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  • 1906
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“Well, my dear,” said Francie, “she had a love affair which ended with the young man’s death; and then she left your uncle. I always rather liked her.”

“She used to give me chocolates,” murmured Imogen, “and smell nice.”

“Of course!” remarked Euphemia.

“Not of course at all!” replied Francie, who used a particularly expensive essence of gillyflower herself.

“I can’t think what we are about,” said Aunt Juley, raising her hands, “talking of such things!”

“Was she divorced?” asked Imogen from the door.

“Certainly not,” cried Aunt Juley; “that is–certainly not.”

A sound was heard over by the far door. Timothy had re-entered the back drawing-room. “I’ve come for my map,” he said. “Who’s been divorced?”

“No one, Uncle,” replied Francie with perfect truth.

Timothy took his map off the piano.

“Don’t let’s have anything of that sort in the family,” he said. “All this enlistin’s bad enough. The country’s breakin’ up; I don’t know what we’re comin’ to.” He shook a thick finger at the room: “Too many women nowadays, and they don’t know what they want.”

So saying, he grasped the map firmly with both hands, and went out as if afraid of being answered.

The seven women whom he had addressed broke into a subdued murmur, out of which emerged Francie’s, “Really, the Forsytes!” and Aunt Juley’s: “He must have his feet in mustard and hot water to-night, Hester; will you tell Jane? The blood has gone to his head again, I’m afraid….”

That evening, when she and Hester were sitting alone after dinner, she dropped a stitch in her crochet, and looked up:

“Hester, I can’t think where I’ve heard that dear Soames wants Irene to come back to him again. Who was it told us that George had made a funny drawing of him with the words, ‘He won’t be happy till he gets it’?”

“Eustace,” answered Aunt Hester from behind The Times; “he had it in his pocket, but he wouldn’t show it us.”

Aunt Juley was silent, ruminating. The clock ticked, The Times crackled, the fire sent forth its rustling purr. Aunt Juley dropped another stitch.

“Hester,” she said, “I have had such a dreadful thought.”

“Then don’t tell me,” said Aunt Hester quickly.

“Oh! but I must. You can’t think how dreadful!” Her voice sank to a whisper:

“Jolyon–Jolyon, they say, has a–has a fair beard, now.”

CHAPTER XII

PROGRESS OF THE CHASE

Two days after the dinner at James’, Mr. Polteed provided Soames with food for thought.

“A gentleman,” he said, consulting the key concealed in his left hand, “47 as we say, has been paying marked attention to 17 during the last month in Paris. But at present there seems to have been nothing very conclusive. The meetings have all been in public places, without concealment–restaurants, the Opera, the Comique, the Louvre, Luxembourg Gardens, lounge of the hotel, and so forth. She has not yet been traced to his rooms, nor vice versa. They went to Fontainebleau–but nothing of value. In short, the situation is promising, but requires patience.” And, looking up suddenly, he added:

“One rather curious point–47 has the same name as–er–31!”

‘The fellow knows I’m her husband,’ thought Soames.

“Christian name–an odd one–Jolyon,” continued Mr. Polteed. “We know his address in Paris and his residence here. We don’t wish, of course, to be running a wrong hare.”

“Go on with it, but be careful,” said Soames doggedly.

Instinctive certainty that this detective fellow had fathomed his secret made him all the more reticent.

“Excuse me,” said Mr. Polteed, “I’ll just see if there’s anything fresh in.”

He returned with some letters. Relocking the door, he glanced at the envelopes.

“Yes, here’s a personal one from 19 to myself.”

“Well?” said Soames.

“Um!” said Mr. Polteed, “she says: ’47 left for England to-day. Address on his baggage: Robin Hill. Parted from 17 in Louvre Gallery at 3.30; nothing very striking. Thought it best to stay and continue observation of 17. You will deal with 47 in England if you think desirable, no doubt.'” And Mr. Polteed lifted an unprofessional glance on Soames, as though he might be storing material for a book on human nature after he had gone out of business. “Very intelligent woman, 19, and a wonderful make-up. Not cheap, but earns her money well. There’s no suspicion of being shadowed so far. But after a time, as you know, sensitive people are liable to get the feeling of it, without anything definite to go on. I should rather advise letting-up on 17, and keeping an eye on 47. We can’t get at correspondence without great risk. I hardly advise that at this stage. But you can tell your client that it’s looking up very well.” And again his narrowed eyes gleamed at his taciturn customer.

“No,” said Soames suddenly, “I prefer that you should keep the watch going discreetly in Paris, and not concern yourself with this end.”

“Very well,” replied Mr. Polteed, “we can do it.”

“What–what is the manner between them?”

“I’ll read you what she says,” said Mr. Polteed, unlocking a bureau drawer and taking out a file of papers; “she sums it up somewhere confidentially. Yes, here it is! ’17 very attractive–conclude 47, longer in the tooth’ (slang for age, you know)–‘distinctly gone–waiting his time–17 perhaps holding off for terms, impossible to say without knowing more. But inclined to think on the whole–doesn’t know her mind–likely to act on impulse some day. Both have style.'”

“What does that mean?” said Soames between close lips.

“Well,” murmured Mr. Polteed with a smile, showing many white teeth, “an expression we use. In other words, it’s not likely to be a weekend business–they’ll come together seriously or not at all.”

“H’m!” muttered Soames, “that’s all, is it?”

“Yes,” said Mr. Polteed, “but quite promising.”

‘Spider!’ thought Soames. “Good-day!”

He walked into the Green Park that he might cross to Victoria Station and take the Underground into the City. For so late in January it was warm; sunlight, through the haze, sparkled on the frosty grass–an illumined cobweb of a day.

Little spiders–and great spiders! And the greatest spinner of all, his own tenacity, for ever wrapping its cocoon of threads round any clear way out. What was that fellow hanging round Irene for? Was it really as Polteed suggested? Or was Jolyon but taking compassion on her loneliness, as he would call it–sentimental radical chap that he had always been? If it were, indeed, as Polteed hinted! Soames stood still. It could not be! The fellow was seven years older than himself, no better looking! No richer! What attraction had he?

‘Besides, he’s come back,’ he thought; ‘that doesn’t look—I’ll go and see him!’ and, taking out a card, he wrote:

“If you can spare half an hour some afternoon this week, I shall be at the Connoisseurs any day between 5.30 and 6, or I could come to the Hotch Potch if you prefer it. I want to see you.–S. F.”

He walked up St. James’s Street and confided it to the porter at the Hotch Potch.

“Give Mr. Jolyon Forsyte this as soon as he comes in,” he said, and took one of the new motor cabs into the City….

Jolyon received that card the same afternoon, and turned his face towards the Connoisseurs. What did Soames want now? Had he got wind of Paris? And stepping across St. James’s Street, he determined to make no secret of his visit. ‘But it won’t do,’ he thought, ‘to let him know she’s there, unless he knows already.’ In this complicated state of mind he was conducted to where Soames was drinking tea in a small bay-window.

“No tea, thanks,” said Jolyon, “but I’ll go on smoking if I may.”

The curtains were not yet drawn, though the lamps outside were lighted; the two cousins sat waiting on each other.

“You’ve been in Paris, I hear,” said Soames at last.

“Yes; just back.”

“Young Val told me; he and your boy are going off, then?” Jolyon nodded.

“You didn’t happen to see Irene, I suppose. It appears she’s abroad somewhere.”

Jolyon wreathed himself in smoke before he answered: “Yes, I saw her.”

“How was she?”

“Very well.”

There was another silence; then Soames roused himself in his chair.

“When I saw you last,” he said, “I was in two minds. We talked, and you expressed your opinion. I don’t wish to reopen that discussion. I only wanted to say this: My position with her is extremely difficult. I don’t want you to go using your influence against me. What happened is a very long time ago. I’m going to ask her to let bygones be bygones.”

“You have asked her, you know,” murmured Jolyon.

“The idea was new to her then; it came as a shock. But the more she thinks of it, the more she must see that it’s the only way out for both of us.”

“That’s not my impression of her state of mind,” said Jolyon with particular calm. “And, forgive my saying, you misconceive the matter if you think reason comes into it at all.”

He saw his cousin’s pale face grow paler–he had used, without knowing it, Irene’s own words.

“Thanks,” muttered Soames, “but I see things perhaps more plainly than you think. I only want to be sure that you won’t try to influence her against me.”

“I don’t know what makes you think I have any influence,” said Jolyon; “but if I have I’m bound to use it in the direction of what I think is her happiness. I am what they call a ‘feminist,’ I believe.”

“Feminist!” repeated Soames, as if seeking to gain time. “Does that mean that you’re against me?”

“Bluntly,” said Jolyon, “I’m against any woman living with any man whom she definitely dislikes. It appears to me rotten.”

“And I suppose each time you see her you put your opinions into her mind.”

“I am not likely to be seeing her.”

“Not going back to Paris?”

“Not so far as I know,” said Jolyon, conscious of the intent watchfulness in Soames’ face.

“Well, that’s all I had to say. Anyone who comes between man and wife, you know, incurs heavy responsibility.”

Jolyon rose and made him a slight bow.

“Good-bye,” he said, and, without offering to shake hands, moved away, leaving Soames staring after him. ‘We Forsytes,’ thought Jolyon, hailing a cab, ‘are very civilised. With simpler folk that might have come to a row. If it weren’t for my boy going to the war….’ The war! A gust of his old doubt swept over him. A precious war! Domination of peoples or of women! Attempts to master and possess those who did not want you! The negation of gentle decency! Possession, vested rights; and anyone ‘agin’ ’em– outcast! ‘Thank Heaven!’ he thought, ‘I always felt “agin” ’em, anyway!’ Yes! Even before his first disastrous marriage he could remember fuming over the bludgeoning of Ireland, or the matrimonial suits of women trying to be free of men they loathed. Parsons would have it that freedom of soul and body were quite different things! Pernicious doctrine! Body and soul could not thus be separated. Free will was the strength of any tie, and not its weakness. ‘I ought to have told Soames,’ he thought, ‘that I think him comic. Ah! but he’s tragic, too!’ Was there anything, indeed, more tragic in the world than a man enslaved by his own possessive instinct, who couldn’t see the sky for it, or even enter fully into what another person felt! ‘I must write and warn her,’ he thought; ‘he’s going to have another try.’ And all the way home to Robin Hill he rebelled at the strength of that duty to his son which prevented him from posting back to Paris….

But Soames sat long in his chair, the prey of a no less gnawing ache–a jealous ache, as if it had been revealed to him that this fellow held precedence of himself, and had spun fresh threads of resistance to his way out. ‘Does that mean that you’re against me?’ he had got nothing out of that disingenuous question. Feminist! Phrasey fellow! ‘I mustn’t rush things,’ he thought. ‘I have some breathing space; he’s not going back to Paris, unless he was lying. I’ll let the spring come!’ Though how the spring could serve him, save by adding to his ache, he could not tell. And gazing down into the street, where figures were passing from pool to pool of the light from the high lamps, he thought: ‘Nothing seems any good–nothing seems worth while. I’m loney–that’s the trouble.’

He closed his eyes; and at once he seemed to see Irene, in a dark street below a church–passing, turning her neck so that he caught the gleam of her eyes and her white forehead under a little dark hat, which had gold spangles on it and a veil hanging down behind. He opened his eyes–so vividly he had seen her! A woman was passing below, but not she! Oh no, there was nothing there!

CHAPTER XIII

‘HERE WE ARE AGAIN!’

Imogen’s frocks for her first season exercised the judgment of her mother and the purse of her grandfather all through the month of March. With Forsyte tenacity Winifred quested for perfection. It took her mind off the slowly approaching rite which would give her a freedom but doubtfully desired; took her mind, too, off her boy and his fast approaching departure for a war from which the news remained disquieting. Like bees busy on summer flowers, or bright gadflies hovering and darting over spiky autumn blossoms, she and her ‘little daughter,’ tall nearly as herself and with a bust measurement not far inferior, hovered in the shops of Regent Street, the establishments of Hanover Square and of Bond Street, lost in consideration and the feel of fabrics. Dozens of young women of striking deportment and peculiar gait paraded before Winifred and Imogen, draped in ‘creations.’ The models–‘Very new, modom; quite the latest thing–‘ which those two reluctantly turned down, would have filled a museum; the models which they were obliged to have nearly emptied James’ bank. It was no good doing things by halves, Winifred felt, in view of the need for making this first and sole untarnished season a conspicuous success. Their patience in trying the patience of those impersonal creatures who swam about before them could alone have been displayed by such as were moved by faith. It was for Winifred a long prostration before her dear goddess Fashion, fervent as a Catholic might make before the Virgin; for Imogen an experience by no means too unpleasant–she often looked so nice, and flattery was implicit everywhere: in a word it was ‘amusing.’

On the afternoon of the 20th of March, having, as it were, gutted Skywards, they had sought refreshment over the way at Caramel and Baker’s, and, stored with chocolate frothed at the top with cream, turned homewards through Berkeley Square of an evening touched with spring. Opening the door–freshly painted a light olive-green; nothing neglected that year to give Imogen a good send-off– Winifred passed towards the silver basket to see if anyone had called, and suddenly her nostrils twitched. What was that scent?

Imogen had taken up a novel sent from the library, and stood absorbed. Rather sharply, because of the queer feeling in her breast, Winifred said:

“Take that up, dear, and have a rest before dinner.”

Imogen, still reading, passed up the stairs. Winifred heard the door of her room slammed to, and drew a long savouring breath. Was it spring tickling her senses–whipping up nostalgia for her ‘clown,’ against all wisdom and outraged virtue? A male scent! A faint reek of cigars and lavender-water not smelt since that early autumn night six months ago, when she had called him ‘the limit.’ Whence came it, or was it ghost of scent–sheer emanation from memory? She looked round her. Nothing–not a thing, no tiniest disturbance of her hall, nor of the diningroom. A little day-dream of a scent–illusory, saddening, silly! In the silver basket were new cards, two with ‘Mr. and Mrs. Polegate Thom,’ and one with ‘Mr. Polegate Thom’ thereon; she sniffed them, but they smelled severe. ‘I must be tired,’ she thought, ‘I’ll go and lie down.’ Upstairs the drawing-room was darkened, waiting for some hand to give it evening light; and she passed on up to her bedroom. This, too, was half-curtained and dim, for it was six o’clock. Winifred threw off her coat–that scent again!–then stood, as if shot, transfixed against the bed-rail. Something dark had risen from the sofa in the far corner. A word of horror–in her family–escaped her: “God!”

“It’s I–Monty,” said a voice.

Clutching the bed-rail, Winifred reached up and turned the switch of the light hanging above her dressing-table. He appeared just on the rim of the light’s circumference, emblazoned from the absence of his watch-chain down to boots neat and sooty brown, but–yes!– split at the toecap. His chest and face were shadowy. Surely he was thin–or was it a trick of the light? He advanced, lighted now from toe-cap to the top of his dark head–surely a little grizzled! His complexion had darkened, sallowed; his black moustache had lost boldness, become sardonic; there were lines which she did not know about his face. There was no pin in his tie. His suit–ah!–she knew that–but how unpressed, unglossy! She stared again at the toe-cap of his boot. Something big and relentless had been ‘at him,’ had turned and twisted, raked and scraped him. And she stayed, not speaking, motionless, staring at that crack across the toe.

“Well!” he said, “I got the order. I’m back.”

Winifred’s bosom began to heave. The nostalgia for her husband which had rushed up with that scent was struggling with a deeper jealousy than any she had felt yet. There he was–a dark, and as if harried, shadow of his sleek and brazen self! What force had done this to him–squeezed him like an orange to its dry rind! That woman!

“I’m back,” he said again. “I’ve had a beastly time. By God! I came steerage. I’ve got nothing but what I stand up in, and that bag.”

“And who has the rest?” cried Winifred, suddenly alive. “How dared you come? You knew it was just for divorce that you got that order to come back. Don’t touch me!”

They held each to the rail of the big bed where they had spent so many years of nights together. Many times, yes–many times she had wanted him back. But now that he had come she was filled with this cold and deadly resentment. He put his hand up to his moustache; but did not frizz and twist it in the old familiar way, he just pulled it downwards.

“Gad!” he said: “If you knew the time I’ve had!”

“I’m glad I don’t!”

“Are the kids all right?”

Winifred nodded. “How did you get in?”

“With my key.”

“Then the maids don’t know. You can’t stay here, Monty.”

He uttered a little sardonic laugh.

“Where then?”

“Anywhere.”

“Well, look at me! That–that damned….”

“If you mention her,” cried Winifred, “I go straight out to Park Lane and I don’t come back.”

Suddenly he did a simple thing, but so uncharacteristic that it moved her. He shut his eyes. It was as if he had said: ‘All right! I’m dead to the world!’

“You can have a room for the night,” she said; “your things are still here. Only Imogen is at home.”

He leaned back against the bed-rail. “Well, it’s in your hands,” and his own made a writhing movement. “I’ve been through it. You needn’t hit too hard–it isn’t worth while. I’ve been frightened; I’ve been frightened, Freddie.”

That old pet name, disused for years and years, sent a shiver through Winifred.

‘What am I to do with him?’ she thought. ‘What in God’s name am I to do with him?’

“Got a cigarette?”

She gave him one from a little box she kept up there for when she couldn’t sleep at night, and lighted it. With that action the matter-of-fact side of her nature came to life again.

“Go and have a hot bath. I’ll put some clothes out for you in the dressing-room. We can talk later.”

He nodded, and fixed his eyes on her–they looked half-dead, or was it that the folds in the lids had become heavier?

‘He’s not the same,’ she thought. He would never be quite the same again! But what would he be?

“All right!” he said, and went towards the door. He even moved differently, like a man who has lost illusion and doubts whether it is worth while to move at all.

When he was gone, and she heard the water in the bath running, she put out a complete set of garments on the bed in his dressing-room, then went downstairs and fetched up the biscuit box and whisky. Putting on her coat again, and listening a moment at the bathroom door, she went down and out. In the street she hesitated. Past seven o’clock! Would Soames be at his Club or at Park Lane? She turned towards the latter. Back!

Soames had always feared it–she had sometimes hoped it…. Back! So like him–clown that he was–with this: ‘Here we are again!’ to make fools of them all–of the Law, of Soames, of herself!

Yet to have done with the Law, not to have that murky cloud hanging over her and the children! What a relief! Ah! but how to accept his return? That ‘woman’ had ravaged him, taken from him passion such as he had never bestowed on herself, such as she had not thought him capable of. There was the sting! That selfish, blatant ‘clown’ of hers, whom she herself had never really stirred, had been swept and ungarnished by another woman! Insulting! Too insulting! Not right, not decent to take him back! And yet she had asked for him; the Law perhaps would make her now! He was as much her husband as ever–she had put herself out of court! And all he wanted, no doubt, was money–to keep him in cigars and lavender-water! That scent! ‘After all, I’m not old,’ she thought, ‘not old yet!’ But that woman who had reduced him to those words: ‘I’ve been through it. I’ve been frightened– frightened, Freddie!’ She neared her father’s house, driven this way and that, while all the time the Forsyte undertow was drawing her to deep conclusion that after all he was her property, to be held against a robbing world. And so she came to James’.

“Mr. Soames? In his room? I’ll go up; don’t say I’m here.”

Her brother was dressing. She found him before a mirror, tying a black bow with an air of despising its ends.

“Hullo!” he said, contemplating her in the glass; “what’s wrong?”

“Monty!” said Winifred stonily.

Soames spun round. “What!”

“Back!”

“Hoist,” muttered Soames, “with our own petard. Why the deuce didn’t you let me try cruelty? I always knew it was too much risk this way.”

“Oh! Don’t talk about that! What shall I do?”

Soames answered, with a deep, deep sound.

“Well?” said Winifred impatiently.

“What has he to say for himself?”

“Nothing. One of his boots is split across the toe.”

Soames stared at her.

“Ah!” he said, “of course! On his beam ends. So–it begins again! This’ll about finish father.”

“Can’t we keep it from him?”

“Impossible. He has an uncanny flair for anything that’s worrying.”

And he brooded, with fingers hooked into his blue silk braces. “There ought to be some way in law,” he muttered, “to make him safe.”

“No,” cried Winifred, “I won’t be made a fool of again; I’d sooner put up with him.”

The two stared at each other. Their hearts were full of feeling, but they could give it no expression–Forsytes that they were.

“Where did you leave him?”

“In the bath,” and Winifred gave a little bitter laugh. “The only thing he’s brought back is lavender-water.”

“Steady!” said Soames, “you’re thoroughly upset. I’ll go back with you.”

“What’s the use?”

“We ought to make terms with him.”

“Terms! It’ll always be the same. When he recovers–cards and betting, drink and ….!” She was silent, remembering the look on her husband’s face. The burnt child–the burnt child. Perhaps…!

“Recovers?” replied Soames: “Is he ill?”

“No; burnt out; that’s all.”

Soames took his waistcoat from a chair and put it on, he took his coat and got into it, he scented his handkerchief with eau-de- Cologne, threaded his watch-chain, and said: “We haven’t any luck.”

And in the midst of her own trouble Winifred was sorry for him, as if in that little saying he had revealed deep trouble of his own.

“I’d like to see mother,” she said.

“She’ll be with father in their room. Come down quietly to the study. I’ll get her.”

Winifred stole down to the little dark study, chiefly remarkable for a Canaletto too doubtful to be placed elsewhere, and a fine collection of Law Reports unopened for many years. Here she stood, with her back to maroon-coloured curtains close-drawn, staring at the empty grate, till her mother came in followed by Soames.

“Oh! my poor dear!” said Emily: “How miserable you look in here! This is too bad of him, really!”

As a family they had so guarded themselves from the expression of all unfashionable emotion that it was impossible to go up and give her daughter a good hug. But there was comfort in her cushioned voice, and her still dimpled shoulders under some rare black lace. Summoning pride and the desire not to distress her mother, Winifred said in her most off-hand voice:

“It’s all right, Mother; no good fussing.”

“I don’t see,” said Emily, looking at Soames, “why Winifred shouldn’t tell him that she’ll prosecute him if he doesn’t keep off the premises. He took her pearls; and if he’s not brought them back, that’s quite enough.”

Winifred smiled. They would all plunge about with suggestions of this and that, but she knew already what she would be doing, and that was–nothing. The feeling that, after all, she had won a sort of victory, retained her property, was every moment gaining ground in her. No! if she wanted to punish him, she could do it at home without the world knowing.

” Well,” said Emily, “come into the diningroom comfortably–you must stay and have dinner with us. Leave it to me to tell your father.” And, as Winifred moved towards the door, she turned out the light. Not till then did they see the disaster in the corridor.

There, attracted by light from a room never lighted, James was standing with his duncoloured camel-hair shawl folded about him, so that his arms were not free and his silvered head looked cut off from his fashionably trousered legs as if by an expanse of desert. He stood, inimitably stork-like, with an expression as if he saw before him a frog too large to swallow.

“What’s all this?” he said. “Tell your father? You never tell me anything.”

The moment found Emily without reply. It was Winifred who went up to him, and, laying one hand on each of his swathed, helpless arms, said:

“Monty’s not gone bankrupt, Father. He’s only come back.”

They all three expected something serious to happen, and were glad she had kept that grip of his arms, but they did not know the depth of root in that shadowy old Forsyte. Something wry occurred about his shaven mouth and chin, something scratchy between those long silvery whiskers. Then he said with a sort of dignity: “He’ll be the death of me. I knew how it would be.”

“You mustn’t worry, Father,” said Winifred calmly. “I mean to make him behave.”

“Ah!” said James. “Here, take this thing off, I’m hot.” They unwound the shawl. He turned, and walked firmly to the dining- room.

“I don’t want any soup,” he said to Warmson, and sat down in his chair. They all sat down too, Winifred still in her hat, while Warmson laid the fourth place. When he left the room, James said: “What’s he brought back?”

“Nothing, Father.”

James concentrated his eyes on his own image in a tablespoon. “Divorce!” he muttered; “rubbish! What was I about? I ought to have paid him an allowance to stay out of England. Soames you go and propose it to him.”

It seemed so right and simple a suggestion that even Winifred was surprised when she said: “No, I’ll keep him now he’s back; he must just behave–that’s all.”

They all looked at her. It had always been known that Winifred had pluck.

“Out there!” said James elliptically, “who knows what cut-throats! You look for his revolver! Don’t go to bed without. You ought to have Warmson to sleep in the house. I’ll see him myself tomorrow.”

They were touched by this declaration, and Emily said comfortably: “That’s right, James, we won’t have any nonsense.”

“Ah!” muttered James darkly, “I can’t tell.”

The advent of Warmson with fish diverted conversation.

When, directly after dinner, Winifred went over to kiss her father good-night, he looked up with eyes so full of question and distress that she put all the comfort she could into her voice.

“It’s all right, Daddy, dear; don’t worry. I shan’t need anyone– he’s quite bland. I shall only be upset if you worry. Good-night, bless you!”

James repeated the words, “Bless you!” as if he did not quite know what they meant, and his eyes followed her to the door.

She reached home before nine, and went straight upstairs.

Dartie was lying on the bed in his dressing-room, fully redressed in a blue serge suit and pumps; his arms were crossed behind his head, and an extinct cigarette drooped from his mouth.

Winifred remembered ridiculously the flowers in her window-boxes after a blazing summer day; the way they lay, or rather stood– parched, yet rested by the sun’s retreat. It was as if a little dew had come already on her burnt-up husband.

He said apathetically: “I suppose you’ve been to Park Lane. How’s the old man?”

Winifred could not help the bitter answer: “Not dead.”

He winced, actually he winced.

“Understand, Monty,” she said, “I will not have him worried. If you aren’t going to behave yourself, you may go back, you may go anywhere. Have you had dinner?”

No.

“Would you like some?”

He shrugged his shoulders.

“Imogen offered me some. I didn’t want any.”

Imogen! In the plenitude of emotion Winifred had forgotten her.

“So you’ve seen her? What did she say?”

“She gave me a kiss.”

With mortification Winifred saw his dark sardonic face relaxed. ‘Yes!’ she thought, ‘he cares for her, not for me a bit.’

Dartie’s eyes were moving from side to side.

“Does she know about me?” he said.

It flashed through Winifred that here was the weapon she needed. He minded their knowing!

“No. Val knows. The others don’t; they only know you went away.”

She heard him sigh with relief.

“But they shall know,” she said firmly, “if you give me cause.”

“All right!” he muttered, “hit me! I’m down!”

Winifred went up to the bed. “Look here, Monty! I don’t want to hit you. I don’t want to hurt you. I shan’t allude to anything. I’m not going to worry. What’s the use?” She was silent a moment. “I can’t stand any more, though, and I won’t! You’d better know. You’ve made me suffer. But I used to be fond of you. For the sake of that….” She met the heavy-lidded gaze of his brown eyes with the downward stare of her green-grey eyes; touched his hand suddenly, turned her back, and went into her room.

She sat there a long time before her glass, fingering her rings, thinking of this subdued dark man, almost a stranger to her, on the bed in the other room; resolutely not ‘worrying,’ but gnawed by jealousy of what he had been through, and now and again just visited by pity.

CHAPTER XIV

OUTLANDISH NIGHT

Soames doggedly let the spring come–no easy task for one conscious that time was flying, his birds in the bush no nearer the hand, no issue from the web anywhere visible. Mr. Polteed reported nothing, except that his watch went on–costing a lot of money. Val and his cousin were gone to the war, whence came news more favourable; Dartie was behaving himself so far; James had retained his health; business prospered almost terribly–there was nothing to worry Soames except that he was ‘held up,’ could make no step in any direction.

He did not exactly avoid Soho, for he could not afford to let them think that he had ‘piped off,’ as James would have put it–he might want to ‘pipe on’ again at any minute. But he had to be so restrained and cautious that he would often pass the door of the Restaurant Bretagne without going in, and wander out of the purlieus of that region which always gave him the feeling of having been possessively irregular.

He wandered thus one May night into Regent Street and the most amazing crowd he had ever seen; a shrieking, whistling, dancing, jostling, grotesque and formidably jovial crowd, with false noses and mouth-organs, penny whistles and long feathers, every appanage of idiocy, as it seemed to him. Mafeking! Of course, it had been relieved! Good! But was that an excuse? Who were these people, what were they, where had they come from into the West End? His face was tickled, his ears whistled into. Girls cried: ‘Keep your hair on, stucco!’ A youth so knocked off his top-hat that he recovered it with difficulty. Crackers were exploding beneath his nose, between his feet. He was bewildered, exasperated, offended. This stream of people came from every quarter, as if impulse had unlocked flood-gates, let flow waters of whose existence he had heard, perhaps, but believed in never. This, then, was the populace, the innumerable living negation of gentility and Forsyteism. This was–egad!–Democracy! It stank, yelled, was hideous! In the East End, or even Soho, perhaps–but here in Regent Street, in Piccadilly! What were the police about! In 1900, Soames, with his Forsyte thousands, had never seen the cauldron with the lid off; and now looking into it, could hardly believe his scorching eyes. The whole thing was unspeakable! These people had no restraint, they seemed to think him funny; such swarms of them, rude, coarse, laughing–and what laughter!

Nothing sacred to them! He shouldn’t be surprised if they began to break windows. In Pall Mall, past those august dwellings, to enter which people paid sixty pounds, this shrieking, whistling, dancing dervish of a crowd was swarming. From the Club windows his own kind were looking out on them with regulated amusement. They didn’t realise! Why, this was serious–might come to anything! The crowd was cheerful, but some day they would come in different mood! He remembered there had been a mob in the late eighties, when he was at Brighton; they had smashed things and made speeches. But more than dread, he felt a deep surprise. They were hysterical –it wasn’t English! And all about the relief of a little town as big as–Watford, six thousand miles away. Restraint, reserve! Those qualities to him more dear almost than life, those indispensable attributes of property and culture, where were they? It wasn’t English! No, it wasn’t English! So Soames brooded, threading his way on. It was as if he had suddenly caught sight of someone cutting the covenant ‘for quiet possession’ out of his legal documents; or of a monster lurking and stalking out in the future, casting its shadow before. Their want of stolidity, their want of reverence! It was like discovering that nine-tenths of the people of England were foreigners. And if that were so–then, anything might happen!

At Hyde Park Corner he ran into George Forsyte, very sunburnt from racing, holding a false nose in his hand.

“Hallo, Soames!” he said, “have a nose!”

Soames responded with a pale smile.

“Got this from one of these sportsmen,” went on George, who had evidently been dining; “had to lay him out–for trying to bash my hat. I say, one of these days we shall have to fight these chaps, they’re getting so damned cheeky–all radicals and socialists. They want our goods. You tell Uncle James that, it’ll make him sleep.”

‘In vino veritas,’ thought Soames, but he only nodded, and passed on up Hamilton Place. There was but a trickle of roysterers in Park Lane, not very noisy. And looking up at the houses he thought: ‘After all, we’re the backbone of the country. They won’t upset us easily. Possession’s nine points of the law.’

But, as he closed the door of his father’s house behind him, all that queer outlandish nightmare in the streets passed out of his mind almost as completely as if, having dreamed it, he had awakened in the warm clean morning comfort of his spring-mattressed bed.

Walking into the centre of the great empty drawing-room, he stood still.

A wife! Somebody to talk things over with. One had a right! Damn it! One had a right!

PART III

CHAPTER I

SOAMES IN PARIS

Soames had travelled little. Aged nineteen he had made the ‘petty tour’ with his father, mother, and Winifred–Brussels, the Rhine, Switzerland, and home by way of Paris. Aged twenty-seven, just when he began to take interest in pictures, he had spent five hot weeks in Italy, looking into the Renaissance–not so much in it as he had been led to expect–and a fortnight in Paris on his way back, looking into himself, as became a Forsyte surrounded by people so strongly self-centred and ‘foreign’ as the French. His knowledge of their language being derived from his public school, he did not understand them when they spoke. Silence he had found better for all parties; one did not make a fool of oneself. He had disliked the look of the men’s clothes, the closed-in cabs, the theatres which looked like bee-hives, the Galleries which smelled of beeswax. He was too cautious and too shy to explore that side of Paris supposed by Forsytes to constitute its attraction under the rose; and as for a collector’s bargain–not one to be had! As Nicholas might have put it–they were a grasping lot. He had come back uneasy, saying Paris was overrated.

When, therefore, in June of 1900 he went to Paris, it was but his third attempt on the centre of civilisation. This time, however, the mountain was going to Mahomet; for he felt by now more deeply civilised than Paris, and perhaps he really was. Moreover, he had a definite objective. This was no mere genuflexion to a shrine of taste and immorality, but the prosecution of his own legitimate affairs. He went, indeed, because things were getting past a joke. The watch went on and on, and–nothing–nothing! Jolyon had never returned to Paris, and no one else was ‘suspect!’ Busy with new and very confidential matters, Soames was realising more than ever how essential reputation is to a solicitor. But at night and in his leisure moments he was ravaged by the thought that time was always flying and money flowing in, and his own future as much ‘in irons’ as ever. Since Mafeking night he had become aware that a ‘young fool of a doctor’ was hanging round Annette. Twice he had come across him–a cheerful young fool, not more than thirty.

Nothing annoyed Soames so much as cheerfulness–an indecent, extravagant sort of quality, which had no relation to facts. The mixture of his desires and hopes was, in a word, becoming torture; and lately the thought had come to him that perhaps Irene knew she was being shadowed: It was this which finally decided him to go and see for himself; to go and once more try to break down her repugnance, her refusal to make her own and his path comparatively smooth once more. If he failed again–well, he would see what she did with herself, anyway!

He went to an hotel in the Rue Caumartin, highly recommended to Forsytes, where practically nobody spoke French. He had formed no plan. He did not want to startle her; yet must contrive that she had no chance to evade him by flight. And next morning he set out in bright weather.

Paris had an air of gaiety, a sparkle over its star-shape which almost annoyed Soames. He stepped gravely, his nose lifted a little sideways in real curiosity. He desired now to understand things French. Was not Annette French? There was much to be got out of his visit, if he could only get it. In this laudable mood and the Place de la Concorde he was nearly run down three times. He came on the ‘Cours la Reine,’ where Irene’s hotel was situated, almost too suddenly, for he had not yet fixed on his procedure. Crossing over to the river side, he noted the building, white and cheerful-looking, with green sunblinds, seen through a screen of plane-tree leaves. And, conscious that it would be far better to meet her casually in some open place than to risk a call, he sat down on a bench whence he could watch the entrance. It was not quite eleven o’clock, and improbable that she had yet gone out. Some pigeons were strutting and preening their feathers in the pools of sunlight between the shadows of the plane-trees. A workman in a blue blouse passed, and threw them crumbs from the paper which contained his dinner. A ‘bonne’ coiffed with ribbon shepherded two little girls with pig-tails and frilled drawers. A cab meandered by, whose cocher wore a blue coat and a black-glazed hat. To Soames a kind of affectation seemed to cling about it all, a sort of picturesqueness which was out of date. A theatrical people, the French! He lit one of his rare cigarettes, with a sense of injury that Fate should be casting his life into out- landish waters. He shouldn’t wonder if Irene quite enjoyed this foreign life; she had never been properly English–even to look at! And he began considering which of those windows could be hers under the green sunblinds. How could he word what he had come to say so that it might pierce the defence of her proud obstinacy? He threw the fag-end of his cigarette at a pigeon, with the thought: ‘I can’t stay here for ever twiddling my thumbs. Better give it up and call on her in the late afternoon.’ But he still sat on, heard twelve strike, and then half-past. ‘I’ll wait till one,’ he thought, ‘while I’m about it.’ But just then he started up, and shrinkingly sat down again. A woman had come out in a cream- coloured frock, and was moving away under a fawn-coloured parasol. Irene herself! He waited till she was too far away to recognise him, then set out after her. She was strolling as though she had no particular objective; moving, if he remembered rightly, toward the Bois de Boulogne. For half an hour at least he kept his distance on the far side of the way till she had passed into the Bois itself. Was she going to meet someone after all? Some confounded Frenchman–one of those ‘Bel Ami’ chaps, perhaps, who had nothing to do but hang about women–for he had read that book with difficulty and a sort of disgusted fascination. He followed doggedly along a shady alley, losing sight of her now and then when the path curved. And it came back to him how, long ago, one night in Hyde Park he had slid and sneaked from tree to tree, from seat to seat, hunting blindly, ridiculously, in burning jealousy for her and young Bosinney. The path bent sharply, and, hurrying, he came on her sitting in front of a small fountain–a little green-bronze Niobe veiled in hair to her slender hips, gazing at the pool she had wept: He came on her so suddenly that he was past before he could turn and take off his hat. She did not start up. She had always had great self-command–it was one of the things he most admired in her, one of his greatest grievances against her, because he had never been able to tell what she was thinking. Had she realised that he was following? Her self-possession made him angry; and, disdaining to explain his presence, he pointed to the mournful little Niobe, and said:

“That’s rather a good thing.”

He could see, then, that she was struggling to preserve her composure.

“I didn’t want to startle you; is this one of your haunts?”

“Yes.”

“A little lonely.” As he spoke, a lady, strolling by, paused to look at the fountain and passed on.

Irene’s eyes followed her.

“No,” she said, prodding the ground with her parasol, “never lonely. One has always one’s shadow.”

Soames understood; and, looking at her hard, he exclaimed:

“Well, it’s your own fault. You can be free of it at any moment. Irene, come back to me, and be free.”

Irene laughed.

“Don’t!” cried Soames, stamping his foot; “it’s inhuman. Listen! Is there any condition I can make which will bring you back to me? If I promise you a separate house–and just a visit now and then?”

Irene rose, something wild suddenly in her face and figure.

“None! None! None! You may hunt me to the grave. I will not come.”

Outraged and on edge, Soames recoiled.

“Don’t make a scene!” he said sharply. And they both stood motionless, staring at the little Niobe, whose greenish flesh the sunlight was burnishing.

“That’s your last word, then,” muttered Soames, clenching his hands; “you condemn us both.”

Irene bent her head. “I can’t come back. Good-bye!”

A feeling of monstrous injustice flared up in Soames.

“Stop!” he said, “and listen to me a moment. You gave me a sacred vow–you came to me without a penny. You had all I could give you. You broke that vow without cause, you made me a by-word; you refused me a child; you’ve left me in prison; you–you still move me so that I want you–I want you. Well, what do you think of yourself?”

Irene turned, her face was deadly pale, her eyes burning dark.

“God made me as I am,” she said; “wicked if you like–but not so wicked that I’ll give myself again to a man I hate.”

The sunlight gleamed on her hair as she moved away, and seemed to lay a caress all down her clinging cream-coloured frock.

Soames could neither speak nor move. That word ‘hate’–so extreme, so primitive–made all the Forsyte in him tremble. With a deep imprecation he strode away from where she had vanished, and ran almost into the arms of the lady sauntering back–the fool, the shadowing fool!

He was soon dripping with perspiration, in the depths of the Bois.

‘Well,’ he thought, ‘I need have no consideration for her now; she has not a grain of it for me. I’ll show her this very day that she’s my wife still.’

But on the way home to his hotel, he was forced to the conclusion that he did not know what he meant. One could not make scenes in public, and short of scenes in public what was there he could do? He almost cursed his own thin-skinnedness. She might deserve no consideration; but he–alas! deserved some at his own hands. And sitting lunchless in the hall of his hotel, with tourists passing every moment, Baedeker in hand, he was visited by black dejection. In irons! His whole life, with every natural instinct and every decent yearning gagged and fettered, and all because Fate had driven him seventeen years ago to set his heart upon this woman–so utterly, that even now he had no real heart to set on any other! Cursed was the day he had met her, and his eyes for seeing in her anything but the cruel Venus she was! And yet, still seeing her with the sunlight on the clinging China crepe of her gown, he uttered a little groan, so that a tourist who was passing, thought: ‘Man in pain! Let’s see! what did I have for lunch?’

Later, in front of a cafe near the Opera, over a glass of cold tea with lemon and a straw in it, he took the malicious resolution to go and dine at her hotel. If she were there, he would speak to her; if she were not, he would leave a note. He dressed carefully, and wrote as follows:

“Your idyll with that fellow Jolyon Forsyte is known to me at all events. If you pursue it, understand that I will leave no stone unturned to make things unbearable for him. ‘S. F.'”

He sealed this note but did not address it, refusing to write the maiden name which she had impudently resumed, or to put the word Forsyte on the envelope lest she should tear it up unread. Then he went out, and made his way through the glowing streets, abandoned to evening pleasure-seekers. Entering her hotel, he took his seat in a far corner of the dining-room whence he could see all entrances and exits. She was not there. He ate little, quickly, watchfully. She did not come. He lingered in the lounge over his coffee, drank two liqueurs of brandy. But still she did not come. He went over to the keyboard and examined the names. Number twelve, on the first floor! And he determined to take the note up himself. He mounted red-carpeted stairs, past a little salon; eight-ten-twelve! Should he knock, push the note under, or….? He looked furtively round and turned the handle. The door opened, but into a little space leading to another door; he knocked on that–no answer. The door was locked. It fitted very closely to the floor; the note would not go under. He thrust it back into his pocket, and stood a moment listening. He felt somehow certain that she was not there. And suddenly he came away, passing the little salon down the stairs. He stopped at the bureau and said:

“Will you kindly see that Mrs. Heron has this note?”

“Madame Heron left to-day, Monsieur–suddenly, about three o’clock. There was illness in her family.”

Soames compressed his lips. “Oh!” he said; “do you know her address?”

“Non, Monsieur. England, I think.”

Soames put the note back into his pocket and went out. He hailed an open horse-cab which was passing.

“Drive me anywhere!”

The man, who, obviously, did not understand, smiled, and waved his whip. And Soames was borne along in that little yellow-wheeled Victoria all over star-shaped Paris, with here and there a pause, and the question, “C’est par ici, Monsieur?” “No, go on,” till the man gave it up in despair, and the yellow-wheeled chariot continued to roll between the tall, flat-fronted shuttered houses and plane- tree avenues–a little Flying Dutchman of a cab.

‘Like my life,’ thought Soames, ‘without object, on and on!’

CHAPTER II

IN THE WEB

Soames returned to England the following day, and on the third morning received a visit from Mr. Polteed, who wore a flower and carried a brown billycock hat. Soames motioned him to a seat.

“The news from the war is not so bad, is it?” said Mr. Polteed. “I hope I see you well, sir.”

“Thanks! quite.”

Mr. Polteed leaned forward, smiled, opened his hand, looked into it, and said softly:

“I think we’ve done your business for you at last.”

“What?” ejaculated Soames.

“Nineteen reports quite suddenly what I think we shall be justified in calling conclusive evidence,” and Mr. Polteed paused.

“Well?”

“On the 10th instant, after witnessing an interview between 17 and a party, earlier in the day, 19 can swear to having seen him coming out of her bedroom in the hotel about ten o’clock in the evening. With a little care in the giving of the evidence that will be enough, especially as 17 has left Paris–no doubt with the party in question. In fact, they both slipped off, and we haven’t got on to them again, yet; but we shall–we shall. She’s worked hard under very difficult circumstances, and I’m glad she’s brought it off at last.” Mr. Polteed took out a cigarette, tapped its end against the table, looked at Soames, and put it back. The expression on his client’s face was not encouraging.

“Who is this new person?” said Soames abruptly.

“That we don’t know. She’ll swear to the fact, and she’s got his appearance pat.”

Mr. Polteed took out a letter, and began reading:

“‘Middle-aged, medium height, blue dittoes in afternoon, evening dress at night, pale, dark hair, small dark moustache, flat cheeks, good chin, grey eyes, small feet, guilty look….'”

Soames rose and went to the window. He stood there in sardonic fury. Congenital idiot–spidery congenital idiot! Seven months at fifteen pounds a week–to be tracked down as his own wife’s lover! Guilty look! He threw the window open.

“It’s hot,” he said, and came back to his seat.

Crossing his knees, he bent a supercilious glance on Mr. Polteed.

“I doubt if that’s quite good enough,” he said, drawling the words, “with no name or address. I think you may let that lady have a rest, and take up our friend 47 at this end.” Whether Polteed had spotted him he could not tell; but he had a mental vision of him in the midst of his cronies dissolved in inextinguishable laughter. ‘Guilty look!’ Damnation!

Mr. Polteed said in a tone of urgency, almost of pathos: “I assure you we have put it through sometimes on less than that. It’s Paris, you know. Attractive woman living alone. Why not risk it, sir? We might screw it up a peg.”

Soames had sudden insight. The fellow’s professional zeal was stirred: ‘Greatest triumph of my career; got a man his divorce through a visit to his own wife’s bedroom! Something to talk of there, when I retire!’ And for one wild moment he thought: ‘Why not?’ After all, hundreds of men of medium height had small feet and a guilty look!

“I’m not authorised to take any risk!” he said shortly.

Mr. Polteed looked up.

“Pity,” he said, “quite a pity! That other affair seemed very costive.”

Soames rose.

“Never mind that. Please watch 47, and take care not to find a mare’s nest. Good-morning!”

Mr. Polteed’s eye glinted at the words ‘mare’s nest!’

“Very good. You shall be kept informed.”

And Soames was alone again. The spidery, dirty, ridiculous business! Laying his arms on the table, he leaned his forehead on them. Full ten minutes he rested thus, till a managing clerk roused him with the draft prospectus of a new issue of shares, very desirable, in Manifold and Topping’s. That afternoon he left work early and made his way to the Restaurant Bretagne. Only Madame Lamotte was in. Would Monsieur have tea with her?

Soames bowed.

When they were seated at right angles to each other in the little room, he said abruptly

“I want a talk with you, Madame.”

The quick lift of her clear brown eyes told him that she had long expected such words.

“I have to ask you something first: That young doctor–what’s his name? Is there anything between him and Annette?”

Her whole personality had become, as it were, like jet–clear-cut, black, hard, shining.

“Annette is young,” she said; “so is monsieur le docteur. Between young people things move quickly; but Annette is a good daughter. Ah! what a jewel of a nature!”

The least little smile twisted Soames’ lips.

“Nothing definite, then?”

“But definite–no, indeed! The young man is veree nice, but–what would you? There is no money at present.”

She raised her willow-patterned tea-cup; Soames did the same. Their eyes met.

“I am a married man,” he said, “living apart from my wife for many years. I am seeking to divorce her.”

Madame Lamotte put down her cup. Indeed! What tragic things there were! The entire absence of sentiment in her inspired a queer species of contempt in Soames.

“I am a rich man,” he added, fully conscious that the remark was not in good taste. “It is useless to say more at present, but I think you understand.”

Madame’s eyes, so open that the whites showed above them, looked at him very straight.

“Ah! ca–mais nous avons le temps!” was all she said. “Another little cup?” Soames refused, and, taking his leave, walked westward.

He had got that off his mind; she would not let Annette commit herself with that cheerful young ass until….! But what chance of his ever being able to say: ‘I’m free.’ What chance? The future had lost all semblance of reality. He felt like a fly, entangled in cobweb filaments, watching the desirable freedom of the air with pitiful eyes.

He was short of exercise, and wandered on to Kensington Gardens, and down Queen’s Gate towards Chelsea. Perhaps she had gone back to her flat. That at all events he could find out. For since that last and most ignominious repulse his wounded self-respect had taken refuge again in the feeling that she must have a lover. He arrived before the little Mansions at the dinner-hour. No need to enquire! A grey-haired lady was watering the flower-boxes in her window. It was evidently let. And he walked slowly past again, along the river–an evening of clear, quiet beauty, all harmony and comfort, except within his heart.

CHAPTER III

RICHMOND PARK

On the afternoon that Soames crossed to France a cablegram was received by Jolyon at Robin Hill:

“Your son down with enteric no immediate danger will cable again.”

It reached a household already agitated by the imminent departure of June, whose berth was booked for the following day. She was, indeed, in the act of confiding Eric Cobbley and his family to her father’s care when the message arrived.

The resolution to become a Red Cross nurse, taken under stimulus of Jolly’s enlistment, had been loyally fulfilled with the irritation and regret which all Forsytes feel at what curtails their individual liberties. Enthusiastic at first about the ‘wonderfulness’ of the work, she had begun after a month to feel that she could train herself so much better than others could train her. And if Holly had not insisted on following her example, and being trained too, she must inevitably have ‘cried off.’ The departure of Jolly and Val with their troop in April had further stiffened her failing resolve. But now, on the point of departure, the thought of leaving Eric Cobbley, with a wife and two children, adrift in the cold waters of an unappreciative world weighed on her so that she was still in danger of backing out. The reading of that cablegram, with its disquieting reality, clinched the matter. She saw herself already nursing Jolly–for of course they would let her nurse her own brother! Jolyon–ever wide and doubtful–had no such hope. Poor June!

Could any Forsyte of her generation grasp how rude and brutal life was? Ever since he knew of his boy’s arrival at Cape Town the thought of him had been a kind of recurrent sickness in Jolyon. He could not get reconciled to the feeling that Jolly was in danger all the time. The cablegram, grave though it was, was almost a relief. He was now safe from bullets, anyway. And yet–this enteric was a virulent disease! The Times was full of deaths therefrom. Why could he not be lying out there in that up-country hospital, and his boy safe at home? The un-Forsytean self-sacrifice of his three children, indeed, had quite bewildered Jolyon. He would eagerly change places with Jolly, because he loved his boy; but no such personal motive was influencing them. He could only think that it marked the decline of the Forsyte type.

Late that afternoon Holly came out to him under the old oak-tree. She had grown up very much during these last months of hospital training away from home. And, seeing her approach, he thought: ‘She has more sense than June, child though she is; more wisdom. Thank God she isn’t going out.’ She had seated herself in the swing, very silent and still. ‘She feels this,’ thought Jolyon, ‘as much as I’ and, seeing her eyes fixed on him, he said: “Don’t take it to heart too much, my child. If he weren’t ill, he might be in much greater danger.”

Holly got out of the swing.

“I want to tell you something, Dad. It was through me that Jolly enlisted and went out.”

“How’s that?”

“When you were away in Paris, Val Dartie and I fell in love. We used to ride in Richmond Park; we got engaged. Jolly found it out, and thought he ought to stop it; so he dared Val to enlist. It was all my fault, Dad; and I want to go out too. Because if anything happens to either of them I should feel awful. Besides, I’m just as much trained as June.”

Jolyon gazed at her in a stupefaction that was tinged with irony. So this was the answer to the riddle he had been asking himself; and his three children were Forsytes after all. Surely Holly might have told him all this before! But he smothered the sarcastic sayings on his lips. Tenderness to the young was perhaps the most sacred article of his belief. He had got, no doubt, what he deserved. Engaged! So this was why he had so lost touch with her! And to young Val Dartie–nephew of Soames–in the other camp! It was all terribly distasteful. He closed his easel, and set his drawing against the tree.

“Have you told June?”

“Yes; she says she’ll get me into her cabin somehow. It’s a single cabin; but one of us could sleep on the floor. If you consent, she’ll go up now and get permission.”

‘Consent?’ thought Jolyon. ‘Rather late in the day to ask for that!’ But again he checked himself.

“You’re too young, my dear; they won’t let you.”

“June knows some people that she helped to go to Cape Town. If they won’t let me nurse yet, I could stay with them and go on training there. Let me go, Dad!”

Jolyon smiled because he could have cried.

“I never stop anyone from doing anything,” he said.

Holly flung her arms round his neck.

“Oh! Dad, you are the best in the world.”

‘That means the worst,’ thought Jolyon. If he had ever doubted his creed of tolerance he did so then.

“I’m not friendly with Val’s family,” he said, “and I don’t know Val, but Jolly didn’t like him.”

Holly looked at the distance and said:

“I love him.”

“That settles it,” said Jolyon dryly, then catching the expression on her face, he kissed her, with the thought: ‘Is anything more pathetic than the faith of the young?’ Unless he actually forbade her going it was obvious that he must make the best of it, so he went up to town with June. Whether due to her persistence, or the fact that the official they saw was an old school friend of Jolyon’s, they obtained permission for Holly to share the single cabin. He took them to Surbiton station the following evening, and they duly slid away from him, provided with money, invalid foods, and those letters of credit without which Forsytes do not travel.

He drove back to Robin Hill under a brilliant sky to his late dinner, served with an added care by servants trying to show him that they sympathised, eaten with an added scrupulousness to show them that he appreciated their sympathy. But it was a real relief to get to his cigar on the terrace of flag-stones–cunningly chosen by young Bosinney for shape and colour–with night closing in around him, so beautiful a night, hardly whispering in the trees, and smelling so sweet that it made him ache. The grass was drenched with dew, and he kept to those flagstones, up and down, till presently it began to seem to him that he was one of three, not wheeling, but turning right about at each end, so that his father was always nearest to the house, and his son always nearest to the terrace edge. Each had an arm lightly within his arm; he dared not lift his hand to his cigar lest he should disturb them, and it burned away, dripping ash on him, till it dropped from his lips, at last, which were getting hot. They left him then, and his arms felt chilly. Three Jolyons in one Jolyon they had walked.

He stood still, counting the sounds–a carriage passing on the highroad, a distant train, the dog at Gage’s farm, the whispering trees, the groom playing on his penny whistle. A multitude of stars up there–bright and silent, so far off! No moon as yet! Just enough light to show him the dark flags and swords of the iris flowers along the terrace edge–his favourite flower that had the night’s own colour on its curving crumpled petals. He turned round to the house. Big, unlighted, not a soul beside himself to live in all that part of it. Stark loneliness! He could not go on living here alone. And yet, so long as there was beauty, why should a man feel lonely? The answer–as to some idiot’s riddle–was: Because he did. The greater the beauty, the greater the loneliness, for at the back of beauty was harmony, and at the back of harmony was– union. Beauty could not comfort if the soul were out of it. The night, maddeningly lovely, with bloom of grapes on it in starshine, and the breath of grass and honey coming from it, he could not enjoy, while she who was to him the life of beauty, its embodiment and essence, was cut off from him, utterly cut off now, he felt, by honourable decency.

He made a poor fist of sleeping, striving too hard after that resignation which Forsytes find difficult to reach, bred to their own way and left so comfortably off by their fathers. But after dawn he dozed off, and soon was dreaming a strange dream.

He was on a stage with immensely high rich curtains–high as the very stars–stretching in a semi-circle from footlights to footlights. He himself was very small, a little black restless figure roaming up and down; and the odd thing was that he was not altogether himself, but Soames as well, so that he was not only experiencing but watching. This figure of himself and Soames was trying to find a way out through the curtains, which, heavy and dark, kept him in. Several times he had crossed in front of them before he saw with delight a sudden narrow rift–a tall chink of beauty the colour of iris flowers, like a glimpse of Paradise, remote, ineffable. Stepping quickly forward to pass into it, he found the curtains closing before him. Bitterly disappointed he– or was it Soames?–moved on, and there was the chink again through the parted curtains, which again closed too soon. This went on and on and he never got through till he woke with the word “Irene” on his lips. The dream disturbed him badly, especially that identification of himself with Soames.

Next morning, finding it impossible to work, he spent hours riding Jolly’s horse in search of fatigue. And on the second day he made up his mind to move to London and see if he could not get permission to follow his daughters to South Africa. He had just begun to pack the following morning when he received this letter:

“GREEN HOTEL,
“June 13.
” RICHMOND.

“MY DEAR JOLYON,

“You will be surprised to see how near I am to you. Paris became impossible–and I have come here to be within reach of your advice. I would so love to see you again. Since you left Paris I don’t think I have met anyone I could really talk to. Is all well with you and with your boy? No one knows, I think, that I am here at present.

“Always your friend,

“IRENE.”

Irene within three miles of him!–and again in flight! He stood with a very queer smile on his lips. This was more than he had bargained for!

About noon he set out on foot across Richmond Park, and as he went along, he thought: ‘Richmond Park! By Jove, it suits us Forsytes!’ Not that Forsytes lived there–nobody lived there save royalty, rangers, and the deer–but in Richmond Park Nature was allowed to go so far and no further, putting up a brave show of being natural, seeming to say: ‘Look at my instincts–they are almost passions, very nearly out of hand, but not quite, of course; the very hub of possession is to possess oneself.’ Yes! Richmond Park possessed itself, even on that bright day of June, with arrowy cuckoos shifting the tree-points of their calls, and the wood doves announcing high summer.

The Green Hotel, which Jolyon entered at one o’clock, stood nearly opposite that more famous hostelry, the Crown and Sceptre; it was modest, highly respectable, never out of cold beef, gooseberry tart, and a dowager or two, so that a carriage and pair was almost always standing before the door.

In a room draped in chintz so slippery as to forbid all emotion, Irene was sitting on a piano stool covered with crewel work, playing ‘Hansel and Gretel’ out of an old score. Above her on a wall, not yet Morris-papered, was a print of the Queen on a pony, amongst deer-hounds, Scotch. caps, and slain stags; beside her in a pot on the window-sill was a white and rosy fuchsia. The Victorianism of the room almost talked; and in her clinging frock Irene seemed to Jolyon like Venus emerging from the shell of the past century.

“If the proprietor had eyes,” he said, “he would show you the door; you have broken through his decorations.” Thus lightly he smothered up an emotional moment. Having eaten cold beef, pickled walnut, gooseberry tart, and drunk stone-bottle ginger-beer, they walked into the Park, and light talk was succeeded by the silence Jolyon had dreaded.

“You haven’t told me about Paris,” he said at last.

“No. I’ve been shadowed for a long time; one gets used to that. But then Soames came. By the little Niobe–the same story; would I go back to him?”

“Incredible!”

She had spoken without raising her eyes, but she looked up now. Those dark eyes clinging to his said as no words could have: ‘I have come to an end; if you want me, here I am.’

For sheer emotional intensity had he ever–old as he was–passed through such a moment?

The words: ‘Irene, I adore you!’ almost escaped him. Then, with a clearness of which he would not have believed mental vision capable, he saw Jolly lying with a white face turned to a white wall.

“My boy is very ill out there,” he said quietly.

Irene slipped her arm through his.

“Let’s walk on; I understand.”

No miserable explanation to attempt! She had understood! And they walked on among the bracken, knee-high already, between the rabbitholes and the oak-trees, talking of Jolly. He left her two hours later at the Richmond Hill Gate, and turned towards home.

‘She knows of my feeling for her, then,’ he thought. Of course! One could not keep knowledge of that from such a woman!

CHAPTER IV

OVER THE RIVER

Jolly was tired to death of dreams. They had left him now too wan and weak to dream again; left him to lie torpid, faintly remembering far-off things; just able to turn his eyes and gaze through the window near his cot at the trickle of river running by in the sands, at the straggling milk-bush of the Karoo beyond. He knew what the Karoo was now, even if he had not seen a Boer roll over like a rabbit, or heard the whine of flying bullets. This pestilence had sneaked on him before he had smelled powder. A thirsty day and a rash drink, or perhaps a tainted fruit–who knew? Not he, who had not even strength left to grudge the evil thing its victory–just enough to know that there were many lying here with him, that he was sore with frenzied dreaming; just enough to watch that thread of river and be able to remember faintly those far-away things….

The sun was nearly down. It would be cooler soon. He would have liked to know the time–to feel his old watch, so butter-smooth, to hear the repeater strike. It would have been friendly, home-like. He had not even strength to remember that the old watch was last wound the day he began to lie here. The pulse of his brain beat so feebly that faces which came and went, nurse’s, doctor’s, orderly’s, were indistinguishable, just one indifferent face; and the words spoken about him meant all the same thing, and that almost nothing. Those things he used to do, though far and faint, were more distinct–walking past the foot of the old steps at Harrow ‘bill’–‘Here, sir! Here, sir!’–wrapping boots in the Westminster Gazette, greenish paper, shining boots–grandfather coming from somewhere dark–a smell of earth–the mushroom house! Robin Hill! Burying poor old Balthasar in the leaves! Dad! Home….

Consciousness came again with noticing that the river had no water in it–someone was speaking too. Want anything? No. What could one want? Too weak to want–only to hear his watch strike….

Holly! She wouldn’t bowl properly. Oh! Pitch them up! Not sneaks!… ‘Back her, Two and Bow!’ He was Two!… Consciousness came once more with a sense of the violet dusk outside, and a rising blood-red crescent moon. His eyes rested on it fascinated; in the long minutes of brain-nothingness it went moving up and up….

“He’s going, doctor!” Not pack boots again? Never? ‘Mind your form, Two!’ Don’t cry! Go quietly–over the river–sleep!… Dark? If somebody would–strike–his–watch!…

CHAPTER V

SOAMES ACTS

A sealed letter in the handwriting of Mr. Polteed remained unopened in Soames’ pocket throughout two hours of sustained attention to the affairs of the ‘New Colliery Company,’ which, declining almost from the moment of old Jolyon’s retirement from the Chairmanship, had lately run down so fast that there was now nothing for it but a ‘winding-up.’ He took the letter out to lunch at his City Club, sacred to him for the meals he had eaten there with his father in the early seventies, when James used to like him to come and see for himself the nature of his future life.

Here in a remote corner before a plate of roast mutton and mashed potato, he read:

“DEAR SIR,

“In accordance with your suggestion we have duly taken the matter up at the other end with gratifying results. Observation of 47 has enabled us to locate 17 at the Green Hotel, Richmond. The two have been observed to meet daily during the past week in Richmond Park. Nothing absolutely crucial has so far been notified. But in conjunction with what we had from Paris at the beginning of the year, I am confident we could now satisfy the Court. We shall, of course, continue to watch the matter until we hear from you.

“Very faithfully yours,

“CLAUD POLTEED.”

Soames read it through twice and beckoned to the waiter:

“Take this away; it’s cold.”

“Shall I bring you some more, sir?”

“No. Get me some coffee in the other room.”

And, paying for what he had not eaten, he went out, passing two acquaintances without sign of recognition.

‘Satisfy the Court!’ he thought, sitting at a little round marble table with the coffee before him. That fellow Jolyon! He poured out his coffee, sweetened and drank it. He would disgrace him in the eyes of his own children! And rising, with that resolution hot within him, he found for the first time the inconvenience of being his own solicitor. He could not treat this scandalous matter in his own office. He must commit the soul of his private dignity to a stranger, some other professional dealer in family dishonour. Who was there he could go to? Linkman and Laver in Budge Row, perhaps–reliable, not too conspicuous, only nodding acquaintances. But before he saw them he must see Polteed again. But at this thought Soames had a moment of sheer weakness. To part with his secret? How find the words? How subject himself to contempt and secret laughter? Yet, after all, the fellow knew already–oh yes, he knew! And, feeling that he must finish with it now, he took a cab into the West End.

In this hot weather the window of Mr. Polteed’s room was positively open, and the only precaution was a wire gauze, preventing the intrusion of flies. Two or three had tried to come in, and been caught, so that they seemed to be clinging there with the intention of being devoured presently. Mr. Polteed, following the direction of his client’s eye, rose apologetically and closed the window.

‘Posing ass!’ thought Soames. Like all who fundamentally believe in themselves he was rising to the occasion, and, with his little sideway smile, he said: “I’ve had your letter. I’m going to act. I suppose you know who the lady you’ve been watching really is?” Mr. Polteed’s expression at that moment was a masterpiece. It so clearly said: ‘Well, what do you think? But mere professional knowledge, I assure you–pray forgive it!’ He made a little half airy movement with his hand, as who should say: ‘Such things–such things will happen to us all!’

“Very well, then,” said Soames, moistening his lips: “there’s no need to say more. I’m instructing Linkman and Laver of Budge Row to act for me. I don’t want to hear your evidence, but kindly make your report to them at five o’clock, and continue to observe the utmost secrecy.”

Mr. Polteed half closed his eyes, as if to comply at once. “My dear sir,” he said.

“Are you convinced,” asked Soames with sudden energy, “that there is enough?”

The faintest movement occurred to Mr. Polteed’s shoulders.

“You can risk it,” he murmured; “with what we have, and human nature, you can risk it.”

Soames rose. “You will ask for Mr. Linkman. Thanks; don’t get up.” He could not bear Mr. Polteed to slide as usual between him and the door. In the sunlight of Piccadilly he wiped his forehead. This had been the worst of it–he could stand the strangers better. And he went back into the City to do what still lay before him.

That evening in Park Lane, watching his father dine, he was overwhelmed by his old longing for a son–a son, to watch him eat as he went down the years, to be taken on his knee as James on a time had been wont to take him; a son of his own begetting, who could understand him because he was the same flesh and blood– understand, and comfort him, and become more rich and cultured than himself because he would start even better off. To get old–like that thin, grey wiry-frail figure sitting there–and be quite alone with possessions heaping up around him; to take no interest in anything because it had no future and must pass away from him to hands and mouths and eyes for whom he cared no jot! No! He would force it through now, and be free to marry, and have a son to care for him before he grew to be like the old old man his father, wistfully watching now his sweetbread, now his son.

In that mood he went up to bed. But, lying warm between those fine linen sheets of Emily’s providing, he was visited by memories and torture. Visions of Irene, almost the solid feeling of her body, beset him. Why had he ever been fool enough to see her again, and let this flood back on him so that it was pain to think of her with that fellow–that stealing fellow.

CHAPTER VI

A SUMMER DAY

His boy was seldom absent from Jolyon’s mind in the days which followed the first walk with Irene in Richmond Park. No further news had come; enquiries at the War Office elicited nothing; nor could he expect to hear from June and Holly for three weeks at least. In these days he felt how insufficient were his memories of Jolly, and what an amateur of a father he had been. There was not a single memory in which anger played a part; not one reconciliation, because there had never been a rupture; nor one heart-to-heart confidence, not even when Jolly’s mother died. Nothing but half-ironical affection. He had been too afraid of committing himself in any direction, for fear of losing his liberty, or interfering with that of his boy.

Only in Irene’s presence had he relief, highly complicated by the ever-growing perception of how divided he was between her and his son. With Jolly was bound up all that sense of continuity and social creed of which he had drunk deeply in his youth and again during his boy’s public school and varsity life–all that sense of not going back on what father and son expected of each other. With Irene was bound up all his delight in beauty and in Nature. And he seemed to know less and less which was the stronger within him. From such sentimental paralysis he was rudely awakened, however, one afternoon, just as he was starting off to Richmond, by a young man with a bicycle and a face oddly familiar, who came forward faintly smiling.

“Mr. Jolyon Forsyte? Thank you!” Placing an envelope in Jolyon’s hand he wheeled off the path and rode away. Bewildered, Jolyon opened it.

“Admiralty Probate and Divorce, Forsyte v. Forsyte and Forsyte!”

A sensation of shame and disgust was followed by the instant reaction ‘Why, here’s the very thing you want, and you don’t like it!’ But she must have had one too; and he must go to her at once. He turned things over as he went along. It was an ironical busi- ness. For, whatever the Scriptures said about the heart, it took more than mere longings to satisfy the law. They could perfectly well defend this suit, or at least in good faith try to. But the idea of doing so revolted Jolyon. If not her lover in deed he was in desire, and he knew that she was ready to come to him. Her face had told him so. Not that he exaggerated her feeling for him. She had had her grand passion, and he could not expect another from her at his age. But she had trust in him, affection for him, and must feel that he would be a refuge. Surely she would not ask him to defend the suit, knowing that he adored her! Thank Heaven she had not that maddening British conscientiousness which refused happiness for the sake of refusing! She must rejoice at this chance of being free after seventeen years of death in life! As to publicity, the fat was in the fire! To defend the suit would not take away the slur. Jolyon had all the proper feeling of a Forsyte whose privacy is threatened: If he was to be hung by the Law, by all means let it be for a sheep! Moreover the notion of standing in a witness box and swearing to the truth that no gesture, not even a word of love had passed between them seemed to him more degrading than to take the tacit stigma of being an adulterer–more truly degrading, considering the feeling in his heart, and just as bad and painful for his children. The thought of explaining away, if he could, before a judge and twelve average Englishmen, their meetings in Paris, and the walks in Richmond Park, horrified him. The brutality and hypocritical censoriousness of the whole process; the probability that they would not be believed–the mere vision of her, whom he looked on as the embodiment of Nature and of Beauty, standing there before all those suspicious, gloating eyes was hideous to him. No, no! To defend a suit only made a London holiday, and sold the newspapers. A thousand times better accept what Soames and the gods had sent!

‘Besides,’ he thought honestly, ‘who knows whether, even for my boy’s sake, I could have stood this state of things much longer? Anyway, her neck will be out of chancery at last!’ Thus absorbed, he was hardly conscious of the heavy heat. The sky had become overcast, purplish with little streaks of white. A heavy heat-drop plashed a little star pattern in the dust of the road as he entered the Park. ‘Phew!’ he thought, ‘thunder! I hope she’s not come to meet me; there’s a ducking up there!’ But at that very minute he saw Irene coming towards the Gate. ‘We must scuttle back to Robin Hill,’ he thought.

***************************

The storm had passed over the Poultry at four o’clock, bringing welcome distraction to the clerks in every office. Soames was drinking a cup of tea when a note was brought in to him:

“DEAR SIR,

“Forsyte v. Forsyte and Forsyte

“In accordance with your instructions, we beg to inform you that we personally served the respondent and co-respondent in this suit to-day, at Richmond, and Robin Hill, respectively. “Faithfully yours,

“LINKMAN AND LAVER.”

For some minutes Soames stared at that note. Ever since he had given those instructions he had been tempted to annul them. It was so scandalous, such a general disgrace! The evidence, too, what he had heard of it, had never seemed to him conclusive; somehow, he believed less and less that those two had gone all lengths. But this, of course, would drive them to it; and he suffered from the thought. That fellow to have her love, where he had failed! Was it too late? Now that they had been brought up sharp by service of this petition, had he not a lever with which he could force them apart? ‘But if I don’t act at once,’ he thought, ‘it will be too late, now they’ve had this thing. I’ll go and see him; I’ll go down!’

And, sick with nervous anxiety, he sent out for one of the ‘new-fangled’ motor-cabs. It might take a long time to run that fellow to ground, and Goodness knew what decision they might come to after such a shock! ‘If I were a theatrical ass,’ he thought, ‘I suppose I should be taking a horse-whip or a pistol or something!’ He took instead a bundle of papers in the case of ‘Magentie versus Wake,’ intending to read them on the way down. He did not even open them, but sat quite still, jolted and jarred, unconscious of the draught down the back of his neck, or the smell of petrol. He must be guided by the fellow’s attitude; the great thing was to keep his head!

London had already begun to disgorge its workers as he neared Putney Bridge; the ant-heap was on the move outwards. What a lot of ants, all with a living to get, holding on by their eyelids in the great scramble! Perhaps for the first time in his life Soames thought: ‘I could let go if I liked! Nothing could touch me; I could snap my fingers, live as I wished–enjoy myself!’ No! One could not live as he had and just drop it all–settle down in Capua, to spend the money and reputation he had made. A man’s life was what he possessed and sought to possess. Only fools thought otherwise–fools, and socialists, and libertines!

The cab was passing villas now, going a great pace. ‘Fifteen miles an hour, I should think!’ he mused; ‘this’ll take people out of town to live!’ and he thought of its bearing on the portions of London owned by his father–he himself had never taken to that form of investment, the gambler in him having all the outlet needed in his pictures. And the cab sped on, down the hill past Wimbledon Common. This interview! Surely a man of fifty-two with grown-up children, and hung on the line, would not be reckless. ‘He won’t want to disgrace the family,’ he thought; ‘he was as fond of his father as I am of mine, and they were brothers. That woman brings destruction–what is it in her? I’ve never known.’ The cab branched off, along the side of a wood, and he heard a late cuckoo calling, almost the first he had heard that year. He was now almost opposite the site he had originally chosen for his house, and which had been so unceremoniously rejected by Bosinney in favour of his own choice. He began passing his handkerchief over his face and hands, taking deep breaths to give him steadiness. ‘Keep one’s head,’ he thought, ‘keep one’s head!’

The cab turned in at the drive which might have been his own, and the sound of music met him. He had forgotten the fellow’s daughters.

“I may be out again directly,” he said to the driver, “or I may be kept some time”; and he rang the bell.

Following the maid through the curtains into the inner hall, he felt relieved that the impact of this meeting would be broken by June or Holly, whichever was playing in there, so that with complete surprise he saw Irene at the piano, and Jolyon sitting in an armchair listening. They both stood up. Blood surged into Soames’ brain, and all his resolution to be guided by this or that left him utterly. The look of his farmer forbears–dogged Forsytes down by the sea, from ‘Superior Dosset’ back–grinned out of his face.

“Very pretty!” he said.

He heard the fellow murmur:

“This is hardly the place–we’ll go to the study, if you don’t mind.” And they both passed him through the curtain opening. In the little room to which he followed them, Irene stood by the open window, and the ‘fellow’ close to her by a big chair. Soames pulled the door to behind him with a slam; the sound carried him back all those years to the day when he had shut out Jolyon–shut him out for meddling with his affairs.

“Well,” he said, “what have you to say for yourselves?”

The fellow had the effrontery to smile.

“What we have received to-day has taken away your right to ask. I should imagine you will be glad to have your neck out of chancery.”

“Oh!” said Soames; “you think so! I came to tell you that I’ll divorce her with every circumstance of disgrace to you both, unless you swear to keep clear of each other from now on.”

He was astonished at his fluency, because his mind was stammering and his hands twitching. Neither of them answered; but their faces seemed to him as if contemptuous.

“Well,” he said; “you–Irene?”

Her lips moved, but Jolyon laid his hand on her arm.

“Let her alone!” said Soames furiously. “Irene, will you swear it?”