“You know, Auntie, I do wish people wouldn’t think I’m in love with that boy. Why, I’ve hardly seen him!”
Winifred, though experienced, was not “fine.” She accepted the remark with considerable relief. Of course, it was not pleasant for the girl to hear of the family scandal, and she set herself to minimise the matter, a task for which she was eminently qualified, “raised” fashionably under a comfortable mother and a father whose nerves might not be shaken, and for many years the wife of Montague Dartie. Her description was a masterpiece of understatement. Fleur’s father’s first wife had been very foolish. There had been a young man who had got run over, and she had left Fleur’s father. Then, years after, when it might all have come—right again, she had taken up with their cousin Jolyon; and, of course, her father had been obliged to have a divorce. Nobody remembered anything of it now, except just the family. And, perhaps, it had all turned out for the best; her father had Fleur; and Jolyon and Irene had been quite happy, they said, and their boy was a nice boy. “Val having Holly, too, is a sort of plaster, don’t you know?” With these soothing words, Winifred patted her niece’s shoulder; thought: ’She’s a nice, plump little thing!’ and went back to Prosper Profond, who, in spite of his indiscretion, was very “amusing” this evening.
For some minutes after her aunt had gone Fleur remained under influence of bromide material and spiritual. But then reality came back. Her aunt had left out all that mattered—all the feeling, the hate, the love, the unforgivingness of passionate hearts. She, who knew so little of life, and had touched only the fringe of love, was yet aware by instinct that words have as little relation to fact and feeling as coin to the bread it buys. ‘Poor Father!’ she thought. ’Poor me! Poor Jon! But I don’t care, I mean to have him!’ From the window of her darkened room she saw “that man” issue from the door below and “prowl” away. If he and her mother—how would that affect her chance? Surely it must make her father cling to her more closely, so that he would consent in the end to anything she wanted, or become reconciled the sooner to what she did without his knowledge.
She took some earth from the flower-box in the window, and with all her might flung it after that disappearing figure. It fell short, but the action did her good.
And a little puff of air came up from Green Street, smelling of petrol, not sweet.
PURELY FORSYTE AFFAIRS