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

'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 I' 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-

"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."

"Thanks awfully."

"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."

Jolyon nodded.

"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?"

"No, thanks."

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

"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."

Soames nodded.

"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

"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!'



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

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

"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

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

"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

"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

< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

Other sites: