List Of Contents | Contents of Indian Summer of a Forsyte, by John Galsworthy
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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

"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

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!'



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 motor-
cars 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

"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 paint-
ing, 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

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

'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

"What name?"

"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."

Soames frowned.


"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 whim-
sical 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

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

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.

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