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

"Now, James," said Emily, "eat your dinner.  Nobody's been seeing

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 pre-
vented 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 notor-
iety.  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

"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



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

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 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 French-
women 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

"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

"The Boers are only half-civilised," remarked Soames; "they stand
in the way of progress.  It will never do to let our suzerainty

"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 pre-
dilections 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!

Annette murmured:

"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.



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
atmo-sphere itself within him and outside.  A kind of defensive

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