“There you are! Dartie’s gone to Buenos Aires.”
Soames nodded. “That’s all right,” he said; “good riddance.”
A wave of assuagement passed over James’ brain. Soames knew. Soames was the only one of them all who had sense. Why couldn’t he come and live at home? He had no son of his own. And he said plaintively:
“At my age I get nervous. I wish you were more at home, my boy.”
Again Soames nodded; the mask of his countenance betrayed no understanding, but he went closer, and as if by accident touched his father’s shoulder.
“They sent their love to you at Timothy’s,” he said. “It went off all right. I’ve been to see Winifred. I’m going to take steps.” And he thought: ‘Yes, and you mustn’t hear of them.’
James looked up; his long white whiskers quivered, his thin throat between the points of his collar looked very gristly and naked.
“I’ve been very poorly all day,” he said; “they never tell me anything.”
Soames’ heart twitched.
“Well, it’s all right. There’s nothing to worry about. Will you come up now?” and he put his hand under his father’s arm.
James obediently and tremulously raised himself, and together they went slowly across the room, which had a rich look in the firelight, and out to the stairs. Very slowly they ascended.
“Good-night, my boy,” said James at his bedroom door.
“Good-night, father,” answered Soames. His hand stroked down the sleeve beneath the shawl; it seemed to have almost nothing in it, so thin was the arm. And, turning away from the light in the opening doorway, he went up the extra flight to his own bedroom.
‘I want a son,’ he thought, sitting on the edge of his bed; ’I want a son.’
NO-LONGER-YOUNG JOLYON AT HOME
Trees take little account of time, and the old oak on the upper lawn at Robin Hill looked no day older than when Bosinney sprawled under it and said to Soames: “Forsyte, I’ve found the very place for your house.” Since then Swithin had dreamed, and old Jolyon died, beneath its branches. And now, close to the swing, no-longer-young Jolyon often painted there. Of all spots in the world it was perhaps the most sacred to him, for he had loved his father.
Contemplating its great girth—crinkled and a little mossed, but not yet hollow—he would speculate on the passage of time. That tree had seen, perhaps, all real English history; it dated, he shouldn’t wonder, from the days of Elizabeth at least. His own fifty years were as nothing to its wood. When the house behind it, which he now owned, was three hundred years of age instead of twelve, that tree might still be standing there, vast and hollow—for who would commit such sacrilege as to cut it down? A Forsyte might perhaps still be living in that house, to guard