“I wonder if he will understand, even now, Jolyon? He’s so young; and he shrinks from the physical.”
“He gets that shrinking from my father, he was as fastidious as a girl in all such matters. Would it be better to rewrite the whole thing, and just say you hated Soames?”
Irene shook her head.
“Hate’s only a word. It conveys nothing. No, better as it is.”
“Very well. It shall go to-morrow.”
She raised her face to his, and in sight of the big house’s many creepered windows, he kissed her.
Late that same afternoon, Jolyon had a nap in the old armchair. Face down on his knee was La Rotisserie de la Refine Pedauque, and just before he fell asleep he had been thinking: ’As a people shall we ever really like the French? Will they ever really like us!’ He himself had always liked the French, feeling at home with their wit, their taste, their cooking. Irene and he had paid many visits to France before the War, when Jon had been at his private school. His romance with her had begun in Paris—his last and most enduring romance. But the French—no Englishman could like them who could not see them in some sort with the detached aesthetic eye! And with that melancholy conclusion he had nodded off.
When he woke he saw Jon standing between him and the window. The boy had evidently come in from the garden and was waiting for him to wake. Jolyon smiled, still half asleep. How nice the chap looked—sensitive, affectionate, straight! Then his heart gave a nasty jump; and a quaking sensation overcame him. Jon! That confession! He controlled himself with an effort. “Why, Jon, where did you spring from?”
Jon bent over and kissed his forehead.
Only then he noticed the look on the boy’s face.
“I came home to tell you something, Dad.”
With all his might Jolyon tried to get the better of the jumping, gurgling sensations within his chest.
“Well, sit down, old man. Have you seen your mother?”
“No.” The boy’s flushed look gave place to pallor; he sat down on the arm of the old chair, as, in old days, Jolyon himself used to sit beside his own father, installed in its recesses. Right up to the time of the rupture in their relations he had been wont to perch there—had he now reached such a moment with his own son? All his life he had hated scenes like poison, avoided rows, gone on his own way quietly and let others go on theirs. But now—it seemed—at the very end of things, he had a scene before him more painful than any he had avoided. He drew a visor down over his emotion, and waited for his son to speak.
“Father,” said Jon slowly, “Fleur and I are engaged.”
‘Exactly!’ thought Jolyon, breathing with difficulty.
“I know that you and Mother don’t like the idea. Fleur says that Mother was engaged to her father before you married her. Of course I don’t know what happened, but it must be ages ago. I’m devoted to her, Dad, and she says she is to me.”