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  • 1906
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shame, and overstrain. Followed five minutes of acute misery. Jon’s remorse and tenderness knew no bounds; but he did not promise. Despite her will to cry, “Very well, then, if you don’t love me enough-goodbye!” she dared not. From birth accustomed to her own way, this check from one so young, so tender, so devoted, baffled and surprised her. She wanted to push him away from her, to try what anger and coldness would do, and again she dared not. The knowledge that she was scheming to rush him blindfold into the irrevocable weakened everything–weakened the sincerity of pique, and the sincerity of passion; even her kisses had not the lure she wished for them. That stormy little meeting ended inconclusively.

“Will you some tea, gnadiges Fraulein?”

Pushing Jon from her, she cried out:

“No-no, thank you! I’m just going.”

And before he could prevent her she was gone.

She went stealthily, mopping her gushed, stained cheeks, frightened, angry, very miserable. She had stirred Jon up so fearfully, yet nothing definite was promised or arranged! But the more uncertain and hazardous the future, the more “the will to have” worked its tentacles into the flesh of her heart–like some burrowing tick!

No one was at Green Street. Winifred had gone with Imogen to see a play which some said was allegorical, and others “very exciting, don’t you know.” It was because of what others said that Winifred and Imogen had gone. Fleur went on to Paddington. Through the carriage the air from the brick-kilns of West Drayton and the late hayfields fanned her still gushed cheeks. Flowers had seemed to be had for the picking; now they were all thorned and prickled. But the golden flower within the crown of spikes seemed to her tenacious spirit all the fairer and more desirable.

IX

THE FAT IN THE FIRE

On reaching home Fleur found an atmosphere so peculiar that it penetrated even the perplexed aura of her own private life. Her mother was inaccessibly entrenched in a brown study; her father contemplating fate in the vinery. Neither of them had a word to throw to a dog. ‘Is it because of me?’ thought Fleur. ‘Or because of Profond?’ To her mother she said:

“What’s the matter with Father?”

Her mother answered with a shrug of her shoulders.

To her father:

“What’s the matter with Mother?”

Her father answered:

“Matter? What should be the matter?” and gave her a sharp look.

“By the way,” murmured Fleur, “Monsieur Profond is going a ‘small’ voyage on his yacht, to the South Seas.”

Soames examined a branch on which no grapes were growing.

“This vine’s a failure,” he said. “I’ve had young Mont here. He asked me something about you.”

“Oh! How do you like him, Father?”

“He–he’s a product–like all these young people.”

“What were you at his age, dear?”

Soames smiled grimly.

“We went to work, and didn’t play about–flying and motoring, and making love.”

“Didn’t you ever make love?”

She avoided looking at him while she said that, but she saw him well enough. His pale face had reddened, his eyebrows, where darkness was still mingled with the grey, had come close together.

“I had no time or inclination to philander.”

“Perhaps you had a grand passion.”

Soames looked at her intently.

“Yes–if you want to know–and much good it did me.” He moved away, along by the hot-water pipes. Fleur tiptoed silently after him.

“Tell me about it, Father!”

Soames became very still.

“What should you want to know about such things, at your age?”

“Is she alive?”

He nodded.

“And married?” Yes.”

“It’s Jon Forsyte’s mother, isn’t it? And she was your wife first.”

It was said in a flash of intuition. Surely his opposition came from his anxiety that she should not know of that old wound to his pride. But she was startled. To see some one so old and calm wince as if struck, to hear so sharp a note of pain in his voice!

“Who told you that? If your aunt! I can’t bear the affair talked of.”

“But, darling,” said Fleur, softly, “it’s so long ago.”

“Long ago or not, I….”

Fleur stood stroking his arm.

“I’ve tried to forget,” he said suddenly; “I don’t wish to be reminded.” And then, as if venting some long and secret irritation, he added: “In these days people don’t understand. Grand passion, indeed! No one knows what it is.”

“I do,” said Fleur, almost in a whisper.

Soames, who had turned his back on her, spun round.

“What are you talking of–a child like you!”

“Perhaps I’ve inherited it, Father.”

“What?”

“For her son, you see.”

He was pale as a sheet, and she knew that she was as bad. They stood staring at each other in the steamy heat, redolent of the mushy scent of earth, of potted geranium, and of vines coming along fast.

“This is crazy,” said Soames at last, between dry lips.

Scarcely moving her own, she murmured:

“Don’t be angry, Father. I can’t help it.”

But she could see he wasn’t angry; only scared, deeply scared.

“I thought that foolishness,” he stammered, “was all forgotten.”

“Oh, no! It’s ten times what it was.”

Soames kicked at the hot-water pipe. The hapless movement touched her, who had no fear of her father–none.

“Dearest!” she said. “What must be, must, you know.”

“Must!” repeated Soames. “You don’t know what you’re talking of. Has that boy been told?”

The blood rushed into her cheeks.

“Not yet.”

He had turned from her again, and, with one shoulder a little raised, stood staring fixedly at a joint in the pipes.

“It’s most distasteful to me,” he said suddenly; “nothing could be more so. Son of that fellow! It’s–it’s–perverse!”

She had noted, almost unconsciously, that he did not say “son of that woman,” and again her intuition began working.

Did the ghost of that grand passion linger in some corner of his heart?

She slipped her hand under his arm.

“Jon’s father is quite ill and old; I saw him.”

“You–?”

“Yes, I went there with Jon; I saw them both.”

“Well, and what did they say to you?”

“Nothing. They were very polite.”

“They would be.” He resumed his contemplation of the pipe-joint, and then said suddenly:

“I must think this over–I’ll speak to you again to-night.”

She knew this was final for the moment, and stole away, leaving him still looking at the pipe-joint. She wandered into the fruit-garden, among the raspberry and currant bushes, without impetus to pick and eat. Two months ago–she was light-hearted! Even two days ago– light-hearted, before Prosper Profond told her. Now she felt tangled in a web-of passions, vested rights, oppressions and revolts, the ties of love and hate. At this dark moment of discouragement there seemed, even to her hold-fast nature, no way out. How deal with it– how sway and bend things to her will, and get her heart’s desire? And, suddenly, round the corner of the high box hedge, she came plump on her mother, walking swiftly, with an open letter in her hand. Her bosom was heaving, her eyes dilated, her cheeks flushed. Instantly Fleur thought: ‘The yacht! Poor Mother!’

Annette gave her a wide startled look, and said:

“J’ai la migraine.”

“I’m awfully sorry, Mother.”

“Oh, yes! you and your father–sorry!”

“But, Mother–I am. I know what it feels like.”

Annette’s startled eyes grew wide, till the whites showed above them.

“Poor innocent!” she said.

Her mother–so self-possessed, and commonsensical–to look and speak like this! It was all frightening! Her father, her mother, herself! And only two months back they had seemed to have everything they wanted in this world.

Annette crumpled the letter in her hand. Fleur knew that she must ignore the sight.

“Can’t I do anything for your head, Mother?”

Annette shook that head and walked on, swaying her hips.

‘It’s cruel,’ thought Fleur, ‘and I was glad! That man! What do men come prowling for, disturbing everything! I suppose he’s tired of her. What business has he to be tired of my mother? What business!’ And at that thought, so natural and so peculiar, she uttered a little choked laugh.

She ought, of course, to be delighted, but what was there to be delighted at? Her father didn’t really care! Her mother did, perhaps? She entered the orchard, and sat down under a cherry-tree. A breeze sighed in the higher boughs; the sky seen through their green was very blue and very white in cloud–those heavy white clouds almost always present in river landscape. Bees, sheltering out of the wind, hummed softly, and over the lush grass fell the thick shade from those fruit-trees planted by her father five-and-twenty, years ago. Birds were almost silent, the cuckoos had ceased to sing, but wood-pigeons were cooing. The breath and drone and cooing of high summer were not for long a sedative to her excited nerves. Crouched over her knees she began to scheme. Her father must be made to back her up. Why should he mind so long as she was happy? She had not lived for nearly nineteen years without knowing that her future was all he really cared about. She had, then, only to convince him that her future could not be happy without Jon. He thought it a mad fancy. How foolish the old were, thinking they could tell what the young felt! Had not he confessed that he–when young–had loved with a grand passion? He ought to understand! ‘He piles up his money for me,’ she thought; ‘but what’s the use, if I’m not going to be happy?’ Money, and all it bought, did not bring happiness. Love only brought that. The ox-eyed daisies in this orchard, which gave it such a moony look sometimes, grew wild and happy, and had their hour. ‘They oughtn’t to have called me Fleur,’ she mused, ‘if they didn’t mean me to have my hour, and be happy while it lasts.’ Nothing real stood in the way, like poverty, or disease–sentiment only, a ghost from the unhappy past! Jon was right. They wouldn’t let you live, these old people! They made mistakes, committed crimes, and wanted their children to go on paying! The breeze died away; midges began to bite. She got up, plucked a piece of honeysuckle, and went in.

It was hot that night. Both she and her mother had put on thin, pale low frocks. The dinner flowers were pale. Fleur was struck with the pale look of everything; her father’s face, her mother’s shoulders; the pale panelled walls, the pale grey velvety carpet, the lamp- shade, even the soup was pale. There was not one spot of colour in the room, not even wine in the pale glasses, for no one drank it. What was not pale was black–her father’s clothes, the butler’s clothes, her retriever stretched out exhausted in the window, the curtains black with a cream pattern. A moth came in, and that was pale. And silent was that half-mourning dinner in the heat.

Her father called her back as she was following her mother out.

She sat down beside him at the table, and, unpinning the pale honeysuckle, put it to her nose.

“I’ve been thinking,” he said.

“Yes, dear?”

“It’s extremely painful for me to talk, but there’s no help for it. I don’t know if you understand how much you are to me I’ve never spoken of it, I didn’t think it necessary; but–but you’re everything. Your mother–” he paused, staring at his finger-bowl of Venetian glass.

“Yes?”‘

“I’ve only you to look to. I’ve never had–never wanted anything else, since you were born.”

“I know,” Fleur murmured.

Soames moistened his lips.

“You may think this a matter I can smooth over and arrange for you. You’re mistaken. I’m helpless.”

Fleur did not speak.

“Quite apart from my own feelings,” went on Soames with more resolution, “those two are not amenable to anything I can say. They- -they hate me, as people always hate those whom they have injured.” “But he–Jon–“

“He’s their flesh and blood, her only child. Probably he means to her what you mean to me. It’s a deadlock.”

“No,” cried Fleur, “no, Father!”

Soames leaned back, the image of pale patience, as if resolved on the betrayal of no emotion.

“Listen!” he said. “You’re putting the feelings of two months–two months–against the feelings of thirty-five years! What chance do you think you have? Two months–your very first love affair, a matter of half a dozen meetings, a few walks and talks, a few kisses- -against, against what you can’t imagine, what no one could who hasn’t been through it. Come, be reasonable, Fleur! It’s midsummer madness!”

Fleur tore the honeysuckle into little, slow bits.

“The madness is in letting the past spoil it all.

“What do we care about the past? It’s our lives, not yours.”

Soames raised his hand to his forehead, where suddenly she saw moisture shining.

“Whose child are you?” he said. “Whose child is he? The present is linked with the past, the future with both. There’s no getting away from that.”

She had never heard philosophy pass those lips before. Impressed even in her agitation, she leaned her elbows on the table, her chin on her hands.

“But, Father, consider it practically. We want each other. There’s ever so much money, and nothing whatever in the way but sentiment. Let’s bury the past, Father.”

His answer was a sigh.

“Besides,” said Fleur gently, “you can’t prevent us.”

“I don’t suppose,” said Soames, “that if left to myself I should try to prevent you; I must put up with things, I know, to keep your affection. But it’s not I who control this matter. That’s what I want you to realise before it’s too late. If you go on thinking you can get your way and encourage this feeling, the blow will be much heavier when you find you can’t.”

“Oh!” cried Fleur, “help me, Father; you can help me, you know.”

Soames made a startled movement of negation. “I?” he said bitterly. “Help? I am the impediment–the just cause and impediment–isn’t that the jargon? You have my blood in your veins.”

He rose.

“Well, the fat’s in the fire. If you persist in your wilfulness you’ll have yourself to blame. Come! Don’t be foolish, my child–my only child!”

Fleur laid her forehead against his shoulder.

All was in such turmoil within her. But no good to show it! No good at all! She broke away from him, and went out into the twilight, distraught, but unconvinced. All was indeterminate and vague within her, like the shapes and shadows in the garden, except–her will to have. A poplar pierced up into the dark-blue sky and touched a white star there. The dew wetted her shoes, and chilled her bare shoulders. She went down to the river bank, and stood gazing at a moonstreak on the darkening water. Suddenly she smelled tobacco smoke, and a white figure emerged as if created by the moon. It was young Mont in flannels, standing in his boat. She heard the tiny hiss of his cigarette extinguished in the water.

“Fleur,” came his voice, “don’t be hard on a poor devil! I’ve been waiting hours.”

“For what?”

“Come in my boat!”

“Not I.”

“Why not?”

“I’m not a water-nymph.”

“Haven’t you any romance in you? Don’t be modern, Fleur!”

He appeared on the path within a yard of her.

“Go away!”

“Fleur, I love you. Fleur!”

Fleur uttered a short laugh.

“Come again,” she said, “when I haven’t got my wish.”

“What is your wish?”

“Ask another.”

“Fleur,” said Mont, and his voice sounded strange, “don’t mock me! Even vivisected dogs are worth decent treatment before they’re cut up for good.”

Fleur shook her head; but her lips were trembling.

“Well, you shouldn’t make me jump. Give me a cigarette.”

Mont gave her one, lighted it, and another for himself.

“I don’t want to talk rot,” he said, “but please imagine all the rot that all the lovers that ever were have talked, and all my special rot thrown in.”

“Thank you, I have imagined it. Good-night!” They stood for a moment facing each other in the shadow of an acacia-tree with very moonlit blossoms, and the smoke from their cigarettes mingled in the air between them.

“Also ran: ‘Michael Mont’?” he said. Fleur turned abruptly toward the house. On the lawn she stopped to look back. Michael Mont was whirling his arms above him; she could see them dashing at his head; then waving at the moonlit blossoms of the acacia. His voice just reached her. “Jolly-jolly!” Fleur shook herself. She couldn’t help him, she had too much trouble of her own! On the verandah she stopped very suddenly again. Her mother was sitting in the drawing- room at her writing bureau, quite alone. There was nothing remarkable in the expression of her face except its utter immobility. But she looked desolate! Fleur went upstairs. At the door of her room she paused. She could hear her father walking up and down, up and down the picture-gallery.

‘Yes,’ she thought, jolly! Oh, Jon!’

X

DECISION

When Fleur left him Jon stared at the Austrian. She was a thin woman with a dark face and the concerned expression of one who has watched every little good that life once had slip from her, one by one. “No tea?” she said.

Susceptible to the disappointment in her voice, Jon murmured:

“No, really; thanks.”

“A lil cup–it ready. A lil cup and cigarette.”

Fleur was gone! Hours of remorse and indecision lay before him! And with a heavy sense of disproportion he smiled, and said:

“Well–thank you!”

She brought in a little pot of tea with two little cups, and a silver box of cigarettes on a little tray.

“Sugar? Miss Forsyte has much sugar–she buy my sugar, my friend’s sugar also. Miss Forsyte is a veree kind lady. I am happy to serve her. You her brother?”

“Yes,” said Jon, beginning to puff the second cigarette of his life.

“Very young brother,” said the Austrian, with a little anxious smile, which reminded him of the wag of a dog’s tail.

“May I give you some?” he said. “And won’t you sit down, please?”

The Austrian shook her head.

“Your father a very nice old man–the most nice old man I ever see. Miss Forsyte tell me all about him. Is he better?”

Her words fell on Jon like a reproach. “Oh Yes, I think he’s all right.”

“I like to see him again,” said the Austrian, putting a hand on her heart; “he have veree kind heart.”

“Yes,” said Jon. And again her words seemed to him a reproach.

“He never give no trouble to no one, and smile so gentle.”

“Yes, doesn’t he?”

“He look at Miss Forsyte so funny sometimes. I tell him all my story; he so sympatisch. Your mother–she nice and well?”

“Yes, very.”

“He have her photograph on his dressing-table. Veree beautiful”

Jon gulped down his tea. This woman, with her concerned face and her reminding words, was like the first and second murderers.

“Thank you,” he said; “I must go now. May–may I leave this with you?”

He put a ten-shilling note on the tray with a doubting hand and gained the door. He heard the Austrian gasp, and hurried out. He had just time to catch his train, and all the way to Victoria looked at every face that passed, as lovers will, hoping against hope. On reaching Worthing he put his luggage into the local train, and set out across the Downs for Wansdon, trying to walk off his aching irresolution. So long as he went full bat, he could enjoy the beauty of those green slopes, stopping now and again to sprawl on the grass, admire the perfection of a wild rose or listen to a lark’s song. But the war of motives within him was but postponed–the longing for Fleur, and the hatred of deception. He came to the old chalk-pit above Wansdon with his mind no more made up than when he started. To see both sides of a question vigorously was at once Jon’s strength and weakness. He tramped in, just as the first dinner-bell rang. His things had already been brought up. He had a hurried bath and came down to find Holly alone–Val had gone to Town and would not be back till the last train.

Since Val’s advice to him to ask his sister what was the matter between the two families, so much had happened–Fleur’s disclosure in the Green Park, her visit to Robin Hill, to-day’s meeting–that there seemed nothing to ask. He talked of Spain, his sunstroke, Val’s horses, their father’s health. Holly startled him by saying that she thought their father not at all well. She had been twice to Robin Hill for the week-end. He had seemed fearfully languid, sometimes even in pain, but had always refused to talk about himself.

“He’s awfully dear and unselfish–don’t you think, Jon?”

Feeling far from dear and unselfish himself, Jon answered: “Rather!”

“I think, he’s been a simply perfect father, so long as I can remember.”

“Yes,” answered Jon, very subdued.

“He’s never interfered, and he’s always seemed to understand. I shall never forget his letting me go to South Africa in the Boer War when I was in love with Val.”

“That was before he married Mother, wasn’t it?” said Jon suddenly.

“Yes. Why?”

“Oh! nothing. Only, wasn’t she engaged to Fleur’s father first?”

Holly put down the spoon she was using, and raised her eyes. Her stare was circumspect. What did the boy know? Enough to make it better to tell him? She could not decide. He looked strained and worried, altogether older, but that might be the sunstroke.

“There was something,” she said. “Of course we were out there, and got no news of anything.” She could not take the risk.

It was not her secret. Besides, she was in the dark about his feelings now. Before Spain she had made sure he was in love; but boys were boys; that was seven weeks ago, and all Spain between.

She saw that he knew she was putting him off, and added:

“Have you heard anything of Fleur?”

“Yes.”

His face told her, then, more than the most elaborate explanations. So he had not forgotten!

She said very quietly: “Fleur is awfully attractive, Jon, but you know–Val and I don’t really like her very much.”

“Why?”

“We think she’s got rather a ‘having’ nature.”

“‘Having’? I don’t know what you mean. She–she–” he pushed his dessert plate away, got up, and went to the window.

Holly, too, got up, and put her arm round his waist.

“Don’t be angry, Jon dear. We can’t all see people in the same light, can we? You know, I believe each of us only has about one or two people who can see the best that’s in us, and bring it out. For you I think it’s your mother. I once saw her looking at a letter of yours; it was wonderful to see her face. I think she’s the most beautiful woman I ever saw–Age doesn’t seem to touch her.”

Jon’s face softened; then again became tense. Everybody–everybody was against him and Fleur! It all strengthened the appeal of her words: “Make sure of me–marry me, Jon!”

Here, where he had passed that wonderful week with her–the tug of her enchantment, the ache in his heart increased with every minute that she was not there to make the room, the garden, the very air magical. Would he ever be able to live down here, not seeing her? And he closed up utterly, going early to bed. It would not make him healthy, wealthy, and wise, but it closeted him with memory of Fleur in her fancy frock. He heard Val’s arrival–the Ford discharging cargo, then the stillness of the summer night stole back–with only the bleating of very distant sheep, and a night-Jar’s harsh purring. He leaned far out. Cold moon–warm air–the Downs like silver! Small wings, a stream bubbling, the rambler roses! God–how empty all of it without her! In the Bible it was written: Thou shalt leave father and mother and cleave to–Fleur!

Let him have pluck, and go and tell them! They couldn’t stop him marrying her–they wouldn’t want to stop him when they knew how he felt. Yes! He would go! Bold and open–Fleur was wrong!

The night-jar ceased, the sheep were silent; the only sound in the darkness was the bubbling of the stream. And Jon in his bed slept, freed from the worst of life’s evils–indecision.

XI

TIMOTHY PROPHESIES

On the day of the cancelled meeting at the National Gallery began the second anniversary of the resurrection of England’s pride and glory– or, more shortly, the top hat. “Lord’s”–that festival which the War had driven from the field–raised its light and dark blue flags for the second time, displaying almost every feature of a glorious past. Here, in the luncheon interval, were all species of female and one species of male hat, protecting the multiple types of face associated with “the classes.” The observing Forsyte might discern in the free or unconsidered seats a certain number of the squash- hatted, but they hardly ventured on the grass; the old school–or schools–could still rejoice that the proletariat was not yet paying the necessary half-crown. Here was still a close borough, the only one left on a large scale–for the papers were about to estimate the attendance at ten thousand. And the ten thousand, all animated by one hope, were asking each other one question: “Where are you lunching?” Something wonderfully uplifting and reassuring in that query and the sight of so many people like themselves voicing it! What reserve power in the British realm–enough pigeons, lobsters, lamb, salmon mayonnaise, strawberries, and bottles of champagne to feed the lot! No miracle in prospect–no case of seven loaves and a few fishes–faith rested on surer foundations. Six thousand top hats, four thousand parasols would be doffed and furled, ten thousand mouths all speaking the same English would be filled. There was life in the old dog yet! Tradition! And again Tradition! How strong and how elastic! Wars might rage, taxation prey, Trades Unions take toll, and Europe perish of starvation; but the ten thousand would be fed; and, within their ring fence, stroll upon green turf, wear their top hats, and meet–themselves. The heart was sound, the pulse still regular. E-ton! E-ton! Har-r-o-o-o-w!

Among the many Forsytes, present on a hunting-ground theirs, by personal prescriptive right, or proxy, was Soames with his wife and daughter. He had not been at either school, he took no interest in cricket, but he wanted Fleur to show her frock, and he wanted to wear his top hat parade it again in peace and plenty among his peers. He walked sedately with Fleur between him and Annette. No women equalled them, so far as he could see. They could walk, and hold themselves up; there was substance in their good looks; the modern woman had no build, no chest, no anything! He remembered suddenly with what intoxication of pride he had walked round with Irene in the first years of his first marriage. And how they used to lunch on the drag which his mother would make his father have, because it was so “chic”–all drags and carriages in those days, not these lumbering great Stands! And how consistently Montague Dartie had drunk too much. He supposed that people drank too much still, but there was not the scope for it there used to be. He remembered George Forsyte- -whose brothers Roger and Eustace had been at Harrow and Eton– towering up on the top of the drag waving a light-blue flag with one hand and a dark-blue flag with the other, and shouting “Etroow- Harrton!” Just when everybody was silent, like the buffoon he had always been; and Eustace got up to the nines below, too dandified to wear any colour or take any notice. H’m! Old days, and Irene in grey silk shot with palest green. He looked, sideways, at Fleur’s face. Rather colourless-no light, no eagerness! That love affair was preying on her–a bad business! He looked beyond, at his wife’s face, rather more touched up than usual, a little disdainful–not that she had any business to disdain, so far as he could see. She was taking Profond’s defection with curious quietude; or was his “small” voyage just a blind? If so, he should refuse to see it! Having promenaded round the pitch and in front of the pavilion, they sought Winifred’s table in the Bedouin Club tent. This Club–a new “cock and hen”–had been founded in the interests of travel, and of a gentleman with an old Scottish name, whose father had somewhat strangely been called Levi. Winifred had joined, not because she had travelled, but because instinct told her that a Club with such a name and such a founder was bound to go far; if one didn’t join at once one might never have the chance. Its tent, with a text from the Koran on an orange ground, and a small green camel embroidered over the entrance, was the most striking on the ground. Outside it they found Jack Cardigan in a dark blue tie (he had once played for Harrow), batting with a Malacca cane to show how that fellow ought to have hit that ball. He piloted them in. Assembled in Winifred’s corner were Imogen, Benedict with his young wife, Val Dartie without Holly, Maud and her husband, and, after Soames and his two were seated, one empty place.

“I’m expecting Prosper,” said Winifred, “but he’s so busy with his yacht.”

Soames stole a glance. No movement in his wife’s face! Whether that fellow were coming or not, she evidently knew all about it. It did not escape him that Fleur, too, looked at her mother. If Annette didn’t respect his feelings, she might think of Fleur’s! The conversation, very desultory, was syncopated by Jack Cardigan talking about “mid-off.” He cited all the “great mid-offs” from the beginning of time, as if they had been a definite racial entity in the composition of the British people. Soames had finished his lobster, and was beginning on pigeon-pie, when he heard the words, “I’m a small bit late, Mrs. Dartie,” and saw that there was no longer any empty place. That fellow was sitting between Annette and Imogen. Soames ate steadily on, with an occasional word to Maud and Winifred. Conversation buzzed around him. He heard the voice of Profond say:

“I think you’re mistaken, Mrs. Forsyde; I’ll–I’ll bet Miss Forsyde agrees with me.”

“In what?” came Fleur’s clear voice across the table.

“I was sayin’, young gurls are much the same as they always were– there’s very small difference.”

“Do you know so much about them?”

That sharp reply caught the ears of all, and Soames moved uneasily on his thin green chair.

“Well, I don’t know, I think they want their own small way, and I think they always did.”

“Indeed!”

“Oh, but–Prosper,” Winifred interjected comfortably, “the girls in the streets–the girls who’ve been in munitions, the little flappers in the shops; their manners now really quite hit you in the eye.”

At the word “hit” Jack Cardigan stopped his disquisition; and in the silence Monsieur Profond said:

“It was inside before, now it’s outside; that’s all.”

“But their morals!” cried Imogen.

“Just as moral as they ever were, Mrs. Cardigan, but they’ve got more opportunity.”

The saying, so cryptically cynical, received a little laugh from Imogen, a slight opening of Jack Cardigan’s mouth, and a creak from Soames’ chair.

Winifred said: “That’s too bad, Prosper.”

“What do you say, Mrs. Forsyde; don’t you think human nature’s always the same?”

Soames subdued a sudden longing to get up and kick the fellow. He heard his wife reply:

“Human nature is not the same in England as anywhere else.” That was her confounded mockery!

“Well, I don’t know much about this small country”–‘No, thank God!’ thought Soames–“but I should say the pot was boilin’ under the lid everywhere. We all want pleasure, and we always did.”

Damn the fellow! His cynicism was–was outrageous!

When lunch was over they broke up into couples for the digestive promenade. Too proud to notice, Soames knew perfectly that Annette and that fellow had gone prowling round together. Fleur was with Val; she had chosen him, no doubt, because he knew that boy. He himself had Winifred for partner. They walked in the bright, circling stream, a little flushed and sated, for some minutes, till Winifred sighed:

“I wish we were back forty years, old boy!”

Before the eyes of her spirit an interminable procession of her own “Lord’s” frocks was passing, paid for with the money of her father, to save a recurrent crisis. “It’s been very amusing, after all. Sometimes I even wish Monty was back. What do you think of people nowadays, Soames?”

“Precious little style. The thing began to go to pieces with bicycles and motor-cars; the War has finished it.”

“I wonder what’s coming?” said Winifred in a voice dreamy from pigeon-pie. “I’m not at all sure we shan’t go back to crinolines and pegtops. Look at that dress!”

Soames shook his head.

“There’s money, but no faith in things. We don’t lay by for the future. These youngsters–it’s all a short life and a merry one with them.”

“There’s a hat!” said Winifred. “I don’t know–when you come to think of the people killed and all that in the War, it’s rather wonderful, I think. There’s no other country–Prosper says the rest are all bankrupt, except America; and of course her men always took their style in dress from us.”

“Is that chap,” said Soames, “really going to the South Seas?”

“Oh! one never knows where Prosper’s going!”

“He’s a sign of the times,” muttered Soames, “if you like.”

Winifred’s hand gripped his arm.

“Don’t turn your head,” she said in a low voice, “but look to your right in the front row of the Stand.”

Soames looked as best he could under that limitation. A man in a grey top hat, grey-bearded, with thin brown, folded cheeks, and a certain elegance of posture, sat there with a woman in a lawn- coloured frock, whose dark eyes were fixed on himself. Soames looked quickly at his feet. How funnily feet moved, one after the other like that! Winifred’s voice said in his ear:

“Jolyon looks very ill; but he always had style. She doesn’t change- -except her hair.”

“Why did you tell Fleur about that business?”

“I didn’t; she picked it up. I always knew she would.”

“Well, it’s a mess. She’s set her heart upon their boy.”

“The little wretch,” murmured Winifred. “She tried to take me in about that. What shall you do, Soames?”

“Be guided by events.”

They moved on, silent, in the almost solid crowd.

“Really,” said Winifred suddenly; “it almost seems like Fate. Only that’s so old-fashioned. Look! there are George and Eustace!”

George Forsyte’s lofty bulk had halted before them.

“Hallo, Soames!” he said. “Just met Profond and your wife. You’ll catch ’em if you put on pace. Did you ever go to see old Timothy?”

Soames nodded, and the streams forced them apart.

“I always liked old George,” said Winifred. “He’s so droll.”

“I never did,” said Soames. “Where’s your seat? I shall go to mine. Fleur may be back there.”

Having seen Winifred to her seat, he regained his own, conscious of small, white, distant figures running, the click of the bat, the cheers and counter-cheers. No Fleur, and no Annette! You could expect nothing of women nowadays! They had the vote. They were “emancipated,” and much good it was doing them! So Winifred would go back, would she, and put up with Dartie all over again? To have the past once more–to be sitting here as he had sat in ’83 and ’84, before he was certain that his marriage with Irene had gone all wrong, before her antagonism had become so glaring that with the best will in the world he could not overlook it. The sight of her with that fellow had brought all memory back. Even now he could not understand why she had been so impracticable. She could love other men; she had it in her! To himself, the one person she ought to have loved, she had chosen to refuse her heart. It seemed to him, fantastically, as he looked back, that all this modern relaxation of marriage–though its forms and laws were the same as when he married her–that all this modern looseness had come out of her revolt; it seemed to him, fantastically, that she had started it, till all decent ownership of anything had gone, or was on the point of going. All came from her! And now–a pretty state of things! Homes! How could you have them without mutual ownership? Not that he had ever had a real home! But had that been his fault? He had done his best. And his rewards were–those two sitting in that Stand, and this affair of Fleur’s!

And overcome by loneliness he thought: ‘Shan’t wait any longer! They must find their own way back to the hotel–if they mean to come!’ Hailing a cab outside the ground, he said:

“Drive me to the Bayswater Road.” His old aunts had never failed him. To them he had meant an ever-welcome visitor. Though they were gone, there, still, was Timothy!

Smither was standing in the open doorway.

“Mr. Soames! I was just taking the air. Cook will be so pleased.”

“How is Mr. Timothy?”

“Not himself at all these last few days, sir; he’s been talking a great deal. Only this morning he was saying: ‘My brother James, he’s getting old.’ His mind wanders, Mr. Soames, and then he will talk of them. He troubles about their investments. The other day he said: ‘There’s my brother Jolyon won’t look at Consols’–he seemed quite down about it. Come in, Mr. Soames, come in! It’s such a pleasant change!”

“Well,” said Soames, “just for a few minutes.”

“No,” murmured Smither in the hall, where the air had the singular freshness of the outside day, “we haven’t been very satisfied with him, not all this week. He’s always been one to leave a titbit to the end; but ever since Monday he’s been eating it first. If you notice a dog, Mr. Soames, at its dinner, it eats the meat first. We’ve always thought it such a good sign of Mr. Timothy at his age to leave it to the last, but now he seems to have lost all his self- control; and, of course, it makes him leave the rest. The doctor doesn’t make anything of it, but”–Smither shook her head–“he seems to think he’s got to eat it first, in case he shouldn’t get to it. That and his talking makes us anxious.”

“Has he said anything important?”

“I shouldn’t like to say that, Mr. Soames; but he’s turned against his Will. He gets quite pettish–and after having had it out every morning for years, it does seem funny. He said the other day: ‘They want my money.’ It gave me such a turn, because, as I said to him, nobody wants his money, I’m sure. And it does seem a pity he should be thinking about money at his time of life. I took my courage in my ‘ands. ‘You know, Mr. Timothy,’ I said, ‘my dear mistress’–that’s Miss Forsyte, Mr. Soames, Miss Ann that trained me–‘she never thought about money,’ I said, ‘it was all character with her.’ He looked at me, I can’t tell you how funny, and he said quite dry: ‘Nobody wants my character.’ Think of his saying a thing like that! But sometimes he’ll say something as sharp and sensible as anything.”

Soames, who had been staring at an old print by the hat-rack, thinking, ‘That’s got value!’ murmured: “I’ll go up and see him, Smither.”

“Cook’s with him,” answered Smither above her corsets; “she will be pleased to see you.”

He mounted slowly, with the thought: ‘Shan’t care to live to be that age.’

On the second floor, he paused, and tapped. The door was opened, and he saw the round homely face of a woman about sixty.

“Mr. Soames!” she said: “Why! Mr. Soames!”

Soames nodded. “All right, Cook!” and entered.

Timothy was propped up in bed, with his hands joined before his chest, and his eyes fixed on the ceiling, where a fly was standing upside down. Soames stood at the foot of the bed, facing him.

“Uncle Timothy,” he said, raising his voice. “Uncle Timothy!”

Timothy’s eyes left the fly, and levelled themselves on his visitor. Soames could see his pale tongue passing over his darkish lips.

“Uncle Timothy,” he said again, “is there anything I can do for you? Is there anything you’d like to say?”

“Ha!” said Timothy.

“I’ve come to look you up and see that everything’s all right.”

Timothy nodded. He seemed trying to get used to the apparition before him.

“Have you got everything you want?”

“No,” said Timothy.

“Can I get you anything?”

“No,” said Timothy.

“I’m Soames, you know; your nephew, Soames Forsyte. Your brother James’ son.”

Timothy nodded.

“I shall be delighted to do anything I can for you.”

Timothy beckoned. Soames went close to him:

“You–” said Timothy in a voice which seemed to have outlived tone, “you tell them all from me–you tell them all–” and his finger tapped on Soames’ arm, “to hold on–hold on–Consols are goin’ up,” and he nodded thrice.

“All right!” said Soames; “I will.”

“Yes,” said Timothy, and, fixing his eyes again on the ceiling, he added: “That fly!”

Strangely moved, Soames looked at the Cook’s pleasant fattish face, all little puckers from staring at fires.

“That’ll do him a world of good, sir,” she said.

A mutter came from Timothy, but he was clearly speaking to himself, and Soames went out with the cook.

“I wish I could make you a pink cream, Mr. Soames, like in old days; you did so relish them. Good-bye, sir; it has been a pleasure.”

“Take care of him, Cook, he is old.”

And, shaking her crumpled hand, he went down-stairs. Smither was still taking the air in the doorway.

“What do you think of him, Mr. Soames?”

“H’m!” Soames murmured: “He’s lost touch.”

“Yes,” said Smither, “I was afraid you’d think that coming fresh out of the world to see him like.”

“Smither,” said Soames, “we’re all indebted to you.”

“Oh, no, Mr. Soames, don’t say that! It’s a pleasure–he’s such a wonderful man.”

“Well, good-bye!” said Soames, and got into his taxi.

‘Going up!’ he thought; ‘going up!’

Reaching the hotel at Knightsbridge he went to their sitting-room, and rang for tea. Neither of them were in. And again that sense of loneliness came over him. These hotels. What monstrous great places they were now! He could remember when there was nothing bigger than Long’s or Brown’s, Morley’s or the Tavistock, and the heads that were shaken over the Langham and the Grand. Hotels and Clubs–Clubs and Hotels; no end to them now! And Soames, who had just been watching at Lord’s a miracle of tradition and continuity, fell into reverie over the changes in that London where he had been born five-and-sixty years before. Whether Consols were going up or not, London had become a terrific property. No such property in the world, unless it were New York! There was a lot of hysteria in the papers nowadays; but any one who, like himself, could remember London sixty years ago, and see it now, realised the fecundity and elasticity of wealth. They had only to keep their heads, and go at it steadily. Why! he remembered cobblestones, and stinking straw on the floor of your cab. And old Timothy–what could be not have told them, if he had kept his memory! Things were unsettled, people in a funk or in a hurry, but here were London and the Thames, and out there the British Empire, and the ends of the earth. “Consols are goin’ up!” He should n’t be a bit surprised. It was the breed that counted. And all that was bull-dogged in Soames stared for a moment out of his grey eyes, till diverted by the print of a Victorian picture on the walls. The hotel had bought three dozen of that little lot! The old hunting or “Rake’s Progress” prints in the old inns were worth looking at–but this sentimental stuff–well, Victorianism had gone! “Tell them to hold on!” old Timothy had said. But to what were they to hold on in this modern welter of the “democratic principle”? Why, even privacy was threatened! And at the thought that privacy might perish, Soames pushed back his teacup and went to the window. Fancy owning no more of Nature than the crowd out there owned of the flowers and trees and waters of Hyde Park! No, no! Private possession underlay everything worth having. The world had slipped its sanity a bit, as dogs now and again at full moon slipped theirs and went off for a night’s rabbiting; but the world, like the dog, knew where its bread was buttered and its bed warm, and would come back sure enough to the only home worth having–to private ownership. The world was in its second childhood for the moment, like old Timothy–eating its titbit first!

He heard a sound behind him, and saw that his wife and daughter had come in.

“So you’re back!” he said.

Fleur did not answer; she stood for a moment looking at him and her mother, then passed into her bedroom. Annette poured herself out a cup of tea.

“I am going to Paris, to my mother, Soames.” “Oh! To your mother?”

“Yes.”

“For how long?”

“I do not know.”

“And when are you going?”

“On Monday.”

Was she really going to her mother? Odd, how indifferent he felt! Odd, how clearly she had perceived the indifference he would feel so long as there was no scandal. And suddenly between her and himself he saw distinctly the face he had seen that afternoon–Irene’s.

“Will you want money?”

“Thank you; I have enough.”

“Very well. Let us know when you are coming back.”

Annette put down the cake she was fingering, and, looking up through darkened lashes, said:

“Shall I give Maman any message?”

“My regards.”

Annette stretched herself, her hands on her waist, and said in French:

“What luck that you have never loved me, Soames!” Then rising, she too left the room. Soames was glad she had spoken it in French–it seemed to require no dealing with. Again that other face–pale, dark-eyed, beautiful still! And there stirred far down within him the ghost of warmth, as from sparks lingering beneath a mound of flaky ash. And Fleur infatuated with her boy! Queer chance! Yet, was there such a thing as chance? A man went down a street, a brick fell on his head. Ah! that was chance, no doubt. But this! “Inherited,” his girl had said. She–she was “holding on”!

PART III

I

OLD JOLYON WALKS

Twofold impulse had made Jolyon say to his wife at breakfast “Let’s go up to Lord’s!”

“Wanted”–something to abate the anxiety in which those two had lived during the sixty hours since Jon had brought Fleur down. “Wanted”– too, that which might assuage the pangs of memory in one who knew he might lose them any day!

Fifty-eight years ago Jolyon had become an Eton boy, for old Jolyon’s whim had been that he should be canonised at the greatest possible expense. Year after year he had gone to Lord’s from Stanhope Gate with a father whose youth in the eighteen-twenties had been passed without polish in the game of cricket. Old Jolyon would speak quite openly of swipes, full tosses, half and three-quarter balls; and young Jolyon with the guileless snobbery of youth had trembled lest his sire should be overheard. Only in this supreme matter of cricket he had been nervous, for his father–in Crimean whiskers then–had ever impressed him as the beau ideal. Though never canonised himself, Old Jolyon’s natural fastidiousness and balance had saved him from the errors of the vulgar. How delicious, after howling in a top hat and a sweltering heat, to go home with his father in a hansom cab, bathe, dress, and forth to the “Disunion” Club, to dine off white bait, cutlets, and a tart, and go–two “swells,” old and young, in lavender kid gloves–to the opera or play. And on Sunday, when the match was over, and his top hat duly broken, down with his father in a special hansom to the “Crown and Sceptre,” and the terrace above the river–the golden sixties when the world was simple, dandies glamorous, Democracy not born, and the books of Whyte Melville coming thick and fast.

A generation later, with his own boy, Jolly, Harrow-buttonholed with corn-flowers–by old Jolyon’s whim his grandson had been canonised at a trifle less expense–again Jolyon had experienced the heat and counter-passions of the day, and come back to the cool and the strawberry beds of Robin Hill, and billiards after dinner, his boy making the most heart-breaking flukes and trying to seem languid and grown-up. Those two days each year he and his son had been alone together in the world, one on each side–and Democracy just born!

And so, he had unearthed a grey top hat, borrowed a tiny bit of light-blue ribbon from Irene, and gingerly, keeping cool, by car and train and taxi, had reached Lord’s Ground. There, beside her in a lawn-coloured frock with narrow black edges, he had watched the game, and felt the old thrill stir within him.

When Soames passed, the day was spoiled. Irene’s face was distorted by compression of the lips. No good to go on sitting here with Soames or perhaps his daughter recurring in front of them, like decimals. And he said:

“Well, dear, if you’ve had enough–let’s go!”

That evening Jolyon felt exhausted. Not wanting her to see him thus, he waited till she had begun to play, and stole off to the little study. He opened the long window for air, and the door, that he might still hear her music drifting in; and, settled in his father’s old armchair, closed his eyes, with his head against the worn brown leather. Like that passage of the Cesar Franck Sonata–so had been his life with her, a divine third movement. And now this business of Jon’s–this bad business! Drifted to the edge of consciousness, he hardly knew if it were in sleep that he smelled the scent of a cigar, and seemed to see his father in the blackness before his closed eyes. That shape formed, went, and formed again; as if in the very chair where he himself was sitting, he saw his father, black-coated, with. knees crossed, glasses balanced between thumb and finger; saw the big white moustaches, and the deep eyes looking up below a dome of forehead and seeming to search his own, seeming to speak. “Are you facing it, Jo? It’s for you to decide. She’s only a woman!” Ah! how well he knew his father in that phrase; how all the Victorian Age came up with it! And his answer “No, I’ve funked it–funked hurting her and Jon and myself. I’ve got a heart; I’ve funked it.” But the old eyes, so much older, so much younger than his own, kept at it; “It’s your wife, your son; your past. Tackle it, my boy!” Was it a message from walking spirit; or but the instinct of his sire living on within him? And again came that scent of cigar smoke-from the old saturated leather. Well! he would tackle it, write to Jon, and put the whole thing down in black and white! And suddenly he breathed with difficulty, with a sense of suffocation, as if his heart were swollen. He got up and went out into the air. The stars were very bright. He passed along the terrace round the corner of the house, till, through the window of the music-room, he could see Irene at the piano, with lamp-light falling on her powdery hair; withdrawn into herself she seemed, her dark eyes staring straight before her, her hands idle. Jolyon saw her raise those hands and clasp them over her breast. ‘It’s Jon, with her,’ he thought; ‘all Jon! I’m dying out of her–it’s natural!’

And, careful not to be seen, he stole back.

Next day, after a bad night, he sat down to his task. He wrote with difficulty and many erasures.

“MY DEAREST BOY,

“You are old enough to understand how very difficult it is for elders to give themselves away to their young. Especially when–like your mother and myself, though I shall never think of her as anything but young–their hearts are altogether set on him to whom they must confess. I cannot say we are conscious of having sinned exactly– people in real life very seldom are, I believe–but most persons would say we had, and at all events our conduct, righteous or not, has found us out. The truth is, my dear, we both have pasts, which it is now my task to make known to you, because they so grievously and deeply affect your future. Many, very many years ago, as far back indeed as 1883, when she was only twenty, your mother had the great and lasting misfortune to make an unhappy marriage–no, not with me, Jon. Without money of her own, and with only a stepmother– closely related to Jezebel–she was very unhappy in her home life. It was Fleur’s father that she married, my cousin Soames Forsyte. He had pursued her very tenaciously and to do him justice was deeply in love with her. Within a week she knew the fearful mistake she had made. It was not his fault; it was her error of judgment–her misfortune.”

So far Jolyon had kept some semblance of irony, but now his subject carried him away.

“Jon, I want to explain to you if I can–and it’s very hard–how it is that an unhappy marriage such as this can so easily come about. You will of course say: ‘If she didn’t really love him how could she ever have married him?’ You would be right if it were not for one or two rather terrible considerations. From this initial mistake of hers all the subsequent trouble, sorrow, and tragedy have come, and so I must make it clear to you if I can. You see, Jon, in those days and even to this day–indeed, I don’t see, for all the talk of enlightenment, how it can well be otherwise–most girls are married ignorant of the sexual side of life. Even if they know what it means they have not experienced it. That’s the crux. It is this actual lack of experience, whatever verbal knowledge they have, which makes all the difference and all the trouble. In a vast number of marriages-and your mother’s was one–girls are not and cannot be certain whether they love the man they marry or not; they do not know until after that act of union which makes the reality of marriage. Now, in many, perhaps in most doubtful cases, this act cements and strengthens the attachment, but in other cases, and your mother’s was one, it is a revelation of mistake, a destruction of such attraction as there was. There is nothing more tragic in a woman’s life than such a revelation, growing daily, nightly clearer. Coarse-grained and unthinking people are apt to laugh at such a mistake, and say, ‘What a fuss about nothing!’ Narrow and self- righteous people, only capable of judging the lives of others by their own, are apt to condemn those who make this tragic error, to condemn them for life to the dungeons they have made for themselves. You know the expression: ‘She has made her bed, she must lie on it!’ It is a hard-mouthed saying, quite unworthy of a gentleman or lady in the best sense of those words; and I can use no stronger condemnation. I have not been what is called a moral man, but I wish to use no words to you, my dear, which will make you think lightly of ties or contracts into which you enter. Heaven forbid! But with the experience of a life behind me I do say that those who condemn the victims of these tragic mistakes, condemn them and hold out no hands to help them, are inhuman, or rather they would be if they had the understanding to know what they are doing. But they haven’t! Let them go! They are as much anathema to me as I, no doubt, am to them. I have had to say all this, because I am going to put you into a position to judge your mother, and you are very young, without experience of what life is. To go on with the story. After three years of effort to subdue her shrinking–I was going to say her loathing and it’s not too strong a word, for shrinking soon becomes loathing under such circumstances–three years of what to a sensitive, beauty-loving nature like your mother’s, Jon, was torment, she met a young man who fell in love with her. He was the architect of this very house that we live in now, he was building it for her and Fleur’s father to live in, a new prison to hold her, in place of the one she inhabited with him in London. Perhaps that fact played some part in what came of it. But in any case she, too, fell in love with him. I know it’s not necessary to explain to you that one does not precisely choose with whom one will fall in love. It comes. Very well! It came. I can imagine–though she never said much to me about it–the struggle that then took place in her, because, Jon, she was brought up strictly and was not light in her ideas–not at all. However, this was an overwhelming feeling, and it came to pass that they loved in deed as well as in thought. Then came a fearful tragedy. I must tell you of it because if I don’t you will never understand the real situation that you have now to face. The man whom she had married–Soames Forsyte, the father of Fleur one night, at the height of her passion for this young man, forcibly reasserted his rights over her. The next day she met her lover and told him of it. Whether he committed suicide or whether he was accidentally run over in his distraction, we never knew; but so it was. Think of your mother as she was that evening when she heard of his death. I happened to see her. Your grandfather sent me to help her if I could. I only just saw her, before the door was shut against me by her husband. But I have never forgotten her face, I can see it now. I was not in love with her then, not for twelve years after, but I have never for gotten. My dear boy–it is not easy to write like this. But you see, I must. Your mother is wrapped up in you, utterly, devotedly. I don’t wish to write harshly of Soames Forsyte. I don’t think harshly of him. I have long been sorry for him; perhaps I was sorry even then. As the world judges she was in error, he within his rights. He loved her–in his way. She was his property. That is the view he holds of life–of human feelings and hearts–property. It’s not his fault–so was he born. To me it is a view that has always been abhorrent–so was I born! Knowing you as I do, I feel it cannot be otherwise than abhorrent to you. Let me go on with the story. Your mother fled from his house that night; for twelve years she lived quietly alone without companionship of any sort, until in 1899 her husband–you see, he was still her husband, for he did not attempt to divorce her, and she of course had no right to divorce him–became conscious, it seems, of the want of children, and commenced a long attempt to induce her to go back to him and give him a child. I was her trustee then, under your Grandfather’s Will, and I watched this going on. While watching, I became attached to her, devotedly attached. His pressure increased, till one day she came to me here and practically put herself under my protection. Her husband, who was kept informed of all her movements, attempted to force us apart by bringing a divorce suit, or possibly he really meant it, I don’t know; but anyway our names were publicly joined. That decided us, and we became united in fact. She was divorced, married me, and you were born. We have lived in perfect happiness, at least I have, and I believe your mother also. Soames, soon after the divorce, married Fleur’s mother, and she was born. That is the story, Jon. I have told it you, because by the affection which we see you have formed for this man’s daughter you are blindly moving toward what must utterly destroy your mother’s happiness, if not your own. I don’t wish to speak of myself, because at my age there’s no use supposing I shall cumber the ground much longer, besides, what I should suffer would be mainly on her account, and on yours. But what I want you to realise is that feelings of horror and aversion such as those can never be buried or forgotten. They are alive in her to-day. Only yesterday at Lord’s we happened to see Soames Forsyte. Her face, if you had seen it, would have convinced you. The idea that you should marry his daughter is a nightmare to her, Jon. I have nothing to say against Fleur save that she is his daughter. But your children, if you married her, would be the grandchildren of Soames, as much as of your mother, of a man who once owned your mother as a man might own a slave. Think what that would mean. By such a marriage you enter the camp which held your mother prisoner and wherein she ate her heart out. You are just on the threshold of life, you have only known this girl two months, and however deeply you think you love her, I appeal to you to break it off at once. Don’t give your mother this rankling pain and humiliation during the rest of her life. Young though she will always seem to me, she is fifty-seven. Except for us two she has no one in the world. She will soon have only you. Pluck up your spirit, Jon, and break away. Don’t put this cloud and barrier between you. Don’t break her heart! Bless you, my dear boy, and again forgive me for all the pain this letter must bring you–we tried to spare it you, but Spain–it seems- –was no good.

“Ever your devoted father

“JOLYON FORSYTE.”

Having finished his confession, Jolyon sat with a thin cheek on his hand, re-reading. There were things in it which hurt him so much, when he thought of Jon reading them, that he nearly tore the letter up. To speak of such things at all to a boy–his own boy–to speak of them in relation to his own wife and the boy’s own mother, seemed dreadful to the reticence of his Forsyte soul. And yet without speaking of them how make Jon understand the reality, the deep cleavage, the ineffaceable scar? Without them, how justify this stiffing of the boy’s love? He might just as well not write at all!

He folded the confession, and put it in his pocket. It was–thank Heaven!–Saturday; he had till Sunday evening to think it over; for even if posted now it could not reach Jon till Monday. He felt a curious relief at this delay, and at the fact that, whether sent or not, it was written.

In the rose garden, which had taken the place of the old fernery, he could see Irene snipping and pruning, with a little basket on her arm. She was never idle, it seemed to him, and he envied her now that he himself was idle nearly all his time. He went down to her. She held up a stained glove and smiled. A piece of lace tied under her chin concealed her hair, and her oval face with its still dark brows looked very young.

“The green-fly are awful this year, and yet it’s cold. You look tired, Jolyon.”

Jolyon took the confession from his pocket. “I’ve been writing this. I think you ought to see it?”

“To Jon?” Her whole face had changed, in that instant, becoming almost haggard.

“Yes; the murder’s out.”

He gave it to her, and walked away among the roses. Presently, seeing that she had finished reading and was standing quite still with the sheets of the letter against her skirt, he came back to her.

“Well?”

“It’s wonderfully put. I don’t see how it could be put better. Thank you, dear.”

“Is there anything you would like left out?”

She shook her head.

“No; he must know all, if he’s to understand.”

“That’s what I thought, but–I hate it!”

He had the feeling that he hated it more than she–to him sex was so much easier to mention between man and woman than between man and man; and she had always been more natural and frank, not deeply secretive like his Forsyte self.

“I wonder if he will understand, even now, Jolyon? He’s so young; and he shrinks from the physical.”

“He gets that shrinking from my father, he was as fastidious as a girl in all such matters. Would it be better to rewrite the whole thing, and just say you hated Soames?”

Irene shook her head.

“Hate’s only a word. It conveys nothing. No, better as it is.”

“Very well. It shall go to-morrow.”

She raised her face to his, and in sight of the big house’s many creepered windows, he kissed her.

II

CONFESSION

Late that same afternoon, Jolyon had a nap in the old armchair. Face down on his knee was La Rotisserie de la Refine Pedauque, and just before he fell asleep he had been thinking: ‘As a people shall we ever really like the French? Will they ever really like us!’ He himself had always liked the French, feeling at home with their wit, their taste, their cooking. Irene and he had paid many visits to France before the War, when Jon had been at his private school. His romance with her had begun in Paris–his last and most enduring romance. But the French–no Englishman could like them who could not see them in some sort with the detached aesthetic eye! And with that melancholy conclusion he had nodded off.

When he woke he saw Jon standing between him and the window. The boy had evidently come in from the garden and was waiting for him to wake. Jolyon smiled, still half asleep. How nice the chap looked– sensitive, affectionate, straight! Then his heart gave a nasty jump; and a quaking sensation overcame him. Jon! That confession! He controlled himself with an effort. “Why, Jon, where did you spring from?”

Jon bent over and kissed his forehead.

Only then he noticed the look on the boy’s face.

“I came home to tell you something, Dad.”

With all his might Jolyon tried to get the better of the jumping, gurgling sensations within his chest.

“Well, sit down, old man. Have you seen your mother?”

“No.” The boy’s flushed look gave place to pallor; he sat down on the arm of the old chair, as, in old days, Jolyon himself used to sit beside his own father, installed in its recesses. Right up to the time of the rupture in their relations he had been wont to perch there–had he now reached such a moment with his own son? All his life he had hated scenes like poison, avoided rows, gone on his own way quietly and let others go on theirs. But now–it seemed–at the very end of things, he had a scene before him more painful than any he had avoided. He drew a visor down over his emotion, and waited for his son to speak.

“Father,” said Jon slowly, “Fleur and I are engaged.”

‘Exactly!’ thought Jolyon, breathing with difficulty.

“I know that you and Mother don’t like the idea. Fleur says that Mother was engaged to her father before you married her. Of course I don’t know what happened, but it must be ages ago. I’m devoted to her, Dad, and she says she is to me.”

Jolyon uttered a queer sound, half laugh, half groan.

“You are nineteen, Jon, and I am seventy-two. How are we to understand each other in a matter like this, eh?”

“You love Mother, Dad; you must know what we feel. It isn’t fair to us to let old things spoil our happiness, is it?”

Brought face to face with his confession, Jolyon resolved to do without it if by any means he could. He laid his hand on the boy’s arm.

“Look, Jon! I might put you off with talk about your both being too young and not knowing your own minds, and all that, but you wouldn’t listen, besides, it doesn’t meet the case–Youth, unfortunately, cures itself. You talk lightly about ‘old things like that,’ knowing nothing–as you say truly–of what happened. Now, have I ever given you reason to doubt my love for you, or my word?”

At a less anxious moment he might have been amused by the conflict his words aroused–the boy’s eager clasp, to reassure him on these points, the dread on his face of what that reassurance would bring forth; but he could only feel grateful for the squeeze.

“Very well, you can believe what I tell you. If you don’t give up this love affair, you will make Mother wretched to the end of her days. Believe me, my dear, the past, whatever it was, can’t be buried–it can’t indeed.”

Jon got off the arm of the chair.

‘The girl’–thought Jolyon–‘there she goes–starting up before him– life itself–eager, pretty, loving!’

“I can’t, Father; how can I–just because you say that? Of course, I can’t!”

“Jon, if you knew the story you would give this up without hesitation; you would have to! Can’t you believe me?”

“How can you tell what I should think? Father, I love her better than anything in the world.”

Jolyon’s face twitched, and he said with painful slowness:

“Better than your mother, Jon?”

From the boy’s face, and his clenched fists Jolyon realised the stress and struggle he was going through.

“I don’t know,” he burst out, “I don’t know! But to give Fleur up for nothing–for something I don’t understand, for something that I don’t believe can really matter half so much, will make me–make me”

“Make you feel us unjust, put a barrier–yes. But that’s better than going on with this.”

“I can’t. Fleur loves me, and I love her. You want me to trust you; why don’t you trust me, Father? We wouldn’t want to know anything– we wouldn’t let it make any difference. It’ll only make us both love you and Mother all the more.”

Jolyon put his hand into his breast pocket, but brought it out again empty, and sat, clucking his tongue against his teeth.

“Think what your mother’s been to you, Jon! She has nothing but you; I shan’t last much longer.”

“Why not? It isn’t fair to–Why not?”

“Well,” said Jolyon, rather coldly, “because the doctors tell me I shan’t; that’s all.”

“Oh, Dad!” cried Jon, and burst into tears.

This downbreak of his son, whom he had not seen cry since he was ten, moved Jolyon terribly. He recognised to the full how fearfully soft the boy’s heart was, how much he would suffer in this business, and in life generally. And he reached out his hand helplessly–not wishing, indeed not daring to get up.

“Dear man,” he said, “don’t–or you’ll make me!”

Jon smothered down his paroxysm, and stood with face averted, very still.

‘What now?’ thought Jolyon. ‘What can I say to move him?’

“By the way, don’t speak of that to Mother,” he said; “she has enough to frighten her with this affair of yours. I know how you feel. But, Jon, you know her and me well enough to be sure we wouldn’t wish to spoil your happiness lightly. Why, my dear boy, we don’t care for anything but your happiness–at least, with me it’s just yours and Mother’s and with her just yours. It’s all the future for you both that’s at stake.”

Jon turned. His face was deadly pale; his eyes, deep in his head, seemed to burn.

“What is it? What is it? Don’t keep me like this!”

Jolyon, who knew that he was beaten, thrust his hand again into his breast pocket, and sat for a full minute, breathing with difficulty, his eyes closed. The thought passed through his mind: ‘I’ve had a good long innings–some pretty bitter moments–this is the worst!’ Then he brought his hand out with the letter, and said with a sort of fatigue: “Well, Jon, if you hadn’t come to-day, I was going to send you this. I wanted to spare you–I wanted to spare your mother and myself, but I see it’s no good. Read it, and I think I’ll go into the garden.” He reached forward to get up.

Jon, who had taken the letter, said quickly, “No, I’ll go”; and was gone.

Jolyon sank back in his chair. A blue-bottle chose that moment to come buzzing round him with a sort of fury; the sound was homely, better than nothing…. Where had the boy gone to read his letter? The wretched letter–the wretched story! A cruel business–cruel to her–to Soames–to those two children–to himself!… His heart thumped and pained him. Life–its loves–its work–its beauty–its aching, and–its end! A good time; a fine time in spite of all; until–you regretted that you had ever been born. Life–it wore you down, yet did not make you want to die–that was the cunning evil! Mistake to have a heart! Again the blue-bottle came buzzing– bringing in all the heat and hum and scent of summer–yes, even the scent–as of ripe fruits, dried grasses, sappy shrubs, and the vanilla breath of cows. And out there somewhere in the fragrance Jon would be reading that letter, turning and twisting its pages in his trouble, his bewilderment and trouble–breaking his heart about it! The thought made Jolyon acutely miserable. Jon was such a tender- hearted chap, affectionate to his bones, and conscientious, too–it was so unfair, so damned unfair! He remembered Irene saying to him once: “Never was any one born more loving and lovable than Jon.” Poor little Jon! His world gone up the spout, all of a summer afternoon! Youth took things so hard! And stirred, tormented by that vision of Youth taking things hard, Jolyon got out of his chair, and went to the window. The boy was nowhere visible. And he passed out. If one could take any help to him now–one must!

He traversed the shrubbery, glanced into the walled garden–no Jon! Nor where the peaches and the apricots were beginning to swell and colour. He passed the Cupressus trees, dark and spiral, into the meadow. Where had the boy got to? Had he rushed down to the coppice–his old hunting-ground? Jolyon crossed the rows of hay. They would cock it on Monday and be carrying the day after, if rain held off. Often they had crossed this field together–hand in hand, when Jon was a little chap. Dash it! The golden age was over by the time one was ten! He came to the pond, where flies and gnats were dancing over a bright reedy surface; and on into the coppice. It was cool there, fragrant of larches. Still no Jon! He called. No answer! On the log seat he sat down, nervous, anxious, forgetting his own physical sensations. He had been wrong to let the boy get away with that letter; he ought to have kept him under his eye from the start! Greatly troubled, he got up to retrace his steps. At the farm-buildings he called again, and looked into the dark cow-house. There in the cool, and the scent of vanilla and ammonia, away from flies, the three Alderneys were chewing the quiet cud; just milked, waiting for evening, to be turned out again into the lower field. One turned a lazy head, a lustrous eye; Jolyon could see the slobber on its grey lower lip. He saw everything with passionate clearness, in the agitation of his nerves–all that in his time he had adored and tried to paint–wonder of light and shade and colour. No wonder the legend put Christ into a manger–what more devotional than the eyes and moon-white horns of a chewing cow in the warm dusk! He called again. No answer! And he hurried away out of the coppice, past the pond, up the hill. Oddly ironical–now he came to think of it–if Jon had taken the gruel of his discovery down in the coppice where his mother and Bosinney in those old days had made the plunge of acknowledging their love. Where he himself, on the log seat the Sunday morning he came back from Paris, had realised to the full that Irene had become the world to him. That would have been the place for Irony to tear the veil from before the eyes of Irene’s boy! But he was not here! Where had he got to? One must find the poor chap!

A gleam of sun had come, sharpening to his hurrying senses all the beauty of the afternoon, of the tall trees and lengthening shadows, of the blue, and the white clouds, the scent of the hay, and the cooing of the pigeons; and the flower shapes standing tall. He came to the rosery, and the beauty of the roses in that sudden sunlight seemed to him unearthly. “Rose, you Spaniard!” Wonderful three words! There she had stood by that bush of dark red roses; had stood to read and decide that Jon must know it all! He knew all now! Had she chosen wrong? He bent and sniffed a rose, its petals brushed his nose and trembling lips; nothing so soft as a rose-leaf’s velvet, except her neck–Irene! On across the lawn he went, up the slope, to the oak-tree. Its top alone was glistening, for the sudden sun was away over the house; the lower shade was thick, blessedly cool–he was greatly overheated. He paused a minute with his hand on the rope of the swing–Jolly, Holly–Jon! The old swing! And suddenly, he felt horribly–deadly ill. ‘I’ve over done it!’ he thought: ‘by Jove! I’ve overdone it–after all!’ He staggered up toward the terrace, dragged himself up the steps, and fell against the wall of the house. He leaned there gasping, his face buried in the honey- suckle that he and she had taken such trouble with that it might sweeten the air which drifted in. Its fragrance mingled with awful pain. ‘My love!’ he thought; ‘the boy!’ And with a great effort he tottered in through the long window, and sank into old Jolyon’s chair. The book was there, a pencil in it; he caught it up, scribbled a word on the open page…. His hand dropped…. So it was like this–was it?…

There was a great wrench; and darkness….

III

IRENE

When Jon rushed away with the letter in his hand, he ran along the terrace and round the corner of the house, in fear and confusion. Leaning against the creepered wall he tore open the letter. It was long–very long! This added to his fear, and he began reading. When he came to the words: “It was Fleur’s father that she married,” everything seemed to spin before him. He was close to a window, and entering by it, he passed, through music-room and hall, up to his bedroom. Dipping his face in cold water, he sat on his bed, and went on reading, dropping each finished page on the bed beside him. His father’s writing was easy to read–he knew it so well, though he had never had a letter from him one quarter so long. He read with a dull feeling–imagination only half at work. He best grasped, on that first reading, the pain his father must have had in writing such a letter. He let the last sheet fall, and in a sort of mental, moral helplessness began to read the first again. It all seemed to him disgusting–dead and disgusting. Then, suddenly, a hot wave of horrified emotion tingled through him. He buried his face in his hands. His mother! Fleur’s father! He took up the letter again, and read on mechanically. And again came the feeling that it was all dead and disgusting; his own love so different! This letter said his mother–and her father! An awful letter!

Property! Could there be men who looked on women as their property? Faces seen in street and countryside came thronging up before him– red, stock-fish faces; hard, dull faces; prim, dry faces; violent faces; hundreds, thousands of them! How could he know what men who had such faces thought and did? He held his head in his hands and groaned. His mother! He caught up the letter and read on again: “horror and aversion-alive in her to-day…. your children…. grandchildren…. of a man who once owned your mother as a man might own a slave….” He got up from his bed. This cruel shadowy past, lurking there to murder his love and Fleur’s, was true, or his father could never have written it. ‘Why didn’t they tell me the first thing,’ he thought, ‘the day I first saw Fleur? They knew “I’d seen her. They were afraid, and–now–I’ve–got it!’ Overcome by misery too acute for thought or reason, he crept into a dusky corner of the room and sat down on the floor. He sat there, like some unhappy little animal. There was comfort in dusk, and the floor–as if he were back in those days when he played his battles sprawling all over it. He sat there huddled, his hair ruffled, his hands clasped round his knees, for how long he did not know. He was wrenched from his blank wretchedness by the sound of the door opening from his mother’s room. The blinds were down over the windows of his room, shut up in his absence, and from where he sat he could only hear a rustle, her footsteps crossing, till beyond the bed he saw her standing before his dressing-table. She had something in her hand. He hardly breathed, hoping she would not see him, and go away. He saw her touch things on the table as if they had some virtue in them, then face the window-grey from head to foot like a ghost. The least turn of her head, and she must see him! Her lips moved: “Oh! Jon!” She was speaking to herself; the tone of her voice troubled Jon’s heart. He saw in her hand a little photograph. She held it toward the light, looking at it–very small. He knew it–one of himself as a tiny boy, which she always kept in her bag. His heart beat fast. And, suddenly as if she had heard it, she turned her eyes and saw him. At the gasp she gave, and the movement of her hands pressing the photograph against her breast, he said:

“Yes, it’s me.”

She moved over to the bed, and sat down on it, quite close to him, her hands still clasping her breast, her feet among the sheets of the letter which had slipped to the floor. She saw them, and her hands grasped the edge of the bed. She sat very upright, her dark eyes fixed on him. At last she spoke.

“Well, Jon, you know, I see.”

“Yes.”

“You’ve seen Father?”

“Yes.”

There was a long silence, till she said:

“Oh! my darling!”

“It’s all right.” The emotions in him were so, violent and so mixed that he dared not move–resentment, despair, and yet a strange yearning for the comfort of her hand on his forehead.

“What are you going to do?”

“I don’t know.”

There was another long silence, then she got up. She stood a moment, very still, made a little movement with her hand, and said: “My darling boy, my most darling boy, don’t think of me–think of yourself,” and, passing round the foot of the bed, went back into her room.

Jon turned–curled into a sort of ball, as might a hedgehog–into the corner made by the two walls.

He must have been twenty minutes there before a cry roused him. It came from the terrace below. He got up, scared. Again came the cry: “Jon!” His mother was calling! He ran out and down the stairs, through the empty dining-room into the study. She was kneeling before the old armchair, and his father was lying back quite white, his head on his breast, one of his hands resting on an open book, with a pencil clutched in it–more strangely still than anything he had ever seen. She looked round wildly, and said:

“Oh! Jon–he’s dead–he’s dead!”

Jon flung himself down, and reaching over the arm of the chair, where he had lately been sitting, put his lips to the forehead. Icy cold! How could–how could Dad be dead, when only an hour ago–! His mother’s arms were round the knees; pressing her breast against them. “Why–why wasn’t I with him?” he heard her whisper. Then he saw the tottering word “Irene” pencilled on the open page, and broke down himself. It was his first sight of human death, and its unutterable stillness blotted from him all other emotion; all else, then, was but preliminary to this! All love and life, and joy, anxiety, and sorrow, all movement, light and beauty, but a beginning to this terrible white stillness. It made a dreadful mark on him; all seemed suddenly little, futile, short. He mastered himself at last, got up, and raised her.

“Mother! don’t cry–Mother!”

Some hours later, when all was done that had to be, and his mother was lying down, he saw his father alone, on the bed, covered with a white sheet. He stood for a long time gazing at that face which had never looked angry–always whimsical, and kind. “To be kind and keep your end up–there’s nothing else in it,” he had once heard his father say. How wonderfully Dad had acted up to that philosophy! He understood now that his father had known for a long time past that this would come suddenly–known, and not said a word. He gazed with an awed and passionate reverence. The loneliness of it–just to spare his mother and himself! His own trouble seemed small while he was looking at that face. The word scribbled on the page! The farewell word! Now his mother had no one but himself! He went up close to the dead face–not changed at all, and yet completely changed. He had heard his father say once that he did not believe in consciousness surviving death, or that if it did it might be just survival till the natural age limit of the body had been reached–the natural term of its inherent vitality; so that if the body were broken by accident, excess, violent disease, consciousness might still persist till, in the course of Nature uninterfered with, it would naturally have faded out. It had struck him because he had never heard any one else suggest it. When the heart failed like this–surely it was not quite natural! Perhaps his father’s consciousness was in the room with him. Above the bed hung a picture of his father’s father. Perhaps his consciousness, too, was still alive; and his brother’s–his half-brother, who had died in the Transvaal. Were they all gathered round this bed? Jon kissed the forehead, and stole back to his own room. The door between it and his mother’s was ajar; she had evidently been in–everything was ready for him, even some biscuits and hot milk, and the letter no longer on the floor. He ate and drank, watching the last light fade. He did not try to see into the future–just stared at the dark branches of the oak-tree, level with his window, and felt as if life had stopped. Once in the night, turning in his heavy sleep, he was conscious of something white and still, beside his bed, and started up.

His mother’s voice said:

“It’s only I, Jon dear!” Her hand pressed his forehead gently back; her white figure disappeared.

Alone! He fell heavily asleep again, and dreamed he saw his mother’s name crawling on his bed.

IV

SOAMES COGITATES

The announcement in The Times of his cousin Jolyon’s death affected Soames quite simply. So that chap was gone! There had never been a time in their two lives when love had not been lost between them. That quick-blooded sentiment hatred had run its course long since in Soames’ heart, and he had refused to allow any recrudescence, but he considered this early decease a piece of poetic justice. For twenty years the fellow had enjoyed the reversion of his wife and house, and–he was dead! The obituary notice, which appeared a little later, paid Jolyon–he thought–too much attention. It spoke of that “diligent and agreeable painter whose work we have come to look on as typical of the best late-Victorian water-colour art.” Soames, who had almost mechanically preferred Mole, Morpin, and Caswell Baye, and had always sniffed quite audibly when he came to one of his cousin’s on the line, turned The Times with a crackle.

He had to go up to Town that morning on Forsyte affairs, and was fully conscious of Gradman’s glance sidelong over his spectacles. The old clerk had about him an aura of regretful congratulation. He smelled, as it were, of old days. One could almost hear him thinking: “Mr. Jolyon, ye-es–just my age, and gone–dear, dear! I dare say she feels it. She was a mice-lookin’ woman. Flesh is flesh! They’ve given ‘im a notice in the papers. Fancy!” His atmosphere in fact caused Soames to handle certain leases and conversions with exceptional swiftness.

“About that settlement on Miss Fleur, Mr. Soames?”

“I’ve thought better of that,” answered Soames shortly.

“Ah! I’m glad of that. I thought you were a little hasty. The times do change.”

How this death would affect Fleur had begun to trouble Soames. He was not certain that she knew of it–she seldom looked at the paper, never at the births, marriages, and deaths.

He pressed matters on, and made his way to Green Street for lunch. Winifred was almost doleful. Jack Cardigan had broken a splashboard, so far as one could make out, and would not be “fit” for some time. She could not get used to the idea.

“Did Profond ever get off?” he said suddenly.

“He got off,” replied Winifred, “but where–I don’t know.”

Yes, there it was–impossible to tell anything! Not that he wanted to know. Letters from Annette were coming from Dieppe, where she and her mother were staying.

“You saw that fellow’s death, I suppose?”

“Yes,” said Winifred. “I’m sorry for–for his children. He was very amiable.” Soames uttered a rather queer sound. A suspicion of the old deep truth–that men were judged in this world rather by what they were than by what they did–crept and knocked resentfully at the back doors of his mind.

“I know there was a superstition to that effect,” he muttered.

“One must do him justice now he’s dead.”

“I should like to have done him justice before,” said Soames; “but I never had the chance. Have you got a ‘Baronetage’ here?”

“Yes; in that bottom row.”

Soames took out a fat red book, and ran over the leaves.

“Mont-Sir Lawrence, 9th Bt., cr. 1620, e. s. of Geoffrey, 8th Bt., and Lavinia, daur. of Sir Charles Muskham, Bt., of Muskham Hall, Shrops: marr. 1890 Emily, daur. of Conway Charwell, Esq., of Condaford Grange, co. Oxon; 1 son, heir Michael Conway, b. 1895, 2 daurs. Residence: Lippinghall Manor, Folwell, Bucks. Clubs: Snooks’: Coffee House: Aeroplane. See BidIicott.”

“H’m!” he said. “Did you ever know a publisher?”

“Uncle Timothy.”

“Alive, I mean.”

“Monty knew one at his Club. He brought him here to dinner once. Monty was always thinking of writing a book, you know, about how to