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

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

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



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

"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

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

"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

< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

Other sites: