Walking all those miles? Soames stared. The man’s face had the beginning of a smile on it. What was he grinning at? And very quickly he turned, saying, “All right, Sims!” and went into the house. He mounted to the picture-gallery once more. He had from there a view of the river bank, and stood with his eyes fixed on it, oblivious of the fact that it would be an hour at least before her figure showed there. Walking up! And that fellow’s grin! The boy—! He turned abruptly from the window. He couldn’t spy on her. If she wanted to keep things from him—she must; he could not spy on her. His heart felt empty, and bitterness mounted from it into his very mouth. The staccato shouts of Jack Cardigan pursuing the ball, the laugh of young Mont rose in the stillness and came in. He hoped they were making that chap Profond run. And the girl in “La Vendimia” stood with her arm akimbo and her dreamy eyes looking past him. ‘I’ve done all I could for you,’ he thought, ’since you were no higher than my knee. You aren’t going to—to—hurt me, are you?’
But the Goya copy answered not, brilliant in colour just beginning to tone down. ‘There’s no real life in it,’ thought Soames. ’Why doesn’t she come?’
Among those four Forsytes of the third, and, as one might say, fourth generation, at Wansdon under the Downs, a week-end prolonged unto the ninth day had stretched the crossing threads of tenacity almost to snapping-point. Never had Fleur been so “fine,” Holly so watchful, Val so stable-secretive, Jon so silent and disturbed. What he learned of farming in that week might have been balanced on the point of a penknife and puffed off. He, whose nature was essentially averse from intrigue, and whose adoration of Fleur disposed him to think that any need for concealing it was “skittles,” chafed and fretted, yet obeyed, taking what relief he could in the few moments when they were alone. On Thursday, while they were standing in the bay window of the drawing-room, dressed for dinner, she said to him:
“Jon, I’m going home on Sunday by the 3.40 from Paddington; if you were to go home on Saturday you could come up on Sunday and take me down, and just get back here by the last train, after. You were going home anyway, weren’t you?”
“Anything to be with you,” he said; “only why need I pretend—”
Fleur slipped her little finger into his palm:
“You have no instinct, Jon; you must leave things to me. It’s serious about our people. We’ve simply got to be secret at present, if we want to be together.” The door was opened, and she added loudly: “You are a duffer, Jon.”
Something turned over within Jon; he could not bear this subterfuge about a feeling so natural, so overwhelming, and so sweet.
On Friday night about eleven he had packed his bag, and was leaning out of his window, half miserable, and half lost in a dream of Paddington station, when he heard a tiny sound, as of a finger-nail tapping on his door. He rushed to it and listened. Again the sound. It was a nail. He opened. Oh! What a lovely thing came in!