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

some definite embodiment.  Autumn was getting hold of the old
oak-tree, its leaves were browning.  Sunshine had been plentiful
and hot this summer.  As with trees, so with men's lives!  'I ought
to live long,' thought Jolyon; 'I'm getting mildewed for want of
heat.  If I can't work, I shall be off to Paris.'  But memory of
Paris gave him no pleasure.  Besides, how could he go?  He must
stay and see what Soames was going to do.  'I'm her trustee.  I
can't leave her unprotected,' he thought.  It had been striking him
as curious how very clearly he could still see Irene in her little
drawing-room which he had only twice entered.  Her beauty must have
a sort of poignant harmony!  No literal portrait would ever do her
justice; the essence of her was--ah I what?...  The noise of hoofs
called him back to the other window.  Holly was riding into the
yard on her long-tailed 'palfrey.'  She looked up and he waved to
her.  She had been rather silent lately; getting old, he supposed,
beginning to want her future, as they all did--youngsters!

Time was certainly the devil!  And with the feeling that to waste
this swift-travelling commodity was unforgivable folly, he took up
his brush.  But it was no use; he could not concentrate his eye--
besides, the light was going.  'I'll go up to town,' he thought.
In the hall a servant met him.

"A lady to see you, sir; Mrs. Heron."

Extraordinary coincidence!  Passing into the picture-gallery, as it
was still called, he saw Irene standing over by the window.

She came towards him saying:

"I've been trespassing; I came up through the coppice and garden.
I always used to come that way to see Uncle Jolyon."

"You couldn't trespass here," replied Jolyon; "history makes that
impossible.  I was just thinking of you."

Irene smiled.  And it was as if something shone through; not mere
spirituality--serener, completer, more alluring.

"History!" she answered; "I once told Uncle Jolyon that love was
for ever.  Well, it isn't.  Only aversion lasts."

Jolyon stared at her.  Had she got over Bosinney at last?

"Yes!" he said, "aversion's deeper than love or hate because it's a
natural product of the nerves, and we don't change them."

"I came to tell you that Soames has been to see me.  He said a
thing that frightened me.  He said: 'You are still my wife!'"

"What!" ejaculated Jolyon.  "You ought not to live alone."  And he
continued to stare at her, afflicted by the thought that where
Beauty was, nothing ever ran quite straight, which, no doubt, was
why so many people looked on it as immoral.

"What more?"

"He asked me to shake hands.

"Did you?"

"Yes.  When he came in I'm sure he didn't want to; he changed while
he was there."

"Ah! you certainly ought not to go on living there alone."

"I know no woman I could ask; and I can't take a lover to order,
Cousin Jolyon."

"Heaven forbid!" said Jolyon.  "What a damnable position!  Will you
stay to dinner?  No?  Well, let me see you back to town; I wanted
to go up this evening."


"Truly.  I'll be ready in five minutes."

On that walk to the station they talked of pictures and music,
contrasting the English and French characters and the difference in
their attitude to Art.  But to Jolyon the colours in the hedges of
the long straight lane, the twittering of chaffinches who kept pace
with them, the perfume of weeds being already burned, the turn of
her neck, the fascination of those dark eyes bent on him now and
then, the lure of her whole figure, made a deeper impression than
the remarks they exchanged.  Unconsciously he held himself
straighter, walked with a more elastic step.

In the train he put her through a sort of catechism as to what she
did with her days.

Made her dresses, shopped, visited a hospital, played her piano,
translated from the French.

She had regular work from a publisher, it seemed, which
supplemented her income a little.  She seldom went out in the
evening.  "I've been living alone so long, you see, that I don't
mind it a bit.  I believe I'm naturally solitary."

"I don't believe that," said Jolyon.  "Do you know many people?"

"Very few."

At Waterloo they took a hansom, and he drove with her to the door
of her mansions.  Squeezing her hand at parting, he said:

"You know, you could always come to us at Robin Hill; you must let
me know everything that happens.  Good-bye, Irene."

"Good-bye," she answered softly.

Jolyon climbed back into his cab, wondering why he had not asked
her to dine and go to the theatre with him.  Solitary, starved,
hung-up life that she had!  "Hotch Potch Club," he said through the
trap-door.  As his hansom debouched on to the Embankment, a man in
top-hat and overcoat passed, walking quickly, so close to the wall
that he seemed to be scraping it.

'By Jove!' thought Jolyon; 'Soames himself!  What's he up to now?'
And, stopping the cab round the corner, he got out and retraced his
steps to where he could see the entrance to the mansions.  Soames
had halted in front of them, and was looking up at the light in her
windows.  'If he goes in,' thought Jolyon, 'what shall I do?  What
have I the right to do?'  What the fellow had said was true.  She
was still his wife, absolutely without protection from annoyance!
'Well, if he goes in,' he thought, 'I follow.'  And he began moving
towards the mansions.  Again Soames advanced; he was in the very
entrance now.  But suddenly he stopped, spun round on his heel, and
came back towards the river.  'What now?' thought Jolyon.  'In a
dozen steps he'll recognise me.'  And he turned tail.  His cousin's
footsteps kept pace with his own.  But he reached his cab, and got
in before Soames had turned the corner.  "Go on!" he said through
the trap.  Soames' figure ranged up alongside.

"Hansom!" he said.  "Engaged?  Hallo!"

"Hallo!" answered Jolyon.  "You?"

The quick suspicion on his cousin's face, white in the lamplight,
decided him.

"I can give you a lift," he said, "if you're going West."

"Thanks," answered Soames, and got in.

"I've been seeing Irene," said Jolyon when the cab had started.


"You went to see her yesterday yourself, I understand."

"I did," said Soames; "she's my wife, you know."

The tone, the half-lifted sneering lip, roused sudden anger in
Jolyon; but he subdued it.

"You ought to know best," he said, "but if you want a divorce it's
not very wise to go seeing her, is it?  One can't run with the hare
and hunt with the hounds?"

"You're very good to warn me," said Soames, "but I have not made up
my mind."

"She has," said Jolyon, looking straight before him; "you can't
take things up, you know, as they were twelve years ago."

"That remains to be seen."

"Look here!" said Jolyon, "she's in a damnable position, and I am
the only person with any legal say in her affairs."

"Except myself," retorted Soames, "who am also in a damnable
position.  Hers is what she made for herself; mine what she made
for me.  I am not at all sure that in her own interests I shan't
require her to return to me."

"What!" exclaimed Jolyon; and a shiver went through his whole body.

"I don't know what you may mean by 'what,'" answered Soames coldly;
"your say in her affairs is confined to paying out her income;
please bear that in mind.  In choosing not to disgrace her by a
divorce, I retained my rights, and, as I say, I am not at all sure
that I shan't require to exercise them."

"My God!" ejaculated Jolyon, and he uttered a short laugh.

"Yes," said Soames, and there was a deadly quality in his voice.
"I've not forgotten the nickname your father gave me, 'The man of
property'!  I'm not called names for nothing."

"This is fantastic," murmured Jolyon.  Well, the fellow couldn't
force his wife to live with him.  Those days were past, anyway!
And he looked around at Soames with the thought: 'Is he real, this
man?' But Soames looked very real, sitting square yet almost
elegant with the clipped moustache on his pale face, and a tooth
showing where a lip was lifted in a fried smile.  There was a long
silence, while Jolyon thought: 'Instead of helping her, I've made
things worse.'  Suddenly Soames said:

"It would be the best thing that could happen to her in many ways."

At those words such a turmoil began taking place in Jolyon that he
could barely sit still in the cab.  It was as if he were boxed up
with hundreds of thousands of his countrymen, boxed up with that
something in the national character which had always been to him
revolting, something which he knew to be extremely natural and yet
which seemed to him inexplicable--their intense belief in contracts
and vested rights, their complacent sense of virtue in the exaction
of those rights.  Here beside him in the cab was the very
embodiment, the corporeal sum as it were, of the possessive
instinct--his own kinsman, too!  It was uncanny and intolerable!
'But there's something more in it than that!' he thought with a
sick feeling.  'The dog, they say, returns to his vomit!  The sight
of her has reawakened something.  Beauty!  The devil's in it!'

"As I say," said Soames, "I have not made up my mind.  I shall be
obliged if you will kindly leave her quite alone."

Jolyon bit his lips; he who had always hated rows almost welcomed
the thought, of one now.

"I can give you no such promise," he said shortly.

"Very well," said Soames, "then we know where we are.  I'll get
down here."  And stopping the cab he got out without word or sign
of farewell.  Jolyon travelled on to his Club.

The first news of the war was being called in the streets, but he
paid no attention.  What could he do to help her?  If only his
father were alive!  He could have done so much!  But why could he
not do all that his father could have done?  Was he not old
enough?--turned fifty and twice married, with grown-up daughters
and a son.  'Queer,' he thought.  'If she were plain I shouldn't be
thinking twice about it.  Beauty is the devil, when you're sen-
sitive to it!'  And into the Club reading-room he went with a
disturbed heart.  In that very room he and Bosinney had talked one
summer afternoon; he well remembered even now the disguised and
secret lecture he had given that young man in the interests of
June, the diagnosis of the Forsytes he had hazarded; and how he had
wondered what sort of woman it was he was warning him against.  And
now!  He was almost in want of a warning himself.  'It's deuced
funny!'  he thought, 'really deuced funny!'



It is so much easier to say, "Then we know where we are," than to
mean anything particular by the words.  And in saying them Soames
did but vent the jealous rankling of his instincts.  He got out of
the cab in a state of wary anger--with himself for not having seen
Irene, with Jolyon for having seen her; and now with his inability
to tell exactly what he wanted.

He had abandoned the cab because he could not bear to remain seated
beside his cousin, and walking briskly eastwards he thought: 'I
wouldn't trust that fellow Jolyon a yard.  Once outcast, always
outcast!'  The chap had a natural sympathy with--with--laxity (he
had shied at the word sin, because it was too melodramatic for use
by a Forsyte).

Indecision in desire was to him a new feeling.  He was like a child
between a promised toy and an old one which had been taken away
from him; and he was astonished at himself.  Only last Sunday
desire had seemed simple--just his freedom and Annette.  'I'll go
and dine there,' he thought.  To see her might bring back his
singleness of intention, calm his exasperation, clear his mind.

The restaurant was fairly full--a good many foreigners and folk
whom, from their appearance, he took to be literary or artistic.
Scraps of conversation came his way through the clatter of plates
and glasses.  He distinctly heard the Boers sympathised with, the
British Government blamed.  'Don't think much of their clientele,'
he thought.  He went stolidly through his dinner and special coffee
without making his presence known, and when at last he had
finished, was careful not to be seen going towards the sanctum of
Madame Lamotte.  They were, as he entered, having supper--such a
much nicer-looking supper than the dinner he had eaten that he felt
a kind of grief--and they greeted him with a surprise so seemingly
genuine that he thought with sudden suspicion: 'I believe they knew
I was here all the time.'  He gave Annette a look furtive and
searching.  So pretty, seemingly so candid; could she be angling
for him?  He turned to Madame Lamotte and said:

"I've been dining here."

Really!  If she had only known!  There were dishes she could have
recommended; what a pity!  Soames was confirmed in his suspicion.
'I must look out what I'm doing!' he thought sharply.

"Another little cup of very special coffee, monsieur; a liqueur,
Grand Marnier?" and Madame Lamotte rose to order these delicacies.

Alone with Annette Soames said, "Well, Annette?" with a defensive
little smile about his lips.

The girl blushed.  This, which last Sunday would have set his
nerves tingling, now gave him much the same feeling a man has when
a dog that he owns wriggles and looks at him.  He had a curious
sense of power, as if he could have said to her, 'Come and kiss
me,' and she would have come.  And yet--it was strange--but there
seemed another face and form in the room too; and the itch in his
nerves, was it for that--or for this?  He jerked his head towards
the restaurant and said: "You have some queer customers.  Do you
like this life?"

Annette looked up at him for a moment, looked down, and played with
her fork.

"No," she said, "I do not like it."

'I've got her,' thought Soames, 'if I want her.  But do I want
her?' She was graceful, she was pretty--very pretty; she was fresh,
she had taste of a kind.  His eyes travelled round the little room;
but the eyes of his mind went another journey--a half-light, and
silvery walls, a satinwood piano, a woman standing against it,
reined back as it were from him--a woman with white shoulders that
he knew, and dark eyes that he had sought to know, and hair like
dull dark amber.  And as in an artist who strives for the
unrealisable and is ever thirsty, so there rose in him at that
moment the thirst of the old passion he had never satisfied.

"Well," he said calmly, "you're young.  There's everything before

Annette shook her head.

"I think sometimes there is nothing before me but hard work.  I am
not so in love with work as mother."

"Your mother is a wonder," said Soames, faintly mocking; "she will
never let failure lodge in her house."

Annette sighed.  "It must be wonderful to be rich."

"Oh!  You'll be rich some day," answered Soames, still with that
faint mockery; "don't be afraid."

Annette shrugged her shoulders.  "Monsieur is very kind."  And
between her pouting lips she put a chocolate.

'Yes, my dear,' thought Soames, 'they're very pretty.'

Madame Lamotte, with coffee and liqueur, put an end to that
colloquy.  Soames did not stay long.

Outside in the streets of Soho, which always gave him such a

< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

Other sites: