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The Forsyte Saga, Series II
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Novel to Film | At the Gallery

Novel | Screenplay | Film


Novel

At the Gallery
From To Let by John Galsworthy
Chapter 1

[Soames] had become conscious of a woman and a youth standing between him and the "Future Town." Their backs were turned; but very suddenly Soames put his catalogue before his face, and drawing his hat forward, gazed through the slit between. No mistaking that back, elegant as ever though the hair above had gone grey. Irene! His divorced wife -- Irene! And this, no doubt, was her son -- by that fellow Jolyon Forsyte -- their boy, six months older than his own girl! And mumbling over in his mind the bitter days of his divorce, he rose to get out of sight, but quickly sat down again. She had turned her head to speak to her boy; her profile was still so youthful that it made her grey hair seem powdery, as if fancy-dressed; and her lips were smiling as Soames, first possessor of them, had never seen them smile. Grudgingly he admitted her still beautiful and in figure almost as young as ever. And how that boy smiled back at her! Emotion squeezed Soames' heart. The sight infringed his sense of justice. He grudged her that boy's smile -- it went beyond what Fleur gave him, and it was undeserved. Their son might have been his son; Fleur might have been her daughter, if she had kept straight! He lowered his catalogue. If she saw him, all the better! A reminder of her conduct in the presence of her son, who probably knew nothing of it, would be a salutary touch from the finger of that Nemesis which surely must soon or late visit her! Then, half-conscious that such a thought was extravagant for a Forsyte of his age, Soames took out his watch. Past four! Fleur was late. She had gone to his niece Imogen Cardigan's, and there they would keep her smoking cigarettes and gossiping, and that. He heard the boy laugh, and say eagerly: "I say, Mum, is this by one of Auntie June's lame ducks?"

"Paul Post -- I believe it is, darling."

The word produced a little shock in Soames; he had never heard her use it. And then she saw him. His eyes must have had in them something of George Forsyte's sardonic look; for her gloved hand crisped the folds of her frock, her eyebrows rose, her face went stony. She moved on.

"It is a caution," said the boy, catching her arm again.

Soames stared after them. That boy was good-looking, with a Forsyte chin, and eyes deep-grey, deep in; but with something sunny, like a glass of old sherry spilled over him; his smile perhaps, his hair. Better than they deserved -- those two! They passed from his view into the next room, and Soames continued to regard the Future Town, but saw it not. A little smile snarled up his lips. He was despising the vehemence of his own feelings after all those years. Ghosts! And yet as one grew old -- was there anything but what was ghost-like left? Yes, there was Fleur! He fixed his eyes on the entrance. She was due; but she would keep him waiting, of course! And suddenly he became aware of a sort of human breeze -- a short, slight form clad in a seagreen djibbah with a metal belt and a fillet binding unruly red-gold hair all streaked with grey. She was talking to the Gallery attendants, and something familiar riveted his gaze -- in her eyes, her chin, her hair, her spirit -- something which suggested a thin Skye terrier just before its dinner. Surely June Forsyte! His cousin June -- and coming straight to his recess! She sat down beside him, deep in thought, took out a tablet, and made a pencil note. Soames sat unmoving. A confounded thing, cousinship! "Disgusting!" he heard her murmur; then, as if resenting the presence of an overhearing stranger, she looked at him. The worst had happened.

"Soames!"

Soames turned his head a very little.

"How are you?" he said. "Haven't seen you for twenty years."

"No. Whatever made yon come here?"

"My sins," said Soames. "What stuff!"

"Stuff? Oh, yes -- of course; it hasn't arrived yet."

"It never will," said Soames; "it must be making a dead loss."

"Of course it is."

"How d'you know?"

"It's my Gallery."

Soames sniffed from sheer surprise.

"Yours? What on earth makes you run a show like this?"

"I don't treat Art as if it were grocery."

Soames pointed to the Future Town. "Look at that! Who's going to live in a town like that, or with it on his walls?"

June contemplated the picture for a moment. "It's a vision," she said.

"The deuce!"

There was silence, then June rose. 'Crazy-looking creature!' he thought.

"Well," he said, "you'll find your young step-brother here with a woman I used to know. If you take my advice, you'll close this exhibition."

June looked back at him. "Oh! You Forsyte!" she said, and moved on. About her light, flyaway figure, passing so suddenly away, was a look of dangerous decisions. Forsyte! Of course, he was a Forsyte! And so was she! But from the time when, as a mere girl, she brought Bosinney into his life to wreck it, he had never hit it off with June and never would! And here she was, unmarried to this day, owning a Gallery! And suddenly it came to Soames how little he knew now of his own family. The old aunts at Timothy's had been dead so many years; there was no clearing-house for news. What had they all done in the War? Young Roger's boy had been wounded, Se. John Hayman's second son killed; young Nicholas' eldest had got an O.B.E., or whatever they gave them. They had all joined up somehow, he believed. That boy of Jolyon's and Irene's, he supposed, had been too young; his own generation, of course, too old, though Giles Hayman had driven a car for the Red Cross -- and Jesse Hayman been a special constable -- those "Dromios" had always been of a sporting type! As for himself he had given a motor ambulance, read the papers till he was sick of them, passed through much anxiety, bought no clothes, lost seven pounds in weight; he didn't know what more he could have done at his age. Indeed, thinking it over, it struck him that he and his family had taken this war very differently to that affair with the Boers, which had been supposed to tax all the resources of the Empire. In that old war, of course, his nephew Val Dartie had been wounded, that fellow Jolyon's first son had died of enteric, "the Dromios" had gone out on horses, and June had been a nurse; but all that had seemed in the nature of a portent, while in this war everybody had gone "their bit," so far as he could make out, as a matter of course. It seemed to show the growth of something or other -- or perhaps the decline of something else. Had the Forsytes become less individual, or more Imperial, or less provincial? Or was it simply that one hated Germans? . . . Why didn't Fleur come, so that he could get away? He saw those three return together from the other room and pass back along the far side of the screen. The boy was standing before the Juno now. And, suddenly, on the other side of her, Soames saw -- his daughter, with eyebrows raised, as well they might be. He could see her eyes glint sideways at the boy, and the boy look back at her. Then Irene slipped her hand through his arm, and drew him on. Soames saw him glancing round, and Fleur looking after them as the three went out.

A voice said cheerfully: "Bit thick, isn't it, sir?"

The young man who had handed him his handkerchief was again passing. Soames nodded.

"I don't know what we're coming to."

"Oh! That's all right, sir,' answered the young man cheerfully; "they don't either."

Fleur's voice said "Hallo, Father! Here you are!" precisely as if he had been keeping her waiting.

The young man, snatching off his hat, passed on.

"Well," said Soames, looking her up and down, "you're a punctual sort of young woman!"

This treasured possession of his life was of medium height and colour, with short, dark-chestnut hair; her wide-apart brown eyes were set in white so clear that they glinted when they moved, and yet in repose were almost dreamy under very white, black-lashed lids, held over them in a sort of suspense. She had a charming profile, and nothing of her father in her face save a decided chin. Aware that his expression was softening as he looked at her, Soames frowned to preserve the unemotionalism proper to a Forsyte. He knew she was only too inclined to take advantage of his weakness.

Slipping her hand under his arm, she said:

"Who was that?"

"He picked up my handkerchief. We talked about the pictures."

"You're not going to buy that, Father?"

"No," said Soames grimly; "nor that Juno you've been looking at."

Fleur dragged at his arm. "Oh! Let's go! It's a ghastly show."

In the doorway they passed the young man called Mont and his partner. But Soames had hung out a board marked "Trespassers will be prosecuted," and he barely acknowledged the young fellow's salute.

"Well," he said in the street, "whom did you meet at Imogen's?" "Aunt Winifred, and that Monsieur Profond."

"Oh!" muttered Soames; "that chap! What does your aunt see in him?"

"I don't know. He looks pretty deep -- mother says she likes him." Soames grunted.

"Cousin Val and his wife were there, too"

"What!" said Soames. "I thought they were back in South Africa." "Oh, no! They've sold their farm. Cousin Val is going to train racehorses on the Sussex Downs. They've got a jolly old manor-house; they asked me down there."

Soames coughed; the news was distasteful to him. "What's his wife like now?"

"Very quiet, but nice, I think."

Soames coughed again. "He's a rackety chap, your Cousin Val."

"Oh! no, Father! they're awfully devoted. I promised to go -- Saturday to Wednesday next."

"Training race-horses!" said Soames. It was extravagant, but not the reason for his distaste. Why the deuce couldn't his nephew have stayed out in South Africa? His own divorce had been bad enough, without his nephews marriage to the daughter of the correspondent; a half-sister too of June, and of that boy whom Fleur had just been looking at from under the pump-handle. If he didn't look out, she would come to know all about that old disgrace! Unpleasant things! They were round him this afternoon like a swarm of bees!

"I don't like it!" he said.

"I want to see the race-horses," murmured Fleur; "and they've promised I shall ride. Cousin Val can't walk much, you know; but he can ride perfectly. He's going to show me their gallops."

"Racing!" said Soames. "It's a pity the War didn't knock that on the head. He's taking after his father, I'm afraid."

"I don't know anything about his father."

"No," said Soames, grimly. "He took an interest in horses and broke his neck in Paris, walking down-stairs. Good riddance for your aunt." He frowned, recollecting the inquiry into those stairs, which he had attended in Paris six years ago, because Montague Dartie could not attend it himself -- perfectly normal stairs in a house where they played baccarat. Either his winnings or the way he had celebrated them had gone to his brother-in-law's head. The French procedure had been very loose; he had had a lot of trouble with it.

A sound from Fleur distracted his attention. "Look! The people who were in the Gallery with us."

"What people?" muttered Soames, who knew perfectly well.

"I think that woman's beautiful."

"Come into this pastry-cook's," said Soames abruptly, and tightening his grip on her arm he turned into a confectioner's. It was -- for him -- a surprising thing to do, and he said rather anxiously: "What will you have?"

"Oh! I don't want anything. I had a cocktail and a tremendous lunch."

"We must have something now we're here," muttered Soames, keeping hold of her arm.

"Two teas," he said; "and two of those nougat things."

But no sooner was his body seated than his soul sprang up. Those three -- those three were coming in! He heard Irene say something to her boy, and his answer:

"Oh! no, Mum; this place is all right. My stunt." And the three sat down.

At that moment, most awkward of his existence, crowded with ghosts and shadows from his past, in presence of the only two women he had ever loved -- his divorced wife and his daughter by her successor -- Soames was not so much afraid of them as of his cousin June. She might make a scene -- she might introduce those two children -- she was capable of anything. He bit too hastily at the nougat, and it stuck to his plate. Working at it with his finger, he glanced at Fleur. She was masticating dreamily, but her eyes were on the boy. The Forsyte in him said: "Think, feel, and you're done for!" And he wiggled his hoger desperately. Plate! Did Jolyon wear a plate? Did that woman wear a plate? Time had been when he had seen her wearing nothing! That was something, anyway, which had never been stolen from him. And she knew it, though she might sit there calm and self-possessed, as if she had never been his wife. An acid humour stirred in his Forsyte blood; a subtle pain divided by hair's breadth from pleasure. If only June did not suddenly bring her hornets about his ears! The boy was talking.

"Of course, Auntie June" -- so he called his half-sister "Auntie," did he? -- well, she must be fifty, if she was a day! -- "it's jolly good of you to encourage them. Only -- hang it all!" Soames stole a glance. Irene's startled eyes were bent watchfully on her boy. She -- she had these devotions -- for Bosinney -- for that boy's father -- for this boy! He touched Fleur's arm, and said:

"Well, have you had enough?"

"One more, Father, please."

She would be sick! He went to the counter to pay. When he turned round again he saw Fleur standing near the door, holding a handkerchief which the boy had evidently just handed to her.

"F. F.," he heard her say. "Fleur Forsyte -- it's mine all right. Thank you ever so."

Good God! She had caught the trick from what he'd told her in the Gallery -- monkey!

"Forsyte? Why -- that's my name too. Perhaps we're cousins."

"Really! We must be. There aren't any others. I live at Mapledurham; where do you?"

"Robin Hill."

Question and answer had been so rapid that all was over before he could lift a finger. He saw Irene's face alive with startled feeling, gave the slightest shake of his head, and slipped his arm through Fleur's.

"Come along!" he said.

She did not move.

"Didn't you hear, Father? Isn't it queer -- our name's the same. Are we cousins?'

"What's that?" he said. "Forsyte? Distant, perhaps."

"My name's Jolyon, sir. Jon, for short."

"Oh! Ah!" said Soames. "Yes. Distant. How are you? Very good of you. Good-bye!"

He moved on.

"Thanks awfully," Fleur was saying. "Au revoir!"

"Au revoir!" he heard the boy reply.


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The Screenplay

At the Gallery
From the The Forsyte Saga, Series II
Screenplay by Kate Brooke and Phil Woods

Interior, June's Gallery, Day

With a sense of dread, Soames turns and moves towards the end of the gallery. A woman stands with her back to him. She holds a young man by the arm, looks up at a painting.


Jon: This is by Paul Post, Mum... it's good, isn't it?

Irene: It's interesting.

Soames stands in shock. And now Irene turns. A frozen moment for them both. They stare at each other and it is as if the years mean nothing.

Jon: And this is him too...

Irene turns her back on soames and moves quickly to another part of the gallery. Soames stands, as if turned to stone.

Fleur: Daddy?

Fleur is at the door of the gallery and moves towards him. She is bright as a button, bubbling over with amusement.

Fleur: (cont) What an extraordinary gallery!

Soames: We're leaving.

Fleur: But I've just arrived. And it's all so jolly.

Fleur moves towards the part of the gallery where Irene and Jon stand. They have their back to Fleur, they are looking at "Future Town." Soames tugs at her arm.

Soames: Fleur. I feel unwell.

Fleur stands directly behind Irene and Jon. She examines the same picture curiously.

Soames: Fleur. Fleur.

Fleur: Tomato blobs, or is it a sunset.

Jon turns and so does Irene, unwillingly. Jon smiles.

Jon: Airplanes, coming into land, apparently.

Fleur and Jon look at each other and are immediately attracted. There is also an obscure sense that they have met each other somewhere before, but neither can place it.

Irene and Soames watch, compelled and horrified. Irene pulls herself together, places her hand firmly on Jon's arm.


Irene: Let's go and find June. Jon.

And Irene firmly guides Jon away. Soames grabs at Fleur like a drowning man.

Soames: We have to go... Fleur.

Fleur allows herself to be drawn to the door, but she is still looking backwards towards Jon.

Fleur: Do we know him from somewhere?

Soames grabs at his umbrella.

Soames: I need air...

Fleur: Wait...

Fleur delves into her pocket and pulls out her gloves. At the same time she deftly drops her handkerchief. She pulls on her gloves slowly and reluctantly heads for the door.

Soames holds the door open for her, nearly closes it behind her, but suddenly Jon is there, picking up the handkerchief. Irene stands helplessly by.


Jon: Is this yours?

Fleur takes the handkerchief with studied nonchalance. She sees the initials on the side.

Fleur: F. F. Fleur Forsyte. It's mine all right.

Jon: (Quick) Forsyte! Why, that's my name too. Perhaps we're cousins.

Fleur: Yes...

Fleur looks at him curiously. A dim memory is beginning to stir. For Jon too, the memory of a girl in white hovers in his brain.

Fleur: (cont) Yes. That day in the garden.

Jon looks at Fleur, transfixed. Now he knows it is her. Something happens at this moment. A shared secret, an intimacy between Jon and Fleur; a sense for them both that this was meant to happen.

Soames throws a desperate look at Irene, but she is oblivious to him. She stands, helplessly watching.


Soames: Cousins. Distant perhaps.

Jon: My name's Jolyon, sir. Jon for short.

Soames: Ah yes, distant. Very good. Goodbye!

And Soames literally bundles Fleur out of the gallery. Jon turns to his mother, open, enquiring. She shakes her head, practically unable to speak, and moves to sit down in a chair.


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The Film

At the Gallery
From The Forsyte Saga, Series II
as directed by Andy Wilson

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