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  • 1906
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Force, like a lot of little dried peas hopping about on a board when you struck your fist on it. Ah, well! Himself would not hop much longer–a good long sleep would do him good!

How hot it was up here!–how noisy! His forehead burned; she had kissed it just where he always worried; just there–as if she had known the very place and wanted to kiss it all away for him. But, instead, her lips left a patch of grievous uneasiness. She had never spoken in quite that voice, had never before made that lingering gesture or looked back at him as she drove away.

He got out of bed and pulled the curtains aside; his room faced down over the river. There was little air, but the sight of that breadth of water flowing by, calm, eternal, soothed him. ‘The great thing,’ he thought ‘is not to make myself a nuisance. I’ll think of my little sweet, and go to sleep.’ But it was long before the heat and throbbing of the London night died out into the short slumber of the summer morning. And old Jolyon had but forty winks.

When he reached home next day he went out to the flower garden, and with the help of Holly, who was very delicate with flowers, gathered a great bunch of carnations. They were, he told her, for ‘the lady in grey’–a name still bandied between them; and he put them in a bowl in his study where he meant to tackle Irene the moment she came, on the subject of June and future lessons. Their fragrance and colour would help. After lunch he lay down, for he felt very tired, and the carriage would not bring her from the station till four o’clock. But as the hour approached he grew restless, and sought the schoolroom, which overlooked the drive. The sun-blinds were down, and Holly was there with Mademoiselle Beauce, sheltered from the heat of a stifling July day, attending to their silkworms. Old Jolyon had a natural antipathy to these methodical creatures, whose heads and colour reminded him of elephants; who nibbled such quantities of holes in nice green leaves; and smelled, as he thought, horrid. He sat down on a chintz-covered windowseat whence he could see the drive, and get what air there was; and the dog Balthasar who appreciated chintz on hot days, jumped up beside him. Over the cottage piano a violet dust-sheet, faded almost to grey, was spread, and on it the first lavender, whose scent filled the room. In spite of the coolness here, perhaps because of that coolness the beat of life vehemently impressed his ebbed-down senses. Each sunbeam which came through the chinks had annoying brilliance; that dog smelled very strong; the lavender perfume was overpowering; those silkworms heaving up their grey-green backs seemed horribly alive; and Holly’s dark head bent over them had a wonderfully silky sheen. A marvellous cruelly strong thing was life when you were old and weak; it seemed to mock you with its multitude of forms and its beating vitality. He had never, till those last few weeks, had this curious feeling of being with one half of him eagerly borne along in the stream of life, and with the other half left on the bank, watching that helpless progress. Only when Irene was with him did he lose this double consciousness.

Holly turned her head, pointed with her little brown fist to the piano–for to point with a finger was not ‘well-brrred’–and said slyly:

“Look at the ‘lady in grey,’ Gran; isn’t she pretty to-day?”

Old Jolyon’s heart gave a flutter, and for a second the room was clouded; then it cleared, and he said with a twinkle:

“Who’s been dressing her up?”

“Mam’zelle.”

“Hollee! Don’t be foolish!”

That prim little Frenchwoman! She hadn’t yet got over the music lessons being taken away from her. That wouldn’t help. His little sweet was the only friend they had. Well, they were her lessons. And he shouldn’t budge shouldn’t budge for anything. He stroked the warm wool on Balthasar’s head, and heard Holly say: “When mother’s home, there won’t be any changes, will there? She doesn’t like strangers, you know.”

The child’s words seemed to bring the chilly atmosphere of opposition about old Jolyon, and disclose all the menace to his new-found freedom. Ah! He would have to resign himself to being an old man at the mercy of care and love, or fight to keep this new and prized companionship; and to fight tired him to death. But his thin, worn face hardened into resolution till it appeared all Jaw. This was his house, and his affair; he should not budge! He looked at his watch, old and thin like himself; he had owned it fifty years. Past four already! And kissing the top of Holly’s head in passing, he went down to the hall. He wanted to get hold of her before she went up to give her lesson. At the first sound of wheels he stepped out into the porch, and saw at once that the victoria was empty.

“The train’s in, sir; but the lady ‘asn’t come.”

Old Jolyon gave him a sharp upward look, his eyes seemed to push away that fat chap’s curiosity, and defy him to see the bitter disappointment he was feeling.

“Very well,” he said, and turned back into the house. He went to his study and sat down, quivering like a leaf. What did this mean? She might have lost her train, but he knew well enough she hadn’t. ‘Good-bye, dear Uncle Jolyon.’ Why ‘Good-bye’ and not ‘Good- night’? And that hand of hers lingering in the air. And her kiss. What did it mean? Vehement alarm and irritation took possession of him. He got up and began to pace the Turkey carpet, between window and wall. She was going to give him up! He felt it for certain– and he defenceless. An old man wanting to look on beauty! It was ridiculous! Age closed his mouth, paralysed his power to fight. He had no right to what was warm and living, no right to anything but memories and sorrow. He could not plead with her; even an old man has his dignity. Defenceless! For an hour, lost to bodily fatigue, he paced up and down, past the bowl of carnations he had plucked, which mocked him with its scent. Of all things hard to bear, the prostration of will-power is hardest, for one who has always had his way. Nature had got him in its net, and like an unhappy fish he turned and swam at the meshes, here and there, found no hole, no breaking point. They brought him tea at five o’clock, and a letter. For a moment hope beat up in him. He cut the envelope with the butter knife, and read:

“DEAREST UNCLE JOLYON,–I can’t bear to write anything that may disappoint you, but I was too cowardly to tell you last night. I feel I can’t come down and give Holly any more lessons, now that June is coming back. Some things go too deep to be forgotten. It has been such a joy to see you and Holly. Perhaps I shall still see you sometimes when you come up, though I’m sure it’s not good for you; I can see you are tiring yourself too much. I believe you ought to rest quite quietly all this hot weather, and now you have your son and June coming back you will be so happy. Thank you a million times for all your sweetness to me.

“Lovingly your IRENE.”

So, there it was! Not good for him to have pleasure and what he chiefly cared about; to try and put off feeling the inevitable end of all things, the approach of death with its stealthy, rustling footsteps. Not good for him! Not even she could see how she was his new lease of interest in life, the incarnation of all the beauty he felt slipping from him.

His tea grew cold, his cigar remained unlit; and up and down he paced, torn between his dignity and his hold on life. Intolerable to be squeezed out slowly, without a say of your own, to live on when your will was in the hands of others bent on weighing you to the ground with care and love. Intolerable! He would see what telling her the truth would do–the truth that he wanted the sight of her more than just a lingering on. He sat down at his old bureau and took a pen. But he could not write. There was some- thing revolting in having to plead like this; plead that she should warm his eyes with her beauty. It was tantamount to confessing dotage. He simply could not. And instead, he wrote:

“I had hoped that the memory of old sores would not be allowed to stand in the way of what is a pleasure and a profit to me and my little grand-daughter. But old men learn to forego their whims; they are obliged to, even the whim to live must be foregone sooner or later; and perhaps the sooner the better. “My love to you,
“JOLYON FORSYTE.”

‘Bitter,’ he thought, ‘but I can’t help it. I’m tired.’ He sealed and dropped it into the box for the evening post, and hearing it fall to the bottom, thought: ‘There goes all I’ve looked forward to!’

That evening after dinner which he scarcely touched, after his cigar which he left half-smoked for it made him feel faint, he went very slowly upstairs and stole into the night-nursery. He sat down on the window-seat. A night-light was burning, and he could just see Holly’s face, with one hand underneath the cheek. An early cockchafer buzzed in the Japanese paper with which they had filled the grate, and one of the horses in the stable stamped restlessly. To sleep like that child! He pressed apart two rungs of the venetian blind and looked out. The moon was rising, blood-red. He had never seen so red a moon. The woods and fields out there were dropping to sleep too, in the last glimmer of the summer light. And beauty, like a spirit, walked. ‘I’ve had a long life,’ he thought, ‘the best of nearly everything. I’m an ungrateful chap; I’ve seen a lot of beauty in my time. Poor young Bosinney said I had a sense of beauty. There’s a man in the moon to-night!’ A moth went by, another, another. ‘Ladies in grey!’ He closed his eyes. A feeling that he would never open them again beset him; he let it grow, let himself sink; then, with a shiver, dragged the lids up. There was something wrong with him, no doubt, deeply wrong; he would have to have the doctor after all. It didn’t much matter now! Into that coppice the moon-light would have crept; there would be shadows, and those shadows would be the only things awake. No birds, beasts, flowers, insects; Just the shadows– moving; ‘Ladies in grey!’ Over that log they would climb; would whisper together. She and Bosinney! Funny thought! And the frogs and little things would whisper too! How the clock ticked, in here! It was all eerie–out there in the light of that red moon; in here with the little steady night-light and, the ticking clock and the nurse’s dressing-gown hanging from the edge of the screen, tall, like a woman’s figure. ‘Lady in grey!’ And a very odd thought beset him: Did she exist? Had she ever come at all? Or was she but the emanation of all the beauty he had loved and must leave so soon? The violet-grey spirit with the dark eyes and the crown of amber hair, who walks the dawn and the moonlight, and at blue-bell time? What was she, who was she, did she exist? He rose and stood a moment clutching the window-sill, to give him a sense of reality again; then began tiptoeing towards the door. He stopped at the foot of the bed; and Holly, as if conscious of his eyes fixed on her, stirred, sighed, and curled up closer in defence. He tiptoed on and passed out into the dark passage; reached his room, undressed at once, and stood before a mirror in his night-shirt. What a scarecrow–with temples fallen in, and thin legs! His eyes resisted his own image, and a look of pride came on his face. All was in league to pull him down, even his reflection in the glass, but he was not down–yet! He got into bed, and lay a long time without sleeping, trying to reach resignation, only too well aware that fretting and disappointment were very bad for him.

He woke in the morning so unrefreshed and strengthless that he sent for the doctor. After sounding him, the fellow pulled a face as long as your arm, and ordered him to stay in bed and give up smoking. That was no hardship; there was nothing to get up for, and when he felt ill, tobacco always lost its savour. He spent the morning languidly with the sun-blinds down, turning and re-turning The Times, not reading much, the dog Balthasar lying beside his bed. With his lunch they brought him a telegram, running thus:

‘Your letter received coming down this afternoon will be with you at four-thirty. Irene.’

Coming down! After all! Then she did exist–and he was not deserted. Coming down! A glow ran through his limbs; his cheeks and forehead felt hot. He drank his soup, and pushed the tray- table away, lying very quiet until they had removed lunch and left him alone; but every now and then his eyes twinkled. Coming down! His heart beat fast, and then did not seem to beat at all. At three o’clock he got up and dressed deliberately, noiselessly. Holly and Mam’zelle would be in the schoolroom, and the servants asleep after their dinner, he shouldn’t wonder. He opened his door cautiously, and went downstairs. In the hall the dog Balthasar lay solitary, and, followed by him, old Jolyon passed into his study and out into the burning afternoon. He meant to go down and meet her in the coppice, but felt at once he could not manage that in this heat. He sat down instead under the oak tree by the swing, and the dog Balthasar, who also felt the heat, lay down beside him. He sat there smiling. What a revel of bright minutes! What a hum of insects, and cooing of pigeons! It was the quintessence of a summer day. Lovely! And he was happy–happy as a sand-boy, what- ever that might be. She was coming; she had not given him up! He had everything in life he wanted–except a little more breath, and less weight–just here! He would see her when she emerged from the fernery, come swaying just a little, a violet-grey figure passing over the daisies and dandelions and ‘soldiers’ on the lawn–the soldiers with their flowery crowns. He would not move, but she would come up to him and say: ‘Dear Uncle Jolyon, I am sorry!’ and sit in the swing and let him look at her and tell her that he had not been very well but was all right now; and that dog would lick her hand. That dog knew his master was fond of her; that dog was a good dog.

It was quite shady under the tree; the sun could not get at him, only make the rest of the world bright so that he could see the Grand Stand at Epsom away out there, very far, and the cows crop- ping the clover in the field and swishing at the flies with their tails. He smelled the scent of limes, and lavender. Ah! that was why there was such a racket of bees. They were excited–busy, as his heart was busy and excited. Drowsy, too, drowsy and drugged on honey and happiness; as his heart was drugged and drowsy. Summer– summer–they seemed saying; great bees and little bees, and the flies too!

The stable clock struck four; in half an hour she would be here. He would have just one tiny nap, because he had had so little sleep of late; and then he would be fresh for her, fresh for youth and beauty, coming towards him across the sunlit lawn–lady in grey! And settling back in his chair he closed his eyes. Some thistle- down came on what little air there was, and pitched on his moustache more white than itself. He did not know; but his breathing stirred it, caught there. A ray of sunlight struck through and lodged on his boot. A bumble-bee alighted and strolled on the crown of his Panama hat. And the delicious surge of slumber reached the brain beneath that hat, and the head swayed forward and rested on his breast. Summer–summer! So went the hum.

The stable clock struck the quarter past. The dog Balthasar stretched and looked up at his master. The thistledown no longer moved. The dog placed his chin over the sunlit foot. It did not stir. The dog withdrew his chin quickly, rose, and leaped on old Jolyon’s lap, looked in his face, whined; then, leaping down, sat on his haunches, gazing up. And suddenly he uttered a long, long howl.

But the thistledown was still as death, and the face of his old master.

Summer–summer–summer! The soundless footsteps on the grass!

1917

IN CHANCERY

Two households both alike in dignity, From ancient grudge, break into new mutiny.

–Romeo and Juliet

TO JESSIE AND JOSEPH CONRAD

PART 1

CHAPTER I

AT TIMOTHY’S

The possessive instinct never stands still. Through florescence and feud, frosts and fires, it followed the laws of progression even in the Forsyte family which had believed it fixed for ever. Nor can it be dissociated from environment any more than the quality of potato from the soil.

The historian of the English eighties and nineties will, in his good time, depict the somewhat rapid progression from self- contented and contained provincialism to still more self-contented if less contained imperialism–in other words, the ‘possessive’ instinct of the nation on the move. And so, as if in conformity, was it with the Forsyte family. They were spreading not merely on the surface, but within.

When, in 1895, Susan Hayman, the married Forsyte sister, followed her husband at the ludicrously low age of seventy-four, and was cremated, it made strangely little stir among the six old Forsytes left. For this apathy there were three causes. First: the almost surreptitious burial of old Jolyon in 1892 down at Robin Hill– first of the Forsytes to desert the family grave at Highgate. That burial, coming a year after Swithin’s entirely proper funeral, had occasioned a great deal of talk on Forsyte ‘Change, the abode of Timothy Forsyte on the Bayswater Road, London, which still col- lected and radiated family gossip. Opinions ranged from the lamentation of Aunt Juley to the outspoken assertion of Francie that it was ‘a jolly good thing to stop all that stuffy Highgate business.’ Uncle Jolyon in his later years–indeed, ever since the strange and lamentable affair between his granddaughter June’s lover, young Bosinney, and Irene, his nephew Soames Forsyte’s wife- -had noticeably rapped the family’s knuckles; and that way of his own which he had always taken had begun to seem to them a little wayward. The philosophic vein in him, of course, had always been too liable to crop out of the strata of pure Forsyteism, so they were in a way prepared for his interment in a strange spot. But the whole thing was an odd business, and when the contents of his Will became current coin on Forsyte ‘Change, a shiver had gone round the clan. Out of his estate (L145,304 gross, with liabilities L35 7s. 4d.) he had actually left L15,000 to “whomever do you think, my dear? To Irene!” that runaway wife of his nephew Soames; Irene, a woman who had almost disgraced the family, and– still more amazing was to him no blood relation. Not out and out, of course; only a life interest–only the income from it! Still, there it was; and old Jolyon’s claim to be the perfect Forsyte was ended once for all. That, then, was the first reason why the burial of Susan Hayman–at Woking–made little stir.

The second reason was altogether more expansive and imperial. Besides the house on Campden Hill, Susan had a place (left her by Hayman when he died) just over the border in Hants, where the Hayman boys had learned to be such good shots and riders, as it was believed, which was of course nice for them, and creditable to everybody; and the fact of owning something really countrified seemed somehow to excuse the dispersion of her remains–though what could have put cremation into her head they could not think! The usual invitations, however, had been issued, and Soames had gone down and young Nicholas, and the Will had been quite satisfactory so far as it went, for she had only had a life interest; and everything had gone quite smoothly to the children in equal shares.

The third reason why Susan’s burial made little stir was the most expansive of all. It was summed up daringly by Euphemia, the pale, the thin: “Well, I think people have a right to their own bodies, even when they’re dead.” Coming from a daughter of Nicholas, a Liberal of the old school and most tyrannical, it was a startling remark–showing in a flash what a lot of water had run under bridges since the death of Aunt Ann in ’86, just when the proprietorship of Soames over his wife’s body was acquiring the uncertainty which had led to such disaster. Euphemia, of course, spoke like a child, and had no experience; for though well over thirty by now, her name was still Forsyte. But, making all allowances, her remark did undoubtedly show expansion of the principle of liberty, decentralisation and shift in the central point of possession from others to oneself. When Nicholas heard his daughter’s remark from Aunt Hester he had rapped out: “Wives and daughters! There’s no end to their liberty in these days. I knew that ‘Jackson’ case would lead to things–lugging in Habeas Corpus like that!” He had, of course, never really forgiven the Married Woman’s Property Act, which would so have interfered with him if he had not mercifully married before it was passed. But, in truth, there was no denying the revolt among the younger Forsytes against being owned by others; that, as it were, Colonial disposition to own oneself, which is the paradoxical forerunner of Imperialism, was making progress all the time. They were all now married, except George, confirmed to the Turf and the Iseeum Club; Francie, pursuing her musical career in a studio off the King’s Road, Chelsea, and still taking ‘lovers’ to dances; Euphemia, living at home and complaining of Nicholas; and those two Dromios, Giles and Jesse Hayman. Of the third generation there were not very many–young Jolyon had three, Winifred Dartie four, young Nicholas six already, young Roger had one, Marian Tweetyman one; St. John Hayman two. But the rest of the sixteen married–Soames, Rachel and Cicely of James’ family; Eustace and Thomas of Roger’s; Ernest, Archibald and Florence of Nicholas’; Augustus and Annabel Spender of the Hayman’s–were going down the years unreproduced.

Thus, of the ten old Forsytes twenty-one young Forsytes had been born; but of the twenty-one young Forsytes there were as yet only seventeen descendants; and it already seemed unlikely that there would be more than a further unconsidered trifle or so. A student of statistics must have noticed that the birth rate had varied in accordance with the rate of interest for your money. Grandfather ‘Superior Dosset’ Forsyte in the early nineteenth century had been getting ten per cent. for his, hence ten children. Those ten, leaving out the four who had not married, and Juley, whose husband Septimus Small had, of course, died almost at once, had averaged from four to five per cent. for theirs, and produced accordingly. The twenty-one whom they produced were now getting barely three per cent. in the Consols to which their father had mostly tied the Settlements they made to avoid death duties, and the six of them who had been reproduced had seventeen children, or just the proper two and five-sixths per stem.

There were other reasons, too, for this mild reproduction. A distrust of their earning powers, natural where a sufficiency is guaranteed, together with the knowledge that their fathers did not die, kept them cautious. If one had children and not much income, the standard of taste and comfort must of necessity go down; what was enough for two was not enough for four, and so on–it would be better to wait and see what Father did. Besides, it was nice to be able to take holidays unhampered. Sooner in fact than own children, they preferred to concentrate on the ownership of them- selves, conforming to the growing tendency fin de siecle, as it was called. In this way, little risk was run, and one would be able to have a motor-car. Indeed, Eustace already had one, but it had shaken him horribly, and broken one of his eye teeth; so that it would be better to wait till they were a little safer. In the meantime, no more children! Even young Nicholas was drawing in his horns, and had made no addition to his six for quite three years.

The corporate decay, however, of the Forsytes, their dispersion rather, of which all this was symptomatic, had not advanced so far as to prevent a rally when Roger Forsyte died in 1899. It had been a glorious summer, and after holidays abroad and at the sea they were practically all back in London, when Roger with a touch of his old originality had suddenly breathed his last at his own house in Princes Gardens. At Timothy’s it was whispered sadly that poor Roger had always been eccentric about his digestion–had he not, for instance, preferred German mutton to all the other brands?

Be that as it may, his funeral at Highgate had been perfect, and coming away from it Soames Forsyte made almost mechanically for his Uncle Timothy’s in the Bayswater Road. The ‘Old Things’–Aunt Juley and Aunt Hester–would like to hear about. it. His father– James–at eighty-eight had not felt up to the fatigue of the funeral; and Timothy himself, of course, had not gone; so that Nicholas had been the only brother present. Still, there had been a fair gathering; and it would cheer Aunts Juley and Hester up to know. The kindly thought was not unmixed with the inevitable longing to get something out of everything you do, which is the chief characteristic of Forsytes, and indeed of the saner elements in every nation. In this practice of taking family matters to Timothy’s in the Bayswater Road, Soames was but following in the footsteps of his father, who had been in the habit of going at least once a week to see his sisters at Timothy’s, and had only given it up when he lost his nerve at eighty-six, and could not go out without Emily. To go with Emily was of no use, for who could really talk to anyone in the presence of his own wife? Like James in the old days, Soames found time to go there nearly every Sunday, and sit in the little drawing-room into which, with his undoubted taste, he had introduced a good deal of change and china not quite up to his own fastidious mark, and at least two rather doubtful Barbizon pictures, at Christmastides. He himself, who had done extremely well with the Barbizons, had for some years past moved towards the Marises, Israels, and Mauve, and was hoping to do better. In the riverside house which he now inhabited near Mapledurham he had a gallery, beautifully hung and lighted, to which few London dealers were strangers. It served, too, as a Sunday afternoon attraction in those week-end parties which his sisters, Winifred or Rachel, occasionally organised for him. For though he was but a taciturn showman, his quiet collected determinism seldom failed to influence his guests, who knew that his reputation was grounded not on mere aesthetic fancy, but on his power of gauging the future of market values. When he went to Timothy’s he almost always had some little tale of triumph over a dealer to unfold, and dearly he loved that coo of pride with which his aunts would greet it. This afternoon, however, he was differently animated, coming from Roger’s funeral in his neat dark clothes–not quite black, for after all an uncle was but an uncle, and his soul abhorred excessive display of feeling. Leaning back in a marqueterie chair and gazing down his uplifted nose at the sky-blue walls plastered with gold frames, he was noticeably silent. Whether because he had been to a funeral or not, the peculiar Forsyte build of his face was seen to the best advantage this afternoon–a face concave and long, with a jaw which divested of flesh would have seemed extravagant: altogether a chinny face though not at all ill-looking. He was feeling more strongly than ever that Timothy’s was hopelessly ‘rum-ti-too’ and the souls of his aunts dismally mid-Victorian. The subject on which alone he wanted to talk–his own undivorced position–was unspeakable. And yet it occupied his mind to the exclusion of all else. It was only since the Spring that this had been so and a new feeling grown up which was egging him on towards what he knew might well be folly in a Forsyte of forty-five. More and more of late he had been conscious that he was ‘getting on.’ The fortune already considerable when he conceived the house at Robin Hill which had finally wrecked his marriage with Irene, had mounted with surprising vigour in the twelve lonely years during which he had devoted himself to little else. He was worth to-day well over a hundred thousand pounds, and had no one to leave it to–no real object for going on with what was his religion. Even if he were to relax his efforts, money made money, and he felt that he would have a hundred and fifty thousand before he knew where he was. There had always been a strongly domestic, philoprogenitive side to Soames; baulked and frustrated, it had hidden itself away, but now had crept out again in this his ‘prime of life.’ Concreted and focussed of late by the attraction of a girl’s undoubted beauty, it had become a veritable prepossession.

And this girl was French, not likely to lose her head, or accept any unlegalised position. Moreover, Soames himself disliked the thought of that. He had tasted of the sordid side of sex during those long years of forced celibacy, secretively, and always with disgust, for he was fastidious, and his sense of law and order innate. He wanted no hole and corner liaison. A marriage at the Embassy in Paris, a few months’ travel, and he could bring Annette back quite separated from a past which in truth was not too distinguished, for she only kept the accounts in her mother’s Soho Restaurant; he could bring her back as something very new and chic with her French taste and self-possession, to reign at ‘The Shelter’ near Mapledurham. On Forsyte ‘Change and among his riverside friends it would be current that he had met a charming French girl on his travels and married her. There would be the flavour of romance, and a certain cachet about a French wife. No! He was not at all afraid of that. It was only this cursed undivorced condition of his, and–and the question whether Annette would take him, which he dared not put to the touch until he had a clear and even dazzling future to offer her.

In his aunts’ drawing-room he heard with but muffled ears those usual questions: How was his dear father? Not going out, of course, now that the weather was turning chilly? Would Soames be sure to tell him that Hester had found boiled holly leaves most comforting for that pain in her side; a poultice every three hours, with red flannel afterwards. And could he relish just a little pot of their very best prune preserve–it was so delicious this year, and had such a wonderful effect. Oh! and about the Darties–had Soames heard that dear Winifred was having a most distressing time with Montague? Timothy thought she really ought to have protection It was said–but Soames mustn’t take this for certain–that he had given some of Winifred’s jewellery to a dreadful dancer. It was such a bad example for dear Val just as he was going to college. Soames had not heard? Oh, but he must go and see his sister and look into it at once! And did he think these Boers were really going to resist? Timothy was in quite a stew about it. The price of Consols was so high, and he had such a lot of money in them. Did Soames think they must go down if there was a war? Soames nodded. But it would be over very quickly. It would be so bad for Timothy if it wasn’t. And of course Soames’ dear father would feel it very much at his age. Luckily poor dear Roger had been spared this dreadful anxiety. And Aunt Juley with a little handkerchief wiped away the large tear trying to climb the permanent pout on her now quite withered left cheek; she was remembering dear Roger, and all his originality, and how he used to stick pins into her when they were little together. Aunt Hester, with her instinct for avoiding the unpleasant, here chimed in: Did Soames think they would make Mr. Chamberlain Prime Minister at once? He would settle it all so quickly. She would like to see that old Kruger sent to St. Helena. She could remember so well the news of Napoleon’s death, and what a, relief it had been to his grandfather. Of course she and Juley–“We were in pantalettes then, my dear”–had not felt it much at the time.

Soames took a cup of tea from her, drank it quickly, and ate three of those macaroons for which Timothy’s was famous. His faint, pale, supercilious smile had deepened just a little. Really, his family remained hopelessly provincial, however much of London they might possess between them. In these go-ahead days their provinc- ialism stared out even more than it used to. Why, old Nicholas was still a Free Trader, and a member of that antediluvian home of Liberalism, the Remove Club–though, to be sure, the members were pretty well all Conservatives now, or he himself could not have joined; and Timothy, they said, still wore a nightcap. Aunt Juley spoke again. Dear Soames was looking so well, hardly a day older than he did when dear Ann died, and they were all there together, dear Jolyon, and dear Swithin, and dear Roger. She paused and caught the tear which had climbed the pout on her right cheek. Did he–did he ever hear anything of Irene nowadays? Aunt Hester visibly interposed her shoulder. Really, Juley was always saying something! The smile left Soames’ face, and he put his cup down. Here was his subject broached for him, and for all his desire to expand, he could not take advantage.

Aunt Juley went on rather hastily:

“They say dear Jolyon first left her that fifteen thousand out and out; then of course he saw it would not be right, and made it for her life only.”

Had Soames heard that?

Soames nodded.

“Your cousin Jolyon is a widower now. He is her trustee; you knew that, of course?”

Soames shook his head. He did know, but wished to show no interest. Young Jolyon and he had not met since the day of Bosinney’s death.

“He must be quite middle-aged by now,” went on Aunt Juley dreamily. “Let me see, he was born when your dear uncle lived in Mount Street; long before they went to Stanhope Gate in December. Just before that dreadful Commune. Over fifty! Fancy that! Such a pretty baby, and we were all so proud of him; the very first of you all.” Aunt Juley sighed, and a lock of not quite her own hair came loose and straggled, so that Aunt Hester gave a little shiver. Soames rose, he was experiencing a curious piece of self-discovery. That old wound to his pride and self-esteem was not yet closed. He had come thinking he could talk of it, even wanting to talk of his fettered condition, and–behold! he was shrinking away from this reminder by Aunt Juley, renowned for her Malapropisms.

Oh, Soames was not going already!

Soames smiled a little vindictively, and said:

“Yes. Good-bye. Remember me to Uncle Timothy!” And, leaving a cold kiss on each forehead, whose wrinkles seemed to try and cling to his lips as if longing to be kissed away, he left them looking brightly after him–dear Soames, it had been so good of him to come to-day, when they were not feeling very….!

With compunction tweaking at his chest Soames descended the stairs, where was always that rather pleasant smell of camphor and port wine, and house where draughts are not permitted. The poor old things–he had not meant to be unkind! And in the street he instantly forgot them, repossessed by the image of Annette and the thought of the cursed coil around him. Why had he not pushed the thing through and obtained divorce when that wretched Bosinney was run over, and there was evidence galore for the asking! And he turned towards his sister Winifred Dartie’s residence in Green Street, Mayfair.

CHAPTER II

EXIT A MAN OF THE WORLD

That a man of the world so subject to the vicissitudes of fortunes as Montague Dartie should still be living in a house he had inhabited twenty years at least would have been more noticeable if the rent, rates, taxes, and repairs of that house had not been defrayed by his father-in-law. By that simple if wholesale device James Forsyte had secured a certain stability in the lives of his daughter and his grandchildren. After all, there is something invaluable about a safe roof over the head of a sportsman so dashing as Dartie. Until the events of the last few days he had been almost-supernaturally steady all this year. The fact was he had acquired a half share in a filly of George Forsyte’s, who had gone irreparably on the turf, to the horror of Roger, now stilled by the grave. Sleeve-links, by Martyr, out of Shirt-on-fire, by Suspender, was a bay filly, three years old, who for a variety of reasons had never shown her true form. With half ownership of this hopeful animal, all the idealism latent somewhere in Dartie, as in every other man, had put up its head, and kept him quietly ardent for months past. When a man has some thing good to live for it is astonishing how sober he becomes; and what Dartie had was really good–a three to one chance for an autumn handicap, publicly assessed at twenty-five to one. The old-fashioned heaven was a poor thing beside it, and his shirt was on the daughter of Shirt- on-fire. But how much more than his shirt depended on this granddaughter of Suspender! At that roving age of forty-five, trying to Forsytes–and, though perhaps less distinguishable from any other age, trying even to Darties–Montague had fixed his current fancy on a dancer. It was no mean passion, but without money, and a good deal of it, likely to remain a love as airy as her skirts; and Dartie never had any money, subsisting miserably on what he could beg or borrow from Winifred–a woman of character, who kept him because he was the father of her children, and from a lingering admiration for those now-dying Wardour Street good looks which in their youth had fascinated her. She, together with anyone else who would lend him anything, and his losses at cards and on the turf (extraordinary how some men make a good thing out of losses!) were his whole means of subsistence; for James was now too old and nervous to approach, and Soames too formidably adamant. It is not too much to say that Dartie had been living on hope for months. He had never been fond of money for itself, had always despised the Forsytes with their investing habits, though careful to make such use of them as he could. What he liked about money was what it bought–personal sensation.

“No real sportsman cares for money,” he would say, borrowing a ‘pony’ if it was no use trying for a ‘monkey.’ There was something delicious about Montague Dartie. He was, as George Forsyte said, a ‘daisy.’

The morning of the Handicap dawned clear and bright, the last day of September, and Dartie who had travelled to Newmarket the night before, arrayed himself in spotless checks and walked to an eminence to see his half of the filly take her final canter: If she won he would be a cool three thou. in pocket–a poor enough recompense for the sobriety and patience of these weeks of hope, while they had been nursing her for this race. But he had not been able to afford more. Should he ‘lay it off’ at the eight to one to which she had advanced? This was his single thought while the larks sang above him, and the grassy downs smelled sweet, and the pretty filly passed, tossing her head and glowing like satin.

After all, if he lost it would not be he who paid, and to ‘lay it off’ would reduce his winnings to some fifteen hundred–hardly enough to purchase a dancer out and out. Even more potent was the itch in the blood of all the Darties for a real flutter. And turning to George he said: “She’s a clipper. She’ll win hands down; I shall go the whole hog.” George, who had laid off every penny, and a few besides, and stood to win, however it came out, grinned down on him from his bulky height, with the words: “So ho, my wild one!” for after a chequered apprenticeship weathered with the money of a deeply complaining Roger, his Forsyte blood was beginning to stand him in good stead in the profession of owner.

There are moments of disillusionment in the lives of men from which the sensitive recorder shrinks. Suffice it to say that the good thing fell down. Sleeve-links finished in the ruck. Dartie’s shirt was lost.

Between the passing of these things and the day when Soames turned his face towards Green Street, what had not happened!

When a man with the constitution of Montague Dartie has exercised self-control for months from religious motives, and remains un- rewarded, he does not curse God and die, he curses God and lives, to the distress of his family.

Winifred–a plucky woman, if a little too fashionable–who had borne the brunt of him for exactly twenty-one years, had never really believed that he would do what he now did. Like so many wives, she thought she knew the worst, but she had not yet known him in his forty-fifth year, when he, like other men, felt that it was now or never. Paying on the 2nd of October a visit of inspec- tion to her jewel case, she was horrified to observe that her woman’s crown and glory was gone–the pearls which Montague had given her in ’86, when Benedict was born, and which James had been compelled to pay for in the spring of ’87, to save scandal. She consulted her husband at once. He ‘pooh-poohed’ the matter. They would turn up! Nor till she said sharply: “Very well, then, Monty, I shall go down to Scotland Yard myself,” did he consent to take the matter in hand. Alas! that the steady and resolved continuity of design necessary to the accomplishment of sweeping operations should be liable to interruption by drink. That night Dartie returned home without a care in the world or a particle of reticence. Under normal conditions Winifred would merely have locked her door and let him sleep it off, but torturing suspense about her pearls had caused her to wait up for him. Taking a small revolver from his pocket and holding on to the dining table, he told her at once that he did not care a cursh whether she lived s’long as she was quiet; but he himself wash tired o’ life. Winifred, holding onto the other side of the dining table, answered:

“Don’t be a clown, Monty. Have you been to Scotland Yard?”

Placing the revolver against his chest, Dartie had pulled the trigger several times. It was not loaded. Dropping it with an imprecation, he had muttered: “For shake o’ the children,” and sank into a chair. Winifred, having picked up the revolver, gave him some soda water. The liquor had a magical effect. Life had illused him; Winifred had never ‘unshtood’m.’ If he hadn’t the right to take the pearls he had given her himself, who had? That Spanish filly had got’m. If Winifred had any ‘jection he w’d cut– her–throat. What was the matter with that? (Probably the first use of that celebrated phrase–so obscure are the origins of even the most classical language!)

Winifred, who had learned self-containment in a hard school, looked up at him, and said: “Spanish filly! Do you mean that girl we saw dancing in the Pandemonium Ballet? Well, you are a thief and a blackguard.” It had been the last straw on a sorely loaded consciousness; reaching up from his chair Dartie seized his wife’s arm, and recalling the achievements of his boyhood, twisted it. Winifred endured the agony with tears in her eyes, but no murmur. Watching for a moment of weakness, she wrenched it free; then placing the dining table between them, said between her teeth: “You are the limit, Monty.” (Undoubtedly the inception of that phrase– so is English formed under the stress of circumstances.) Leaving Dartie with foam on his dark moustache she went upstairs, and, after locking her door and bathing her arm in hot water, lay awake all night, thinking of her pearls adorning the neck of another, and of the consideration her husband had presumably received therefor.

The man of the world awoke with a sense of being lost to that world, and a dim recollection of having been called a ‘limit.’ He sat for half an hour in the dawn and the armchair where he had slept–perhaps the unhappiest half-hour he had ever spent, for even to a Dartie there is something tragic about an end. And he knew that he had reached it. Never again would he sleep in his dining-room and wake with the light filtering through those curtains bought by Winifred at Nickens and Jarveys with the money of James. Never again eat a devilled kidney at that rose-wood table, after a roll in the sheets and a hot bath. He took his note case from his dress coat pocket. Four hundred pounds, in fives and tens–the remainder of the proceeds of his half of Sleeve-links, sold last night, cash down, to George Forsyte, who, having won over the race, had not conceived the sudden dislike to the animal which he himself now felt. The ballet was going to Buenos Aires the day after to-morrow, and he was going too. Full value for the pearls had not yet been received; he was only at the soup.

He stole upstairs. Not daring to have a bath, or shave (besides, the water would be cold), he changed his clothes and packed stealthily all he could. It was hard to leave so many shining boots, but one must sacrifice something. Then, carrying a valise in either hand, he stepped out onto the landing. The house was very quiet–that house where he had begotten his four children. It was a curious moment, this, outside the room of his wife, once admired, if not perhaps loved, who had called him ‘the limit.’ He steeled himself with that phrase, and tiptoed on; but the next door was harder to pass. It was the room his daughters slept in. Maud was at school, but Imogen would be lying there; and moisture came into Dartie’s early morning eyes. She was the most like him of the four, with her dark hair, and her luscious brown glance. Just coming out, a pretty thing! He set down the two valises. This almost formal abdication of fatherhood hurt him. The morning light fell on a face which worked with real emotion. Nothing so false as penitence moved him; but genuine paternal feeling, and that melancholy of ‘never again.’ He moistened his lips; and complete irresolution for a moment paralysed his legs in their check trousers. It was hard–hard to be thus compelled to leave his home! “D—nit!” he muttered, “I never thought it would come to this.” Noises above warned him that the maids were beginning to get up. And grasping the two valises, he tiptoed on downstairs. His cheeks were wet, and the knowledge of that was comforting, as though it guaranteed the genuineness of his sacrifice. He lingered a little in the rooms below, to pack all the cigars he had, some papers, a crush hat, a silver cigarette box, a Ruff’s Guide. Then, mixing himself a stiff whisky and soda, and lighting a cigarette, he stood hesitating before a photograph of his two girls, in a silver frame. It belonged to Winifred. ‘Never mind,’ he thought; ‘she can get another taken, and I can’t!’ He slipped it into the valise. Then, putting on his hat and overcoat, he took two others, his best malacca cane, an umbrella, and opened the front door. Closing it softly behind him, he walked out, burdened as he had never been in all his life, and made his way round the corner to wait there for an early cab to come by.

Thus had passed Montague Dartie in the forty-fifth year of his age from the house which he had called his own.

When Winifred came down, and realised that he was not in the house, her first feeling was one of dull anger that he should thus elude the reproaches she had carefully prepared in those long wakeful hours. He had gone off to Newmarket or Brighton, with that woman as likely as not. Disgusting! Forced to a complete reticence before Imogen and the servants, and aware that her father’s nerves would never stand the disclosure, she had been unable to refrain from going to Timothy’s that afternoon, and pouring out the story of the pearls to Aunts Juley and Hester in utter confidence. It was only on the following morning that she noticed the disappearance of that photograph. What did it mean? Careful examination of her husband’s relics prompted the thought that he had gone for good. As that conclusion hardened she stood quite still in the middle of his dressing-room, with all the drawers pulled out, to try and realise what she was feeling. By no means easy! Though he was ‘the limit’ he was yet her property, and for the life of her she could not but feel the poorer. To be widowed yet not widowed at forty-two; with four children; made conspicuous, an object of commiseration! Gone to the arms of a Spanish Jade! Memories, feelings, which she had thought quite dead, revived within her, painful, sullen, tenacious. Mechanically she closed drawer after drawer, went to her bed, lay on it, and buried her face in the pillows. She did not cry. What was the use of that? When she got off her bed to go down to lunch she felt as if only one thing could do her good, and that was to have Val home. He– her eldest boy–who was to go to Oxford next month at James’ expense, was at Littlehampton taking his final gallops with his trainer for Smalls, as he would have phrased it following his father’s diction. She caused a telegram to be sent to him.

“I must see about his clothes,” she said to Imogen; “I can’t have him going up to Oxford all anyhow. Those boys are so particular.”

“Val’s got heaps of things,” Imogen answered.

“I know; but they want overhauling. I hope he’ll come.”

“He’ll come like a shot, Mother. But he’ll probably skew his Exam.”

“I can’t help that,” said Winifred. “I want him.”

With an innocent shrewd look at her mother’s face, Imogen kept silence. It was father, of course! Val did come ‘like a shot’ at six o’clock.

Imagine a cross between a pickle and a Forsyte and you have young Publius Valerius Dartie. A youth so named could hardly turn out otherwise. When he was born, Winifred, in the heyday of spirits, and the craving for distinction, had determined that her children should have names such as no others had ever had. (It was a mercy –she felt now–that she had just not named Imogen Thisbe.) But it was to George Forsyte, always a wag, that Val’s christening was due. It so happened that Dartie, dining with him a week after the birth of his son and heir, had mentioned this aspiration of Winifred’s.

“Call him Cato,” said George, “it’ll be damned piquant!” He had just won a tenner on a horse of that name.

“Cato!” Dartie had replied–they were a little ‘on’ as the phrase was even in those days–“it’s not a Christian name.”

“Halo you!” George called to a waiter in knee breeches. “Bring me the Encyc’pedia Brit. from the Library, letter C.”

The waiter brought it.

“Here you are!” said George, pointing with his cigar: “Cato Publius Valerius by Virgil out of Lydia. That’s what you want. Publius Valerius is Christian enough.”

Dartie, on arriving home, had informed Winifred. She had been charmed. It was so ‘chic.’ And Publius Valerius became the baby’s name, though it afterwards transpired that they had got hold of the inferior Cato. In 1890, however, when little Publius was nearly ten, the word ‘chic’ went out of fashion, and sobriety came in; Winifred began to have doubts. They were confirmed by little Publius himself who returned from his first term at school com- plaining that life was a burden to him–they called him Pubby. Winifred–a woman of real decision–promptly changed his school and his name to Val, the Publius being dropped even as an initial.

At nineteen he was a limber, freckled youth with a wide mouth, light eyes, long dark lashes; a rather charming smile, considerable knowledge of what he should not know, and no experience of what he ought to do. Few boys had more narrowly escaped being expelled– the engaging rascal. After kissing his mother and pinching Imogen, he ran upstairs three at a time, and came down four, dressed for dinner. He was awfully sorry, but his ‘trainer,’ who had come up too, had asked him to dine at the Oxford and Cambridge; it wouldn’t do to miss–the old chap would be hurt. Winifred let him go with an unhappy pride. She had wanted him at home, but it was very nice to know that his tutor was so fond of him. He went out with a wink at Imogen, saying: “I say, Mother, could I have two plover’s eggs when I come in?–cook’s got some. They top up so jolly well. Oh! and look here–have you any money?–I had to borrow a fiver from old Snobby.”

Winifred, looking at him with fond shrewdness, answered:

“My dear, you are naughty about money. But you shouldn’t pay him to-night, anyway; you’re his guest. How nice and slim he looked in his white waistcoat, and his dark thick lashes!”

“Oh, but we may go to the theatre, you see, Mother; and I think I ought to stand the tickets; he’s always hard up, you know.”

Winifred produced a five-pound note, saying:

“Well, perhaps you’d better pay him, but you mustn’t stand the tickets too.”

Val pocketed the fiver.

“If I do, I can’t,” he said. “Good-night, Mum!”

He went out with his head up and his hat cocked joyously, sniffing the air of Piccadilly like a young hound loosed into covert. Jolly good biz! After that mouldy old slow hole down there!

He found his ‘tutor,’ not indeed at the Oxford and Cambridge, but at the Goat’s Club. This ‘tutor’ was a year older than himself, a good-looking youth, with fine brown eyes, and smooth dark hair, a small mouth, an oval face, languid, immaculate, cool to a degree, one of those young men who without effort establish moral ascendancy over their companions. He had missed being expelled from school a year before Val, had spent that year at Oxford, and Val could almost see a halo round his head. His name was Crum, and no one could get through money quicker. It seemed to be his only aim in life–dazzling to young Val, in whom, however, the Forsyte would stand apart, now and then, wondering where the value for that money was.

They dined quietly, in style and taste; left the Club smoking cigars, with just two bottles inside them, and dropped into stalls at the Liberty. For Val the sound of comic songs, the sight of lovely legs were fogged and interrupted by haunting fears that he would never equal Crum’s quiet dandyism. His idealism was roused; and when that is so, one is never quite at ease. Surely he had too wide a mouth, not the best cut of waistcoat, no braid on his trousers, and his lavender gloves had no thin black stitchings down the back. Besides, he laughed too much–Crum never laughed, he only smiled, with his regular dark brows raised a little so that they formed a gable over his just drooped lids. No! he would never be Crum’s equal. All the same it was a jolly good show, and Cynthia Dark simply ripping. Between the acts Crum regaled him with particulars of Cynthia’s private life, and the awful knowledge became Val’s that, if he liked, Crum could go behind. He simply longed to say: “I say, take me!” but dared not, because of his deficiencies; and this made the last act or two almost miserable. On coming out Crum said: “It’s half an hour before they close; let’s go on to the Pandemonium.” They took a hansom to travel the hundred yards, and seats costing seven-and-six apiece because they were going to stand, and walked into the Promenade. It was in these little things, this utter negligence of money that Crum had such engaging polish. The ballet was on its last legs and night, and the traffic of the Promenade was suffering for the moment. Men and women were crowded in three rows against the barrier. The whirl and dazzle on the stage, the half dark, the mingled tobacco fumes and women’s scent, all that curious lure to promiscuity which belongs to Promenades, began to free young Val from his idealism. He looked admiringly in a young woman’s face, saw she was not young, and quickly looked away. Shades of Cynthia Dark! The young woman’s arm touched his unconsciously; there was a scent of musk and mignonette. Val looked round the corner of his lashes. Perhaps she was young, after all. Her foot trod on his; she begged his pardon. He said:

“Not at all; jolly good ballet, isn’t it?”

“Oh, I’m tired of it; aren’t you?”

Young Val smiled–his wide, rather charming smile. Beyond that he did not go–not yet convinced. The Forsyte in him stood out for greater certainty. And on the stage the ballet whirled its kaleidoscope of snow-white, salmon-pink, and emerald-green and violet and seemed suddenly to freeze into a stilly spangled pyramid. Applause broke out, and it was over! Maroon curtains had cut it off. The semi-circle of men and women round the barrier broke up, the young woman’s arm pressed his. A little way off disturbance seemed centring round a man with a pink carnation; Val stole another glance at the young woman, who was looking towards it. Three men, unsteady, emerged, walking arm in arm. The one in the centre wore the pink carnation, a white waistcoat, a dark moustache; he reeled a little as he walked. Crum’s voice said slow and level: “Look at that bounder, he’s screwed!” Val turned to look. The ‘bounder’ had disengaged his arm, and was pointing straight at them. Crum’s voice, level as ever, said:

“He seems to know you!” The ‘bounder’ spoke:

“H’llo!” he said. “You f’llows, look! There’s my young rascal of a son!”

Val saw. It was his father! He could have sunk into the crimson carpet. It was not the meeting in this place, not even that his father was ‘screwed’; it was Crum’s word ‘bounder,’ which, as by heavenly revelation, he perceived at that moment to be true. Yes, his father looked a bounder with his dark good looks, and his pink carnation, and his square, self-assertive walk. And without a word he ducked behind the young woman and slipped out of the Promenade. He heard the word, “Val!” behind him, and ran down deep-carpeted steps past the ‘chuckersout,’ into the Square.

To be ashamed of his own father is perhaps the bitterest experience a young man can go through. It seemed to Val, hurrying away, that his career had ended before it had begun. How could he go up to Oxford now amongst all those chaps, those splendid friends of Crum’s, who would know that his father was a ‘bounder’! And suddenly he hated Crum. Who the devil was Crum, to say that? If Crum had been beside him at that moment, he would certainly have been jostled off the pavement. His own father–his own! A choke came up in his throat, and he dashed his hands down deep into his overcoat pockets. Damn Crum! He conceived the wild idea of running back and fending his father, taking him by the arm and walking about with him in front of Crum; but gave it up at once and pursued his way down Piccadilly. A young woman planted herself before him. “Not so angry, darling!” He shied, dodged her, and suddenly became quite cool. If Crum ever said a word, he would jolly well punch his head, and there would be an end of it. He walked a hundred yards or more, contented with that thought, then lost its comfort utterly. It wasn’t simple like that! He remembered how, at school, when some parent came down who did not pass the standard, it just clung to the fellow afterwards. It was one of those things nothing could remove. Why had his mother married his father, if he was a ‘bounder’? It was bitterly unfair- -jolly low-down on a fellow to give him a ‘bounder’ for father. The worst of it was that now Crum had spoken the word, he realised that he had long known subconsciously that his father was not ‘the clean potato.’ It was the beastliest thing that had ever happened to him–beastliest thing that had ever happened to any fellow! And, down-hearted as he had never yet been, he came to Green Street, and let himself in with a smuggled latch-key. In the dining-room his plover’s eggs were set invitingly, with some cut bread and butter, and a little whisky at the bottom of a decanter– just enough, as Winifred had thought, for him to feel himself a man. It made him sick to look at them, and he went upstairs.

Winifred heard him pass, and thought: ‘The dear boy’s in. Thank goodness! If he takes after his father I don’t know what I shall do! But he won’t he’s like me. Dear Val!’

CHAPTER III

SOAMES PREPARES TO TAKE STEPS

When Soames entered his sister’s little Louis Quinze drawing-room, with its small balcony, always flowered with hanging geraniums in the summer, and now with pots of Lilium Auratum, he was struck by the immutability of human affairs. It looked just the same as on his first visit to the newly married Darties twenty-one years ago. He had chosen the furniture himself, and so completely that no subsequent purchase had ever been able to change the room’s atmosphere. Yes, he had founded his sister well, and she had wanted it. Indeed, it said a great deal for Winifred that after all this time with Dartie she remained well-founded. From the first Soames had nosed out Dartie’s nature from underneath the plausibility, savoir faire, and good looks which had dazzled Winifred, her mother, and even James, to the extent of permitting the fellow to marry his daughter without bringing anything but shares of no value into settlement.

Winifred, whom he noticed next to the furniture, was sitting at her Buhl bureau with a letter in her hand. She rose and came towards him. Tall as himself, strong in the cheekbones, well tailored, something in her face disturbed Soames. She crumpled the letter in her hand, but seemed to change her mind and held it out to him. He was her lawyer as well as her brother.

Soames read, on Iseeum Club paper, these words:

‘You will not get chance to insult in my own again. I am leaving country to-morrow. It’s played out. I’m tired of being insulted by you. You’ve brought on yourself. No self-respecting man can stand it. I shall not ask you for anything again. Good-bye. I took the photograph of the two girls. Give them my love. I don’t care what your family say. It’s all their doing. I’m going to live new life.

‘M.D.’

This after-dinner note had a splotch on it not yet quite dry. He looked at Winifred–the splotch had clearly come from her; and he checked the words: ‘Good riddance!’ Then it occurred to him that with this letter she was entering that very state which he himself so earnestly desired to quit–the state of a Forsyte who was not divorced.

Winifred had turned away, and was taking a long sniff from a little gold-topped bottle. A dull commiseration, together with a vague sense of injury, crept about Soames’ heart. He had come to her to talk of his own position, and get sympathy, and here was she in the same position, wanting of course to talk of it, and get sympathy from him. It was always like that! Nobody ever seemed to think that he had troubles and interests of his own. He folded up the letter with the splotch inside, and said:

“What’s it all about, now?”

Winifred recited the story of the pearls calmly.

“Do you think he’s really gone, Soames? You see the state he was in when he wrote that.”

Soames who, when he desired a thing, placated Providence by pretending that he did not think it likely to happen, answered:

“I shouldn’t think so. I might find out at his Club.”

“If George is there,” said Winifred, “he would know.”

“George?” said Soames; “I saw him at his father’s funeral.”

“Then he’s sure to be there.”

Soames, whose good sense applauded his sister’s acumen, said grudgingly: “Well, I’ll go round. Have you said anything in Park Lane?”

“I’ve told Emily,” returned Winifred, who retained that ‘chic’ way of describing her mother. “Father would have a fit.”

Indeed, anything untoward was now sedulously kept from James. With another look round at the furniture, as if to gauge his sister’s exact position, Soames went out towards Piccadilly. The evening was drawing in–a touch of chill in the October haze. He walked quickly, with his close and concentrated air. He must get through, for he wished to dine in Soho. On hearing from the hall porter at the Iseeum that Mr. Dartie had not been in to-day, he looked at the trusty fellow and decided only to ask if Mr. George Forsyte was in the Club. He was. Soames, who always looked askance at his cousin George, as one inclined to jest at his expense, followed the page- boy, slightly reassured by the thought that George had just lost his father. He must have come in for about thirty thousand, be- sides what he had under that settlement of Roger’s, which had avoided death duty. He found George in a bow-window, staring out across a half-eaten plate of muffins. His tall, bulky, black- clothed figure loomed almost threatening, though preserving still the supernatural neatness of the racing man. With a faint grin on his fleshy face, he said:

“Hallo, Soames! Have a muffin?”

“No, thanks,” murmured Soames; and, nursing his hat, with the desire to say something suitable and sympathetic, added:

“How’s your mother?”

“Thanks,” said George; “so-so. Haven’t seen you for ages. You never go racing. How’s the City?”

Soames, scenting the approach of a jest, closed up, and answered:

“I wanted to ask you about Dartie. I hear he’s….”

“Flitted, made a bolt to Buenos Aires with the fair Lola. Good for Winifred and the little Darties. He’s a treat.”

Soames nodded. Naturally inimical as these cousins were, Dartie made them kin.

“Uncle James’ll sleep in his bed now,” resumed George; “I suppose he’s had a lot off you, too.”

Soames smiled.

“Ah! You saw him further,” said George amicably. “He’s a real rouser. Young Val will want a bit of looking after. I was always sorry for Winifred. She’s a plucky woman.”

Again Soames nodded. “I must be getting back to her,” he said; “she just wanted to know for certain. We may have to take steps. I suppose there’s no mistake?”

“It’s quite O.K.,” said George–it was he who invented so many of those quaint sayings which have been assigned to other sources. “He was drunk as a lord last night; but he went off all right this morning. His ship’s the Tuscarora;” and, fishing out a card, he read mockingly:

“‘Mr. Montague Dartie, Poste Restante, Buenos Aires.’ I should hurry up with the steps, if I were you. He fairly fed me up last night.”

“Yes,” said Soames; “but it’s not always easy.” Then, conscious from George’s eyes that he had roused reminiscence of his own affair, he got up, and held out his hand. George rose too.

“Remember me to Winifred…. You’ll enter her for the Divorce Stakes straight off if you ask me.”

Soames took a sidelong look back at him from the doorway. George had seated himself again and was staring before him; he looked big and lonely in those black clothes. Soames had never known him so subdued. ‘I suppose he feels it in a way,’ he thought. ‘They must have about fifty thousand each, all told. They ought to keep the estate together. If there’s a war, house property will go down. Uncle Roger was a good judge, though.’ And the face of Annette rose before him in the darkening street; her brown hair and her blue eyes with their dark lashes, her fresh lips and cheeks, dewy and blooming in spite of London, her perfect French figure. ‘Take steps!’ he thought. Re-entering Winifred’s house he encountered Val, and they went in together. An idea had occurred to Soames. His cousin Jolyon was Irene’s trustee, the first step would be to go down and see him at Robin Hill. Robin Hill! The odd–the very odd feeling those words brought back! Robin Hill–the house Bosinney had built for him and Irene–the house they had never lived in–the fatal house! And Jolyon lived there now! H’m! And suddenly he thought: ‘They say he’s got a boy at Oxford! Why not take young Val down and introduce them! It’s an excuse! Less bald–very much less bald!’ So, as they went upstairs, he said to Val:

“You’ve got a cousin at Oxford; you’ve never met him. I should like to take you down with me to-morrow to where he lives and introduce you. You’ll find it useful.”

Val, receiving the idea with but moderate transports, Soames clinched it.

“I’ll call for you after lunch. It’s in the country–not far; you’ll enjoy it.”

On the threshold of the drawing-room he recalled with an effort that the steps he contemplated concerned Winifred at the moment, not himself.

Winifred was still sitting at her Buhl bureau.

“It’s quite true,” he said; “he’s gone to Buenos Aires, started this morning–we’d better have him shadowed when he lands. I’ll cable at once. Otherwise we may have a lot of expense. The sooner these things are done the better. I’m always regretting that I didn’t…” he stopped, and looked sidelong at the silent Winifred. “By the way,” he went on, “can you prove cruelty?”

Winifred said in a dull voice:

“I don’t know. What is cruelty?”

“Well, has he struck you, or anything?”

Winifred shook herself, and her jaw grew square.

“He twisted my arm. Or would pointing a pistol count? Or being too drunk to undress himself, or–No–I can’t bring in the children.”

“No,” said Soames; “no! I wonder! Of course, there’s legal separation–we can get that. But separation! Um!”

“What does it mean?” asked Winifred desolately.

“That he can’t touch you, or you him; you’re both of you married and unmarried.” And again he grunted. What was it, in fact, but his own accursed position, legalised! No, he would not put her into that!

“It must be divorce,” he said decisively;” failing cruelty, there’s desertion. There’s a way of shortening the two years, now. We get the Court to give us restitution of conjugal rights. Then if he doesn’t obey, we can bring a suit for divorce in six months’ time. Of course you don’t want him back. But they won’t know that. Still, there’s the risk that he might come. I’d rather try cruelty.”

Winifred shook her head. “It’s so beastly.”

“Well,” Soames murmured, “perhaps there isn’t much risk so long as he’s infatuated and got money. Don’t say anything to anybody, and don’t pay any of his debts.”

Winifred sighed. In spite of all she had been through, the sense of loss was heavy on her. And this idea of not paying his debts any more brought it home to her as nothing else yet had. Some richness seemed to have gone out of life. Without her husband, without her pearls, without that intimate sense that she made a brave show above the domestic whirlpool, she would now have to face the world. She felt bereaved indeed.

And into the chilly kiss he placed on her forehead, Soames put more than his usual warmth.

“I have to go down to Robin Hill to-morrow,” he said, “to see young Jolyon on business. He’s got a boy at Oxford. I’d like to take Val with me and introduce him. Come down to ‘The Shelter’ for the week-end and bring the children. Oh! by the way, no, that won’t do; I’ve got some other people coming.” So saying, he left her and turned towards Soho.

CHAPTER IV

SOHO

Of all quarters in the queer adventurous amalgam called London, Soho is perhaps least suited to the Forsyte spirit. ‘So-ho, my wild one!’ George would have said if he had seen his cousin going there. Untidy, full of Greeks, Ishmaelites, cats, Italians, tomatoes, restaurants, organs, coloured stuffs, queer names, people looking out of upper windows, it dwells remote from the British Body Politic. Yet has it haphazard proprietary instincts of its own, and a certain possessive prosperity which keeps its rents up when those of other quarters go down. For long years Soames’ acquaintanceship with Soho had been confined to its Western bastion, Wardour Street. Many bargains had he picked up there. Even during those seven years at Brighton after Bosinney’s death and Irene’s flight, he had bought treasures there sometimes, though he had no place to put them; for when the conviction that his wife had gone for good at last became firm within him, he had caused a board to be put up in Montpellier Square:

FOR SALE

THE LEASE OF THIS DESIRABLE RESIDENCE

Enquire of Messrs. Lesson and Tukes,
Court Street, Belgravia.

It had sold within a week–that desirable residence, in the shadow of whose perfection a man and a woman had eaten their hearts out.

Of a misty January evening, just before the board was taken down, Soames had gone there once more, and stood against the Square railings, looking at its unlighted windows, chewing the cud of possessive memories which had turned so bitter in the mouth. Why had she never loved him? Why? She had been given all she had wanted, and in return had given him, for three long years, all he had wanted–except, indeed, her heart. He had uttered a little involuntary groan, and a passing policeman had glanced suspiciously at him who no longer possessed the right to enter that green door with the carved brass knocker beneath the board ‘For Sale!’ A choking sensation had attacked his throat, and he had hurried away into the mist. That evening he had gone to Brighton to live….

Approaching Malta Street, Soho, and the Restaurant Bretagne, where Annette would be drooping her pretty shoulders over her accounts, Soames thought with wonder of those seven years at Brighton. How had he managed to go on so long in that town devoid of the scent of sweetpeas, where he had not even space to put his treasures? True, those had been years with no time at all for looking at them–years of almost passionate money-making, during which Forsyte, Bustard and Forsyte had become solicitors to more limited Companies than they could properly attend to. Up to the City of a morning in a Pullman car, down from the City of an evening in a Pullman car. Law papers again after dinner, then the sleep of the tired, and up again next morning. Saturday to Monday was spent at his Club in town–curious reversal of customary procedure, based on the deep and careful instinct that while working so hard he needed sea air to and from the station twice a day, and while resting must indulge his domestic affections. The Sunday visit to his family in Park Lane, to Timothy’s, and to Green Street; the occasional visits elsewhere had seemed to him as necessary to health as sea air on weekdays. Even since his migration to Mapledurham he had main- tained those habits until–he had known Annette.

Whether Annette had produced the revolution in his outlook, or that outlook had produced Annette, he knew no more than we know where a circle begins. It was intricate and deeply involved with the growing consciousness that property without anyone to leave it to is the negation of true Forsyteism. To have an heir, some continuance of self, who would begin where he left off–ensure, in fact, that he would not leave off–had quite obsessed him for the last year and more. After buying a bit of Wedgwood one evening in April, he had dropped into Malta Street to look at a house of his father’s which had been turned into a restaurant–a risky pro- ceeding, and one not quite in accordance with the terms of the lease. He had stared for a little at the outside painted a good cream colour, with two peacock-blue tubs containing little bay- trees in a recessed doorway–and at the words ‘Restaurant Bretagne’ above them in gold letters, rather favourably impressed. Entering, he had noticed that several people were already seated at little round green tables with little pots of fresh flowers on them and Brittany-ware plates, and had asked of a trim waitress to see the proprietor. They had shown him into a back room, where a girl was sitting at a simple bureau covered with papers, and a small round, table was laid for two. The impression of cleanliness, order, and good taste was confirmed when the girl got up, saying, “You wish to see Maman, Monsieur?” in a broken accent.

“Yes,” Soames had answered, “I represent your landlord; in fact, I’m his son.”

“Won’t you sit down, sir, please? Tell Maman to come to this gentleman.”

He was pleased that the girl seemed impressed, because it showed business instinct; and suddenly he noticed that she was remarkably pretty–so remarkably pretty that his eyes found a difficulty in leaving her face. When she moved to put a chair for him, she swayed in a curious subtle way, as if she had been put together by someone with a special secret skill; and her face and neck, which was a little bared, looked as fresh as if they had been sprayed with dew. Probably at this moment Soames decided that the lease had not been violated; though to himself and his father he based the decision on the efficiency of those illicit adaptations in the building, on the signs of prosperity, and the obvious business capacity of Madame Lamotte. He did not, however, neglect to leave certain matters to future consideration, which had necessitated further visits, so that the little back room had become quite accustomed to his spare, not unsolid, but unobtrusive figure, and his pale, chinny face with clipped moustache and dark hair not yet grizzling at the sides.

“Un Monsieur tres distingue,” Madame Lamotte found him; and presently, “Tres amical, tres gentil,” watching his eyes upon her daughter.

She was one of those generously built, fine-faced, dark-haired Frenchwomen, whose every action and tone of voice inspire perfect confidence in the thoroughness of their domestic tastes, their knowledge of cooking, and the careful increase of their bank balances.

After those visits to the Restaurant Bretagne began, other visits ceased–without, indeed, any definite decision, for Soames, like all Forsytes, and the great majority of their countrymen, was a born empiricist. But it was this change in his mode of life which had gradually made him so definitely conscious that he desired to alter his condition from that of the unmarried married man to that of the married man remarried.

Turning into Malta Street on this evening of early October, 1899, he bought a paper to see if there were any after-development of the Dreyfus case–a question which he had always found useful in making closer acquaintanceship with Madame Lamotte and her daughter, who were Catholic and anti-Dreyfusard.

Scanning those columns, Soames found nothing French, but noticed a general fall on the Stock Exchange and an ominous leader about the Transvaal. He entered, thinking: ‘War’s a certainty. I shall sell my consols.’ Not that he had many, personally, the rate of interest was too wretched; but he should advise his Companies– consols would assuredly go down. A look, as he passed the doorways of the restaurant, assured him that business was good as ever, and this, which in April would have pleased him, now gave him a certain uneasiness. If the steps which he had to take ended in his marrying Annette, he would rather see her mother safely back in France, a move to which the prosperity of the Restaurant Bretagne might become an obstacle. He would have to buy them out, of course, for French people only came to England to make money; and it would mean a higher price. And then that peculiar sweet sensation at the back of his throat, and a slight thumping about the heart, which he always experienced at the door of the little room, prevented his thinking how much it would cost.

Going in, he was conscious of an abundant black skirt vanishing through the door into the restaurant, and of Annette with her hands up to her hair. It was the attitude in which of all others he admired her–so beautifully straight and rounded and supple. And he said:

“I just came in to talk to your mother about pulling down that partition. No, don’t call her.”

“Monsieur will have supper with us? It will be ready in ten minutes.” Soames, who still held her hand, was overcome by an impulse which surprised him.

“You look so pretty to-night,” he said, “so very pretty. Do you know how pretty you look, Annette?”

Annette withdrew her hand, and blushed. “Monsieur is very good.”

“Not a bit good,” said Soames, and sat down gloomily.

Annette made a little expressive gesture with her hands; a smile was crinkling her red lips untouched by salve.

And, looking at those lips, Soames said:

“Are you happy over here, or do you want to go back to France?”

“Oh, I like London. Paris, of course. But London is better than Orleans, and the English country is so beautiful. I have been to Richmond last Sunday.”

Soames went through a moment of calculating struggle. Mapledurham! Dared he? After all, dared he go so far as that, and show her what there was to look forward to! Still! Down there one could say things. In this room it was impossible.

“I want you and your mother,” he said suddenly, “to come for the afternoon next Sunday. My house is on the river, it’s not too late in this weather; and I can show you some good pictures. What do you say?”

Annette clasped her hands.

“It will be lovelee. The river is so beautiful”

“That’s understood, then. I’ll ask Madame.”

He need say no more to her this evening, and risk giving himself away. But had he not already said too much? Did one ask restaurant proprietors with pretty daughters down to one’s country house without design? Madame Lamotte would see, if Annette didn’t. Well! there was not much that Madame did not see. Besides, this was the second time he had stayed to supper with them; he owed them hospitality.

Walking home towards Park Lane–for he was staying at his father’s- -with the impression of Annette’s soft clever hand within his own, his thoughts were pleasant, slightly sensual, rather puzzled. Take steps! What steps? How? Dirty linen washed in public? Pah! With his reputation for sagacity, for far-sightedness and the clever extrication of others, he, who stood for proprietary interests, to become the plaything of that Law of which he was a pillar! There was something revolting in the thought! Winifred’s affair was bad enough! To have a double dose of publicity in the family! Would not a liaison be better than that–a liaison, and a son he could adopt? But dark, solid, watchful, Madame Lamotte blocked the avenue of that vision. No! that would not work. It was not as if Annette could have a real passion for him; one could not expect that at his age. If her mother wished, if the worldly advantage were manifestly great–perhaps! If not, refusal would be certain. Besides, he thought: ‘I’m not a villain. I don’t want to hurt her; and I don’t want anything underhand. But I do want her, and I want a son! There’s nothing for it but divorce–somehow– anyhow–divorce!’ Under the shadow of the plane-trees, in the lamplight, he passed slowly along the railings of the Green Park. Mist clung there among the bluish tree shapes, beyond range of the lamps. How many hundred times he had walked past those trees from his father’s house in Park Lane, when he was quite a young man; or from his own house in Montpellier Square in those four years of married life! And, to-night, making up his mind to free himself if he could of that long useless marriage tie, he took a fancy to walk on, in at Hyde Park Corner, out at Knightsbridge Gate, just as he used to when going home to Irene in the old days. What could she be like now?–how had she passed the years since he last saw her, twelve years in all, seven already since Uncle Jolyon left her that money? Was she still beautiful? Would he know her if he saw her? ‘I’ve not changed much,’ he thought; ‘I expect she has. She made me suffer.’ He remembered suddenly one night, the first on which he went out to dinner alone–an old Malburian dinner–the first year of their marriage. With what eagerness he had hurried back; and, entering softly as a cat, had heard her playing. Opening the drawingroom door noiselessly, he had stood watching the expression on her face, different from any he knew, so much more open, so confiding, as though to her music she was giving a heart he had never seen. And he remembered how she stopped and looked round, how her face changed back to that which he did know, and what an icy shiver had gone through him, for all that the next moment he was fondling her shoulders. Yes, she had made him suffer! Divorce! It seemed ridiculous, after all these years of utter separation! But it would have to be. No other way! ‘The question,’ he thought with sudden realism, ‘is–which of us? She or me? She deserted me. She ought to pay for it. There’ll be someone, I suppose.’ Involuntarily he uttered a little snarling sound, and, turning, made his way back to Park Lane.

CHAPTER V

JAMES SEES VISIONS

The butler himself opened the door, and closing it softly, detained Soames on the inner mat.

“The master’s poorly, sir,” he murmured. “He wouldn’t go to bed till you came in. He’s still in the diningroom.”

Soames responded in the hushed tone to which the house was now accustomed.

“What’s the matter with him, Warmson?”

“Nervous, sir, I think. Might be the funeral; might be Mrs. Dartie’s comin’ round this afternoon. I think he overheard something. I’ve took him in a negus. The mistress has just gone up.”

Soames hung his hat on a mahogany stag’s-horn.

“All right, Warmson, you can go to bed; I’ll take him up myself.” And he passed into the dining-room.

James was sitting before the fire, in a big armchair, with a camel-hair shawl, very light and warm, over his frock-coated shoulders, on to which his long white whiskers drooped. His white hair, still fairly thick, glistened in the lamplight; a little moisture from his fixed, light-grey eyes stained the cheeks, still quite well coloured, and the long deep furrows running to the corners of the clean-shaven lips, which moved as if mumbling thoughts. His long legs, thin as a crow’s, in shepherd’s plaid trousers, were bent at less than a right angle, and on one knee a spindly hand moved continually, with fingers wide apart and glistening tapered nails. Beside him, on a low stool, stood a half-finished glass of negus, bedewed with beads of heat. There he had been sitting, with intervals for meals, all day. At eighty- eight he was still organically sound, but suffering terribly from the thought that no one ever told him anything. It is, indeed, doubtful how he had become aware that Roger was being buried that day, for Emily had kept it from him. She was always keeping things from him. Emily was only seventy! James had a grudge against his wife’s youth. He felt sometimes that he would never have married her if he had known that she would have so many years before her, when he had so few. It was not natural. She would live fifteen or twenty years after he was gone, and might spend a lot of money; she had always had extravagant tastes. For all he knew she might want to buy one of these motor-cars. Cicely and Rachel and Imogen and all the young people–they all rode those bicycles now and went off Goodness knew where. And now Roger was gone. He didn’t know– couldn’t tell! The family was breaking up. Soames would know how much his uncle had left. Curiously he thought of Roger as Soames’ uncle not as his own brother. Soames! It was more and more the one solid spot in a vanishing world. Soames was careful; he was a warm man; but he had no one to leave his money to. There it was! He didn’t know! And there was that fellow Chamberlain! For James’ political principles had been fixed between ’70 and ’85 when ‘that rascally Radical’ had been the chief thorn in the side of property and he distrusted him to this day in spite of his conversion; he would get the country into a mess and make money go down before he had done with it. A stormy petrel of a chap! Where was Soames? He had gone to the funeral of course which they had tried to keep from him. He knew that perfectly well; he had seen his son’s trousers. Roger! Roger in his coffin! He remembered how, when they came up from school together from the West, on the box seat of the old Slowflyer in 1824, Roger had got into the ‘boot’ and gone to sleep. James uttered a thin cackle. A funny fellow–Roger–an original! He didn’t know! Younger than himself, and in his coffin! The family was breaking up. There was Val going to the university; he never came to see him now. He would cost a pretty penny up there. It was an extravagant age. And all the pretty pennies that his four grandchildren would cost him danced before James’ eyes. He did not grudge them the money, but he grudged terribly the risk which the spending of that money might bring on them; he grudged the diminution of security. And now that Cicely had married, she might be having children too. He didn’t know– couldn’t tell! Nobody thought of anything but spending money in these days, and racing about, and having what they called ‘a good time.’ A motor-car went past the window. Ugly great lumbering thing, making all that racket! But there it was, the country rattling to the dogs! People in such a hurry that they couldn’t even care for style–a neat turnout like his barouche and bays was worth all those new-fangled things. And consols at 116! There must be a lot of money in the country. And now there was this old Kruger! They had tried to keep old Kruger from him. But he knew better; there would be a pretty kettle of fish out there! He had known how it would be when that fellow Gladstone–dead now, thank God! made such a mess of it after that dreadful business at Majuba. He shouldn’t wonder if the Empire split up and went to pot. And this vision of the Empire going to pot filled a full quarter of an hour with qualms of the most serious character. He had eaten a poor lunch because of them. But it was after lunch that the real disaster to his nerves occurred. He had been dozing when he became aware of voices–low voices. Ah! they never told him anything! Winifred’s and her mother’s. “Monty!” That fellow Dartie–always that fellow Dartie! The voices had receded; and James had been left alone, with his ears standing up like a hare’s, and fear creeping about his inwards. Why did they leave him alone? Why didn’t they come and tell him? And an awful thought, which through long years had haunted him, concreted again swiftly in his brain. Dartie had gone bankrupt–fraudulently bankrupt, and to save Winifred and the children, he–James–would have to pay! Could he– could Soames turn him into a limited company? No, he couldn’t! There it was! With every minute before Emily came back the spectre fiercened. Why, it might be forgery! With eyes fixed on the doubted Turner in the centre of the wall, James suffered tortures. He saw Dartie in the dock, his grandchildren in the gutter, and himself in bed. He saw the doubted Turner being sold at Jobson’s, and all the majestic edifice of property in rags. He saw in fancy Winifred unfashionably dressed, and heard in fancy Emily’s voice saying: “Now, don’t fuss, James!” She was always saying: “Don’t fuss!” She had no nerves; he ought never to have married a woman eighteen years younger than himself. Then Emily’s real voice said:

“Have you had a nice nap, James?”

Nap! He was in torment, and she asked him that!

“What’s this about Dartie?” he said, and his eyes glared at her.

Emily’s self-possession never deserted her.

“What have you been hearing?” she asked blandly.

“What’s this about Dartie?” repeated James. “He’s gone bankrupt.”

“Fiddle!”

James made a great effort, and rose to the full height of his stork-like figure.

“You never tell me anything,” he said; “he’s gone bankrupt.”

The destruction of that fixed idea seemed to Emily all that mattered at the moment.

“He has not,” she answered firmly. “He’s gone to Buenos Aires.”

If she had said “He’s gone to Mars” she could not have dealt James a more stunning blow; his imagination, invested entirely in British securities, could as little grasp one place as the other.

“What’s he gone there for?” he said. “He’s got no money. What did he take?”

Agitated within by Winifred’s news, and goaded by the constant reiteration of this jeremiad, Emily said calmly:

“He took Winifred’s pearls and a dancer.”

“What!” said James, and sat down.

His sudden collapse alarmed her, and smoothing his forehead, she said:

“Now, don’t fuss, James!”

A dusky red had spread over James’ cheeks and forehead.

“I paid for them,” he said tremblingly; “he’s a thief! I–I knew how it would be. He’ll be the death of me; he ….” Words failed him and he sat quite still. Emily, who thought she knew him so well, was alarmed, and went towards the sideboard where she kept some sal volatile. She could not see the tenacious Forsyte spirit working in that thin, tremulous shape against the extravagance of the emotion called up by this outrage on Forsyte principles–the Forsyte spirit deep in there, saying: ‘You mustn’t get into a fantod, it’ll never do. You won’t digest your lunch. You’ll have a fit!’ All unseen by her, it was doing better work in James than sal volatile.

“Drink this,” she said.

James waved it aside.

“What was Winifred about,” he said, “to let him take her pearls?” Emily perceived the crisis past.

“She can have mine,” she said comfortably. “I never wear them. She’d better get a divorce.”

“There you go!” said James. “Divorce! We’ve never had a divorce in the family. Where’s Soames?”

“He’ll be in directly.”

“No, he won’t,” said James, almost fiercely; “he’s at the funeral. You think I know nothing.”

“Well,” said Emily with calm, “you shouldn’t get into such fusses when we tell you things.” And plumping up his cushions, and putting the sal volatile beside him, she left the room.

But James sat there seeing visions–of Winifred in the Divorce Court, and the family name in the papers; of the earth falling on Roger’s coffin; of Val taking after his father; of the pearls he had paid for and would never see again; of money back at four per cent., and the country going to the dogs; and, as the afternoon wore into evening, and tea-time passed, and dinnertime, those visions became more and more mixed and menacing–of being told nothing, till he had nothing left of all his wealth, and they told him nothing of it. Where was Soames? Why didn’t he come in?… His hand grasped the glass of negus, he raised it to drink, and saw his son standing there looking at him. A little sigh of relief escaped his lips, and putting the glass down, he said:

“There you are! Dartie’s gone to Buenos Aires.”

Soames nodded. “That’s all right,” he said; “good riddance.”

A wave of assuagement passed over James’ brain. Soames knew. Soames was the only one of them all who had sense. Why couldn’t he come and live at home? He had no son of his own. And he said plaintively:

“At my age I get nervous. I wish you were more at home, my boy.”

Again Soames nodded; the mask of his countenance betrayed no understanding, but he went closer, and as if by accident touched his father’s shoulder.

“They sent their love to you at Timothy’s,” he said. “It went off all right. I’ve been to see Winifred. I’m going to take steps.” And he thought: ‘Yes, and you mustn’t hear of them.’

James looked up; his long white whiskers quivered, his thin throat between the points of his collar looked very gristly and naked.

“I’ve been very poorly all day,” he said; “they never tell me anything.”

Soames’ heart twitched.

“Well, it’s all right. There’s nothing to worry about. Will you come up now?” and he put his hand under his father’s arm.

James obediently and tremulously raised himself, and together they went slowly across the room, which had a rich look in the firelight, and out to the stairs. Very slowly they ascended.

“Good-night, my boy,” said James at his bedroom door.

“Good-night, father,” answered Soames. His hand stroked down the sleeve beneath the shawl; it seemed to have almost nothing in it, so thin was the arm. And, turning away from the light in the opening doorway, he went up the extra flight to his own bedroom.

‘I want a son,’ he thought, sitting on the edge of his bed; ‘I want a son.’

CHAPTER VI

NO-LONGER-YOUNG JOLYON AT HOME

Trees take little account of time, and the old oak on the upper lawn at Robin Hill looked no day older than when Bosinney sprawled under it and said to Soames: “Forsyte, I’ve found the very place for your house.” Since then Swithin had dreamed, and old Jolyon died, beneath its branches. And now, close to the swing, no-longer-young Jolyon often painted there. Of all spots in the world it was perhaps the most sacred to him, for he had loved his father.

Contemplating its great girth–crinkled and a little mossed, but not yet hollow–he would speculate on the passage of time. That tree had seen, perhaps, all real English history; it dated, he shouldn’t wonder, from the days of Elizabeth at least. His own fifty years were as nothing to its wood. When the house behind it, which he now owned, was three hundred years of age instead of twelve, that tree might still be standing there, vast and hollow– for who would commit such sacrilege as to cut it down? A Forsyte might perhaps still be living in that house, to guard it jealously. And Jolyon would wonder what the house would look like coated with such age. Wistaria was already about its walls–the new look had gone. Would it hold its own and keep the dignity Bosinney had bestowed on it, or would the giant London have lapped it round and made it into an asylum in the midst of a jerry-built wilderness? Often, within and without of it, he was persuaded that Bosinney had been moved by the spirit when he built. He had put his heart into that house, indeed! It might even become one of the ‘homes of England’–a rare achievement for a house in these degenerate days of building. And the aesthetic spirit, moving hand in hand with his Forsyte sense of possessive continuity, dwelt with pride and pleasure on his ownership thereof. There was the smack of reverence and ancestor-worship (if only for one ancestor) in his desire to hand this house down to his son and his son’s son. His father had loved the house, had loved the view, the grounds, that tree; his last years had been happy there, and no one had lived there before him. These last eleven years at Robin Hill had formed in Jolyon’s life as a painter, the important period of success. He was now in the very van of water-colour art, hanging on the line everywhere. His drawings fetched high prices. Specialising in that one medium with the tenacity of his breed, he had ‘arrived’- -rather late, but not too late for a member of the family which made a point of living for ever. His art had really deepened and improved. In conformity with his position he had grown a short fair beard, which was just beginning to grizzle, and hid his Forsyte chin; his brown face had lost the warped expression of his ostracised period–he looked, if anything, younger. The loss of his wife in 1894 had been one of those domestic tragedies which turn out in the end for the good of all. He had, indeed, loved her to the last, for his was an affectionate spirit, but she had become increasingly difficult: jealous of her step-daughter June, jealous even of her own little daughter Holly, and making ceaseless plaint that he could not love her, ill as she was, and ‘useless to everyone, and better dead.’ He had mourned her sincerely, but his face had looked younger since she died. If she could only have believed that she made him happy, how much happier would the twenty years of their companionship have been!

June had never really got on well with her who had reprehensibly taken her own mother’s place; and ever since old Jolyon died she had been established in a sort of studio in London. But she had come back to Robin Hill on her stepmother’s death, and gathered the reins there into her small decided hands. Jolly was then at Harrow; Holly still learning from Mademoiselle Beauce. There had been nothing to keep Jolyon at home, and he had removed his grief and his paint-box abroad. There he had wandered, for the most part in Brittany, and at last had fetched up in Paris. He had stayed there several months, and come back with the younger face and the short fair beard. Essentially a man who merely lodged in any house, it had suited him perfectly that June should reign at Robin Hill, so that he was free to go off with his easel where and when he liked. She was inclined, it is true, to regard the house rather as an asylum for her proteges! but his own outcast days had filled Jolyon for ever with sympathy towards an outcast, and June’s ‘lame ducks’ about the place did not annoy him. By all means let her have them down–and feed them up; and though his slightly cynical humour perceived that they ministered to his daughter’s love of domination as well as moved her warm heart, he never ceased to admire her for having so many ducks. He fell, indeed, year by year into a more and more detached and brotherly attitude towards his own son and daughters, treating them with a sort of whimsical equality. When he went down to Harrow to see Jolly, he never quite knew which of them was the elder, and would sit eating cherries with him out of one paper bag, with an affectionate and ironical smile twisting up an eyebrow and curling his lips a little. And he was always careful to have money in his pocket, and to be modish in his dress, so that his son need not blush for him. They were perfect friends, but never seemed to have occasion for verbal confidences, both having the competitive self-consciousness of Forsytes. They knew they would stand by each other in scrapes, but there was no need to talk about it. Jolyon had a striking horror- -partly original sin, but partly the result of his early immorality–of the moral attitude. The most he could ever have said to his son would have been:

“Look here, old man; don’t forget you’re a gentleman,” and then have wondered whimsically whether that was not a snobbish sentiment. The great cricket match was perhaps the most searching and awkward time they annually went through together, for Jolyon had been at Eton. They would be particularly careful during that match, continually saying: “Hooray! Oh! hard luck, old man!” or “Hooray! Oh! bad luck, Dad!” to each other, when some disaster at which their hearts bounded happened to the opposing school. And Jolyon would wear a grey top hat, instead of his usual soft one, to save his son’s feelings, for a black top hat he could not stomach. When Jolly went up to Oxford, Jolyon went up with him, amused, humble, and a little anxious not to discredit his boy amongst all these youths who seemed