“I see,” said Annette; “it is the same in France.”
“Oh!” murmured Soames, at once relieved and taken aback. “Of course, class is everything, really.”
“Yes,” said Annette; “comme vous etes sage.”
‘That’s all right,’ thought Soames, watching her lips, ’only she’s pretty cynical.’ His knowledge of French was not yet such as to make him grieve that she had not said ‘tu.’ He slipped his arm round her, and murmured with an effort:
“Et vous etes ma belle femme.”
Annette went off into a little fit of laughter.
“Oh, non!” she said. “Oh, non! ne parlez pas Francais, Soames. What is that old lady, your aunt, looking forward to?”
Soames bit his lip. “God knows!” he said; “she’s always saying something;” but he knew better than God.
The war dragged on. Nicholas had been heard to say that it would cost three hundred millions if it cost a penny before they’d done with it! The income-tax was seriously threatened. Still, there would be South Africa for their money, once for all. And though the possessive instinct felt badly shaken at three o’clock in the morning, it recovered by breakfast-time with the recollection that one gets nothing in this world without paying for it. So, on the whole, people went about their business much as if there were no war, no concentration camps, no slippery de Wet, no feeling on the Continent, no anything unpleasant. Indeed, the attitude of the nation was typified by Timothy’s map, whose animation was suspended—for Timothy no longer moved the flags, and they could not move themselves, not even backwards and forwards as they should have done.
Suspended animation went further; it invaded Forsyte ’Change, and produced a general uncertainty as to what was going to happen next. The announcement in the marriage column of The Times, ’Jolyon Forsyte to Irene, only daughter of the late Professor Heron,’ had occasioned doubt whether Irene had been justly described. And yet, on the whole, relief was felt that she had not been entered as ‘Irene, late the wife,’ or ’the divorced wife,’ ‘of Soames Forsyte.’ Altogether, there had been a kind of sublimity from the first about the way the family had taken that ‘affair.’ As James had phrased it, ‘There it was!’ No use to fuss! Nothing to be had out of admitting that it had been a ’nasty jar’—in the phraseology of the day.
But what would happen now that both Soames and Jolyon were married again? That was very intriguing. George was known to have laid Eustace six to four on a little Jolyon before a little Soames. George was so droll! It was rumoured, too, that he and Dartie had a bet as to whether James would attain the age of ninety, though which of them had backed James no one knew.