MY BROTHER HUBERT GALSWORTHY
Swithin Forsyte lay in bed. The corners of his mouth under his white moustache drooped towards his double chin. He panted:
“My doctor says I’m in a bad way, James.”
His twin-brother placed his hand behind his ear. “I can’t hear you. They tell me I ought to take a cure. There’s always a cure wanted for something. Emily had a cure.”
Swithin replied: “You mumble so. I hear my man, Adolph. I trained him…. You ought to have an ear-trumpet. You’re getting very shaky, James.”
There was silence; then James Forsyte, as if galvanised, remarked: “I s’pose you’ve made your will. I s’pose you’ve left your money to the family; you’ve nobody else to leave it to. There was Danson died the other day, and left his money to a hospital.”
The hairs of Swithin’s white moustache bristled. “My fool of a doctor told me to make my will,” he said, “I hate a fellow who tells you to make your will. My appetite’s good; I ate a partridge last night. I’m all the better for eating. He told me to leave off champagne! I eat a good breakfast. I’m not eighty. You’re the same age, James. You look very shaky.”
James Forsyte said: “You ought to have another opinion. Have Blank; he’s the first man now. I had him for Emily; cost me two hundred guineas. He sent her to Homburg; that’s the first place now. The Prince was there–everybody goes there.”
Swithin Forsyte answered: “I don’t get any sleep at night, now I can’t get out; and I’ve bought a new carriage–gave a pot of money for it. D’ you ever have bronchitis? They tell me champagne’s dangerous; it’s my belief I couldn’t take a better thing.”
James Forsyte rose.
“You ought to have another opinion. Emily sent her love; she would have come in, but she had to go to Niagara. Everybody goes there; it’s the place now. Rachel goes every morning: she overdoes it–she’ll be laid up one of these days. There’s a fancy ball there to-night; the Duke gives the prizes.”
Swithin Forsyte said angrily: “I can’t get things properly cooked here; at the club I get spinach decently done.” The bed-clothes jerked at the tremor of his legs.
James Forsyte replied: “You must have done well with Tintos; you must have made a lot of money by them. Your ground-rents must be falling in, too. You must have any amount you don’t know what to do with.” He mouthed the words, as if his lips were watering.
Swithin Forsyte glared. “Money!” he said; “my doctor’s bill’s enormous.”
James Forsyte stretched out a cold, damp hand “Goodbye! You ought to have another opinion. I can’t keep the horses waiting: they’re a new pair–stood me in three hundred. You ought to take care of yourself. I shall speak to Blank about you. You ought to have him–everybody says he’s the first man. Good-bye!”
Swithin Forsyte continued to stare at the ceiling. He thought: ‘A poor thing, James! a selfish beggar! Must be worth a couple of hundred thousand!’ He wheezed, meditating on life….
He was ill and lonely. For many years he had been lonely, and for two years ill; but as he had smoked his first cigar, so he would live his life-stoutly, to its predestined end. Every day he was driven to the club; sitting forward on the spring cushions of a single brougham, his hands on his knees, swaying a little, strangely solemn. He ascended the steps into that marble hall–the folds of his chin wedged into the aperture of his collar–walking squarely with a stick. Later he would dine, eating majestically, and savouring his food, behind a bottle of champagne set in an ice-pail–his waistcoat defended by a napkin, his eyes rolling a little or glued in a stare on the waiter. Never did he suffer his head or back to droop, for it was not distinguished so to do.