“Surely,” he said gently, “it lies with yourself. A man can always put these things through if he’ll take it on himself.”
Soames turned square to him, with a sound which seemed to come from somewhere very deep.
“Why should I suffer more than I’ve suffered already? Why should I?”
Jolyon could only shrug his shoulders. His reason agreed, his instinct rebelled; he could not have said why.
“Your father,” went on Soames, “took an interest in her—why, goodness knows! And I suppose you do too?” he gave Jolyon a sharp look. “It seems to me that one only has to do another person a wrong to get all the sympathy. I don’t know in what way I was to blame—I’ve never known. I always treated her well. I gave her everything she could wish for. I wanted her.”
Again Jolyon’s reason nodded; again his instinct shook its head. ’What is it?’ he thought; ’there must be something wrong in me. Yet if there is, I’d rather be wrong than right.’
“After all,” said Soames with a sort of glum fierceness, “she was my wife.”
In a flash the thought went through his listener: ’There it is! Ownerships! Well, we all own things. But—human beings! Pah!’
“You have to look at facts,” he said drily, “or rather the want of them.”
Soames gave him another quick suspicious look.
“The want of them?” he said. “Yes, but I am not so sure.”
“I beg your pardon,” replied Jolyon; “I’ve told you what she said. It was explicit.”
“My experience has not been one to promote blind confidence in her word. We shall see.”
Jolyon got up.
“Good-bye,” he said curtly.
“Good-bye,” returned Soames; and Jolyon went out trying to understand the look, half-startled, half-menacing, on his cousin’s face. He sought Waterloo Station in a disturbed frame of mind, as though the skin of his moral being had been scraped; and all the way down in the train he thought of Irene in her lonely flat, and of Soames in his lonely office, and of the strange paralysis of life that lay on them both. ’In chancery!’ he thought. ’Both their necks in chancery—and her’s so pretty!’
VAL HEARS THE NEWS
The keeping of engagements had not as yet been a conspicuous feature in the life of young Val Dartie, so that when he broke two and kept one, it was the latter event which caused him, if anything, the greater surprise, while jogging back to town from Robin Hill after his ride with Holly. She had been even prettier than he had thought her yesterday, on her silver-roan, long-tailed ‘palfrey’; and it seemed to him, self-critical in the brumous October gloaming and the outskirts of London, that only his boots had shone throughout their two-hour companionship. He took out his new gold ’hunter’—present from James—and looked not at the time,