Mrs. Septimus Small, known in the Forsyte family as Aunt Juley, returning from service at St. Barnabas’, Bayswater, on a Sunday morning in the Spring of 1878, took by force of habit the path which led her into the then somewhat undeveloped gardens of Kensington. The Reverend Thomas Scoles had been wittier than usual, and she had the longing to stretch her legs, which was the almost invariable effect of his ‘nice’ sermons. While she walked, in violet silk under a black mantle, with very short steps — skirts being extremely narrow in that year of grace — she was thinking of dear Hester and what a pity it was that she always had such a headache on Sunday mornings — the sermon would have done her so much good! For now that dear Ann was unable to stand the fatigue of service, she did feel that Hester ought to make a point of being well enough to go to church. What dear Mr. Scoles had said had been so helpful — about the lilies of the fields never attempting to improve their figures, and yet, about ladies of fashion in all their glory never being attired like one of them. He had undoubtedly meant ‘bustles’— so witty — and Hester would have enjoyed hearing it, because only yesterday, when they had been talking about the Grecian bend, Emily had come in with dear James and said that the revival of crinolines was only a question of time and that she personally intended to be in the fashion the moment there was any sign of it. Dear Ann had been rather severe with her; and James had said he didn’t know what was the use of them. Of course, crinolines did take up a great deal of room, and a ‘bustle,’ though it was warmer, did not. But Hester had said they were both such a bore, she didn’t see why they were wanted; and now Mr. Scoles had said it too. She must really think about it, if Mr. Scoles thought they were bad for the soul; he always said something that one had to think about afterwards. He would be SO good for Hester! And she stood a minute looking out over the grass.
Dear, dear! That little white dog was running about a great deal. Was it lost? Backwards and forwards, round and round! What they called — she believed — a Pomeranian, quite a new kind of dog. And, seeing a bench, Mrs. Septimus Small bent, with a little backward heave to save her ‘bustle,’ and sat down to watch what was the matter with the white dog. The sun, flaring out between two Spring clouds, fell on her face, transfiguring the pouting puffs of flesh, which seemed trying to burst their way through the network of her veil. Her eyes, of a Forsyte grey, lingered on the dog with the greater pertinacity in that of late — owing to poor Tommy’s (their cat’s) disappearance, very mysterious — she suspected the sweep — there had been nothing but ‘Polly’ at Timothy’s to lavish her affection on. This dog was draggled and dirty, as if it had been out all night, but it had a dear little pointed nose. She thought, too, that it seemed to be noticing her, and at once had a swelling-up sensation underneath her corsets. Almost as if aware of this, the dog came sidling, and sat down on its haunches in the grass, as though trying to make up its mind about her. Aunt Juley pursed her lips in the endeavour to emit a whistle. The veil prevented this, but she held out her gloved hand. “Come, little dog — nice little dog!” It seemed to her dear heart that the little dog sighed as it sat there, as if relieved that at last someone had taken notice of it. But it did not approach. The tip of its bushy tail quivered, however, and Aunt Juley redoubled the suavity of her voice: “Nice little fellow — come then!”
The little dog slithered forward, humbly wagging its entire body, just out of reach. Aunt Juley saw that it had no collar. Really, its nose and eyes were sweet!
“Pom!” she said. “Dear little Pom!”
The dog looked as if it would let her love it, and sensation increased beneath her corsets.
Not, of course, that he was pretty, all dirty like that; but his ears were pricked, and his eyes looked at her, bright, and rather round their corners — most intelligent! Lost — and in London! It was like that sad little book of Mrs. — What WAS her name — not the authoress of Jessica’s First Prayer? — dear, dear! Now, fancy forgetting that! The dog made a sudden advance, and curved like a C, all fluttering, was now almost within reach of her gloved fingers, at which it sniffed. Aunt Juley emitted a purring noise. Pride was filling her heart that out of all the people it MIGHT have taken notice of, she should be the only one. It had put out its tongue now, and was panting in the agony of indecision. Poor little thing! It clearly didn’t know whether it dared try another master — not, of course, that she could possibly take it home, with all the carpets, and dear Ann so particular about everything being nice, and — Timothy! Timothy would be horrified! And yet —! Well, they couldn’t prevent her stroking its little nose. And she too panted slightly behind her veil. It WAS agitating! And then, without either of them knowing how, her fingers and the nose were in contact. The dog’s tail was now perfectly still; its body trembled. Aunt Juley had a sudden feeling of shame at being so formidable; and with instinct inherited rather than acquired, for she had no knowledge of dogs, she slid one finger round an ear and scratched. It WAS to be hoped he hadn’t fleas! And then! The little dog leaped on her lap. It crouched there just as it had sprung, with its bright eyes upturned to her face. A strange dog — her dress — her Sunday best! It WAS an event! The little dog stretched up, and licked her chin. Almost mechanically Aunt Juley rose. And the little dog slipped off. Really she didn’t know — it took such liberties! Oh! dear — it WAS thin, fluttering round her feet! What would Mr. Scoles say? Perhaps if she walked on! She turned towards home, and the dog followed her skirt at a distance of six inches. The thought that she was going to eat roast beef, Yorkshire pudding, and mincepies, was almost unbearable to Aunt Juley, seeing it gaze up as if saying: “Some for me! Some for me!” Thoughts warred within her: must she ‘shoo’ and threaten it with her parasol? Or should she —? Oh! This would never do! Dogs could be SO— she had heard? And then — the responsibility! And fleas! Timothy couldn’t endure fleas! And it might not know how to behave in a house! Oh, no! She really couldn’t! The little dog suddenly raised one paw. Tt, tt! Look at its little face! And a fearful boldness attacked Aunt Juley. Turning resolutely towards the Gate of the Gardens, she said in a weak voice: “Come along, then!” And the little dog came. It was dreadful!
While she was trying to cross the Bayswater Road, two or three of those dangerous hansom cabs came dashing past — so reckless! — and in the very middle of the street a ‘growler’ turned round, so that she had to stand quite still. And, of course, there was ‘no policeman.’ The traffic was really getting beyond bounds. If only she didn’t meet Timothy coming in from his constitutional, and could get a word with Smither — a capable girl — and have the little dog fed and washed before anybody saw it. And then? Perhaps it could be kept in the basement till somebody came to claim it. But how could people come to claim it if they didn’t know it was there? If only there were someone to consult! Perhaps Smither would know a policeman — only she hoped not — policemen were rather dangerous for a nice-looking girl like Smither, with her colour, and such a figure, for her age. Then, suddenly, realising that she had reached home, she was seized by panic from head to heel. There was the bell — it was not the epoch of latchkeys; and there the smell of dinner — yes, and the little dog had smelt it! It was now or never. Aunt Juley pointed her parasol at the dog and said very feebly: “Shoo!” But it only crouched. She couldn’t drive it away! And with an immense daring she rang the bell. While she stood waiting for the door to be opened, she almost enjoyed a sensation of defiance. She was doing a dreadful thing, but she didn’t care! Then, the doorway yawned, and her heart sank slowly towards her high and buttoned boots.
“Oh, Smither! This poor little dog has followed me. Nothing has ever followed me before. It must be lost. And it looks so thin and dirty. What SHALL we do?”
The tail of the dog, edging into the home of that rich smell, fluttered.
“Aoh!” said Smither — she was young! “Paw little thing! Shall I get cook to give it some scraps, Ma’am!” At the word “scraps” the dog’s eyes seemed to glow.
“Well,” said Aunt Juley, “you do it on your own responsibility, Smither. Take it downstairs quickly.”
She stood breathless while the dog, following Smither and its nose, glided through the little hall and down the kitchen stairs. The pit-pat of its feet roused in Aunt Juley the most mingled sensations she had experienced since the death of Septimus Small.
She went up to her room, and took off her veil and bonnet. What WAS she going to say? She went downstairs without knowing.
In the drawing-room, which had just had new pampas grass, Ann, sitting on the sofa, was putting down her prayer-book; she always read the Service to herself. Her mouth and chin looked very square, and there was an expression in her old grey eyes as if she were in pain. She wanted her lunch, of course — they were trying hard to call it lunch, because, according to Emily, no one with any pretension to be fashionable called it dinner now, even on Sundays. Hester, in her corner by the hearth, was passing the tip of her tongue over her lips; she had always been so fond of mincepies, and these would be the first of the season. Aunt Juley said:
“Mr. Scoles was delightful this morning — a beautiful sermon. I walked in the Gardens.”
Something warned her to say no more, and they waited in silence for the gong; they had just got a gong — Emily had said it was ‘the thing.’
It sounded. Dear, dear! What a noise — bom — bom! Timothy would never — Smither must take lessons. At dear James’ in Park Lane the butler made it sound almost cosy.
In the doorway of the dining-room, Smither said:
“It’s ate it all, Ma’am — it was THAT hungry.”
A heavy footstep sounded in the hall; Timothy was coming from his study, square in his frock-coat, his face all brown and red — he had such delicate health. He took his seat with his back to the window, where the light was not too strong.
Timothy, of course, did not go to church — it was too tiring for him — but he always asked the amount of the offertory, and would sometimes add that he didn’t know what they wanted all that for, as if Mr. Scoles ever wasted it. Just now he was getting new hassocks, and when they came she had thought perhaps dear Timothy and Hester would come too. Timothy, however, had said:
“Hassocks! They only get in the way and spoil your trousers.”
Aunt Ann, who could not kneel now, had smiled indulgently:
“One should kneel in church, dear.”
They were all seated now with beef before them, and Timothy was saying:
“Mustard! And tell cook the potatoes aren’t browned enough; do you hear, Smither?”
Smither, blushing above him, answered: “Yes, sir.”
Within Aunt Juley, what with the dog and her mind and the difficulty of assimilating Yorkshire pudding, indigestion had begun.
“I had such a pleasant walk in the Gardens,” she said painfully, “after church.”
“You oughtn’t to walk there alone in these days; you don’t know what you may be picking up with.”
Aunt Juley took a sip of brown sherry — her heart was beating so! Aunt Hester — she was such a reader — murmured that she had read how Mr. Gladstone walked there sometimes.
“That shows you!” said Timothy.
Aunt Ann believed that Mr. Gladstone had high principles, and they must not judge him.
“Judge him!” said Timothy: “I’d hang him!”
“That’s not quite a nice thing to say on Sunday, dear.”
“Better the day, better the deed,” muttered Timothy; and Aunt Juley trembled. He was in one of his moods. And, suddenly, she held her breath. A yapping had impinged on her ears, as if the white dog were taking liberties with Cook. Her eyes sought Smither’s face.
“What’s that?” said Timothy. “A dog?”
“There’s a dog just round the corner, at No. 9,” murmured Aunt Juley; and, at the roundness of Smither’s eyes, knew she had prevaricated. What dreadful things happened if one was not quite frank from the beginning! The yapping broke into a sharp yelp, as if Cook had taken a liberty in turn.
“That’s not round the corner,” said Timothy; “it’s downstairs. What’s all this?”
All eyes were turned on Smither, in a dead silence. A sound broke it — the girl had creaked.
“Please, Miss, it’s the little dog that followed Madam in.”
“Oh!” said Aunt Juley, in haste; “THAT little dog!”
“What’s that?” said Timothy. “Followed her in?”
“It was so thin!” said Aunt Juley’s faint voice.
“Smither,” said Aunt Ann, “hand me the pulled bread; and tell Cook I want to see her when she’s finished her dinner.”
Into Aunt Juley’s pouting face rose a flush.
“I take the entire responsibility,” she said. “The little dog was lost. It was hungry and Cook has given it some scraps.”
“A strange dog,” muttered Timothy, “bringing in fleas like that!”
“Oh! I don’t think,” murmured Aunt Juley, “it’s a well-bred little dog.”
“How do YOU know? You don’t know a dog from a door-mat.”
The flush deepened over Aunt Juley’s pouts.
“It was a Christian act,” she said, looking Timothy in the eye. “If you had been to church, you wouldn’t talk like that.”
It was perhaps the first time she had openly bearded her delicate brother. The result was complete. Timothy ate his mincepie hurriedly.
“Well, don’t let ME see it,” he muttered.
“Put the wine and walnuts on the table and go down, Smither,” said Aunt Ann, “and see what Cook is doing about it.”
When she had gone there was silence. It was felt that Juley had forgotten herself.
Aunt Ann put her wineglass to her lips; it contained two thimblefuls of brown sherry — a present from dear Jolyon — he had such a palate! Aunt Hester, who during the excitement had thoughtfully finished a second mince-pie, was smiling. Aunt Juley had her eyes fixed on Timothy; she had tasted of defiance and it was sweet.
“Cook’s washing of it, Miss.”
“What’s she doing that for?” said Timothy.
“Because it’s dirty,” said Aunt Juley.
“There you are!”
And the voice of Aunt Ann was heard, saying grace. When she had finished, the three sisters rose.
“We’ll leave you to your wine, dear. Smither, my shawl, please.”
Upstairs in the drawing-room there was grave silence. Aunt Juley was trying to still her fluttering nerves; Aunt Hester trying to pretend that nothing had happened; Aunt Ann, upright and a little grim, trying to compress the Riot Act with her thin and bloodless lips. She was not thinking of herself, but of the immutable order of things, so seriously compromised.
Aunt Juley repeated, suddenly: “He followed me, Ann.”
“Without an intro — Without your inviting him?”
“I spoke to him, because he was lost.”
“You should think before you speak. Dogs take advantage.”
Aunt Juley’s face mutinied. “Well, I’m glad,” she said, “and that’s flat. Such a how-de-do!”
Aunt Ann looked pained. A considerable time passed. Aunt Juley began playing solitaire — she played without presence of mind, so that extraordinary things happened on the board. Aunt Ann sat upright, with her eyes closed; and Aunt Hester, after watching them for some minutes to see if they would open, took from under her cushion a library volume, and hiding it behind a firescreen, began to read — it was volume two and she did not yet know ‘Lady Audley’s’ secret: of course it WAS a novel, but, as Timothy had said, ‘Better the day, better the deed.’
The clock struck three. Aunt Ann opened her eyes, Aunt Hester shut her book. Aunt Juley crumpled the solitaire balls together with a clatter. There was a knock on the door, for not belonging to the upper regions, like Smither, Cook always knocked.
Still in her pink print frock, Cook entered, and behind her entered the dog, snowy white, with its coat all brushed and bushy, its manner and its tail now cocky and now deprecating. It WAS a moment! Cook spoke:
“I’ve brought it up, miss; it’s had its dinner, and it’s been washed. It’s a nice little dear, and taken quite a fancy to me.”
The three Aunts sat silent with their eyes now on the dog, now on the legs of the furniture.
“‘Twould ‘ave done your ’eart good to see it eat, miss. And it answers to the name of Pommy.”
“Fancy!” said Aunt Hester, with an effort. She did so hate things to be awkward.
Aunt Ann leaned forward; her voice rose firm, if rather quavery.
“It doesn’t belong to us, Cook; and your master would never permit it. Smither shall go with it to the Police Station.”
As if struck by the words, the dog emerged from Cook’s skirt and approached the voice. It stood in a curve and began to oscillate its tail very slightly; its eyes, like bits of jet, gazed up. Aunt Ann looked down at it; her thin veined hands, as if detached from her firmness, moved nervously over her glacé skirt. From within Aunt Juley emotion was emerging in one large pout. Aunt Hester was smiling spasmodically.
“Them Police Stations!” said Cook. “I’m sure it’s not been accustomed. It’s not as if it had a collar, miss.”
“Pommy!” said Aunt Juley.
The dog turned at the sound, sniffed her knees, and instantly returned to its contemplation of Aunt Ann, as though it recognised where power was seated. “It’s really rather sweet!” murmured Aunt Hester, and not only the dog looked at Aunt Ann. But at this moment the door was again opened.
“Mr. Swithin Forsyte, miss,” said the voice of Smither.
Aunts Juley and Hester rose to greet their brother; Aunt Ann, privileged by seventy-eight years, remained seated. The family always went to Aunt Ann, not Aunt Ann to the family. There was a general feeling that dear Swithin had come providentially, knowing as he did all about horses.
“You can leave the little dog for the moment, Cook. Mr. Swithin will tell us what to do.”
Swithin, who had taken his time on the stairs which were narrow, made an entry. Tall, with his chest thrown forward, his square face puffy pale, his eyes light and round, the tiny grey imperial below his moustached lips gave to him the allure of a master of ceremonies, and the white dog, retreating to a corner, yapped loudly.
“What’s this?” said Swithin. “A dog?”
So might one entering a more modern drawing-room, have said: “What’s this — a camel?”
Repairing hastily to the corner, Aunt Juley admonished the dog with her finger. It shivered slightly and was silent. Aunt Ann said:
“Give dear Swithin his chair, Hester; we want your advice, Swithin. This little dog followed Juley home this morning — he was lost.”
Swithin seated himself with his knees apart, thus preserving the deportment of his body and the uncreased beauty of his waistcoat. His Wellington boots showed stiff beneath his almost light blue trousers. He said:
“Has Timothy had a fit?”
Dear Swithin — he was so droll!
“Not yet,” said Aunt Hester, who was sometimes almost naughty.
“Well, he will. Here, Juley, don’t stand there stuck. Bring the dog out, and let’s have a look at it. Dog! Why, it’s a bitch!”
This curiously male word, though spoken with distinction, caused a sensation such as would have accompanied a heavy fall of soot. The dog had been assumed by all to be of the politer sex, because of course one didn’t notice such things. Aunt Juley, indeed, whom past association with Septimus Small had rendered more susceptible, had conceived her doubts, but she had continued to be on the polite side.
“A bitch,” repeated Swithin; “you’ll have no end of trouble with it.”
“That is what we fear,” said Aunt Ann, “though I don’t think you should call it that in a drawing-room, dear.”
“Stuff and nonsense!” said Swithin. “Come here, little tyke!”
And he stretched out a ringed hand smelling of dogskin — he had driven himself round in his phaeton.
Encouraged by Aunt Juley, the little dog approached, and sat cowering under the hand. Swithin lifted it by the ruff round its neck.
“Well-bred,” he said, putting it down.
“We can’t keep it,” said Aunt Ann, firmly. “The carpets — we thought — the Police Station.”
“If I were you,” said Swithin, “I’d put a notice in The Times: ‘Found, white Pomeranian bitch. Apply, The Nook, Bayswater Road.’ You might get a reward. Let’s look at its teeth.”
The little dog, who seemed in a manner fascinated by the smell of Swithin’s hand and the stare of his round china-blue eyes, put no obstacle in the way of fingers that raised its upper and depressed its lower lip.
“It’s a puppy,” said Swithin. “Loo, loo, little tyke!”
This terrible incentive caused the dog to behave in a singular manner; depressing its tail so far as was possible, it jumped sideways and scurried round Aunt Hester’s chair, then crouched with its chin on the ground, its hindquarters and tail in the air, looking up at Swithin with eyes black as boot-buttons.
“I shouldn’t be surprised,” said Swithin, “if it was worth money. Loo, loo!”
This time the little dog scurried round the entire room, avoiding the legs of chairs by a series of miracles, then, halting by a marqueterie stand, it stood on its hind legs and began to eat the pampas grass.
“Ring, Hester!” said Aunt Ann. “Ring for Smither. Juley, stop it!”
Swithin, whose imperial was jutting in a fixed smile, said:
“Where’s Timothy? I should like to see it bite his legs.”
Aunt Juley, moved by maternal spasms, bent down and picked the dog up in her arms. She stood, pouting over its sharp nose and soft warm body, like the very figure of daring with the smell of soft soap in its nostrils.
“I will take it downstairs myself,” she said; “it shan’t be teased. Come, Pommy!”
The dog, who had no say whatever in the matter, put out a pink strip of tongue and licked her nose. Aunt Juley had the exquisite sensation of being loved; and, hastily, to conceal her feelings, bore it lolling over her arm away. She bore it upstairs, instead of down, to her room which was at the back of dear Ann’s, and stood, surrounded by mahogany, with the dog still in her arms. Every hand was against her and the poor dog, and she squeezed it tighter. It was panting, and every now and then with its slip of a tongue it licked her cheek, as if to assure itself of reality. Since the departure of Septimus Small ten years ago, she had never been properly loved, and now that something was ready to love her, they wanted to take it away. She sat down on her bed, still holding the dog, while below, they would be talking of how to send Pommy to the Police Station or put her into the papers! Then, noticing that white hairs were coming off on to her, she put the dog down. It sidled round the room, sniffing, till it came to the washstand, where it stood looking at her and panting. What DID it want? Wild thoughts passed through Aunt Juley’s mind, till suddenly the dog stood on its hind legs and licked the air. Why, it was thirsty! Disregarding the niceties of existence, Aunt Juley lifted the jug, and set it on the floor. For some minutes there was no sound but lapping. Could it really hold all that? The little dog looked up at her, moved its tail twice, then trotted away to inspect the room more closely. Having inspected everything except Aunt Juley, concerning whom its mind was apparently made up, it lay down under the valance of the dressing table, with its head and forepaws visible, and uttered a series of short spasmodic barks. Aunt Juley understood them to mean: ‘Come and play with me!’ And taking her sponge-bag, she dangled it. Seizing it — So unexpected! — the little dog shook it violently. Aunt Juley was at once charmed and horrified. It was evidently feeling quite at home; but her poor bag! Oh! its little teeth WERE sharp and strong! Aunt Juley swelled. It was as if she didn’t care what happened to the bag so long as the little dog were having a good time. The bag came to an end; and gathering up the pieces, she thought defiantly: ‘Well, it’s not as if I ever went to Brighton now!’ But she said severely:
“You see what you’ve done!” And, together, they examined the pieces, while Aunt Juley’s heart took a resolution. They might talk as they liked: Finding was keeping; and if Timothy didn’t like it, he could lump it! The sensation was terrific. Someone, however, was knocking on the door.
“Oh! Smither,” said Aunt Juley, “you see what the little dog has done?” And she held up the sponge-bag defiantly.
“Aoh!” said Smither; “its teeth ARE sharp. Would you go down, ma’am? Mr. and Mrs. James Forsyte are in the drawing-room. Shall I take the little dog now? I daresay it’d like a run.”
“Not to the Police Station, Smither. I found it, and I’m going to keep it.”
“I’m sure, Ma’am. It’ll be company for me and Cook, now that Tommy’s gone. It’s took quite a fancy to us.”
With a pang of jealousy Aunt Juley said: “I take all the responsibility. Go with Smither, Pommy!”
Caught up in her arms, the little dog lolled its head over the edge of Smither and gazed back sentimentally as it was borne away. And, again, all that was maternal in Aunt Juley swelled, beneath the dark violet of her bosom sprinkled with white hairs.
“Say I am coming down.” And she began plucking off the white hairs.
Outside the drawing-room door she paused; then went in, weak at the knees. Between his Dundreary whiskers James was telling a story. His long legs projected so that she had to go round; his long lips stopped to say:
“How are you, Juley? They tell me you’ve found a dog,” and resumed the story. It was all about a man who had been bitten and had insisted on being cauterised until he couldn’t sit down, and the dog hadn’t been mad after all, so that it was all wasted, and that was what came of dogs. He didn’t know what use they were except to make a mess.
Emily said: “Pomeranians are all the rage. They look so amusing in a carriage.”
Aunt Hester murmured that Jolyon had an Italian greyhound at Stanhope Gate.
“That snippetty whippet!” said Swithin — perhaps the first use of the term: “There’s no body in THEM.”
“You’re not going to KEEP this dog?” said James. “You don’t know what it might have.”
Very red, Aunt Juley said sharply: “Fiddle-de-dee, James!”
“Well, you might have an action brought against you. They tell me there’s a Home for Lost Dogs. Your proper course is to turn it out.”
“Turn out your grandmother!” snapped Aunt Juley; she was not afraid of James.
“Well, it’s not your property. You’ll be getting up against the Law.”
“Fiddle the Law!”
This epoch-making remark was received in silence. Nobody knew what had come to Juley.
“Well,” said James, with finality, “don’t say I didn’t tell you. What does Timothy say — he’ud have a fit.”
“If he wants to have a fit, he must,” said Aunt Juley. “I shan’t stop him.”
“What are you going to do with the puppies?” said Swithin: “Ten to one she’ll have puppies.”
“You see, Juley,” said Aunt Ann.
Aunt Juley’s agitation was such that she took up a fan from the little curio table beside her, and began to wave it before her flushed face.
“You’re all against me,” she said: “Puppies, indeed! A little thing like that!”
Swithin rose. “Good-bye to you all. I’m going to see Nicholas. Good-bye, Juley. You come for a drive with me some day. I’ll take you to the Lost Dogs’ Home.” Throwing out his chest, he manoeuvred to the door, and could be heard descending the stairs to the accompaniment of the drawing-room bell.
James said mechanically: “He’s a funny fellow, Swithin!”
It was as much his permanent impression of his twin brother as was Swithin’s: “He’s a poor stick, James!”
Emily, who was bored, began talking to Aunt Hester about the new fashion of eating oysters before the soup. Of course it was very foreign, but they said the Prince was doing it; James wouldn’t have it; but personally she thought it rather elegant. She should see! James had begun to tell Aunt Ann how Soames would be out of his articles in January — he was a steady chap. He told her at some length. Aunt Juley sat pouting behind her moving fan. She had a longing for dear Jolyon. Partly because he had always been her favourite and her eldest brother, who had never allowed anyone else to bully her; partly because he was the only one who had a dog, and partly because even Ann was a little afraid of him. She sat longing to hear him say: “You’re a parcel of old women; of course Juley can keep what she found.” Because, that was it! The dog had followed her of its own free will. It was not as if it had been a precious stone or a purse — which, of course, would have been different. Sometimes Jolyon did come on Sundays — though generally he took little June to the Zoo; and the moment he came James would be sure to go away, for fear of having his knuckles rapped; and that, she felt sure, would be so nice, since James had been horrid about it all!
“I think,” she said, suddenly, “I shall go round to Stanhope Gate, and ask dear Jolyon.”
“What do you want to do that for?” said James, taking hold of a whisker. “He’ll send you away with a flea in your ear.”
Whether or no this possibility deterred her, Aunt Juley did not rise, but she ceased fanning herself and sat with the expression on her face which had given rise to the family saying: ‘Oh! So-and-so’s a regular Juley!’
But James had now exhausted his weekly budget. “Well, Emily,” he said, “you’ll be wanting to get home. We can’t keep the horses any longer.”
The accuracy of this formula had never been put to the proof, for Emily always rose at once with the words:
“Good-bye, dears. Give our love to Timothy.” She had pecked their cheeks and gone out of the room before James could remember what — as he would tell her in the carriage — he had specially gone there to ask them.
When they had departed, Aunt Hester, having looked from one to the other of her sisters, muffled ‘Lady Audley’s Secret’ in her shawl and tiptoed away. She knew what was coming. Aunt Juley took the solitaire board with hands that trembled. The moment had arrived! And she waited, making an occasional move with oozing fingers, and stealing glances at that upright figure in black silk with jet trappings and cameo brooch. On no account did she mean to be the first to speak; and she said, suddenly:
“There you sit, Ann!”
Aunt Ann, countering her glance with those grey eyes of hers that saw quite well at a distance, spoke:
“You heard what Swithin and James said, Juley.”
“I will NOT turn the dog out,” said Aunt Juley. “I will not, and that’s flat.” The blood beat in her temples and she tapped a foot on the floor.
“If it were a really nice little dog, it would not have run away and got lost. Little dogs of that sex are not to be trusted. You ought to know that, at your age, Juley; now that we’re alone, I can talk to you plainly. It will have followers, of course.”
Aunt Juley put a finger into her mouth, sucked it, took it out, and said:
“I’m tired of being treated like a little girl.”
Aunt Ann answered calmly:
“I think you should take some calomel — getting into fantods like this! We have never had a dog.”
“I don’t want you to have one now,” said Aunt Juley; “I want it for myself. I— I—” She could not bring herself to express what was in her heart about being loved — it would be — would be gushing!
“It’s not right to keep what’s not your own,” said Aunt Ann. “You know that perfectly well.”
“I will put an advertisement in the paper; if the owner comes, I’ll give it up. But it followed me of its own accord. And it can live downstairs. Timothy need never see it.”
“It will spoil the carpets,” said Aunt Ann, “and bark at night; we shall have no peace.”
“I’m sick of peace,” said Aunt Juley, rattling the board. “I’m sick of peace, and I’m sick of taking care of things till they — till you — till one belongs to them.”
Aunt Ann lifted her hands, spidery and pale.
“You don’t know what you’re talking about. If one can’t take care of one’s things, one is not fit to have them.”
“Care — care — I’m sick of care! I want something human — I want this dog. And if I can’t have it, I will go away and take it with me; and that’s flat.”
It was, perhaps, the wildest thing that had ever been said at Timothy’s. Aunt Ann said very quietly:
“You know you can’t go away, Juley, you haven’t the money; so it’s no good talking like that.”
“Jolyon will give me the money; he will never let you bully me.”
An expression of real pain centred itself between Aunt Ann’s old eyes.
“I do not think I bully,” she said; “you forget yourself.”
For a full minute Aunt Juley said nothing, looking to and fro from her twisting fingers to the wrinkled ivory pale face of her eldest sister. Tears of compunction had welled up in her eyes. Dear Ann was very old, and the doctor was always saying —! And quickly she got out her handkerchief.
“I— I’m upset. — I— I didn’t mean — dear Ann — I—” the words bubbled out: “b-b-but I d-do so w-want the little d-d-dog.”
There was silence, broken by her sniffing. Then rose the voice of Aunt Ann, calm, a little tremulous:
“Very well, dear; it will be a sacrifice, but if it makes you happier —”
“Oh!” sobbed Aunt Juley: “Oh!”
A large tear splashed on the solitaire board, and with the small handkerchief she wiped it off.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:08