List Of Contents | Contents of Indian Summer of a Forsyte, by John Galsworthy
< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

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

"Hallo, Soames!  Have a muffin?"

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

"How's your mother?"

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

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

"I wanted to ask you about Dartie.  I hear he's...."

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

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

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

Soames smiled.

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

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

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

"'Mr. Montague Dartie, Poste Restante, Buenos Aires.'  I should
hurry up with the steps, if I were you.  He fairly fed me up last

"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

"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

"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

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.



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:



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

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

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

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

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

"Yes," Soames had answered, "I represent your landlord; in fact,
I'm his son."   "Won't you sit down, sir, please?  Tell Maman to
come to this gentleman."

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

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

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

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

< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

Other sites: