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

-her violent partizanship was fighting Soames' battle.

"It would be best for Irene to come quietly to us at Robin Hill,
and see how things shape."

"Of course," said June; "only...."

Irene looked full at Jolyon--in all his many attempts afterwards to
analyze that glance he never could succeed.

"No!  I should only bring trouble on you all.  I will go abroad."

He knew from her voice that this was final.  The irrelevant thought
flashed through him: 'Well, I could see her there.'  But he said:

"Don't you think you would be more helpless abroad, in case he

"I don't know.  I can but try."

June sprang up and paced the room.  "It's all horrible," she said.
"Why should people be tortured and kept miserable and helpless year
after year by this disgusting sanctimonious law?"  But someone had
come into the room, and June came to a standstill.  Jolyon went up
to Irene:

"Do you want money?"  No.

"And would you like me to let your fiat?"

"Yes, Jolyon, please."

"When shall you be going?"


"You won't go back there in the meantime, will you?"  This he said
with an anxiety strange to himself.

"No; I've got all I want here."

"You'll send me your address?"

She put out her hand to him.  "I feel you're a rock."

"Built on sand," answered Jolyon, pressing her hand hard; "but it's
a pleasure to do anything, at any time, remember that.  And if you
change your mind....!  Come along, June; say good-bye."

June came from the window and flung her arms round Irene.

"Don't think of him," she said under her breath; "enjoy yourself,
and bless you!"

With a memory of tears in Irene's eyes, and of a smile on her lips,
they went away extremely silent, passing the lady who had
interrupted the interview and was turning over the papers on the

Opposite the National Gallery June exclaimed:

"Of all undignified beasts and horrible laws!"

But Jolyon did not respond.  He had something of his father's
balance, and could see things impartially even when his emotions
were roused.  Irene was right; Soames' position was as bad or worse
than her own.  As for the law--it catered for a human nature of
which it took a naturally low view.  And, feeling that if he stayed
in his daughter's company he would in one way or another commit an
indiscretion, he told her he must catch his train back to Oxford;
and hailing a cab, left her to Turner's water-colours, with the
promise that he would think over that Gallery.

But he thought over Irene instead.  Pity, they said, was akin to
love!  If so he was certainly in danger of loving her, for he
pitied her profoundly.  To think of her drifting about Europe so
handicapped and lonely!  'I hope to goodness she'll keep her head!'
he thought; 'she might easily grow desperate.'  In fact, now that
she had cut loose from her poor threads of occupation, he couldn't
imagine how she would go on--so beautiful a creature, hopeless, and
fair game for anyone!  In his exasperation was more than a little
fear and jealousy.  Women did strange things when they were driven
into corners.  'I wonder what Soames will do now!'  he thought.  'A
rotten, idiotic state of things!  And I suppose they would say it
was her own fault.'  Very preoccupied and sore at heart, he got
into his train, mislaid his ticket, and on the platform at Oxford
took his hat off to a lady whose face he seemed to remember without
being able to put a name to her, not even when he saw her having
tea at the Rainbow.



Quivering from the defeat of his hopes, with the green morocco case
still flat against his heart, Soames revolved thoughts bitter as
death.  A spider's web!  Walking fast, and noting nothing in the
moonlight, he brooded over the scene he had been through, over the
memory of her figure rigid in his grasp.  And the more he brooded,
the more certain he became that she had a lover--her words, 'I
would sooner die!' were ridiculous if she had not.  Even if she had
never loved him, she had made no fuss until Bosinney came on the
scene.  No; she was in love again, or she would not have made that
melodramatic answer to his proposal, which in all the circumstances
was reasonable!  Very well!  That simplified matters.

'I'll take steps to know where I am,' he thought; 'I'll go to
Polteed's the first thing tomorrow morning.'

But even in forming that resolution he knew he would have trouble
with himself.  He had employed Polteed's agency several times in
the routine of his profession, even quite lately over Dartie's
case, but he had never thought it possible to employ them to watch
his own wife.

It was too insulting to himself!

He slept over that project and his wounded pride--or rather, kept
vigil.  Only while shaving did he suddenly remember that she called
herself by her maiden name of Heron.  Polteed would not know, at
first at all events, whose wife she was, would not look at him
obsequiously and leer behind his back.  She would just be the wife
of one of his clients.  And that would be true--for was he not his
own solicitor?

He was literally afraid not to put his design into execution at the
first possible moment, lest, after all, he might fail himself.  And
making Warmson bring him an early cup of coffee; he stole out of
the house before the hour of breakfast.  He walked rapidly to one
of those small West End streets where Polteed's and other firms
ministered to the virtues of the wealthier classes.  Hitherto he
had always had Polteed to see him in the Poultry; but he well knew
their address, and reached it at the opening hour.  In the outer
office, a room furnished so cosily that it might have been a
money-lender's, he was attended by a lady who might have been a

"I wish to see Mr. Claud Polteed.  He knows me--never mind my

To keep everybody from knowing that he, Soames Forsyte, was reduced
to having his wife spied on, was the overpowering consideration.

Mr. Claud Polteed--so different from Mr. Lewis Polteed--was one of
those men with dark hair, slightly curved noses, and quick brown
eyes, who might be taken for Jews but are really Phoenicians; he
received Soames in a room hushed by thickness of carpet and
curtains.  It was, in fact, confidentially furnished, without trace
of document anywhere to be seen.

Greeting Soames deferentially, he turned the key in the only door
with a certain ostentation.

"If a client sends for me," he was in the habit of saying, "he
takes what precaution he likes.  If he comes here, we convince him
that we have no leakages.  I may safely say we lead in security, if
in nothing else...."  "Now, sir, what can I do for you?"

Soames' gorge had risen so that he could hardly speak.  It was
absolutely necessary to hide from this man that he had any but
professional interest in the matter; and, mechanically, his face
assumed its sideway smile.

"I've come to you early like this because there's not an hour to
lose"--if he lost an hour he might fail himself yet!  "Have you a
really trustworthy woman free?"

Mr. Polteed unlocked a drawer, produced a memorandum, ran his eyes
over it, and locked the drawer up again.

"Yes," he said; "the very woman."

Soames had seated himself and crossed his legs--nothing but a faint
flush, which might have been his normal complexion, betrayed him.

"Send her off at once, then, to watch a Mrs. Irene Heron of Flat C,
Truro Mansions, Chelsea, till further notice."

"Precisely," said Mr. Polteed; "divorce, I presume?" and he blew
into a speaking-tube.  "Mrs. Blanch in?  I shall want to speak to
her in ten minutes."

"Deal with any reports yourself," resumed Soames, "and send them to
me personally, marked confidential, sealed and registered.  My
client exacts the utmost secrecy."

Mr. Polteed smiled, as though saying, 'You are teaching your
grandmother, my dear sir; and his eyes slid over Soames' face for
one unprofessional instant.

"Make his mind perfectly easy," he said.  "Do you smoke?"

"No," said Soames.  "Understand me: Nothing may come of this.  If a
name gets out, or the watching is suspected, it may have very
serious consequences."

Mr. Polteed nodded.  "I can put it into the cipher category.  Under
that system a name is never mentioned; we work by numbers."

He unlocked another drawer and took out two slips of paper, wrote
on them, and handed one to Soames.

"Keep that, sir; it's your key.  I retain this duplicate.  The case
we'll call 7x.  The party watched will be 17; the watcher 19; the
Mansions 25; yourself--I should say, your firm--31; my firm 32,
myself 2.  In case you should have to mention your client in
writing I have called him 43; any person we suspect will be 47;
a second person 51.  Any special hint or instruction while we're
about it?"

"No," said Soames; "that is--every consideration compatible."

Again Mr. Polteed nodded.  "Expense?"

Soames shrugged.  "In reason," he answered curtly, and got up.
"Keep it entirely in your own hands."

"Entirely," said Mr. Polteed, appearing suddenly between him and
the door.  "I shall be seeing you in that other case before long.
Good morning, sir."  His eyes slid unprofessionally over Soames
once more, and he unlocked the door.

"Good morning," said Soames, looking neither to right nor left.

Out in the street he swore deeply, quietly, to himself.  A spider's
web, and to cut it he must use this spidery, secret, unclean
method, so utterly repugnant to one who regarded his private life
as his most sacred piece of property.  But the die was cast, he
could not go back.  And he went on into the Poultry, and locked
away the green morocco case and the key to that cipher destined to
make crystal-clear his domestic bankruptcy.

Odd that one whose life was spent in bringing to the public eye all
the private coils of property, the domestic disagreements of
others, should dread so utterly the public eye turned on his own;
and yet not odd, for who should know so well as he the whole
unfeeling process of legal regulation.

He worked hard all day.  Winifred was due at four o'clock; he was
to take her down to a conference in the Temple with Dreamer Q.C.,
and waiting for her he re-read the letter he  had caused her to
write the day of Dartie's departure, requiring him to return.


"I have received your letter with the news that you have left me
for ever and are on your way to Buenos Aires.  It has naturally
been a great shock.  I am taking this earliest opportunity of
writing to tell you that I am prepared to let bygones be bygones if
you will return to me at once.  I beg you to do so.  I am very much
upset, and will not say any more now.  I am sending this letter
registered to the address you left at your Club.  Please cable to

"Your still affectionate wife,


Ugh!  What bitter humbug!  He remembered leaning over Winifred
while she copied what he had pencilled, and how she had said,
laying down her pen, "Suppose he comes, Soames!"  in such a strange
tone of voice, as if she did not know her own mind.  "He won't
come," he had answered, "till he's spent his money.  That's why we
must act at once."  Annexed to the copy of that letter was the
original of Dartie's drunken scrawl from the Iseeum Club.  Soames
could have wished it had not been so manifestly penned in liquor.
Just the sort of thing the Court would pitch on.  He seemed to hear
the Judge's voice say: "You took this seriously!  Seriously enough
to write him as you did?  Do you think he meant it?"  Never mind!
The fact was clear that Dartie had sailed and had not returned.
Annexed also was his cabled answer: "Impossible return.  Dartie."
Soames shook his head.  If the whole thing were not disposed of
within the next few months the fellow would turn up again like a
bad penny.  It saved a thousand a year at least to get rid of him,
besides all the worry to Winifred and his father.  'I must stiffen
Dreamer's back,' he thought; 'we must push it on.'

Winifred, who had adopted a kind of half-mourning which became her
fair hair and tall figure very well, arrived in James' barouche
drawn by James' pair.  Soames had not seen it in the City since his
father retired from business five years ago, and its incongruity
gave him a shock.  'Times are changing,' he thought; 'one doesn't
know what'll go next!'  Top hats even were scarcer.  He enquired
after Val.  Val, said Winifred, wrote that he was going to play
polo next term.  She thought he was in a very good set.  She added
with fashionably disguised anxiety: "Will there be much publicity
about my affair, Soames?  Must it be in the papers?  It's so bad
for him, and the girls."

With his own calamity all raw within him, Soames answered:

"The papers are a pushing lot; it's very difficult to keep things
out.  They pretend to be guarding the public's morals, and they
corrupt them with their beastly reports.  But we haven't got to
that yet.  We're only seeing Dreamer to-day on the restitution
question.  Of course he understands that it's to lead to a divorce;
but you must seem genuinely anxious to get Dartie back--you might
practice that attitude to-day."

Winifred sighed.

"Oh!  What a clown Monty's been!"   she said.

Soames gave her a sharp look.  It was clear to him that she could
not take her Dartie seriously, and would go back on the whole thing
if given half a chance.  His own instinct had been firm in this
matter from the first.  To save a little scandal now would only
bring on his sister and her children real disgrace and perhaps ruin
later on if Dartie were allowed to hang on to them, going down-hill
and spending the money James would leave his daughter.  Though it
was all tied up, that fellow would milk the settlements somehow,
and make his family pay through the nose to keep him out of
bankruptcy or even perhaps gaol!  They left the shining carriage,
with the shining horses and the shining-hatted servants on the
Embankment, and walked up to Dreamer Q.C.'s Chambers in Crown
Office Row.

"Mr. Bellby is here, sir," said the clerk; "Mr. Dreamer will be ten

Mr. Bellby, the junior--not as junior as he might have been, for
Soames only employed barristers of established reputation; it was,
indeed, something of a mystery to him how barristers ever managed
to establish that which made him employ them--Mr. Bellby was
seated, taking a final glance through his papers.  He had come from
Court, and was in wig and gown, which suited a nose jutting out
like the handle of a tiny pump, his small shrewd blue eyes, and
rather protruding lower lip--no better man to supplement and
stiffen Dreamer.

The introduction to Winifred accomplished, they leaped the weather
and spoke of the war.  Soames interrupted suddenly:

"If he doesn't comply we can't bring proceedings for six months.  I
want to get on with the matter, Bellby."

Mr. Bellby, who had the ghost of an Irish brogue, smiled at
Winifred and murmured: "The Law's delays, Mrs. Dartie."

"Six months!" repeated Soames; "it'll drive it up to June!  We
shan't get the suit on till after the long vacation.  We must put

< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

Other sites: