In Chancery by John Galsworthy
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The University of Adelaide Library
University of Adelaide
South Australia 5005
Table of Contents Part 1
Exit a Man of the World
Soames Prepares to Take Steps
James Sees Visions
No-Longer-Young Jolyon at Home
The Colt and the Filly
Jolyon Prosecutes Trusteeship
Val Hears the News
Soames Entertains the Future
And Visits the Past
On Forsyte ‘Change
Jolyon Finds Out where he is
Soames Discovers what he Wants Part II
The Third Generation
Soames Puts it to the Touch
Visit to Irene
Where Forsytes Fear to Tread
Jolly Sits in Judgment
Jolyon in Two Minds
Dartie Versus Dartie
Dinner at James’
Death of the Dog Balthasar
Timothy Stays the Rot
Progress of the Chase
‘Here We are Again!’
Outlandish Night Part III
Soames in Paris
In the Web
Over the River
A Summer Day
A Summer Night
James in Waiting
Out of the Web
Passing of an Age
Birth of a Forsyte
James is Told
Last updated on Wed Jan 12 09:33:27 2011 for eBooks@Adelaide.
In Chancery, by John Galsworthy
Two households both alike in dignity,
From ancient grudge, break into new mutiny.
— Romeo and Juliet
TO JESSIE AND JOSEPH CONRAD Chapter 1 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 collected 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 themselves, 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 provincialism 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?
“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.
Last updated on Wed Jan 12 09:33:27 2011 for eBooks@Adelaide.
In Chancery, by John Galsworthy
Chapter 2 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 unrewarded, 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 inspection 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 complaining 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!’
Last updated on Wed Jan 12 09:33:27 2011 for eBooks@Adelaide.
In Chancery, by John Galsworthy
Chapter 3 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 pageboy, slightly reassured by the thought that George had just lost his father. He must have come in for about thirty thousand, besides 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.”
“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.
Last updated on Wed Jan 12 09:33:27 2011 for eBooks@Adelaide.
In Chancery, by John Galsworthy
Chapter 4 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:
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 maintained 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 proceeding, 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 drawing-room 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.
Last updated on Wed Jan 12 09:33:27 2011 for eBooks@Adelaide.
In Chancery, by John Galsworthy
Chapter 5 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.”
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.’
Last updated on Wed Jan 12 09:33:27 2011 for eBooks@Adelaide.
In Chancery, by John Galsworthy
Chapter 6 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 so much more assured and old than himself. He often thought, ‘Glad I’m a painter’ for he had long dropped under-writing at Lloyds —‘it’s so innocuous. You can’t look down on a painter — you can’t take him seriously enough.’ For Jolly, who had a sort of natural lordliness, had passed at once into a very small set, who secretly amused his father. The boy had fair hair which curled a little, and his grandfather’s deepset iron-grey eyes. He was well-built and very upright, and always pleased Jolyon’s aesthetic sense, so that he was a tiny bit afraid of him, as artists ever are of those of their own sex whom they admire physically. On that occasion, however, he actually did screw up his courage to give his son advice, and this was it:
“Look here, old man, you’re bound to get into debt; mind you come to me at once. Of course, I’ll always pay them. But you might remember that one respects oneself more afterwards if one pays one’s own way. And don’t ever borrow, except from me, will you?”
And Jolly had said:
“All right, Dad, I won’t,” and he never had.
“And there’s just one other thing. I don’t know much about morality and that, but there is this: It’s always worth while before you do anything to consider whether it’s going to hurt another person more than is absolutely necessary.”
Jolly had looked thoughtful, and nodded, and presently had squeezed his father’s hand. And Jolyon had thought: ‘I wonder if I had the right to say that?’ He always had a sort of dread of losing the dumb confidence they had in each other; remembering how for long years he had lost his own father’s, so that there had been nothing between them but love at a great distance. He under-estimated, no doubt, the change in the spirit of the age since he himself went up to Cambridge in ‘65; and perhaps he underestimated, too, his boy’s power of understanding that he was tolerant to the very bone. It was that tolerance of his, and possibly his scepticism, which ever made his relations towards June so queerly defensive. She was such a decided mortal; knew her own mind so terribly well; wanted things so inexorably until she got them — and then, indeed, often dropped them like a hot potato. Her mother had been like that, whence had come all those tears. Not that his incompatibility with his daughter was anything like what it had been with the first Mrs. Young Jolyon. One could be amused where a daughter was concerned; in a wife’s case one could not be amused. To see June set her heart and jaw on a thing until she got it was all right, because it was never anything which interfered fundamentally with Jolyon’s liberty — the one thing on which his jaw was also absolutely rigid, a considerable jaw, under that short grizzling beard. Nor was there ever any necessity for real heart-to-heart encounters. One could break away into irony — as indeed he often had to. But the real trouble with June was that she had never appealed to his aesthetic sense, though she might well have, with her red-gold hair and her viking-coloured eyes, and that touch of the Berserker in her spirit. It was very different with Holly, soft and quiet, shy and affectionate, with a playful imp in her somewhere. He watched this younger daughter of his through the duckling stage with extraordinary interest. Would she come out a swan? With her sallow oval face and her grey wistful eyes and those long dark lashes, she might, or she might not. Only this last year had he been able to guess. Yes, she would be a swan — rather a dark one, always a shy one, but an authentic swan. She was eighteen now, and Mademoiselle Beauce was gone — the excellent lady had removed, after eleven years haunted by her continuous reminiscences of the ‘well-brrred little Tayleurs,’ to another family whose bosom would now be agitated by her reminiscences of the ‘well-brrred little Forsytes.’ She had taught Holly to speak French like herself.
Portraiture was not Jolyon’s forte, but he had already drawn his younger daughter three times, and was drawing her a fourth, on the afternoon of October 4th, 1899, when a card was brought to him which caused his eyebrows to go up:
Mr. SOAMES FORSYTE
THE SHELTER, CONNOISSEURS CLUB, MAPLEDURHAM. ST. JAMES’S.
But here the Forsyte Saga must digress again....
To return from a long travel in Spain to a darkened house, to a little daughter bewildered with tears, to the sight of a loved father lying peaceful in his last sleep, had never been, was never likely to be, forgotten by so impressionable and warm-hearted a man as Jolyon. A sense as of mystery, too, clung to that sad day, and about the end of one whose life had been so well-ordered, balanced, and above-board. It seemed incredible that his father could thus have vanished without, as it were, announcing his intention, without last words to his son, and due farewells. And those incoherent allusions of little Holly to ‘the lady in grey,’ of Mademoiselle Beauce to a Madame Errant (as it sounded) involved all things in a mist, lifted a little when he read his father’s will and the codicil thereto. It had been his duty as executor of that will and codicil to inform Irene, wife of his cousin Soames, of her life interest in fifteen thousand pounds. He had called on her to explain that the existing investment in India Stock, ear-marked to meet the charge, would produce for her the interesting net sum of L430 odd a year, clear of income tax. This was but the third time he had seen his cousin Soames’ wife — if indeed she was still his wife, of which he was not quite sure. He remembered having seen her sitting in the Botanical Gardens waiting for Bosinney — a passive, fascinating figure, reminding him of Titian’s ‘Heavenly Love,’ and again, when, charged by his father, he had gone to Montpellier Square on the afternoon when Bosinney’s death was known. He still recalled vividly her sudden appearance in the drawing-room doorway on that occasion — her beautiful face, passing from wild eagerness of hope to stony despair; remembered the compassion he had felt, Soames’ snarling smile, his words, “We are not at home!” and the slam of the front door.
This third time he saw a face and form more beautiful — freed from that warp of wild hope and despair. Looking at her, he thought: ‘Yes, you are just what the Dad would have admired!’ And the strange story of his father’s Indian summer became slowly clear to him. She spoke of old Jolyon with reverence and tears in her eyes. “He was so wonderfully kind to me; I don’t know why. He looked so beautiful and peaceful sitting in that chair under the tree; it was I who first came on him sitting there, you know. Such a lovely day. I don’t think an end could have been happier. We should all like to go out like that.”
‘Quite right!’ he had thought. ‘We should all a like to go out in full summer with beauty stepping towards us across a lawn.’ And looking round the little, almost empty drawing-room, he had asked her what she was going to do now. “I am going to live again a little, Cousin Jolyon. It’s wonderful to have money of one’s own. I’ve never had any. I shall keep this flat, I think; I’m used to it; but I shall be able to go to Italy.”
“Exactly!” Jolyon had murmured, looking at her faintly smiling lips; and he had gone away thinking: ‘A fascinating woman! What a waste! I’m glad the Dad left her that money.’ He had not seen her again, but every quarter he had signed her cheque, forwarding it to her bank, with a note to the Chelsea flat to say that he had done so; and always he had received a note in acknowledgment, generally from the flat, but sometimes from Italy; so that her personality had become embodied in slightly scented grey paper, an upright fine handwriting, and the words, ‘Dear Cousin Jolyon.’ Man of property that he now was, the slender cheque he signed often gave rise to the thought: ‘Well, I suppose she just manages’; sliding into a vague wonder how she was faring otherwise in a world of men not wont to let beauty go unpossessed. At first Holly had spoken of her sometimes, but ‘ladies in grey’ soon fade from children’s memories; and the tightening of June’s lips in those first weeks after her grandfather’s death whenever her former friend’s name was mentioned, had discouraged allusion. Only once, indeed, had June spoken definitely: “I’ve forgiven her. I’m frightfully glad she’s independent now....”
On receiving Soames’ card, Jolyon said to the maid — for he could not abide butlers —“Show him into the study, please, and say I’ll be there in a minute”; and then he looked at Holly and asked:
“Do you remember ‘the lady in grey,’ who used to give you music-lessons?”
“Oh yes, why? Has she come?”
Jolyon shook his head, and, changing his holland blouse for a coat, was silent, perceiving suddenly that such history was not for those young ears. His face, in fact, became whimsical perplexity incarnate while he journeyed towards the study.
Standing by the french-window, looking out across the terrace at the oak tree, were two figures, middle-aged and young, and he thought: ‘Who’s that boy? Surely they never had a child.’
The elder figure turned. The meeting of those two Forsytes of the second generation, so much more sophisticated than the first, in the house built for the one and owned and occupied by the other, was marked by subtle defensiveness beneath distinct attempt at cordiality. ‘Has he come about his wife?’ Jolyon was thinking; and Soames, ‘How shall I begin?’ while Val, brought to break the ice, stood negligently scrutinising this ‘bearded pard’ from under his dark, thick eyelashes.
“This is Val Dartie,” said Soames, “my sister’s son. He’s just going up to Oxford. I thought I’d like him to know your boy.”
“Ah! I’m sorry Jolly’s away. What college?”
“B.N.C.,” replied Val.
“Jolly’s at the ‘House,’ but he’ll be delighted to look you up.”
“Holly’s in — if you could put up with a female relation, she’d show you round. You’ll find her in the hall if you go through the curtains. I was just painting her.”
With another “Thanks, awfully!” Val vanished, leaving the two cousins with the ice unbroken.
“I see you’ve some drawings at the ‘Water Colours,’” said Soames.
Jolyon winced. He had been out of touch with the Forsyte family at large for twenty-six years, but they were connected in his mind with Frith’s ‘Derby Day’ and Landseer prints. He had heard from June that Soames was a connoisseur, which made it worse. He had become aware, too, of a curious sensation of repugnance.
“I haven’t seen you for a long time,” he said.
“No,” answered Soames between close lips, “not since — as a matter of fact, it’s about that I’ve come. You’re her trustee, I’m told.”
“Twelve years is a long time,” said Soames rapidly: “I— I’m tired of it.”
Jolyon found no more appropriate answer than:
“Won’t you smoke?”
Jolyon himself lit a cigarette.
“I wish to be free,” said Soames abruptly.
“I don’t see her,” murmured Jolyon through the fume of his cigarette.
“But you know where she lives, I suppose?”
Jolyon nodded. He did not mean to give her address without permission. Soames seemed to divine his thought.
“I don’t want her address,” he said; “I know it.”
“What exactly do you want?”
“She deserted me. I want a divorce.”
“Rather late in the day, isn’t it?”
“Yes,” said Soames. And there was a silence.
“I don’t know much about these things — at least, I’ve forgotten,” said Jolyon with a wry smile. He himself had had to wait for death to grant him a divorce from the first Mrs. Jolyon. “Do you wish me to see her about it?”
Soames raised his eyes to his cousin’s face. “I suppose there’s someone,” he said.
A shrug moved Jolyon’s shoulders.
“I don’t know at all. I imagine you may have both lived as if the other were dead. It’s usual in these cases.”
Soames turned to the window. A few early fallen oak-leaves strewed the terrace already, and were rolling round in the wind. Jolyon saw the figures of Holly and Val Dartie moving across the lawn towards the stables. ‘I’m not going to run with the hare and hunt with the hounds,’ he thought. ‘I must act for her. The Dad would have wished that.’ And for a swift moment he seemed to see his father’s figure in the old armchair, just beyond Soames, sitting with knees crossed, The Times in his hand. It vanished.
“My father was fond of her,” he said quietly.
“Why he should have been I don’t know,” Soames answered without looking round. “She brought trouble to your daughter June; she brought trouble to everyone. I gave her all she wanted. I would have given her even — forgiveness — but she chose to leave me.”
In Jolyon compassion was checked by the tone of that close voice. What was there in the fellow that made it so difficult to be sorry for him?
“I can go and see her, if you like,” he said. “I suppose she might be glad of a divorce, but I know nothing.”
“Yes, please go. As I say, I know her address; but I’ve no wish to see her.” His tongue was busy with his lips, as if they were very dry.
“You’ll have some tea?” said Jolyon, stifling the words: ‘And see the house.’ And he led the way into the hall. When he had rung the bell and ordered tea, he went to his easel to turn his drawing to the wall. He could not bear, somehow, that his work should be seen by Soames, who was standing there in the middle of the great room which had been designed expressly to afford wall space for his own pictures. In his cousin’s face, with its unseizable family likeness to himself, and its chinny, narrow, concentrated look, Jolyon saw that which moved him to the thought: ‘That chap could never forget anything — nor ever give himself away. He’s pathetic!’
Last updated on Wed Jan 12 09:33:27 2011 for eBooks@Adelaide.
In Chancery, by John Galsworthy
Chapter 7 The Colt and the Filly
When young Val left the presence of the last generation he was thinking: ‘This is jolly dull! Uncle Soames does take the bun. I wonder what this filly’s like?’ He anticipated no pleasure from her society; and suddenly he saw her standing there looking at him. Why, she was pretty! What luck!
“I’m afraid you don’t know me,” he said. “My name’s Val Dartie — I’m once removed, second cousin, something like that, you know. My mother’s name was Forsyte.”
Holly, whose slim brown hand remained in his because she was too shy to withdraw it, said:
“I don’t know any of my relations. Are there many?”
“Tons. They’re awful — most of them. At least, I don’t know — some of them. One’s relations always are, aren’t they?”
“I expect they think one awful too,” said Holly.
“I don’t know why they should. No one could think you awful, of course.”
Holly looked at him — the wistful candour in those grey eyes gave young Val a sudden feeling that he must protect her.
“I mean there are people and people,” he added astutely. “Your dad looks awfully decent, for instance.”
“Oh yes!” said Holly fervently; “he is.”
A flush mounted in Val’s cheeks — that scene in the Pandemonium promenade — the dark man with the pink carnation developing into his own father! “But you know what the Forsytes are,” he said almost viciously. “Oh! I forgot; you don’t.”
“What are they?”
“Oh! fearfully careful; not sportsmen a bit. Look at Uncle Soames!”
“I’d like to,” said Holly.
Val resisted a desire to run his arm through hers. “Oh! no,” he said, “let’s go out. You’ll see him quite soon enough. What’s your brother like?”
Holly led the way on to the terrace and down to the lawn without answering. How describe Jolly, who, ever since she remembered anything, had been her lord, master, and ideal?
“Does he sit on you?” said Val shrewdly. “I shall be knowing him at Oxford. Have you got any horses?”
Holly nodded. “Would you like to see the stables?”
They passed under the oak tree, through a thin shrubbery, into the stable-yard. There under a clock-tower lay a fluffy brown-and-white dog, so old that he did not get up, but faintly waved the tail curled over his back.
“That’s Balthasar,” said Holly; “he’s so old — awfully old, nearly as old as I am. Poor old boy! He’s devoted to Dad.”
“Balthasar! That’s a rum name. He isn’t purebred you know.”
“No! but he’s a darling,” and she bent down to stroke the dog. Gentle and supple, with dark covered head and slim browned neck and hands, she seemed to Val strange and sweet, like a thing slipped between him and all previous knowledge.
“When grandfather died,” she said, “he wouldn’t eat for two days. He saw him die, you know.”
“Was that old Uncle Jolyon? Mother always says he was a topper.”
“He was,” said Holly simply, and opened the stable door.
In a loose-box stood a silver roan of about fifteen hands, with a long black tail and mane. “This is mine — Fairy.”
“Ah!” said Val, “she’s a jolly palfrey. But you ought to bang her tail. She’d look much smarter.” Then catching her wondering look, he thought suddenly: ‘I don’t know — anything she likes!’ And he took a long sniff of the stable air. “Horses are ripping, aren’t they? My Dad...” he stopped.
“Yes?” said Holly.
An impulse to unbosom himself almost overcame him — but not quite. “Oh! I don’t know he’s often gone a mucker over them. I’m jolly keen on them too — riding and hunting. I like racing awfully, as well; I should like to be a gentleman rider.” And oblivious of the fact that he had but one more day in town, with two engagements, he plumped out:
“I say, if I hire a gee to-morrow, will you come a ride in Richmond Park?”
Holly clasped her hands.
“Oh yes! I simply love riding. But there’s Jolly’s horse; why don’t you ride him? Here he is. We could go after tea.”
Val looked doubtfully at his trousered legs.
He had imagined them immaculate before her eyes in high brown boots and Bedford cords.
“I don’t much like riding his horse,” he said. “He mightn’t like it. Besides, Uncle Soames wants to get back, I expect. Not that I believe in buckling under to him, you know. You haven’t got an uncle, have you? This is rather a good beast,” he added, scrutinising Jolly’s horse, a dark brown, which was showing the whites of its eyes. “You haven’t got any hunting here, I suppose?”
“No; I don’t know that I want to hunt. It must be awfully exciting, of course; but it’s cruel, isn’t it? June says so.”
“Cruel?” ejaculated Val. “Oh! that’s all rot. Who’s June?”
“My sister — my half-sister, you know — much older than me.” She had put her hands up to both cheeks of Jolly’s horse, and was rubbing her nose against its nose with a gentle snuffling noise which seemed to have an hypnotic effect on the animal. Val contemplated her cheek resting against the horse’s nose, and her eyes gleaming round at him. ‘She’s really a duck,’ he thought.
They returned to the house less talkative, followed this time by the dog Balthasar, walking more slowly than anything on earth, and clearly expecting them not to exceed his speed limit.
“This is a ripping place,” said Val from under the oak tree, where they had paused to allow the dog Balthasar to come up.
“Yes,” said Holly, and sighed. “Of course I want to go everywhere. I wish I were a gipsy.”
“Yes, gipsies are jolly,” replied Val, with a conviction which had just come to him; “you’re rather like one, you know.”
Holly’s face shone suddenly and deeply, like dark leaves gilded by the sun.
“To go mad-rabbiting everywhere and see everything, and live in the open — oh! wouldn’t it be fun?”
“Let’s do it!” said Val.
“Oh yes, let’s!”
“It’d be grand sport, just you and I.”
Then Holly perceived the quaintness and gushed.
“Well, we’ve got to do it,” said Val obstinately, but reddening too.
“I believe in doing things you want to do. What’s down there?”
“The kitchen-garden, and the pond and the coppice, and the farm.”
“Let’s go down!”
Holly glanced back at the house.
“It’s tea-time, I expect; there’s Dad beckoning.”
Val, uttering a growly sound, followed her towards the house.
When they re-entered the hall gallery the sight of two middle-aged Forsytes drinking tea together had its magical effect, and they became quite silent. It was, indeed, an impressive spectacle. The two were seated side by side on an arrangement in marqueterie which looked like three silvery pink chairs made one, with a low tea-table in front of them. They seemed to have taken up that position, as far apart as the seat would permit, so that they need not look at each other too much; and they were eating and drinking rather than talking — Soames with his air of despising the tea-cake as it disappeared, Jolyon of finding himself slightly amusing. To the casual eye neither would have seemed greedy, but both were getting through a good deal of sustenance. The two young ones having been supplied with food, the process went on silent and absorbative, till, with the advent of cigarettes, Jolyon said to Soames:
“And how’s Uncle James?”
“Thanks, very shaky.”
“We’re a wonderful family, aren’t we? The other day I was calculating the average age of the ten old Forsytes from my father’s family Bible. I make it eighty-four already, and five still living. They ought to beat the record;” and looking whimsically at Soames, he added:
“We aren’t the men they were, you know.”
Soames smiled. ‘Do you really think I shall admit that I’m not their equal’; he seemed to be saying, ‘or that I’ve got to give up anything, especially life?’
“We may live to their age, perhaps,” pursued Jolyon, “but self-consciousness is a handicap, you know, and that’s the difference between us. We’ve lost conviction. How and when self-consciousness was born I never can make out. My father had a little, but I don’t believe any other of the old Forsytes ever had a scrap. Never to see yourself as others see you, it’s a wonderful preservative. The whole history of the last century is in the difference between us. And between us and you,” he added, gazing through a ring of smoke at Val and Holly, uncomfortable under his quizzical regard, “there’ll be — another difference. I wonder what.”
Soames took out his watch.
“We must go,” he said, “if we’re to catch our train.”
“Uncle Soames never misses a train,” muttered Val, with his mouth full.
“Why should I?” Soames answered simply.
“Oh! I don’t know,” grumbled Val, “other people do.”
At the front door he gave Holly’s slim brown hand a long and surreptitious squeeze.
“Look out for me to-morrow,” he whispered; “three o’clock. I’ll wait for you in the road; it’ll save time. We’ll have a ripping ride.” He gazed back at her from the lodge gate, and, but for the principles of a man about town, would have waved his hand. He felt in no mood to tolerate his uncle’s conversation. But he was not in danger. Soames preserved a perfect muteness, busy with far-away thoughts.
The yellow leaves came down about those two walking the mile and a half which Soames had traversed so often in those long-ago days when he came down to watch with secret pride the building of the house — that house which was to have been the home of him and her from whom he was now going to seek release. He looked back once, up that endless vista of autumn lane between the yellowing hedges. What an age ago! “I don’t want to see her,” he had said to Jolyon. Was that true? ‘I may have to,’ he thought; and he shivered, seized by one of those queer shudderings that they say mean footsteps on one’s grave. A chilly world! A queer world! And glancing sidelong at his nephew, he thought: ‘Wish I were his age! I wonder what she’s like now!’
Last updated on Wed Jan 12 09:33:27 2011 for eBooks@Adelaide.
In Chancery, by John Galsworthy
Chapter 8 Jolyon Prosecutes Trusteeship
When those two were gone Jolyon did not return to his painting, for daylight was failing, but went to the study, craving unconsciously a revival of that momentary vision of his father sitting in the old leather chair with his knees crossed and his straight eyes gazing up from under the dome of his massive brow. Often in this little room, cosiest in the house, Jolyon would catch a moment of communion with his father. Not, indeed, that he had definitely any faith in the persistence of the human spirit — the feeling was not so logical — it was, rather, an atmospheric impact, like a scent, or one of those strong animistic impressions from forms, or effects of light, to which those with the artist’s eye are especially prone. Here only — in this little unchanged room where his father had spent the most of his waking hours — could be retrieved the feeling that he was not quite gone, that the steady counsel of that old spirit and the warmth of his masterful lovability endured.
What would his father be advising now, in this sudden recrudescence of an old tragedy — what would he say to this menace against her to whom he had taken such a fancy in the last weeks of his life? ‘I must do my best for her,’ thought Jolyon; ‘he left her to me in his will. But what is the best?’
And as if seeking to regain the sapience, the balance and shrewd common sense of that old Forsyte, he sat down in the ancient chair and crossed his knees. But he felt a mere shadow sitting there; nor did any inspiration come, while the fingers of the wind tapped on the darkening panes of the french-window.
‘Go and see her?’ he thought, ‘or ask her to come down here? What’s her life been? What is it now, I wonder? Beastly to rake up things at this time of day.’ Again the figure of his cousin standing with a hand on a front door of a fine olive-green leaped out, vivid, like one of those figures from old-fashioned clocks when the hour strikes; and his words sounded in Jolyon’s ears clearer than any chime: “I manage my own affairs. I’ve told you once, I tell you again: We are not at home.” The repugnance he had then felt for Soames — for his flat-cheeked, shaven face full of spiritual bull-doggedness; for his spare, square, sleek figure slightly crouched as it were over the bone he could not digest — came now again, fresh as ever, nay, with an odd increase. ‘I dislike him,’ he thought, ‘I dislike him to the very roots of me. And that’s lucky; it’ll make it easier for me to back his wife.’ Half-artist, and half-Forsyte, Jolyon was constitutionally averse from what he termed ‘ructions’; unless angered, he conformed deeply to that classic description of the she-dog, ‘Er’d ruther run than fight.’ A little smile became settled in his beard. Ironical that Soames should come down here — to this house, built for himself! How he had gazed and gaped at this ruin of his past intention; furtively nosing at the walls and stairway, appraising everything! And intuitively Jolyon thought: ‘I believe the fellow even now would like to be living here. He could never leave off longing for what he once owned! Well, I must act, somehow or other; but it’s a bore — a great bore.’
Late that evening he wrote to the Chelsea flat, asking if Irene would see him.
The old century which had seen the plant of individualism flower so wonderfully was setting in a sky orange with coming storms. Rumours of war added to the briskness of a London turbulent at the close of the summer holidays. And the streets to Jolyon, who was not often up in town, had a feverish look, due to these new motorcars and cabs, of which he disapproved aesthetically. He counted these vehicles from his hansom, and made the proportion of them one in twenty. ‘They were one in thirty about a year ago,’ he thought; ‘they’ve come to stay. Just so much more rattling round of wheels and general stink’— for he was one of those rather rare Liberals who object to anything new when it takes a material form; and he instructed his driver to get down to the river quickly, out of the traffic, desiring to look at the water through the mellowing screen of plane-trees. At the little block of flats which stood back some fifty yards from the Embankment, he told the cabman to wait, and went up to the first floor.
Yes, Mrs. Heron was at home!
The effect of a settled if very modest income was at once apparent to him remembering the threadbare refinement in that tiny flat eight years ago when he announced her good fortune. Everything was now fresh, dainty, and smelled of flowers. The general effect was silvery with touches of black, hydrangea colour, and gold. ‘A woman of great taste,’ he thought. Time had dealt gently with Jolyon, for he was a Forsyte. But with Irene Time hardly seemed to deal at all, or such was his impression. She appeared to him not a day older, standing there in mole-coloured velvet corduroy, with soft dark eyes and dark gold hair, with outstretched hand and a little smile.
“Won’t you sit down?”
He had probably never occupied a chair with a fuller sense of embarrassment.
“You look absolutely unchanged,” he said.
“And you look younger, Cousin Jolyon.”
Jolyon ran his hands through his hair, whose thickness was still a comfort to him.
“I’m ancient, but I don’t feel it. That’s one thing about painting, it keeps you young. Titian lived to ninety-nine, and had to have plague to kill him off. Do you know, the first time I ever saw you I thought of a picture by him?”
“When did you see me for the first time?”
“In the Botanical Gardens.”
“How did you know me, if you’d never seen me before?”
“By someone who came up to you.” He was looking at her hardily, but her face did not change; and she said quietly:
“Yes; many lives ago.”
“What is your recipe for youth, Irene?”
“People who don’t live are wonderfully preserved.”
H’m! a bitter little saying! People who don’t live! But an opening, and he took it. “You remember my Cousin Soames?”
He saw her smile faintly at that whimsicality, and at once went on:
“He came to see me the day before yesterday! He wants a divorce. Do you?”
“I?” The word seemed startled out of her. “After twelve years? It’s rather late. Won’t it be difficult?”
Jolyon looked hard into her face. “Unless....” he said.
“Unless I have a lover now. But I have never had one since.”
What did he feel at the simplicity and candour of those words? Relief, surprise, pity! Venus for twelve years without a lover!
“And yet,” he said, “I suppose you would give a good deal to be free, too?”
“I don’t know. What does it matter, now?”
“But if you were to love again?”
“I should love.” In that simple answer she seemed to sum up the whole philosophy of one on whom the world had turned its back.
“Well! Is there anything you would like me to say to him?”
“Only that I’m sorry he’s not free. He had his chance once. I don’t know why he didn’t take it.”
“Because he was a Forsyte; we never part with things, you know, unless we want something in their place; and not always then.”
Irene smiled. “Don’t you, Cousin Jolyon?— I think you do.”
“Of course, I’m a bit of a mongrel — not quite a pure Forsyte. I never take the halfpennies off my cheques, I put them on,” said Jolyon uneasily.
“Well, what does Soames want in place of me now?”
“I don’t know; perhaps children.”
She was silent for a little, looking down.
“Yes,” she murmured; “it’s hard. I would help him to be free if I could.”
Jolyon gazed into his hat, his embarrassment was increasing fast; so was his admiration, his wonder, and his pity. She was so lovely, and so lonely; and altogether it was such a coil!
“Well,” he said, “I shall have to see Soames. If there’s anything I can do for you I’m always at your service. You must think of me as a wretched substitute for my father. At all events I’ll let you know what happens when I speak to Soames. He may supply the material himself.”
She shook her head.
“You see, he has a lot to lose; and I have nothing. I should like him to be free; but I don’t see what I can do.”
“Nor I at the moment,” said Jolyon, and soon after took his leave. He went down to his hansom. Half-past three! Soames would be at his office still.
“To the Poultry,” he called through the trap. In front of the Houses of Parliament and in Whitehall, newsvendors were calling, “Grave situation in the Transvaal!” but the cries hardly roused him, absorbed in recollection of that very beautiful figure, of her soft dark glance, and the words: “I have never had one since.” What on earth did such a woman do with her life, back-watered like this? Solitary, unprotected, with every man’s hand against her or rather — reaching out to grasp her at the least sign. And year after year she went on like that!
The word ‘Poultry’ above the passing citizens brought him back to reality.
‘Forsyte, Bustard and Forsyte,’ in black letters on a ground the colour of peasoup, spurred him to a sort of vigour, and he went up the stone stairs muttering: “Fusty musty ownerships! Well, we couldn’t do without them!”
“I want Mr. Soames Forsyte,” he said to the boy who opened the door.
“Mr. Jolyon Forsyte.”
The youth looked at him curiously, never having seen a Forsyte with a beard, and vanished.
The offices of ‘Forsyte, Bustard and Forsyte’ had slowly absorbed the offices of ‘Tooting and Bowles,’ and occupied the whole of the first floor.
The firm consisted now of nothing but Soames and a number of managing and articled clerks. The complete retirement of James some six years ago had accelerated business, to which the final touch of speed had been imparted when Bustard dropped off, worn out, as many believed, by the suit of ‘Fryer versus Forsyte,’ more in Chancery than ever and less likely to benefit its beneficiaries. Soames, with his saner grasp of actualities, had never permitted it to worry him; on the contrary, he had long perceived that Providence had presented him therein with L200 a year net in perpetuity, and — why not?
When Jolyon entered, his cousin was drawing out a list of holdings in Consols, which in view of the rumours of war he was going to advise his companies to put on the market at once, before other companies did the same. He looked round, sidelong, and said:
“How are you? Just one minute. Sit down, won’t you?” And having entered three amounts, and set a ruler to keep his place, he turned towards Jolyon, biting the side of his flat forefinger....
“Yes?” he said.
“I have seen her.”
“She has remained faithful to memory.”
Having said that, Jolyon was ashamed. His cousin had flushed a dusky yellowish red. What had made him tease the poor brute!
“I was to tell you she is sorry you are not free. Twelve years is a long time. You know your law, and what chance it gives you.” Soames uttered a curious little grunt, and the two remained a full minute without speaking. ‘Like wax!’ thought Jolyon, watching that close face, where the flush was fast subsiding. ‘He’ll never give me a sign of what he’s thinking, or going to do. Like wax!’ And he transferred his gaze to a plan of that flourishing town, ‘By-Street on Sea,’ the future existence of which lay exposed on the wall to the possessive instincts of the firm’s clients. The whimsical thought flashed through him: ‘I wonder if I shall get a bill of costs for this —“To attending Mr. Jolyon Forsyte in the matter of my divorce, to receiving his account of his visit to my wife, and to advising him to go and see her again, sixteen and eightpence.”’
Suddenly Soames said: “I can’t go on like this. I tell you, I can’t go on like this.” His eyes were shifting from side to side, like an animal’s when it looks for way of escape. ‘He really suffers,’ thought Jolyon; ‘I’ve no business to forget that, just because I don’t like him.’
“Surely,” he said gently, “it lies with yourself. A man can always put these things through if he’ll take it on himself.”
Soames turned square to him, with a sound which seemed to come from somewhere very deep.
“Why should I suffer more than I’ve suffered already? Why should I?”
Jolyon could only shrug his shoulders. His reason agreed, his instinct rebelled; he could not have said why.
“Your father,” went on Soames, “took an interest in her — why, goodness knows! And I suppose you do too?” he gave Jolyon a sharp look. “It seems to me that one only has to do another person a wrong to get all the sympathy. I don’t know in what way I was to blame — I’ve never known. I always treated her well. I gave her everything she could wish for. I wanted her.”
Again Jolyon’s reason nodded; again his instinct shook its head. ‘What is it?’ he thought; ‘there must be something wrong in me. Yet if there is, I’d rather be wrong than right.’
“After all,” said Soames with a sort of glum fierceness, “she was my wife.”
In a flash the thought went through his listener: ‘There it is! Ownerships! Well, we all own things. But — human beings! Pah!’
“You have to look at facts,” he said drily, “or rather the want of them.”
Soames gave him another quick suspicious look.
“The want of them?” he said. “Yes, but I am not so sure.”
“I beg your pardon,” replied Jolyon; “I’ve told you what she said. It was explicit.”
“My experience has not been one to promote blind confidence in her word. We shall see.”
Jolyon got up.
“Good-bye,” he said curtly.
“Good-bye,” returned Soames; and Jolyon went out trying to understand the look, half-startled, half-menacing, on his cousin’s face. He sought Waterloo Station in a disturbed frame of mind, as though the skin of his moral being had been scraped; and all the way down in the train he thought of Irene in her lonely flat, and of Soames in his lonely office, and of the strange paralysis of life that lay on them both. ‘In chancery!’ he thought. ‘Both their necks in chancery — and her’s so pretty!’
Last updated on Wed Jan 12 09:33:27 2011 for eBooks@Adelaide.
In Chancery, by John Galsworthy
Chapter 9 Val Hears the News
The keeping of engagements had not as yet been a conspicuous feature in the life of young Val Dartie, so that when he broke two and kept one, it was the latter event which caused him, if anything, the greater surprise, while jogging back to town from Robin Hill after his ride with Holly. She had been even prettier than he had thought her yesterday, on her silver-roan, long-tailed ‘palfrey’; and it seemed to him, self-critical in the brumous October gloaming and the outskirts of London, that only his boots had shone throughout their two-hour companionship. He took out his new gold ‘hunter’— present from James — and looked not at the time, but at sections of his face in the glittering back of its opened case. He had a temporary spot over one eyebrow, and it displeased him, for it must have displeased her. Crum never had any spots. Together with Crum rose the scene in the promenade of the Pandemonium. To-day he had not had the faintest desire to unbosom himself to Holly about his father. His father lacked poetry, the stirrings of which he was feeling for the first time in his nineteen years. The Liberty, with Cynthia Dark, that almost mythical embodiment of rapture; the Pandemonium, with the woman of uncertain age — both seemed to Val completely ‘off,’ fresh from communion with this new, shy, dark-haired young cousin of his. She rode ‘Jolly well,’ too, so that it had been all the more flattering that she had let him lead her where he would in the long gallops of Richmond Park, though she knew them so much better than he did. Looking back on it all, he was mystified by the barrenness of his speech; he felt that he could say ‘an awful lot of fetching things’ if he had but the chance again, and the thought that he must go back to Littlehampton on the morrow, and to Oxford on the twelfth —‘to that beastly exam,’ too — without the faintest chance of first seeing her again, caused darkness to settle on his spirit even more quickly than on the evening. He should write to her, however, and she had promised to answer. Perhaps, too, she would come up to Oxford to see her brother. That thought was like the first star, which came out as he rode into Padwick’s livery stables in the purlieus of Sloane Square. He got off and stretched himself luxuriously, for he had ridden some twenty-five good miles. The Dartie within him made him chaffer for five minutes with young Padwick concerning the favourite for the Cambridgeshire; then with the words, “Put the gee down to my account,” he walked away, a little wide at the knees, and flipping his boots with his knotty little cane. ‘I don’t feel a bit inclined to go out,’ he thought. ‘I wonder if mother will stand fizz for my last night!’ With ‘fizz’ and recollection, he could well pass a domestic evening.
When he came down, speckless after his bath, he found his mother scrupulous in a low evening dress, and, to his annoyance, his Uncle Soames. They stopped talking when he came in; then his uncle said:
“He’d better be told.”
At those words, which meant something about his father, of course, Val’s first thought was of Holly. Was it anything beastly? His mother began speaking.
“Your father,” she said in her fashionably appointed voice, while her fingers plucked rather pitifully at sea-green brocade, “your father, my dear boy, has — is not at Newmarket; he’s on his way to South America. He — he’s left us.”
Val looked from her to Soames. Left them! Was he sorry? Was he fond of his father? It seemed to him that he did not know. Then, suddenly — as at a whiff of gardenias and cigars — his heart twitched within him, and he was sorry. One’s father belonged to one, could not go off in this fashion — it was not done! Nor had he always been the ‘bounder’ of the Pandemonium promenade. There were precious memories of tailors’ shops and horses, tips at school, and general lavish kindness, when in luck.
“But why?” he said. Then, as a sportsman himself, was sorry he had asked. The mask of his mother’s face was all disturbed; and he burst out:
“All right, Mother, don’t tell me! Only, what does it mean?”
“A divorce, Val, I’m afraid.”
Val uttered a queer little grunt, and looked quickly at his uncle — that uncle whom he had been taught to look on as a guarantee against the consequences of having a father, even against the Dartie blood in his own veins. The flat-checked visage seemed to wince, and this upset him.
“It won’t be public, will it?”
So vividly before him had come recollection of his own eyes glued to the unsavoury details of many a divorce suit in the Public Press.
“Can’t it be done quietly somehow? It’s so disgusting for — for mother, and — and everybody.”
“Everything will be done as quietly as it can, you may be sure.”
“Yes — but, why is it necessary at all? Mother doesn’t want to marry again.”
Himself, the girls, their name tarnished in the sight of his schoolfellows and of Crum, of the men at Oxford, of — Holly! Unbearable! What was to be gained by it?
“Do you, Mother?” he said sharply.
Thus brought face to face with so much of her own feeling by the one she loved best in the world, Winifred rose from the Empire chair in which she had been sitting. She saw that her son would be against her unless he was told everything; and, yet, how could she tell him? Thus, still plucking at the green brocade, she stared at Soames. Val, too, stared at Soames. Surely this embodiment of respectability and the sense of property could not wish to bring such a slur on his own sister!
Soames slowly passed a little inlaid paperknife over the smooth surface of a marqueterie table; then, without looking at his nephew, he began:
“You don’t understand what your mother has had to put up with these twenty years. This is only the last straw, Val.” And glancing up sideways at Winifred, he added:
“Shall I tell him?”
Winifred was silent. If he were not told, he would be against her! Yet, how dreadful to be told such things of his own father! Clenching her lips, she nodded.
Soames spoke in a rapid, even voice:
“He has always been a burden round your mother’s neck. She has paid his debts over and over again; he has often been drunk, abused and threatened her; and now he is gone to Buenos Aires with a dancer.” And, as if distrusting the efficacy of those words on the boy, he went on quickly:
“He took your mother’s pearls to give to her.”
Val jerked up his hand, then. At that signal of distress Winifred cried out:
“That’ll do, Soames — stop!”
In the boy, the Dartie and the Forsyte were struggling. For debts, drink, dancers, he had a certain sympathy; but the pearls — no! That was too much! And suddenly he found his mother’s hand squeezing his.
“You see,” he heard Soames say, “we can’t have it all begin over again. There’s a limit; we must strike while the iron’s hot.”
Val freed his hand.
“But — you’re — never going to bring out that about the pearls! I couldn’t stand that — I simply couldn’t!”
Winifred cried out:
“No, no, Val — oh no! That’s only to show you how impossible your father is!” And his uncle nodded. Somewhat assuaged, Val took out a cigarette. His father had bought him that thin curved case. Oh! it was unbearable — just as he was going up to Oxford!
“Can’t mother be protected without?” he said. “I could look after her. It could always be done later if it was really necessary.”
A smile played for a moment round Soames’ lips, and became bitter.
“You don’t know what you’re talking of; nothing’s so fatal as delay in such matters.”
“I tell you, boy, nothing’s so fatal. I know from experience.”
His voice had the ring of exasperation. Val regarded him round-eyed, never having known his uncle express any sort of feeling. Oh! Yes — he remembered now — there had been an Aunt Irene, and something had happened — something which people kept dark; he had heard his father once use an unmentionable word of her.
“I don’t want to speak ill of your father,” Soames went on doggedly, “but I know him well enough to be sure that he’ll be back on your mother’s hands before a year’s over. You can imagine what that will mean to her and to all of you after this. The only thing is to cut the knot for good.”
In spite of himself, Val was impressed; and, happening to look at his mother’s face, he got what was perhaps his first real insight into the fact that his own feelings were not always what mattered most.
“All right, mother,” he said; “we’ll back you up. Only I’d like to know when it’ll be. It’s my first term, you know. I don’t want to be up there when it comes off.”
“Oh! my dear boy,” murmured Winifred, “it is a bore for you.” So, by habit, she phrased what, from the expression of her face, was the most poignant regret. “When will it be, Soames?”
“Can’t tell — not for months. We must get restitution first.”
‘What the deuce is that?’ thought Val. ‘What silly brutes lawyers are! Not for months! I know one thing: I’m not going to dine in!’ And he said:
“Awfully sorry, mother, I’ve got to go out to dinner now.”
Though it was his last night, Winifred nodded almost gratefully; they both felt that they had gone quite far enough in the expression of feeling.
Val sought the misty freedom of Green Street, reckless and depressed. And not till he reached Piccadilly did he discover that he had only eighteen-pence. One couldn’t dine off eighteen-pence, and he was very hungry. He looked longingly at the windows of the Iseeum Club, where he had often eaten of the best with his father! Those pearls! There was no getting over them! But the more he brooded and the further he walked the hungrier he naturally became. Short of trailing home, there were only two places where he could go — his grandfather’s in Park Lane, and Timothy’s in the Bayswater Road. Which was the less deplorable? At his grandfather’s he would probably get a better dinner on the spur of the moment. At Timothy’s they gave you a jolly good feed when they expected you, not otherwise. He decided on Park Lane, not unmoved by the thought that to go up to Oxford without affording his grandfather a chance to tip him was hardly fair to either of them. His mother would hear he had been there, of course, and might think it funny; but he couldn’t help that. He rang the bell.
“Hullo, Warmson, any dinner for me, d’you think?”
“They’re just going in, Master Val. Mr. Forsyte will be very glad to see you. He was saying at lunch that he never saw you nowadays.”
“Well, here I am. Kill the fatted calf, Warmson, let’s have fizz.”
Warmson smiled faintly — in his opinion Val was a young limb.
“I will ask Mrs. Forsyte, Master Val.”
“I say,” Val grumbled, taking off his overcoat, “I’m not at school any more, you know.”
Warmson, not without a sense of humour, opened the door beyond the stag’s-horn coat stand, with the words:
“Mr. Valerus, ma’am.”
“Confound him!” thought Val, entering.
A warm embrace, a “Well, Val!” from Emily, and a rather quavery “So there you are at last!” from James, restored his sense of dignity.
“Why didn’t you let us know? There’s only saddle of mutton. Champagne, Warmson,” said Emily. And they went in.
At the great dining-table, shortened to its utmost, under which so many fashionable legs had rested, James sat at one end, Emily at the other, Val half-way between them; and something of the loneliness of his grandparents, now that all their four children were flown, reached the boy’s spirit. ‘I hope I shall kick the bucket long before I’m as old as grandfather,’ he thought. ‘Poor old chap, he’s as thin as a rail!’ And lowering his voice while his grandfather and Warmson were in discussion about sugar in the soup, he said to Emily:
“It’s pretty brutal at home, Granny. I suppose you know.”
“Yes, dear boy.”
“Uncle Soames was there when I left. I say, isn’t there anything to be done to prevent a divorce? Why is he so beastly keen on it?”
“Hush, my dear!” murmured Emily; “we’re keeping it from your grandfather.”
James’ voice sounded from the other end.
“What’s that? What are you talking about?”
“About Val’s college,” returned Emily. “Young Pariser was there, James; you remember — he nearly broke the Bank at Monte Carlo afterwards.”
James muttered that he did not know — Val must look after himself up there, or he’d get into bad ways. And he looked at his grandson with gloom, out of which affection distrustfully glimmered.
“What I’m afraid of,” said Val to his plate, “is of being hard up, you know.”
By instinct he knew that the weak spot in that old man was fear of insecurity for his grandchildren.
“Well,” said James, and the soup in his spoon dribbled over, “you’ll have a good allowance; but you must keep within it.”
“Of course,” murmured Val; “if it is good. How much will it be, Grandfather?”
“Three hundred and fifty; it’s too much. I had next to nothing at your age.”
Val sighed. He had hoped for four, and been afraid of three. “I don’t know what your young cousin has,” said James; “he’s up there. His father’s a rich man.”
“Aren’t you?” asked Val hardily.
“I?” replied James, flustered. “I’ve got so many expenses. Your father....” and he was silent.
“Cousin Jolyon’s got an awfully jolly place. I went down there with Uncle Soames — ripping stables.”
“Ah!” murmured James profoundly. “That house — I knew how it would be!” And he lapsed into gloomy meditation over his fish-bones. His son’s tragedy, and the deep cleavage it had caused in the Forsyte family, had still the power to draw him down into a whirlpool of doubts and misgivings. Val, who hankered to talk of Robin Hill, because Robin Hill meant Holly, turned to Emily and said:
“Was that the house built for Uncle Soames?” And, receiving her nod, went on: “I wish you’d tell me about him, Granny. What became of Aunt Irene? Is she still going? He seems awfully worked-up about something to-night.”
Emily laid her finger on her lips, but the word Irene had caught James’ ear.
“What’s that?” he said, staying a piece of mutton close to his lips. “Who’s been seeing her? I knew we hadn’t heard the last of that.”
“Now, James,” said Emily, “eat your dinner. Nobody’s been seeing anybody.”
James put down his fork.
“There you go,” he said. “I might die before you’d tell me of it. Is Soames getting a divorce?”
“Nonsense,” said Emily with incomparable aplomb; “Soames is much too sensible.”
James had sought his own throat, gathering the long white whiskers together on the skin and bone of it.
“She — she was always....” he said, and with that enigmatic remark the conversation lapsed, for Warmson had returned. But later, when the saddle of mutton had been succeeded by sweet, savoury, and dessert, and Val had received a cheque for twenty pounds and his grandfather’s kiss — like no other kiss in the world, from lips pushed out with a sort of fearful suddenness, as if yielding to weakness — he returned to the charge in the hall.
“Tell us about Uncle Soames, Granny. Why is he so keen on mother’s getting a divorce?”
“Your Uncle Soames,” said Emily, and her voice had in it an exaggerated assurance, “is a lawyer, my dear boy. He’s sure to know best.”
“Is he?” muttered Val. “But what did become of Aunt Irene? I remember she was jolly good-looking.”
“She — er....” said Emily, “behaved very badly. We don’t talk about it.”
“Well, I don’t want everybody at Oxford to know about our affairs,” ejaculated Val; “it’s a brutal idea. Why couldn’t father be prevented without its being made public?”
Emily sighed. She had always lived rather in an atmosphere of divorce, owing to her fashionable proclivities — so many of those whose legs had been under her table having gained a certain notoriety. When, however, it touched her own family, she liked it no better than other people. But she was eminently practical, and a woman of courage, who never pursued a shadow in preference to its substance.
“Your mother,” she said, “will be happier if she’s quite free, Val. Good-night, my dear boy; and don’t wear loud waistcoats up at Oxford, they’re not the thing just now. Here’s a little present.”
With another five pounds in his hand, and a little warmth in his heart, for he was fond of his grandmother, he went out into Park Lane. A wind had cleared the mist, the autumn leaves were rustling, and the stars were shining. With all that money in his pocket an impulse to ‘see life’ beset him; but he had not gone forty yards in the direction of Piccadilly when Holly’s shy face, and her eyes with an imp dancing in their gravity, came up before him, and his hand seemed to be tingling again from the pressure of her warm gloved hand. ‘No, dash it!’ he thought, ‘I’m going home!’
Last updated on Wed Jan 12 09:33:27 2011 for eBooks@Adelaide.
In Chancery, by John Galsworthy
Chapter 10 Soames Entertains the Future
It was full late for the river, but the weather was lovely, and summer lingered below the yellowing leaves. Soames took many looks at the day from his riverside garden near Mapledurham that Sunday morning.
With his own hands he put flowers about his little house-boat, and equipped the punt, in which, after lunch, he proposed to take them on the river. Placing those Chinese-looking cushions, he could not tell whether or no he wished to take Annette alone. She was so very pretty — could he trust himself not to say irrevocable words, passing beyond the limits of discretion? Roses on the veranda were still in bloom, and the hedges ever-green, so that there was almost nothing of middle-aged autumn to chill the mood; yet was he nervous, fidgety, strangely distrustful of his powers to steer just the right course. This visit had been planned to produce in Annette and her mother a due sense of his possessions, so that they should be ready to receive with respect any overture he might later be disposed to make. He dressed with great care, making himself neither too young nor too old, very thankful that his hair was still thick and smooth and had no grey in it. Three times he went up to his picture-gallery. If they had any knowledge at all, they must see at once that his collection alone was worth at least thirty thousand pounds. He minutely inspected, too, the pretty bedroom overlooking the river where they would take off their hats. It would be her bedroom if — if the matter went through, and she became his wife. Going up to the dressing-table he passed his hand over the lilac-coloured pincushion, into which were stuck all kinds of pins; a bowl of pot-pourri exhaled a scent that made his head turn just a little. His wife! If only the whole thing could be settled out of hand, and there was not the nightmare of this divorce to be gone through first; and with gloom puckered on his forehead, he looked out at the river shining beyond the roses and the lawn. Madame Lamotte would never resist this prospect for her child; Annette would never resist her mother. If only he were free! He drove to the station to meet them. What taste Frenchwomen had! Madame Lamotte was in black with touches of lilac colour, Annette in greyish lilac linen, with cream coloured gloves and hat. Rather pale she looked and Londony; and her blue eyes were demure. Waiting for them to come down to lunch, Soames stood in the open french-window of the diningroom moved by that sensuous delight in sunshine and flowers and trees which only came to the full when youth and beauty were there to share it with one. He had ordered the lunch with intense consideration; the wine was a very special Sauterne, the whole appointments of the meal perfect, the coffee served on the veranda super-excellent. Madame Lamotte accepted creme de menthe; Annette refused. Her manners were charming, with just a suspicion of ‘the conscious beauty’ creeping into them. ‘Yes,’ thought Soames, ‘another year of London and that sort of life, and she’ll be spoiled.’
Madame was in sedate French raptures. “Adorable! Le soleil est si bon! How everything is chic, is it not, Annette? Monsieur is a real Monte Cristo.” Annette murmured assent, with a look up at Soames which he could not read. He proposed a turn on the river. But to punt two persons when one of them looked so ravishing on those Chinese cushions was merely to suffer from a sense of lost opportunity; so they went but a short way towards Pangbourne, drifting slowly back, with every now and then an autumn leaf dropping on Annette or on her mother’s black amplitude. And Soames was not happy, worried by the thought: ‘How — when — where — can I say — what?’ They did not yet even know that he was married. To tell them he was married might jeopardise his every chance; yet, if he did not definitely make them understand that he wished for Annette’s hand, it would be dropping into some other clutch before he was free to claim it.
At tea, which they both took with lemon, Soames spoke of the Transvaal.
“There’ll be war,” he said.
Madame Lamotte lamented.
“Ces pauvres gens bergers!” Could they not be left to themselves?
Soames smiled — the question seemed to him absurd.
Surely as a woman of business she understood that the British could not abandon their legitimate commercial interests.
“Ah! that!” But Madame Lamotte found that the English were a little hypocrite. They were talking of justice and the Uitlanders, not of business. Monsieur was the first who had spoken to her of that.
“The Boers are only half-civilised,” remarked Soames; “they stand in the way of progress. It will never do to let our suzerainty go.”
“What does that mean to say? Suzerainty!”
“What a strange word!” Soames became eloquent, roused by these threats to the principle of possession, and stimulated by Annette’s eyes fixed on him. He was delighted when presently she said:
“I think Monsieur is right. They should be taught a lesson.” She was sensible!
“Of course,” he said, “we must act with moderation. I’m no jingo. We must be firm without bullying. Will you come up and see my pictures?” Moving from one to another of these treasures, he soon perceived that they knew nothing. They passed his last Mauve, that remarkable study of a ‘Hay-cart going Home,’ as if it were a lithograph. He waited almost with awe to see how they would view the jewel of his collection — an Israels whose price he had watched ascending till he was now almost certain it had reached top value, and would be better on the market again. They did not view it at all. This was a shock; and yet to have in Annette a virgin taste to form would be better than to have the silly, half-baked predilections of the English middle-class to deal with. At the end of the gallery was a Meissonier of which he was rather ashamed — Meissonier was so steadily going down. Madame Lamotte stopped before it.
“Meissonier! Ah! What a jewel!” Soames took advantage of that moment. Very gently touching Annette’s arm, he said:
“How do you like my place, Annette?”
She did not shrink, did not respond; she looked at him full, looked down, and murmured:
“Who would not like it? It is so beautiful!”
“Perhaps some day —” Soames said, and stopped.
So pretty she was, so self-possessed — she frightened him. Those cornflower-blue eyes, the turn of that creamy neck, her delicate curves — she was a standing temptation to indiscretion! No! No! One must be sure of one’s ground — much surer! ‘If I hold off,’ he thought, ‘it will tantalise her.’ And he crossed over to Madame Lamotte, who was still in front of the Meissonier.
“Yes, that’s quite a good example of his later work. You must come again, Madame, and see them lighted up. You must both come and spend a night.”
Enchanted, would it not be beautiful to see them lighted? By moonlight too, the river must be ravishing!
“Thou art sentimental, Maman!”
Sentimental! That black-robed, comely, substantial Frenchwoman of the world! And suddenly he was certain as he could be that there was no sentiment in either of them. All the better. Of what use sentiment? And yet....!
He drove to the station with them, and saw them into the train. To the tightened pressure of his hand it seemed that Annette’s fingers responded just a little; her face smiled at him through the dark.
He went back to the carriage, brooding. “Go on home, Jordan,” he said to the coachman; “I’ll walk.” And he strode out into the darkening lanes, caution and the desire of possession playing see-saw within him. ‘Bon soir, monsieur!’ How softly she had said it. To know what was in her mind! The French — they were like cats — one could tell nothing! But — how pretty! What a perfect young thing to hold in one’s arms! What a mother for his heir! And he thought, with a smile, of his family and their surprise at a French wife, and their curiosity, and of the way he would play with it and buffet it confound them!
The, poplars sighed in the darkness; an owl hooted. Shadows deepened in the water. ‘I will and must be free,’ he thought. ‘I won’t hang about any longer. I’ll go and see Irene. If you want things done, do them yourself. I must live again — live and move and have my being.’ And in echo to that queer biblicality church-bells chimed the call to evening prayer.
Last updated on Wed Jan 12 09:33:27 2011 for eBooks@Adelaide.
In Chancery, by John Galsworthy
Chapter 11 And Visits the Past
On a Tuesday evening after dining at his club Soames set out to do what required more courage and perhaps less delicacy than anything he had yet undertaken in his life — save perhaps his birth, and one other action. He chose the evening, indeed, partly because Irene was more likely to be in, but mainly because he had failed to find sufficient resolution by daylight, had needed wine to give him extra daring.
He left his hansom on the Embankment, and walked up to the Old Church, uncertain of the block of flats where he knew she lived. He found it hiding behind a much larger mansion; and having read the name, ‘Mrs. Irene Heron’— Heron, forsooth! Her maiden name: so she used that again, did she?— he stepped back into the road to look up at the windows of the first floor. Light was coming through in the corner fiat, and he could hear a piano being played. He had never had a love of music, had secretly borne it a grudge in the old days when so often she had turned to her piano, making of it a refuge place into which she knew he could not enter. Repulse! The long repulse, at first restrained and secret, at last open! Bitter memory came with that sound. It must be she playing, and thus almost assured of seeing her, he stood more undecided than ever. Shivers of anticipation ran through him; his tongue felt dry, his heart beat fast. ‘I have no cause to be afraid,’ he thought. And then the lawyer stirred within him. Was he doing a foolish thing? Ought he not to have arranged a formal meeting in the presence of her trustee? No! Not before that fellow Jolyon, who sympathised with her! Never! He crossed back into the doorway, and, slowly, to keep down the beating of his heart, mounted the single flight of stairs and rang the bell. When the door was opened to him his sensations were regulated by the scent which came — that perfume — from away back in the past, bringing muffled remembrance: fragrance of a drawing-room he used to enter, of a house he used to own — perfume of dried rose-leaves and honey!
“Say, Mr. Forsyte,” he said, “your mistress will see me, I know.” He had thought this out; she would think it was Jolyon!
When the maid was gone and he was alone in the tiny hall, where the light was dim from one pearly-shaded sconce, and walls, carpet, everything was silvery, making the walled-in space all ghostly, he could only think ridiculously: ‘Shall I go in with my overcoat on, or take it off?’ The music ceased; the maid said from the doorway:
“Will you walk in, sir?”
Soames walked in. He noted mechanically that all was still silvery, and that the upright piano was of satinwood. She had risen and stood recoiled against it; her hand, placed on the keys as if groping for support, had struck a sudden discord, held for a moment, and released. The light from the shaded piano-candle fell on her neck, leaving her face rather in shadow. She was in a black evening dress, with a sort of mantilla over her shoulders — he did not remember ever having seen her in black, and the thought passed through him: ‘She dresses even when she’s alone.’
“You!” he heard her whisper.
Many times Soames had rehearsed this scene in fancy. Rehearsal served him not at all. He simply could not speak. He had never thought that the sight of this woman whom he had once so passionately desired, so completely owned, and whom he had not seen for twelve years, could affect him in this way. He had imagined himself speaking and acting, half as man of business, half as judge. And now it was as if he were in the presence not of a mere woman and erring wife, but of some force, subtle and elusive as atmosphere itself within him and outside. A kind of defensive irony welled up in him.
“Yes, it’s a queer visit! I hope you’re well.”
“Thank you. Will you sit down?”
She had moved away from the piano, and gone over to a window-seat, sinking on to it, with her hands clasped in her lap. Light fell on her there, so that Soames could see her face, eyes, hair, strangely as he remembered them, strangely beautiful.
He sat down on the edge of a satinwood chair, upholstered with silver-coloured stuff, close to where he was standing.
“You have not changed,” he said.
“No? What have you come for?”
“To discuss things.”
“I have heard what you want from your cousin.”
“I am willing. I have always been.”
The sound of her voice, reserved and close, the sight of her figure watchfully poised, defensive, was helping him now. A thousand memories of her, ever on the watch against him, stirred, and....
“Perhaps you will be good enough, then, to give me information on which I can act. The law must be complied with.”
“I have none to give you that you don’t know of.”
“Twelve years! Do you suppose I can believe that?”
“I don’t suppose you will believe anything I say; but it’s the truth.”
Soames looked at her hard. He had said that she had not changed; now he perceived that she had. Not in face, except that it was more beautiful; not in form, except that it was a little fuller — no! She had changed spiritually. There was more of her, as it were, something of activity and daring, where there had been sheer passive resistance. ‘Ah!’ he thought, ‘that’s her independent income! Confound Uncle Jolyon!’
“I suppose you’re comfortably off now?” he said.
“Thank you, yes.”
“Why didn’t you let me provide for you? I would have, in spite of everything.”
A faint smile came on her lips; but she did not answer.
“You are still my wife,” said Soames. Why he said that, what he meant by it, he knew neither when he spoke nor after. It was a truism almost preposterous, but its effect was startling. She rose from the window-seat, and stood for a moment perfectly still, looking at him. He could see her bosom heaving. Then she turned to the window and threw it open.
“Why do that?” he said sharply. “You’ll catch cold in that dress. I’m not dangerous.” And he uttered a little sad laugh.
She echoed it — faintly, bitterly.
“It was — habit.”
“Rather odd habit,” said Soames as bitterly. “Shut the window!”
She shut it and sat down again. She had developed power, this woman — this — wife of his! He felt it issuing from her as she sat there, in a sort of armour. And almost unconsciously he rose and moved nearer; he wanted to see the expression on her face. Her eyes met his unflinching. Heavens! how clear they were, and what a dark brown against that white skin, and that burnt-amber hair! And how white her shoulders.
Funny sensation this! He ought to hate her.
“You had better tell me,” he said; “it’s to your advantage to be free as well as to mine. That old matter is too old.”
“I have told you.”
“Do you mean to tell me there has been nothing — nobody?”
“Nobody. You must go to your own life.”
Stung by that retort, Soames moved towards the piano and back to the hearth, to and fro, as he had been wont in the old days in their drawing-room when his feelings were too much for him.
“That won’t do,” he said. “You deserted me. In common justice it’s for you....”
He saw her shrug those white shoulders, heard her murmur:
“Yes. Why didn’t you divorce me then? Should I have cared?”
He stopped, and looked at her intently with a sort of curiosity. What on earth did she do with herself, if she really lived quite alone? And why had he not divorced her? The old feeling that she had never understood him, never done him justice, bit him while he stared at her.
“Why couldn’t you have made me a good wife?” he said.
“Yes; it was a crime to marry you. I have paid for it. You will find some way perhaps. You needn’t mind my name, I have none to lose. Now I think you had better go.”
A sense of defeat — of being defrauded of his self-justification, and of something else beyond power of explanation to himself, beset Soames like the breath of a cold fog. Mechanically he reached up, took from the mantel-shelf a little china bowl, reversed it, and said:
“Lowestoft. Where did you get this? I bought its fellow at Jobson’s.” And, visited by the sudden memory of how, those many years ago, he and she had bought china together, he remained staring at the little bowl, as if it contained all the past. Her voice roused him.
“Take it. I don’t want it.”
Soames put it back on the shelf.
“Will you shake hands?” he said.
A faint smile curved her lips. She held out her hand. It was cold to his rather feverish touch. ‘She’s made of ice,’ he thought —‘she was always made of ice!’ But even as that thought darted through him, his senses were assailed by the perfume of her dress and body, as though the warmth within her, which had never been for him, were struggling to show its presence. And he turned on his heel. He walked out and away, as if someone with a whip were after him, not even looking for a cab, glad of the empty Embankment and the cold river, and the thick-strewn shadows of the plane-tree leaves — confused, flurried, sore at heart, and vaguely disturbed, as though he had made some deep mistake whose consequences he could not foresee. And the fantastic thought suddenly assailed him if instead of, ‘I think you had better go,’ she had said, ‘I think you had better stay!’ What should he have felt, what would he have done? That cursed attraction of her was there for him even now, after all these years of estrangement and bitter thoughts. It was there, ready to mount to his head at a sign, a touch. ‘I was a fool to go!’ he muttered. ‘I’ve advanced nothing. Who could imagine? I never thought!’ Memory, flown back to the first years of his marriage, played him torturing tricks. She had not deserved to keep her beauty — the beauty he had owned and known so well. And a kind of bitterness at the tenacity of his own admiration welled up in him. Most men would have hated the sight of her, as she had deserved. She had spoiled his life, wounded his pride to death, defrauded him of a son. And yet the mere sight of her, cold and resisting as ever, had this power to upset him utterly! It was some damned magnetism she had! And no wonder if, as she asserted; she had lived untouched these last twelve years. So Bosinney — cursed be his memory!— had lived on all this time with her! Soames could not tell whether he was glad of that knowledge or no.
Nearing his Club at last he stopped to buy a paper. A headline ran: ‘Boers reported to repudiate suzerainty!’ Suzerainty! ‘Just like her!’ he thought: ‘she always did. Suzerainty! I still have it by rights. She must be awfully lonely in that wretched little flat!’
Last updated on Wed Jan 12 09:33:27 2011 for eBooks@Adelaide.
In Chancery, by John Galsworthy
Chapter 12 On Forsyte ‘Change
Soames belonged to two clubs, ‘The Connoisseurs,’ which he put on his cards and seldom visited, and ‘The Remove,’ which he did not put on his cards and frequented. He had joined this Liberal institution five years ago, having made sure that its members were now nearly all sound Conservatives in heart and pocket, if not in principle. Uncle Nicholas had put him up. The fine reading-room was decorated in the Adam style.
On entering that evening he glanced at the tape for any news about the Transvaal, and noted that Consols were down seven-sixteenths since the morning. He was turning away to seek the reading-room when a voice behind him said:
“Well, Soames, that went off all right.”
It was Uncle Nicholas, in a frock-coat and his special cut-away collar, with a black tie passed through a ring. Heavens! How young and dapper he looked at eighty-two!
“I think Roger’d have been pleased,” his uncle went on. “The thing was very well done. Blackley’s? I’ll make a note of them. Buxton’s done me no good. These Boers are upsetting me — that fellow Chamberlain’s driving the country into war. What do you think?”
“Bound to come,” murmured Soames.
Nicholas passed his hand over his thin, clean-shaven cheeks, very rosy after his summer cure; a slight pout had gathered on his lips. This business had revived all his Liberal principles.
“I mistrust that chap; he’s a stormy petrel. House-property will go down if there’s war. You’ll have trouble with Roger’s estate. I often told him he ought to get out of some of his houses. He was an opinionated beggar.”
‘There was a pair of you!’ thought Soames. But he never argued with an uncle, in that way preserving their opinion of him as ‘a long-headed chap,’ and the legal care of their property.
“They tell me at Timothy’s,” said Nicholas, lowering his voice, “that Dartie has gone off at last. That’ll be a relief to your father. He was a rotten egg.”
Again Soames nodded. If there was a subject on which the Forsytes really agreed, it was the character of Montague Dartie.
“You take care,” said Nicholas, “or he’ll turn up again. Winifred had better have the tooth out, I should say. No use preserving what’s gone bad.”
Soames looked at him sideways. His nerves, exacerbated by the interview he had just come through, disposed him to see a personal allusion in those words.
“I’m advising her,” he said shortly.
“Well,” said Nicholas, “the brougham’s waiting; I must get home. I’m very poorly. Remember me to your father.”
And having thus reconsecrated the ties of blood, he passed down the steps at his youthful gait and was wrapped into his fur coat by the junior porter.
‘I’ve never known Uncle Nicholas other than “very poorly,”’ mused Soames, ‘or seen him look other than everlasting. What a family! Judging by him, I’ve got thirty-eight years of health before me. Well, I’m not going to waste them.’ And going over to a mirror he stood looking at his face. Except for a line or two, and three or four grey hairs in his little dark moustache, had he aged any more than Irene? The prime of life — he and she in the very prime of life! And a fantastic thought shot into his mind. Absurd! Idiotic! But again it came. And genuinely alarmed by the recurrence, as one is by the second fit of shivering which presages a feverish cold, he sat down on the weighing machine. Eleven stone! He had not varied two pounds in twenty years. What age was she? Nearly thirty-seven — not too old to have a child — not at all! Thirty-seven on the ninth of next month. He remembered her birthday well — he had always observed it religiously, even that last birthday so soon before she left him, when he was almost certain she was faithless. Four birthdays in his house. He had looked forward to them, because his gifts had meant a semblance of gratitude, a certain attempt at warmth. Except, indeed, that last birthday — which had tempted him to be too religious! And he shied away in thought. Memory heaps dead leaves on corpse-like deeds, from under which they do but vaguely offend the sense. And then he thought suddenly: ‘I could send her a present for her birthday. After all, we’re Christians! Couldn’t!— couldn’t we join up again!’ And he uttered a deep sigh sitting there. Annette! Ah! but between him and Annette was the need for that wretched divorce suit! And how?
“A man can always work these things, if he’ll take it on himself,” Jolyon had said.
But why should he take the scandal on himself with his whole career as a pillar of the law at stake? It was not fair! It was quixotic! Twelve years’ separation in which he had taken no steps to free himself put out of court the possibility of using her conduct with Bosinney as a ground for divorcing her. By doing nothing to secure relief he had acquiesced, even if the evidence could now be gathered, which was more than doubtful. Besides, his own pride would never let him use that old incident, he had suffered from it too much. No! Nothing but fresh misconduct on her part — but she had denied it; and — almost — he had believed her. Hung up! Utterly hung up!
He rose from the scooped-out red velvet seat with a feeling of constriction about his vitals. He would never sleep with this going on in him! And, taking coat and hat again, he went out, moving eastward. In Trafalgar Square he became aware of some special commotion travelling towards him out of the mouth of the Strand. It materialised in newspaper men calling out so loudly that no words whatever could be heard. He stopped to listen, and one came by.
“Payper! Special! Ultimatium by Krooger! Declaration of war!” Soames bought the paper. There it was in the stop press....! His first thought was: ‘The Boers are committing suicide.’ His second: ‘Is there anything still I ought to sell?’ If so he had missed the chance — there would certainly be a slump in the city to-morrow. He swallowed this thought with a nod of defiance. That ultimatum was insolent — sooner than let it pass he was prepared to lose money. They wanted a lesson, and they would get it; but it would take three months at least to bring them to heel. There weren’t the troops out there; always behind time, the Government! Confound those newspaper rats! What was the use of waking everybody up? Breakfast to-morrow was quite soon enough. And he thought with alarm of his father. They would cry it down Park Lane. Hailing a hansom, he got in and told the man to drive there.
James and Emily had just gone up to bed, and after communicating the news to Warmson, Soames prepared to follow. He paused by after-thought to say:
“What do you think of it, Warmson?”
The butler ceased passing a hat brush over the silk hat Soames had taken off, and, inclining his face a little forward, said in a low voice: “Well, sir, they ‘aven’t a chance, of course; but I’m told they’re very good shots. I’ve got a son in the Inniskillings.”
“You, Warmson? Why, I didn’t know you were married.”
“No, sir. I don’t talk of it. I expect he’ll be going out.”
The slighter shock Soames had felt on discovering that he knew so little of one whom he thought he knew so well was lost in the slight shock of discovering that the war might touch one personally. Born in the year of the Crimean War, he had only come to consciousness by the time the Indian Mutiny was over; since then the many little wars of the British Empire had been entirely professional, quite unconnected with the Forsytes and all they stood for in the body politic. This war would surely be no exception. But his mind ran hastily over his family. Two of the Haymans, he had heard, were in some Yeomanry or other — it had always been a pleasant thought, there was a certain distinction about the Yeomanry; they wore, or used to wear, a blue uniform with silver about it, and rode horses. And Archibald, he remembered, had once on a time joined the Militia, but had given it up because his father, Nicholas, had made such a fuss about his ‘wasting his time peacocking about in a uniform.’ Recently he had heard somewhere that young Nicholas’ eldest, very young Nicholas, had become a Volunteer. ‘No,’ thought Soames, mounting the stairs slowly, ‘there’s nothing in that!’
He stood on the landing outside his parents’ bed and dressing rooms, debating whether or not to put his nose in and say a reassuring word. Opening the landing window, he listened. The rumble from Piccadilly was all the sound he heard, and with the thought, ‘If these motor-cars increase, it’ll affect house property,’ he was about to pass on up to the room always kept ready for him when he heard, distant as yet, the hoarse rushing call of a newsvendor. There it was, and coming past the house! He knocked on his mother’s door and went in.
His father was sitting up in bed, with his ears pricked under the white hair which Emily kept so beautifully cut. He looked pink, and extraordinarily clean, in his setting of white sheet and pillow, out of which the points of his high, thin, nightgowned shoulders emerged in small peaks. His eyes alone, grey and distrustful under their withered lids, were moving from the window to Emily, who in a wrapper was walking up and down, squeezing a rubber ball attached to a scent bottle. The room reeked faintly of the eau-de-Cologne she was spraying.
“All right!” said Soames, “it’s not a fire. The Boers have declared war — that’s all.”
Emily stopped her spraying.
“Oh!” was all she said, and looked at James.
Soames, too, looked at his father. He was taking it differently from their expectation, as if some thought, strange to them, were working in him.
“H’m!” he muttered suddenly, “I shan’t live to see the end of this.”
“Nonsense, James! It’ll be over by Christmas.”
“What do you know about it?” James answered her with asperity. “It’s a pretty mess at this time of night, too!” He lapsed into silence, and his wife and son, as if hypnotised, waited for him to say: ‘I can’t tell — I don’t know; I knew how it would be!’ But he did not. The grey eyes shifted, evidently seeing nothing in the room; then movement occurred under the bedclothes, and the knees were drawn up suddenly to a great height.
“They ought to send out Roberts. It all comes from that fellow Gladstone and his Majuba.”
The two listeners noted something beyond the usual in his voice, something of real anxiety. It was as if he had said: ‘I shall never see the old country peaceful and safe again. I shall have to die before I know she’s won.’ And in spite of the feeling that James must not be encouraged to be fussy, they were touched. Soames went up to the bedside and stroked his father’s hand which had emerged from under the bedclothes, long and wrinkled with veins.
“Mark my words!” said James, “consols will go to par. For all I know, Val may go and enlist.”
“Oh, come, James!” cried Emily, “you talk as if there were danger.”
Her comfortable voice seemed to soothe James for once.
“Well,” he muttered, “I told you how it would be. I don’t know, I’m sure — nobody tells me anything. Are you sleeping here, my boy?”
The crisis was past, he would now compose himself to his normal degree of anxiety; and, assuring his father that he was sleeping in the house, Soames pressed his hand, and went up to his room.
The following afternoon witnessed the greatest crowd Timothy’s had known for many a year. On national occasions, such as this, it was, indeed, almost impossible to avoid going there. Not that there was any danger or rather only just enough to make it necessary to assure each other that there was none.
Nicholas was there early. He had seen Soames the night before — Soames had said it was bound to come. This old Kruger was in his dotage — why, he must be seventy-five if he was a day!
(Nicholas was eighty-two.) What had Timothy said? He had had a fit after Majuba. These Boers were a grasping lot! The dark-haired Francie, who had arrived on his heels, with the contradictious touch which became the free spirit of a daughter of Roger, chimed in:
“Kettle and pot, Uncle Nicholas. What price the Uitlanders?” What price, indeed! A new expression, and believed to be due to her brother George.
Aunt Juley thought Francie ought not to say such a thing. Dear Mrs. MacAnder’s boy, Charlie MacAnder, was one, and no one could call him grasping. At this Francie uttered one of her mots, scandalising, and so frequently repeated:
“Well, his father’s a Scotchman, and his mother’s a cat.”
Aunt Juley covered her ears, too late, but Aunt Hester smiled; as for Nicholas, he pouted — witticism of which he was not the author was hardly to his taste. Just then Marian Tweetyman arrived, followed almost immediately by young Nicholas. On seeing his son, Nicholas rose.
“Well, I must be going,” he said, “Nick here will tell you what’ll win the race.” And with this hit at his eldest, who, as a pillar of accountancy, and director of an insurance company, was no more addicted to sport than his father had ever been, he departed. Dear Nicholas! What race was that? Or was it only one of his jokes? He was a wonderful man for his age! How many lumps would dear Marian take? And how were Giles and Jesse? Aunt Juley supposed their Yeomanry would be very busy now, guarding the coast, though of course the Boers had no ships. But one never knew what the French might do if they had the chance, especially since that dreadful Fashoda scare, which had upset Timothy so terribly that he had made no investments for months afterwards. It was the ingratitude of the Boers that was so dreadful, after everything had been done for them — Dr. Jameson imprisoned, and he was so nice, Mrs. MacAnder had always said. And Sir Alfred Milner sent out to talk to them — such a clever man! She didn’t know what they wanted.
But at this moment occurred one of those sensations — so precious at Timothy’s — which great occasions sometimes bring forth:
“Miss June Forsyte.”
Aunts Juley and Hester were on their feet at once, trembling from smothered resentment, and old affection bubbling up, and pride at the return of a prodigal June! Well, this was a surprise! Dear June — after all these years! And how well she was looking! Not changed at all! It was almost on their lips to add, ‘And how is your dear grandfather?’ forgetting in that giddy moment that poor dear Jolyon had been in his grave for seven years now.
Ever the most courageous and downright of all the Forsytes, June, with her decided chin and her spirited eyes and her hair like flame, sat down, slight and short, on a gilt chair with a bead-worked seat, for all the world as if ten years had not elapsed since she had been to see them — ten years of travel and independence and devotion to lame ducks. Those ducks of late had been all definitely painters, etchers, or sculptors, so that her impatience with the Forsytes and their hopelessly inartistic outlook had become intense. Indeed, she had almost ceased to believe that her family existed, and looked round her now with a sort of challenging directness which brought exquisite discomfort to the roomful. She had not expected to meet any of them but ‘the poor old things’; and why she had come to see them she hardly knew, except that, while on her way from Oxford Street to a studio in Latimer Road, she had suddenly remembered them with compunction as two long-neglected old lame ducks.
Aunt Juley broke the hush again. “We’ve just been saying, dear, how dreadful it is about these Boers! And what an impudent thing of that old Kruger!”
“Impudent!” said June. “I think he’s quite right. What business have we to meddle with them? If he turned out all those wretched Uitlanders it would serve them right. They’re only after money.”
The silence of sensation was broken by Francie saying:
“What? Are you a pro-Boer?” (undoubtedly the first use of that expression).
“Well! Why can’t we leave them alone?” said June, just as, in the open doorway, the maid said “Mr. Soames Forsyte.” Sensation on sensation! Greeting was almost held up by curiosity to see how June and he would take this encounter, for it was shrewdly suspected, if not quite known, that they had not met since that old and lamentable affair of her fiance Bosinney with Soames’ wife. They were seen to just touch each other’s hands, and look each at the other’s left eye only. Aunt Juley came at once to the rescue:
“Dear June is so original. Fancy, Soames, she thinks the Boers are not to blame.”
“They only want their independence,” said June; “and why shouldn’t they have it?”
“Because,” answered Soames, with his smile a little on one side, “they happen to have agreed to our suzerainty.”
“Suzerainty!” repeated June scornfully; “we shouldn’t like anyone’s suzerainty over us.”
“They got advantages in payment,” replied Soames; “a contract is a contract.”
“Contracts are not always just,” fumed out June, “and when they’re not, they ought to be broken. The Boers are much the weaker. We could afford to be generous.”
Soames sniffed. “That’s mere sentiment,” he said.
Aunt Hester, to whom nothing was more awful than any kind of disagreement, here leaned forward and remarked decisively:
“What lovely weather it has been for the time of year?”
But June was not to be diverted.
“I don’t know why sentiment should be sneered at. It’s the best thing in the world.” She looked defiantly round, and Aunt Juley had to intervene again:
“Have you bought any pictures lately, Soames?”
Her incomparable instinct for the wrong subject had not failed her. Soames flushed. To disclose the name of his latest purchases would be like walking into the jaws of disdain. For somehow they all knew of June’s predilection for ‘genius’ not yet on its legs, and her contempt for ‘success’ unless she had had a finger in securing it.
“One or two,” he muttered.
But June’s face had changed; the Forsyte within her was seeing its chance. Why should not Soames buy some of the pictures of Eric Cobbley — her last lame duck? And she promptly opened her attack: Did Soames know his work? It was so wonderful. He was the coming man.
Oh, yes, Soames knew his work. It was in his view ‘splashy,’ and would never get hold of the public.
June blazed up.
“Of course it won’t; that’s the last thing one would wish for. I thought you were a connoisseur, not a picture-dealer.”
“Of course Soames is a connoisseur,” Aunt Juley said hastily; “he has wonderful taste — he can always tell beforehand what’s going to be successful.”
“Oh!” gasped June, and sprang up from the bead-covered chair, “I hate that standard of success. Why can’t people buy things because they like them?”
“You mean,” said Francie, “because you like them.”
And in the slight pause young Nicholas was heard saying gently that Violet (his fourth) was taking lessons in pastel, he didn’t know if they were any use.
“Well, good-bye, Auntie,” said June; “I must get on,” and kissing her aunts, she looked defiantly round the room, said “Good-bye” again, and went. A breeze seemed to pass out with her, as if everyone had sighed.
The third sensation came before anyone had time to speak:
“Mr. James Forsyte.”
James came in using a stick slightly and wrapped in a fur coat which gave him a fictitious bulk.
Everyone stood up. James was so old; and he had not been at Timothy’s for nearly two years.
“It’s hot in here,” he said.
Soames divested him of his coat, and as he did so could not help admiring the glossy way his father was turned out. James sat down, all knees, elbows, frock-coat, and long white whiskers.
“What’s the meaning of that?” he said.
Though there was no apparent sense in his words, they all knew that he was referring to June. His eyes searched his son’s face.
“I thought I’d come and see for myself. What have they answered Kruger?”
Soames took out an evening paper, and read the headline.
“‘Instant action by our Government — state of war existing!’”
“Ah!” said James, and sighed. “I was afraid they’d cut and run like old Gladstone. We shall finish with them this time.”
All stared at him. James! Always fussy, nervous, anxious! James with his continual, ‘I told you how it would be!’ and his pessimism, and his cautious investments. There was something uncanny about such resolution in this the oldest living Forsyte.
“Where’s Timothy?” said James. “He ought to pay attention to this.”
Aunt Juley said she didn’t know; Timothy had not said much at lunch to-day. Aunt Hester rose and threaded her way out of the room, and Francie said rather maliciously:
“The Boers are a hard nut to crack, Uncle James.”
“H’m!” muttered James. “Where do you get your information? Nobody tells me.”
Young Nicholas remarked in his mild voice that Nick (his eldest) was now going to drill regularly.
“Ah!” muttered James, and stared before him — his thoughts were on Val. “He’s got to look after his mother,” he said, “he’s got no time for drilling and that, with that father of his.” This cryptic saying produced silence, until he spoke again.
“What did June want here?” And his eyes rested with suspicion on all of them in turn. “Her father’s a rich man now.” The conversation turned on Jolyon, and when he had been seen last. It was supposed that he went abroad and saw all sorts of people now that his wife was dead; his water-colours were on the line, and he was a successful man. Francie went so far as to say:
“I should like to see him again; he was rather a dear.”
Aunt Juley recalled how he had gone to sleep on the sofa one day, where James was sitting. He had always been very amiable; what did Soames think?
Knowing that Jolyon was Irene’s trustee, all felt the delicacy of this question, and looked at Soames with interest. A faint pink had come up in his cheeks.
“He’s going grey,” he said.
Indeed! Had Soames seen him? Soames nodded, and the pink vanished.
James said suddenly: “Well — I don’t know, I can’t tell.”
It so exactly expressed the sentiment of everybody present that there was something behind everything, that nobody responded. But at this moment Aunt Hester returned.
“Timothy,” she said in a low voice, “Timothy has bought a map, and he’s put in — he’s put in three flags.”
Timothy had ....! A sigh went round the company.
If Timothy had indeed put in three flags already, well!— it showed what the nation could do when it was roused. The war was as good as over.
Last updated on Wed Jan 12 09:33:27 2011 for eBooks@Adelaide.
In Chancery, by John Galsworthy
Chapter 13 Jolyon Finds Out where he is
Jolyon stood at the window in Holly’s old night nursery, converted into a studio, not because it had a north light, but for its view over the prospect away to the Grand Stand at Epsom. He shifted to the side window which overlooked the stableyard, and whistled down to the dog Balthasar who lay for ever under the clock tower. The old dog looked up and wagged his tail. ‘Poor old boy!’ thought Jolyon, shifting back to the other window.
He had been restless all this week, since his attempt to prosecute trusteeship, uneasy in his conscience which was ever acute, disturbed in his sense of compassion which was easily excited, and with a queer sensation as if his feeling for beauty had received some definite embodiment. Autumn was getting hold of the old oak-tree, its leaves were browning. Sunshine had been plentiful and hot this summer. As with trees, so with men’s lives! ‘I ought to live long,’ thought Jolyon; ‘I’m getting mildewed for want of heat. If I can’t work, I shall be off to Paris.’ But memory of Paris gave him no pleasure. Besides, how could he go? He must stay and see what Soames was going to do. ‘I’m her trustee. I can’t leave her unprotected,’ he thought. It had been striking him as curious how very clearly he could still see Irene in her little drawing-room which he had only twice entered. Her beauty must have a sort of poignant harmony! No literal portrait would ever do her justice; the essence of her was — ah I what?... The noise of hoofs called him back to the other window. Holly was riding into the yard on her long-tailed ‘palfrey.’ She looked up and he waved to her. She had been rather silent lately; getting old, he supposed, beginning to want her future, as they all did — youngsters!
Time was certainly the devil! And with the feeling that to waste this swift-travelling commodity was unforgivable folly, he took up his brush. But it was no use; he could not concentrate his eye — besides, the light was going. ‘I’ll go up to town,’ he thought. In the hall a servant met him.
“A lady to see you, sir; Mrs. Heron.”
Extraordinary coincidence! Passing into the picture-gallery, as it was still called, he saw Irene standing over by the window.
She came towards him saying:
“I’ve been trespassing; I came up through the coppice and garden. I always used to come that way to see Uncle Jolyon.”
“You couldn’t trespass here,” replied Jolyon; “history makes that impossible. I was just thinking of you.”
Irene smiled. And it was as if something shone through; not mere spirituality — serener, completer, more alluring.
“History!” she answered; “I once told Uncle Jolyon that love was for ever. Well, it isn’t. Only aversion lasts.”
Jolyon stared at her. Had she got over Bosinney at last?
“Yes!” he said, “aversion’s deeper than love or hate because it’s a natural product of the nerves, and we don’t change them.”
“I came to tell you that Soames has been to see me. He said a thing that frightened me. He said: ‘You are still my wife!’”
“What!” ejaculated Jolyon. “You ought not to live alone.” And he continued to stare at her, afflicted by the thought that where Beauty was, nothing ever ran quite straight, which, no doubt, was why so many people looked on it as immoral.
“He asked me to shake hands.
“Yes. When he came in I’m sure he didn’t want to; he changed while he was there.”
“Ah! you certainly ought not to go on living there alone.”
“I know no woman I could ask; and I can’t take a lover to order, Cousin Jolyon.”
“Heaven forbid!” said Jolyon. “What a damnable position! Will you stay to dinner? No? Well, let me see you back to town; I wanted to go up this evening.”
“Truly. I’ll be ready in five minutes.”
On that walk to the station they talked of pictures and music, contrasting the English and French characters and the difference in their attitude to Art. But to Jolyon the colours in the hedges of the long straight lane, the twittering of chaffinches who kept pace with them, the perfume of weeds being already burned, the turn of her neck, the fascination of those dark eyes bent on him now and then, the lure of her whole figure, made a deeper impression than the remarks they exchanged. Unconsciously he held himself straighter, walked with a more elastic step.
In the train he put her through a sort of catechism as to what she did with her days.
Made her dresses, shopped, visited a hospital, played her piano, translated from the French.
She had regular work from a publisher, it seemed, which supplemented her income a little. She seldom went out in the evening. “I’ve been living alone so long, you see, that I don’t mind it a bit. I believe I’m naturally solitary.”
“I don’t believe that,” said Jolyon. “Do you know many people?”
At Waterloo they took a hansom, and he drove with her to the door of her mansions. Squeezing her hand at parting, he said:
“You know, you could always come to us at Robin Hill; you must let me know everything that happens. Good-bye, Irene.”
“Good-bye,” she answered softly.
Jolyon climbed back into his cab, wondering why he had not asked her to dine and go to the theatre with him. Solitary, starved, hung-up life that she had! “Hotch Potch Club,” he said through the trap-door. As his hansom debouched on to the Embankment, a man in top-hat and overcoat passed, walking quickly, so close to the wall that he seemed to be scraping it.
‘By Jove!’ thought Jolyon; ‘Soames himself! What’s he up to now?’ And, stopping the cab round the corner, he got out and retraced his steps to where he could see the entrance to the mansions. Soames had halted in front of them, and was looking up at the light in her windows. ‘If he goes in,’ thought Jolyon, ‘what shall I do? What have I the right to do?’ What the fellow had said was true. She was still his wife, absolutely without protection from annoyance! ‘Well, if he goes in,’ he thought, ‘I follow.’ And he began moving towards the mansions. Again Soames advanced; he was in the very entrance now. But suddenly he stopped, spun round on his heel, and came back towards the river. ‘What now?’ thought Jolyon. ‘In a dozen steps he’ll recognise me.’ And he turned tail. His cousin’s footsteps kept pace with his own. But he reached his cab, and got in before Soames had turned the corner. “Go on!” he said through the trap. Soames’ figure ranged up alongside.
“Hansom!” he said. “Engaged? Hallo!”
“Hallo!” answered Jolyon. “You?”
The quick suspicion on his cousin’s face, white in the lamplight, decided him.
“I can give you a lift,” he said, “if you’re going West.”
“Thanks,” answered Soames, and got in.
“I’ve been seeing Irene,” said Jolyon when the cab had started.
“You went to see her yesterday yourself, I understand.”
“I did,” said Soames; “she’s my wife, you know.”
The tone, the half-lifted sneering lip, roused sudden anger in Jolyon; but he subdued it.
“You ought to know best,” he said, “but if you want a divorce it’s not very wise to go seeing her, is it? One can’t run with the hare and hunt with the hounds?”
“You’re very good to warn me,” said Soames, “but I have not made up my mind.”
“She has,” said Jolyon, looking straight before him; “you can’t take things up, you know, as they were twelve years ago.”
“That remains to be seen.”
“Look here!” said Jolyon, “she’s in a damnable position, and I am the only person with any legal say in her affairs.”
“Except myself,” retorted Soames, “who am also in a damnable position. Hers is what she made for herself; mine what she made for me. I am not at all sure that in her own interests I shan’t require her to return to me.”
“What!” exclaimed Jolyon; and a shiver went through his whole body.
“I don’t know what you may mean by ‘what,’” answered Soames coldly; “your say in her affairs is confined to paying out her income; please bear that in mind. In choosing not to disgrace her by a divorce, I retained my rights, and, as I say, I am not at all sure that I shan’t require to exercise them.”
“My God!” ejaculated Jolyon, and he uttered a short laugh.
“Yes,” said Soames, and there was a deadly quality in his voice. “I’ve not forgotten the nickname your father gave me, ‘The man of property’! I’m not called names for nothing.”
“This is fantastic,” murmured Jolyon. Well, the fellow couldn’t force his wife to live with him. Those days were past, anyway! And he looked around at Soames with the thought: ‘Is he real, this man?’ But Soames looked very real, sitting square yet almost elegant with the clipped moustache on his pale face, and a tooth showing where a lip was lifted in a fixed smile. There was a long silence, while Jolyon thought: ‘Instead of helping her, I’ve made things worse.’ Suddenly Soames said:
“It would be the best thing that could happen to her in many ways.”
At those words such a turmoil began taking place in Jolyon that he could barely sit still in the cab. It was as if he were boxed up with hundreds of thousands of his countrymen, boxed up with that something in the national character which had always been to him revolting, something which he knew to be extremely natural and yet which seemed to him inexplicable — their intense belief in contracts and vested rights, their complacent sense of virtue in the exaction of those rights. Here beside him in the cab was the very embodiment, the corporeal sum as it were, of the possessive instinct — his own kinsman, too! It was uncanny and intolerable! ‘But there’s something more in it than that!’ he thought with a sick feeling. ‘The dog, they say, returns to his vomit! The sight of her has reawakened something. Beauty! The devil’s in it!’
“As I say,” said Soames, “I have not made up my mind. I shall be obliged if you will kindly leave her quite alone.”
Jolyon bit his lips; he who had always hated rows almost welcomed the thought of one now.
“I can give you no such promise,” he said shortly.
“Very well,” said Soames, “then we know where we are. I’ll get down here.” And stopping the cab he got out without word or sign of farewell. Jolyon travelled on to his Club.
The first news of the war was being called in the streets, but he paid no attention. What could he do to help her? If only his father were alive! He could have done so much! But why could he not do all that his father could have done? Was he not old enough?— turned fifty and twice married, with grown-up daughters and a son. ‘Queer,’ he thought. ‘If she were plain I shouldn’t be thinking twice about it. Beauty is the devil, when you’re sensitive to it!’ And into the Club reading-room he went with a disturbed heart. In that very room he and Bosinney had talked one summer afternoon; he well remembered even now the disguised and secret lecture he had given that young man in the interests of June, the diagnosis of the Forsytes he had hazarded; and how he had wondered what sort of woman it was he was warning him against. And now! He was almost in want of a warning himself. ‘It’s deuced funny!’ he thought, ‘really deuced funny!’
Last updated on Wed Jan 12 09:33:27 2011 for eBooks@Adelaide.
In Chancery, by John Galsworthy
Chapter 14 Soames Discovers what he Wants
It is so much easier to say, “Then we know where we are,” than to mean anything particular by the words. And in saying them Soames did but vent the jealous rankling of his instincts. He got out of the cab in a state of wary anger — with himself for not having seen Irene, with Jolyon for having seen her; and now with his inability to tell exactly what he wanted.
He had abandoned the cab because he could not bear to remain seated beside his cousin, and walking briskly eastwards he thought: ‘I wouldn’t trust that fellow Jolyon a yard. Once outcast, always outcast!’ The chap had a natural sympathy with — with — laxity (he had shied at the word sin, because it was too melodramatic for use by a Forsyte).
Indecision in desire was to him a new feeling. He was like a child between a promised toy and an old one which had been taken away from him; and he was astonished at himself. Only last Sunday desire had seemed simple — just his freedom and Annette. ‘I’ll go and dine there,’ he thought. To see her might bring back his singleness of intention, calm his exasperation, clear his mind.
The restaurant was fairly full — a good many foreigners and folk whom, from their appearance, he took to be literary or artistic. Scraps of conversation came his way through the clatter of plates and glasses. He distinctly heard the Boers sympathised with, the British Government blamed. ‘Don’t think much of their clientele,’ he thought. He went stolidly through his dinner and special coffee without making his presence known, and when at last he had finished, was careful not to be seen going towards the sanctum of Madame Lamotte. They were, as he entered, having supper — such a much nicer-looking supper than the dinner he had eaten that he felt a kind of grief — and they greeted him with a surprise so seemingly genuine that he thought with sudden suspicion: ‘I believe they knew I was here all the time.’ He gave Annette a look furtive and searching. So pretty, seemingly so candid; could she be angling for him? He turned to Madame Lamotte and said:
“I’ve been dining here.”
Really! If she had only known! There were dishes she could have recommended; what a pity! Soames was confirmed in his suspicion. ‘I must look out what I’m doing!’ he thought sharply.
“Another little cup of very special coffee, monsieur; a liqueur, Grand Marnier?” and Madame Lamotte rose to order these delicacies.
Alone with Annette Soames said, “Well, Annette?” with a defensive little smile about his lips.
The girl blushed. This, which last Sunday would have set his nerves tingling, now gave him much the same feeling a man has when a dog that he owns wriggles and looks at him. He had a curious sense of power, as if he could have said to her, ‘Come and kiss me,’ and she would have come. And yet — it was strange — but there seemed another face and form in the room too; and the itch in his nerves, was it for that — or for this? He jerked his head towards the restaurant and said: “You have some queer customers. Do you like this life?”
Annette looked up at him for a moment, looked down, and played with her fork.
“No,” she said, “I do not like it.”
‘I’ve got her,’ thought Soames, ‘if I want her. But do I want her?’ She was graceful, she was pretty — very pretty; she was fresh, she had taste of a kind. His eyes travelled round the little room; but the eyes of his mind went another journey — a half-light, and silvery walls, a satinwood piano, a woman standing against it, reined back as it were from him — a woman with white shoulders that he knew, and dark eyes that he had sought to know, and hair like dull dark amber. And as in an artist who strives for the unrealisable and is ever thirsty, so there rose in him at that moment the thirst of the old passion he had never satisfied.
“Well,” he said calmly, “you’re young. There’s everything before you.”
Annette shook her head.
“I think sometimes there is nothing before me but hard work. I am not so in love with work as mother.”
“Your mother is a wonder,” said Soames, faintly mocking; “she will never let failure lodge in her house.”
Annette sighed. “It must be wonderful to be rich.”
“Oh! You’ll be rich some day,” answered Soames, still with that faint mockery; “don’t be afraid.”
Annette shrugged her shoulders. “Monsieur is very kind.” And between her pouting lips she put a chocolate.
‘Yes, my dear,’ thought Soames, ‘they’re very pretty.’
Madame Lamotte, with coffee and liqueur, put an end to that colloquy. Soames did not stay long.
Outside in the streets of Soho, which always gave him such a feeling of property improperly owned, he mused. If only Irene had given him a son, he wouldn’t now be squirming after women! The thought had jumped out of its little dark sentry-box in his inner consciousness. A son — something to look forward to, something to make the rest of life worth while, something to leave himself to, some perpetuity of self. ‘If I had a son,’ he thought bitterly, ‘a proper legal son, I could make shift to go on as I used. One woman’s much the same as another, after all.’ But as he walked he shook his head. No! One woman was not the same as another. Many a time had he tried to think that in the old days of his thwarted married life; and he had always failed. He was failing now. He was trying to think Annette the same as that other. But she was not, she had not the lure of that old passion. ‘And Irene’s my wife,’ he thought, ‘my legal wife. I have done nothing to put her away from me. Why shouldn’t she come back to me? It’s the right thing, the lawful thing. It makes no scandal, no disturbance. If it’s disagreeable to her — but why should it be? I’m not a leper, and she — she’s no longer in love!’ Why should he be put to the shifts and the sordid disgraces and the lurking defeats of the Divorce Court, when there she was like an empty house only waiting to be retaken into use and possession by him who legally owned her? To one so secretive as Soames the thought of reentry into quiet possession of his own property with nothing given away to the world was intensely alluring. ‘No,’ he mused, ‘I’m glad I went to see that girl. I know now what I want most. If only Irene will come back I’ll be as considerate as she wishes; she could live her own life; but perhaps — perhaps she would come round to me.’ There was a lump in his throat. And doggedly along by the railings of the Green Park, towards his father’s house, he went, trying to tread on his shadow walking before him in the brilliant moonlight.
Last updated on Wed Jan 12 09:33:27 2011 for eBooks@Adelaide.
In Chancery, by John Galsworthy
Part II Chapter 1 The Third Generation
Jolly Forsyte was strolling down High Street, Oxford, on a November afternoon; Val Dartie was strolling up. Jolly had just changed out of boating flannels and was on his way to the ‘Frying-pan,’ to which he had recently been elected. Val had just changed out of riding clothes and was on his way to the fire — a bookmaker’s in Cornmarket.
“Hallo!” said Jolly.
“Hallo!” replied Val.
The cousins had met but twice, Jolly, the second-year man, having invited the freshman to breakfast; and last evening they had seen each other again under somewhat exotic circumstances.
Over a tailor’s in the Cornmarket resided one of those privileged young beings called minors, whose inheritances are large, whose parents are dead, whose guardians are remote, and whose instincts are vicious. At nineteen he had commenced one of those careers attractive and inexplicable to ordinary mortals for whom a single bankruptcy is good as a feast. Already famous for having the only roulette table then to be found in Oxford, he was anticipating his expectations at a dazzling rate. He out-crummed Crum, though of a sanguine and rather beefy type which lacked the latter’s fascinating languor. For Val it had been in the nature of baptism to be taken there to play roulette; in the nature of confirmation to get back into college, after hours, through a window whose bars were deceptive. Once, during that evening of delight, glancing up from the seductive green before him, he had caught sight, through a cloud of smoke, of his cousin standing opposite. ‘Rouge gagne, impair, et manque!’ He had not seen him again.
“Come in to the Frying-pan and have tea,” said Jolly, and they went in.
A stranger, seeing them together, would have noticed an unseizable resemblance between these second cousins of the third generations of Forsytes; the same bone formation in face, though Jolly’s eyes were darker grey, his hair lighter and more wavy.
“Tea and buttered buns, waiter, please,” said Jolly.
“Have one of my cigarettes?” said Val. “I saw you last night. How did you do?”
“I didn’t play.”
“I won fifteen quid.”
Though desirous of repeating a whimsical comment on gambling he had once heard his father make —‘When you’re fleeced you’re sick, and when you fleece you’re sorry — Jolly contented himself with:
“Rotten game, I think; I was at school with that chap. He’s an awful fool.”
“Oh! I don’t know,” said Val, as one might speak in defence of a disparaged god; “he’s a pretty good sport.”
They exchanged whiffs in silence.
“You met my people, didn’t you?” said Jolly. “They’re coming up to-morrow.”
Val grew a little red.
“Really! I can give you a rare good tip for the Manchester November handicap.”
“Thanks, I only take interest in the classic races.”
“You can’t make any money over them,” said Val.
“I hate the ring,” said Jolly; “there’s such a row and stink. I like the paddock.”
“I like to back my judgment,”’ answered Val.
Jolly smiled; his smile was like his father’s.
“I haven’t got any. I always lose money if I bet.”
“You have to buy experience, of course.”
“Yes, but it’s all messed-up with doing people in the eye.”
“Of course, or they’ll do you — that’s the excitement.”
Jolly looked a little scornful.
“What do you do with yourself? Row?”
“No — ride, and drive about. I’m going to play polo next term, if I can get my granddad to stump up.”
“That’s old Uncle James, isn’t it? What’s he like?”
“Older than forty hills,” said Val, “and always thinking he’s going to be ruined.”
“I suppose my granddad and he were brothers.”
“I don’t believe any of that old lot were sportsmen,” said Val; “they must have worshipped money.”
“Mine didn’t!” said Jolly warmly.
Val flipped the ash off his cigarette.
“Money’s only fit to spend,” he said; “I wish the deuce I had more.”
Jolly gave him that direct upward look of judgment which he had inherited from old Jolyon: One didn’t talk about money! And again there was silence, while they drank tea and ate the buttered buns.
“Where are your people going to stay?” asked Val, elaborately casual.
“‘Rainbow.’ What do you think of the war?”
“Rotten, so far. The Boers aren’t sports a bit. Why don’t they come out into the open?”
“Why should they? They’ve got everything against them except their way of fighting. I rather admire them.”
“They can ride and shoot,” admitted Val, “but they’re a lousy lot. Do you know Crum?”
“Of Merton? Only by sight. He’s in that fast set too, isn’t he? Rather La-di-da and Brummagem.”
Val said fixedly: “He’s a friend of mine.”
“Oh! Sorry!” And they sat awkwardly staring past each other, having pitched on their pet points of snobbery. For Jolly was forming himself unconsciously on a set whose motto was:
‘We defy you to bore us. Life isn’t half long enough, and we’re going to talk faster and more crisply, do more and know more, and dwell less on any subject than you can possibly imagine. We are “the best”— made of wire and whipcord.’ And Val was unconsciously forming himself on a set whose motto was: ‘We defy you to interest or excite us. We have had every sensation, or if we haven’t, we pretend we have. We are so exhausted with living that no hours are too small for us. We will lose our shirts with equanimity. We have flown fast and are past everything. All is cigarette smoke. Bismillah!’ Competitive spirit, bone-deep in the English, was obliging those two young Forsytes to have ideals; and at the close of a century ideals are mixed. The aristocracy had already in the main adopted the ‘jumping-Jesus’ principle; though here and there one like Crum — who was an ‘honourable’— stood starkly languid for that gambler’s Nirvana which had been the summum bonum of the old ‘dandies’ and of ‘the mashers’ in the eighties. And round Crum were still gathered a forlorn hope of blue-bloods with a plutocratic following.
But there was between the cousins another far less obvious antipathy — coming from the unseizable family resemblance, which each perhaps resented; or from some half-consciousness of that old feud persisting still between their branches of the clan, formed within them by odd words or half-hints dropped by their elders. And Jolly, tinkling his teaspoon, was musing: ‘His tie-pin and his waistcoat and his drawl and his betting — good Lord!’
And Val, finishing his bun, was thinking: ‘He’s rather a young beast!’
“I suppose you’ll be meeting your people?” he said, getting up. “I wish you’d tell them I should like to show them over B.N.C.— not that there’s anything much there — if they’d care to come.”
“Thanks, I’ll ask them.”
“Would they lunch? I’ve got rather a decent scout.”
Jolly doubted if they would have time.
“You’ll ask them, though?”
“Very good of you,” said Jolly, fully meaning that they should not go; but, instinctively polite, he added: “You’d better come and have dinner with us to-morrow.”
“Rather. What time?”
“No.” And they parted, a subtle antagonism alive within them.
Holly and her father arrived by a midday train. It was her first visit to the city of spires and dreams, and she was very silent, looking almost shyly at the brother who was part of this wonderful place. After lunch she wandered, examining his household gods with intense curiosity. Jolly’s sitting-room was panelled, and Art represented by a set of Bartolozzi prints which had belonged to old Jolyon, and by college photographs — of young men, live young men, a little heroic, and to be compared with her memories of Val. Jolyon also scrutinised with care that evidence of his boy’s character and tastes.
Jolly was anxious that they should see him rowing, so they set forth to the river. Holly, between her brother and her father, felt elated when heads were turned and eyes rested on her. That they might see him to the best advantage they left him at the Barge and crossed the river to the towing-path. Slight in build — for of all the Forsytes only old Swithin and George were beefy — Jolly was rowing ‘Two’ in a trial eight. He looked very earnest and strenuous. With pride Jolyon thought him the best-looking boy of the lot; Holly, as became a sister, was more struck by one or two of the others, but would not have said so for the world. The river was bright that afternoon, the meadows lush, the trees still beautiful with colour. Distinguished peace clung around the old city; Jolyon promised himself a day’s sketching if the weather held. The Eight passed a second time, spurting home along the Barges — Jolly’s face was very set, so as not to show that he was blown. They returned across the river and waited for him.
“Oh!” said Jolly in the Christ Church meadows, “I had to ask that chap Val Dartie to dine with us to-night. He wanted to give you lunch and show you B.N.C., so I thought I’d better; then you needn’t go. I don’t like him much.”
Holly’s rather sallow face had become suffused with pink.
“Oh! I don’t know. He seems to me rather showy and bad form. What are his people like, Dad? He’s only a second cousin, isn’t he?”
Jolyon took refuge in a smile.
“Ask Holly,” he said; “she saw his uncle.”
“I liked Val,” Holly answered, staring at the ground before her; “his uncle looked — awfully different.” She stole a glance at Jolly from under her lashes.
“Did you ever,” said Jolyon with whimsical intention, “hear our family history, my dears? It’s quite a fairy tale. The first Jolyon Forsyte — at all events the first we know anything of, and that would be your great-great-grandfather — dwelt in the land of Dorset on the edge of the sea, being by profession an ‘agriculturalist,’ as your great-aunt put it, and the son of an agriculturist — farmers, in fact; your grandfather used to call them, ‘Very small beer.’” He looked at Jolly to see how his lordliness was standing it, and with the other eye noted Holly’s malicious pleasure in the slight drop of her brother’s face.
“We may suppose him thick and sturdy, standing for England as it was before the Industrial Era began. The second Jolyon Forsyte — your great-grandfather, Jolly; better known as Superior Dosset Forsyte — built houses, so the chronicle runs, begat ten children, and migrated to London town. It is known that he drank sherry. We may suppose him representing the England of Napoleon’s wars, and general unrest. The eldest of his six sons was the third Jolyon, your grandfather, my dears — tea merchant and chairman of companies, one of the soundest Englishmen who ever lived — and to me the dearest.” Jolyon’s voice had lost its irony, and his son and daughter gazed at him solemnly, “He was just and tenacious, tender and young at heart. You remember him, and I remember him. Pass to the others! Your great-uncle James, that’s young Val’s grandfather, had a son called Soames — whereby hangs a tale of no love lost, and I don’t think I’ll tell it you. James and the other eight children of ‘Superior Dosset,’ of whom there are still five alive, may be said to have represented Victorian England, with its principles of trade and individualism at five per cent. and your money back — if you know what that means. At all events they’ve turned thirty thousand pounds into a cool million between them in the course of their long lives. They never did a wild thing — unless it was your great-uncle Swithin, who I believe was once swindled at thimble-rig, and was called ‘Four-in-hand Forsyte’ because he drove a pair. Their day is passing, and their type, not altogether for the advantage of the country. They were pedestrian, but they too were sound. I am the fourth Jolyon Forsyte — a poor holder of the name —”
“No, Dad,” said Jolly, and Holly squeezed his hand.
“Yes,” repeated Jolyon, “a poor specimen, representing, I’m afraid, nothing but the end of the century, unearned income, amateurism, and individual liberty — a different thing from individualism, Jolly. You are the fifth Jolyon Forsyte, old man, and you open the ball of the new century.”
As he spoke they turned in through the college gates, and Holly said: “It’s fascinating, Dad.”
None of them quite knew what she meant. Jolly was grave.
The Rainbow, distinguished, as only an Oxford hostel can be, for lack of modernity, provided one small oak-panelled private sitting-room, in which Holly sat to receive, white-frocked, shy, and alone, when the only guest arrived. Rather as one would touch a moth, Val took her hand. And wouldn’t she wear this ‘measly flower’? It would look ripping in her hair. He removed a gardenia from his coat.
“Oh! No, thank you — I couldn’t!” But she took it and pinned it at her neck, having suddenly remembered that word ‘showy’! Val’s buttonhole would give offence; and she so much wanted Jolly to like him. Did she realise that Val was at his best and quietest in her presence, and was that, perhaps, half the secret of his attraction for her?
“I never said anything about our ride, Val.”
“Rather not! It’s just between us.”
By the uneasiness of his hands and the fidgeting of his feet he was giving her a sense of power very delicious; a soft feeling too — the wish to make him happy.
“Do tell me about Oxford. It must be ever so lovely.”
Val admitted that it was frightfully decent to do what you liked; the lectures were nothing; and there were some very good chaps. “Only,” he added, “of course I wish I was in town, and could come down and see you.”
Holly moved one hand shyly on her knee, and her glance dropped.
“You haven’t forgotten,” he said, suddenly gathering courage, “that we’re going mad-rabbiting together?”
“Oh! That was only make-believe. One can’t do that sort of thing after one’s grown up, you know.”
“Dash it! cousins can,” said Val. “Next Long Vac.— it begins in June, you know, and goes on for ever — we’ll watch our chance.”
But, though the thrill of conspiracy ran through her veins, Holly shook her head. “It won’t come off,” she murmured.
“Won’t it!” said Val fervently; “who’s going to stop it? Not your father or your brother.”
At this moment Jolyon and Jolly came in; and romance fled into Val’s patent leather and Holly’s white satin toes, where it itched and tingled during an evening not conspicuous for open-heartedness.
Sensitive to atmosphere, Jolyon soon felt the latent antagonism between the boys, and was puzzled by Holly; so he became unconsciously ironical, which is fatal to the expansiveness of youth. A letter, handed to him after dinner, reduced him to a silence hardly broken till Jolly and Val rose to go. He went out with them, smoking his cigar, and walked with his son to the gates of Christ Church. Turning back, he took out the letter and read it again beneath a lamp.
“Soames came again to-night — my thirty-seventh birthday. You were right, I mustn’t stay here. I’m going to-morrow to the Piedmont Hotel, but I won’t go abroad without seeing you. I feel lonely and down-hearted.
“Yours affectionately, “IRENE.”
He folded the letter back into his pocket and walked on, astonished at the violence of his feelings. What had the fellow said or done?
He turned into High Street, down the Turf, and on among a maze of spires and domes and long college fronts and walls, bright or dark-shadowed in the strong moonlight. In this very heart of England’s gentility it was difficult to realise that a lonely woman could be importuned or hunted, but what else could her letter mean? Soames must have been pressing her to go back to him again, with public opinion and the Law on his side, too! ‘Eighteen-ninety-nine!,’ he thought, gazing at the broken glass shining on the top of a villa garden wall; ‘but when it comes to property we’re still a heathen people! I’ll go up to-morrow morning. I dare say it’ll be best for her to go abroad.’ Yet the thought displeased him. Why should Soames hunt her out of England! Besides, he might follow, and out there she would be still more helpless against the attentions of her own husband! ‘I must tread warily,’ he thought; ‘that fellow could make himself very nasty. I didn’t like his manner in the cab the other night.’ His thoughts turned to his daughter June. Could she help? Once on a time Irene had been her greatest friend, and now she was a ‘lame duck,’ such as must appeal to June’s nature! He determined to wire to his daughter to meet him at Paddington Station. Retracing his steps towards the Rainbow he questioned his own sensations. Would he be upsetting himself over every woman in like case? No! he would not. The candour of this conclusion discomfited him; and, finding that Holly had gone up to bed, he sought his own room. But he could not sleep, and sat for a long time at his window, huddled in an overcoat, watching the moonlight on the roofs.
Next door Holly too was awake, thinking of the lashes above and below Val’s eyes, especially below; and of what she could do to make Jolly like him better. The scent of the gardenia was strong in her little bedroom, and pleasant to her.
And Val, leaning out of his first-floor window in B.N.C., was gazing at a moonlit quadrangle without seeing it at all, seeing instead Holly, slim and white-frocked, as she sat beside the fire when he first went in.
But Jolly, in his bedroom narrow as a ghost, lay with a hand beneath his cheek and dreamed he was with Val in one boat, rowing a race against him, while his father was calling from the towpath: ‘Two! Get your hands away there, bless you!’
Last updated on Wed Jan 12 09:33:27 2011 for eBooks@Adelaide.
In Chancery, by John Galsworthy
Chapter 2 Soames Puts it to the Touch
Of all those radiant firms which emblazon with their windows the West End of London, Gaves and Cortegal were considered by Soames the most ‘attractive’ word just coming into fashion. He had never had his Uncle Swithin’s taste in precious stones, and the abandonment by Irene when she left his house in 1887 of all the glittering things he had given her had disgusted him with this form of investment. But he still knew a diamond when he saw one, and during the week before her birthday he had taken occasion, on his way into the Poultry or his way out therefrom, to dally a little before the greater jewellers where one got, if not one’s money’s worth, at least a certain cachet with the goods.
Constant cogitation since his drive with Jolyon had convinced him more and more of the supreme importance of this moment in his life, the supreme need for taking steps and those not wrong. And, alongside the dry and reasoned sense that it was now or never with his self-preservation, now or never if he were to range himself and found a family, went the secret urge of his senses roused by the sight of her who had once been a passionately desired wife, and the conviction that it was a sin against common sense and the decent secrecy of Forsytes to waste the wife he had.
In an opinion on Winifred’s case, Dreamer, Q.C.— he would much have preferred Waterbuck, but they had made him a judge (so late in the day as to rouse the usual suspicion of a political job)— had advised that they should go forward and obtain restitution of conjugal rights, a point which to Soames had never been in doubt. When they had obtained a decree to that effect they must wait to see if it was obeyed. If not, it would constitute legal desertion, and they should obtain evidence of misconduct and file their petition for divorce. All of which Soames knew perfectly well. They had marked him ten and one. This simplicity in his sister’s case only made him the more desperate about the difficulty in his own. Everything, in fact, was driving him towards the simple solution of Irene’s return. If it were still against the grain with her, had he not feelings to subdue, injury to forgive, pain to forget? He at least had never injured her, and this was a world of compromise! He could offer her so much more than she had now. He would be prepared to make a liberal settlement on her which could not be upset. He often scrutinised his image in these days. He had never been a peacock like that fellow Dartie, or fancied himself a woman’s man, but he had a certain belief in his own appearance — not unjustly, for it was well-coupled and preserved, neat, healthy, pale, unblemished by drink or excess of any kind. The Forsyte jaw and the concentration of his face were, in his eyes, virtues. So far as he could tell there was no feature of him which need inspire dislike.
Thoughts and yearnings, with which one lives daily, become natural, even if far-fetched in their inception. If he could only give tangible proof enough of his determination to let bygones be bygones, and to do all in his power to please her, why should she not come back to him?
He entered Gaves and Cortegal’s therefore, on the morning of November the 9th, to buy a certain diamond brooch. “Four twenty-five and dirt cheap, sir, at the money. It’s a lady’s brooch.” There was that in his mood which made him accept without demur. And he went on into the Poultry with the flat green morocco case in his breast pocket. Several times that day he opened it to look at the seven soft shining stones in their velvet oval nest.
“If the lady doesn’t like it, sir, happy to exchange it any time. But there’s no fear of that.” If only there were not! He got through a vast amount of work, only soother of the nerves he knew. A cablegram came while he was in the office with details from the agent in Buenos Aires, and the name and address of a stewardess who would be prepared to swear to what was necessary. It was a timely spur to Soames, with his rooted distaste for the washing of dirty linen in public. And when he set forth by Underground to Victoria Station he received a fresh impetus towards the renewal of his married life from the account in his evening paper of a fashionable divorce suit. The homing instinct of all true Forsytes in anxiety and trouble, the corporate tendency which kept them strong and solid, made him choose to dine at Park Lane. He neither could nor would breath a word to his people of his intention — too reticent and proud — but the thought that at least they would be glad if they knew, and wish him luck, was heartening.
James was in lugubrious mood, for the fire which the impudence of Kruger’s ultimatum had lit in him had been cold-watered by the poor success of the last month, and the exhortations to effort in The Times. He didn’t know where it would end. Soames sought to cheer him by the continual use of the word Buller. But James couldn’t tell! There was Colley — and he got stuck on that hill, and this Ladysmith was down in a hollow, and altogether it looked to him a ‘pretty kettle of fish’; he thought they ought to be sending the sailors — they were the chaps, they did a lot of good in the Crimea. Soames shifted the ground of consolation. Winifred had heard from Val that there had been a ‘rag’ and a bonfire on Guy Fawkes Day at Oxford, and that he had escaped detection by blacking his face.
“Ah!” James muttered, “he’s a clever little chap.” But he shook his head shortly afterwards and remarked that he didn’t know what would become of him, and looking wistfully at his son, murmured on that Soames had never had a boy. He would have liked a grandson of his own name. And now — well, there it was!
Soames flinched. He had not expected such a challenge to disclose the secret in his heart. And Emily, who saw him wince, said:
“Nonsense, James; don’t talk like that!”
But James, not looking anyone in the face, muttered on. There were Roger and Nicholas and Jolyon; they all had grandsons. And Swithin and Timothy had never married. He had done his best; but he would soon be gone now. And, as though he had uttered words of profound consolation, he was silent, eating brains with a fork and a piece of bread, and swallowing the bread.
Soames excused himself directly after dinner. It was not really cold, but he put on his fur coat, which served to fortify him against the fits of nervous shivering to which he had been subject all day. Subconsciously, he knew that he looked better thus than in an ordinary black overcoat. Then, feeling the morocco case flat against his heart, he sallied forth. He was no smoker, but he lit a cigarette, and smoked it gingerly as he walked along. He moved slowly down the Row towards Knightsbridge, timing himself to get to Chelsea at nine-fifteen. What did she do with herself evening after evening in that little hole? How mysterious women were! One lived alongside and knew nothing of them. What could she have seen in that fellow Bosinney to send her mad? For there was madness after all in what she had done — crazy moonstruck madness, in which all sense of values had been lost, and her life and his life ruined! And for a moment he was filled with a sort of exaltation, as though he were a man read of in a story who, possessed by the Christian spirit, would restore to her all the prizes of existence, forgiving and forgetting, and becoming the godfather of her future. Under a tree opposite Knightsbridge Barracks, where the moon-light struck down clear and white, he took out once more the morocco case, and let the beams draw colour from those stones. Yes, they were of the first water! But, at the hard closing snap of the case, another cold shiver ran through his nerves; and he walked on faster, clenching his gloved hands in the pockets of his coat, almost hoping she would not be in. The thought of how mysterious she was again beset him. Dining alone there night after night — in an evening dress, too, as if she were making believe to be in society! Playing the piano — to herself! Not even a dog or cat, so far as he had seen. And that reminded him suddenly of the mare he kept for station work at Mapledurham. If ever he went to the stable, there she was quite alone, half asleep, and yet, on her home journeys going more freely than on her way out, as if longing to be back and lonely in her stable! ‘I would treat her well,’ he thought incoherently. ‘I would be very careful.’ And all that capacity for home life of which a mocking Fate seemed for ever to have deprived him swelled suddenly in Soames, so that he dreamed dreams opposite South Kensington Station. In the King’s Road a man came slithering out of a public house playing a concertina. Soames watched him for a moment dance crazily on the pavement to his own drawling jagged sounds, then crossed over to avoid contact with this piece of drunken foolery. A night in the lock-up! What asses people were! But the man had noticed his movement of avoidance, and streams of genial blasphemy followed him across the street. ‘I hope they’ll run him in,’ thought Soames viciously. ‘To have ruffians like that about, with women out alone!’ A woman’s figure in front had induced this thought. Her walk seemed oddly familiar, and when she turned the corner for which he was bound, his heart began to beat. He hastened on to the corner to make certain. Yes! It was Irene; he could not mistake her walk in that little drab street. She threaded two more turnings, and from the last corner he saw her enter her block of flats. To make sure of her now, he ran those few paces, hurried up the stairs, and caught her standing at her door. He heard the latchkey in the lock, and reached her side just as she turned round, startled, in the open doorway.
“Don’t be alarmed,” he said, breathless. “I happened to see you. Let me come in a minute.”
She had put her hand up to her breast, her face was colourless, her eyes widened by alarm. Then seeming to master herself, she inclined her head, and said: “Very well.”
Soames closed the door. He, too, had need to recover, and when she had passed into the sitting-room, waited a full minute, taking deep breaths to still the beating of his heart. At this moment, so fraught with the future, to take out that morocco case seemed crude. Yet, not to take it out left him there before her with no preliminary excuse for coming. And in this dilemma he was seized with impatience at all this paraphernalia of excuse and justification. This was a scene — it could be nothing else, and he must face it. He heard her voice, uncomfortably, pathetically soft:
“Why have you come again? Didn’t you understand that I would rather you did not?”
He noticed her clothes — a dark brown velvet corduroy, a sable boa, a small round toque of the same. They suited her admirably. She had money to spare for dress, evidently! He said abruptly:
“It’s your birthday. I brought you this,” and he held out to her the green morocco case.
Soames pressed the clasp; the seven stones gleamed out on the pale grey velvet.
“Why not?” he said. “Just as a sign that you don’t bear me ill-feeling any longer.”
Soames took it out of the case.
“Let me just see how it looks.”
She shrank back.
He followed, thrusting his hand with the brooch in it against the front of her dress. She shrank again.
Soames dropped his hand.
“Irene,” he said, “let bygones be bygones. If I can, surely you might. Let’s begin again, as if nothing had been. Won’t you?” His voice was wistful, and his eyes, resting on her face, had in them a sort of supplication.
She, who was standing literally with her back against the wall, gave a little gulp, and that was all her answer. Soames went on:
“Can you really want to live all your days half-dead in this little hole? Come back to me, and I’ll give you all you want. You shall live your own life; I swear it.”
He saw her face quiver ironically.
“Yes,” he repeated, “but I mean it this time. I’ll only ask one thing. I just want — I just want a son. Don’t look like that! I want one. It’s hard.” His voice had grown hurried, so that he hardly knew it for his own, and twice he jerked his head back as if struggling for breath. It was the sight of her eyes fixed on him, dark with a sort of fascinated fright, which pulled him together and changed that painful incoherence to anger.
“Is it so very unnatural?” he said between his teeth, “Is it unnatural to want a child from one’s own wife? You wrecked our life and put this blight on everything. We go on only half alive, and without any future. Is it so very unflattering to you that in spite of everything I— I still want you for my wife? Speak, for Goodness’ sake! do speak.”
Irene seemed to try, but did not succeed.
“I don’t want to frighten you,” said Soames more gently. “Heaven knows. I only want you to see that I can’t go on like this. I want you back. I want you.”
Irene raised one hand and covered the lower part of her face, but her eyes never moved from his, as though she trusted in them to keep him at bay. And all those years, barren and bitter, since — ah! when?— almost since he had first known her, surged up in one great wave of recollection in Soames; and a spasm that for his life he could not control constricted his face.
“It’s not too late,” he said; “it’s not — if you’ll only believe it.”
Irene uncovered her lips, and both her hands made a writhing gesture in front of her breast. Soames seized them.
“Don’t!” she said under her breath. But he stood holding on to them, trying to stare into her eyes which did not waver. Then she said quietly:
“I am alone here. You won’t behave again as you once behaved.”
Dropping her hands as though they had been hot irons, he turned away. Was it possible that there could be such relentless unforgiveness! Could that one act of violent possession be still alive within her? Did it bar him thus utterly? And doggedly he said, without looking up:
“I am not going till you’ve answered me. I am offering what few men would bring themselves to offer, I want a — a reasonable answer.”
And almost with surprise he heard her say:
“You can’t have a reasonable answer. Reason has nothing to do with it. You can only have the brutal truth: I would rather die.”
Soames stared at her.
“Oh!” he said. And there intervened in him a sort of paralysis of speech and movement, the kind of quivering which comes when a man has received a deadly insult, and does not yet know how he is going to take it, or rather what it is going to do with him.
“Oh!” he said again, “as bad as that? Indeed! You would rather die. That’s pretty!”
“I am sorry. You wanted me to answer. I can’t help the truth, can I?”
At that queer spiritual appeal Soames turned for relief to actuality. He snapped the brooch back into its case and put it in his pocket.
“The truth!” he said; “there’s no such thing with women. It’s nerves-nerves.”
He heard the whisper:
“Yes; nerves don’t lie. Haven’t you discovered that?” He was silent, obsessed by the thought: ‘I will hate this woman. I will hate her.’ That was the trouble! If only he could! He shot a glance at her who stood unmoving against the wall with her head up and her hands clasped, for all the world as if she were going to be shot. And he said quickly:
“I don’t believe a word of it. You have a lover. If you hadn’t, you wouldn’t be such a — such a little idiot.” He was conscious, before the expression in her eyes, that he had uttered something of a non-sequitur, and dropped back too abruptly into the verbal freedom of his connubial days. He turned away to the door. But he could not go out. Something within him — that most deep and secret Forsyte quality, the impossibility of letting go, the impossibility of seeing the fantastic and forlorn nature of his own tenacity — prevented him. He turned about again, and there stood, with his back against the door, as hers was against the wall opposite, quite unconscious of anything ridiculous in this separation by the whole width of the room.
“Do you ever think of anybody but yourself?” he said.
Irene’s lips quivered; then she answered slowly:
“Do you ever think that I found out my mistake — my hopeless, terrible mistake — the very first week of our marriage; that I went on trying three years — you know I went on trying? Was it for myself?”
Soames gritted his teeth. “God knows what it was. I’ve never understood you; I shall never understand you. You had everything you wanted; and you can have it again, and more. What’s the matter with me? I ask you a plain question: What is it?” Unconscious of the pathos in that enquiry, he went on passionately: “I’m not lame, I’m not loathsome, I’m not a boor, I’m not a fool. What is it? What’s the mystery about me?”
Her answer was a long sigh.
He clasped his hands with a gesture that for him was strangely full of expression. “When I came here to-night I was — I hoped — I meant everything that I could to do away with the past, and start fair again. And you meet me with ‘nerves,’ and silence, and sighs. There’s nothing tangible. It’s like — it’s like a spider’s web.”
That whisper from across the room maddened Soames afresh.
“Well, I don’t choose to be in a spider’s web. I’ll cut it.” He walked straight up to her. “Now!” What he had gone up to her to do he really did not know. But when he was close, the old familiar scent of her clothes suddenly affected him. He put his hands on her shoulders and bent forward to kiss her. He kissed not her lips, but a little hard line where the lips had been drawn in; then his face was pressed away by her hands; he heard her say: “Oh! No!” Shame, compunction, sense of futility flooded his whole being, he turned on his heel and went straight out.
Last updated on Wed Jan 12 09:33:27 2011 for eBooks@Adelaide.
In Chancery, by John Galsworthy
Chapter 3 Visit to Irene
Jolyon found June waiting on the platform at Paddington. She had received his telegram while at breakfast. Her abode — a studio and two bedrooms in a St. John’s Wood garden — had been selected by her for the complete independence which it guaranteed. Unwatched by Mrs. Grundy, unhindered by permanent domestics, she could receive lame ducks at any hour of day or night, and not seldom had a duck without studio of its own made use of June’s. She enjoyed her freedom, and possessed herself with a sort of virginal passion; the warmth which she would have lavished on Bosinney, and of which — given her Forsyte tenacity — he must surely have tired, she now expended in championship of the underdogs and budding ‘geniuses’ of the artistic world. She lived, in fact, to turn ducks into the swans she believed they were. The very fervour of her protection warped her judgments. But she was loyal and liberal; her small eager hand was ever against the oppressions of academic and commercial opinion, and though her income was considerable, her bank balance was often a minus quantity.
She had come to Paddington Station heated in her soul by a visit to Eric Cobbley. A miserable Gallery had refused to let that straight-haired genius have his one-man show after all. Its impudent manager, after visiting his studio, had expressed the opinion that it would only be a ‘one-horse show from the selling point of view.’ This crowning example of commercial cowardice towards her favourite lame duck — and he so hard up, with a wife and two children, that he had caused her account to be overdrawn — was still making the blood glow in her small, resolute face, and her red-gold hair to shine more than ever. She gave her father a hug, and got into a cab with him, having as many fish to fry with him as he with her. It became at once a question which would fry them first.
Jolyon had reached the words: “My dear, I want you to come with me,” when, glancing at her face, he perceived by her blue eyes moving from side to side — like the tail of a preoccupied cat — that she was not attending. “Dad, is it true that I absolutely can’t get at any of my money?”
“Only the income, fortunately, my love.”
“How perfectly beastly! Can’t it be done somehow? There must be a way. I know I could buy a small Gallery for ten thousand pounds.”
“A small Gallery,” murmured Jolyon, “seems a modest desire. But your grandfather foresaw it.”
“I think,” cried June vigorously, “that all this care about money is awful, when there’s so much genius in the world simply crushed out for want of a little. I shall never marry and have children; why shouldn’t I be able to do some good instead of having it all tied up in case of things which will never come off?”
“Our name is Forsyte, my dear,” replied Jolyon in the ironical voice to which his impetuous daughter had never quite grown accustomed; “and Forsytes, you know, are people who so settle their property that their grandchildren, in case they should die before their parents, have to make wills leaving the property that will only come to themselves when their parents die. Do you follow that? Nor do I, but it’s a fact, anyway; we live by the principle that so long as there is a possibility of keeping wealth in the family it must not go out; if you die unmarried, your money goes to Jolly and Holly and their children if they marry. Isn’t it pleasant to know that whatever you do you can none of you be destitute?”
“But can’t I borrow the money?”
Jolyon shook his head. “You could rent a Gallery, no doubt, if you could manage it out of your income.”
June uttered a contemptuous sound.
“Yes; and have no income left to help anybody with.”
“My dear child,” murmured Jolyon, “wouldn’t it come to the same thing?”
“No,” said June shrewdly, “I could buy for ten thousand; that would only be four hundred a year. But I should have to pay a thousand a year rent, and that would only leave me five hundred. If I had the Gallery, Dad, think what I could do. I could make Eric Cobbley’s name in no time, and ever so many others.”
“Names worth making make themselves in time.”
“When they’re dead.”
“Did you ever know anybody living, my dear, improved by having his name made?”
“Yes, you,” said June, pressing his arm.
Jolyon started. ‘I?’ he thought. ‘Oh! Ah! Now she’s going to ask me to do something. We take it out, we Forsytes, each in our different ways.’
June came closer to him in the cab.
“Darling,” she said, “you buy the Gallery, and I’ll pay you four hundred a year for it. Then neither of us will be any the worse off. Besides, it’s a splendid investment.”
Jolyon wriggled. “Don’t you think,” he said, “that for an artist to buy a Gallery is a bit dubious? Besides, ten thousand pounds is a lump, and I’m not a commercial character.”
June looked at him with admiring appraisement.
“Of course you’re not, but you’re awfully businesslike. And I’m sure we could make it pay. It’ll be a perfect way of scoring off those wretched dealers and people.” And again she squeezed her father’s arm.
Jolyon’s face expressed quizzical despair.
“Where is this desirable Gallery? Splendidly situated, I suppose?”
“Just off Cork Street.”
‘Ah!’ thought Jolyon, ‘I knew it was just off somewhere. Now for what I want out of her!’
“Well, I’ll think of it, but not just now. You remember Irene? I want you to come with me and see her. Soames is after her again. She might be safer if we could give her asylum somewhere.”
The word asylum, which he had used by chance, was of all most calculated to rouse June’s interest.
“Irene! I haven’t seen her since! Of course! I’d love to help her.”
It was Jolyon’s turn to squeeze her arm, in warm admiration for this spirited, generous-hearted little creature of his begetting.
“Irene is proud,” he said, with a sidelong glance, in sudden doubt of June’s discretion; “she’s difficult to help. We must tread gently. This is the place. I wired her to expect us. Let’s send up our cards.”
“I can’t bear Soames,” said June as she got out; “he sneers at everything that isn’t successful”
Irene was in what was called the ‘Ladies’ drawing-room’ of the Piedmont Hotel.
Nothing if not morally courageous, June walked straight up to her former friend, kissed her cheek, and the two settled down on a sofa never sat on since the hotel’s foundation. Jolyon could see that Irene was deeply affected by this simple forgiveness.
“So Soames has been worrying you?” he said.
“I had a visit from him last night; he wants me to go back to him.”
“You’re not going, of course?” cried June.
Irene smiled faintly and shook her head. “But his position is horrible,” she murmured.
“It’s his own fault; he ought to have divorced you when he could.”
Jolyon remembered how fervently in the old days June had hoped that no divorce would smirch her dead and faithless lover’s name.
“Let us hear what Irene is going to do,” he said.
Irene’s lips quivered, but she spoke calmly.
“I’d better give him fresh excuse to get rid of me.”
“How horrible!” cried June.
“What else can I do?”
“Out of the question,” said Jolyon very quietly, “sans amour.”
He thought she was going to cry; but, getting up quickly, she half turned her back on them, and stood regaining control of herself.
June said suddenly:
“Well, I shall go to Soames and tell him he must leave you alone. What does he want at his age?”
“A child. It’s not unnatural”
“A child!” cried June scornfully. “Of course! To leave his money to. If he wants one badly enough let him take somebody and have one; then you can divorce him, and he can marry her.”
Jolyon perceived suddenly that he had made a mistake to bring June — her violent partizanship was fighting Soames’ battle.
“It would be best for Irene to come quietly to us at Robin Hill, and see how things shape.”
“Of course,” said June; “only....”
Irene looked full at Jolyon — in all his many attempts afterwards to analyze that glance he never could succeed.
“No! I should only bring trouble on you all. I will go abroad.”
He knew from her voice that this was final. The irrelevant thought flashed through him: ‘Well, I could see her there.’ But he said:
“Don’t you think you would be more helpless abroad, in case he followed?”
“I don’t know. I can but try.”
June sprang up and paced the room. “It’s all horrible,” she said. “Why should people be tortured and kept miserable and helpless year after year by this disgusting sanctimonious law?” But someone had come into the room, and June came to a standstill. Jolyon went up to Irene:
“Do you want money?”
“And would you like me to let your flat?”
“Yes, Jolyon, please.”
“When shall you be going?”
“You won’t go back there in the meantime, will you?” This he said with an anxiety strange to himself.
“No; I’ve got all I want here.”
“You’ll send me your address?”
She put out her hand to him. “I feel you’re a rock.”
“Built on sand,” answered Jolyon, pressing her hand hard; “but it’s a pleasure to do anything, at any time, remember that. And if you change your mind....! Come along, June; say good-bye.”
June came from the window and flung her arms round Irene.
“Don’t think of him,” she said under her breath; “enjoy yourself, and bless you!”
With a memory of tears in Irene’s eyes, and of a smile on her lips, they went away extremely silent, passing the lady who had interrupted the interview and was turning over the papers on the table.
Opposite the National Gallery June exclaimed:
“Of all undignified beasts and horrible laws!”
But Jolyon did not respond. He had something of his father’s balance, and could see things impartially even when his emotions were roused. Irene was right; Soames’ position was as bad or worse than her own. As for the law — it catered for a human nature of which it took a naturally low view. And, feeling that if he stayed in his daughter’s company he would in one way or another commit an indiscretion, he told her he must catch his train back to Oxford; and hailing a cab, left her to Turner’s water-colours, with the promise that he would think over that Gallery.
But he thought over Irene instead. Pity, they said, was akin to love! If so he was certainly in danger of loving her, for he pitied her profoundly. To think of her drifting about Europe so handicapped and lonely! ‘I hope to goodness she’ll keep her head!’ he thought; ‘she might easily grow desperate.’ In fact, now that she had cut loose from her poor threads of occupation, he couldn’t imagine how she would go on — so beautiful a creature, hopeless, and fair game for anyone! In his exasperation was more than a little fear and jealousy. Women did strange things when they were driven into corners. ‘I wonder what Soames will do now!’ he thought. ‘A rotten, idiotic state of things! And I suppose they would say it was her own fault.’ Very preoccupied and sore at heart, he got into his train, mislaid his ticket, and on the platform at Oxford took his hat off to a lady whose face he seemed to remember without being able to put a name to her, not even when he saw her having tea at the Rainbow.
Last updated on Wed Jan 12 09:33:27 2011 for eBooks@Adelaide.
In Chancery, by John Galsworthy
Chapter 4 Where Forsytes Fear to Tread
Quivering from the defeat of his hopes, with the green morocco case still flat against his heart, Soames revolved thoughts bitter as death. A spider’s web! Walking fast, and noting nothing in the moonlight, he brooded over the scene he had been through, over the memory of her figure rigid in his grasp. And the more he brooded, the more certain he became that she had a lover — her words, ‘I would sooner die!’ were ridiculous if she had not. Even if she had never loved him, she had made no fuss until Bosinney came on the scene. No; she was in love again, or she would not have made that melodramatic answer to his proposal, which in all the circumstances was reasonable! Very well! That simplified matters.
‘I’ll take steps to know where I am,’ he thought; ‘I’ll go to Polteed’s the first thing tomorrow morning.’
But even in forming that resolution he knew he would have trouble with himself. He had employed Polteed’s agency several times in the routine of his profession, even quite lately over Dartie’s case, but he had never thought it possible to employ them to watch his own wife.
It was too insulting to himself!
He slept over that project and his wounded pride — or rather, kept vigil. Only while shaving did he suddenly remember that she called herself by her maiden name of Heron. Polteed would not know, at first at all events, whose wife she was, would not look at him obsequiously and leer behind his back. She would just be the wife of one of his clients. And that would be true — for was he not his own solicitor?
He was literally afraid not to put his design into execution at the first possible moment, lest, after all, he might fail himself. And making Warmson bring him an early cup of coffee; he stole out of the house before the hour of breakfast. He walked rapidly to one of those small West End streets where Polteed’s and other firms ministered to the virtues of the wealthier classes. Hitherto he had always had Polteed to see him in the Poultry; but he well knew their address, and reached it at the opening hour. In the outer office, a room furnished so cosily that it might have been a money-lender’s, he was attended by a lady who might have been a schoolmistress.
“I wish to see Mr. Claud Polteed. He knows me — never mind my name.”
To keep everybody from knowing that he, Soames Forsyte, was reduced to having his wife spied on, was the overpowering consideration.
Mr. Claud Polteed — so different from Mr. Lewis Polteed — was one of those men with dark hair, slightly curved noses, and quick brown eyes, who might be taken for Jews but are really Phoenicians; he received Soames in a room hushed by thickness of carpet and curtains. It was, in fact, confidentially furnished, without trace of document anywhere to be seen.
Greeting Soames deferentially, he turned the key in the only door with a certain ostentation.
“If a client sends for me,” he was in the habit of saying, “he takes what precaution he likes. If he comes here, we convince him that we have no leakages. I may safely say we lead in security, if in nothing else....Now, sir, what can I do for you?”
Soames’ gorge had risen so that he could hardly speak. It was absolutely necessary to hide from this man that he had any but professional interest in the matter; and, mechanically, his face assumed its sideway smile.
“I’ve come to you early like this because there’s not an hour to lose”— if he lost an hour he might fail himself yet! “Have you a really trustworthy woman free?”
Mr. Polteed unlocked a drawer, produced a memorandum, ran his eyes over it, and locked the drawer up again.
“Yes,” he said; “the very woman.”
Soames had seated himself and crossed his legs — nothing but a faint flush, which might have been his normal complexion, betrayed him.
“Send her off at once, then, to watch a Mrs. Irene Heron of Flat C, Truro Mansions, Chelsea, till further notice.”
“Precisely,” said Mr. Polteed; “divorce, I presume?” and he blew into a speaking-tube. “Mrs. Blanch in? I shall want to speak to her in ten minutes.”
“Deal with any reports yourself,” resumed Soames, “and send them to me personally, marked confidential, sealed and registered. My client exacts the utmost secrecy.”
Mr. Polteed smiled, as though saying, ‘You are teaching your grandmother, my dear sir;’ and his eyes slid over Soames’ face for one unprofessional instant.
“Make his mind perfectly easy,” he said. “Do you smoke?”
“No,” said Soames. “Understand me: Nothing may come of this. If a name gets out, or the watching is suspected, it may have very serious consequences.”
Mr. Polteed nodded. “I can put it into the cipher category. Under that system a name is never mentioned; we work by numbers.”
He unlocked another drawer and took out two slips of paper, wrote on them, and handed one to Soames.
“Keep that, sir; it’s your key. I retain this duplicate. The case we’ll call 7x. The party watched will be 17; the watcher 19; the Mansions 25; yourself — I should say, your firm — 31; my firm 32, myself 2. In case you should have to mention your client in writing I have called him 43; any person we suspect will be 47; a second person 51. Any special hint or instruction while we’re about it?”
“No,” said Soames; “that is — every consideration compatible.”
Again Mr. Polteed nodded. “Expense?”
Soames shrugged. “In reason,” he answered curtly, and got up. “Keep it entirely in your own hands.”
“Entirely,” said Mr. Polteed, appearing suddenly between him and the door. “I shall be seeing you in that other case before long. Good morning, sir.” His eyes slid unprofessionally over Soames once more, and he unlocked the door.
“Good morning,” said Soames, looking neither to right nor left.
Out in the street he swore deeply, quietly, to himself. A spider’s web, and to cut it he must use this spidery, secret, unclean method, so utterly repugnant to one who regarded his private life as his most sacred piece of property. But the die was cast, he could not go back. And he went on into the Poultry, and locked away the green morocco case and the key to that cipher destined to make crystal-clear his domestic bankruptcy.
Odd that one whose life was spent in bringing to the public eye all the private coils of property, the domestic disagreements of others, should dread so utterly the public eye turned on his own; and yet not odd, for who should know so well as he the whole unfeeling process of legal regulation.
He worked hard all day. Winifred was due at four o’clock; he was to take her down to a conference in the Temple with Dreamer Q.C., and waiting for her he re-read the letter he had caused her to write the day of Dartie’s departure, requiring him to return.
“I have received your letter with the news that you have left me for ever and are on your way to Buenos Aires. It has naturally been a great shock. I am taking this earliest opportunity of writing to tell you that I am prepared to let bygones be bygones if you will return to me at once. I beg you to do so. I am very much upset, and will not say any more now. I am sending this letter registered to the address you left at your Club. Please cable to me.
“Your still affectionate wife, “WINIFRED DARTIE.”
Ugh! What bitter humbug! He remembered leaning over Winifred while she copied what he had pencilled, and how she had said, laying down her pen, “Suppose he comes, Soames!” in such a strange tone of voice, as if she did not know her own mind. “He won’t come,” he had answered, “till he’s spent his money. That’s why we must act at once.” Annexed to the copy of that letter was the original of Dartie’s drunken scrawl from the Iseeum Club. Soames could have wished it had not been so manifestly penned in liquor. Just the sort of thing the Court would pitch on. He seemed to hear the Judge’s voice say: “You took this seriously! Seriously enough to write him as you did? Do you think he meant it?” Never mind! The fact was clear that Dartie had sailed and had not returned. Annexed also was his cabled answer: “Impossible return. Dartie.” Soames shook his head. If the whole thing were not disposed of within the next few months the fellow would turn up again like a bad penny. It saved a thousand a year at least to get rid of him, besides all the worry to Winifred and his father. ‘I must stiffen Dreamer’s back,’ he thought; ‘we must push it on.’
Winifred, who had adopted a kind of half-mourning which became her fair hair and tall figure very well, arrived in James’ barouche drawn by James’ pair. Soames had not seen it in the City since his father retired from business five years ago, and its incongruity gave him a shock. ‘Times are changing,’ he thought; ‘one doesn’t know what’ll go next!’ Top hats even were scarcer. He enquired after Val. Val, said Winifred, wrote that he was going to play polo next term. She thought he was in a very good set. She added with fashionably disguised anxiety: “Will there be much publicity about my affair, Soames? Must it be in the papers? It’s so bad for him, and the girls.”
With his own calamity all raw within him, Soames answered:
“The papers are a pushing lot; it’s very difficult to keep things out. They pretend to be guarding the public’s morals, and they corrupt them with their beastly reports. But we haven’t got to that yet. We’re only seeing Dreamer to-day on the restitution question. Of course he understands that it’s to lead to a divorce; but you must seem genuinely anxious to get Dartie back — you might practice that attitude to-day.”
“Oh! What a clown Monty’s been!” she said.
Soames gave her a sharp look. It was clear to him that she could not take her Dartie seriously, and would go back on the whole thing if given half a chance. His own instinct had been firm in this matter from the first. To save a little scandal now would only bring on his sister and her children real disgrace and perhaps ruin later on if Dartie were allowed to hang on to them, going down-hill and spending the money James would leave his daughter. Though it was all tied up, that fellow would milk the settlements somehow, and make his family pay through the nose to keep him out of bankruptcy or even perhaps gaol! They left the shining carriage, with the shining horses and the shining-hatted servants on the Embankment, and walked up to Dreamer Q.C.‘s Chambers in Crown Office Row.
“Mr. Bellby is here, sir,” said the clerk; “Mr. Dreamer will be ten minutes.”
Mr. Bellby, the junior — not as junior as he might have been, for Soames only employed barristers of established reputation; it was, indeed, something of a mystery to him how barristers ever managed to establish that which made him employ them — Mr. Bellby was seated, taking a final glance through his papers. He had come from Court, and was in wig and gown, which suited a nose jutting out like the handle of a tiny pump, his small shrewd blue eyes, and rather protruding lower lip — no better man to supplement and stiffen Dreamer.
The introduction to Winifred accomplished, they leaped the weather and spoke of the war. Soames interrupted suddenly:
“If he doesn’t comply we can’t bring proceedings for six months. I want to get on with the matter, Bellby.”
Mr. Bellby, who had the ghost of an Irish brogue, smiled at Winifred and murmured: “The Law’s delays, Mrs. Dartie.”
“Six months!” repeated Soames; “it’ll drive it up to June! We shan’t get the suit on till after the long vacation. We must put the screw on, Bellby”— he would have all his work cut out to keep Winifred up to the scratch.
“Mr. Dreamer will see you now, sir.”
They filed in, Mr. Bellby going first, and Soames escorting Winifred after an interval of one minute by his watch.
Dreamer Q.C., in a gown but divested of wig, was standing before the fire, as if this conference were in the nature of a treat; he had the leathery, rather oily complexion which goes with great learning, a considerable nose with glasses perched on it, and little greyish whiskers; he luxuriated in the perpetual cocking of one eye, and the concealment of his lower with his upper lip, which gave a smothered turn to his speech. He had a way, too, of coming suddenly round the corner on the person he was talking to; this, with a disconcerting tone of voice, and a habit of growling before he began to speak — had secured a reputation second in Probate and Divorce to very few. Having listened, eye cocked, to Mr. Bellby’s breezy recapitulation of the facts, he growled, and said:
“I know all that;” and coming round the corner at Winifred, smothered the words:
“We want to get him back, don’t we, Mrs. Dartie?”
Soames interposed sharply:
“My sister’s position, of course, is intolerable.”
Dreamer growled. “Exactly. Now, can we rely on the cabled refusal, or must we wait till after Christmas to give him a chance to have written — that’s the point, isn’t it?”
“The sooner....” Soames began.
“What do you say, Bellby?” said Dreamer, coming round his corner.
Mr. Bellby seemed to sniff the air like a hound.
“We won’t be on till the middle of December. We’ve no need to give um more rope than that.”
“No,” said Soames, “why should my sister be incommoded by his choosing to go...”
“To Jericho!” said Dreamer, again coming round his corner; “quite so. People oughtn’t to go to Jericho, ought they, Mrs. Dartie?” And he raised his gown into a sort of fantail. “I agree. We can go forward. Is there anything more?”
“Nothing at present,” said Soames meaningly; “I wanted you to see my sister.”
Dreamer growled softly: “Delighted. Good evening!” And let fall the protection of his gown.
They filed out. Winifred went down the stairs. Soames lingered. In spite of himself he was impressed by Dreamer.
“The evidence is all right, I think,” he said to Bellby. “Between ourselves, if we don’t get the thing through quick, we never may. D’you think he understands that?”
“I’ll make um,” said Bellby. “Good man though — good man.”
Soames nodded and hastened after his sister. He found her in a draught, biting her lips behind her veil, and at once said:
“The evidence of the stewardess will be very complete.”
Winifred’s face hardened; she drew herself up, and they walked to the carriage. And, all through that silent drive back to Green Street, the souls of both of them revolved a single thought: ‘Why, oh! why should I have to expose my misfortune to the public like this? Why have to employ spies to peer into my private troubles? They were not of my making.’
Last updated on Wed Jan 12 09:33:27 2011 for eBooks@Adelaide.
In Chancery, by John Galsworthy
Chapter 5 Jolly Sits in Judgment
The possessive instinct, which, so determinedly balked, was animating two members of the Forsyte family towards riddance of what they could no longer possess, was hardening daily in the British body politic. Nicholas, originally so doubtful concerning a war which must affect property, had been heard to say that these Boers were a pig-headed lot; they were causing a lot of expense, and the sooner they had their lesson the better. He would send out Wolseley! Seeing always a little further than other people — whence the most considerable fortune of all the Forsytes — he had perceived already that Buller was not the man —‘a bull of a chap, who just went butting, and if they didn’t look out Ladysmith would fall.’ This was early in December, so that when Black Week came, he was enabled to say to everybody: ‘I told you so.’ During that week of gloom such as no Forsyte could remember, very young Nicholas attended so many drills in his corps, ‘The Devil’s Own,’ that young Nicholas consulted the family physician about his son’s health and was alarmed to find that he was perfectly sound. The boy had only just eaten his dinners and been called to the bar, at some expense, and it was in a way a nightmare to his father and mother that he should be playing with military efficiency at a time when military efficiency in the civilian population might conceivably be wanted. His grandfather, of course, pooh-poohed the notion, too thoroughly educated in the feeling that no British war could be other than little and professional, and profoundly distrustful of Imperial commitments, by which, moreover, he stood to lose, for he owned De Beers, now going down fast, more than a sufficient sacrifice on the part of his grandson.
At Oxford, however, rather different sentiments prevailed. The inherent effervescence of conglomerate youth had, during the two months of the term before Black Week, been gradually crystallising out into vivid oppositions. Normal adolescence, ever in England of a conservative tendency though not taking things too seriously, was vehement for a fight to a finish and a good licking for the Boers. Of this larger faction Val Dartie was naturally a member. Radical youth, on the other hand, a small but perhaps more vocal body, was for stopping the war and giving the Boers autonomy. Until Black Week, however, the groups were amorphous, without sharp edges, and argument remained but academic. Jolly was one of those who knew not where he stood. A streak of his grandfather old Jolyon’s love of justice prevented, him from seeing one side only. Moreover, in his set of ‘the best’ there was a ‘jumping-Jesus’ of extremely advanced opinions and some personal magnetism. Jolly wavered. His father, too, seemed doubtful in his views. And though, as was proper at the age of twenty, he kept a sharp eye on his father, watchful for defects which might still be remedied, still that father had an ‘air’ which gave a sort of glamour to his creed of ironic tolerance. Artists of course; were notoriously Hamlet-like, and to this extent one must discount for one’s father, even if one loved him. But Jolyon’s original view, that to ‘put your nose in where you aren’t wanted’ (as the Uitlanders had done) ‘and then work the oracle till you get on top is not being quite the clean potato,’ had, whether founded in fact or no, a certain attraction for his son, who thought a deal about gentility. On the other hand Jolly could not abide such as his set called ‘cranks,’ and Val’s set called ‘smugs,’ so that he was still balancing when the clock of Black Week struck. One — two — three, came those ominous repulses at Stormberg, Magersfontein, Colenso. The sturdy English soul reacting after the first cried, ‘Ah! but Methuen!’ after the second: ‘Ah! but Buller!’ then, in inspissated gloom, hardened. And Jolly said to himself: ‘No, damn it! We’ve got to lick the beggars now; I don’t care whether we’re right or wrong.’ And, if he had known it, his father was thinking the same thought.
That next Sunday, last of the term, Jolly was bidden to wine with ‘one of the best.’ After the second toast, ‘Buller and damnation to the Boers,’ drunk — no heel taps — in the college Burgundy, he noticed that Val Dartie, also a guest, was looking at him with a grin and saying something to his neighbour. He was sure it was disparaging. The last boy in the world to make himself conspicuous or cause public disturbance, Jolly grew rather red and shut his lips. The queer hostility he had always felt towards his second-cousin was strongly and suddenly reinforced. ‘All right!’ he thought, ‘you wait, my friend!’ More wine than was good for him, as the custom was, helped him to remember, when they all trooped forth to a secluded spot, to touch Val on the arm.
“What did you say about me in there?”
“Mayn’t I say what I like?”
“Well, I said you were a pro-Boer — and so you are!”
“You’re a liar!”
“D’you want a row?”
“Of course, but not here; in the garden.”
“All right. Come on.”
They went, eyeing each other askance, unsteady, and unflinching; they climbed the garden railings. The spikes on the top slightly ripped Val’s sleeve, and occupied his mind. Jolly’s mind was occupied by the thought that they were going to fight in the precincts of a college foreign to them both. It was not the thing, but never mind — the young beast!
They passed over the grass into very nearly darkness, and took off their coats.
“You’re not screwed, are you?” said Jolly suddenly. “I can’t fight you if you’re screwed.”
“No more than you.”
“All right then.”
Without shaking hands, they put themselves at once into postures of defence. They had drunk too much for science, and so were especially careful to assume correct attitudes, until Jolly smote Val almost accidentally on the nose. After that it was all a dark and ugly scrimmage in the deep shadow of the old trees, with no one to call ‘time,’ till, battered and blown, they unclinched and staggered back from each other, as a voice said:
“Your names, young gentlemen?”
At this bland query spoken from under the lamp at the garden gate, like some demand of a god, their nerves gave way, and snatching up their coats, they ran at the railings, shinned up them, and made for the secluded spot whence they had issued to the fight. Here, in dim light, they mopped their faces, and without a word walked, ten paces apart, to the college gate. They went out silently, Val going towards the Broad along the Brewery, Jolly down the lane towards the High. His head, still fumed, was busy with regret that he had not displayed more science, passing in review the counters and knockout blows which he had not delivered. His mind strayed on to an imagined combat, infinitely unlike that which he had just been through, infinitely gallant, with sash and sword, with thrust and parry, as if he were in the pages of his beloved Dumas. He fancied himself La Mole, and Aramis, Bussy, Chicot, and D’Artagnan rolled into one, but he quite failed to envisage Val as Coconnas, Brissac, or Rochefort. The fellow was just a confounded cousin who didn’t come up to Cocker. Never mind! He had given him one or two. ‘Pro-Boer!’ The word still rankled, and thoughts of enlisting jostled his aching head; of riding over the veldt, firing gallantly, while the Boers rolled over like rabbits. And, turning up his smarting eyes, he saw the stars shining between the housetops of the High, and himself lying out on the Karoo (whatever that was) rolled in a blanket, with his rifle ready and his gaze fixed on a glittering heaven.
He had a fearful ‘head’ next morning, which he doctored, as became one of ‘the best,’ by soaking it in cold water, brewing strong coffee which he could not drink, and only sipping a little Hock at lunch. The legend that ‘some fool’ had run into him round a corner accounted for a bruise on his cheek. He would on no account have mentioned the fight, for, on second thoughts, it fell far short of his standards.
The next day he went ‘down,’ and travelled through to Robin Hill. Nobody was there but June and Holly, for his father had gone to Paris. He spent a restless and unsettled Vacation, quite out of touch with either of his sisters. June, indeed, was occupied with lame ducks, whom, as a rule, Jolly could not stand, especially that Eric Cobbley and his family, ‘hopeless outsiders,’ who were always littering up the house in the Vacation. And between Holly and himself there was a strange division, as if she were beginning to have opinions of her own, which was so — unnecessary. He punched viciously at a ball, rode furiously but alone in Richmond Park, making a point of jumping the stiff, high hurdles put up to close certain worn avenues of grass — keeping his nerve in, he called it. Jolly was more afraid of being afraid than most boys are. He bought a rifle, too, and put a range up in the home field, shooting across the pond into the kitchen-garden wall, to the peril of gardeners, with the thought that some day, perhaps, he would enlist and save South Africa for his country. In fact, now that they were appealing for Yeomanry recruits the boy was thoroughly upset. Ought he to go? None of ‘the best,’ so far as he knew — and he was in correspondence with several — were thinking of joining. If they had been making a move he would have gone at once — very competitive, and with a strong sense of form, he could not bear to be left behind in anything — but to do it off his own bat might look like ‘swagger’; because of course it wasn’t really necessary. Besides, he did not want to go, for the other side of this young Forsyte recoiled from leaping before he looked. It was altogether mixed pickles within him, hot and sickly pickles, and he became quite unlike his serene and rather lordly self.
And then one day he saw that which moved him to uneasy wrath — two riders, in a glade of the Park close to the Ham Gate, of whom she on the left-hand was most assuredly Holly on her silver roan, and he on the right-hand as assuredly that ‘squirt’ Val Dartie. His first impulse was to urge on his own horse and demand the meaning of this portent, tell the fellow to ‘bunk,’ and take Holly home. His second — to feel that he would look a fool if they refused. He reined his horse in behind a tree, then perceived that it was equally impossible to spy on them. Nothing for it but to go home and await her coming! Sneaking out with that young bounder! He could not consult with June, because she had gone up that morning in the train of Eric Cobbley and his lot. And his father was still in ‘that rotten Paris.’ He felt that this was emphatically one of those moments for which he had trained himself, assiduously, at school, where he and a boy called Brent had frequently set fire to newspapers and placed them in the centre of their studies to accustom them to coolness in moments of danger. He did not feel at all cool waiting in the stable-yard, idly stroking the dog Balthasar, who queasy as an old fat monk, and sad in the absence of his master, turned up his face, panting with gratitude for this attention. It was half an hour before Holly came, flushed and ever so much prettier than she had any right to look. He saw her look at him quickly — guiltily of course — then followed her in, and, taking her arm, conducted her into what had been their grandfather’s study. The room, not much used now, was still vaguely haunted for them both by a presence with which they associated tenderness, large drooping white moustaches, the scent of cigar smoke, and laughter. Here Jolly, in the prime of his youth, before he went to school at all, had been wont to wrestle with his grandfather, who even at eighty had an irresistible habit of crooking his leg. Here Holly, perched on the arm of the great leather chair, had stroked hair curving silvery over an ear into which she would whisper secrets. Through that window they had all three sallied times without number to cricket on the lawn, and a mysterious game called ‘Wopsy-doozle,’ not to be understood by outsiders, which made old Jolyon very hot. Here once on a warm night Holly had appeared in her ‘nighty,’ having had a bad dream, to have the clutch of it released. And here Jolly, having begun the day badly by introducing fizzy magnesia into Mademoiselle Beauce’s new-laid egg, and gone on to worse, had been sent down (in the absence of his father) to the ensuing dialogue:
“Now, my boy, you mustn’t go on like this.”
“Well, she boxed my ears, Gran, so I only boxed hers, and then she boxed mine again.”
“Strike a lady? That’ll never do! Have you begged her pardon?”
“Then you must go and do it at once. Come along.”
“But she began it, Gran; and she had two to my one.”
“My dear, it was an outrageous thing to do.”
“Well, she lost her temper; and I didn’t lose mine.”
“You come too, then, Gran.”
“Well — this time only.”
And they had gone hand in hand.
Here — where the Waverley novels and Byron’s works and Gibbon’s Roman Empire and Humboldt’s Cosmos, and the bronzes on the mantelpiece, and that masterpiece of the oily school, ‘Dutch Fishing-Boats at Sunset,’ were fixed as fate, and for all sign of change old Jolyon might have been sitting there still, with legs crossed, in the arm chair, and domed forehead and deep eyes grave above The Times — here they came, those two grandchildren. And Jolly said:
“I saw you and that fellow in the Park.”
The sight of blood rushing into her cheeks gave him some satisfaction; she ought to be ashamed!
“Well?” she said.
Jolly was surprised; he had expected more, or less.
“Do you know,” he said weightily, “that he called me a pro-Boer last term? And I had to fight him.”
Jolly wished to answer: ‘I should have,’ but it seemed beneath him.
“Look here!” he said, “what’s the meaning of it? Without telling anybody!”
“Why should I? Dad isn’t here; why shouldn’t I ride with him?”
“You’ve got me to ride with. I think he’s an awful young rotter.”
Holly went pale with anger.
“He isn’t. It’s your own fault for not liking him.”
And slipping past her brother she went out, leaving him staring at the bronze Venus sitting on a tortoise, which had been shielded from him so far by his sister’s dark head under her soft felt riding hat. He felt queerly disturbed, shaken to his young foundations. A lifelong domination lay shattered round his feet. He went up to the Venus and mechanically inspected the tortoise.
Why didn’t he like Val Dartie? He could not tell. Ignorant of family history, barely aware of that vague feud which had started thirteen years before with Bosinney’s defection from June in favour of Soames’ wife, knowing really almost nothing about Val he was at sea. He just did dislike him. The question, however, was: What should he do? Val Dartie, it was true, was a second-cousin, but it was not the thing for Holly to go about with him. And yet to ‘tell’ of what he had chanced on was against his creed. In this dilemma he went and sat in the old leather chair and crossed his legs. It grew dark while he sat there staring out through the long window at the old oak-tree, ample yet bare of leaves, becoming slowly just a shape of deeper dark printed on the dusk.
‘Grandfather!’ he thought without sequence, and took out his watch. He could not see the hands, but he set the repeater going. ‘Five o’clock!’ His grandfather’s first gold hunter watch, butter-smooth with age — all the milling worn from it, and dented with the mark of many a fall. The chime was like a little voice from out of that golden age, when they first came from St. John’s Wood, London, to this house — came driving with grandfather in his carriage, and almost instantly took to the trees. Trees to climb, and grandfather watering the geranium-beds below! What was to be done? Tell Dad he must come home? Confide in June?— only she was so — so sudden! Do nothing and trust to luck? After all, the Vac. would soon be over. Go up and see Val and warn him off? But how get his address? Holly wouldn’t give it him! A maze of paths, a cloud of possibilities! He lit a cigarette. When he had smoked it halfway through his brow relaxed, almost as if some thin old hand had been passed gently over it; and in his ear something seemed to whisper: ‘Do nothing; be nice to Holly, be nice to her, my dear!’ And Jolly heaved a sigh of contentment, blowing smoke through his nostrils....
But up in her room, divested of her habit, Holly was still frowning. ‘He is not — he is not!’ were the words which kept forming on her lips.
Last updated on Wed Jan 12 09:33:27 2011 for eBooks@Adelaide.
In Chancery, by John Galsworthy
Chapter 6 Jolyon in Two Minds
A little private hotel over a well-known restaurant near the Gare St. Lazare was Jolyon’s haunt in Paris. He hated his fellow Forsytes abroad — vapid as fish out of water in their well-trodden runs, the Opera, Rue de Rivoli, and Moulin Rouge. Their air of having come because they wanted to be somewhere else as soon as possible annoyed him. But no other Forsyte came near this haunt, where he had a wood fire in his bedroom and the coffee was excellent. Paris was always to him more attractive in winter. The acrid savour from woodsmoke and chestnut-roasting braziers, the sharpness of the wintry sunshine on bright rays, the open cafes defying keen-aired winter, the self-contained brisk boulevard crowds, all informed him that in winter Paris possessed a soul which, like a migrant bird, in high summer flew away.
He spoke French well, had some friends, knew little places where pleasant dishes could be met with, queer types observed. He felt philosophic in Paris, the edge of irony sharpened; life took on a subtle, purposeless meaning, became a bunch of flavours tasted, a darkness shot with shifting gleams of light.
When in the first week of December he decided to go to Paris, he was far from admitting that Irene’s presence was influencing him. He had not been there two days before he owned that the wish to see her had been more than half the reason. In England one did not admit what was natural. He had thought it might be well to speak to her about the letting of her flat and other matters, but in Paris he at once knew better. There was a glamour over the city. On the third day he wrote to her, and received an answer which procured him a pleasurable shiver of the nerves: “MY DEAR JOLYON,
“It will be a happiness for me to see you. “IRENE.”
He took his way to her hotel on a bright day with a feeling such as he had often had going to visit an adored picture. No woman, so far as he remembered, had ever inspired in him this special sensuous and yet impersonal sensation. He was going to sit and feast his eyes, and come away knowing her no better, but ready to go and feast his eyes again to-morrow. Such was his feeling, when in the tarnished and ornate little lounge of a quiet hotel near the river she came to him preceded by a small page-boy who uttered the word, “Madame,” and vanished. Her face, her smile, the poise of her figure, were just as he had pictured, and the expression of her face said plainly: ‘A friend!’
“Well,” he said, “what news, poor exile?”
“Nothing from Soames?”
“I have let the flat for you, and like a good steward I bring you some money. How do you like Paris?”
While he put her through this catechism, it seemed to him that he had never seen lips so fine and sensitive, the lower lip curving just a little upwards, the upper touched at one corner by the least conceivable dimple. It was like discovering a woman in what had hitherto been a sort of soft and breathed-on statue, almost impersonally admired. She owned that to be alone in Paris was a little difficult; and yet, Paris was so full of its own life that it was often, she confessed, as innocuous as a desert. Besides, the English were not liked just now!
“That will hardly be your case,” said Jolyon; “you should appeal to the French.”
“It has its disadvantages.”
“Well, you must let me take you about while I’m here. We’ll start to-morrow. Come and dine at my pet restaurant; and we’ll go to the Opera-Comique.”
It was the beginning of daily meetings.
Jolyon soon found that for those who desired a static condition of the affections, Paris was at once the first and last place in which to be friendly with a pretty woman. Revelation was alighting like a bird in his heart, singing: ‘Elle est ton reve! Elle est ton reve! Sometimes this seemed natural, sometimes ludicrous — a bad case of elderly rapture. Having once been ostracised by Society, he had never since had any real regard for conventional morality; but the idea of a love which she could never return — and how could she at his age?— hardly mounted beyond his subconscious mind. He was full, too, of resentment, at the waste and loneliness of her life. Aware of being some comfort to her, and of the pleasure she clearly took in their many little outings, he was amiably desirous of doing and saying nothing to destroy that pleasure. It was like watching a starved plant draw up water, to see her drink in his companionship. So far as they could tell, no one knew her address except himself; she was unknown in Paris, and he but little known, so that discretion seemed unnecessary in those walks, talks, visits to concerts, picture-galleries, theatres, little dinners, expeditions to Versailles, St. Cloud, even Fontainebleau. And time fled — one of those full months without past to it or future. What in his youth would certainly have been headlong passion, was now perhaps as deep a feeling, but far gentler, tempered to protective companionship by admiration, hopelessness, and a sense of chivalry — arrested in his veins at least so long as she was there, smiling and happy in their friendship, and always to him more beautiful and spiritually responsive: for her philosophy of life seemed to march in admirable step with his own, conditioned by emotion more than by reason, ironically mistrustful, susceptible to beauty, almost passionately humane and tolerant, yet subject to instinctive rigidities of which as a mere man he was less capable. And during all this companionable month he never quite lost that feeling with which he had set out on the first day as if to visit an adored work of art, a well-nigh impersonal desire. The future — inexorable pendant to the present he took care not to face, for fear of breaking up his untroubled manner; but he made plans to renew this time in places still more delightful, where the sun was hot and there were strange things to see and paint. The end came swiftly on the 20th of January with a telegram:
“Have enlisted in Imperial Yeomanry. JOLLY.”
Jolyon received it just as he was setting out to meet her at the Louvre. It brought him up with a round turn. While he was lotus-eating here, his boy, whose philosopher and guide he ought to be, had taken this great step towards danger, hardship, perhaps even death. He felt disturbed to the soul, realising suddenly how Irene had twined herself round the roots of his being. Thus threatened with severance, the tie between them — for it had become a kind of tie — no longer had impersonal quality. The tranquil enjoyment of things in common, Jolyon perceived, was gone for ever. He saw his feeling as it was, in the nature of an infatuation. Ridiculous, perhaps, but so real that sooner or later it must disclose itself. And now, as it seemed to him, he could not, must not, make any such disclosure. The news of Jolly stood inexorably in the way. He was proud of this enlistment; proud of his boy for going off to fight for the country; for on Jolyon’s pro-Boerism, too, Black Week had left its mark. And so the end was reached before the beginning! Well, luckily he had never made a sign!
When he came into the Gallery she was standing before the ‘Virgin of the Rocks,’ graceful, absorbed, smiling and unconscious. ‘Have I to give up seeing that?’ he thought. ‘It’s unnatural, so long as she’s willing that I should see her.’ He stood, unnoticed, watching her, storing up the image of her figure, envying the picture on which she was bending that long scrutiny. Twice she turned her head towards the entrance, and he thought: ‘That’s for me!’ At last he went forward.
“Look!” he said.
She read the telegram, and he heard her sigh.
That sigh, too, was for him! His position was really cruel! To be loyal to his son he must just shake her hand and go. To be loyal to the feeling in his heart he must at least tell her what that feeling was. Could she, would she understand the silence in which he was gazing at that picture?
“I’m afraid I must go home at once,” he said at last. “I shall miss all this awfully.”
“So shall I; but, of course, you must go.”
“Well!” said Jolyon holding out his hand.
Meeting her eyes, a flood of feeling nearly mastered him.
“Such is life!” he said. “Take care of yourself, my dear!”
He had a stumbling sensation in his legs and feet, as if his brain refused to steer him away from her. From the doorway, he saw her lift her hand and touch its fingers with her lips. He raised his hat solemnly, and did not look back again.
Last updated on Wed Jan 12 09:33:27 2011 for eBooks@Adelaide.
In Chancery, by John Galsworthy
Chapter 7 Dartie Versus Dartie
The suit — Dartie versus Dartie — for restitution of those conjugal rights concerning which Winifred was at heart so deeply undecided, followed the laws of subtraction towards day of judgment. This was not reached before the Courts rose for Christmas, but the case was third on the list when they sat again. Winifred spent the Christmas holidays a thought more fashionably than usual, with the matter locked up in her low-cut bosom. James was particularly liberal to her that Christmas, expressing thereby his sympathy, and relief, at the approaching dissolution of her marriage with that ‘precious rascal,’ which his old heart felt but his old lips could not utter.
The disappearance of Dartie made the fall in Consols a comparatively small matter; and as to the scandal — the real animus he felt against that fellow, and the increasing lead which property was attaining over reputation in a true Forsyte about to leave this world, served to drug a mind from which all allusions to the matter (except his own) were studiously kept. What worried him as a lawyer and a parent was the fear that Dartie might suddenly turn up and obey the Order of the Court when made. That would be a pretty how-de-do! The fear preyed on him in fact so much that, in presenting Winifred with a large Christmas cheque, he said: “It’s chiefly for that chap out there; to keep him from coming back.” It was, of course, to pitch away good money, but all in the nature of insurance against that bankruptcy which would no longer hang over him if only the divorce went through; and he questioned Winifred rigorously until she could assure him that the money had been sent. Poor woman!— it cost her many a pang to send what must find its way into the vanity-bag of ‘that creature!’ Soames, hearing of it, shook his head. They were not dealing with a Forsyte, reasonably tenacious of his purpose. It was very risky without knowing how the land lay out there. Still, it would look well with the Court; and he would see that Dreamer brought it out. “I wonder,” he said suddenly, “where that ballet goes after the Argentine”; never omitting a chance of reminder; for he knew that Winifred still had a weakness, if not for Dartie, at least for not laundering him in public. Though not good at showing admiration, he admitted that she was behaving extremely well, with all her children at home gaping like young birds for news of their father — Imogen just on the point of coming out, and Val very restive about the whole thing. He felt that Val was the real heart of the matter to Winifred, who certainly loved him beyond her other children. The boy could spoke the wheel of this divorce yet if he set his mind to it. And Soames was very careful to keep the proximity of the preliminary proceedings from his nephew’s ears. He did more. He asked him to dine at the Remove, and over Val’s cigar introduced the subject which he knew to be nearest to his heart.
“I hear,” he said, “that you want to play polo up at Oxford.”
Val became less recumbent in his chair.
“Rather!” he said.
“Well,” continued Soames, “that’s a very expensive business. Your grandfather isn’t likely to consent to it unless he can make sure that he’s not got any other drain on him.” And he paused to see whether the boy understood his meaning.
Val’s thick dark lashes concealed his eyes, but a slight grimace appeared on his wide mouth, and he muttered:
“I suppose you mean my Dad!”
“Yes,” said Soames; “I’m afraid it depends on whether he continues to be a drag or not;” and said no more, letting the boy dream it over.
But Val was also dreaming in those days of a silver-roan palfrey and a girl riding it. Though Crum was in town and an introduction to Cynthia Dark to be had for the asking, Val did not ask; indeed, he shunned Crum and lived a life strange even to himself, except in so far as accounts with tailor and livery stable were concerned. To his mother, his sisters, his young brother, he seemed to spend this Vacation in ‘seeing fellows,’ and his evenings sleepily at home. They could not propose anything in daylight that did not meet with the one response: “Sorry; I’ve got to see a fellow”; and he was put to extraordinary shifts to get in and out of the house unobserved in riding clothes; until, being made a member of the Goat’s Club, he was able to transport them there, where he could change unregarded and slip off on his hack to Richmond Park. He kept his growing sentiment religiously to himself. Not for a world would he breathe to the ‘fellows,’ whom he was not ‘seeing,’ anything so ridiculous from the point of view of their creed and his. But he could not help its destroying his other appetites. It was coming between him and the legitimate pleasures of youth at last on its own in a way which must, he knew, make him a milksop in the eyes of Crum. All he cared for was to dress in his last-created riding togs, and steal away to the Robin Hill Gate, where presently the silver roan would come demurely sidling with its slim and dark-haired rider, and in the glades bare of leaves they would go off side by side, not talking very much, riding races sometimes, and sometimes holding hands. More than once of an evening, in a moment of expansion, he had been tempted to tell his mother how this shy sweet cousin had stolen in upon him and wrecked his ‘life.’ But bitter experience, that all persons above thirty-five were spoil-sports, prevented him. After all, he supposed he would have to go through with College, and she would have to ‘come out,’ before they could be married; so why complicate things, so long as he could see her? Sisters were teasing and unsympathetic beings, a brother worse, so there was no one to confide in. Ah! And this beastly divorce business! What a misfortune to have a name which other people hadn’t! If only he had been called Gordon or Scott or Howard or something fairly common! But Dartie — there wasn’t another in the directory! One might as well have been named Morkin for all the covert it afforded! So matters went on, till one day in the middle of January the silver-roan palfrey and its rider were missing at the tryst. Lingering in the cold, he debated whether he should ride on to the house: But Jolly might be there, and the memory of their dark encounter was still fresh within him. One could not be always fighting with her brother! So he returned dismally to town and spent an evening plunged in gloom. At breakfast next day he noticed that his mother had on an unfamiliar dress and was wearing her hat. The dress was black with a glimpse of peacock blue, the hat black and large — she looked exceptionally well. But when after breakfast she said to him, “Come in here, Val,” and led the way to the drawing-room, he was at once beset by qualms. Winifred carefully shut the door and passed her handkerchief over her lips; inhaling the violette de Parme with which it had been soaked, Val thought: ‘Has she found out about Holly?’
Her voice interrupted
“Are you going to be nice to me, dear boy?”
Val grinned doubtfully.
“Will you come with me this morning....”
“I’ve got to see....” began Val, but something in her face stopped him. “I say,” he said, “you don’t mean....”
“Yes, I have to go to the Court this morning.” Already!— that d —-d business which he had almost succeeded in forgetting, since nobody ever mentioned it. In self-commiseration he stood picking little bits of skin off his fingers. Then noticing that his mother’s lips were all awry, he said impulsively: “All right, mother; I’ll come. The brutes!” What brutes he did not know, but the expression exactly summed up their joint feeling, and restored a measure of equanimity.
“I suppose I’d better change into a ‘shooter,”’ he muttered, escaping to his room. He put on the ‘shooter,’ a higher collar, a pearl pin, and his neatest grey spats, to a somewhat blasphemous accompaniment. Looking at himself in the glass, he said, “Well, I’m damned if I’m going to show anything!” and went down. He found his grandfather’s carriage at the door, and his mother in furs, with the appearance of one going to a Mansion House Assembly. They seated themselves side by side in the closed barouche, and all the way to the Courts of Justice Val made but one allusion to the business in hand. “There’ll be nothing about those pearls, will there?”
The little tufted white tails of Winifred’s muff began to shiver.
“Oh, no,” she said, “it’ll be quite harmless to-day. Your grandmother wanted to come too, but I wouldn’t let her. I thought you could take care of me. You look so nice, Val. Just pull your coat collar up a little more at the back — that’s right.”
“If they bully you....” began Val.
“Oh! they won’t. I shall be very cool. It’s the only way.”
“They won’t want me to give evidence or anything?”
“No, dear; it’s all arranged.” And she patted his hand. The determined front she was putting on it stayed the turmoil in Val’s chest, and he busied himself in drawing his gloves off and on. He had taken what he now saw was the wrong pair to go with his spats; they should have been grey, but were deerskin of a dark tan; whether to keep them on or not he could not decide. They arrived soon after ten. It was his first visit to the Law Courts, and the building struck him at once.
“By Jove!” he said as they passed into the hall, “this’d make four or five jolly good racket courts.”
Soames was awaiting them at the foot of some stairs.
“Here you are!” he said, without shaking hands, as if the event had made them too familiar for such formalities. “It’s Happerly Browne, Court I. We shall be on first.”
A sensation such as he had known when going in to bat was playing now in the top of Val’s chest, but he followed his mother and uncle doggedly, looking at no more than he could help, and thinking that the place smelled ‘fuggy.’ People seemed to be lurking everywhere, and he plucked Soames by the sleeve.
“I say, Uncle, you’re not going to let those beastly papers in, are you?”
Soames gave him the sideway look which had reduced many to silence in its time.
“In here,” he said. “You needn’t take off your furs, Winifred.”
Val entered behind them, nettled and with his head up. In this confounded hole everybody — and there were a good many of them — seemed sitting on everybody else’s knee, though really divided from each other by pews; and Val had a feeling that they might all slip down together into the well. This, however, was but a momentary vision — of mahogany, and black gowns, and white blobs of wigs and faces and papers, all rather secret and whispery — before he was sitting next his mother in the front row, with his back to it all, glad of her violette de Parme, and taking off his gloves for the last time. His mother was looking at him; he was suddenly conscious that she had really wanted him there next to her, and that he counted for something in this business.
All right! He would show them! Squaring his shoulders, he crossed his legs and gazed inscrutably at his spats. But just then an ‘old Johnny’ in a gown and long wig, looking awfully like a funny raddled woman, came through a door into the high pew opposite, and he had to uncross his legs hastily, and stand up with everybody else.
‘Dartie versus Dartie!’
It seemed to Val unspeakably disgusting to have one’s name called out like this in public! And, suddenly conscious that someone nearly behind him had begun talking about his family, he screwed his face round to see an old be-wigged buffer, who spoke as if he were eating his own words — queer-looking old cuss, the sort of man he had seen once or twice dining at Park Lane and punishing the port; he knew now where they ‘dug them up.’ All the same he found the old buffer quite fascinating, and would have continued to stare if his mother had not touched his arm. Reduced to gazing before him, he fixed his eyes on the Judge’s face instead. Why should that old ‘sportsman’ with his sarcastic mouth and his quick-moving eyes have the power to meddle with their private affairs — hadn’t he affairs of his own, just as many, and probably just as nasty? And there moved in Val, like an illness, all the deep-seated individualism of his breed. The voice behind him droned along: “Differences about money matters — extravagance of the respondent” (What a word! Was that his father?)—“strained situation — frequent absences on the part of Mr. Dartie. My client, very rightly, your Ludship will agree, was anxious to check a course — but lead to ruin — remonstrated — gambling at cards and on the racecourse —” (‘That’s right!’ thought Val, ‘pile it on!’) “Crisis early in October, when the respondent wrote her this letter from his Club.” Val sat up and his ears burned. “I propose to read it with the emendations necessary to the epistle of a gentleman who has been — shall we say dining, me Lud?”
‘Old brute!’ thought Val, flushing deeper; ‘you’re not paid to make jokes!’
“‘You will not get the chance to insult me again in my own house. I am leaving the country to-morrow. It’s played out’— an expression, your Ludship, not unknown in the mouths of those who have not met with conspicuous success.”
‘Sniggering owls!’ thought Val, and his flush deepened.
“‘I am tired of being insulted by you.’ My client will tell your Ludship that these so-called insults consisted in her calling him ‘the limit’,— a very mild expression, I venture to suggest, in all the circumstances.”
Val glanced sideways at his mother’s impassive face, it had a hunted look in the eyes. ‘Poor mother,’ he thought, and touched her arm with his own. The voice behind droned on.
“‘I am going to live a new life. M. D.’”
“And next day, me Lud, the respondent left by the steamship Tuscarora for Buenos Aires. Since then we have nothing from him but a cabled refusal in answer to the letter which my client wrote the following day in great distress, begging him to return to her. With your Ludship’s permission. I shall now put Mrs. Dartie in the box.”
When his mother rose, Val had a tremendous impulse to rise too and say: ‘Look here! I’m going to see you jolly well treat her decently.’ He subdued it, however; heard her saying, ‘the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth,’ and looked up. She made a rich figure of it, in her furs and large hat, with a slight flush on her cheek-bones, calm, matter-of-fact; and he felt proud of her thus confronting all these ‘confounded lawyers.’ The examination began. Knowing that this was only the preliminary to divorce, Val followed with a certain glee the questions framed so as to give the impression that she really wanted his father back. It seemed to him that they were ‘foxing Old Bagwigs finely.’
And he received a most unpleasant jar when the Judge said suddenly:
“Now, why did your husband leave you — not because you called him ‘the limit,’ you know?”
Val saw his uncle lift his eyes to the witness box, without moving his face; heard a shuffle of papers behind him; and instinct told him that the issue was in peril. Had Uncle Soames and the old buffer behind made a mess of it? His mother was speaking with a slight drawl.
“No, my Lord, but it had gone on a long time.”
“What had gone on?”
“Our differences about money.”
“But you supplied the money. Do you suggest that he left you to better his position?”
‘The brute! The old brute, and nothing but the brute!’ thought Val suddenly. ‘He smells a rat he’s trying to get at the pastry!’ And his heart stood still. If — if he did, then, of course, he would know that his mother didn’t really want his father back. His mother spoke again, a thought more fashionably.
“No, my Lord, but you see I had refused to give him any more money. It took him a long time to believe that, but he did at last — and when he did....”
“I see, you had refused. But you’ve sent him some since.”
“My Lord, I wanted him back.”
“And you thought that would bring him?”
“I don’t know, my Lord, I acted on my father’s advice.”
Something in the Judge’s face, in the sound of the papers behind him, in the sudden crossing of his uncle’s legs, told Val that she had made just the right answer. ‘Crafty!’ he thought; ‘by Jove, what humbug it all is!’
The Judge was speaking:
“Just one more question, Mrs. Dartie. Are you still fond of your husband?”
Val’s hands, slack behind him, became fists. What business had that Judge to make things human suddenly? To make his mother speak out of her heart, and say what, perhaps, she didn’t know herself, before all these people! It wasn’t decent. His mother answered, rather low: “Yes, my Lord.” Val saw the Judge nod. ‘Wish I could take a cock-shy at your head!’ he thought irreverently, as his mother came back to her seat beside him. Witnesses to his father’s departure and continued absence followed — one of their own maids even, which struck Val as particularly beastly; there was more talking, all humbug; and then the Judge pronounced the decree for restitution, and they got up to go. Val walked out behind his mother, chin squared, eyelids drooped, doing his level best to despise everybody. His mother’s voice in the corridor roused him from an angry trance.
“You behaved beautifully, dear. It was such a comfort to have you. Your uncle and I are going to lunch.”
“All right,” said Val; “I shall have time to go and see that fellow.” And, parting from them abruptly, he ran down the stairs and out into the air. He bolted into a hansom, and drove to the Goat’s Club. His thoughts were on Holly and what he must do before her brother showed her this thing in to-morrow’s paper.
When Val had left them Soames and Winifred made their way to the Cheshire Cheese. He had suggested it as a meeting place with Mr. Bellby. At that early hour of noon they would have it to themselves, and Winifred had thought it would be ‘amusing’ to see this far-famed hostelry. Having ordered a light repast, to the consternation of the waiter, they awaited its arrival together with that of Mr. Bellby, in silent reaction after the hour and a half’s suspense on the tenterhooks of publicity. Mr. Bellby entered presently, preceded by his nose, as cheerful as they were glum. Well! they had got the decree of restitution, and what was the matter with that!
“Quite,” said Soames in a suitably low voice, “but we shall have to begin again to get evidence. He’ll probably try the divorce — it will look fishy if it comes out that we knew of misconduct from the start. His questions showed well enough that he doesn’t like this restitution dodge.”
“Pho!” said Mr. Bellby cheerily, “he’ll forget! Why, man, he’ll have tried a hundred cases between now and then. Besides, he’s bound by precedent to give ye your divorce, if the evidence is satisfactory. We won’t let um know that Mrs. Dartie had knowledge of the facts. Dreamer did it very nicely — he’s got a fatherly touch about um!”
“And I compliment ye, Mrs. Dartie,” went on Mr. Bellby; “ye’ve a natural gift for giving evidence. Steady as a rock.”
Here the, waiter arrived with three plates balanced on one arm, and the remark: “I ‘urried up the pudden, sir. You’ll find plenty o’ lark in it to-day.”
Mr. Bellby applauded his forethought with a dip of his nose. But Soames and Winifred looked with dismay at their light lunch of gravified brown masses, touching them gingerly with their forks in the hope of distinguishing the bodies of the tasty little song-givers. Having begun, however, they found they were hungrier than they thought, and finished the lot, with a glass of port apiece. Conversation turned on the war. Soames thought Ladysmith would fall, and it might last a year. Bellby thought it would be over by the summer. Both agreed that they wanted more men. There was nothing for it but complete victory, since it was now a question of prestige. Winifred brought things back to more solid ground by saying that she did not want the divorce suit to come on till after the summer holidays had begun at Oxford, then the boys would have forgotten about it before Val had to go up again; the London season too would be over. The lawyers reassured her, an interval of six months was necessary — after that the earlier the better. People were now beginning to come in, and they parted — Soames to the city, Bellby to his chambers, Winifred in a hansom to Park Lane to let her mother know how she had fared. The issue had been so satisfactory on the whole that it was considered advisable to tell James, who never failed to say day after day that he didn’t know about Winifred’s affair, he couldn’t tell. As his sands ran out; the importance of mundane matters became increasingly grave to him, as if he were feeling: ‘I must make the most of it, and worry well; I shall soon have nothing to worry about.’
He received the report grudgingly. It was a new-fangled way of going about things, and he didn’t know! But he gave Winifred a cheque, saying:
“I expect you’ll have a lot of expense. That’s a new hat you’ve got on. Why doesn’t Val come and see us?”
Winifred promised to bring him to dinner soon. And, going home, she sought her bedroom where she could be alone. Now that her husband had been ordered back into her custody with a view to putting him away from her for ever, she would try once more to find out from her sore and lonely heart what she really wanted.
Last updated on Wed Jan 12 09:33:27 2011 for eBooks@Adelaide.