“We’re a wonderful family, aren’t we? The other day I was calculating the average age of the ten old Forsytes from my father’s family Bible. I make it eighty-four already, and five still living. They ought to beat the record;” and looking whimsically at Soames, he added:
“We aren’t the men they were, you know.”
Soames smiled. ’Do you really think I shall admit that I’m not their equal’; he seemed to be saying, ’or that I’ve got to give up anything, especially life?’
“We may live to their age, perhaps,” pursued Jolyon, “but self-consciousness is a handicap, you know, and that’s the difference between us. We’ve lost conviction. How and when self-consciousness was born I never can make out. My father had a little, but I don’t believe any other of the old Forsytes ever had a scrap. Never to see yourself as others see you, it’s a wonderful preservative. The whole history of the last century is in the difference between us. And between us and you,” he added, gazing through a ring of smoke at Val and Holly, uncomfortable under his quizzical regard, “there’ll be—another difference. I wonder what.”
Soames took out his watch.
“We must go,” he said, “if we’re to catch our train.”
“Uncle Soames never misses a train,” muttered Val, with his mouth full.
“Why should I?” Soames answered simply.
“Oh! I don’t know,” grumbled Val, “other people do.”
At the front door he gave Holly’s slim brown hand a long and surreptitious squeeze.
“Look out for me to-morrow,” he whispered; “three o’clock. I’ll wait for you in the road; it’ll save time. We’ll have a ripping ride.” He gazed back at her from the lodge gate, and, but for the principles of a man about town, would have waved his hand. He felt in no mood to tolerate his uncle’s conversation. But he was not in danger. Soames preserved a perfect muteness, busy with far-away thoughts.
The yellow leaves came down about those two walking the mile and a half which Soames had traversed so often in those long-ago days when he came down to watch with secret pride the building of the house—that house which was to have been the home of him and her from whom he was now going to seek release. He looked back once, up that endless vista of autumn lane between the yellowing hedges. What an age ago! “I don’t want to see her,” he had said to Jolyon. Was that true? ‘I may have to,’ he thought; and he shivered, seized by one of those queer shudderings that they say mean footsteps on one’s grave. A chilly world! A queer world! And glancing sidelong at his nephew, he thought: ’Wish I were his age! I wonder what she’s like now!’
JOLYON PROSECUTES TRUSTEESHIP