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  • 1906
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“No.”

“Oh! and you?”

“Still less.”

“So then you’re guilty, are you?”

“Yes, guilty.” It was Irene speaking in that serene voice, with that unreached air which had maddened him so often; and, carried beyond himself, he cried:

“You are a devil”

“Go out! Leave this house, or I’ll do you an injury.”

That fellow to talk of injuries! Did he know how near his throat was to being scragged?

“A trustee,” he said, “embezzling trust property! A thief, stealing his cousin’s wife.”

“Call me what you like. You have chosen your part, we have chosen ours. Go out!”

If he had brought a weapon Soames might have used it at that moment.

“I’ll make you pay!” he said.

“I shall be very happy.”

At that deadly turning of the meaning of his speech by the son of him who had nicknamed him ‘the man of property,’ Soames stood glaring. It was ridiculous!

There they were, kept from violence by some secret force. No blow possible, no words to meet the case. But he could not, did not know how to turn and go away. His eyes fastened on Irene’s face– the last time he would ever see that fatal face–the last time, no doubt!

“You,” he said suddenly, “I hope you’ll treat him as you treated me–that’s all.”

He saw her wince, and with a sensation not quite triumph, not quite relief, he wrenched open the door, passed out through the hall, and got into his cab. He lolled against the cushion with his eyes shut. Never in his life had he been so near to murderous violence, never so thrown away the restraint which was his second nature. He had a stripped and naked feeling, as if all virtue had gone out of him–life meaningless, mind-striking work. Sunlight streamed in on him, but he felt cold. The scene he had passed through had gone from him already, what was before him would not materialise, he could catch on to nothing; and he felt frightened, as if he had been hanging over the edge of a precipice, as if with another turn of the screw sanity would have failed him. ‘I’m not fit for it,’ he thought; ‘I mustn’t–I’m not fit for it.’ The cab sped on, and in mechanical procession trees, houses, people passed, but had no significance. ‘I feel very queer,’ he thought; ‘I’ll take a Turkish bath.–I’ve been very near to something. It won’t do.’ The cab whirred its way back over the bridge, up the Fulham Road, along the Park.

“To the Hammam,” said Soames.

Curious that on so warm a summer day, heat should be so comforting! Crossing into the hot room he met George Forsyte coming out, red and glistening.

“Hallo!” said George; “what are you training for? You’ve not got much superfluous.”

Buffoon! Soames passed him with his sideway smile. Lying back, rubbing his skin uneasily for the first signs of perspiration, he thought: ‘Let them laugh! I won’t feel anything! I can’t stand violence! It’s not good for me!’

CHAPTER VII

A SUMMER NIGHT

Soames left dead silence in the little study. “Thank you for that good lie,” said Jolyon suddenly. “Come out–the air in here is not what it was!”

In front of a long high southerly wall on which were trained peach-trees the two walked up and down in silence. Old Jolyon had planted some cupressus-trees, at intervals, between this grassy terrace and the dipping meadow full of buttercups and ox-eyed daisies; for twelve years they had flourished, till their dark spiral shapes had quite a look of Italy. Birds fluttered softly in the wet shrubbery; the swallows swooped past, with a steel-blue sheen on their swift little bodies; the grass felt springy beneath the feet, its green refreshed; butterflies chased each other. After that painful scene the quiet of Nature was wonderfully poignant. Under the sun-soaked wall ran a narrow strip of garden-bed full of mignonette and pansies, and from the bees came a low hum in which all other sounds were set–the mooing of a cow deprived of her calf, the calling of a cuckoo from an elm-tree at the bottom of the meadow. Who would have thought that behind them, within ten miles, London began–that London of the Forsytes, with its wealth, its misery; its dirt and noise; its jumbled stone isles of beauty, its grey sea of hideous brick and stucco? That London which had seen Irene’s early tragedy, and Jolyon’s own hard days; that web; that princely workhouse of the possessive instinct!

And while they walked Jolyon pondered those words: ‘I hope you’ll treat him as you treated me.’ That would depend on himself. Could he trust himself? Did Nature permit a Forsyte not to make a slave of what he adored? Could beauty be confided to him? Or should she not be just a visitor, coming when she would, possessed for moments which passed, to return only at her own choosing? ‘We are a breed of spoilers!’ thought Jolyon, ‘close and greedy; the bloom of life is not safe with us. Let her come to me as she will, when she will, not at all if she will not. Let me be just her stand-by, her perching-place; never-never her cage!’

She was the chink of beauty in his dream. Was he to pass through the curtains now and reach her? Was the rich stuff of many possessions, the close encircling fabric of the possessive instinct walling in that little black figure of himself, and Soames–was it to be rent so that he could pass through into his vision, find there something not of the senses only? ‘Let me,’ he thought, ‘ah! let me only know how not to grasp and destroy!’

But at dinner there were plans to be made. To-night she would go back to the hotel, but tomorrow he would take her up to London. He must instruct his solicitor–Jack Herring. Not a finger must be raised to hinder the process of the Law. Damages exemplary, judicial strictures, costs, what they liked–let it go through at the first moment, so that her neck might be out of chancery at last! To-morrow he would see Herring–they would go and see him together. And then–abroad, leaving no doubt, no difficulty about evidence, making the lie she had told into the truth. He looked round at her; and it seemed to his adoring eyes that more than a woman was sitting there. The spirit of universal beauty, deep, mysterious, which the old painters, Titian, Giorgione, Botticelli, had known how to capture and transfer to the faces of their women– this flying beauty seemed to him imprinted on her brow, her hair, her lips, and in her eyes.

‘And this is to be mine!’ he thought. ‘It frightens me!’

After dinner they went out on to the terrace to have coffee. They sat there long, the evening was so lovely, watching the summer night come very slowly on. It was still warm and the air smelled of lime blossom–early this summer. Two bats were flighting with the faint mysterious little noise they make. He had placed the chairs in front of the study window, and moths flew past to visit the discreet light in there. There was no wind, and not a whisper in the old oak-tree twenty yards away! The moon rose from behind the copse, nearly full; and the two lights struggled, till moonlight conquered, changing the colour and quality of all the garden, stealing along the flagstones, reaching their feet, climbing up, changing their faces.

“Well,” said Jolyon at last, “you’ll be tired, dear; we’d better start. The maid will show you Holly’s room,” and he rang the study bell. The maid who came handed him a telegram. Watching her take Irene away, he thought: ‘This must have come an hour or more ago, and she didn’t bring it out to us! That shows! Well, we’ll be hung for a sheep soon!’ And, opening the telegram, he read:

“JOLYON FORSYTE, Robin Hill.–Your son passed painlessly away on June 20th. Deep sympathy”–some name unknown to him.

He dropped it, spun round, stood motionless. The moon shone in on him; a moth flew in his face. The first day of all that he had not thought almost ceaselessly of Jolly. He went blindly towards the window, struck against the old armchair–his father’s–and sank down on to the arm of it. He sat there huddled’ forward, staring into the night. Gone out like a candle flame; far from home, from love, all by himself, in the dark! His boy! From a little chap always so good to him–so friendly! Twenty years old, and cut down like grass–to have no life at all! ‘I didn’t really know him,’ he thought, ‘and he didn’t know me; but we loved each other. It’s only love that matters.’

To die out there–lonely–wanting them–wanting home! This seemed to his Forsyte heart more painful, more pitiful than death itself. No shelter, no protection, no love at the last! And all the deeply rooted clanship in him, the family feeling and essential clinging to his own flesh and blood which had been so strong in old Jolyon was so strong in all the Forsytes–felt outraged, cut, and torn by his boy’s lonely passing. Better far if he had died in battle, without time to long for them to come to him, to call out for them, perhaps, in his delirium!

The moon had passed behind the oak-tree now, endowing it with uncanny life, so that it seemed watching him–the oak-tree his boy had been so fond of climbing, out of which he had once fallen and hurt himself, and hadn’t cried!

The door creaked. He saw Irene come in, pick up the telegram and read it. He heard the faint rustle of her dress. She sank on her knees close to him, and he forced himself to smile at her. She stretched up her arms and drew his head down on her shoulder. The perfume and warmth of her encircled him; her presence gained slowly his whole being.

CHAPTER VIII

JAMES IN WAITING

Sweated to serenity, Soames dined at the Remove and turned his face toward Park Lane. His father had been unwell lately. This would have to be kept from him! Never till that moment had he realised how much the dread of bringing James’ grey hairs down with sorrow to the grave had counted with him; how intimately it was bound up with his own shrinking from scandal. His affection for his father, always deep, had increased of late years with the knowledge that James looked on him as the real prop of his decline. It seemed pitiful that one who had been so careful all his life and done so much for the family name–so that it was almost a byword for solid, wealthy respectability–should at his last gasp have to see it in all the newspapers. This was like lending a hand to Death, that final enemy of Forsytes. ‘I must tell mother,’ he thought, ‘and when it comes on, we must keep the papers from him somehow. He sees hardly anyone.’ Letting himself in with his latchkey, he was beginning to ascend he stairs when he became conscious of commotion on the second-floor landing. His mother’s voice was saying:

“Now, James, you’ll catch cold. Why can’t you wait quietly?”

His father’s answering

“Wait? I’m always waiting. Why doesn’t he come in?”

“You can speak to him to-morrow morning, instead of making a guy of yourself on the landing.”

“He’ll go up to bed, I shouldn’t wonder. I shan’t sleep.”

“Now come back to bed, James.”

“Um! I might die before to-morrow morning for all you can tell.”

“You shan’t have to wait till to-morrow morning; I’ll go down and bring him up. Don’t fuss!”

“There you go–always so cock-a-hoop. He mayn’t come in at all.”

“Well, if he doesn’t come in you won’t catch him by standing out here in your dressing-gown.”

Soames rounded the last bend and came in sight of his father’s tall figure wrapped in a brown silk quilted gown, stooping over the balustrade above. Light fell on his silvery hair and whiskers, investing his head with, a sort of halo.

“Here he is!” he heard him say in a voice which sounded injured, and his mother’s comfortable answer from the bedroom door:

“That’s all right. Come in, and I’ll brush your hair.” James extended a thin, crooked finger, oddly like the beckoning of a skeleton, and passed through the doorway of his bedroom.

‘What is it?’ thought Soames. ‘What has he got hold of now?’

His father was sitting before the dressing-table sideways to the mirror, while Emily slowly passed two silver-backed brushes through and through his hair. She would do this several times a day, for it had on him something of the effect produced on a cat by scratching between its ears.

“There you are!” he said. “I’ve been waiting.”

Soames stroked his shoulder, and, taking up a silver button-hook, examined the mark on it.

“Well,” he said, “you’re looking better.”

James shook his head.

“I want to say something. Your mother hasn’t heard.” He announced Emily’s ignorance of what he hadn’t told her, as if it were a grievance.

“Your father’s been in a great state all the evening. I’m sure I don’t know what about.”

The faint ‘whisk-whisk’ of the brushes continued the soothing of her voice.

“No! you know nothing,” said James. “Soames can tell me.” And, fixing his grey eyes, in which there was a look of strain, uncomfortable to watch, on his son, he muttered:

“I’m getting on, Soames. At my age I can’t tell. I might die any time. There’ll be a lot of money. There’s Rachel and Cicely got no children; and Val’s out there–that chap his father will get hold of all he can. And somebody’ll pick up Imogen, I shouldn’t wonder.”

Soames listened vaguely–he had heard all this before. Whish- whish! went the brushes.

“If that’s all!” said Emily.

“All!” cried James; “it’s nothing. I’m coming to that.” And again his eyes strained pitifully at Soames.

“It’s you, my boy,” he said suddenly; “you ought to get a divorce.”

That word, from those of all lips, was almost too much for Soames’ composure. His eyes reconcentrated themselves quickly on the buttonhook, and as if in apology James hurried on:

“I don’t know what’s become of her–they say she’s abroad. Your Uncle Swithin used to admire her–he was a funny fellow.” (So he always alluded to his dead twin-‘The Stout and the Lean of it,’ they had been called.) “She wouldn’t be alone, I should say.” And with that summing-up of the effect of beauty on human nature, he was silent, watching his son with eyes doubting as a bird’s. Soames, too, was silent. Whish-whish went the brushes.

“Come, James! Soames knows best. It’s his ‘business.”

“Ah!” said James, and the word came from deep down; “but there’s all my money, and there’s his–who’s it to go to? And when he dies the name goes out.”

Soames replaced the button-hook on the lace and pink silk of the dressing-table coverlet.

“The name?” said Emily, “there are all the other Forsytes.”

“As if that helped me,” muttered James. “I shall be in my grave, and there’ll be nobody, unless he marries again.”

“You’re quite right,” said Soames quietly; “I’m getting a divorce.”

James’ eyes almost started from his head.

“What?” he cried. “There! nobody tells me anything.”

“Well,” said Emily, “who would have imagined you wanted it? My dear boy, that is a surprise, after all these years.”

“It’ll be a scandal,” muttered James, as if to himself; “but I can’t help that. Don’t brush so hard. When’ll it come on?”

“Before the Long Vacation; it’s not defended.”

James’ lips moved in secret calculation. “I shan’t live to see my grandson,” he muttered.

Emily ceased brushing. “Of course you will, James. Soames will be as quick as he can.”

There was a long silence, till James reached out his arm.

“Here! let’s have the eau-de-Cologne,” and, putting it to his nose, he moved his forehead in the direction of his son. Soames bent over and kissed that brow just where the hair began. A relaxing quiver passed over James’ face, as though the wheels of anxiety within were running down.

“I’ll get to bed,” he said; “I shan’t want to see the papers when that comes. They’re a morbid lot; I can’t pay attention to them, I’m too old.”

Queerly affected, Soames went to the door; he heard his father say:

“Here, I’m tired. I’ll say a prayer in bed.”

And his mother answering

“That’s right, James; it’ll be ever so much more comfy.”

CHAPTER IX

OUT OF THE WEB

On Forsyte ‘Change the announcement of Jolly’s death, among a batch of troopers, caused mixed sensation. Strange to read that Jolyon Forsyte (fifth of the name in direct descent) had died of disease in the service of his country, and not be able to feel it personally. It revived the old grudge against his father for having estranged himself. For such was still the prestige of old Jolyon that the other Forsytes could never quite feel, as might have been expected, that it was they who had cut off his descendants for irregularity. The news increased, of course, the interest and anxiety about Val; but then Val’s name was Dartie, and even if he were killed in battle or got the Victoria Cross, it would not be at all the same as if his name were Forsyte. Not even casualty or glory to the Haymans would be really satisfactory. Family pride felt defrauded.

How the rumour arose, then, that ‘something very dreadful, my dear,’ was pending, no one, least of all Soames, could tell, secret as he kept everything. Possibly some eye had seen ‘Forsyte v. Forsyte and Forsyte,’ in the cause list; and had added it to ‘Irene in Paris with a fair beard.’ Possibly some wall at Park Lane had ears. The fact remained that it was known–whispered among the old, discussed among the young–that family pride must soon receive a blow.

Soames, paying one, of his Sunday visits to Timothy’s–paying it with the feeling that after the suit came on he would be paying no more–felt knowledge in the air as he came in. Nobody, of course, dared speak of it before him, but each of the four other Forsytes present held their breath, aware that nothing could prevent Aunt Juley from making them all uncomfortable. She looked so piteously at Soames, she checked herself on the point of speech so often, that Aunt Hester excused herself and said she must go and bathe Timothy’s eye–he had a sty coming. Soames, impassive, slightly supercilious, did not stay long. He went out with a curse stifled behind his pale, just smiling lips.

Fortunately for the peace of his mind, cruelly tortured by the coming scandal, he was kept busy day and night with plans for his retirement–for he had come to that grim conclusion. To go on seeing all those people who had known him as a ‘long-headed chap,’ an astute adviser–after that–no! The fastidiousness and pride which was so strangely, so inextricably blended in him with possessive obtuseness, revolted against the thought. He would retire, live privately, go on buying pictures, make a great name as a collector–after all, his heart was more in that than it had ever been in Law. In pursuance of this now fixed resolve, he had to get ready to amalgamate his business with another firm without letting people know, for that would excite curiosity and make humiliation cast its shadow before. He had pitched on the firm of Cuthcott, Holliday and Kingson, two of whom were dead. The full name after the amalgamation would therefore be Cuthcott, Holliday, Kingson, Forsyte, Bustard and Forsyte. But after debate as to which of the dead still had any influence with the living, it was decided to reduce the title to Cuthcott, Kingson and Forsyte, of whom Kingson would be the active and Soames the sleeping partner. For leaving his name, prestige, and clients behind him, Soames would receive considerable value.

One night, as befitted a man who had arrived at so important a stage of his career, he made a calculation of what he was worth, and after writing off liberally for depreciation by the war, found his value to be some hundred and thirty thousand pounds. At his father’s death, which could not, alas, be delayed much longer, he must come into at least another fifty thousand, and his yearly expenditure at present just reached two. Standing among his pictures, he saw before him a future full of bargains earned by the trained faculty of knowing better than other people. Selling what was about to decline, keeping what was still going up, and exercising judicious insight into future taste, he would make a unique collection, which at his death would pass to the nation under the title ‘Forsyte Bequest.’

If the divorce went through, he had determined on his line with Madame Lamotte. She had, he knew, but one real ambition–to live on her ‘renter’ in Paris near her grandchildren. He would buy the goodwill of the Restaurant Bretagne at a fancy price. Madame would live like a Queen-Mother in Paris on the interest, invested as she would know how. (Incidentally Soames meant to put a capable manager in her place, and make the restaurant pay good interest on his money. There were great possibilities in Soho.) On Annette he would promise to settle fifteen thousand pounds (whether designedly or not), precisely the sum old Jolyon had settled on ‘that woman.’

A letter from Jolyon’s solicitor to his own had disclosed the fact that ‘those two’ were in Italy. And an opportunity had been duly given for noting that they had first stayed at an hotel in London. The matter was clear as daylight, and would be disposed of in half an hour or so; but during that half-hour he, Soames, would go down to hell; and after that half-hour all bearers of the Forsyte name would feel the bloom was off the rose. He had no illusions like Shakespeare that roses by any other name would smell as sweet. The name was a possession, a concrete, unstained piece of property, the value of which would be reduced some twenty per cent. at least. Unless it were Roger, who had once refused to stand for Parliament, and–oh, irony!–Jolyon, hung on the line, there had never been a distinguished Forsyte. But that very lack of distinction was the name’s greatest asset. It was a private name, intensely individual, and his own property; it had never been exploited for good or evil by intrusive report. He and each member of his family owned it wholly, sanely, secretly, without any more interference from the public than had been necessitated by their births, their marriages, their deaths. And during these weeks of waiting and preparing to drop the Law, he conceived for that Law a bitter distaste, so deeply did he resent its coming violation of his name, forced on him by the need he felt to perpetuate that name in a lawful manner. The monstrous injustice of the whole thing excited in him a perpetual suppressed fury. He had asked no better than to live in spotless domesticity, and now he must go into the witness box, after all these futile, barren years, and proclaim his failure to keep his wife–incur the pity, the amusement, the contempt of his kind. It was all upside down. She and that fellow ought to be the sufferers, and they–were in Italy! In these weeks the Law he had served so faithfully, looked on so reverently as the guardian of all property, seemed to him quite pitiful. What could be more insane than to tell a man that he owned his wife, and punish him when someone unlawfully took her away from him? Did the Law not know that a man’s name was to him the apple of his eye, that it was far harder to be regarded as cuckold than as seducer? He actually envied Jolyon the reputation of succeeding where he, Soames, had failed. The question of damages worried him, too. He wanted to make that fellow suffer, but he remembered his cousin’s words, “I shall be very happy,” with the uneasy feeling that to claim damages would make not Jolyon but himself suffer; he felt uncannily that Jolyon would rather like to pay them–the chap was so loose. Besides, to claim damages was not the thing to do. The claim, indeed, had been made almost mechanically; and as the hour drew near Soames saw in it just another dodge of this insensitive and topsy-turvy Law to make him ridiculous; so that people might sneer and say: “Oh, yes, he got quite a good price for her!” And he gave instructions that his Counsel should state that the money would be given to a Home for Fallen Women. He was a long time hitting off exactly the right charity; but, having pitched on it, he used to wake up in the night and think: ‘It won’t do, too lurid; it’ll draw attention. Something quieter–better taste.’ He did not care for dogs, or he would have named them; and it was in desperation at last–for his knowledge of charities was limited– that he decided on the blind. That could not be inappropriate, and it would make the Jury assess the damages high.

A good many suits were dropping out of the list, which happened to be exceptionally thin that summer, so that his case would be reached before August. As the day grew nearer, Winifred was his only comfort. She showed the fellow-feeling of one who had been through the mill, and was the ‘femme-sole’ in whom he confided, well knowing that she would not let Dartie into her confidence. That ruffian would be only too rejoiced! At the end of July, on the afternoon before the case, he went in to see her. They had not yet been able to leave town, because Dartie had already spent their summer holiday, and Winifred dared not go to her father for more money while he was waiting not to be told anything about this affair of Soames.

Soames found her with a letter in her hand.

“That from Val,” he asked gloomily. “What does he say?”

“He says he’s married,” said Winifred.

“Whom to, for Goodness’ sake?”

Winifred looked up at him.

“To Holly Forsyte, Jolyon’s daughter.”

“What?”

“He got leave and did it. I didn’t even know he knew her. Awkward, isn’t it?”

Soames uttered a short laugh at that characteristic minimisation.

“Awkward! Well, I don’t suppose they’ll hear about this till they come back. They’d better stay out there. That fellow will give her money.”

“But I want Val back,” said Winifred almost piteously; “I miss him, he helps me to get on.”

“I know,” murmured Soames. “How’s Dartie behaving now?”

“It might be worse; but it’s always money. Would you like me to come down to the Court to-morrow, Soames?”

Soames stretched out his hand for hers. The gesture so betrayed the loneliness in him that she pressed it between her two.

“Never mind, old boy. You’ll feel ever so much better when it’s all over.”

“I don’t know what I’ve done,” said Soames huskily; “I never have. It’s all upside down. I was fond of her; I’ve always been.”

Winifred saw a drop of blood ooze out of his lip, and the sight stirred her profoundly.

“Of course,” she said, “it’s been too bad of her all along! But what shall I do about this marriage of Val’s, Soames? I don’t know how to write to him, with this coming on. You’ve seen that child. Is she pretty?”

“Yes, she’s pretty,” said Soames. “Dark–lady-like enough.”

‘That doesn’t sound so bad,’ thought Winifred. ‘Jolyon had style.’

“It is a coil,” she said. “What will father say?

“Mustn’t be told,” said Soames. “The war’ll soon be over now, you’d better let Val take to farming out there.”

It was tantamount to saying that his nephew was lost.

“I haven’t told Monty,” Winifred murmured desolately.

The case was reached before noon next day, and was over in little more than half an hour. Soames–pale, spruce, sad-eyed in the witness-box–had suffered so much beforehand that he took it all like one dead. The moment the decree nisi was pronounced he left the Courts of Justice.

Four hours until he became public property! ‘Solicitor’s divorce suit!’ A surly, dogged anger replaced that dead feeling within him. ‘Damn them all!’ he thought; ‘I won’t run away. I’ll act as if nothing had happened.’ And in the sweltering heat of Fleet Street and Ludgate Hill he walked all the way to his City Club, lunched, and went back to his office. He worked there stolidly throughout the afternoon.

On his way out he saw that his clerks knew, and answered their involuntary glances with a look so sardonic that they were immediately withdrawn. In front of St. Paul’s, he stopped to buy the most gentlemanly of the evening papers. Yes! there he was! ‘Well-known solicitor’s divorce. Cousin co-respondent. Damages given to the blind’–so, they had got that in! At every other face, he thought: ‘I wonder if you know!’ And suddenly he felt queer, as if something were racing round in his head.

What was this? He was letting it get hold of him! He mustn’t! He would be ill. He mustn’t think! He would get down to the river and row about, and fish. ‘I’m not going to be laid up,’ he thought.

It flashed across him that he had something of importance to do before he went out of town. Madame Lamotte! He must explain the Law. Another six months before he was really free! Only he did not want to see Annette! And he passed his hand over the top of his head–it was very hot.

He branched off through Covent Garden. On this sultry day of late July the garbage-tainted air of the old market offended him, and Soho seemed more than ever the disenchanted home of rapscallionism. Alone, the Restaurant Bretagne, neat, daintily painted, with its blue tubs and the dwarf trees therein, retained an aloof and Frenchified self-respect. It was the slack hour, and pale trim waitresses were preparing the little tables for dinner. Soames went through into the private part. To his discomfiture Annette answered his knock. She, too, looked pale and dragged down by the heat.

“You are quite a stranger,” she said languidly.

Soames smiled.

“I haven’t wished to be; I’ve been busy.”

“Where’s your mother, Annette? I’ve got some news for her.”

“Mother is not in.”

It seemed to Soames that she looked at him in a queer way. What did she know? How much had her mother told her? The worry of trying to make that out gave him an alarming feeling in the head. He gripped the edge of the table, and dizzily saw Annette come forward, her eyes clear with surprise. He shut his own and said:

“It’s all right. I’ve had a touch of the sun, I think.” The sun! What he had was a touch of ‘darkness! Annette’s voice, French and composed, said:

“Sit down, it will pass, then.” Her hand pressed his shoulder, and Soames sank into a chair. When the dark feeling dispersed, and he opened his eyes, she was looking down at him. What an inscrutable and odd expression for a girl of twenty!

“Do you feel better?”

“It’s nothing,” said Soames. Instinct told him that to be feeble before her was not helping him–age was enough handicap without that. Will-power was his fortune with Annette, he had lost ground these latter months from indecision–he could not afford to lose any more. He got up, and said:

“I’ll write to your mother. I’m going down to my river house for a long holiday. I want you both to come there presently and stay. It’s just at its best. You will, won’t you?”

“It will be veree nice.” A pretty little roll of that ‘r’ but no enthusiasm. And rather sadly he added:

“You’re feeling the heat; too, aren’t you, Annette? It’ll do you good to be on the river. Good-night.” Annette swayed forward. There was a sort of compunction in the movement.

“Are you fit to go? Shall I give you some coffee?”

“No,” said Soames firmly. “Give me your hand.”

She held out her hand, and Soames raised it to his lips. When he looked up, her face wore again that strange expression. ‘I can’t tell,’ he thought, as he went out; ‘but I mustn’t think–I mustn’t worry:

But worry he did, walking toward Pall Mall. English, not of her religion, middle-aged, scarred as it were by domestic tragedy, what had he to give her? Only wealth, social position, leisure, admiration! It was much, but was it enough for a beautiful girl of twenty? He felt so ignorant about Annette. He had, too, a curious fear of the French nature of her mother and herself. They knew so well what they wanted. They were almost Forsytes. They would never grasp a shadow and miss a substance

The tremendous effort it was to write a simple note to Madame Lamotte when he reached his Club warned him still further that he was at the end of his tether.

“MY DEAR MADAME (he said),

“You will see by the enclosed newspaper cutting that I obtained my decree of divorce to-day. By the English Law I shall not, however, be free to marry again till the decree is confirmed six months hence. In the meanwhile I have the honor to ask to be considered a formal suitor for the hand of your daughter. I shall write again in a few days and beg you both to come and stay at my river house. “I am, dear Madame,
“Sincerely yours,

“SOAMES FORSYTE.”

Having sealed and posted this letter, he went into the dining-room. Three mouthfuls of soup convinced him that he could not eat; and, causing a cab to be summoned, he drove to Paddington Station and took the first train to Reading. He reached his house just as the sun went down, and wandered out on to the lawn. The air was drenched with the scent of pinks and picotees in his flower- borders. A stealing coolness came off the river.

Rest-peace! Let a poor fellow rest! Let not worry and shame and anger chase like evil nightbirds in his head! Like those doves perched half-sleeping on their dovecot, like the furry creatures in the woods on the far side, and the simple folk in their cottages, like the trees and the river itself, whitening fast in twilight, like the darkening cornflower-blue sky where stars were coming up– let him cease from himself, and rest!

CHAPTER X

PASSING OF AN AGE

The marriage of Soames with Annette took place in Paris on the last day of January, 1901, with such privacy that not even Emily was told until it was accomplished.

The day after the wedding he brought her to one of those quiet hotels in London where greater expense can be incurred for less result than anywhere else under heaven. Her beauty in the best Parisian frocks was giving him more satisfaction than if he had collected a perfect bit of china, or a jewel of a picture; he looked forward to the moment when he would exhibit her in Park Lane, in Green Street, and at Timothy’s.

If some one had asked him in those days, “In confidence–are you in love with this girl?” he would have replied: “In love? What is love? If you mean do I feel to her as I did towards Irene in those old days when I first met her and she would not have me; when I sighed and starved after her and couldn’t rest a minute until she yielded–no! If you mean do I admire her youth and prettiness, do my senses ache a little when I see her moving about–yes! Do I think she will keep me straight, make me a creditable wife and a good mother for my children?–again, yes!”

“What more do I need? and what more do three-quarters of the women who are married get from the men who marry them?” And if the enquirer had pursued his query, “And do you think it was fair to have tempted this girl to give herself to you for life unless you have really touched her heart?” he would have answered: “The French see these things differently from us. They look at marriage from the point of view of establishments and children; and, from my own experience, I am not at all sure that theirs is not the sensible view. I shall not expect this time more than I can get, or she can give. Years hence I shouldn’t be surprised if I have trouble with her; but I shall be getting old, I shall have children by then. I shall shut my eyes. I have had my great passion; hers is perhaps to come–I don’t suppose it will be for me. I offer her a great deal, and I don’t expect much in return, except children, or at least a son. But one thing I am sure of–she has very good sense!”

And if, insatiate, the enquirer had gone on, “You do not look, then, for spiritual union in this marriage?” Soames would have lifted his sideway smile, and rejoined: “That’s as it may be. If I get satisfaction for my senses, perpetuation of myself; good taste and good humour in the house; it is all I can expect at my age. I am not likely to be going out of my way towards any far-fetched sentimentalism.” Whereon, the enquirer must in good taste have ceased enquiry.

The Queen was dead, and the air of the greatest city upon earth grey with unshed tears. Fur-coated and top-hatted, with Annette beside him in dark furs, Soames crossed Park Lane on the morning of the funeral procession, to the rails in Hyde Park. Little moved though he ever was by public matters, this event, supremely symbolical, this summing-up of a long rich period, impressed his fancy. In ’37, when she came to the throne, ‘Superior Dosset’ was still building houses to make London hideous; and James, a stripling of twenty-six, just laying the foundations of his practice in the Law. Coaches still ran; men wore stocks, shaved their upper lips, ate oysters out of barrels; ‘tigers’ swung behind cabriolets; women said, ‘La!’ and owned no property; there were manners in the land, and pigsties for the poor; unhappy devils were hanged for little crimes, and Dickens had but just begun to write. Well-nigh two generations had slipped by–of steamboats, railways, telegraphs, bicycles, electric light, telephones, and now these motorcars–of such accumulated wealth, that eight per cent. had become three, and Forsytes were numbered by the thousand! Morals had changed, manners had changed, men had become monkeys twice- removed, God had become Mammon–Mammon so respectable as to deceive himself: Sixty-four years that favoured property, and had made the upper middle class; buttressed, chiselled, polished it, till it was almost indistinguishable in manners, morals, speech, appearance, habit, and soul from the nobility. An epoch which had gilded individual liberty so that if a man had money, he was free in law and fact, and if he had not money he was free in law and not in fact. An era which had canonised hypocrisy, so that to seem to be respectable was to be. A great Age, whose transmuting influence nothing had escaped save the nature of man and the nature of the Universe.

And to witness the passing of this Age, London–its pet and fancy– was pouring forth her citizens through every gate into Hyde Park, hub of Victorianism, happy hunting-ground of Forsytes. Under the grey heavens, whose drizzle just kept off, the dark concourse gathered to see the show. The ‘good old’ Queen, full of years and virtue, had emerged from her seclusion for the last time to make a London holiday. From Houndsditch, Acton, Ealing, Hampstead, Islington, and Bethnal Green; from Hackney, Hornsey, Leytonstone, Battersea, and Fulham; and from those green pastures where Forsytes flourish–Mayfair and Kensington, St. James’ and Belgravia, Bayswater and Chelsea and the Regent’s Park, the people swarmed down on to the roads where death would presently pass with dusky pomp and pageantry. Never again would a Queen reign so long, or people have a chance to see so much history buried for their money. A pity the war dragged on, and that the Wreath of Victory could not be laid upon her coffin! All else would be there to follow and commemorate–soldiers, sailors, foreign princes, half-masted bunting, tolling bells, and above all the surging, great, dark-coated crowd, with perhaps a simple sadness here and there deep in hearts beneath black clothes put on by regulation. After all, more than a Queen was going to her rest, a woman who had braved sorrow, lived well and wisely according to her lights.

Out in the crowd against the railings, with his arm hooked in Annette’s, Soames waited. Yes! the Age was passing! What with this Trade Unionism, and Labour fellows in the House of Commons, with continental fiction, and something in the general feel of everything, not to be expressed in words, things were very different; he recalled the crowd on Mafeking night, and George Forsyte saying: “They’re all socialists, they want our goods.” Like James, Soames didn’t know, he couldn’t tell–with Edward on the throne! Things would never be as safe again as under good old Viccy! Convulsively he pressed his young wife’s arm. There, at any rate, was something substantially his own, domestically certain again at last; something which made property worth while–a real thing once more. Pressed close against her and trying to ward others off, Soames was content. The crowd swayed round them, ate sandwiches and dropped crumbs; boys who had climbed the plane-trees chattered above like monkeys, threw twigs and orange-peel. It was past time; they should be coming soon! And, suddenly, a little behind them to the left, he saw a tallish man with a soft hat and short grizzling beard, and a tallish woman in a little round fur cap and veil. Jolyon and Irene talking, smiling at each other, close together like Annette and himself! They had not seen him; and stealthily, with a very queer feeling in his heart, Soames watched those two. They looked happy! What had they come here for–inherently illicit creatures, rebels from the Victorian ideal? What business had they in this crowd? Each of them twice exiled by morality–making a boast, as it were, of love and laxity! He watched them fascinated; admitting grudgingly even with his arm thrust through Annette’s that–that she–Irene–No! he would not admit it; and he turned his eyes away. He would not see them, and let the old bitterness, the old longing rise up within him! And then Annette turned to him and said: “Those two people, Soames; they know you, I am sure. Who are they?”

Soames nosed sideways.

“What people?”

“There, you see them; just turning away. They know you.”

“No,” Soames answered; “a mistake, my dear.”

“A lovely face! And how she walk! Elle est tres distinguee!”

Soames looked then. Into his life, out of his life she had walked like that swaying and erect, remote, unseizable; ever eluding the contact of his soul! He turned abruptly from that receding vision of the past.

“You’d better attend,” he said, “they’re coming now!”

But while he stood, grasping her arm, seemingly intent on the head of the procession, he was quivering with the sense of always missing something, with instinctive regret that he had not got them both.

Slow came the music and the march, till, in silence, the long line wound in through the Park gate. He heard Annette whisper, “How sad it is and beautiful!” felt the clutch of her hand as she stood up on tiptoe; and the crowd’s emotion gripped him. There it was–the bier of the Queen, coffin of the Age slow passing! And as it went by there came a murmuring groan from all the long line of those who watched, a sound such as Soames had never heard, so unconscious, primitive, deep and wild, that neither he nor any knew whether they had joined in uttering it. Strange sound, indeed! Tribute of an Age to its own death…. Ah! Ah!…. The hold on life had slipped. That which had seemed eternal was gone! The Queen–God bless her!

It moved on with the bier, that travelling groan, as a fire moves on over grass in a thin line; it kept step, and marched alongside down the dense crowds mile after mile. It was a human sound, and yet inhuman, pushed out by animal subconsciousness, by intimate knowledge of universal death and change. None of us–none of us can hold on for ever!

It left silence for a little–a very little time, till tongues began, eager to retrieve interest in the show. Soames lingered just long enough to gratify Annette, then took her out of the Park to lunch at his father’s in Park Lane….

James had spent the morning gazing out of his bedroom window. The last show he would see, last of so many! So she was gone! Well, she was getting an old woman. Swithin and he had seen her crowned- -slim slip of a girl, not so old as Imogen! She had got very stout of late. Jolyon and he had seen her married to that German chap, her husband–he had turned out all right before he died, and left her with that son of his. And he remembered the many evenings he and his brothers and their cronies had wagged their heads over their wine and walnuts and that fellow in his salad days. And now he had come to the throne. They said he had steadied down–he didn’t know–couldn’t tell! He’d make the money fly still, he shouldn’t wonder. What a lot of people out there! It didn’t seem so very long since he and Swithin stood in the crowd outside Westminster Abbey when she was crowned, and Swithin had taken him to Cremorne afterwards–racketty chap, Swithin; no, it didn’t seem much longer ago than Jubilee Year, when he had joined with Roger in renting a balcony in Piccadilly.

Jolyon, Swithin, Roger all gone, and he would be ninety in August! And there was Soames married again to a French girl. The French were a queer lot, but they made good mothers, he had heard. Things changed! They said this German Emperor was here for the funeral, his telegram to old Kruger had been in shocking taste. He should not be surprised if that chap made trouble some day. Change! H’m! Well, they must look after themselves when he was gone: he didn’t know where he’d be! And now Emily had asked Dartie to lunch, with Winifred and Imogen, to meet Soames’ wife–she was always doing something. And there was Irene living with that fellow Jolyon, they said. He’d marry her now, he supposed.

‘My brother Jolyon,’ he thought, ‘what would he have said to it all?’ And somehow the utter impossibility of knowing what his elder brother, once so looked up to, would have said, so worried James that he got up from his chair by the window, and began slowly, feebly to pace the room.

‘She was a pretty thing, too,’ he thought; ‘I was fond of her. Perhaps Soames didn’t suit her–I don’t know–I can’t tell. We never had any trouble with our wives.’ Women had changed everything had changed! And now the Queen was dead–well, there it was! A movement in the crowd brought him to a standstill at the window, his nose touching the pane and whitening from the chill of it. They had got her as far as Hyde Park Corner–they were passing now! Why didn’t Emily come up here where she could see, instead of fussing about lunch. He missed her at that moment–missed her! Through the bare branches of the plane-trees he could just see the procession, could see the hats coming off the people’s heads–a lot of them would catch colds, he shouldn’t wonder! A voice behind him said:

“You’ve got a capital view here, James!”

“There you are!” muttered James; “why didn’t you come before? You might have missed it!”

And he was silent, staring with all his might.

“What’s the noise?” he asked suddenly.

“There’s no noise,” returned Emily; “what are you thinking of?– they wouldn’t cheer.”

“I can hear it.”

“Nonsense, James!”

No sound came through those double panes; what James heard was the groaning in his own heart at sight of his Age passing.

“Don’t you ever tell me where I’m buried,” he said suddenly. “I shan’t want to know.” And he turned from the window. There she went, the old Queen; she’d had a lot of anxiety–she’d be glad to be out of it, he should think!

Emily took up the hair-brushes.

“There’ll be just time to brush your head,” she said, “before they come. You must look your best, James.”

“Ah!” muttered James; “they say she’s pretty.”

The meeting with his new daughter-in-law took place in the dining-room. James was seated by the fire when she was brought in. He placed, his hands on the arms of the chair and slowly raised himself. Stooping and immaculate in his frock-coat, thin as a line in Euclid, he received Annette’s hand in his; and the anxious eyes of his furrowed face, which had lost its colour now, doubted above her. A little warmth came into them and into his cheeks, refracted from her bloom.

“How are you?” he said. “You’ve been to see the Queen, I suppose? Did you have a good crossing?”

In this way he greeted her from whom he hoped for a grandson of his name.

Gazing at him, so old, thin, white, and spotless, Annette murmured something in French which James did not understand.

“Yes, yes,” he said, “you want your lunch, I expect. Soames, ring the bell; we won’t wait for that chap Dartie.” But just then they arrived. Dartie had refused to go out of his way to see ‘the old girl.’ With an early cocktail beside him, he had taken a ‘squint’ from the smoking-room of the Iseeum, so that Winifred and Imogen had been obliged to come back from the Park to fetch him thence. His brown eyes rested on Annette with a stare of almost startled satisfaction. The second beauty that fellow Soames had picked up! What women could see in him! Well, she would play him the same trick as the other, no doubt; but in the meantime he was a lucky devil! And he brushed up his moustache, having in nine months of Green Street domesticity regained almost all his flesh and his assurance. Despite the comfortable efforts of Emily, Winifred’s composure, Imogen’s enquiring friendliness, Dartie’s showing-off, and James’ solicitude about her food, it was not, Soames felt, a successful lunch for his bride. He took her away very soon.

“That Monsieur Dartie,” said Annette in the cab, “je n’aime pas ce type-la!”

“No, by George!” said Soames.

“Your sister is veree amiable, and the girl is pretty. Your father is veree old. I think your mother has trouble with him; I should not like to be her.”

Soames nodded at the shrewdness, the clear hard judgment in his young wife; but it disquieted him a little. The thought may have just flashed through him, too: ‘When I’m eighty she’ll be fifty-five, having trouble with me!’

“There’s just one other house of my relations I must take you to,” he said; “you’ll find it funny, but we must get it over; and then we’ll dine and go to the theatre.”

In this way he prepared her for Timothy’s. But Timothy’s was different. They were delighted to see dear Soames after this long long time; and so this was Annette!

“You are so pretty, my dear; almost too young and pretty for dear Soames, aren’t you? But he’s very attentive and careful–such a good hush….” Aunt Juley checked herself, and placed her lips just under each of Annette’s eyes–she afterwards described them to Francie, who dropped in, as: “Cornflower-blue, so pretty, I quite wanted to kiss them. I must say dear Soames is a perfect connoisseur. In her French way, and not so very French either, I think she’s as pretty–though not so distinguished, not so alluring–as Irene. Because she was alluring, wasn’t she? with that white skin and those dark eyes, and that hair, couleur de– what was it? I always forget.”

“Feuille morte,” Francie prompted.

“Of course, dead leaves–so strange. I remember when I was a girl, before we came to London, we had a foxhound puppy–to ‘walk’ it was called then; it had a tan top to its head and a white chest, and beautiful dark brown eyes, and it was a lady.”

“Yes, auntie,” said Francie, “but I don’t see the connection.”

“Oh!” replied Aunt Juley, rather flustered, “it was so alluring, and her eyes and hair, you know….” She was silent, as if surprised in some indelicacy. “Feuille morte,” she added suddenly; “Hester–do remember that!”….

Considerable debate took place between the two sisters whether Timothy should or should not be summoned to see Annette.

“Oh, don’t bother!” said Soames.

“But it’s no trouble, only of course Annette’s being French might upset him a little. He was so scared about Fashoda. I think perhaps we had better not run the risk, Hester. It’s nice to have her all to ourselves, isn’t it? And how are you, Soames? Have you quite got over your….”

Hester interposed hurriedly:

“What do you think of London, Annette?”

Soames, disquieted, awaited the reply. It came, sensible, composed: “Oh! I know London. I have visited before.”

He had never ventured to speak to her on the subject of the restaurant. The French had different notions about gentility, and to shrink from connection with it might seem to her ridiculous; he had waited to be married before mentioning it; and now he wished he hadn’t.

“And what part do you know best?” said Aunt Juley.

“Soho,” said Annette simply.

Soames snapped his jaw.

“Soho?” repeated Aunt Juley; “Soho?”

‘That’ll go round the family,’ thought Soames.

“It’s very French, and interesting,” he said.

“Yes,” murmured Aunt Juley, “your Uncle Roger had some houses there once; he was always having to turn the tenants out, I remember.”

Soames changed the subject to Mapledurham.

“Of course,” said Aunt Juley, “you will be going down there soon to settle in. We are all so looking forward to the time when Annette has a dear little….”

“Juley!” cried Aunt Hester desperately, “ring tea!”

Soames dared not wait for tea, and took Annette away.

“I shouldn’t mention Soho if I were you,” he said in the cab. “It’s rather a shady part of London; and you’re altogether above that restaurant business now; I mean,” he added, “I want you to know nice people, and the English are fearful snobs.”

Annette’s clear eyes opened; a little smile came on her lips.

“Yes?” she said.

‘H’m!’ thought Soames, ‘that’s meant for me!’ and he looked at her hard. ‘She’s got good business instincts,’ he thought. ‘I must make her grasp it once for all!’

“Look here, Annette! it’s very simple, only it wants understanding. Our professional and leisured classes still think themselves a cut above our business classes, except of course the very rich. It may be stupid, but there it is, you see. It isn’t advisable in England to let people know that you ran a restaurant or kept a shop or were in any kind of trade. It may have been extremely creditable, but it puts a sort of label on you; you don’t have such a good time, or meet such nice people–that’s all.”

“I see,” said Annette; “it is the same in France.”

“Oh!” murmured Soames, at once relieved and taken aback. “Of course, class is everything, really.”

“Yes,” said Annette; “comme vous etes sage.”

‘That’s all right,’ thought Soames, watching her lips, ‘only she’s pretty cynical.’ His knowledge of French was not yet such as to make him grieve that she had not said ‘tu.’ He slipped his arm round her, and murmured with an effort:

“Et vous etes ma belle femme.”

Annette went off into a little fit of laughter.

“Oh, non!” she said. “Oh, non! ne parlez pas Francais, Soames. What is that old lady, your aunt, looking forward to?”

Soames bit his lip. “God knows!” he said; “she’s always saying something;” but he knew better than God.

CHAPTER XI

SUSPENDED ANIMATION

The war dragged on. Nicholas had been heard to say that it would cost three hundred millions if it cost a penny before they’d done with it! The income-tax was seriously threatened. Still, there would be South Africa for their money, once for all. And though the possessive instinct felt badly shaken at three o’clock in the morning, it recovered by breakfast-time with the recollection that one gets nothing in this world without paying for it. So, on the whole, people went about their business much as if there were no war, no concentration camps, no slippery de Wet, no feeling on the Continent, no anything unpleasant. Indeed, the attitude of the nation was typified by Timothy’s map, whose animation was suspended–for Timothy no longer moved the flags, and they could not move themselves, not even backwards and forwards as they should have done.

Suspended animation went further; it invaded Forsyte ‘Change, and produced a general uncertainty as to what was going to happen next. The announcement in the marriage column of The Times, ‘Jolyon Forsyte to Irene, only daughter of the late Professor Heron,’ had occasioned doubt whether Irene had been justly described. And yet, on the whole, relief was felt that she had not been entered as ‘Irene, late the wife,’ or ‘the divorced wife,’ ‘of Soames Forsyte.’ Altogether, there had been a kind of sublimity from the first about the way the family had taken that ‘affair.’ As James had phrased it, ‘There it was!’ No use to fuss! Nothing to be had out of admitting that it had been a ‘nasty jar’–in the phraseology of the day.

But what would happen now that both Soames and Jolyon were married again? That was very intriguing. George was known to have laid Eustace six to four on a little Jolyon before a little Soames. George was so droll! It was rumoured, too, that he and Dartie had a bet as to whether James would attain the age of ninety, though which of them had backed James no one knew.

Early in May, Winifred came round to say that Val had been wounded in the leg by a spent bullet, and was to be discharged. His wife was nursing him. He would have a little limp–nothing to speak of. He wanted his grandfather to buy him a farm out there where he could breed horses. Her father was giving Holly eight hundred a year, so they could be quite comfortable, because his grandfather would give Val five, he had said; but as to the farm, he didn’t know–couldn’t tell: he didn’t want Val to go throwing away his money.

“But you know,” said Winifred, “he must do something.”

Aunt Hester thought that perhaps his dear grandfather was wise, because if he didn’t buy a farm it couldn’t turn out badly.

“But Val loves horses,” said Winifred. “It’d be such an occupation for him.”

Aunt Juley thought that horses were very uncertain, had not Montague found them so?

“Val’s different,” said Winifred; “he takes after me.”

Aunt Juley was sure that dear Val was very clever. “I always remember,” she added, “how he gave his bad penny to a beggar. His dear grandfather was so pleased. He thought it showed such presence of mind. I remember his saying that he ought to go into the Navy.”

Aunt Hester chimed in: Did not Winifred think that it was much better for the young people to be secure and not run any risk at their age?

“Well,” said Winifred, “if they were in London, perhaps; in London it’s amusing to do nothing. But out there, of course, he’ll simply get bored to death.”

Aunt Hester thought that it would be nice for him to work, if he were quite sure not to lose by it. It was not as if they had no money. Timothy, of course, had done so well by retiring. Aunt Juley wanted to know what Montague had said.

Winifred did not tell her, for Montague had merely remarked: “Wait till the old man dies.”

At this moment Francie was announced. Her eyes were brimming with a smile.

“Well,” she said, “what do you think of it?”

“Of what, dear?”

“In The Times this morning.”

“We haven’t seen it, we always read it after dinner; Timothy has it till then.”

Francie rolled her eyes.

“Do you think you ought to tell us?” said Aunt Juley. “What was it?”

“Irene’s had a son at Robin Hill.”

Aunt Juley drew in her breath. “But,” she said, “they were only married in March!”

“Yes, Auntie; isn’t it interesting?”

“Well,” said Winifred, “I’m glad. I was sorry for Jolyon losing his boy. It might have been Val.”

Aunt Juley seemed to go into a sort of dream. “I wonder,” she murmured, “what dear Soames will think? He has so wanted to have a son himself. A little bird has always told me that.”

“Well,” said Winifred, “he’s going to–bar accidents.”

Gladness trickled out of Aunt Juley’s eyes.

“How delightful!” she said. “When?”

“November.”

Such a lucky month! But she did wish it could be sooner. It was a long time for James to wait, at his age!

To wait! They dreaded it for James, but they were used to it themselves. Indeed, it was their great distraction. To wait! For The Times to read; for one or other of their nieces or nephews to come in and cheer them up; for news of Nicholas’ health; for that decision of Christopher’s about going on the stage; for information concerning the mine of Mrs. MacAnder’s nephew; for the doctor to come about Hester’s inclination to wake up early in the morning; for books from the library which were always out; for Timothy to have a cold; for a nice quiet warm day, not too hot, when they could take a turn in Kensington Gardens. To wait, one on each side of the hearth in the drawing-room, for the clock between them to strike; their thin, veined, knuckled hands plying knitting-needles and crochet-hooks, their hair ordered to stop–like Canute’s waves- -from any further advance in colour. To wait in their black silks or satins for the Court to say that Hester might wear her dark green, and Juley her darker maroon. To wait, slowly turning over and over, in their old minds the little joys and sorrows, events and expectancies, of their little family world, as cows chew patient cuds in a familiar field. And this new event was so well worth waiting for. Soames had always been their pet, with his tendency to give them pictures, and his almost weekly visits which they missed so much, and his need for their sympathy evoked by the wreck of his first marriage. This new event–the birth of an heir to Soames–was so important for him, and for his dear father, too, that James might not have to die without some certainty about things. James did so dislike uncertainty; and with Montague, of course, he could not feel really satisfied to leave no grand- children but the young Darties. After all, one’s own name did count! And as James’ ninetieth birthday neared they wondered what precautions he was taking. He would be the first of the Forsytes to reach that age, and set, as it were, a new standard in holding on to life. That was so important, they felt, at their ages eighty- seven and eighty-five; though they did not want to think of themselves when they had Timothy, who was not yet eighty-two, to think of. There was, of course, a better world. ‘In my Father’s house are many mansions’ was one of Aunt Juley’s favourite sayings- -it always comforted her, with its suggestion of house property, which had made the fortune of dear Roger. The Bible was, indeed, a great resource, and on very fine Sundays there was church in the morning; and sometimes Juley would steal into Timothy’s study when she was sure he was out, and just put an open New Testament casually among the books on his little table–he was a great reader, of course, having been a publisher. But she had noticed that Timothy was always cross at dinner afterwards. And Smither had told her more than once that she had picked books off the floor in doing the room. Still, with all that, they did feel that heaven could not be quite so cosy as the rooms in which they and Timothy had been waiting so long. Aunt Hester, especially, could not bear the thought of the exertion. Any change, or rather the thought of a change–for there never was any–always upset her very much. Aunt Juley, who had more spirit, sometimes thought it would be quite exciting; she had so enjoyed that visit to Brighton the year dear Susan died. But then Brighton one knew was nice, and it was so difficult to tell what heaven would be like, so on the whole she was more than content to wait.

On the morning of James’ birthday, August the 5th, they felt extraordinary animation, and little notes passed between them by the hand of Smither while they were having breakfast in their beds. Smither must go round and take their love and little presents and find out how Mr. James was, and whether he had passed a good night with all the excitement. And on the way back would Smither call in at Green Street–it was a little out of her way, but she could take the bus up Bond Street afterwards; it would be a nice little change for her–and ask dear Mrs. Dartie to be sure and look in before she went out of town.

All this Smither did–an undeniable servant trained many years ago under Aunt Ann to a perfection not now procurable. Mr. James, so Mrs. James said, had passed an excellent night, he sent his love; Mrs. James had said he was very funny and had complained that he didn’t know what all the fuss was about. Oh! and Mrs. Dartie sent her love, and she would come to tea.

Aunts Juley and Hester, rather hurt that their presents had not received special mention–they forgot every year that James could not bear to receive presents, ‘throwing away their money on him,’ as he always called it–were ‘delighted’; it showed that James was in good spirits, and that was so important for him. And they began to wait for Winifred. She came at four, bringing Imogen, and Maud, just back from school, and ‘getting such a pretty girl, too,’ so that it was extremely difficult to ask for news about Annette. Aunt Juley, however, summoned courage to enquire whether Winifred had heard anything, and if Soames was anxious.

“Uncle Soames is always anxious, Auntie,” interrupted Imogen; “he can’t be happy now he’s got it.”

The words struck familiarly on Aunt Juley’s ears. Ah! yes; that funny drawing of George’s, which had not been shown them! But what did Imogen mean? That her uncle always wanted more than he could have? It was not at all nice to think like that.

Imogen’s voice rose clear and clipped:

“Imagine! Annette’s only two years older than me; it must be awful for her, married to Uncle Soames.”

Aunt Juley lifted her hands in horror.

“My dear,” she said, “you don’t know what you’re talking about. Your Uncle Soames is a match for anybody. He’s a very clever man, and good-looking and wealthy, and most considerate and careful, and not at all old, considering everything.”

Imogen, turning her luscious glance from one to the other of the ‘old dears,’ only smiled.

“I hope,” said Aunt Juley quite severely, “that you will marry as good a man.”

“I shan’t marry a good man, Auntie,” murmured Imogen; “they’re dull.”

“If you go on like this,” replied Aunt Juley, still very much upset, “you won’t marry anybody. We’d better not pursue the subject;” and turning to Winifred, she said: “How is Montague?”

That evening, while they were waiting for dinner, she murmured:

“I’ve told Smither to get up half a bottle of the sweet champagne, Hester. I think we ought to drink dear James’ health, and–and the health of Soames’ wife; only, let’s keep that quite secret. I’ll Just say like this, ‘And you know, Hester!’ and then we’ll drink. It might upset Timothy.”

“It’s more likely to upset us,” said Aunt Nester. “But we must, I suppose; for such an occasion.”

“Yes,” said Aunt Juley rapturously, “it is an occasion! Only fancy if he has a dear little boy, to carry the family on! I do feel it so important, now that Irene has had a son. Winifred says George is calling Jolyon ‘The Three-Decker,’ because of his three families, you know! George is droll. And fancy! Irene is living after all in the house Soames had built for them both. It does seem hard on dear Soames; and he’s always been so regular.”

That night in bed, excited and a little flushed still by her glass of wine and the secrecy of the second toast, she lay with her prayer-book opened flat, and her eyes fixed on a ceiling yellowed by the light from her reading-lamp. Young things! It was so nice for them all! And she would be so happy if she could see dear Soames happy. But, of course, he must be now, in spite of what Imogen had said. He would have all that he wanted: property, and wife, and children! And he would live to a green old age, like his dear father, and forget all about Irene and that dreadful case. If only she herself could be here to buy his children their first rocking-horse! Smither should choose it for her at the stores, nice and dappled. Ah! how Roger used to rock her until she fell off! Oh dear! that was a long time ago! It was! ‘In my Father’s house are many mansions–‘A little scrattling noise caught her ear- -‘but no mice!’ she thought mechanically. The noise increased. There! it was a mouse! How naughty of Smither to say there wasn’t! It would be eating through the wainscot before they knew where they were, and they would have to have the builders in. They were such destructive things! And she lay, with her eyes just moving, following in her mind that little scrattling sound, and waiting for sleep to release her from it.

CHAPTER XII

BIRTH OF A FORSYTE

Soames walked out of the garden door, crossed the lawn, stood on the path above the river, turned round and walked back to the garden door, without having realised that he had moved. The sound of wheels crunching the drive convinced him that time had passed, and the doctor gone. What, exactly, had he said?

“This is the position, Mr. Forsyte. I can make pretty certain of her life if I operate, but the baby will be born dead. If I don’t operate, the baby will most probably be born alive, but it’s a great risk for the mother–a great risk. In either case I don’t think she can ever have another child. In her state she obviously can’t decide for herself, and we can’t wait for her mother. It’s for you to make the decision, while I’m getting what’s necessary. I shall be back within the hour.”

The decision! What a decision! No time to get a specialist down! No time for anything!

The sound of wheels died away, but Soames still stood intent; then, suddenly covering his ears, he walked back to the river. To come before its time like this, with no chance to foresee anything, not even to get her mother here! It was for her mother to make that decision, and she couldn’t arrive from Paris till to-night! If only he could have understood the doctor’s jargon, the medical niceties, so as to be sure he was weighing the chances properly; but they were Greek to him–like a legal problem to a layman. And yet he must decide! He brought his hand away from his brow wet, though the air was chilly. These sounds which came from her room! To go back there would only make it more difficult. He must be calm, clear. On the one hand life, nearly certain, of his young wife, death quite certain, of his child; and–no more children afterwards! On the other, death perhaps of his wife, nearly certain life for the child; and–no more children afterwards! Which to choose?…. It had rained this last fortnight–the river was very full, and in the water, collected round the little house-boat moored by his landing-stage, were many leaves from the woods above, brought off by a frost. Leaves fell, lives drifted down–Death! To decide about death! And no one to give him a hand. Life lost was lost for good. Let nothing go that you could keep; for, if it went, you couldn’t get it back. It left you bare, like those trees when they lost their leaves; barer and barer until you, too, withered and came down. And, by a queer somersault of thought, he seemed to see not Annette lying up there behind that window-pane on which the sun was shining, but Irene lying in their bedroom in Montpellier Square, as it might conceivably have been her fate to lie, sixteen years ago. Would he have hesitated then? Not a moment! Operate, operate! Make certain of her life! No decision–a mere instinctive cry for help, in spite of his know- ledge, even then, that she did not love him! But this! Ah! there was nothing overmastering in his feeling for Annette! Many times these last months, especially since she had been growing fright- ened, he had wondered. She had a will of her own, was selfish in her French way. And yet–so pretty! What would she wish–to take the risk. ‘I know she wants the child,’ he thought. ‘If it’s born dead, and no more chance afterwards–it’ll upset her terribly. No more chance! All for nothing! Married life with her for years and years without a child. Nothing to steady her! She’s too young. Nothing to look forward to, for her–for me! For me!’ He struck his hands against his chest! Why couldn’t he think without bringing himself in–get out of himself and see what he ought to do? The thought hurt him, then lost edge, as if it had come in contact with a breastplate. Out of oneself! Impossible! Out into soundless, scentless, touchless, sightless space! The very idea was ghastly, futile! And touching there the bedrock of reality, the bottom of his Forsyte spirit, Soames rested for a moment. When one ceased, all ceased; it might go on, but there’d be nothing in it!

He looked at his watch. In half an hour the doctor would be back. He must decide! If against the operation and she died, how face her mother and the doctor afterwards? How face his own conscience? It was his child that she was having. If for the operation–then he condemned them both to childlessness. And for what else had he married her but to have a lawful heir? And his father–at death’s door, waiting for the news! ‘It’s cruel!’ he thought; ‘I ought never to have such a thing to settle! It’s cruel!’ He turned towards the house. Some deep, simple way of deciding! He took out a coin, and put it back. If he spun it, he knew he would not abide by what came up! He went into the dining-room, furthest away from that room whence the sounds issued. The doctor had said there was a chance. In here that chance seemed greater; the river did not flow, nor the leaves fall. A fire was burning. Soames unlocked the tantalus. He hardly ever touched spirits, but now–he poured himself out some whisky and drank it neat, craving a faster flow of blood. ‘That fellow Jolyon,’ he thought; ‘he had children already. He has the woman I really loved; and now a son by her! And I–I’m asked to destroy my only child! Annette can’t die; it’s not possible. She’s strong!’

He was still standing sullenly at the sideboard when he heard the doctor’s carriage, and went out to him. He had to wait for him to come downstairs.

“Well, doctor?”

“The situation’s the same. Have you decided?”

“Yes,” said Soames; “don’t operate!”

“Not? You understand–the risk’s great?”

In Soames’ set face nothing moved but the lips.

“You said there was a chance?”

“A chance, yes; not much of one.”

“You say the baby must be born dead if you do?”

“Yes.”

“Do you still think that in any case she can’t have another?”

“One can’t be absolutely sure, but it’s most unlikely.”

“She’s strong,” said Soames; “we’ll take the risk.”

The doctor looked at him very gravely. “It’s on your shoulders,” he said; “with my own wife, I couldn’t.”

Soames’ chin jerked up as if someone had hit him.

“Am I of any use up there?” he asked.

“No; keep away.”

“I shall be in my picture-gallery, then; you know where.”

The doctor nodded, and went upstairs.

Soames continued to stand, listening. ‘By this time to-morrow,’ he thought, ‘I may have her death on my hands.’ No! it was unfair– monstrous, to put it that way! Sullenness dropped on him again, and he went up to the gallery. He stood at the window. The wind was in the north; it was cold, clear; very blue sky, heavy ragged white clouds chasing across; the river blue, too, through the screen of goldening trees; the woods all rich with colour, glowing, burnished-an early autumn. If it were his own life, would he be taking that risk? ‘But she’d take the risk of losing me,’ he thought, ‘sooner than lose her child! She doesn’t really love me!’ What could one expect–a girl and French? The one thing really vital to them both, vital to their marriage and their futures, was a child! ‘I’ve been through a lot for this,’ he thought, ‘I’ll hold on–hold on. There’s a chance of keeping both–a chance!’ One kept till things were taken–one naturally kept! He began walking round the gallery. He had made one purchase lately which he knew was a fortune in itself, and he halted before it–a girl with dull gold hair which looked like filaments of metal gazing at a little golden monster she was holding in her hand. Even at this tortured moment he could just feel the extraordinary nature of the bargain he had made–admire the quality of the table, the floor, the chair, the girl’s figure, the absorbed expression on her face, the dull gold filaments of her hair, the bright gold of the little monster. Collecting pictures; growing richer, richer! What use, if….! He turned his back abruptly on the picture, and went to the window. Some of his doves had flown up from their perches round the dovecot, and were stretching their wings in the wind. In the clear sharp sunlight their whiteness almost flashed. They flew far, making a flung-up hieroglyphic against the sky. Annette fed the doves; it was pretty to see her. They took it out of her hand; they knew she was matter-of-fact. A choking sensation came into his throat. She would not–could nod die! She was too–too sensible; and she was strong, really strong, like her mother, in spite of her fair prettiness

It was already growing dark when at last he opened the door, and stood listening. Not a sound! A milky twilight crept about the stairway and the landings below. He had turned back when a sound caught his ear. Peering down, he saw a black shape moving, and his heart stood still. What was it? Death? The shape of Death coming from her door? No! only a maid without cap or apron. She came to the foot of his flight of stairs and said breathlessly:

“The doctor wants to see you, sir.”

He ran down. She stood flat against the wall to let him pass, and said:

“Oh, Sir! it’s over.”

“Over?” said Soames, with a sort of menace; “what d’you mean?”

“It’s born, sir.”

He dashed up the four steps in front of him, and came suddenly on the doctor in the dim passage. The man was wiping his brow.

“Well?” he said; “quick!”

“Both living; it’s all right, I think.”

Soames stood quite still, covering his eyes.

“I congratulate you,” he heard the doctor say; “it was touch and go.”

Soames let fall the hand which was covering his face.

“Thanks,” he said; “thanks very much. What is it?”

“Daughter–luckily; a son would have killed her–the head.”

A daughter!

“The utmost care of both,” he hearts the doctor say, “and we shall do. When does the mother come?”

“To-night, between nine and ten, I hope.”

“I’ll stay till then. Do you want to see them?”

“Not now,” said Soames; “before you go. I’ll have dinner sent up to you.” And he went downstairs.

Relief unspeakable, and yet–a daughter! It seemed to him unfair. To have taken that risk–to have been through this agony–and what agony!–for a daughter! He stood before the blazing fire of wood logs in the hall, touching it with his toe and trying to readjust himself. ‘My father!’ he thought. A bitter disappointment, no disguising it! One never got all one wanted in this life! And there was no other–at least, if there was, it was no use!

While he was standing there, a telegram was brought him.

“Come up at once, your father sinking fast. –MOTHER.”

He read it with a choking sensation. One would have thought he couldn’t feel anything after these last hours, but he felt this. Half-past seven, a train from Reading at nine, and madame’s train, if she had caught it, came in at eight-forty–he would meet that, and go on. He ordered the carriage, ate some dinner mechanically, and went upstairs. The doctor came out to him.

“They’re sleeping.”

“I won’t go in,” said Soames with relief. “My father’s dying; I have to–go up. Is it all right?”

The doctor’s face expressed a kind of doubting admiration. ‘If they were all as unemotional’ he might have been saying.

“Yes, I think you may go with an easy mind. You’ll be down soon?”

“To-morrow,” said Soames. “Here’s the address.”

The doctor seemed to hover on the verge of sympathy.

“Good-night!” said Soames abruptly, and turned away. He put on his fur coat. Death! It was a chilly business. He smoked a cigarette in the carriage–one of his rare cigarettes. The night was windy and flew on black wings; the carriage lights had to search out the way. His father! That old, old man! A comfortless night–to die!

The London train came in just as he reached the station, and Madame Lamotte, substantial, dark-clothed, very yellow in the lamplight, came towards the exit with a dressing-bag.

“This all you have?” asked Soames.

“But yes; I had not the time. How is my little one?”

“Doing well–both. A girl!”

“A girl! What joy! I had a frightful crossing!”

Her black bulk, solid, unreduced by the frightful crossing, climbed into the brougham.

“And you, mon cher?”

“My father’s dying,” said Soames between his teeth. “I’m going up. Give my love to Annette.”

“Tiens!” murmured Madame Lamotte; “quel malheur!”

Soames took his hat off, and moved towards his train. ‘The French!’ he thought.

CHAPTER XIII

JAMES IS TOLD

A simple cold, caught in the room with double windows, where the air and the people who saw him were filtered, as it were, the room he had not left since the middle of September–and James was in deep waters. A little cold, passing his little strength and flying quickly to his lungs. “He mustn’t catch cold,” the doctor had declared, and he had gone and caught it. When he first felt it in his throat he had said to his nurse–for he had one now–“There, I knew how it would be, airing the room like that!” For a whole day he was highly nervous about himself and went in advance of all precautions and remedies; drawing every breath with extreme care and having his temperature taken every hour. Emily was not alarmed.

But next morning when she went in the nurse whispered: “He won’t have his temperature taken.”

Emily crossed to the side of the bed where he was lying, and said softly, “How do you feel, James?” holding the thermometer to his lips. James looked up at her.

“What’s the good of that?” he murmured huskily; “I don’t want to know.”

Then she was alarmed. He breathed with difficulty, he looked terribly frail, white, with faint red discolorations. She had ‘had trouble’ with him, Goodness knew; but he was James, had been James for nearly fifty years; she couldn’t remember or imagine life without James–James, behind all his fussiness, his pessimism, his crusty shell, deeply affectionate, really kind and generous to them all!

All that day and the next he hardly uttered a word, but there was in his eyes a noticing of everything done for him, a look on his face which told her he was fighting; and she did not lose hope. His very stillness, the way he conserved every little scrap of energy, showed the tenacity with which he was fighting. It touched her deeply; and though her face was composed and comfortable in the sick-room, tears ran down her cheeks when she was out of it.

About tea-time on the third day–she had just changed her dress, keeping her appearance so as not to alarm him, because he noticed everything–she saw a difference. ‘It’s no use; I’m tired,’ was written plainly across that white face, and when she went up to him, he muttered: “Send for Soames.”

“Yes, James,” she said comfortably; “all right–at once.” And she kissed his forehead. A tear dropped there, and as she wiped it off she saw that his eyes looked grateful. Much upset, and without hope now, she sent Soames the telegram.

When he entered out of the black windy night, the big house was still as a grave. Warmson’s broad face looked almost narrow; he took the fur coat with a sort of added care, saying:

“Will you have a glass of wine, sir?”

Soames shook his head, and his eyebrows made enquiry.

Warmson’s lips twitched. “He’s asking for you, sir;” and suddenly he blew his nose. “It’s a long time, sir,” he said, “that I’ve been with Mr. Forsyte–a long time.”

Soames left him folding the coat, and began to mount the stairs. This house, where he had been born and sheltered, had never seemed to him so warm, and rich, and cosy, as during this last pilgrimage to his father’s room. It was not his taste; but in its own sub- stantial, lincrusta way it was the acme of comfort and security. And the night was so dark and windy; the grave so cold and lonely

He paused outside the door. No sound came from within. He turned the handle softly and was in the room before he was perceived. The light was shaded. His mother and Winifred were sitting on the far side of the bed; the nurse was moving away from the near side where was an empty chair. ‘For me!’ thought Soames. As he moved from the door his mother and sister rose, but he signed with his hand and they sat down again. He went up to the chair and stood looking at his father. James’ breathing was as if strangled; his eyes were closed. And in Soames, looking on his father so worn and white and wasted, listening to his strangled breathing, there rose a passionate vehemence of anger against Nature, cruel, inexorable Nature, kneeling on the chest of that wisp of a body, slowly pressing out the breath, pressing out the life of the being who was dearest to him in the world. His father, of all men, had lived a careful life, moderate, abstemious, and this was his reward–to have life slowly, painfully squeezed out of him! And, without knowing that he spoke, he said: “It’s cruel!”

He saw his mother cover her eyes and Winifred bow her face towards the bed. Women! They put up with things so much. better than men. He took a step nearer to his father. For three days James had not been shaved, and his lips and chin were covered with hair, hardly more snowy than his forehead. It softened his face, gave it a queer look already not of this world. His eyes opened. Soames went quite close and bent over. The lips moved.

“Here I am, Father:”

“Um–what–what news? They never tell….” the voice died, and a flood of emotion made Soames’ face work so that he could not speak. Tell him?–yes. But what? He made a great effort, got his lips together, and said:

“Good news, dear, good–Annette, a son.”

“Ah!” It was the queerest sound, ugly, relieved, pitiful, triumphant–like the noise a baby makes getting what it wants. The eyes closed, and that strangled sound of breathing began again. Soames recoiled to the chair and stonily sat down. The lie he had told, based, as it were, on some deep, temperamental instinct that after death James would not know the truth, had taken away all power of feeling for the moment. His arm brushed against something. It was his father’s naked foot. In the struggle to breathe he had pushed it out from under the clothes. Soames took it in his hand, a cold foot, light and thin, white, very cold. What use to put it back, to wrap up that which must be colder soon! He warmed it mechanically with his hand, listening to his father’s laboured breathing; while the power of feeling rose again within him. A little sob, quickly smothered, came from Winifred, but his mother sat unmoving with her eyes fixed on James. Soames signed to the nurse.

“Where’s the doctor?” he whispered.

“He’s been sent for.”

“Can’t you do anything to ease his breathing?”

“Only an injection; and he can’t stand it. The doctor said, while he was fighting….”

“He’s not fighting,” whispered Soames, “he’s being slowly smothered. It’s awful.”

James stirred uneasily, as if he knew what they were saying. Soames rose and bent over him. James feebly moved his two hands, and Soames took them.

“He wants to be pulled up,” whispered the nurse.

Soames pulled. He thought he pulled gently, but a look almost of anger passed over James’ face. The nurse plumped the pillows. Soames laid the hands down, and bending over kissed his father’s forehead. As he was raising himself again, James’ eyes bent on him a look which seemed to come from the very depths of what was left within. ‘I’m done, my boy,’ it seemed to say, ‘take care of them, take care of yourself; take care–I leave it all to you.’

“Yes, Yes,” Soames whispered, “yes, yes.”

Behind him the nurse did he knew, not what, for his father made a tiny movement of repulsion as if resenting that interference; and almost at once his breathing eased away, became quiet; he lay very still. The strained expression on his face passed, a curious white tranquillity took its place. His eyelids quivered, rested; the whole face rested; at ease. Only by the faint puffing of his lips could they tell that he was breathing. Soames sank back on his chair, and fell to cherishing the foot again. He heard the nurse quietly crying over there by the fire; curious that she, a stranger, should be the only one of them who cried! He heard the quiet lick and flutter of the fire flames. One more old Forsyte going to his long rest–wonderful, they were!–wonderful how he had held on! His mother and Winifred were leaning forward, hanging on the sight of James’ lips. But Soames bent sideways over the feet, warming them both; they gave him comfort, colder and colder though they grew. Suddenly he started up; a sound, a dreadful sound such as he had never heard, was coming from his father’s lips, as if an outraged heart had broken with a long moan. What a strong heart, to have uttered that farewell! It ceased. Soaines looked into the face. No motion; no breath! Dead! He kissed the brow, turned round and went out of the room. He ran upstairs to the bedroom, his old bedroom, still kept for him; flung himself face down on the bed, and broke into sobs which he stilled with the pillow….

A little later he went downstairs and passed into the room. James lay alone, wonderfully calm, free from shadow and anxiety, with the gravity on his ravaged face which underlies great age, the worn fine gravity of old coins.

Soames looked steadily at that face, at the fire, at all the room with windows thrown open to the London night.

“Good-bye!” he whispered, and went out.

CHAPTER XIV

HIS

He had much to see to, that night and all next day. A telegram at breakfast reassured him about Annette, and he only caught the last train back to Reading, with Emily’s kiss on his forehead and in his ears her words:

“I don’t know what I should have done without you, my dear boy.”

He reached his house at midnight. The weather had changed, was mild again, as though, having finished its work and sent a Forsyte to his last account, it could relax. A second telegram, received at dinner-time, had confirmed the good news of Annette, and, instead of going in, Soames passed down through the garden in the moonlight to his houseboat. He could sleep there quite well. Bitterly tired, he lay down on the sofa in his fur coat and fell asleep. He woke soon after dawn and went on deck. He stood against the rail, looking west where the river swept round in a wide curve under the woods. In Soames, appreciation of natural beauty was curiously like that of his farmer ancestors, a sense of grievance if it wasn’t there, sharpened, no doubt, and civilised, by his researches among landscape painting. But dawn has power to fertilise the most matter-of-fact vision, and he was stirred. It was another world from the river he knew, under that remote cool light; a world into which man had not entered, an unreal world, like some strange shore sighted by discovery. Its colour was not the colour of convention, was hardly colour at all; its shapes were brooding yet distinct; its silence stunning; it had no scent. Why it should move him he could not tell, unless it were that he felt so alone in it, bare of all relationship and all possessions. Into such a world his father might be voyaging, for all resemblance it had to the world he had left. And Soames took refuge from it in wondering what painter could have done it justice. The white-grey water was like–like the belly of a fish! Was it possible that this world on which he looked was all private property, except the water–and even that was tapped! No tree, no shrub, not a blade of grass, not a bird or beast, not even a fish that was not owned.