ever think of anybody but yourself?” he said.

Irene’s lips quivered; then she answered slowly:

“Do you ever think that I found out my mistake–my hopeless, terrible mistake–the very first week of our marriage; that I went on trying three years–you know I went on trying? Was it for myself?”

Soames gritted his teeth. “God knows what it was. I’ve never understood you; I shall never understand you. You had everything you wanted; and you can have it again, and more. What’s the matter with me? I ask you a plain question: What is it?” Unconscious of the pathos in that enquiry, he went on passionately: “I’m not lame, I’m not loathsome, I’m not a boor, I’m not a fool. What is it? What’s the mystery about me?”

Her answer was a long sigh.

He clasped his hands with a gesture that for him was strangely full of expression. “When I came here to-night I was–I hoped–I meant everything that I could to do away with the past, and start fair again. And you meet me with ‘nerves,’ and silence, and sighs. There’s nothing tangible. It’s like–it’s like a spider’s web.”

“Yes.”

That whisper from across the room maddened Soames afresh.

“Well, I don’t choose to be in a spider’s web. I’ll cut it.” He walked straight up to her. “Now!” What he had gone up to her to do he really did not know. But when he was close, the old familiar scent of her clothes suddenly affected him. He put his hands on her shoulders and bent forward to kiss her. He kissed not her lips, but a little hard line where the lips had been drawn in; then his face was pressed away by her hands; he heard her say: “Oh! No!” Shame, compunction, sense of futility flooded his whole being, he turned on his heel and went straight out.

CHAPTER III

VISIT TO IRENE

Jolyon found June waiting on the platform at Paddington. She had received his telegram while at breakfast. Her abode–a studio and two bedrooms in a St. John’s Wood garden–had been selected by her for the complete independence which it guaranteed. Unwatched by Mrs. Grundy, unhindered by permanent domestics, she could receive lame ducks at any hour of day or night, and not seldom had a duck without studio of its own made use of June’s. She enjoyed her freedom, and possessed herself with a sort of virginal passion; the warmth which she would have lavished on Bosinney, and of which– given her Forsyte tenacity–he must surely have tired, she now expended in championship of the underdogs and budding ‘geniuses’ of the artistic world. She lived, in fact, to turn ducks into the swans she believed they were. The very fervour of her protection warped her judgments. But she was loyal and liberal; her small eager hand was ever against the oppressions of academic and commercial opinion, and though her income was considerable, her bank balance was often a minus quantity.

She had come to Paddington Station heated in her soul by a visit to Eric Cobbley. A miserable Gallery had refused to let that straight-haired genius have his one-man show after all. Its impudent manager, after visiting his studio, had expressed the opinion that it would only be a ‘one-horse show from the selling point of view.’ This crowning example of commercial cowardice towards her favourite lame duck–and he so hard up, with a wife and two children, that he had caused her account to be overdrawn–was still making the blood glow in her small, resolute face, and her red-gold hair to shine more than ever. She gave her father a hug, and got into a cab with him, having as many fish to fry with him as he with her. It became at once a question which would fry them first.

Jolyon had reached the words: “My dear, I want you to come with me,” when, glancing at her face, he perceived by her blue eyes moving from side to side–like the tail of a preoccupied cat–that she was not attending. “Dad, is it true that I absolutely can’t get at any of my money?”

“Only the income, fortunately, my love.”

“How perfectly beastly! Can’t it be done somehow? There must be a way. I know I could buy a small Gallery for ten thousand pounds.”

“A small Gallery,” murmured Jolyon, “seems a modest desire. But your grandfather foresaw it.”

“I think,” cried June vigorously, “that all this care about money is awful, when there’s so much genius in the world simply crushed out for want of a little. I shall never marry and have children; why shouldn’t I be able to do some good instead of having it all tied up in case of things which will never come off?”

“Our name is Forsyte, my dear,” replied Jolyon in the ironical voice to which his impetuous daughter had never quite grown accustomed; “and Forsytes, you know, are people who so settle their property that their grandchildren, in case they should die before their parents, have to make wills leaving the property that will only come to themselves when their parents die. Do you follow that? Nor do I, but it’s a fact, anyway; we live by the principle that so long as there is a possibility of keeping wealth in the family it must not go out; if you die unmarried, your money goes to Jolly and Holly and their children if they marry. Isn’t it pleasant to know that whatever you do you can none of you be destitute?”

“But can’t I borrow the money?”

Jolyon shook his head. “You could rent a Gallery, no doubt, if you could manage it out of your income.”

June uttered a contemptuous sound.

“Yes; and have no income left to help anybody with.”

“My dear child,” murmured Jolyon, “wouldn’t it come to the same thing?”

“No,” said June shrewdly, “I could buy for ten thousand; that would only be four hundred a year. But I should have to pay a thousand a year rent, and that would only leave me five hundred. If I had the Gallery, Dad, think what I could do. I could make Eric Cobbley’s name in no time, and ever so many others.”

“Names worth making make themselves in time.”

“When they’re dead.”

“Did you ever know anybody living, my dear, improved by having his name made?”

“Yes, you,” said June, pressing his arm.

Jolyon started. ‘I?’ he thought. ‘Oh! Ah! Now she’s going to ask me to do something. We take it out, we Forsytes, each in our different ways.’

June came closer to him in the cab.

“Darling,” she said, “you buy the Gallery, and I’ll pay you four hundred a year for it. Then neither of us will be any the worse off. Besides, it’s a splendid investment.”

Jolyon wriggled. “Don’t you think,” he said, “that for an artist to buy a Gallery is a bit dubious? Besides, ten thousand pounds is a lump, and I’m not a commercial character.”

June looked at him with admiring appraisement.

“Of course you’re not, but you’re awfully businesslike. And I’m sure we could make it pay. It’ll be a perfect way of scoring off those wretched dealers and people.” And again she squeezed her father’s arm.

Jolyon’s face expressed quizzical despair.

“Where is this desirable Gallery? Splendidly situated, I suppose?”

“Just off Cork Street.”

‘Ah!’ thought Jolyon, ‘I knew it was just off somewhere. Now for what I want out of her!’

“Well, I’ll think of it, but not just now. You remember Irene? I want you to come with me and see her. Soames is after her again. She might be safer if we could give her asylum somewhere.”

The word asylum, which he had used by chance, was of all most calculated to rouse June’s interest.

“Irene! I haven’t seen her since! Of course! I’d love to help her.”

It was Jolyon’s turn to squeeze her arm, in warm admiration for this spirited, generous-hearted little creature of his begetting.

“Irene is proud,” he said, with a sidelong glance, in sudden doubt of June’s discretion; “she’s difficult to help. We must tread gently. This is the place. I wired her to expect us. Let’s send up our cards.”

“I can’t bear Soames,” said June as she got out; “he sneers at everything that isn’t successful”

Irene was in what was called the ‘Ladies’ drawing-room’ of the Piedmont Hotel.

Nothing if not morally courageous, June walked straight up to her former friend, kissed her cheek, and the two settled down on a sofa never sat on since the hotel’s foundation. Jolyon could see that Irene was deeply affected by this simple forgiveness.

“So Soames has been worrying you?” he said.

“I had a visit from him last night; he wants me to go back to him.”

“You’re not going, of course?” cried June.

Irene smiled faintly and shook her head. “But his position is horrible,” she murmured.

“It’s his own fault; he ought to have divorced you when he could.”

Jolyon remembered how fervently in the old days June had hoped that no divorce would smirch her dead and faithless lover’s name.

“Let us hear what Irene is going to do,” he said.

Irene’s lips quivered, but she spoke calmly.

“I’d better give him fresh excuse to get rid of me.”

“How horrible!” cried June.

“What else can I do?”

“Out of the question,” said Jolyon very quietly, “sans amour.”

He thought she was going to cry; but, getting up quickly, she half turned her back on them, and stood regaining control of herself.

June said suddenly:

“Well, I shall go to Soames and tell him he must leave you alone. What does he want at his age?”

“A child. It’s not unnatural”

“A child!” cried June scornfully. “Of course! To leave his money to. If he wants one badly enough let him take somebody and have one; then you can divorce him, and he can marry her.”

Jolyon perceived suddenly that he had made a mistake to bring June- -her violent partizanship was fighting Soames’ battle.

“It would be best for Irene to come quietly to us at Robin Hill, and see how things shape.”

“Of course,” said June; “only….”

Irene looked full at Jolyon–in all his many attempts afterwards to analyze that glance he never could succeed.

“No! I should only bring trouble on you all. I will go abroad.”

He knew from her voice that this was final. The irrelevant thought flashed through him: ‘Well, I could see her there.’ But he said:

“Don’t you think you would be more helpless abroad, in case he followed?”

“I don’t know. I can but try.”

June sprang up and paced the room. “It’s all horrible,” she said. “Why should people be tortured and kept miserable and helpless year after year by this disgusting sanctimonious law?” But someone had come into the room, and June came to a standstill. Jolyon went up to Irene:

“Do you want money?”

“No.”

“And would you like me to let your flat?”

“Yes, Jolyon, please.”

“When shall you be going?”

“To-morrow.”

“You won’t go back there in the meantime, will you?” This he said with an anxiety strange to himself.

“No; I’ve got all I want here.”

“You’ll send me your address?”

She put out her hand to him. “I feel you’re a rock.”

“Built on sand,” answered Jolyon, pressing her hand hard; “but it’s a pleasure to do anything, at any time, remember that. And if you change your mind….! Come along, June; say good-bye.”

June came from the window and flung her arms round Irene.

“Don’t think of him,” she said under her breath; “enjoy yourself, and bless you!”

With a memory of tears in Irene’s eyes, and of a smile on her lips, they went away extremely silent, passing the lady who had interrupted the interview and was turning over the papers on the table.

Opposite the National Gallery June exclaimed:

“Of all undignified beasts and horrible laws!”

But Jolyon did not respond. He had something of his father’s balance, and could see things impartially even when his emotions were roused. Irene was right; Soames’ position was as bad or worse than her own. As for the law–it catered for a human nature of which it took a naturally low view. And, feeling that if he stayed in his daughter’s company he would in one way or another commit an indiscretion, he told her he must catch his train back to Oxford; and hailing a cab, left her to Turner’s water-colours, with the promise that he would think over that Gallery.

But he thought over Irene instead. Pity, they said, was akin to love! If so he was certainly in danger of loving her, for he pitied her profoundly. To think of her drifting about Europe so handicapped and lonely! ‘I hope to goodness she’ll keep her head!’ he thought; ‘she might easily grow desperate.’ In fact, now that she had cut loose from her poor threads of occupation, he couldn’t imagine how she would go on–so beautiful a creature, hopeless, and fair game for anyone! In his exasperation was more than a little fear and jealousy. Women did strange things when they were driven into corners. ‘I wonder what Soames will do now!’ he thought. ‘A rotten, idiotic state of things! And I suppose they would say it was her own fault.’ Very preoccupied and sore at heart, he got into his train, mislaid his ticket, and on the platform at Oxford took his hat off to a lady whose face he seemed to remember without being able to put a name to her, not even when he saw her having tea at the Rainbow.

CHAPTER IV

WHERE FORSYTES FEAR TO TREAD

Quivering from the defeat of his hopes, with the green morocco case still flat against his heart, Soames revolved thoughts bitter as death. A spider’s web! Walking fast, and noting nothing in the moonlight, he brooded over the scene he had been through, over the memory of her figure rigid in his grasp. And the more he brooded, the more certain he became that she had a lover–her words, ‘I would sooner die!’ were ridiculous if she had not. Even if she had never loved him, she had made no fuss until Bosinney came on the scene. No; she was in love again, or she would not have made that melodramatic answer to his proposal, which in all the circumstances was reasonable! Very well! That simplified matters.

‘I’ll take steps to know where I am,’ he thought; ‘I’ll go to Polteed’s the first thing tomorrow morning.’

But even in forming that resolution he knew he would have trouble with himself. He had employed Polteed’s agency several times in the routine of his profession, even quite lately over Dartie’s case, but he had never thought it possible to employ them to watch his own wife.

It was too insulting to himself!

He slept over that project and his wounded pride–or rather, kept vigil. Only while shaving did he suddenly remember that she called herself by her maiden name of Heron. Polteed would not know, at first at all events, whose wife she was, would not look at him obsequiously and leer behind his back. She would just be the wife of one of his clients. And that would be true–for was he not his own solicitor?

He was literally afraid not to put his design into execution at the first possible moment, lest, after all, he might fail himself. And making Warmson bring him an early cup of coffee; he stole out of the house before the hour of breakfast. He walked rapidly to one of those small West End streets where Polteed’s and other firms ministered to the virtues of the wealthier classes. Hitherto he had always had Polteed to see him in the Poultry; but he well knew their address, and reached it at the opening hour. In the outer office, a room furnished so cosily that it might have been a money-lender’s, he was attended by a lady who might have been a schoolmistress.

“I wish to see Mr. Claud Polteed. He knows me–never mind my name.”

To keep everybody from knowing that he, Soames Forsyte, was reduced to having his wife spied on, was the overpowering consideration.

Mr. Claud Polteed–so different from Mr. Lewis Polteed–was one of those men with dark hair, slightly curved noses, and quick brown eyes, who might be taken for Jews but are really Phoenicians; he received Soames in a room hushed by thickness of carpet and curtains. It was, in fact, confidentially furnished, without trace of document anywhere to be seen.

Greeting Soames deferentially, he turned the key in the only door with a certain ostentation.

“If a client sends for me,” he was in the habit of saying, “he takes what precaution he likes. If he comes here, we convince him that we have no leakages. I may safely say we lead in security, if in nothing else….Now, sir, what can I do for you?”

Soames’ gorge had risen so that he could hardly speak. It was absolutely necessary to hide from this man that he had any but professional interest in the matter; and, mechanically, his face assumed its sideway smile.

“I’ve come to you early like this because there’s not an hour to lose”–if he lost an hour he might fail himself yet! “Have you a really trustworthy woman free?”

Mr. Polteed unlocked a drawer, produced a memorandum, ran his eyes over it, and locked the drawer up again.

“Yes,” he said; “the very woman.”

Soames had seated himself and crossed his legs–nothing but a faint flush, which might have been his normal complexion, betrayed him.

“Send her off at once, then, to watch a Mrs. Irene Heron of Flat C, Truro Mansions, Chelsea, till further notice.”

“Precisely,” said Mr. Polteed; “divorce, I presume?” and he blew into a speaking-tube. “Mrs. Blanch in? I shall want to speak to her in ten minutes.”

“Deal with any reports yourself,” resumed Soames, “and send them to me personally, marked confidential, sealed and registered. My client exacts the utmost secrecy.”

Mr. Polteed smiled, as though saying, ‘You are teaching your grandmother, my dear sir;’ and his eyes slid over Soames’ face for one unprofessional instant.

“Make his mind perfectly easy,” he said. “Do you smoke?”

“No,” said Soames. “Understand me: Nothing may come of this. If a name gets out, or the watching is suspected, it may have very serious consequences.”

Mr. Polteed nodded. “I can put it into the cipher category. Under that system a name is never mentioned; we work by numbers.”

He unlocked another drawer and took out two slips of paper, wrote on them, and handed one to Soames.

“Keep that, sir; it’s your key. I retain this duplicate. The case we’ll call 7x. The party watched will be 17; the watcher 19; the Mansions 25; yourself–I should say, your firm–31; my firm 32, myself 2. In case you should have to mention your client in writing I have called him 43; any person we suspect will be 47; a second person 51. Any special hint or instruction while we’re about it?”

“No,” said Soames; “that is–every consideration compatible.”

Again Mr. Polteed nodded. “Expense?”

Soames shrugged. “In reason,” he answered curtly, and got up. “Keep it entirely in your own hands.”

“Entirely,” said Mr. Polteed, appearing suddenly between him and the door. “I shall be seeing you in that other case before long. Good morning, sir.” His eyes slid unprofessionally over Soames once more, and he unlocked the door.

“Good morning,” said Soames, looking neither to right nor left.

Out in the street he swore deeply, quietly, to himself. A spider’s web, and to cut it he must use this spidery, secret, unclean method, so utterly repugnant to one who regarded his private life as his most sacred piece of property. But the die was cast, he could not go back. And he went on into the Poultry, and locked away the green morocco case and the key to that cipher destined to make crystal-clear his domestic bankruptcy.

Odd that one whose life was spent in bringing to the public eye all the private coils of property, the domestic disagreements of others, should dread so utterly the public eye turned on his own; and yet not odd, for who should know so well as he the whole unfeeling process of legal regulation.

He worked hard all day. Winifred was due at four o’clock; he was to take her down to a conference in the Temple with Dreamer Q.C., and waiting for her he re-read the letter he had caused her to write the day of Dartie’s departure, requiring him to return.

“DEAR MONTAGUE,

“I have received your letter with the news that you have left me for ever and are on your way to Buenos Aires. It has naturally been a great shock. I am taking this earliest opportunity of writing to tell you that I am prepared to let bygones be bygones if you will return to me at once. I beg you to do so. I am very much upset, and will not say any more now. I am sending this letter registered to the address you left at your Club. Please cable to me.

“Your still affectionate wife,

“WINIFRED DARTIE.”

Ugh! What bitter humbug! He remembered leaning over Winifred while she copied what he had pencilled, and how she had said, laying down her pen, “Suppose he comes, Soames!” in such a strange tone of voice, as if she did not know her own mind. “He won’t come,” he had answered, “till he’s spent his money. That’s why we must act at once.” Annexed to the copy of that letter was the original of Dartie’s drunken scrawl from the Iseeum Club. Soames could have wished it had not been so manifestly penned in liquor. Just the sort of thing the Court would pitch on. He seemed to hear the Judge’s voice say: “You took this seriously! Seriously enough to write him as you did? Do you think he meant it?” Never mind! The fact was clear that Dartie had sailed and had not returned. Annexed also was his cabled answer: “Impossible return. Dartie.” Soames shook his head. If the whole thing were not disposed of within the next few months the fellow would turn up again like a bad penny. It saved a thousand a year at least to get rid of him, besides all the worry to Winifred and his father. ‘I must stiffen Dreamer’s back,’ he thought; ‘we must push it on.’

Winifred, who had adopted a kind of half-mourning which became her fair hair and tall figure very well, arrived in James’ barouche drawn by James’ pair. Soames had not seen it in the City since his father retired from business five years ago, and its incongruity gave him a shock. ‘Times are changing,’ he thought; ‘one doesn’t know what’ll go next!’ Top hats even were scarcer. He enquired after Val. Val, said Winifred, wrote that he was going to play polo next term. She thought he was in a very good set. She added with fashionably disguised anxiety: “Will there be much publicity about my affair, Soames? Must it be in the papers? It’s so bad for him, and the girls.”

With his own calamity all raw within him, Soames answered:

“The papers are a pushing lot; it’s very difficult to keep things out. They pretend to be guarding the public’s morals, and they corrupt them with their beastly reports. But we haven’t got to that yet. We’re only seeing Dreamer to-day on the restitution question. Of course he understands that it’s to lead to a divorce; but you must seem genuinely anxious to get Dartie back–you might practice that attitude to-day.”

Winifred sighed.

“Oh! What a clown Monty’s been!” she said.

Soames gave her a sharp look. It was clear to him that she could not take her Dartie seriously, and would go back on the whole thing if given half a chance. His own instinct had been firm in this matter from the first. To save a little scandal now would only bring on his sister and her children real disgrace and perhaps ruin later on if Dartie were allowed to hang on to them, going down-hill and spending the money James would leave his daughter. Though it was all tied up, that fellow would milk the settlements somehow, and make his family pay through the nose to keep him out of bankruptcy or even perhaps gaol! They left the shining carriage, with the shining horses and the shining-hatted servants on the Embankment, and walked up to Dreamer Q.C.’s Chambers in Crown Office Row.

“Mr. Bellby is here, sir,” said the clerk; “Mr. Dreamer will be ten minutes.”

Mr. Bellby, the junior–not as junior as he might have been, for Soames only employed barristers of established reputation; it was, indeed, something of a mystery to him how barristers ever managed to establish that which made him employ them–Mr. Bellby was seated, taking a final glance through his papers. He had come from Court, and was in wig and gown, which suited a nose jutting out like the handle of a tiny pump, his small shrewd blue eyes, and rather protruding lower lip–no better man to supplement and stiffen Dreamer.

The introduction to Winifred accomplished, they leaped the weather and spoke of the war. Soames interrupted suddenly:

“If he doesn’t comply we can’t bring proceedings for six months. I want to get on with the matter, Bellby.”

Mr. Bellby, who had the ghost of an Irish brogue, smiled at Winifred and murmured: “The Law’s delays, Mrs. Dartie.”

“Six months!” repeated Soames; “it’ll drive it up to June! We shan’t get the suit on till after the long vacation. We must put the screw on, Bellby”–he would have all his work cut out to keep Winifred up to the scratch.

“Mr. Dreamer will see you now, sir.”

They filed in, Mr. Bellby going first, and Soames escorting Winifred after an interval of one minute by his watch.

Dreamer Q.C., in a gown but divested of wig, was standing before the fire, as if this conference were in the nature of a treat; he had the leathery, rather oily complexion which goes with great learning, a considerable nose with glasses perched on it, and little greyish whiskers; he luxuriated in the perpetual cocking of