“I have Father’s letter. I picked it up that night and kept it. Would you like it back, dear?”
Jon shook his head.
“I had read it, of course, before he gave it to you. It didn’t quite do justice to my criminality.”
“Mother!” burst from Jon’s lips.
“He put it very sweetly, but I know that in marrying Fleur’s father without love I did a dreadful thing. An unhappy marriage, Jon, can play such havoc with other lives besides one’s own. You are fearfully young, my darling, and fearfully loving. Do you think you can possibly be happy with this girl?”
Staring at her dark eyes, darker now from pain, Jon answered
“Yes; oh! yes—if you could be.”
“Admiration of beauty and longing for possession are not love. If yours were another case like mine, Jon—where the deepest things are stifled; the flesh joined, and the spirit at war!”
“Why should it, Mother? You think she must be like her father, but she’s not. I’ve seen him.”
Again the smile came on Irene’s lips, and in Jon something wavered; there was such irony and experience in that smile.
“You are a giver, Jon; she is a taker.”
That unworthy doubt, that haunting uncertainty again! He said with vehemence:
“She isn’t—she isn’t. It’s only because I can’t bear to make you unhappy, Mother, now that Father—” He thrust his fists against his forehead.
Irene got up.
“I told you that night, dear, not to mind me. I meant it. Think of yourself and your own happiness! I can stand what’s left—I’ve brought it on myself.”
Again the word “Mother!” burst from Jon’s lips.
She came over to him and put her hands over his.
“Do you feel your head, darling?”
Jon shook it. What he felt was in his chest—a sort of tearing asunder of the tissue there, by the two loves.
“I shall always love you the same, Jon, whatever you do. You won’t lose anything.” She smoothed his hair gently, and walked away.
He heard the door shut; and, rolling over on the bed, lay, stifling his breath, with an awful held-up feeling within him.
Enquiring for her at tea time Soames learned that Fleur had been out in the car since two. Three hours! Where had she gone? Up to London without a word to him? He had never become quite reconciled with cars. He had embraced them in principle—like the born empiricist, or Forsyte, that he was—adopting each symptom of progress as it came along with: “Well, we couldn’t do without them now.” But in fact he found them tearing, great, smelly things. Obliged by Annette to have one—a Rollhard with pearl-grey cushions, electric light, little mirrors, trays for the ashes of cigarettes, flower vases—all smelling of petrol and stephanotis—he regarded