List Of Contents | Contents of Indian Summer of a Forsyte, by John Galsworthy
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"Hollee! Don't be foolish!"

That prim little Frenchwoman!  She hadn't yet got over the music
lessons being taken away from her.  That wouldn't help.  His little
sweet was the only friend they had.  Well, they were her lessons.
And he shouldn't budge shouldn't budge for anything.  He stroked
the warm wool on Balthasar's head, and heard Holly say: "When
mother's home, there won't be any changes, will there?  She doesn't
like strangers, you know."

The child's words seemed to bring the chilly atmosphere of
opposition about old Jolyon, and disclose all the menace to his
new-found freedom.  Ah! He would have to resign himself to being an
old man at the mercy of care and love, or fight to keep this new
and prized companionship; and to fight tired him to death.  But his
thin, worn face hardened into resolution till it appeared all Jaw.
This was his house, and his affair; he should not budge!  He looked
at his watch, old and thin like himself; he had owned it fifty
years.  Past four already!  And kissing the top of Holly's head in
passing, he went down to the hall.  He wanted to get hold of her
before she went up to give her lesson.  At the first sound of
wheels he stepped out into the porch, and saw at once that the
victoria was empty.

"The train's in, sir; but the lady 'asn't come."

Old Jolyon gave him a sharp upward look, his eyes seemed to push
away that fat chap's curiosity, and defy him to see the bitter
disappointment he was feeling.

"Very well," he said, and turned back into the house.  He went to
his study and sat down, quivering like a leaf.  What did this mean?
She might have lost her train, but he knew well enough she hadn't.
'Good-bye, dear Uncle Jolyon.'  Why 'Good-bye' and not 'Good-
night'?  And that hand of hers lingering in the air.  And her kiss.
What did it mean?  Vehement alarm and irritation took possession of
him.  He got up and began to pace the Turkey carpet, between window
and wall.  She was going to give him up!  He felt it for certain--
and he defenceless.  An old man wanting to look on beauty!  It was
ridiculous!  Age closed his mouth, paralysed his power to fight.
He had no right to what was warm and living, no right to anything
but memories and sorrow.  He could not plead with her; even an old
man has his dignity.  Defenceless!  For an hour, lost to bodily
fatigue, he paced up and down, past the bowl of carnations he had
plucked, which mocked him with its scent.  Of all things hard to
bear, the prostration of will-power is hardest, for one who has
always had his way.  Nature had got him in its net, and like an
unhappy fish he turned and swam at the meshes, here and there,
found no hole, no breaking point.  They brought him tea at five
o'clock, and a letter.  For a moment hope beat up in him.  He cut
the envelope with the butter knife, and read:

"DEAREST UNCLE JOLYON,--I can't bear to write anything that may
disappoint you, but I was too cowardly to tell you last night.  I
feel I can't come down and give Holly any more lessons, now that
June is coming back.  Some things go too deep to be forgotten.  It
has been such a joy to see you and Holly.  Perhaps I shall still
see you sometimes when you come up, though I'm sure it's not good
for you; I can see you are tiring yourself too much.  I believe you
ought to rest quite quietly all this hot weather, and now you have
your son and June coming back you will be so happy.  Thank you a
million times for all your sweetness to me.

"Lovingly your IRENE."

So, there it was! Not good for him to have pleasure and what he
chiefly cared about; to try and put off feeling the inevitable end
of all things, the approach of death with its stealthy, rustling
footsteps.  Not good for him!  Not even she could see how she was
his new lease of interest in life, the incarnation of all the
beauty he felt slipping from him.

His tea grew cold, his cigar remained unlit; and up and down he
paced, torn between his dignity and his hold on life.  Intolerable
to be squeezed out slowly, without a say of your own, to live on
when your will was in the hands of others bent on weighing you to
the ground with care and love.  Intolerable!  He would see what
telling her the truth would do--the truth that he wanted the sight
of her more than just a lingering on.  He sat down at his old
bureau and took a pen.  But he could not write.  There was some-
thing revolting in having to plead like this; plead that she should
warm his eyes with her beauty.  It was tantamount to confessing
dotage.  He simply could not.  And instead, he wrote:

"I had hoped that the memory of old sores would not be allowed to
stand in the way of what is a pleasure and a profit to me and my
little grand-daughter.  But old men learn to forego their whims;
they are obliged to, even the whim to live must be foregone sooner
or later; and perhaps the sooner the better.
"My love to you,

'Bitter,' he thought, 'but I can't help it.  I'm tired.'  He sealed
and dropped it into the box for the evening post, and hearing it
fall to the bottom, thought: 'There goes all I've looked forward

That evening after dinner which he scarcely touched, after his
cigar which he left half-smoked for it made him feel faint, he went
very slowly upstairs and stole into the night-nursery.  He sat down
on the window-seat.  A night-light was burning, and he could just
see Holly's face, with one hand underneath the cheek.  An early
cockchafer buzzed in the Japanese paper with which they had filled
the grate, and one of the horses in the stable stamped restlessly.
To sleep like that child!  He pressed apart two rungs of the
venetian blind and looked out.  The moon was rising, blood-red.  He
had never seen so red a moon.  The woods and fields out there were
dropping to sleep too, in the last glimmer of the summer light.
And beauty, like a spirit, walked.  'I've had a long life,' he
thought, 'the best of nearly everything.  I'm an ungrateful chap;
I've seen a lot of beauty in my time.  Poor young Bosinney said I
had a sense of beauty.  There's a man in the moon to-night!'  A
moth went by, another, another.  'Ladies in grey!'  He closed his
eyes.  A feeling that he would never open them again beset him; he
let it grow, let himself sink; then, with a shiver, dragged the
lids up.  There was something wrong with him, no doubt, deeply
wrong; he would have to have the doctor after all.  It didn't much
matter now!  Into that coppice the moon-light would have crept;
there would be shadows, and those shadows would be the only things
awake.  No birds, beasts, flowers, insects; Just the shadows--
moving; 'Ladies in grey!'  Over that log they would climb; would
whisper together.  She and Bosinney!  Funny thought!  And the frogs
and little things would whisper too!  How the clock ticked, in
here!  It was all eerie-out there in the light of that red moon; in
here with the little steady night-light and, the ticking clock and
the nurse's dressing-gown hanging from the edge of the screen,
tall, like a woman's figure.  'Lady in grey!'  And a very odd
thought beset him: Did she exist?  Had she ever come at all?  Or
was she but the emanation of all the beauty he had loved and must
leave so soon?  The violet-grey spirit with the dark eyes and the
crown of amber hair, who walks the dawn and the moonlight, and at
blue-bell time?  What was she, who was she, did she exist?  He rose
and stood a moment clutching the window-sill, to give him a sense
of reality again; then began tiptoeing towards the door.  He
stopped at the foot of the bed; and Holly, as if conscious of his
eyes fixed on her, stirred, sighed, and curled up closer in
defence.  He tiptoed on and passed out into the dark passage;
reached his room, undressed at once, and stood before a mirror in
his night-shirt.  What a scarecrow--with temples fallen in, and
thin legs! His eyes resisted his own image, and a look of pride
came on his face.  All was in league to pull him down, even his
reflection in the glass, but he was not down--yet!  He got into
bed, and lay a long time without sleeping, trying to reach
resignation, only too well aware that fretting and disappointment
were very bad for him.  He woke in the morning so unrefreshed and
strengthless that he sent for the doctor.  After sounding him, the
fellow pulled a face as long as your arm, and ordered him to stay
in bed and give up smoking.  That was no hardship; there was
nothing to get up for, and when he felt ill, tobacco always lost
its savour.  He spent the morning languidly with the sun-blinds
down, turning and re-turning The Times, not reading much, the dog
Balthasar lying beside his bed.  With his lunch they brought him a
telegram, running thus:

'Your letter received coming down this afternoon will be with you
at four-thirty.  Irene.'

Coming down!  After all!  Then she did exist--and he was not
deserted.  Coming down!  A glow ran through his limbs; his cheeks
and forehead felt hot.  He drank his soup, and pushed the tray-
table away, lying very quiet until they had removed lunch and left
him alone; but every now and then his eyes twinkled.  Coming down!
His heart beat fast, and then did not seem to beat at all.  At
three o'clock he got up and dressed deliberately, noiselessly.
Holly and Mam'zelle would be in the schoolroom, and the servants
asleep after their dinner, he shouldn't wonder.  He opened his door
cautiously, and went downstairs.  In the hall the dog Balthasar lay
solitary, and, followed by him, old Jolyon passed into his study
and out into the burning afternoon.  He meant to go down and meet
her in the coppice, but felt at once he could not manage that in
this heat.  He sat down instead under the oak tree by the swing,
and the dog Balthasar, who also felt the heat, lay down beside him.
He sat there smiling.  What a revel of bright minutes!  What a hum
of insects, and cooing of pigeons!  It was the quintessence of a
summer day.  Lovely!  And he was happy--happy as a sand-boy, what-
ever that might be.  She was coming; she had not given him up!  He
had everything in life he wanted--except a little more breath, and
less weight--just here!  He would see her when she emerged from the
fernery, come swaying just a little, a violet-grey figure passing
over the daisies and dandelions and 'soldiers' on the lawn--the
soldiers with their flowery crowns.  He would not move, but she
would come up to him and say: 'Dear Uncle Jolyon, I am sorry!' and
sit in the swing and let him look at her and tell her that he had
not been very well but was all right now; and that dog would lick
her hand.  That dog knew his master was fond of her; that dog was a
good dog.

It was quite shady under the tree; the sun could not get at him,
only make the rest of the world bright so that he could see the
Grand Stand at Epsom away out there, very far, and the cows crop-
ping the clover in the field and swishing at the flies with their
tails.  He smelled the scent of limes, and lavender.  Ah!  that was
why there was such a racket of bees.  They were excited--busy, as
his heart was busy and excited.  Drowsy, too, drowsy and drugged on
honey and happiness; as his heart was drugged and drowsy.  Summer--
summer--they seemed saying; great bees and little bees, and the
flies too!

The stable clock struck four; in half an hour she would be here.
He would have just one tiny nap, because he had had so little sleep
of late; and then he would be fresh for her, fresh for youth and
beauty, coming towards him across the sunlit lawn--lady in grey!
And settling back in his chair he closed his eyes.  Some thistle-
down came on what little air there was, and pitched on his
moustache more white than itself.  He did not know; but his
breathing stirred it, caught there.  A ray of sunlight struck
through and lodged on his boot.  A bumble-bee alighted and strolled
on the crown of his Panama hat.  And the delicious surge of slumber
reached the brain beneath that hat, and the head swayed forward and
rested on his breast.  Summer--summer!  So went the hum.

The stable clock struck the quarter past.  The dog Balthasar
stretched and looked up at his master.  The thistledown no longer
moved.  The dog placed his chin over the sunlit foot.  It did not
stir.  The dog withdrew his chin quickly, rose, and leaped on old
Jolyon's lap, looked in his face, whined; then, leaping down, sat
on his haunches, gazing up.  And suddenly he uttered a long, long

But the thistledown was still as death, and the face of his old

Summer--summer--summer!  The soundless footsteps on the grass!



Two households both alike in dignity,
>From ancient grudge, break into new mutiny.

---Romeo and Juliet





The possessive instinct never stands still.  Through florescence
and feud, frosts and fires, it followed the laws of progression
even in the Forsyte family which had believed it fixed for ever.
Nor can it be dissociated from environment any more than the
quality of potato from the soil.

The historian of the English eighties and nineties will, in his
good time, depict the somewhat rapid progression from self-
contented and contained provincialism to still more self-contented
if less contained imperialism--in other words, the 'possessive'
instinct of the nation on the move.  And so, as if in conformity,
was it with the Forsyte family.  They were spreading not merely on
the surface, but within.

When, in 1895, Susan Hayman, the married Forsyte sister, followed
her husband at the ludicrously low age of seventy-four, and was
cremated, it made strangely little stir among the six old Forsytes
left.  For this apathy there were three causes.  First: the almost
surreptitious burial of old Jolyon in 1892 down at Robin Hill--
first of the Forsytes to desert the family grave at Highgate.  That
burial, coming a year after Swithin's entirely proper funeral, had
occasioned a great deal of talk on Forsyte 'Change, the abode of
Timothy Forsyte on the Bayswater Road, London, which still col-
lected and radiated family gossip.  Opinions ranged from the
lamentation of Aunt Juley to the outspoken assertion of Francie
that it was 'a jolly good thing to stop all that stuffy Highgate
business.'  Uncle Jolyon in his later years--indeed, ever since the
strangeand lamentable affair between his granddaughter June's
lover, young Bosinney, and Irene, his nephew Soames Forsyte's wife-
-had noticeably rapped the family's knuckles; and that way of his
own which he had always taken had begun to seem to them a little
wayward.  The philosophic vein in him, of course, had always been
too liable to crop out of the strata of pure Forsyteism, so they
were in a way prepared for his interment in a strange spot.  But
the whole thing was an odd business, and when the contents of his
Will became current coin on Forsyte 'Change, a shiver had gone
round the clan.  Out of his estate (L145,304 gross, with
liabilities L35 7s. 4d.) he had actually left L15,000 to "whomever
do you think, my dear?  To Irene!" that runaway wife of his nephew

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