List Of Contents | Contents of Indian Summer of a Forsyte, by John Galsworthy
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like a great cat!' he thought.  'It was him in there, that she--
that she was--He's got her still!'  He walked to the edge of the
terrace, and looked down into the darkness; he could just see the
powdering of the daisies on the unmown lawn.  Here to-day and gone
to-morrow!  And there came the moon, who saw all, young and old,
alive and dead, and didn't care a dump!  His own turn soon.  For a
single day of youth he would give what was left!  And he turned
again towards the house.  He could see the windows of the night
nursery up there.  His little sweet would be asleep.  'Hope that
dog won't wake her!' he thought.  'What is it makes us love, and
makes us die!  I must go to bed.'

And across the terrace stones, growing grey in the moonlight, he
passed back within.

How should an old man live his days if not in dreaming of his
well-spent past? In that, at all events, there is no agitating
warmth, only pale winter sunshine.  The shell can withstand the
gentle beating of the dynamos of memory.  The present he should
distrust; the future shun.  From beneath thick shade he should
watch the sunlight creeping at his toes.  If there be sun of
summer, let him not go out into it, mistaking it for the
Indian-summer sun!  Thus peradventure he shall decline softly,
slowly, imperceptibly, until impatient Nature clutches his
wind-pipe and he gasps away to death some early morning before the
world is aired, and they put on his tombstone: 'In the fulness of
years!' yea!  If he preserve his principles in perfect order, a
Forsyte may live on long after he is dead.

Old Jolyon was conscious of all this, and yet there was in him that
which transcended Forsyteism.  For it is written that a Forsyte
shall not love beauty more than reason; nor his own way more than
his own health.  And something beat within him in these days that
with each throb fretted at the thinning shell.  His sagacity knew
this, but it knew too that he could not stop that beating, nor
would if he could.  And yet, if you had told him he was living on
his capital, he would have stared you down.  No, no; a man did not
live on his capital; it was not done!  The shibboleths of the past
are ever more real than the actualities of the present.  And he, to
whom living on one's capital had always been anathema, could not
have borne to have applied so gross a phrase to his own case.
Pleasure is healthful; beauty good to see; to live again in the
youth of the young--and what else on earth was he doing!

Methodically, as had been the way of his whole life, he now
arranged his time.  On Tuesdays he journeyed up to town by train;
Irene came and dined with him.  And they went to the opera.  On
Thursdays he drove to town, and, putting that fat chap and his
horses up, met her in Kensington Gardens, picking up the carriage
after he had left her, and driving home again in time for dinner.
He threw out the casual formula that he had business in London on
those two days.  On Wednesdays and Saturdays she came down to give
Holly music lessons.  The greater the pleasure he took in her
society, the more scrupulously fastidious he became, just a matter-
of-fact and friendly uncle.  Not even in feeling, really, was he
more--for, after all, there was his age.  And yet, if she were late
he fidgeted himself to death.  If she missed coming, which happened
twice, his eyes grew sad as an old dog's, and he failed to sleep.

And so a month went by--a month of summer in the fields, and in his
heart, with summer's heat and the fatigue thereof.  Who could have
believed a few weeks back that he would have looked forward to his
son's and his grand-daughter's return with something like dread!
There was such a delicious freedom, such recovery of that
independence a man enjoys before he founds a family, about these
weeks of lovely weather, and this new companionship with one who
demanded nothing, and remained always a little unknown, retaining
the fascination of mystery.  It was like a draught of wine to him
who has been drinking water for so long that he has almost
forgotten the stir wine brings to his blood, the narcotic to his
brain.  The flowers were coloured brighter, scents and music and
the sunlight had a living value--were no longer mere reminders of
past enjoy-ment.  There was something now to live for which stirred
him continually to anticipation.  He lived in that, not in
retrospection; the difference is considerable to any so old as he.
The pleasures of the table, never of much consequence to one
naturally abstemious, had lost all value.  He ate little, without
knowing what he ate; and every day grew thinner and more worn to
look at.  He was again a 'threadpaper'; and to this thinned form
his massive forehead, with hollows at the temples, gave more
dignity than ever.  He was very well aware that he ought to see the
doctor, but liberty was too sweet.  He could not afford to pet his
frequent shortness of breath and the pain in his side at the
expense of liberty.  Return to the vegetable existence he had led
among the agricultural journals with the life-size mangold wurzels,
before this new attraction came into his life--no! He exceeded his
allowance of cigars.  Two a day had always been his rule.  Now he
smoked three and sometimes four--a man will when he is filled with
the creative spirit.  But very often he thought: 'I must give up
smoking, and coffee; I must give up rattling up to town.'  But he
did not; there was no one in any sort of authority to notice him,
and this was a priceless boon.

The servants perhaps wondered, but they were, naturally, dumb.
Mam'zelle Beauce was too concerned with her own digestion, and too
'wellbrrred' to make personal allusions.  Holly had not as yet an
eye for the relative appearance of him who was her plaything and
her god.  It was left for Irene herself to beg him to eat more, to
rest in the hot part of the day, to take a tonic, and so forth.
But she did not tell him that she was the a cause of his thinness--
for one cannot see the havoc oneself is working.  A man of eighty-
five has no passions, but the Beauty which produces passion works
on in the old way, till death closes the eyes which crave the sight
of Her.

On the first day of the second week in July he received a letter
from his son in Paris to say that they would all be back on Friday.
This had always been more sure than Fate; but, with the pathetic
improvidence given to the old, that they may endure to the end, he
had never quite admitted it.  Now he did, and something would have
to be done.  He had ceased to be able to imagine life without this
new interest, but that which is not imagined sometimes exists, as
Forsytes are perpetually finding to their cost.  He sat in his old
leather chair, doubling up the letter, and mumbling with his lips
the end of an unlighted cigar.  After to-morrow his Tuesday
expeditions to town would have to be abandoned.  He could still
drive up, perhaps, once a week, on the pretext of seeing his man of
business.  But even that would be dependent on his health, for now
they would begin to fuss about him.  The lessons!  The lessons must
go on!  She must swallow down her scruples, and June must put her
feelings in her pocket.  She had done so once, on the day after the
news of Bosinney's death; what she had done then, she could surely
do again now.  Four years since that injury was inflicted on her--
not Christian to keep the memory of old sores alive.  June's will
was strong, but his was stronger, for his sands were running out.
Irene was soft, surely she would do this for him, subdue her
natural shrinking, sooner than give him pain!  The lessons must
continue; for if they did, he was secure.  And lighting his cigar
at last, he began trying to shape out how to put it to them all,
and explain this strange intimacy; how to veil and wrap it away
from the naked truth--that he could not bear to be deprived of the
sight of beauty.  Ah! Holly!  Holly was fond of her, Holly liked
her lessons.  She would save him--his little sweet!  And with that
happy thought he became serene, and wondered what he had been
worrying about so fearfully.  He must not worry, it left him always
curiously weak, and as if but half present in his own body.

That evening after dinner he had a return of the dizziness, though
he did not faint.  He would not ring the bell, because he knew it
would mean a fuss, and make his going up on the morrow more
conspicuous.  When one grew old, the whole world was in conspiracy
to limit freedom, and for what reason?--just to keep the breath in
him a little longer.  He did not want it at such cost.  Only the
dog Balthasar saw his lonely recovery from that weakness; anxiously
watched his master go to the sideboard and drink some brandy,
instead of giving him a biscuit.  When at last old Jolyon felt able
to tackle the stairs he went up to bed.  And, though still shaky
next morning, the thought of the evening sustained and strengthened
him.  It was always such a pleasure to give her a good dinner--he
suspected her of undereating when she was alone; and, at the opera
to watch her eyes glow and brighten, the unconscious smiling of her
lips.  She hadn't much pleasure, and this was the last time he
would be able to give her that treat.  But when he was packing his
bag he caught himself wishing that he had not the fatigue of
dressing for dinner before him, and the exertion, too, of telling
her about June's return.

The opera that evening was 'Carmen,' and he chose the last
entr'acte to break the news, instinctively putting it off till the
latest moment.

She took it quietly, queerly; in fact, he did not know how she had
taken it before the wayward music lifted up again and silence
became necessary.  The mask was down over her face, that mask
behind which so much went on that he could not see.  She wanted
time to think it over, no doubt!  He would not press her, for she
would be coming to give her lesson to-morrow afternoon, and he
should see her then when she had got used to the idea.  In the cab
he talked only of the Carmen; he had seen better in the old days,
but this one was not bad at all.  When he took her hand to say
good-night, she bent quickly forward and kissed his forehead.

"Good-bye, dear Uncle Jolyon, you have been so sweet to me."

"To-morrow then," he said.  "Good-night.  Sleep well."  She echoed
softly: "Sleep welll" and from the cab window, already moving away,
he saw her face screwed round towards him, and her hand put out in
a gesture which seemed to linger.

He sought his room slowly.  They never gave him the same, and he
could not get used to these 'spick-and-spandy' bedrooms with new
furniture and grey-green carpets sprinkled all over with pink
roses.  He was wakeful and that wretched Habanera kept throbbing in
his head.

His French had never been equal to its words, but its sense he
knew, if it had any sense, a gipsy thing--wild and unaccountable.
Well, there was in life something which upset all your care and
plans--something which made men and women dance to its pipes.  And
he lay staring from deep-sunk eyes into the darkness where the
unaccountable held sway.  You thought you had hold of life, but it
slipped away behind you, took you by the scruff of the neck, forced
you here and forced you there, and then, likely as not, squeezed
life out of you!  It took the very stars like that, he shouldn't
wonder, rubbed their noses together and flung them apart; it had
never done playing its pranks.  Five million people in this great
blunderbuss of a town, and all of them at the mercy of that Life-
Force, like a lot of little dried peas hopping about on a board
when you struck your fist on it.  Ah, well! Himself would not hop
much longer--a good long sleep would do him good!

How hot it was up here!--how noisy! His forehead burned; she had
kissed it just where he always worried; just there--as if she had
known the very place and wanted to kiss it all away for him.  But,
instead, her lips left a patch of grievous uneasiness.  She had
never spoken in quite that voice, had never before made that
lingering gesture or looked back at him as she drove away.

He got out of bed and pulled the curtains aside; his room faced
down over the river.  There was little air, but the sight of that
breadth of water flowing by, calm, eternal, soothed him.  'The
great thing,' he thought 'is not to make myself a nuisance.  I'll
think of my little sweet, and go to sleep.'  But it was long before
the heat and throbbing of the London night died out into the short
slumber of the summer morning.  And old Jolyon had but forty winks.

When he reached home next day he went out to the flower garden, and
with the help of Holly, who was very delicate with flowers,
gathered a great bunch of carnations.  They were, he told her, for
'the lady in grey'--a name still bandied between them; and he put
them in a bowl in his study where he meant to tackle Irene the
moment she came, on the subject of June and future lessons.  Their
fragrance and colour would help.  After lunch he lay down, for he
felt very tired, and the carriage would not bring her from the
station till four o'clock.  But as the hour approached he grew
restless, and sought the schoolroom, which overlooked the drive.
The sun-blinds were down, and Holly was there with Mademoiselle
Beauce, sheltered from the heat of a stifling July day, attending
to their silkworms.  Old Jolyon had a natural antipathy to these
methodical creatures, whose heads and colour reminded him of
elephants; who nibbled such quantities of holes in nice green
leaves; and smelled, as he thought, horrid.  He sat down on a
chintz-covered windowseat whence he could see the drive, and get
what air there was; and the dog Balthasar who appreciated chintz on
hot days, jumped up beside him.  Over the cottage piano a violet
dust-sheet, faded almost to grey, was spread, and on it the first
lavender, whose scent filled the room.  In spite of the coolness
here, perhaps because of that coolness the beat of life vehemently
impressed his ebbed-down senses.  Each sunbeam which came through
the chinks had annoying brilliance; that dog smelled very strong;
the lavender perfume was overpowering; those silkworms heaving up
their grey-green backs seemed horribly alive; and Holly's dark head
bent over them had a wonderfully silky sheen.  A marvellous cruelly
strong thing was life when you were old and weak; it seemed to mock
you with its multitude of forms and its beating vitality.  He had
never, till those last few weeks, had this curious feeling of being
with one half of him eagerly borne along in the stream of life, and
with the other half left on the bank, watching that helpless
progress.  Only when Irene was with him did he lose this double

Holly turned her head, pointed with her little brown fist to the
piano--for to point with a finger was not 'well-brrred'--and said

"Look at the 'lady in grey,' Gran; isn't she pretty to-day?"

Old Jolyon's heart gave a flutter, and for a second the room was
clouded; then it cleared, and he said with a twinkle:

"Who's been dressing her up?"

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