BIRTH OF A FORSYTE
Soames walked out of the garden door, crossed the lawn, stood on the path above the river, turned round and walked back to the garden door, without having realised that he had moved. The sound of wheels crunching the drive convinced him that time had passed, and the doctor gone. What, exactly, had he said?
“This is the position, Mr. Forsyte. I can make pretty certain of her life if I operate, but the baby will be born dead. If I don’t operate, the baby will most probably be born alive, but it’s a great risk for the mother—a great risk. In either case I don’t think she can ever have another child. In her state she obviously can’t decide for herself, and we can’t wait for her mother. It’s for you to make the decision, while I’m getting what’s necessary. I shall be back within the hour.”
The decision! What a decision! No time to get a specialist down! No time for anything!
The sound of wheels died away, but Soames still stood intent; then, suddenly covering his ears, he walked back to the river. To come before its time like this, with no chance to foresee anything, not even to get her mother here! It was for her mother to make that decision, and she couldn’t arrive from Paris till to-night! If only he could have understood the doctor’s jargon, the medical niceties, so as to be sure he was weighing the chances properly; but they were Greek to him—like a legal problem to a layman. And yet he must decide! He brought his hand away from his brow wet, though the air was chilly. These sounds which came from her room! To go back there would only make it more difficult. He must be calm, clear. On the one hand life, nearly certain, of his young wife, death quite certain, of his child; and—no more children afterwards! On the other, death perhaps of his wife, nearly certain life for the child; and—no more children afterwards! Which to choose?.... It had rained this last fortnight—the river was very full, and in the water, collected round the little house-boat moored by his landing-stage, were many leaves from the woods above, brought off by a frost. Leaves fell, lives drifted down—Death! To decide about death! And no one to give him a hand. Life lost was lost for good. Let nothing go that you could keep; for, if it went, you couldn’t get it back. It left you bare, like those trees when they lost their leaves; barer and barer until you, too, withered and came down. And, by a queer somersault of thought, he seemed to see not Annette lying up there behind that window-pane on which the sun was shining, but Irene lying in their bedroom in Montpellier Square, as it might conceivably have been her fate to lie, sixteen years ago. Would he have hesitated then? Not a moment! Operate, operate! Make certain of her life! No decision—a mere instinctive cry for