Part 5 out of 8
awakened her, "I am quite troubled about poor dear Jolyon.
What," Aunt Juley dwelt on the word, "do you think ought to be
Aunt Hester again rustled the sheet, her voice was heard faintly
pleading: "Done? How should I know?"
Aunt Juley turned away satisfied, and closing the door with extra
gentleness so as not to disturb dear Hester, let it slip through
her fingers and fall to with a 'crack.'
Back in her own room, she stood at the window gazing at the moon
over the trees in the Park, through a chink in the muslin
curtains, close drawn lest anyone should see. And there, with
her face all round and pouting in its pink cap, and her eyes wet,
she thought of 'dear Jolyon,' so old and so lonely, and how she
could be of some use to him; and how he would come to love her,
as she had never been loved since--since poor Septimus went away.
DANCE AT ROGER'S
Roger's house in Prince's Gardens was brilliantly alight. Large
numbers of wax candles had been collected and placed in cut-glass
chandeliers, and the parquet floor of the long, double
drawing-room reflected these constellations. An appearance of
real spaciousness had been secured by moving out all the
furniture on to the upper landings, and enclosing the room with
those strange appendages of civilization known as 'rout' seats.
In a remote corner, embowered in palms, was a cottage piano, with
a copy of the 'Kensington Coil' open on the music-stand.
Roger had objected to a band. He didn't see in the least what
they wanted with a band; he wouldn't go to the expense, and there
was an end of it. Francie (her mother, whom Roger had long since
reduced to chronic dyspepsia, went to bed on such occasions), had
been obliged to content herself with supplementing the piano by a
young man who played the cornet, and she so arranged with palms
that anyone who did not look into the heart of things might
imagine there were several musicians secreted there. She made up
her mind to tell them to play loud--there was a lot of music in a
cornet, if the man would only put his soul into it.
In the more cultivated American tongue, she was 'through' at
last--through that tortuous labyrinth of make-shifts, which must
be traversed before fashionable display can be combined with the
sound economy of a Forsyte. Thin but brilliant, in her
maize-coloured frock with much tulle about the shoulders, she
went from place to place, fitting on her gloves, and casting her
eye over it all.
To the hired butler (for Roger only kept maids) she spoke about
the wine. Did he quite understand that Mr. Forsyte wished a
dozen bottles of the champagne from Whiteley's to be put out?
But if that were finished (she did not suppose it would be, most
of the ladies would drink water, no doubt), but if it were, there
was the champagne cup, and he must do the best he could with
She hated having to say this sort of thing to a butler, it was so
infra dig.; but what could you do with father? Roger, indeed,
after making himself consistently disagreeable about the dance,
would come down presently, with his fresh colour and bumpy
forehead, as though he had been its promoter; and he would smile,
and probably take the prettiest woman in to supper; and at two
o'clock, just as they were getting into the swing, he would go up
secretly to the musicians and tell them to play 'God Save the
Queen,' and go away.
Francie devoutly hoped he might soon get tired, and slip off to
The three or four devoted girl friends who were staying in the
house for this dance had partaken with her, in a small,
abandoned room upstairs, of tea and cold chicken-legs, hurriedly
served; the men had been sent out to dine at Eustace's Club, it
being felt that they must be fed up.
Punctually on the stroke of nine arrived Mrs. Small alone. She
made elaborate apologies for the absence of Timothy, omitting all
mention of Aunt Hester, who, at the last minute, had said she
could not be bothered. Francie received her effusively, and
placed her on a rout seat, where she left her, pouting and
solitary in lavender-coloured satin--the first time she had worn
colour since Aunt Ann's death.
The devoted maiden friends came now from their rooms, each by
magic arrangement in a differently coloured frock, but all with
the same liberal allowance of tulle on the shoulders and at the
bosom--for they were, by some fatality, lean to a girl. They
were all taken up to Mrs. Small. None stayed with her more than
a few seconds, but clustering together talked and twisted their
programmes, looking secretly at the door for the first appearance
of a man.
Then arrived in a group a number of Nicholases, always punctual--
the fashion up Ladbroke Grove way; and close behind them Eustace
and his men, gloomy and smelling rather of smoke.
Three or four of Francie's lovers now appeared, one after the
other; she had made each promise to come early. They were all
clean-shaven and sprightly, with that peculiar kind of young-man
sprightliness which had recently invaded Kensington; they did not
seem to mind each other's presence in the least, and wore their
ties bunching out at the ends, white waistcoats, and socks with
clocks. All had handkerchiefs concealed in their cuffs. They
moved buoyantly, each armoured in professional gaiety, as though
he had come to do great deeds. Their faces when they danced, far
from wearing the traditional solemn look of the dancing English-
man, were irresponsible, charming, suave; they bounded, twirling
their partners at great pace, without pedantic attention to the
rhythm of the music.
At other dancers they looked with a kind of airy scorn--they, the
light brigade, the heroes of a hundred Kensington 'hops'--from
whom alone could the right manner and smile and step be hoped.
After this the stream came fast; chaperones silting up along the
wall facing the entrance, the volatile element swelling the eddy
in the larger room.
Men were scarce, and wallflowers wore their peculiar, pathetic
expression, a patient, sourish smile which seemed to say: "Oh,
no! don't mistake me, I know you are not coming up to me. I can
hardly expect that!" And Francie would plead with one of her
lovers, or with some callow youth: "Now, to please me, do let me
introduce you to Miss Pink; such a nice girl, really!" and she
would bring him up, and say: "Miss Pink--Mr. Gathercole. Can you
spare him a dance?" Then Miss Pink, smiling her forced smile,
colouring a little, answered: "Oh! I think so!" and screening
her empty card, wrote on it the name of Gathercole, spelling it
passionately in the district that he proposed, about the second
But when the youth had murmured that it was hot, and passed, she
relapsed into her attitude of hopeless expectation, into her
patient, sourish smile.
Mothers, slowly fanning their faces, watched their daughters, and
in their eyes could be read all the story of those daughters'
fortunes. As for themselves, to sit hour after hour, dead tired,
silent, or talking spasmodically--what did it matter, so long as
the girls were having a good time! But to see them neglected and
passed by! Ah! they smiled, but their eyes stabbed like the
eyes of an offended swan; they longed to pluck young Gathercole
by the slack of his dandified breeches, and drag him to their
And all the cruelties and hardness of life, its pathos and
unequal chances, its conceit, self-forgetfulness, and patience,
were presented on the battle-field of this Kensington ball-room.
Here and there, too, lovers--not lovers like Francie's, a
peculiar breed, but simply lovers--trembling, blushing, silent,
sought each other by flying glances, sought to meet and touch in
the mazes of the dance, and now and again dancing together,
struck some beholder by the light in their eyes.
Not a second before ten o'clock came the Jameses--Emily, Rachel,
Winifred (Dartie had been left behind, having on a former
occasion drunk too much of Roger's champagne), and Cicely, the
youngest, making her debut; behind them, following in a hansom
from the paternal mansion where they had dined, Soames and Irene.
All these ladies had shoulder-straps and no tulle--thus showing
at once, by a bolder exposure of flesh, that they came from the
more fashionable side of the Park.
Soames, sidling back from the contact of the dancers, took up a
position against the wall. Guarding himself with his pale smile,
he stood watching. Waltz after waltz began and ended, couple
after couple brushed by with smiling lips, laughter, and snatches
of talk; or with set lips, and eyes searching the throng; or
again, with silent, parted lips, and eyes on each other. And the
scent of festivity, the odour of flowers, and hair, of essences
that women love, rose suffocatingly in the heat of the summer
Silent, with something of scorn in his smile, Soames seemed to
notice nothing; but now and again his eyes, finding that which
they sought, would fix themselves on a point in the shifting
throng, and the smile die off his lips.
He danced with no one. Some fellows danced with their wives; his
sense of 'form' had never permitted him to dance with Irene since
their marriage, and the God of the Forsytes alone can tell
whether this was a relief to him or not.
She passed, dancing with other men, her dress, iris-coloured,
floating away from her feet. She danced well; he was tired of
hearing women say with an acid smile: "How beautifully your wife
dances, Mr. Forsyte--it's quite a pleasure to watch her!" Tired
of answering them with his sidelong glance: "You think so?"
A young couple close by flirted a fan by turns, making an
unpleasant draught. Francie and one of her lovers stood near.
They were talking of love.
He heard Roger's voice behind, giving an order about supper to a
servant. Everything was very second-class! He wished that he
had not come! He had asked Irene whether she wanted him; she had
answered with that maddening smile of hers "Oh, no!"
Why had he come? For the last quarter of an hour he had not even
seen her. Here was George advancing with his Quilpish face; it
was too late to get out of his way.
"Have you seen 'The Buccaneer'?" said this licensed wag; "he's on
the warpath--hair cut and everything!"
Soames said he had not, and crossing the room, half-empty in an
interval of the dance, he went out on the balcony, and looked
down into the street.
A carriage had driven up with late arrivals, and round the door
hung some of those patient watchers of the London streets who
spring up to the call of light or music; their faces, pale and
upturned above their black and rusty figures, had an air of
stolid watching that annoyed Soames. Why were they allowed to
hang about; why didn't the bobby move them on?
But the policeman took no notice of them; his feet were planted
apart on the strip of crimson carpet stretched across the
pavement; his face, under the helmet, wore the same stolid,
watching look as theirs.
Across the road, through the railings, Soames could see the
branches of trees shining, faintly stirring in the breeze, by the
gleam of the street lamps; beyond, again, the upper lights of the
houses on the other side, so many eyes looking down on the quiet
blackness of the garden; and over all, the sky, that wonderful
London sky, dusted with the innumerable reflection of countless
lamps; a dome woven over between its stars with the refraction of
human needs and human fancies--immense mirror of pomp and misery
that night after night stretches its kindly mocking over miles of
houses and gardens, mansions and squalor, over Forsytes,
policemen, and patient watchers in the streets.
Soames turned away, and, hidden in the recess, gazed into the
lighted room. It was cooler out there. He saw the new arrivals,
June and her grandfather, enter. What had made them so late?
They stood by the doorway. They looked fagged. Fancy Uncle
Jolyon turning out at this time of night! Why hadn't June come
to Irene, as she usually did, and it occurred to him suddenly
that he had seen nothing of June for a long time now.
Watching her face with idle malice, he saw it change, grow so
pale that he thought she would drop, then flame out crimson.
Turning to see at what she was looking, he saw his wife on
Bosinney's arm, coming from the conservatory at the end of the
room. Her eyes were raised to his, as though answering some
question he had asked, and he was gazing at her intently.
Soames looked again at June. Her hand rested on old Jolyon's
arm; she seemed to be making a request. He saw a surprised look
on his uncle's face; they turned and passed through the door out
of his sight.
The music began again--a waltz--and, still as a statue in the
recess of the window, his face unmoved, but no smile on his lips,
Soames waited. Presently, within a yard of the dark balcony, his
wife and Bosinney passed. He caught the perfume of the gardenias
that she wore, saw the rise and fall of her bosom, the languor in
her eyes, her parted lips, and a look on her face that he did not
know. To the slow, swinging measure they danced by, and it
seemed to him that they clung to each other; he saw her raise her
eyes, soft and dark, to Bosinney's, and drop them again.
Very white, he turned back to the balcony, and leaning on it,
gazed down on the Square; the figures were still there looking up
at the light with dull persistency, the policeman's face, too,
upturned, and staring, but he saw nothing of them. Below, a
carriage drew up, two figures got in, and drove away....
That evening June and old Jolyon sat down to dinner at the usual
hour. The girl was in her customary high-necked frock, old
Jolyon had not dressed.
At breakfast she had spoken of the dance at Uncle Roger's, she
wanted to go; she had been stupid enough, she said, not to think
of asking anyone to take her. It was too late now.
Old Jolyon lifted his keen eyes. June was used to go to dances
with Irene as a matter of course! and deliberately fixing his
gaze on her, he asked: "Why don't you get Irene?"
No! June did not want to ask Irene; she would only go if--if her
grandfather wouldn't mind just for once for a little time!
At her look, so eager and so worn, old Jolyon had grumblingly
consented. He did not know what she wanted, he said, with going
to a dance like this, a poor affair, he would wager; and she no
more fit for it than a cat! What she wanted was sea air, and
after his general meeting of the Globular Gold Concessions he was
ready to take her. She didn't want to go away? Ah! she would
knock herself up! Stealing a mournful look at her, he went on
with his breakfast.
June went out early, and wandered restlessly about in the heat.
Her little light figure that lately had moved so languidly about
its business, was all on fire. She bought herself some flowers.
She wanted--she meant to look her best. He would be there! She
knew well enough that he had a card. She would show him that she
did not care. But deep down in her heart she resolved that
evening to win him back. She came in flushed, and talked
brightly all lunch; old Jolyon was there, and he was deceived.
In the afternoon she was overtaken by a desperate fit of sobbing.
She strangled the noise against the pillows of her bed, but when
at last it ceased she saw in the glass a swollen face with
reddened eyes, and violet circles round them. She stayed in the
darkened room till dinner time.
All through that silent meal the struggle went on within her.
She looked so shadowy and exhausted that old Jolyon told 'Sankey'
to countermand the carriage, he would not have her going out....
She was to go to bed! She made no resistance. She went up to
her room, and sat in the dark. At ten o'clock she rang for her
"Bring some hot water, and go down and tell Mr. Forsyte that I
feel perfectly rested. Say that if he's too tired I can go to
the dance by myself."
The maid looked askance, and June turned on her imperiously.
"Go," she said, "bring the hot water at once!"
Her ball-dress still lay on the sofa, and with a sort of fierce
care she arrayed herself, took the flowers in her hand, and went
down, her small face carried high under its burden of hair. She
could hear old Jolyon in his room as she passed.
Bewildered and vexed, he was dressing. It was past ten, they
would not get there till eleven; the girl was mad. But he dared
not cross her--the expression of her face at dinner haunted him.
With great ebony brushes he smoothed his hair till it shone like
silver under the light; then he, too, came out on the gloomy
June met him below, and, without a word, they went to the
When, after that drive which seemed to last for ever, she entered
Roger's drawing-room, she disguised under a mask of resolution a
very torment of nervousness and emotion. The feeling of shame at
what might be called 'running after him' was smothered by the
dread that he might not be there, that she might not see him
after all, and by that dogged resolve--somehow, she did not know
how--to win him back.
The sight of the ballroom, with its gleaming floor, gave her a
feeling of joy, of triumph, for she loved dancing, and when
dancing she floated, so light was she, like a strenuous, eager
little spirit. He would surely ask her to dance, and if he
danced with her it would all be as it was before. She looked
about her eagerly.
The sight of Bosinney coming with Irene from the conservatory,
with that strange look of utter absorption on his face, struck
her too suddenly. They had not seen--no one should see--her
distress, not even her grandfather.
She put her hand on Jolyon's arm, and said very low:
"I must go home, Gran; I feel ill."
He hurried her away, grumbling to himself that he had known how
it would be.
To her he said nothing; only when they were once more in the
carriage, which by some fortunate chance had lingered near the
door, he asked her: "What is it, my darling?"
Feeling her whole slender body shaken by sobs, he was terribly
alarmed. She must have Blank to-morrow. He would insist upon
it. He could not have her like this.... There, there!
June mastered her sobs, and squeezing his hand feverishly, she
lay back in her corner, her face muffled in a shawl.
He could only see her eyes, fixed and staring in the dark, but he
did not cease to stroke her hand with his thin fingers.
EVENING AT RICHMOND
Other eyes besides the eyes of June and of Soames had seen 'those
two' (as Euphemia had already begun to call them) coming from the
conservatory; other eyes had noticed the look on Bosinney's face.
There are moments when Nature reveals the passion hidden beneath
the careless calm of her ordinary moods--violent spring flashing
white on almond-blossom through the purple clouds; a snowy,
moonlit peak, with its single star, soaring up to the passionate
blue; or against the flames of sunset, an old yew-tree standing
dark guardian of some fiery secret.
There are moments, too, when in a picture-gallery, a work, noted
by the casual spectator as '......Titian--remarkably fine,'
breaks through the defences of some Forsyte better lunched
perhaps than his fellows, and holds him spellbound in a kind of
ecstasy. There are things, he feels--there are things here
which--well, which are things. Something unreasoning,
unreasonable, is upon him; when he tries to define it with the
precision of a practical man, it eludes him, slips away, as the
glow of the wine he has drunk is slipping away, leaving him
cross, and conscious of his liver. He feels that he has been
extravagant, prodigal of something; virtue has gone out of him.
He did not desire this glimpse of what lay under the three stars
of his catalogue. God forbid that he should know anything about
the forces of Nature! God forbid that he should admit for a
moment that there are such things! Once admit that, and where
was he? One paid a shilling for entrance, and another for the
The look which June had seen, which other Forsytes had seen, was
like the sudden flashing of a candle through a hole in some
imaginary canvas, behind which it was being moved--the sudden
flaming-out of a vague, erratic glow, shadowy and enticing. It
brought home to onlookers the consciousness that dangerous forces
were at work. For a moment they noticed it with pleasure, with
interest, then felt they must not notice it at all.
It supplied, however, the reason of June's coming so late and
disappearing again without dancing, without even shaking hands
with her lover. She was ill, it was said, and no wonder.
But here they looked at each other guiltily. They had no desire
to spread scandal, no desire to be ill-natured. Who would have?
And to outsiders no word was breathed, unwritten law keeping them
Then came the news that June had gone to the seaside with old
He had carried her off to Broadstairs, for which place there was
just then a feeling, Yarmouth having lost caste, in spite of
Nicholas, and no Forsyte going to the sea without intending to
have an air for his money such as would render him bilious in a
week. That fatally aristocratic tendency of the first Forsyte to
drink Madeira had left his descendants undoubtedly accessible.
So June went to the sea. The family awaited developments; there
was nothing else to do.
But how far--how far had 'those two' gone? How far were they
going to go? Could they really be going at all? Nothing could
surely come of it, for neither of them had any money. At the
most a flirtation, ending, as all such attachments should, at the
Soames' sister, Winifred Dartie, who had imbibed with the breezes
of Mayfair--she lived in Green Street--more fashionable
principles in regard to matrimonial behaviour than were current,
for instance, in Ladbroke Grove, laughed at the idea of there
being anything in it. The 'little thing'--Irene was taller than
herself, and it was real testimony to the solid worth of a
Forsyte that she should always thus be a 'little thing'--the
little thing was bored. Why shouldn't she amuse herself? Soames
was rather tiring; and as to Mr. Bosinney--only that buffoon
George would have called him the Buccaneer--she maintained that
he was very chic.
This dictum--that Bosinney was chic--caused quit a sensation. It
failed to convince. That he was 'good-looking in a way' they
were prepared to admit, but that anyone could call a man with his
pronounced cheekbones, curious eyes, arid soft felt hats chic was
only another instance of Winifred's extravagant way of running
after something new.
It was that famous summer when extravagance was fashionable, when
the very earth was extravagant, chestnut-trees spread with
blossom, and flowers drenched in perfume, as they had never been
before; when roses blew in every garden; and for the swarming
stars the nights had hardly space; when every day and all day
long the sun, in full armour, swung his brazen shield above the
Park, and people did strange things, lunching and dining in the
open air. Unprecedented was the tale of cabs and carriages that
streamed across the bridges of the shining river, bearing the
upper-middle class in thousands to the green glories of Bushey,
Richmond, Kew, and Hampton Court. Almost every family with any
pretensions to be of the carriage-class paid one visit that year
to the horse-chestnuts at Bushey, or took one drive amongst the
Spanish chestnuts of Richmond Park. Bowling smoothly, if
dustily, along, in a cloud of their own creation, they would
stare fashionably at the antlered heads which the great slow deer
raised out of a forest of bracken that promised to autumn lovers
such cover as was never seen before. And now and again, as the
amorous perfume of chestnut flowers and of fern was drifted too
near, one would say to the other: "My dear! What a peculiar
And the lime-flowers that year were of rare prime, near
honey-coloured. At the corners of London squares they gave out,
as the sun went down, a perfume sweeter than the honey bees had
taken--a perfume that stirred a yearning unnamable in the hearts
of Forsytes and their peers, taking the cool after dinner in the
precincts of those gardens to which they alone had keys.
And that yearning made them linger amidst the dim shapes of
flower-beds in the failing daylight, made them turn, and turn,
and turn again, as though lovers were waiting for them--waiting
for the last light to die away under the shadow of the branches.
Some vague sympathy evoked by the scent of the limes, some
sisterly desire to see for herself, some idea of demonstrating
the soundness of her dictum that there was 'nothing in it'; or
merely the craving to drive down to Richmond, irresistible that
summer, moved the mother of the little Darties (of little
Publius, of Imogen, Maud, and Benedict) to write the following
note to her sister-in-law:
'I hear that Soames is going to Henley tomorrow for the night. I
thought it would be great fun if we made up a little party and
drove down to, Richmond. Will you ask Mr. Bosinney, and I will
get young Flippard.
'Emily (they called their mother Emily--it was so chic) will lend
us the carriage. I will call for you and your young man at seven
'Your affectionate sister,
'Montague believes the dinner at the Crown and Sceptre to be
Montague was Dartie's second and better known name--his first
being Moses; for he was nothing if not a man of the world.
Her plan met with more opposition from Providence than so
benevolent a scheme deserved. In the first place young Flippard
'DEAR Mrs. DARTIE,
'Awfully sorry. Engaged two deep.
It was late to send into the by-ways and hedges to remedy this
misfortune. With the promptitude and conduct of a mother,
Winifred fell back on her husband. She had, indeed, the decided
but tolerant temperament that goes with a good deal of profile,
fair hair, and greenish eyes. She was seldom or never at a loss;
or if at a loss, was always able to convert it into a gain.
Dartie, too, was in good feather. Erotic had failed to win the
Lancashire Cup. Indeed, that celebrated animal, owned as he was
by a pillar of the turf, who had secretly laid many thousands
against him, had not even started. The forty-eight hours that
followed his scratching were among the darkest in Dartie's life.
Visions of James haunted him day and night. Black thoughts about
Soames mingled with the faintest hopes. On the Friday night he
got drunk, so greatly was he affected. But on Saturday morning
the true Stock Exchange instinct triumphed within him. Owing
some hundreds, which by no possibility could he pay, he went into
town and put them all on Concertina for the Saltown Borough
As he said to Major Scrotton, with whom he lunched at the Iseeum:
"That little Jew boy, Nathans, had given him the tip. He didn't
care a cursh. He wash in--a mucker. If it didn't come up--well
then, damme, the old man would have to pay!"
A bottle of Pol Roger to his own cheek had given him a new
contempt for James.
It came up. Concertina was squeezed home by her neck--a terrible
squeak! But, as Dartie said: There was nothing like pluck!
He was by no means averse to the expedition to Richmond. He
would 'stand' it himself! He cherished an admiration for Irene,
and wished to be on more playful terms with her.
At half-past five the Park Lane footman came round to say: Mrs.
Forsyte was very sorry, but one of the horses was coughing!
Undaunted by this further blow, Winifred at once despatched
little Publius (now aged seven) with the nursery governess to
They would go down in hansoms and meet at the Crown and Sceptre
Dartie, on being told, was pleased enough. It was better than
going down with your back to the horses! He had no objection to
driving down with Irene. He supposed they would pick up the
others at Montpellier Square, and swop hansoms there?
Informed that the meet was at the Crown and Sceptre, and that he
would have to drive with his wife, he turned sulky, and said it
was d---d slow!
At seven o'clock they started, Dartie offering to bet the driver
half-a-crown he didn't do it in the three-quarters of an hour.
Twice only did husband and wife exchange remarks on the way.
Dartie said: "It'll put Master Soames's nose out of joint to hear
his wife's been drivin' in a hansom with Master Bosinney!"
Winifred replied: "Don't talk such nonsense, Monty!"
"Nonsense!" repeated Dartie. "You don't know women, my fine
On the other occasion he merely asked: "How am I looking? A bit
puffy about the gills? That fizz old George is so fond of is a
He had been lunching with George Forsyte at the Haversnake.
Bosinney and Irene had arrived before them. They were standing
in one of the long French windows overlooking the river.
Windows that summer were open all day long, and all night too,
and day and night the scents of flowers and trees came in, the
hot scent of parching grass, and the cool scent of the heavy
To the eye of the observant Dartie his two guests did not appear
to be making much running, standing there close together, without
a word. Bosinney was a hungry-looking creature--not much go
He left them to Winifred, however, and busied himself to order
A Forsyte will require good, if not delicate feeding, but a
Dartie will tax the resources of a Crown and Sceptre. Living as
he does, from hand to mouth, nothing is too good for him to eat;
and he will eat it. His drink, too, will need to be carefully
provided; there is much drink in this country 'not good enough'
for a Dartie; he will have the best. Paying for things
vicariously, there is no reason why he should stint himself. To
stint yourself is the mark of a fool, not of a Dartie.
The best of everything! No sounder principle on which a man can
base his life, whose father-in-law has a very considerable
income, and a partiality for his grandchildren.
With his not unable eye Dartie had spotted this weakness in James
the very first year after little Publius's arrival (an error); he
had profited by his perspicacity. Four little Darties were now a
sort of perpetual insurance.
The feature of the feast was unquestionably the red mullet. This
delectable fish, brought from a considerable distance in a state
of almost perfect preservation, was first fried, then boned, then
served in ice, with Madeira punch in place of sauce, according to
a recipe known to a few men of the world.
Nothing else calls for remark except the payment of the bill by
He had made himself extremely agreeable throughout the meal; his
bold, admiring stare seldom abandoning Irene's face and figure.
As he was obliged to confess to himself, he got no change out of
her--she was cool enough, as cool as her shoulders looked under
their veil of creamy lace. He expected to have caught her out in
some little game with Bosinney; but not a bit of it, she kept up
her end remarkably well. As for that architect chap, he was as
glum as a bear with a sore head--Winifred could barely get a word
out of him; he ate nothing, but he certainly took his liquor, and
his face kept getting whiter, and his eyes looked queer.
It was all very amusing.
For Dartie himself was in capital form, and talked freely, with a
certain poignancy, being no fool. He told two or three stories
verging on the improper, a concession to the company, for his
stories were not used to verging. He proposed Irene's health in
a mock speech. Nobody drank it, and Winifred said: "Don't be
such a clown, Monty!"
At her suggestion they went after dinner to the public terrace
overlooking the river.
"I should like to see the common people making love," she said,
"it's such fun!"
There were numbers of them walking in the cool, after the day's
heat, and the air was alive with the sound of voices, coarse and
loud, or soft as though murmuring secrets.
It was not long before Winifred's better sense--she was the only
Forsyte present--secured them an empty bench. They sat down in a
row. A heavy tree spread a thick canopy above their heads, and
the haze darkened slowly over the river.
Dartie sat at the end, next to him Irene, then Bosinney, then
Winifred. There was hardly room for four, and the man of the
world could feel Irene's arm crushed against his own; he knew
that she could not withdraw it without seeming rude, and this
amused him; he devised every now and again a movement that would
bring her closer still. He thought: 'That Buccaneer Johnny
shan't have it all to himself! It's a pretty tight fit,
From far down below on the dark river came drifting the tinkle of
a mandoline, and voices singing the old round:
'A boat, a boat, unto the ferry,
For we'll go over and be merry;
And laugh, and quaff, and drink brown sherry!'
And suddenly the moon appeared, young and tender, floating up on
her back from behind a tree; and as though she had breathed, the
air was cooler, but down that cooler air came always the warm
odour of the limes.
Over his cigar Dartie peered round at Bosinney, who was sitting
with his arms crossed, staring straight in front of him, and on
his face the look of a man being tortured.
And Dartie shot a glance at the face between, so veiled by the
overhanging shadow that it was but like a darker piece of the
darkness shaped and breathed on; soft, mysterious, enticing.
A hush had fallen on the noisy terrace, as if all the strollers
were thinking secrets too precious to be spoken.
And Dartie thought: 'Women!'
The glow died above the river, the singing ceased; the young moon
hid behind a tree, and all was dark. He pressed himself against
He was not alarmed at the shuddering that ran through the limbs
he touched, or at the troubled, scornful look of her eyes. He
felt her trying to draw herself away, and smiled.
It must be confessed that the man of the world had drunk quite as
much as was good for him.
With thick lips parted under his well-curled moustaches, and his
bold eyes aslant upon her, he had the malicious look of a satyr.
Along the pathway of sky between the hedges of the tree tops the
stars clustered forth; like mortals beneath, they seemed to shift
and swarm and whisper. Then on the terrace the buzz broke out
once more, and Dartie thought: 'Ah! he's a poor, hungry-looking
devil, that Bosinney!' and again he pressed himself against Irene.
The movement deserved a better success. She rose, and they all
The man of the world was more than ever determined to see what
she was made of. Along the terrace he kept close at her elbow.
He had within him much good wine. There was the long drive home,
the long drive and the warm dark and the pleasant closeness of
the hansom cab--with its insulation from the world devised by
some great and good man. That hungry architect chap might drive
with his wife--he wished him joy of her! And, conscious that his
voice was not too steady, he was careful not to speak; but a
smile had become fixed on his thick lips.
They strolled along toward the cabs awaiting them at the farther
end. His plan had the merit of all great plans, an almost brutal
simplicity he would merely keep at her elbow till she got in, and
get in quickly after her.
But when Irene reached the cab she did not get in; she slipped,
instead, to the horse's head. Dartie was not at the moment
sufficiently master of his legs to follow. She stood stroking
the horse's nose, and, to his annoyance, Bosinney was at her side
first. She turned and spoke to him rapidly, in a low voice; the
words 'That man' reached Dartie. He stood stubbornly by the cab
step, waiting for her to come back. He knew a trick worth two of
Here, in the lamp-light, his figure (no more than medium height),
well squared in its white evening waistcoat, his light overcoat
flung over his arm, a pink flower in his button-hole, and on his
dark face that look of confident, good-humoured insolence, he was
at his best--a thorough man of the world.
Winifred was already in her cab. Dartie reflected that Bosinney
would have a poorish time in that cab if he didn't look sharp!
Suddenly he received a push which nearly overturned him in the
road. Bosinney's voice hissed in his ear: "I am taking Irene
back; do you understand?" He saw a face white with passion, and
eyes that glared at him like a wild cat's.
"Eh?" he stammered. "What? Not a bit. You take my wife!"
"Get away!" hissed Bosinney--"or I'll throw you into the road!"
Dartie recoiled; he saw as plainly as possible that the fellow
meant it. In the space he made Irene had slipped by, her dress
brushed his legs. Bosinney stepped in after her.
"Go on!" he heard the Buccaneer cry. The cabman flicked his
horse. It sprang forward.
Dartie stood for a moment dumbfounded; then, dashing at the cab
where his wife sat, he scrambled in.
"Drive on!" he shouted to the driver, "and don't you lose sight
of that fellow in front!"
Seated by his wife's side, he burst into imprecations. Calming
himself at last with a supreme effort, he added: "A pretty mess
you've made of it, to let the Buccaneer drive home with her; why
on earth couldn't you keep hold of him? He's mad with love; any
fool can see that!"
He drowned Winifred's rejoinder with fresh calls to the Almighty;
nor was it until they reached Barnes that he ceased a Jeremiad,
in the course of which he had abused her, her father, her
brother, Irene, Bosinney, the name of Forsyte, his own children,
and cursed the day when he had ever married.
Winifred, a woman of strong character, let him have his say, at
the end of which he lapsed into sulky silence. His angry eyes
never deserted the back of that cab, which, like a lost chance,
haunted the darkness in front of him.
Fortunately he could not hear Bosinney's passionate pleading--
that pleading which the man of the world's conduct had let loose
like a flood; he could not see Irene shivering, as though some
garment had been torn from her, nor her eyes, black and mournful,
like the eyes of a beaten child. He could not hear Bosinney
entreating, entreating, always entreating; could not hear her
sudden, soft weeping, nor see that poor, hungry-looking devil,
awed and trembling, humbly touching her hand.
In Montpellier Square their cabman, following his instructions to
the letter, faithfully drew up behind the cab in front. The
Darties saw Bosinney spring out, and Irene follow, and hasten up
the steps with bent head. She evidently had her key in her hand,
for she disappeared at once. It was impossible to tell whether
she had turned to speak to Bosinney.
The latter came walking past their cab; both husband and wife had
an admirable view of his face in the light of a street lamp. It
was working with violent emotion.
"Good-night, Mr. Bosinney!" called Winifred.
Bosinney started, clawed off his hat, and hurried on. He had
obviously forgotten their existence.
"There!" said Dartie, "did you see the beast's face? What did I
say? Fine games!" He improved the occasion.
There had so clearly been a crisis in the cab that Winifred was
unable to defend her theory.
She said: "I shall say nothing about it. I don't see any use in
making a fuss!"
With that view Dartie at once concurred; looking upon James as a
private preserve, he disapproved of his being disturbed by the
troubles of others.
"Quite right," he said; "let Soames look after himself. He's
jolly well able to!"
Thus speaking, the Darties entered their habitat in Green Street,
the rent of which was paid by James, and sought a well-earned
rest. The hour was midnight, and no Forsytes remained abroad in
the streets to spy out Bosinney's wanderings; to see him return
and stand against the rails of the Square garden, back from the
glow of the street lamp; to see him stand there in the shadow of
trees, watching the house where in the dark was hidden she whom
he would have given the world to see for a single minute--she who
was now to him the breath of the lime-trees, the meaning of the
light and the darkness, the very beating of his own heart.
DIAGNOSIS OF A FORSYTE
It is in the nature of a Forsyte to be ignorant that he is a
Forsyte; but young Jolyon was well aware of being one. He had
not known it till after the decisive step which had made him an
outcast; since then the knowledge had been with him continually.
He felt it throughout his alliance, throughout all his dealings
with his second wife, who was emphatically not a Forsyte.
He knew that if he had not possessed in great measure the eye for
what he wanted, the tenacity to hold on to it, the sense of the
folly of wasting that for which he had given so big a price--in
other words, the 'sense of property' he could never have retained
her (perhaps never would have desired to retain her) with him
through all the financial troubles, slights, and misconstructions
of those fifteen years; never have induced her to marry him on
the death of his first wife; never have lived it all through, and
come up, as it were, thin, but smiling.
He was one of those men who, seated cross-legged like miniature
Chinese idols in the cages of their own hearts, are ever smiling
at themselves a doubting smile. Not that this smile, so intimate
and eternal, interfered with his actions, which, like his chin
and his temperament, were quite a peculiar blend of softness and
He was conscious, too, of being a Forsyte in his work, that
painting of water-colours to which he devoted so much energy,
always with an eye on himself, as though he could not take so
unpractical a pursuit quite seriously, and always with a certain
queer uneasiness that he did not make more money at it.
It was, then, this consciousness of what it meant to be a
Forsyte, that made him receive the following letter from old
Jolyon, with a mixture of sympathy and disgust:
'MY DEAR JO,'
(The Dad's handwriting had altered very little in the thirty odd
years that he remembered it.)
'We have been here now a fortnight, and have had good weather on
the whole. The air is bracing, but my liver is out of order, and
I shall be glad enough to get back to town. I cannot say much
for June, her health and spirits are very indifferent, and I
don't see what is to come of it. She says nothing, but it is
clear that she is harping on this engagement, which is an
engagement and no engagement, and--goodness knows what. I have
grave doubts whether she ought to be allowed to return to London
in the present state of affairs, but she is so self-willed that
she might take it into her head to come up at any moment. The
fact is someone ought to speak to Bosinney and ascertain what he
means. I'm afraid of this myself, for I should certainly rap him
over the knuckles, but I thought that you, knowing him at the
Club, might put in a word, and get to ascertain what the fellow
is about. You will of course in no way commit June. I shall be
glad to hear from you in the course of a few days whether you
have succeeded in gaining any information. The situation is very
distressing to me, I worry about it at night.
With my love to Jolly and Holly.
'Your affect. father,
Young Jolyon pondered this letter so long and seriously that his
wife noticed his preoccupation, and asked him what was the
matter. He replied: "Nothing."
It was a fixed principle with him never to allude to June. She
might take alarm, he did not know what she might think; he
hastened, therefore, to banish from his manner all traces of
absorption, but in this he was about as successful as his father
would have been, for he had inherited all old Jolyon's
transparency in matters of domestic finesse; and young Mrs.
Jolyon, busying herself over the affairs of the house, went about
with tightened lips, stealing at him unfathomable looks.
He started for the Club in the afternoon with the letter in his
pocket, and without having made up his mind.
To sound a man as to 'his intentions' was peculiarly unpleasant
to him; nor did his own anomalous position diminish this
unpleasantness. It was so like his family, so like all the
people they knew and mixed with, to enforce what they called
their rights over a man, to bring him up to the mark; so like
them to carry their business principles into their private
And how that phrase in the letter--'You will, of course, in no
way commit June'--gave the whole thing away.
Yet the letter, with the personal grievance, the concern for
June, the 'rap over the knuckles,' was all so natural. No wonder
his father wanted to know what Bosinney meant, no wonder he was
It was difficult to refuse! But why give the thing to him to do?
That was surely quite unbecoming; but so long as a Forsyte got
what he was after, he was not too particular about the means,
provided appearances were saved.
How should he set about it, or how refuse? Both seemed impossible.
So, young Jolyon!
He arrived at the Club at three o'clock, and the first person he
saw was Bosinney himself, seated in a corner, staring out of the
Young Jolyon sat down not far off, and began nervously to
reconsider his position. He looked covertly at Bosinney sitting
there unconscious. He did not know him very well, and studied
him attentively for perhaps the first time; an unusual looking
man, unlike in dress, face, and manner to most of the other
members of the Club--young Jolyon himself, however different he
had become in mood and temper, had always retained the neat
reticence of Forsyte appearance. He alone among Forsytes was
ignorant of Bosinney's nickname. The man was unusual, not
eccentric, but unusual; he looked worn, too, haggard, hollow in
the cheeks beneath those broad, high cheekbones, though without
any appearance of ill-health, for he was strongly built, with
curly hair that seemed to show all the vitality of a fine
Something in his face and attitude touched young Jolyon. He knew
what suffering was like, and this man looked as if he were
He got up and touched his arm.
Bosinney started, but exhibited no sign of embarrassment on
seeing who it was.
Young Jolyon sat down.
"I haven't seen you for a long time," he said. "How are you
getting on with my cousin's house?"
"It'll be finished in about a week."
"I congratulate you!"
"Thanks--I don't know that it's much of a subject for
"No?" queried young Jolyon; "I should have thought you'd be glad
to get a long job like that off your hands; but I suppose you
feel it much as I do when I part with a picture--a sort of
He looked kindly at Bosinney.
"Yes," said the latter more cordially, "it goes out from you and
there's an end of it. I didn't know you painted."
"Only water-colours; I can't say I believe in my work."
"Don't believe in it? There--how can you do it? Work's no use
unless you believe in it!"
"Good," said young Jolyon; "it's exactly what I've always said.
By-the-bye, have you noticed that whenever one says 'Good,' one
always adds 'it's exactly what I've always said'! But if you ask
me how I do it, I answer, because I'm a Forsyte."
"A Forsyte! I never thought of you as one!"
"A Forsyte," replied young Jolyon, "is not an uncommon animal.
There are hundreds among the members of this Club. Hundreds out
there in the streets; you meet them wherever you go!"
"And how do you tell them, may I ask?" said Bosinney.
"By their sense of property. A Forsyte takes a practical--one
might say a commonsense--view of things, and a practical view of
things is based fundamentally on a sense of property. A Forsyte,
you will notice, never gives himself away."
Young Jolyon's eye twinkled.
"Not much. As a Forsyte myself, I have no business to talk. But
I'm a kind of thoroughbred mongrel; now, there's no mistaking
you: You're as different from me as I am from my Uncle James, who
is the perfect specimen of a Forsyte. His sense of property is
extreme, while you have practically none. Without me in between,
you would seem like a different species. I'm the missing link.
We are, of course, all of us the slaves of property, and I admit
that it's a question of degree, but what I call a 'Forsyte' is a
man who is decidedly more than less a slave of property. He
knows a good thing, he knows a safe thing, and his grip on
property--it doesn't matter whether it be wives, houses, money,
or reputation--is his hall-mark."
"Ah!" murmured Bosinney. "You should patent the word."
"I should like," said young Jolyon, "to lecture on it:
"Properties and quality of a Forsyte: This little animal,
disturbed by the ridicule of his own sort, is unaffected in his
motions by the laughter of strange creatures (you or I).
Hereditarily disposed to myopia, he recognises only the persons
of his own species, amongst which he passes an existence of
"You talk of them," said Bosinney, "as if they were half
"They are," repeated young Jolyon, "half England, and the better
half, too, the safe half, the three per cent. half, the half
that counts. It's their wealth and security that makes
everything possible; makes your art possible, makes literature,
science, even religion, possible. Without Forsytes, who believe
in none of these things, and habitats but turn them all to use,
where should we be? My dear sir, the Forsytes are the middlemen,
the commercials, the pillars of society, the cornerstones of
convention; everything that is admirable!"
"I don't know whether I catch your drift," said Bosinney, "but I
fancy there are plenty of Forsytes, as you call them, in my
"Certainly," replied young Jolyon. "The great majority of
architects, painters, or writers have no principles, like any
other Forsytes. Art, literature, religion, survive by virtue of
the few cranks who really believe in such things, and the many
Forsytes who make a commercial use of them. At a low estimate,
three-fourths of our Royal Academicians are Forsytes, seven-
eighths of our novelists, a large proportion of the press.
Of science I can't speak; they are magnificently represented in
religion; in the House of Commons perhaps more numerous than
anywhere; the aristocracy speaks for itself. But I'm not
laughing. It is dangerous to go against the majority and what a
majority!" He fixed his eyes on Bosinney: "It's dangerous to let
anything carry you away--a house, a picture, a--woman!"
They looked at each other.--And, as though he had done that which
no Forsyte did--given himself away, young Jolyon drew into his
shell. Bosinney broke the silence.
"Why do you take your own people as the type?" said he.
"My people," replied young Jolyon, "are not very extreme, and
they have their own private peculiarities, like every other
family, but they possess in a remarkable degree those two
qualities which are the real tests of a Forsyte--the power of
never being able to give yourself up to anything soul and body,
and the 'sense of property'."
Bosinney smiled: "How about the big one, for instance?"
"Do you mean Swithin?" asked young Jolyon. "Ah! in Swithin
there's something primeval still. The town and middle-class
life haven't digested him yet. All the old centuries of farm work
and brute force have settled in him, and there they've stuck, for
all he's so distinguished."
Bosinney seemed to ponder. "Well, you've hit your cousin Soames
off to the life," he said suddenly. "He'll never blow his brains
Young Jolyon shot at him a penetrating glance.
"No," he said; "he won't. That's why he's to be reckoned with.
Look out for their grip! It's easy to laugh, but don't mistake
me. It doesn't do to despise a Forsyte; it doesn't do to
"Yet you've done it yourself!"
Young Jolyon acknowledged the hit by losing his smile.
"You forget," he said with a queer pride, "I can hold on, too--
I'm a Forsyte myself. We're all in the path of great forces.
The man who leaves the shelter of the wall--well--you know what I
mean. I don't," he ended very low, as though uttering a threat,
"recommend every man to-go-my-way. It depends."
The colour rushed into Bosinney's face, but soon receded, leaving
it sallow-brown as before. He gave a short laugh, that left his
lips fixed in a queer, fierce smile; his eyes mocked young
"Thanks," he said. "It's deuced kind of you. But you're not the
only chaps that can hold on." He rose.
Young Jolyon looked after him as he walked away, and, resting his
head on his hand, sighed.
In the drowsy, almost empty room the only sounds were the rustle
of newspapers, the scraping of matches being struck. He stayed a
long time without moving, living over again those days when he,
too, had sat long hours watching the clock, waiting for the
minutes to pass--long hours full of the torments of uncertainty,
and of a fierce, sweet aching; and the slow, delicious agony of
that season came back to him with its old poignancy. The sight
of Bosinney, with his haggard face, and his restless eyes always
wandering to the clock, had roused in him a pity, with which was
mingled strange, irresistible envy.
He knew the signs so well. Whither was he going--to what sort of
fate? What kind of woman was it who was drawing him to her by
that magnetic force which no consideration of honour, no
principle, no interest could withstand; from which the only
escape was flight.
Flight! But why should Bosinney fly? A man fled when he was in
danger of destroying hearth and home, when there were children,
when he felt himself trampling down ideals, breaking something.
But here, so he had heard, it was all broken to his hand.
He himself had not fled, nor would he fly if it were all to come
over again. Yet he had gone further than Bosinney, had broken up
his own unhappy home, not someone else's: And the old saying came
back to him: 'A man's fate lies in his own heart.'
In his own heart! The proof of the pudding was in the eating--
Bosinney had still to eat his pudding.
His thoughts passed to the woman, the woman whom he did not know,
but the outline of whose story he had heard.
An unhappy marriage! No ill-treatment--only that indefinable
malaise, that terrible blight which killed all sweetness under
Heaven; and so from day to day, from night to night, from week to
week, from year to year, till death should end it.
But young Jolyon, the bitterness of whose own feelings time had
assuaged, saw Soames' side of the question too. Whence should a
man like his cousin, saturated with all the prejudices and
beliefs of his class, draw the insight or inspiration necessary
to break up this life? It was a question of imagination, of
projecting himself into the future beyond the unpleasant gossip,
sneers, and tattle that followed on such separations, beyond the
passing pangs that the lack of the sight of her would cause,
beyond the grave disapproval of the worthy. But few men, and
especially few men of Soames' class, had imagination enough for
that. A deal of mortals in this world, and not enough
imagination to go round! And sweet Heaven, what a difference
between theory and practice; many a man, perhaps even Soames,
held chivalrous views on such matters, who when the shoe pinched
found a distinguishing factor that made of himself an exception.
Then, too, he distrusted his judgment. He had been through the
experience himself, had tasted too the dregs the bitterness of an
unhappy marriage, and how could he take the wide and dispassionate
view of those who had never been within sound of the battle?
His evidence was too first-hand--like the evidence on military
matters of a soldier who has been through much active service,
against that of civilians who have not suffered the disadvantage
of seeing things too close. Most people would consider such a
marriage as that of Soames and Irene quite fairly successful;
he had money, she had beauty; it was a case for compromise.
There was no reason why they should not jog along, even if they
hated each other. It would not matter if they went their own
ways a little so long as the decencies were observed--the
sanctity of the marriage tie, of the common home, respected.
Half the marriages of the upper classes were conducted on these
lines: Do not offend the susceptibilities of Society; do not
offend the susceptibilities of the Church. To avoid offending
these is worth the sacrifice of any private feelings. The
advantages of the stable home are visible, tangible, so many
pieces of property; there is no risk in the statu quo. To break
up a home is at the best a dangerous experiment, and selfish into
This was the case for the defence, and young Jolyon sighed.
'The core of it all,' he thought, 'is property, but there are
many people who would not like it put that way. To them it is
"the sanctity of the marriage tie"; but the sanctity of the
marriage tie is dependent on the sanctity of the family, and the
sanctity of the family is dependent on the sanctity of property.
And yet I imagine all these people are followers of One who never
owned anything. It is curious!
And again young Jolyon sighed.
'Am I going on my way home to ask any poor devils I meet to share
my dinner, which will then be too little for myself, or, at all
events, for my wife, who is necessary to my health and happiness?
It may be that after all Soames does well to exercise his rights
and support by his practice the sacred principle of property
which benefits us all, with the exception of those who suffer by
And so he left his chair, threaded his way through the maze of
seats, took his hat, and languidly up the hot streets crowded
with carriages, reeking with dusty odours, wended his way home.
Before reaching Wistaria Avenue he removed old Jolyon's letter
from his pocket, and tearing it carefully into tiny pieces,
scattered them in the dust of the road.
He let himself in with his key, and called his wife's name. But
she had gone out, taking Jolly and Holly, and the house was
empty; alone in the garden the dog Balthasar lay in the shade
snapping at flies.
Young Jolyon took his seat there, too, under the pear-tree that
bore no fruit.
BOSINNEY ON PAROLE
The day after the evening at Richmond Soames returned from Henley
by a morning train. Not constitutionally interested in
amphibious sports, his visit had been one of business rather than
pleasure, a client of some importance having asked him down.
He went straight to the City, but finding things slack, he left
at three o'clock, glad of this chance to get home quietly. Irene
did not expect him. Not that he had any desire to spy on her
actions, but there was no harm in thus unexpectedly surveying the
After changing to Park clothes he went into the drawing-room.
She was sitting idly in the corner of the sofa, her favourite
seat; and there were circles under her eyes, as though she had
He asked: "How is it you're in? Are you expecting somebody?"
"Yes that is, not particularly."
"Mr. Bosinney said he might come."
"Bosinney. He ought to be at work."
To this she made no answer.
"Well," said Soames, "I want you to come out to the Stores with
me, and after that we'll go to the Park."
"I don't want to go out; I have a headache."
Soames replied: "If ever I want you to do anything, you've always
got a headache. It'll do you good to come and sit under the
She did not answer.
Soames was silent for some minutes; at last he said: "I don't
know what your idea of a wife's duty is. I never have known!"
He had not expected her to reply, but she did.
"I have tried to do what you want; it's not my fault that I
haven't been able to put my heart into it."
"Whose fault is it, then?" He watched her askance.
"Before we were married you promised to let me go if our marriage
was not a success. Is it a success?"
"Success," he stammered--"it would be a success if you behaved
"I have tried," said Irene. "Will you let me go?"
Soames turned away. Secretly alarmed, he took refuge in bluster.
"Let you go? You don't know what you're talking about. Let you
go? How can I let you go? We're married, aren't we? Then, what
are you talking about? For God's sake, don't let's have any of
this sort of nonsense! Get your hat on, and come and sit in the
"Then, you won't let me go?"
He felt her eyes resting on him with a strange, touching look.
"Let you go!" he said; "and what on earth would you do with
yourself if I did? You've got no money!"
"I could manage somehow."
He took a swift turn up and down the room; then came and stood
"Understand," he said, "once and for all, I won't have you say
this sort of thing. Go and get your hat on!"
She did not move.
"I suppose," said Soames, "you don't want to miss Bosinney if he
Irene got up slowly and left the room. She came down with her
They went out.
In the Park, the motley hour of mid-afternoon, when foreigners
and other pathetic folk drive, thinking themselves to be in
fashion, had passed; the right, the proper, hour had come, was
nearly gone, before Soames and Irene seated themselves under the
It was some time since he had enjoyed her company in the Park.
That was one of the past delights of the first two seasons of his
married life, when to feel himself the possessor of this gracious
creature before all London had been his greatest, though secret,
pride. How many afternoons had he not sat beside her, extremely
neat, with light grey gloves and faint, supercilious smile,
nodding to acquaintances, and now and again removing his hat.
His light grey gloves were still on his hands, and on his lips
his smile sardonic, but where the feeling in his heart?
The seats were emptying fast, but still he kept her there, silent
and pale, as though to work out a secret punishment. Once or
twice he made some comment, and she bent her head, or answered
"Yes" with a tired smile.
Along the rails a man was walking so fast that people stared
after him when he passed.
"Look at that ass!" said Soames; "he must be mad to walk like
that in this heat!"
He turned; Irene had made a rapid movement.
"Hallo!" he said: "it's our friend the Buccaneer!"
And he sat still, with his sneering smile, conscious that Irene
was sitting still, and smiling too.
"Will she bow to him?" he thought.
But she made no sign.
Bosinney reached the end of the rails, and came walking back
amongst the chairs, quartering his ground like a pointer. When
he saw them he stopped dead, and raised his hat.
The smile never left Soames' face; he also took off his hat.
Bosinney came up, looking exhausted, like a man after hard
physical exercise; the sweat stood in drops on his brow, and
Soames' smile seemed to say: "You've had a trying time, my friend
......What are you doing in the Park?" he asked. "We thought
you despised such frivolity!"
Bosinney did not seem to hear; he made his answer to Irene: "I've
been round to your place; I hoped I should find you in."
Somebody tapped Soames on the back, and spoke to him; and in the
exchange of those platitudes over his shoulder, he missed her
answer, and took a resolution.
"We're just going in," he said to Bosinney; "you'd better come
back to dinner with us." Into that invitation he put a strange
bravado, a stranger pathos: "You, can't deceive me," his look and
voice seemed saying, "but see--I trust you--I'm not afraid of
They started back to Montpellier Square together, Irene between
them. In the crowded streets Soames went on in front. He did
not listen to their conversation; the strange resolution of
trustfulness he had taken seemed to animate even his secret
conduct. Like a gambler, he said to himself: 'It's a card I dare
not throw away--I must play it for what it's worth. I have not
too many chances.'
He dressed slowly, heard her leave her room and go downstairs,
and, for full five minutes after, dawdled about in his dressing-
room. Then he went down, purposely shutting the door loudly to
show that he was coming. He found them standing by the hearth,
perhaps talking, perhaps not; he could not say.
He played his part out in the farce, the long evening through--
his manner to his guest more friendly than it had ever been
before; and when at last Bosinney went, he said: "You must come
again soon; Irene likes to have you to talk about the house!"
Again his voice had the strange bravado and the stranger pathos;
but his hand was cold as ice.
Loyal to his resolution, he turned away from their parting,
turned away from his wife as she stood under the hanging lamp to
say good-night--away from the sight of her golden head shining so
under the light, of her smiling mournful lips; away from the
sight of Bosinney's eyes looking at her, so like a dog's looking
at its master.
And he went to bed with the certainty that Bosinney was in love
with his wife.
The summer night was hot, so hot and still that through every
opened window came in but hotter air. For long hours he lay
listening to her breathing.
She could sleep, but he must lie awake. And, lying awake, he
hardened himself to play the part of the serene and trusting
In the small hours he slipped out of bed, and passing into his
dressing-room, leaned by the open window.
He could hardly breathe.
A night four years ago came back to him--the night but one before
his marriage; as hot and stifling as this.
He remembered how he had lain in a long cane chair in the window
of his sitting-room off Victoria Street. Down below in a side
street a man had banged at a door, a woman had cried out; he
remembered, as though it were now, the sound of the scuffle, the
slam of the door, the dead silence that followed. And then the
early water-cart, cleansing the reek of the streets, had
approached through the strange-seeming, useless lamp-light; he
seemed to hear again its rumble, nearer and nearer, till it
passed and slowly died away.
He leaned far out of the dressing-room window over the little
court below, and saw the first light spread. The outlines of
dark walls and roofs were blurred for a moment, then came out
sharper than before.
He remembered how that other night he had watched the lamps
paling all the length of Victoria Street; how he had hurried on
his clothes and gone down into the street, down past houses and
squares, to the street where she was staying, and there had stood
and looked at the front of the little house, as still and grey as
the face of a dead man.
And suddenly it shot through his mind; like a sick man's fancy:
What's he doing?--that fellow who haunts me, who was here this
evening, who's in love with my wife--prowling out there, perhaps,
looking for her as I know he was looking for her this afternoon;
watching my house now, for all I can tell!
He stole across the landing to the front of the house, stealthily
drew aside a blind, and raised a window.
The grey light clung about the trees of the square, as though
Night, like a great downy moth, had brushed them with her wings.
The lamps were still alight, all pale, but not a soul stirred--no
living thing in sight
Yet suddenly, very faint, far off in the deathly stillness, he
heard a cry writhing, like the voice of some wandering soul
barred out of heaven, and crying for its happiness. There it was
again--again! Soames shut the window, shuddering.
Then he thought: 'Ah! it's only the peacocks, across the water.'
JUNE PAYS SOME CALLS
Jolyon stood in the narrow hall at Broadstairs, inhaling that
odour of oilcloth and herrings which permeates all respectable
seaside lodging-houses. On a chair--a shiny leather chair,
displaying its horsehair through a hole in the top left-hand
corner--stood a black despatch case. This he was filling with
papers, with the Times, and a bottle of Eau-de Cologne. He had
meetings that day of the 'Globular Gold Concessions' and the 'New
Colliery Company, Limited,' to which he was going up, for he
never missed a Board; to 'miss a Board' would be one more piece
of evidence that he was growing old, and this his jealous Forsyte
spirit could not bear.
His eyes, as he filled that black despatch case, looked as if at
any moment they might blaze up with anger. So gleams the eye of
a schoolboy, baited by a ring of his companions; but he controls
himself, deterred by the fearful odds against him. And old
Jolyon controlled himself, keeping down, with his masterful
restraint now slowly wearing out, the irritation fostered in him
by the conditions of his life.
He had received from his son an unpractical letter, in which by
rambling generalities the boy seemed trying to get out of
answering a plain question. 'I've seen Bosinney,' he said; 'he
is not a criminal. The more I see of people the more I am
convinced that they are never good or bad--merely comic, or
pathetic. You probably don't agree with me!'
Old Jolyon did not; he considered it cynical to so express
oneself; he had not yet reached that point of old age when even
Forsytes, bereft of those illusions and principles which they
have cherished carefully for practical purposes but never
believed in, bereft of all corporeal enjoyment, stricken to the
very heart by having nothing left to hope for--break through the
barriers of reserve and say things they would never have believed
themselves capable of saying.
Perhaps he did not believe in 'goodness' and 'badness' any more
than his son; but as he would have said: He didn't know--couldn't
tell; there might be something in it; and why, by an unnecessary
expression of disbelief, deprive yourself of possible advantage?
Accustomed to spend his holidays among the mountains, though
(like a true Forsyte) he had never attempted anything too
adventurous or too foolhardy, he had been passionately fond of
them. And when the wonderful view (mentioned in Baedeker--
'fatiguing but repaying')--was disclosed to him after the effort
of the climb, he had doubtless felt the existence of some great,
dignified principle crowning the chaotic strivings, the petty
precipices, and ironic little dark chasms of life. This was as
near to religion, perhaps, as his practical spirit had ever gone.
But it was many years since he had been to the mountains. He had
taken June there two seasons running, after his wife died, and
had realized bitterly that his walking days were over.
To that old mountain--given confidence in a supreme order of
things he had long been a stranger.
He knew himself to be old, yet he felt young; and this troubled
him. It troubled and puzzled him, too, to think that he, who had
always been so careful, should be father and grandfather to such
as seemed born to disaster. He had nothing to say against Jo--
who could say anything against the boy, an amiable chap?--but his
position was deplorable, and this business of June's nearly as
bad. It seemed like a fatality, and a fatality was one of those
things no man of his character could either understand or put up
In writing to his son he did not really hope that anything would
come of it. Since the ball at Roger's he had seen too clearly
how the land lay--he could put two and two together quicker than
most men--and, with the example of his own son before his eyes,
knew better than any Forsyte of them all that the pale flame
singes men's wings whether they will or no.
In the days before June's engagement, when she and Mrs. Soames
were always together, he had seen enough of Irene to feel the
spell she cast over men. She was not a flirt, not even a
coquette--words dear to the heart of his generation, which loved
to define things by a good, broad, inadequate word--but she was
dangerous. He could not say why. Tell him of a quality innate
in some women--a seductive power beyond their own control! He
would but answer: 'Humbug!' She was dangerous, and there was an
end of it. He wanted to close his eyes to that affair. If it
was, it was; he did not want to hear any more about it--he only
wanted to save June's position and her peace of mind. He still
hoped she might once more become a comfort to himself.
And so he had written. He got little enough out of the answer.
As to what young Jolyon had made of the interview, there was
practically only the queer sentence: 'I gather that he's in the
stream.' The stream! What stream? What was this new-fangled way
He sighed, and folded the last of the papers under the flap of
the bag; he knew well enough what was meant.
June came out of the dining-room, and helped him on with his
summer coat. From her costume, and the expression of her little
resolute face, he saw at once what was coming.
"I'm going with you," she said.
"Nonsense, my dear; I go straight into the City. I can't have
you racketting about!"
"I must see old Mrs. Smeech."
"Oh, your precious 'lame ducks!" grumbled out old Jolyon. He
did not believe her excuse, but ceased his opposition. There was
no doing anything with that pertinacity of hers.
At Victoria he put her into the carriage which had been ordered
for himself--a characteristic action, for he had no petty
"Now, don't you go tiring yourself, my darling," he said, and
took a cab on into the city.
June went first to a back-street in Paddington, where Mrs.
Smeech, her 'lame duck,' lived--an aged person, connected with
the charring interest; but after half an hour spent in hearing
her habitually lamentable recital, and dragooning her into
temporary comfort, she went on to Stanhope Gate. The great house
was closed and dark.
She had decided to learn something at all costs. It was better
to face the worst, and have it over. And this was her plan: To
go first to Phil's aunt, Mrs. Baynes, and, failing information
there, to Irene herself. She had no clear notion of what she
would gain by these visits.
At three o'clock she was in Lowndes Square. With a woman's
instinct when trouble is to be faced, she had put on her best
frock, and went to the battle with a glance as courageous as old
Jolyon's itself. Her tremors had passed into eagerness.
Mrs. Baynes, Bosinney's aunt (Louisa was her name), was in her
kitchen when June was announced, organizing the cook, for she was
an excellent housewife, and, as Baynes always said, there was 'a
lot in a good dinner.' He did his best work after dinner. It was
Baynes who built that remarkably fine row of tall crimson houses
in Kensington which compete with so many others for the title of
'the ugliest in London.'
On hearing June's name, she went hurriedly to her bedroom, and,
taking two large bracelets from a red morocco case in a locked
drawer, put them on her white wrists--for she possessed in a
remarkable degree that 'sense of property,' which, as we know, is
the touchstone of Forsyteism, and the foundation of good
Her figure, of medium height and broad build, with a tendency to
embonpoint, was reflected by the mirror of her whitewood
wardrobe, in a gown made under her own organization, of one of
those half-tints, reminiscent of the distempered walls of
corridors in large hotels. She raised her hands to her hair,
which she wore a la Princesse de Galles, and touched it here and
there, settling it more firmly on her head, and her eyes were
full of an unconscious realism, as though she were looking in the
face one of life's sordid facts, and making the best of it. In
youth her cheeks had been of cream and roses, but they were
mottled now by middle-age, and again that hard, ugly directness
came into her eyes as she dabbed a powder-puff across her
forehead. Putting the puff down, she stood quite still before
the glass, arranging a smile over her high, important nose, her,
chin, (never large, and now growing smaller with the increase of
her neck), her thin-lipped, down-drooping mouth. Quickly, not to
lose the effect, she grasped her skirts strongly in both hands,
and went downstairs.
She had been hoping for this visit for some time past. Whispers
had reached her that things were not all right between her nephew
and his fiancee. Neither of them had been near her for weeks.
She had asked Phil to dinner many times; his invariable answer
had been 'Too busy.'
Her instinct was alarmed, and the instinct in such matters of
this excellent woman was keen. She ought to have been a Forsyte;
in young Jolyon's sense of the word, she certainly had that
privilege, and merits description as such.
She had married off her three daughters in a way that people said
was beyond their deserts, for they had the professional plainness
only to be found, as a rule, among the female kind of the more
legal callings. Her name was upon the committees of numberless
charities connected with the Church-dances, theatricals, or
bazaars--and she never lent her name unless sure beforehand that
everything had been thoroughly organized.
She believed, as she often said, in putting things on a commercial
basis; the proper function of the Church, of charity, indeed,
of everything, was to strengthen the fabric of 'Society.'
Individual action, therefore, she considered immoral.
Organization was the only thing, for by organization alone could
you feel sure that you were getting a return for your money.
Organization--and again, organization! And there is no doubt
that she was what old Jolyon called her--"a 'dab' at that"--he
went further, he called her "a humbug."
The enterprises to which she lent her name were organized so
admirably that by the time the takings were handed over, they
were indeed skim milk divested of all cream of human kindness.
But as she often justly remarked, sentiment was to be deprecated.
She was, in fact, a little academic.
This great and good woman, so highly thought of in ecclesiastical
circles, was one of the principal priestesses in the temple of
Forsyteism, keeping alive day and night a sacred flame to the God
of Property, whose altar is inscribed with those inspiring words:
'Nothing for nothing, and really remarkably little for sixpence.'
When she entered a room it was felt that something substantial
had come in, which was probably the reason of her popularity as a
patroness. People liked something substantial when they had paid
money for it; and they would look at her--surrounded by her staff
in charity ballrooms, with her high nose and her broad, square
figure, attired in an uniform covered with sequins--as though she
were a general.
The only thing against her was that she had not a double name.
She was a power in upper middle-class society, with its hundred
sets and circles, all intersecting on the common battlefield of
charity functions, and on that battlefield brushing skirts so
pleasantly with the skirts of Society with the capital 'S.' She
was a power in society with the smaller 's,' that larger, more
significant, and more powerful body, where the commercially
Christian institutions, maxims, and 'principle,' which Mrs.
Baynes embodied, were real life-blood, circulating freely, real
business currency, not merely the sterilized imitation that
flowed in the veins of smaller Society with the larger 'S.'
People who knew her felt her to be sound--a sound woman, who
never gave herself away, nor anything else, if she could possibly
She had been on the worst sort of terms with Bosinney's father,
who had not infrequently made her the object of an unpardonable
ridicule. She alluded to him now that he was gone as her 'poor,
dear, irreverend brother.'
She greeted June with the careful effusion of which she was a
mistress, a little afraid of her as far as a woman of her
eminence in the commercial and Christian world could be afraid--
for so slight a girl June had a great dignity, the fearlessness
of her eyes gave her that. And Mrs. Baynes, too, shrewdly
recognized that behind the uncompromising frankness of June's
manner there was much of the Forsyte. If the girl had been
merely frank and courageous, Mrs. Baynes would have thought her
'cranky,' and despised her; if she had been merely a Forsyte,
like Francie--let us say--she would have patronized her from
sheer weight of metal; but June, small though she was--Mrs.
Baynes habitually admired quantity--gave her an uneasy feeling;
and she placed her in a chair opposite the light.
There was another reason for her respect which Mrs. Baynes, too
good a churchwoman to be worldly, would have been the last to
admit--she often heard her husband describe old Jolyon as
extremely well off, and was biassed towards his granddaughter for
the soundest of all reasons. To-day she felt the emotion with
which we read a novel describing a hero and an inheritance,
nervously anxious lest, by some frightful lapse of the novelist,
the young man should be left without it at the end.
Her manner was warm; she had never seen so clearly before how
distinguished and desirable a girl this was. She asked after old
Jolyon's health. A wonderful man for his age; so upright, and
young looking, and how old was he? Eighty-one! She would never
have thought it! They were at the sea! Very nice for them; she
supposed June heard from Phil every day? Her light grey eyes
became more prominent as she asked this question; but the girl
met the glance without flinching.
"No," she said, "he never writes!"
Mrs. Baynes's eyes dropped; they had no intention of doing so,
but they did. They recovered immediately.
"Of course not. That's Phil all over--he was always like that!"
"Was he?" said June.
The brevity of the answer caused Mrs. Baynes's bright smile a
moment's hesitation; she disguised it by a quick movement, and
spreading her skirts afresh, said: "Why, my dear--he's quite the
most harum-scarum person; one never pays the slightest attention
to what he does!"
The conviction came suddenly to June that she was wasting her
time; even were she to put a question point-blank, she would
never get anything out of this woman.
'Do you see him?' she asked, her face crimsoning.
The perspiration broke out on Mrs. Baynes' forehead beneath the
"Oh, yes! I don't remember when he was here last--indeed, we
haven't seen much of him lately. He's so busy with your cousin's
house; I'm told it'll be finished directly. We must organize a
little dinner to celebrate the event; do come and stay the night
"Thank you," said June. Again she thought: 'I'm only wasting my
time. This woman will tell me nothing.'
She got up to go. A change came over Mrs. Baynes. She rose too;
her lips twitched, she fidgeted her hands. Something was
evidently very wrong, and she did not dare to ask this girl, who
stood there, a slim, straight little figure, with her decided
face, her set jaw, and resentful eyes. She was not accustomed to
be afraid of asking question's--all organization was based on
the asking of questions!
But the issue was so grave that her nerve, normally strong, was
fairly shaken; only that morning her husband had said: "Old Mr.
Forsyte must be worth well over a hundred thousand pounds!"
And this girl stood there, holding out her hand--holding out her
The chance might be slipping away--she couldn't tell--the chance
of keeping her in the family, and yet she dared not speak.
Her eyes followed June to the door.
Then with an exclamation Mrs. Baynes ran forward, wobbling her
bulky frame from side to side, and opened it again.
Too late! She heard the front door click, and stood still, an
expression of real anger and mortification on her face.
June went along the Square with her bird-like quickness. She
detested that woman now whom in happier days she had been
accustomed to think so kind. Was she always to be put off thus,
and forced to undergo this torturing suspense?
She would go to Phil himself, and ask him what he meant. She had
the right to know. She hurried on down Sloane Street till she
came to Bosinney's number. Passing the swing-door at the bottom,
she ran up the stairs, her heart thumping painfully.
At the top of the third flight she paused for breath, and holding
on to the bannisters, stood listening. No sound came from above.
With a very white face she mounted the last flight. She saw the
door, with his name on the plate. And the resolution that had
brought her so far evaporated.
The full meaning of her conduct came to her. She felt hot all
over; the palms of her hands were moist beneath the thin silk
covering of her gloves.
She drew back to the stairs, but did not descend. Leaning
against the rail she tried to get rid of a feeling of being
choked; and she gazed at the door with a sort of dreadful
courage. No! she refused to go down. Did it matter what people
thought of her? They would never know! No one would help her if
she did not help herself! She would go through with it.
Forcing herself, therefore, to leave the support of the wall, she
rang the bell. The door did not open, and all her shame and fear
suddenly abandoned her; she rang again and again, as though in
spite of its emptiness she could drag some response out of that
closed room, some recompense for the shame and fear that visit
had cost her. It did not open; she left off ringing, and,
sitting down at the top of the stairs, buried her face in her
Presently she stole down, out into the air. She felt as though
she had passed through a bad illness, and had no desire now but
to get home as quickly as she could. The people she met seemed
to know where she had been, what she had been doing; and
suddenly--over on the opposite side, going towards his rooms from
the direction of Montpellier Square--she saw Bosinney himself.
She made a movement to cross into the traffic. Their eyes met,
and he raised his hat. An omnibus passed, obscuring her view;
then, from the edge of the pavement, through a gap in the
traffic, she saw him walking on.
And June stood motionless, looking after him.
PERFECTION OF THE HOUSE
'One mockturtle, clear; one oxtail; two glasses of port.'
In the upper room at French's, where a Forsyte could still get
heavy English food, James and his son were sitting down to lunch.
Of all eating-places James liked best to come here; there was
something unpretentious, well-flavoured, and filling about it,
and though he had been to a certain extent corrupted by the
necessity for being fashionable, and the trend of habits keeping
pace with an income that would increase, he still hankered in
quiet City moments after the tasty fleshpots of his earlier days.
Here you were served by hairy English waiters in aprons; there
was sawdust on the floor, and three round gilt looking-glasses
hung just above the line of sight. They had only recently done
away with the cubicles, too, in which you could have your chop,
prime chump, with a floury-potato, without seeing your
neighbours, like a gentleman.
He tucked the top corner of his napkin behind the third button of
his waistcoat, a practice he had been obliged to abandon years
ago in the West End. He felt that he should relish his soup--the
entire morning had been given to winding up the estate of an old
After filling his mouth with household bread, stale, he at once
began: "How are you going down to Robin Hill? You going to take
Irene? You'd better take her. I should think there'll be a lot
that'll want seeing to."
Without looking up, Soames answered: "She won't go."
"Won't go? What's the meaning of that? She's going to live in
the house, isn't she?"
Soames made no reply.