Part 6 out of 8
"I don't know what's coming to women nowadays," mumbled James; "I
never used to have any trouble with them. She's had too much
liberty. She's spoiled...."
Soames lifted his eyes: "I won't have anything said against her,"
he said unexpectedly.
The silence was only broken now by the supping of James's soup.
The waiter brought the two glasses of port, but Soames stopped
"That's not the way to serve port," he said; "take them away, and
bring the bottle."
Rousing himself from his reverie over the soup, James took one of
his rapid shifting surveys of surrounding facts.
"Your mother's in bed," he said; "you can have the carriage to
take you down. I should think Irene'd like the drive. This
young Bosinney'll be there, I suppose, to show you over"
"I should like to go and see for myself what sort of a job he's
made finishing off," pursued James. "I'll just drive round and
pick you both up."
"I am going down by train," replied Soames. "If you like to
drive round and see, Irene might go with you, I can't tell."
He signed to the waiter to bring the bill, which James paid.
They parted at St. Paul's, Soames branching off to the station,
James taking his omnibus westwards.
He had secured the corner seat next the conductor, where his long
legs made it difficult for anyone to get in, and at all who
passed him he looked resentfully, as if they had no business to
be using up his air.
He intended to take an opportunity this afternoon of speaking to
Irene. A word in time saved nine; and now that she was going to
live in the country there was a chance for her to turn over a new
leaf! He could see that Soames wouldn't stand very much more of
her goings on!
It did not occur to him to define what he meant by her 'goings
on'; the expression was wide, vague, and suited to a Forsyte.
And James had more than his common share of courage after lunch.
On reaching home, he ordered out the barouche, with special
instructions that the groom was to go too. He wished to be kind
to her, and to give her every chance.
When the door of No.62 was opened he could distinctly hear her
singing, and said so at once, to prevent any chance of being
Yes, Mrs. Soames was in, but the maid did not know if she was
James, moving with the rapidity that ever astonished the
observers of his long figure and absorbed expression, went
forthwith into the drawing-room without permitting this to be
ascertained. He found Irene seated at the piano with her hands
arrested on the keys, evidently listening to the voices in the
hall. She greeted him without smiling.
"Your mother-in-law's in bed," he began, hoping at once to enlist
her sympathy. "I've got the carriage here. Now, be a good girl,
and put on your hat and come with me for a drive. It'll do you
Irene looked at him as though about to refuse, but, seeming to
change her mind, went upstairs, and came down again with her hat
"Where are you going to take me?" she asked.
"We'll just go down to Robin Hill," said James, spluttering out
his words very quick; "the horses want exercise, and I should
like to see what they've been doing down there."
Irene hung back, but again changed her mind, and went out to the
carriage, James brooding over her closely, to make quite sure.
It was not before he had got her more than half way that he
began: "Soames is very fond of you--he won't have anything said
against you; why don't you show him more affection?"
Irene flushed, and said in a low voice: "I can't show what I
James looked at her sharply; he felt that now he had her in his
own carriage, with his own horses and servants, he was really in
command of the situation. She could not put him off; nor would
she make a scene in public.
"I can't think what you're about," he said. "He's a very good
Irene's answer was so low as to be almost inaudible among the
sounds of traffic. He caught the words: "You are not married to
"What's that got to do with it? He's given you everything you
want. He's always ready to take you anywhere, and now he's built
you this house in the country. It's not as if you had anything
of your own."
Again James looked at her; he could not make out the expression
on her face. She looked almost as if she were going to cry, and
"I'm sure," he muttered hastily, "we've all tried to be kind to
Irene's lips quivered; to his dismay James saw a tear steal down
her cheek. He felt a choke rise in his own throat.
"We're all fond of you," he said, "if you'd only"--he was going
to say, "behave yourself," but changed it to--"if you'd only be
more of a wife to him."
Irene did not answer, and James, too, ceased speaking. There was
something in her silence which disconcerted him; it was not the
silence of obstinacy, rather that of acquiescence in all that he
could find to say. And yet he felt as if he had not had the last
word. He could not understand this.
He was unable, however, to long keep silence.
"I suppose that young Bosinney," he said, "will be getting
married to June now?"
Irene's face changed. "I don't know," she said; "you should ask
"Does she write to you?" No.
"How's that?" said James. "I thought you and she were such great
Irene turned on him. "Again," she said, "you should ask her!"
"Well," flustered James, frightened by her look, "it's very odd
that I can't get a plain answer to a plain question, but there it
He sat ruminating over his rebuff, and burst out at last:
"Well, I've warned you. You won't look ahead. Soames he doesn't
say much, but I can see he won't stand a great deal more of this
sort of thing. You'll have nobody but yourself to blame, and,
what's more, you'll get no sympathy from anybody."
Irene bent her head with a little smiling bow. "I am very much
obliged to you."
James did not know what on earth to answer.
The bright hot morning had changed slowly to a grey, oppressive
afternoon; a heavy bank of clouds, with the yellow tinge of
coming thunder, had risen in the south, and was creeping up.
The branches of the trees dropped motionless across the road
without the smallest stir of foliage. A faint odour of glue from
the heated horses clung in the thick air; the coachman and groom,
rigid and unbending, exchanged stealthy murmurs on the box,
without ever turning their heads.
To James' great relief they reached the house at last; the
silence and impenetrability of this woman by his side, whom he
had always thought so soft and mild, alarmed him.
The carriage put them down at the door, and they entered.
The hall was cool, and so still that it was like passing into a
tomb; a shudder ran down James's spine. He quickly lifted the
heavy leather curtains between the columns into the inner court.
He could not restrain an exclamation of approval.
The decoration was really in excellent taste. The dull ruby
tiles that extended from the foot of the walls to the verge of a
circular clump of tall iris plants, surrounding in turn a sunken
basin of white marble filled with water, were obviously of the
best quality. He admired extremely the purple leather curtains
drawn along one entire side, framing a huge white-tiled stove.
The central partitions of the skylight had been slid back, and
the warm air from outside penetrated into the very heart of the
He stood, his hands behind him, his head bent back on his high,
narrow shoulders, spying the tracery on the columns and the
pattern of the frieze which ran round the ivory-coloured walls
under the gallery. Evidently, no pains had been spared. It was
quite the house of a gentleman. He went up to the curtains, and,
having discovered how they were worked, drew them asunder and
disclosed the picture-gallery, ending in a great window taking up
the whole end of the room. It had a black oak floor, and its
walls, again, were of ivory white. He went on throwing open
doors, and peeping in. Everything was in apple-pie order, ready
for immediate occupation.
He turned round at last to speak to Irene, and saw her standing
over in the garden entrance, with her husband and Bosinney.
Though not remarkable for sensibility, James felt at once that
something was wrong. He went up to them, and, vaguely alarmed,
ignorant of the nature of the trouble, made an attempt to smooth
"How are you, Mr. Bosinney?" he said, holding out his hand.
"You've been spending money pretty freely down here, I should
Soames turned his back, and walked away.
James looked from Bosinney's frowning face to Irene, and, in his
agitation, spoke his thoughts aloud: "Well, I can't tell what's
the matter. Nobody tells me anything!" And, making off after his
son, he heard Bosinney's short laugh, and his "Well, thank God!
You look so...." Most unfortunately he lost the rest.
What had happened? He glanced back. Irene was very close to the
architect, and her face not like the face he knew of her. He
hastened up to his son.
Soames was pacing the picture-gallery.
"What's the matter?" said James. "What's all this?"
Soames looked at him with his supercilious calm unbroken, but
James knew well enough that he was violently angry.
"Our friend," he said, "has exceeded his instructions again,
that's all. So much the worse for him this time."
He turned round and walked back towards the door. James followed
hurriedly, edging himself in front. He saw Irene take her finger
from before her lips, heard her say something in her ordinary
voice, and began to speak before he reached them.
"There's a storm coming on. We'd better get home. We can't take
you, I suppose, Mr. Bosinney? No, I suppose not. Then,
good-bye!" He held out his hand. Bosinney did not take it, but,
turning with a laugh, said:
"Good-bye, Mr. Forsyte. Don't get caught in the storm!" and
"Well," began James, "I don't know...."
But the 'sight of Irene's face stopped him. Taking hold of his
daughter-in-law by the elbow, he escorted her towards the
carriage. He felt certain, quite certain, they had been making
some appointment or other....
Nothing in this world is more sure to upset a Forsyte than the
discovery that something on which he has stipulated to spend a
certain sum has cost more. And this is reasonable, for upon the
accuracy of his estimates the whole policy of his life is
ordered. If he cannot rely on definite values of property, his
compass is amiss; he is adrift upon bitter waters without a helm.
After writing to Bosinney in the terms that have already been
chronicled, Soames had dismissed the cost of the house from his
mind. He believed that he had made the matter of the final cost
so very plain that the possibility of its being again exceeded
had really never entered his head. On hearing from Bosinney that
his limit of twelve thousand pounds would be exceeded by some-
thing like four hundred, he had grown white with anger. His
original estimate of the cost of the house completed had been ten
thousand pounds, and he had often blamed himself severely for
allowing himself to be led into repeated excesses. Over this
last expenditure, however, Bosinney had put himself completely in
the wrong. How on earth a fellow could make such an ass of
himself Soames could not conceive; but he had done so, and all
the rancour and hidden jealousy that had been burning against him
for so long was now focussed in rage at this crowning piece of
extravagance. The attitude of the confident and friendly husband
was gone. To preserve property--his wife--he had assumed it, to
preserve property of another kind he lost it now.
"Ah!" he had said to Bosinney when he could speak, "and I suppose
you're perfectly contented with yourself. But I may as well tell
you that you've altogether mistaken your man!"
What he meant by those words he did not quite know at the time,
but after dinner he looked up the correspondence between himself
and Bosinney to make quite sure. There could be no two opinions
about it--the fellow had made himself liable for that extra four
hundred, or, at all events, for three hundred and fifty of it,
and he would have to make it good.
He was looking at his wife's face when he came to this conclusion.
Seated in her usual seat on the sofa, she was altering the lace
on a collar. She had not once spoken to him all the evening.
He went up to the mantelpiece, and contemplating his face in the
mirror said: "Your friend the Buccaneer has made a fool of
himself; he will have to pay for it!"
She looked at him scornfully, and answered: "I don't know what
you are talking about!"
"You soon will. A mere trifle, quite beneath your contempt--four
"Do you mean that you are going to make him pay that towards this
"And you know he's got nothing?"
"Then you are meaner than I thought you."
Soames turned from the mirror, and unconsciously taking a china
cup from the mantelpiece, clasped his hands around it as though
praying. He saw her bosom rise and fall, her eyes darkening with
anger, and taking no notice of the taunt, he asked quietly:
"Are you carrying on a flirtation with Bosinney?"
"No, I am not!"
Her eyes met his, and he looked away. He neither believed nor
disbelieved her, but he knew that he had made a mistake in
asking; he never had known, never would know, what she was
thinking. The sight of her inscrutable face, the thought of all
the hundreds of evenings he had seen her sitting there like that
soft and passive, but unreadable, unknown, enraged him beyond
"I believe you are made of stone," he said, clenching his fingers
so hard that he broke the fragile cup. The pieces fell into the
grate. And Irene smiled.
"You seem to forget," she said, "that cup is not!"
Soames gripped her arm. "A good beating," he said, "is the only
thing that would bring you to your senses," but turning on his
heel, he left the room.
SOAMES SITS ON THE STAIRS
Soames went upstairs that night that he had gone too far. He was
prepared to offer excuses for his words.
He turned out the gas still burning in the passage outside their
room. Pausing, with his hand on the knob of the door, he tried
to shape his apology, for he had no intention of letting her see
that he was nervous.
But the door did not open, nor when he pulled it and turned the
handle firmly. She must have locked it for some reason, and
Entering his dressing-room where the gas was also light and
burning low, he went quickly to the other door. That too was
locked. Then he noticed that the camp bed which he occasionally
used was prepared, and his sleeping-suit laid out upon it. He
put his hand up to his forehead, and brought it away wet. It
dawned on him that he was barred out.
He went back to the door, and rattling the handle stealthily,
called: "Unlock the door, do you hear? Unlock the door!"
There was a faint rustling, but no answer.
"Do you hear? Let me in at once--I insist on being let in!"
He could catch the sound of her breathing close to the door, like
the breathing of a creature threatened by danger.
There was something terrifying in this inexorable silence, in the
impossibility of getting at her. He went back to the other door,
and putting his whole weight against it, tried to burst it open.
The door was a new one--he had had them renewed himself, in
readiness for their coming in after the honeymoon. In a rage he
lifted his foot to kick in the panel; the thought of the servants
restrained him, and he felt suddenly that he was beaten.
Flinging himself down in the dressing-room, he took up a book.
But instead of the print he seemed to see his wife--with her
yellow hair flowing over her bare shoulders, and her great dark
eyes--standing like an animal at bay. And the whole meaning of
her act of revolt came to him. She meant it to be for good.
He could not sit still, and went to the door again. He could
still hear her, and he called: "Irene! Irene!"
He did not mean to make his voice pathetic.
In ominous answer, the faint sounds ceased. He stood with
clenched hands, thinking.
Presently he stole round on tiptoe, and running suddenly at the
other door, made a supreme effort to break it open. It creaked,
but did not yield. He sat down on the stairs and buried his face
in his hands.
For a long time he sat there in the dark, the moon through the
skylight above laying a pale smear which lengthened slowly
towards him down the stairway. He tried to be philosophical.
Since she had locked her doors she had no further claim as a
wife, and he would console himself with other women.
It was but a spectral journey he made among such delights--he had
no appetite for these exploits. He had never had much, and he
had lost the habit. He felt that he could never recover it. His
hunger could only be appeased by his wife, inexorable and
frightened, behind these shut doors. No other woman could help
This conviction came to him with terrible force out there in the
His philosophy left him; and surly anger took its place. Her
conduct was immoral, inexcusable, worthy of any punishment within
his power. He desired no one but her, and she refused him!
She must really hate him, then! He had never believed it yet.
He did not believe it now. It seemed to him incredible. He felt
as though he had lost for ever his power of judgment. If she, so
soft and yielding as he had always judged her, could take this
decided step--what could not happen?
Then he asked himself again if she were carrying on an intrigue
with Bosinney. He did not believe that she was; he could not
afford to believe such a reason for her conduct--the thought was
not to be faced.
It would be unbearable to contemplate the necessity of making his
marital relations public property. Short of the most convincing
proofs he must still refuse to believe, for he did not wish to
punish himself. And all the time at heart--he did believe.
The moonlight cast a greyish tinge over his figure, hunched
against the staircase wall.
Bosinney was in love with her! He hated the fellow, and would
not spare him now. He could and would refuse to pay a penny
piece over twelve thousand and fifty pounds--the extreme limit
fixed in the correspondence; or rather he would pay, he would pay
and sue him for damages. He would go to Jobling and Boulter and
put the matter in their hands. He would ruin the impecunious
beggar! And suddenly--though what connection between the
thoughts?--he reflected that Irene had no money either. They
were both beggars. This gave him a strange satisfaction.
The silence was broken by a faint creaking through the wall. She
was going to bed at last. Ah! Joy and pleasant dreams! If she
threw the door open wide he would not go in now!
But his lips, that were twisted in a bitter smile, twitched; he
covered his eyes with his hands....
It was late the following afternoon when Soames stood in the
dining-room window gazing gloomily into the Square.
The sunlight still showered on the plane-trees, and in the breeze
their gay broad leaves shone and swung in rhyme to a barrel organ
at the corner. It was playing a waltz, an old waltz that was out
of fashion, with a fateful rhythm in the notes; and it went on
and on, though nothing indeed but leaves danced to the tune.
The woman did not look too gay, for she was tired; and from the
tall houses no one threw her down coppers. She moved the organ
on, and three doors off began again.
It was the waltz they had played at Roger's when Irene had danced
with Bosinney; and the perfume of the gardenias she had worn came
back to Soames, drifted by the malicious music, as it had been
drifted to him then, when she passed, her hair glistening, her
eyes so soft, drawing Bosinney on and on down an endless
The organ woman plied her handle slowly; she had been grinding
her tune all day-grinding it in Sloane Street hard by, grinding
it perhaps to Bosinney himself.
Soames turned, took a cigarette from the carven box, and walked
back to the window. The tune had mesmerized him, and there came
into his view Irene, her sunshade furled, hastening homewards
down the Square, in a soft, rose-coloured blouse with drooping
sleeves, that he did not know. She stopped before the organ,
took out her purse, and gave the woman money.
Soames shrank back and stood where he could see into the hall.
She came in with her latch-key, put down her sunshade, and stood
looking at herself in the glass. Her cheeks were flushed as if
the sun had burned them; her lips were parted in a smile. She
stretched her arms out as though to embrace herself, with a laugh
that for all the world was like a sob.
Soames stepped forward.
"Very-pretty!" he said.
But as though shot she spun round, and would have passed him up
the stairs. He barred the way.
"Why such a hurry?" he said, and his eyes fastened on a curl of
hair fallen loose across her ear....
He hardly recognised her. She seemed on fire, so deep and rich
the colour of her cheeks, her eyes, her lips, and of the unusual
blouse she wore.
She put up her hand and smoothed back the curl. She was
breathing fast and deep, as though she had been running, and with
every breath perfume seemed to come from her hair, and from her
body, like perfume from an opening flower.
"I don't like that blouse," he said slowly, "it's a soft,
He lifted his finger towards her breast, but she dashed his hand
"Don't touch me!" she cried.
He caught her wrist; she wrenched it away.
"And where may you have been?" he asked.
"In heaven--out of this house!" With those words she fled
Outside--in thanksgiving--at the very door, the organ-grinder was
playing the waltz.
And Soames stood motionless. What prevented him from following
Was it that, with the eyes of faith, he saw Bosinney looking down
from that high window in Sloane Street, straining his eyes for
yet another glimpse of Irene's vanished figure, cooling his
flushed face, dreaming of the moment when she flung herself on
his breast--the scent of her still in the air around, and the
sound of her laugh that was like a sob?
Mrs. MAcANDER'S EVIDENCE
Many people, no doubt, including the editor of the 'Ultra
Vivisectionist,' then in the bloom of its first youth, would say
that Soames was less than a man not to have removed the locks
from his wife's doors, and, after beating her soundly, resumed
Brutality is not so deplorably diluted by humaneness as it used
to be, yet a sentimental segment of the population may still be
relieved to learn that he did none of these things. For active
brutality is not popular with Forsytes; they are too
circumspect, and, on the whole, too softhearted. And in Soames
there was some common pride, not sufficient to make him do a
really generous action, but enough to prevent his indulging in an
extremely mean one, except, perhaps, in very hot blood. Above
all this a true Forsyte refused to feel himself ridiculous. Short
of actually beating his wife, he perceived nothing to be done; he
therefore accepted the situation without another word.
Throughout the summer and autumn he continued to go to the
office, to sort his pictures, and ask his friends to dinner.
He did not leave town; Irene refused to go away. The house at
Robin Hill, finished though it was, remained empty and ownerless.
Soames had brought a suit against the Buccaneer, in which he
claimed from him the sum of three hundred and fifty pounds.
A firm of solicitors, Messrs. Freak and Able, had put in a
defence on Bosinney's behalf. Admitting the facts, they raised a
point on the correspondence which, divested of legal phraseology,
amounted to this: To speak of 'a free hand in the terms of this
correspondence' is an Irish bull.
By a chance, fortuitous but not improbable in the close borough
of legal circles, a good deal of information came to Soames' ear
anent this line of policy, the working partner in his firm,
Bustard, happening to sit next at dinner at Walmisley's, the
Taxing Master, to young Chankery, of the Common Law Bar.
The necessity for talking what is known as 'shop,' which comes on
all lawyers with the removal of the ladies, caused Chankery, a
young and promising advocate, to propound an impersonal conundrum
to his neighbour, whose name he did not know, for, seated as he
permanently was in the background, Bustard had practically no
He had, said Chankery, a case coming on with a 'very nice point.'
He then explained, preserving every professional discretion, the
riddle in Soames' case. Everyone, he said, to whom he had
spoken, thought it a nice point. The issue was small
unfortunately, 'though d----d serious for his client he
believed'--Walmisley's champagne was bad but plentiful. A Judge
would make short work of it, he was afraid. He intended to make
a big effort--the point was a nice one. What did his neighbour
Bustard, a model of secrecy, said nothing. He related the
incident to Soames however with some malice, for this quiet man
was capable of human feeling, ending with his own opinion that
the point was 'a very nice one.'
In accordance with his resolve, our Forsyte had put his interests
into the hands of Jobling and Boulter. From the moment of doing
so he regretted that he had not acted for himself. On receiving
a copy of Bosinney's defence he went over to their offices.
Boulter, who had the matter in hand, Jobling having died some
years before, told him that in his opinion it was rather a nice
point; he would like counsel's opinion on it.
Soames told him to go to a good man, and they went to Waterbuck,
Q.C., marking him ten and one, who kept the papers six weeks and
then wrote as follows
'In my opinion the true interpretation of this correspondence
depends very much on the intention of the parties, and will turn
upon the evidence given at the trial. I am of opinion that an
attempt should be made to secure from the architect an admission
that he understood he was not to spend at the outside more than
twelve thousand and fifty pounds. With regard to the expression,
"a free hand in the terms of this correspondence," to which my
attention is directed, the point is a nice one; but I am of
opinion that upon the whole the ruling in "Boileau v. The
Blasted Cement Co., Ltd.," will apply.'
Upon this opinion they acted, administering interrogatories, but
to their annoyance Messrs. Freak and Able answered these in so
masterly a fashion that nothing whatever was admitted and that
It was on October 1 that Soames read Waterbuck's opinion, in the
dining-room before dinner.
It made him nervous; not so much because of the case of 'Boileau
v. The Blasted Cement Co., Ltd.,' as that the point had lately
begun to seem to him, too, a nice one; there was about it just
that pleasant flavour of subtlety so attractive to the best legal
appetites. To have his own impression confirmed by Waterbuck,
Q.C., would have disturbed any man.
He sat thinking it over, and staring at the empty grate, for
though autumn had come, the weather kept as gloriously fine that
jubilee year as if it were still high August. It was not
pleasant to be disturbed; he desired too passionately to set his
foot on Bosinney's neck.
Though he had not seen the architect since the last afternoon at
Robin Hill, he was never free from the sense of his presence--
never free from the memory of his worn face with its high cheek
bones and enthusiastic eyes. It would not be too much to say
that he had never got rid of the feeling of that night when he
heard the peacock's cry at dawn--the feeling that Bosinney
haunted the house. And every man's shape that he saw in the dark
evenings walking past, seemed that of him whom George had so
appropriately named the Buccaneer.
Irene still met him, he was certain; where, or how, he neither
knew, nor asked; deterred by a vague and secret dread of too much
knowledge. It all seemed subterranean nowadays.
Sometimes when he questioned his wife as to where she had been,
which he still made a point of doing, as every Forsyte should,
she looked very strange. Her self-possession was wonderful, but
there were moments when, behind the mask of her face, inscrutable
as it had always been to him, lurked an expression he had never
been used to see there.
She had taken to lunching out too; when he asked Bilson if her
mistress had been in to lunch, as often as not she would answer:
He strongly disapproved of her gadding about by herself, and told
her so. But she took no notice. There was something that
angered, amazed, yet almost amused him about the calm way in
which she disregarded his wishes. It was really as if she were
hugging to herself the thought of a triumph over him.
He rose from the perusal of Waterbuck, Q.C.'s opinion, and, going
upstairs, entered her room, for she did not lock her doors till
bed-time--she had the decency, he found, to save the feelings of
the servants. She was brushing her hair, and turned to him with
"What do you want?" she said. "Please leave my room!"
He answered: "I want to know how long this state of things
between us is to last? I have put up with it long enough."
"Will you please leave my room?"
"Will you treat me as your husband?"
"Then, I shall take steps to make you."
He stared, amazed at the calmness of her answer. Her lips were
compressed in a thin line; her hair lay in fluffy masses on her
bare shoulders, in all its strange golden contrast to her dark
eyes--those eyes alive with the emotions of fear, hate, contempt,
and odd, haunting triumph.
"Now, please, will you leave my room?" He turned round, and went
He knew very well that he had no intention of taking steps, and
he saw that she knew too--knew that he was afraid to.
It was a habit with him to tell her the doings of his day: how
such and such clients had called; how he had arranged a mortgage
for Parkes; how that long-standing suit of Fryer v. Forsyte was
getting on, which, arising in the preternaturally careful
disposition of his property by his great uncle Nicholas, who had
tied it up so that no one could get at it at all, seemed likely
to remain a source of income for several solicitors till the Day
And how he had called in at Jobson's, and seen a Boucher sold,
which he had just missed buying of Talleyrand and Sons in Pall
He had an admiration for Boucher, Watteau, and all that school.
It was a habit with him to tell her all these matters, and he
continued to do it even now, talking for long spells at dinner,
as though by the volubility of words he could conceal from
himself the ache in his heart.
Often, if they were alone, he made an attempt to kiss her when
she said good-night. He may have had some vague notion that some
night she would let him; or perhaps only the feeling that a
husband ought to kiss his wife. Even if she hated him, he at all
events ought not to put himself in the wrong by neglecting this
And why did she hate him? Even now he could not altogether
believe it. It was strange to be hated!--the emotion was too
extreme; yet he hated Bosinney, that Buccaneer, that prowling
vagabond, that night-wanderer. For in his thoughts Soames always
saw him lying in wait--wandering. Ah, but he must be in very low
water! Young Burkitt, the architect, had seen him coming out of
a third-rate restaurant, looking terribly down in the mouth!
During all the hours he lay awake, thinking over the situation,
which seemed to have no end--unless she should suddenly come to
her senses--never once did the thought of separating from his
wife seriously enter his head....
And the Forsytes! What part did they play in this stage of
Soames' subterranean tragedy?
Truth to say, little or none, for they were at the sea.
From hotels, hydropathics, or lodging-houses, they were bathing
daily; laying in a stock of ozone to last them through the
Each section, in the vineyard of its own choosing, grew and
culled and pressed and bottled the grapes of a pet sea-air.
The end of September began to witness their several returns.
In rude health and small omnibuses, with considerable colour in
their cheeks, they arrived daily from the various termini. The
following morning saw them back at their vocations.
On the next Sunday Timothy's was thronged from lunch till dinner.
Amongst other gossip, too numerous and interesting to relate,
Mrs. Septimus Small mentioned that Soames and Irene had not been
It remained for a comparative outsider to supply the next
evidence of interest.
It chanced that one afternoon late in September, Mrs. MacAnder,
Winifred Dartie's greatest friend, taking a constitutional, with
young Augustus Flippard, on her bicycle in Richmond Park, passed
Irene and Bosinney walking from the bracken towards the Sheen
Perhaps the poor little woman was thirsty, for she had ridden
long on a hard, dry road, and, as all London knows, to ride a
bicycle and talk to young Flippard will try the toughest
constitution; or perhaps the sight of the cool bracken grove,
whence 'those two' were coming down, excited her envy. The cool
bracken grove on the top of the hill, with the oak boughs for
roof, where the pigeons were raising an endless wedding hymn, and
the autumn, humming, whispered to the ears of lovers in the fern,
while the deer stole by. The bracken grove of irretrievable
delights, of golden minutes in the long marriage of heaven and
earth! The bracken grove, sacred to stags, to strange tree-stump
fauns leaping around the silver whiteness of a birch-tree nymph
at summer dusk
This lady knew all the Forsytes, and having been at June's 'at
home,' was not at a loss to see with whom she had to deal. Her
own marriage, poor thing, had not been successful, but having
had the good sense and ability to force her husband into
pronounced error, she herself had passed through the necessary
divorce proceedings without incurring censure.
She was therefore a judge of all that sort of thing, and lived in
one of those large buildings, where in small sets of apartments,
are gathered incredible quantities of Forsytes, whose chief
recreation out of business hours is the discussion of each
Poor little woman, perhaps she was thirsty, certainly she was
bored, for Flippard was a wit. To see 'those two' in so unlikely
a spot was quite a merciful 'pick-me-up.'
At the MacAnder, like all London, Time pauses.
This small but remarkable woman merits attention; her all-seeing
eye and shrewd tongue were inscrutably the means of furthering
the ends of Providence.
With an air of being in at the death, she had an almost
distressing power of taking care of herself. She had done more,
perhaps, in her way than any woman about town to destroy the
sense of chivalry which still clogs the wheel of civilization.
So smart she was, and spoken of endearingly as 'the little
Dressing tightly and well, she belonged to a Woman's Club, but
was by no means the neurotic and dismal type of member who was
always thinking of her rights. She took her rights unconsciously,
they came natural to her, and she knew exactly how to make the
most of them without exciting anything but admiration amongst
that great class to whom she was affiliated, not precisely
perhaps by manner, but by birth, breeding, and the true, the
secret gauge, a sense of property.
The daughter of a Bedfordshire solicitor, by the daughter of a
clergyman, she had never, through all the painful experience of
being married to a very mild painter with a cranky love of
Nature, who had deserted her for an actress, lost touch with the
requirements, beliefs, and inner feeling of Society; and, on
attaining her liberty, she placed herself without effort in the
very van of Forsyteism.
Always in good spirits, and 'full of information,' she was
universally welcomed. She excited neither surprise nor
disapprobation when encountered on the Rhine or at Zermatt,
either alone, or travelling with a lady and two gentlemen; it was
felt that she was perfectly capable of taking care of herself;
and the hearts of all Forsytes warmed to that wonderful instinct,
which enabled her to enjoy everything without giving anything
away. It was generally felt that to such women as Mrs. MacAnder
should we look for the perpetuation and increase of our best type
of woman. She had never had any children.
If there was one thing more than another that she could not stand
it was one of those soft women with what men called 'charm' about
them, and for Mrs. Soames she always had an especial dislike.
Obscurely, no doubt, she felt that if charm were once admitted as
the criterion, smartness and capability must go to the wall; and
she hated--with a hatred the deeper that at times this so-called
charm seemed to disturb all calculations--the subtle seductiveness
which she could not altogether overlook in Irene.
She said, however, that she could see nothing in the woman--there
was no 'go' about her--she would never be able to stand up for
herself--anyone could take advantage of her, that was plain--she
could not see in fact what men found to admire!
She was not really ill-natured, but, in maintaining her position
after the trying circumstances of her married life, she had found
it so necessary to be 'full of information,' that the idea of
holding her tongue about 'those two' in the Park never occurred
And it so happened that she was dining that very evening at
Timothy's, where she went sometimes to 'cheer the old things up,'
as she was wont to put it. The same people were always asked to
meet her: Winifred Dartie and her husband; Francie, because she
belonged to the artistic circles, for Mrs. MacAnder was known to
contribute articles on dress to 'The Ladies Kingdom Come'; and
for her to flirt with, provided they could be obtained, two of
the Hayman boys, who, though they never said anything, were
believed to be fast and thoroughly intimate with all that was
latest in smart Society.
At twenty-five minutes past seven she turned out the electric
light in her little hall, and wrapped in her opera cloak with the
chinchilla collar, came out into the corridor, pausing a moment
to make sure she had her latch-key. These little self-contained
flats were convenient; to be sure, she had no light and no air,
but she could shut it up whenever she liked and go away. There
was no bother with servants, and she never felt tied as she used
to when poor, dear Fred was always about, in his mooney way. She
retained no rancour against poor, dear Fred, he was such a fool;
but the thought of that actress drew from her, even now, a
little, bitter, derisive smile.
Firmly snapping the door to, she crossed the corridor, with its
gloomy, yellow-ochre walls, and its infinite vista of brown,
numbered doors. The lift was going down; and wrapped to the ears
in the high cloak, with every one of her auburn hairs in its
place, she waited motionless for it to stop at her floor. The
iron gates clanked open; she entered. There were already three
occupants, a man in a great white waistcoat, with a large, smooth
face like a baby's, and two old ladies in black, with mittened
Mrs. MacAnder smiled at them; she knew everybody; and all these
three, who had been admirably silent before, began to talk at
once. This was Mrs. MacAnder's successful secret. She provoked
Throughout a descent of five stories the conversation continued,
the lift boy standing with his back turned, his cynical face
protruding through the bars.
At the bottom they separated, the man in the white waistcoat
sentimentally to the billiard room, the old ladies to dine and
say to each other: "A dear little woman!" "Such a rattle!" and
Mrs. MacAnder to her cab.
When Mrs. MacAnder dined at Timothy's, the conversation (although
Timothy himself could never be induced to be present) took that
wider, man-of-the-world tone current among Forsytes at large, and
this, no doubt, was what put her at a premium there.
Mrs. Small and Aunt Hester found it an exhilarating change. "If
only," they said, "Timothy would meet her!" It was felt that she
would do him good. She could tell you, for instance, the latest
story of Sir Charles Fiste's son at Monte Carlo; who was the real
heroine of Tynemouth Eddy's fashionable novel that everyone was
holding up their hands over, and what they were doing in Paris
about wearing bloomers. She was so sensible, too, knowing all
about that vexed question, whether to send young Nicholas' eldest
into the navy as his mother wished, or make him an accountant as
his father thought would be safer. She strongly deprecated the
navy. If you were not exceptionally brilliant or exceptionally
well connected, they passed you over so disgracefully, and what
was it after all to look forward to, even if you became an
admiral--a pittance! An accountant had many more chances, but
let him be put with a good firm, where there was no risk at
Sometimes she would give them a tip on the Stock Exchange; not
that Mrs. Small or Aunt Hester ever took it. They had indeed no
money to invest; but it seemed to bring them into such exciting
touch with the realities of life. It was an event. They would
ask Timothy, they said. But they never did, knowing in advance
that it would upset him. Surreptitiously, however, for weeks
after they would look in that paper, which they took with respect
on account of its really fashionable proclivities, to see whether
'Bright's Rubies' or 'The Woollen Mackintosh Company' were up or
down. Sometimes they could not find the name of the company at
all; and they would wait until James or Roger or even Swithin
came in, and ask them in voices trembling with curiosity how that
'Bolivia Lime and Speltrate' was doing--they could not find it in
And Roger would answer: "What do you want to know for? Some
trash! You'll go burning your fingers--investing your money in
lime, and things you know nothing about! Who told you?" and
ascertaining what they had been told, he would go away, and,
making inquiries in the City, would perhaps invest some of his
own money in the concern.
It was about the middle of dinner, just in fact as the saddle of
mutton had been brought in by Smither, that Mrs. MacAnder,
looking airily round, said: "Oh! and whom do you think I passed
to-day in Richmond Park? You'll never guess--Mrs. Soames and--
Mr. Bosinney. They must have been down to look at the house!"
Winifred Dartie coughed, and no one said a word. It was the
piece of evidence they had all unconsciously been waiting for.
To do Mrs. MacAnder justice, she had been to Switzerland and the
Italian lakes with a party of three, and had not heard of Soames'
rupture with his architect. She could not tell, therefore, the
profound impression her words would make.
Upright and a little flushed, she moved her small, shrewd eyes
from face to face, trying to gauge the effect of her words. On
either side of her a Hayman boy, his lean, taciturn, hungry face
turned towards his plate, ate his mutton steadily.
These two, Giles and Jesse, were so alike and so inseparable that
they were known as the Dromios. They never talked, and seemed
always completely occupied in doing nothing. It was popularly
supposed that they were cramming for an important examination.
They walked without hats for long hours in the Gardens attached
to their house, books in their hands, a fox-terrier at their
heels, never saying a word, and smoking all the time. Every
morning, about fifty yards apart, they trotted down Campden Hill
on two lean hacks, with legs as long as their own, and every
morning about an hour later, still fifty yards apart, they
cantered up again. Every evening, wherever they had dined, they
might be observed about half-past ten, leaning over the
balustrade of the Alhambra promenade.
They were never seen otherwise than together; in this way passing
their lives, apparently perfectly content.
Inspired by some dumb stirring within them of the feelings of
gentlemen, they turned at this painful moment to Mrs. MacAnder,
and said in precisely the same voice: "Have you seen the...?"
Such was her surprise at being thus addressed that she put down
her fork; and Smither, who was passing, promptly removed her
plate. Mrs. MacAnder, however, with presence of mind, said
instantly: "I must have a little more of that nice mutton."
But afterwards in the drawing--room she sat down by Mrs. Small,
determined to get to the bottom of the matter. And she began:
"What a charming woman, Mrs. Soames; such a sympathetic
temperament! Soames is a really lucky man!"
Her anxiety for information had not made sufficient allowance for
that inner Forsyte skin which refuses to share its troubles with
Mrs. Septimus Small, drawing herself up with a creak and rustle
of her whole person, said, shivering in her dignity:
"My dear, it is a subject we do not talk about!"
NIGHT IN THE PARK
Although with her infallible instinct Mrs. Small had said the
very thing to make her guest 'more intriguee than ever,' it is
difficult to see how else she could truthfully have spoken.
It was not a subject which the Forsytes could talk about even
among themselves--to use the word Soames had invented to
characterize to himself the situation, it was 'subterranean.'
Yet, within a week of Mrs. MacAnder's encounter in Richmond Park,
to all of them--save Timothy, from whom it was carefully kept--to
James on his domestic beat from the Poultry to Park Lane, to
George the wild one, on his daily adventure from the bow window
at the Haversnake to the billiard room at the 'Red Pottle,' was
it known that 'those two' had gone to extremes.
George (it was he who invented many of those striking expressions
still current in fashionable circles) voiced the sentiment more
accurately than any one when he said to his brother Eustace that
'the Buccaneer' was 'going it'; he expected Soames was about 'fed
It was felt that he must be, and yet, what could be done? He
ought perhaps to take steps; but to take steps would be
Without an open scandal which they could not see their way to
recommending, it was difficult to see what steps could be taken.
In this impasse, the only thing was to say nothing to Soames, and
nothing to each other; in fact, to pass it over.
By displaying towards Irene a dignified coldness, some impression
might be made upon her; but she was seldom now to be seen, and
there seemed a slight difficulty in seeking her out on purpose to
show her coldness. Sometimes in the privacy of his bedroom James
would reveal to Emily the real suffering that his son's
misfortune caused him.
"I can't tell," he would say; "it worries me out of my life.
There'll be a scandal, and that'll do him no good. I shan't say
anything to him. There might be nothing in it. What do you
think? She's very artistic, they tell me. What? Oh, you're a
'regular Juley! Well, I don't know; I expect the worst. This is
what comes of having no children. I knew how it would be from
the first. They never told me they didn't mean to have any
children--nobody tells me anything!"
On his knees by the side of the bed, his eyes open and fixed with
worry, he would breathe into the counterpane. Clad in his
nightshirt, his neck poked forward, his back rounded, he
resembled some long white bird.
"Our Father-," he repeated, turning over and over again the
thought of this possible scandal.
Like old Jolyon, he, too, at the bottom of his heart set the
blame of the tragedy down to family interference. What business
had that lot--he began to think of the Stanhope Gate branch,
including young Jolyon and his daughter, as 'that lot'--to
introduce a person like this Bosinney into the family? (He had
heard George's soubriquet, 'The Buccaneer,' but he could make
nothing of that--the young man was an architect.)
He began to feel that his brother Jolyon, to whom he had always
looked up and on whose opinion he had relied, was not quite what
he had expected.
Not having his eldest brother's force of character, he was more
sad than angry. His great comfort was to go to Winifred's, and
take the little Darties in his carriage over to Kensington
Gardens, and there, by the Round Pond, he could often be seen
walking with his eyes fixed anxiously on little Publius Dartie's
sailing-boat, which he had himself freighted with a penny, as
though convinced that it would never again come to shore; while
little Publius--who, James delighted to say, was not a bit like
his father skipping along under his lee, would try to get him to
bet another that it never would, having found that it always did.
And James would make the bet; he always paid--sometimes as many
as three or four pennies in the afternoon, for the game seemed
never to pall on little Publius--and always in paying he said:
"Now, that's for your money-box. Why, you're getting quite a
rich man!" The thought of his little grandson's growing wealth
was a real pleasure to him. But little Publius knew a
sweet-shop, and a trick worth two of that.
And they would walk home across the Park, James' figure, with
high shoulders and absorbed and worried face, exercising its
tall, lean protectorship, pathetically unregarded, over the
robust child-figures of Imogen and little Publius.
But those Gardens and that Park were not sacred to James.
Forsytes and tramps, children and lovers, rested and wandered day
after day, night after night, seeking one and all some freedom
from labour, from the reek and turmoil of the streets.
The leaves browned slowly, lingering with the sun and summer-like
warmth of the nights.
On Saturday, October 5, the sky that had been blue all day
deepened after sunset to the bloom of purple grapes. There was
no moon, and a clear dark, like some velvety garment, was wrapped
around the trees, whose thinned branches, resembling plumes,
stirred not in the still, warm air. All London had poured into
the Park, draining the cup of summer to its dregs.
Couple after couple, from every gate, they streamed along the
paths and over the burnt grass, and one after another, silently
out of the lighted spaces, stole into the shelter of the feathery
trees, where, blotted against some trunk, or under the shadow of
shrubs, they were lost to all but themselves in the heart of the
To fresh-comers along the paths, these forerunners formed but
part of that passionate dusk, whence only a strange murmur, like
the confused beating of hearts, came forth. But when that murmur
reached each couple in the lamp-light their voices wavered, and
ceased; their arms enlaced, their eyes began seeking, searching,
probing the blackness. Suddenly, as though drawn by invisible
hands, they, too, stepped over the railing, and, silent as
shadows, were gone from the light.
The stillness, enclosed in the far, inexorable roar of the town,
was alive with the myriad passions, hopes, and loves of
multitudes of struggling human atoms; for in spite of the
disapproval of that great body of Forsytes, the Municipal
Council--to whom Love had long been considered, next to the
Sewage Question, the gravest danger to the community--a process
was going on that night in the Park, and in a hundred other
parks, without which the thousand factories, churches, shops,
taxes, and drains, of which they were custodians, were as
arteries without blood, a man without a heart.
The instincts of self-forgetfulness, of passion, and of love,
hiding under the trees, away from the trustees of their
remorseless enemy, the 'sense of property,' were holding a
stealthy revel, and Soames, returning from Bayswater for he had
been alone to dine at Timothy's walking home along the water,
with his mind upon that coming lawsuit, had the blood driven from
his heart by a low laugh and the sound of kisses. He thought of
writing to the Times the next morning, to draw the attention of
the Editor to the condition of our parks. He did not, however,
for he had a horror of seeing his name in print.
But starved as he was, the whispered sounds in the stillness, the
half-seen forms in the dark, acted on him like some morbid
stimulant. He left the path along the water and stole under the
trees, along the deep shadow of little plantations, where the
boughs of chestnut trees hung their great leaves low, and there
was blacker refuge, shaping his course in circles which had for
their object a stealthy inspection of chairs side by side,
against tree-trunks, of enlaced lovers, who stirred at his
Now he stood still on the rise overlooking the Serpentine, where,
in full lamp-light, black against the silver water, sat a couple
who never moved, the woman's face buried on the man's neck--a
single form, like a carved emblem of passion, silent and
And, stung by the sight, Soames hurried on deeper into the shadow
of the trees.
In this search, who knows what he thought and what he sought?
Bread for hunger--light in darkness? Who knows what he expected
to find--impersonal knowledge of the human heart--the end of his
private subterranean tragedy--for, again, who knew, but that each
dark couple, unnamed, unnameable, might not be he and she?
But it could not be such knowledge as this that he was seeking--
the wife of Soames Forsyte sitting in the Park like a common
wench! Such thoughts were inconceivable; and from tree to tree,
with his noiseless step, he passed.
Once he was sworn at; once the whisper, "If only it could always
be like this!" sent the blood flying again from his heart, and he
waited there, patient and dogged, for the two to move. But it
was only a poor thin slip of a shop-girl in her draggled blouse
who passed him, clinging to her lover's arm.
A hundred other lovers too whispered that hope in the stillness
of the trees, a hundred other lovers clung to each other.
But shaking himself with sudden disgust, Soames returned to the
path, and left that seeking for he knew not what.
MEETING AT THE BOTANICAL
Young Jolyon, whose circumstances were not those of a Forsyte,
found at times a difficulty in sparing the money needful for
those country jaunts and researches into Nature, without having
prosecuted which no watercolour artist ever puts brush to paper.
He was frequently, in fact, obliged to take his colour-box into
the Botanical Gardens, and there, on his stool, in the shade of a
monkey-puzzler or in the lee of some India-rubber plant, he would
spend long hours sketching.
An Art critic who had recently been looking at his work had
delivered himself as follows
"In a way your drawings are very good; tone and colour, in some
of them certainly quite a feeling for Nature. But, you see,
they're so scattered; you'll never get the public to look at
them. Now, if you'd taken a definite subject, such as 'London by
Night,' or 'The Crystal Palace in the Spring,' and made a regular
series, the public would have known at once what they were
looking at. I can't lay too much stress upon that. All the men
who are making great names in Art, like Crum Stone or Bleeder,
are making them by avoiding the unexpected; by specializing and
putting their works all in the same pigeon-hole, so that the
public know pat once where to go. And this stands to reason, for
if a man's a collector he doesn't want people to smell at the
canvas to find out whom his pictures are by; he wants them to be
able to say at once, 'A capital Forsyte!' It is all the more
important for you to be careful to choose a subject that they can
lay hold of on the spot, since there's no very marked originality
in your style."
Young Jolyon, standing by the little piano, where a bowl of dried
rose leaves, the only produce of the garden, was deposited on a
bit of faded damask, listened with his dim smile.
Turning to his wife, who was looking at the speaker with an angry
expression on her thin face, he said:
"You see, dear?"
"I do not," she answered in her staccato voice, that still had a
little foreign accent; "your style has originality."
The critic looked at her, smiled' deferentially, and said no
more. Like everyone else, he knew their history.
The words bore good fruit with young Jolyon; they were contrary
to all that he believed in, to all that he theoretically held
good in his Art, but some strange, deep instinct moved him
against his will to turn them to profit.
He discovered therefore one morning that an idea had come to him
for making a series of watercolour drawings of London. How the
idea had arisen he could not tell; and it was not till the
following year, when he had completed and sold them at a very
fair price, that in one of his impersonal moods, he found himself
able to recollect the Art critic, and to discover in his own
achievement another proof that he was a Forsyte.
He decided to commence with the Botanical Gardens, where he had
already made so many studies, and chose the little artificial
pond, sprinkled now with an autumn shower of red and yellow
leaves, for though the gardeners longed to sweep them off, they
could not reach them with their brooms. The rest of the gardens
they swept bare enough, removing every morning Nature's rain of
leaves; piling them in heaps, whence from slow fires rose the
sweet, acrid smoke that, like the cuckoo's note for spring, the
scent of lime trees for the summer, is the true emblem of the
fall. The gardeners' tidy souls could not abide the gold and
green and russet pattern on the grass. The gravel paths must lie
unstained, ordered, methodical, without knowledge of the
realities of life, nor of that slow and beautiful decay which
flings crowns underfoot to star the earth with fallen glories,
whence, as the cycle rolls, will leap again wild spring.
Thus each leaf that fell was marked from the moment when it
fluttered a good-bye and dropped, slow turning, from its twig.
But on that little pond the leaves floated in peace, and praised
Heaven with their hues, the sunlight haunting over them.
And so young Jolyon found them.
Coming there one morning in the middle of October, he was
disconcerted to find a bench about twenty paces from his stand
occupied, for he had a proper horror of anyone seeing him at
A lady in a velvet jacket was sitting there, with her eyes fixed
on the ground. A flowering laurel, however, stood between, and,
taking shelter behind this, young Jolyon prepared his easel.
His preparations were leisurely; he caught, as every true artist
should, at anything that might delay for a moment the effort of
his work, and he found himself looking furtively at this unknown
Like his father before him, he had an eye for a face. This face
He saw a rounded chin nestling in a cream ruffle, a delicate face
with large dark eyes and soft lips. A black 'picture' hat
concealed the hair; her figure was lightly poised against the
back of the bench, her knees were crossed; the tip of a
patent-leather shoe emerged beneath her skirt. There was
something, indeed, inexpressibly dainty about the person of this
lady, but young Jolyon's attention was chiefly riveted by the
look on her face, which reminded him of his wife. It was as
though its owner had come into contact with forces too strong for
her. It troubled him, arousing vague feelings of attraction and
chivalry. Who was she? And what doing there, alone?
Two young gentlemen of that peculiar breed, at once forward and
shy, found in the Regent's Park, came by on their way to lawn
tennis, and he noted with disapproval their furtive stares of
admiration. A loitering gardener halted to do something
unnecessary to a clump of pampas grass; he, too, wanted an excuse
for peeping. A gentleman, old, and, by his hat, a professor of
horticulture, passed three times to scrutinize her long and
stealthily, a queer expression about his lips.
With all these men young Jolyon felt the same vague irritation.
She looked at none of them, yet was he certain that every man who
passed would look at her like that.
Her face was not the face of a sorceress, who in every look holds
out to men the offer of pleasure; it had none of the 'devil's
beauty' so highly prized among the first Forsytes of the land;
neither was it of that type, no less adorable, associated with
the box of chocolate; it was not of the spiritually passionate,
or passionately spiritual order, peculiar to house-decoration and
modern poetry; nor did it seem to promise to the playwright
material for the production of the interesting and neurasthenic
figure, who commits suicide in the last act.
In shape and colouring, in its soft persuasive passivity, its
sensuous purity, this woman's face reminded him of Titian's
'Heavenly Love,' a reproduction of which hung over the sideboard
in his dining-room. And her attraction seemed to be in this soft
passivity, in the feeling she gave that to pressure she must
For what or whom was she waiting, in the silence, with the trees
dropping here and there a leaf, and the thrushes strutting close
on grass, touched with the sparkle of the autumn rime? Then her
charming face grew eager, and, glancing round, with almost a
lover's jealousy, young Jolyon saw Bosinney striding across the
Curiously he watched the meeting, the look in their eyes, the
long clasp of their hands. They sat down close together, linked
for all their outward discretion. He heard the rapid murmur of
their talk; but what they said he could not catch.
He had rowed in the galley himself! He knew the long hours of
waiting and the lean minutes of a half-public meeting; the
tortures of suspense that haunt the unhallowed lover.
It required, however, but a glance at their two faces to see that
this was none of those affairs of a season that distract men and
women about town; none of those sudden appetites that wake up
ravening, and are surfeited and asleep again in six weeks. This
was the real thing! This was what had happened to himself! Out
of this anything might come!
Bosinney was pleading, and she so quiet, so soft, yet immovable
in her passivity, sat looking over the grass.
Was he the man to carry her off, that tender, passive being, who
would never stir a step for herself? Who had given him all
herself, and would die for him, but perhaps would never run away
It seemed to young Jolyon that he could hear her saying: "But,
darling, it would ruin you!" For he himself had experienced to
the full the gnawing fear at the bottom of each woman's heart
that she is a drag on the man she loves.
And he peeped at them no more; but their soft, rapid talk came to
his ears, with the stuttering song of some bird who seemed trying
to remember the notes of spring: Joy--tragedy? Which--which?
And gradually their talk ceased; long silence followed.
'And where does Soames come in?' young Jolyon thought. 'People
think she is concerned about the sin of deceiving her husband!
Little they know of women! She's eating, after starvation--
taking her revenge! And Heaven help her--for he'll take his.'
He heard the swish of silk, and, spying round the laurel, saw
them walking away, their hands stealthily joined....
At the end of July old Jolyon had taken his grand-daughter to the
mountains; and on that visit (the last they ever paid) June
recovered to a great extent her health and spirits. In the
hotels, filled with British Forsytes--for old Jolyon could not
bear a 'set of Germans,' as he called all foreigners--she was
looked upon with respect--the only grand-daughter of that fine-
looking, and evidently wealthy, old Mr. Forsyte. She did not mix
freely with people--to mix freely with people was not June's
habit--but she formed some friendships, and notably one in the
Rhone Valley, with a French girl who was dying of consumption.
Determining at once that her friend should not die, she forgot,
in the institution of a campaign against Death, much of her own
Old Jolyon watched the new intimacy with relief and disapproval;
for this additional proof that her life was to be passed amongst
'lame ducks' worried him. Would she never make a friendship or
take an interest in something that would be of real benefit to
'Taking up with a parcel of foreigners,' he called it. He often,
however, brought home grapes or roses, and presented them to
'Mam'zelle' with an ingratiating twinkle.
Towards the end of September, in spite of June's disapproval,
Mademoiselle Vigor breathed her last in the little hotel at St.
Luc, to which they had moved her; and June took her defeat so
deeply to heart that old Jolyon carried her away to Paris. Here,
in contemplation of the 'Venus de Milo' and the 'Madeleine,' she
shook off her depression, and when, towards the middle of
October, they returned to town, her grandfather believed that he
had effected a cure.
No sooner, however, had they established themselves in Stanhope
Gate than he perceived to his dismay a return of her old absorbed
and brooding manner. She would sit, staring in front of her, her
chin on her hand, like a little Norse spirit, grim and intent,
while all around in the electric light, then just installed,
shone the great, drawing-room brocaded up to the frieze, full of
furniture from Baple and Pullbred's. And in the huge gilt mirror
were reflected those Dresden china groups of young men in tight
knee breeches, at the feet of full-bosomed ladies nursing on
their laps pet lambs, which old Jolyon had bought when he was a
bachelor and thought so highly of in these days of degenerate
taste. He was a man of most open mind, who, more than any
Forsyte of them all, had moved with the times, but he could never
forget that he had bought these groups at Jobson's, and given a
lot of money for them. He often said to June, with a sort of
"You don't care about them! They're not the gimcrack things you
and your friends like, but they cost me seventy pounds!" He was
not a man who allowed his taste to be warped when he knew for
solid reasons that it was sound.
One of the first things that June did on getting home was to go
round to Timothy's. She persuaded herself that it was her duty
to call there, and cheer him with an account of all her travels;
but in reality she went because she knew of no other place where,
by some random speech, or roundabout question, she could glean
news of Bosinney.
They received her most cordially: And how was her dear grand-
father? He had not been to see them since May. Her Uncle
Timothy was very poorly, he had had a lot of trouble with the
chimney-sweep in his bedroom; the stupid man had let the soot
down the chimney! It had quite upset her uncle.
June sat there a long time, dreading, yet passionately hoping,
that they would speak of Bosinney.
But paralyzed by unaccountable discretion, Mrs. Septimus Small
let fall no word, neither did she question June about him. In
desperation the girl asked at last whether Soames and Irene were
in town--she had not yet been to see anyone.
It was Aunt Hester who replied: Oh, yes, they were in town, they
had not been away at all. There was some little difficulty about
the house, she believed. June had heard, no doubt! She had
better ask her Aunt Juley!
June turned to Mrs. Small, who sat upright in her chair, her
hands clasped, her face covered with innumerable pouts. In
answer to the girl's look she maintained a strange silence, and
when she spoke it was to ask June whether she had worn night-
socks up in those high hotels where it must be so cold of a
June answered that she had not, she hated the stuffy things; and
rose to leave.
Mrs. Small's infallibly chosen silence was far more ominous to
her than anything that could have been said.
Before half an hour was over she had dragged the truth from Mrs.
Baynes in Lowndes Square, that Soames was bringing an action
against Bosinney over the decoration of the house.
Instead of disturbing her, the news had a strangely calming
effect; as though she saw in the prospect of this struggle new
hope for herself. She learnt that the case was expected to come
on in about a month, and there seemed little or no prospect of
"And whatever he'll do I can't think," said Mrs. Baynes; "it's
very dreadful for him, you know--he's got no money--he's very
hard up. And we can't help him, I'm sure. I'm told the
money-lenders won't lend if you have no security, and he has
none--none at all."
Her embonpoint had increased of late; she was in the full swing
of autumn organization, her writing-table literally strewn with
the menus of charity functions. She looked meaningly at June,
with her round eyes of parrot-grey.
The sudden flush that rose on the girl's intent young face--she
must have seen spring up before her a great hope--the sudden
sweetness of her smile, often came back to Lady Baynes in after
years (Baynes was knighted when he built that public Museum of
Art which has given so much employment to officials, and so
little pleasure to those working classes for whom it was
The memory of that change, vivid and touching, like the breaking
open of a flower, or the first sun after long winter, the memory,
too, of all that came after, often intruded itself, unaccountably,
inopportunely on Lady Baynes, when her mind was set upon the most
This was the very afternoon of the day that young Jolyon
witnessed the meeting in the Botanical Gardens, and on this day,
too, old Jolyon paid a visit to his solicitors, Forsyte, Bustard,
and Forsyte, in the Poultry. Soames was not in, he had gone down
to Somerset House; Bustard was buried up to the hilt in papers
and that inaccessible apartment, where he was judiciously placed,
in order that he might do as much work as possible; but James was
in the front office, biting a finger, and lugubriously turning
over the pleadings in Forsyte v. Bosinney.
This sound lawyer had only a sort of luxurious dread of the 'nice
point,' enough to set up a pleasurable feeling of fuss; for his
good practical sense told him that if he himself were on the
Bench he would not pay much attention to it. But he was afraid
that this Bosinney would go bankrupt and Soames would have to
find the money after all, and costs into the bargain. And behind
this tangible dread there was always that intangible trouble,
lurking in the background, intricate, dim, scandalous, like a bad
dream, and of which this action was but an outward and visible
He raised his head as old Jolyon came in, and muttered: "How are
you, Jolyon? Haven't seen you for an age. You've been to
Switzerland, they tell me. This young Bosinney, he's got himself
into a mess. I knew how it would be!" He held out the papers,
regarding his elder brother with nervous gloom.
Old Jolyon read them in silence, and while he read them James
looked at the floor, biting his fingers the while.
Old Jolyon pitched them down at last, and they fell with a thump
amongst a mass of affidavits in 're Buncombe, deceased,' one of
the many branches of that parent and profitable tree, 'Fryer v.
"I don't know what Soames is about," he said, "to make a fuss
over a few hundred pounds. I thought he was a man of property."
James'long upper lip twitched angrily; he could not bear his son
to be attacked in such a spot.
"It's not the money "he began, but meeting his brother's glance,
direct, shrewd, judicial, he stopped.
There was a silence.
"I've come in for my Will," said old Jolyon at last, tugging at
James' curiosity was roused at once. Perhaps nothing in this
life was more stimulating to him than a Will; it was the supreme
deal with property, the final inventory of a man's belongings,
the last word on what he was worth. He sounded the bell.
"Bring in Mr. Jolyon's Will," he said to an anxious, dark-haired
"You going to make some alterations?" And through his mind there
flashed the thought: 'Now, am I worth as much as he?'
Old Jolyon put the Will in his breast pocket, and James twisted
his long legs regretfully.
"You've made some nice purchases lately, they tell me," he said.
"I don't know where you get your information from," answered old
Jolyon sharply. "When's this action coming on? Next month? I
can't tell what you've got in your minds. You must manage your
own affairs; but if you take my advice, you'll settle it out of
Court. Good-bye!" With a cold handshake he was gone.
James, his fixed grey-blue eye corkscrewing round some secret
anxious image, began again to bite his finger.
Old Jolyon took his Will to the offices of the New Colliery
Company, and sat down in the empty Board Room to read it through.
He answered 'Down-by-the-starn' Hemmings so tartly when the
latter, seeing his Chairman seated there, entered with the new
Superintendent's first report, that the Secretary withdrew with
regretful dignity; and sending for the transfer clerk, blew him
up till the poor youth knew not where to look.
It was not--by George--as he (Down-by-the-starn) would have him
know, for a whippersnapper of a young fellow like him, to come
down to that office, and think that he was God Almighty. He
(Down-by-the-starn) had been head of that office for more years
than a boy like him could count, and if he thought that when he
had finished all his work, he could sit there doing nothing, he
did not know him, Hemmings (Down-by-the-starn), and so forth.
On the other side of the green baize door old Jolyon sat at the
long, mahogany-and-leather board table, his thick, loose-jointed,
tortoiseshell eye-glasses perched on the bridge of his nose, his
gold pencil moving down the clauses of his Will.
It was a simple affair, for there were none of those vexatious
little legacies and donations to charities, which fritter away a
man's possessions, and damage the majestic effect of that little
paragraph in the morning papers accorded to Forsytes who die with
a hundred thousand pounds.
A simple affair. Just a bequest to his son of twenty thousand,
and 'as to the residue of my property of whatsoever kind whether
realty or personalty, or partaking of the nature of either--upon
trust to pay the proceeds rents annual produce dividends or
interest thereof and thereon to my said grand-daughter June
Forsyte or her assigns during her life to be for her sole use and
benefit and without, etc... and from and after her death or
decease upon trust to convey assign transfer or make over the
said last-mentioned lands hereditaments premises trust moneys
stocks funds investments and securities or such as shall then
stand for and represent the same unto such person or persons
whether one or more for such intents purposes and uses and
generally in such manner way and form in all respects as the said
June Forsyte notwithstanding coverture shall by her last Will and
Testament or any writing or writings in the nature of a Will
testament or testamentary disposition to be by her duly made
signed and published direct appoint or make over give and dispose
of the same And in default etc.... Provided always...' and so on,
in seven folios of brief and simple phraseology.
The Will had been drawn by James in his palmy days. He had
foreseen almost every contingency.
Old Jolyon sat a long time reading this Will; at last he took
half a sheet of paper from the rack, and made a prolonged pencil
note; then buttoning up the Will, he caused a cab to be called
and drove to the offices of Paramor and Herring, in Lincoln's Inn
Fields. Jack Herring was dead, but his nephew was still in the
firm, and old Jolyon was closeted with him for half an hour.
He had kept the hansom, and on coming out, gave the driver the
address--3, Wistaria Avenue.
He felt a strange, slow satisfaction, as though he had scored a
victory over James and the man of property. They should not poke
their noses into his affairs any more; he had just cancelled
their trusteeships of his Will; he would take the whole of his
business out of their hands, and put it into the hands of young
Herring, and he would move the business of his Companies too. If
that young Soames were such a man of property, he would never
miss a thousand a year or so; and under his great white moustache
old Jolyon grimly smiled. He felt that what he was doing was in
the nature of retributive justice, richly deserved.
Slowly, surely, with the secret inner process that works the
destruction of an old tree, the poison of the wounds to his
happiness, his will, his pride, had corroded the comely edifice
of his philosophy. Life had worn him down on one side, till,
like that family of which he was the head, he had lost balance.
To him, borne northwards towards his son's house, the thought of
the new disposition of property, which he had just set in motion,
appeared vaguely in the light of a stroke of punishment, levelled
at that family and that Society, of which James and his son
seemed to him the representatives. He had made a restitution to
young Jolyon, and restitution to young Jolyon satisfied his
secret craving for revenge-revenge against Time, sorrow, and
interference, against all that incalculable sum of disapproval
that had been bestowed by the world for fifteen years on his only
son. It presented itself as the one possible way of asserting
once more the domination of his will; of forcing James, and
Soames, and the family, and all those hidden masses of Forsytes--
a great stream rolling against the single dam of his obstinacy--
to recognise once and for all that be would be master. It was
sweet to think that at last he was going to make the boy a richer
man by far than that son of James, that 'man of property.' And it
was sweet to give to Jo, for he loved his son.
Neither young Jolyon nor his wife were in (young Jolyon indeed
was not back from the Botanical), but the little maid told him
that she expected the master at any moment:
"He's always at 'ome to tea, sir, to play with the children."
Old Jolyon said he would wait; and sat down patiently enough in
the faded, shabby drawing room, where, now that the summer
chintzes were removed, the old chairs and sofas revealed all
their threadbare deficiencies. He longed to send for the
children; to have them there beside him, their supple bodies
against his knees; to hear Jolly's: "Hallo, Gran!" and see his
rush; and feel Holly's soft little hand stealing up against his
cheek. But he would not. There was solemnity in what he had
come to do, and until it was over he would not play. He amused
himself by thinking how with two strokes of his pen he was going
to restore the look of caste so conspicuously absent from
everything in that little house; how he could fill these rooms,
or others in some larger mansion, with triumphs of art from Baple
and Pullbred's; how he could send little Jolly to Harrow and
Oxford (he no longer had faith in Eton and Cambridge, for his son
had been there); how he could procure little Holly the best
musical instruction, the child had a remarkable aptitude.
As these visions crowded before him, causing emotion to swell his
heart, he rose, and stood at the window, looking down into the
little walled strip of garden, where the pear-tree, bare of
leaves before its time, stood with gaunt branches in the
slow-gathering mist of the autumn afternoon. The dog Balthasar,
his tail curled tightly over a piebald, furry back, was walking
at the farther end, sniffing at the plants, and at intervals
placing his leg for support against the wall.
And old Jolyon mused.
What pleasure was there left but to give? It was pleasant to
give, when you could find one who would be thankful for what you
gave--one of your own flesh and blood! There was no such
satisfaction to be had out of giving to those who did not belong
to you, to those who had no claim on you! Such giving as that
was a betrayal of the individualistic convictions and actions of
his life, of all his enterprise, his labour, and his moderation,
of the great and proud fact that, like tens of thousands of
Forsytes before him, tens of thousands in the present, tens of
thousands in the future, he had always made his own, and held his
own, in the world.
And, while he stood there looking down on the smut-covered
foliage of the laurels, the black-stained grass-plot, the progress
of the dog Balthasar, all the suffering of the fifteen years
during which he had been baulked of legitimate enjoyment mingled
its gall with the sweetness of the approaching moment.
Young Jolyon came at last, pleased with his work, and fresh from
long hours in the open air. On hearing that his father was in
the drawing room, he inquired hurriedly whether Mrs. Forsyte was
at home, and being informed that she was not, heaved a sigh of
relief. Then putting his painting materials carefully in the
little coat-closet out of sight, he went in.
With characteristic decision old Jolyon came at once to the
point. "I've been altering my arrangements, Jo," he said. "You
can cut your coat a bit longer in the future--I'm settling a
thousand a year on you at once. June will have fifty thousand at
my death; and you the rest. That dog of yours is spoiling the
garden. I shouldn't keep a dog, if I were you!"
The dog Balthasar, seated in the centre of the lawn, was
examining his tail.
Young Jolyon looked at the animal, but saw him dimly, for his
eyes were misty.
"Yours won't come short of a hundred thousand, my boy," said old
Jolyon; "I thought you'd better know. I haven't much longer to
live at my age. I shan't allude to it again. How's your wife?
And--give her my love."
Young Jolyon put his hand on his father's shoulder, and, as
neither spoke, the episode closed.
Having seen his father into a hansom, young Jolyon came back to
the drawing-room and stood, where old Jolyon had stood, looking
down on the little garden. He tried to realize all that this
meant to him, and, Forsyte that he was, vistas of property were
opened out in his brain; the years of half rations through which
he had passed had not sapped his natural instincts. In extremely
practical form, he thought of travel, of his wife's costume, the
children's education, a pony for Jolly, a thousand things; but in
the midst of all he thought, too, of Bosinney and his mistress,
and the broken song of the thrush. Joy--tragedy! Which? Which?
The old past--the poignant, suffering, passionate, wonderful
past, that no money could buy, that nothing could restore in all
its burning sweetness--had come back before him.
When his wife came in he went straight up to her and took her in
his arms; and for a long time he stood without speaking, his eyes
closed, pressing her to him, while she looked at him with a
wondering, adoring, doubting look in her eyes.
VOYAGE INTO THE INFERNO
The morning after a certain night on which Soames at last
asserted his rights and acted like a man, he breakfasted alone.
He breakfasted by gaslight, the fog of late November wrapping the
town as in some monstrous blanket till the trees of the Square
even were barely visible from the dining-room window.
He ate steadily, but at times a sensation as though he could not
swallow attacked him. Had he been right to yield to his
overmastering hunger of the night before, and break down the
resistance which he had suffered now too long from this woman who
was his lawful and solemnly constituted helpmate?
He was strangely haunted by the recollection of her face, from
before which, to soothe her, he had tried to pull her hands--of
her terrible smothered sobbing, the like of which he had never
heard, and still seemed to hear; and he was still haunted by the
odd, intolerable feeling of remorse and shame he had felt, as he
stood looking at her by the flame of the single candle, before
silently slinking away.
And somehow, now that he had acted like this, he was surprised at
Two nights before, at Winifred Dartie's, he had taken Mrs.
MacAnder into dinner. She had said to him, looking in his face
with her sharp, greenish eyes: "And so your wife is a great
friend of that Mr. Bosinney's?"
Not deigning to ask what she meant, he had brooded over her
They had roused in him a fierce jealousy, which, with the
peculiar perversion of this instinct, had turned to fiercer
Without the incentive of Mrs. MacAnder's words he might never
have done what he had done. Without their incentive and the
accident of finding his wife's door for once unlocked, which had
enabled him to steal upon her asleep.
Slumber had removed his doubts, but the morning brought them
again. One thought comforted him: No one would know--it was not
the sort of thing that she would speak about.
And, indeed, when the vehicle of his daily business life, which
needed so imperatively the grease of clear and practical thought,
started rolling once more with the reading of his letters, those
nightmare-like doubts began to assume less extravagant importance
at the back of his mind. The incident was really not of great
moment; women made a fuss about it in books; but in the cool
judgment of right-thinking men, of men of the world, of such as
he recollected often received praise in the Divorce Court, he had
but done his best to sustain the sanctity of marriage, to prevent
her from abandoning her duty, possibly, if she were still seeing
No, he did not regret it.
Now that the first step towards reconciliation had been taken,
the rest would be comparatively--comparatively....
He, rose and walked to the window. His nerve had been shaken.
The sound of smothered sobbing was in his ears again. He could
not get rid of it.
He put on his fur coat, and went out into the fog; having to go
into the City, he took the underground railway from Sloane Square
In his corner of the first-class compartment filled with City men
the smothered sobbing still haunted him, so he opened the Times
with the rich crackle that drowns all lesser sounds, and,
barricaded behind it, set himself steadily to con the news.
He read that a Recorder had charged a grand jury on the previous
day with a more than usually long list of offences. He read of
three murders, five manslaughters, seven arsons, and as many as
eleven rapes--a surprisingly high number--in addition to many
less conspicuous crimes, to be tried during a coming Sessions;
and from one piece of news he went on to another, keeping the
paper well before his face.
And still, inseparable from his reading, was the memory of
Irene's tear-stained face, and the sounds from her broken heart.
The day was a busy one, including, in addition to the ordinary
affairs of his practice, a visit to his brokers, Messrs. Grin
and Grinning, to give them instructions to sell his shares in the
New Colliery Co., Ltd., whose business he suspected, rather than
knew, was stagnating (this enterprise afterwards slowly declined,
and was ultimately sold for a song to an American syndicate); and
a long conference at Waterbuck, Q.C.'s chambers, attended by
Boulter, by Fiske, the junior counsel, and Waterbuck, Q.C.,
The case of Forsyte v. Bosinney was expected to be reached on
the morrow, before Mr. Justice Bentham.
Mr. Justice Bentham, a man of common-sense rather than too great
legal knowledge, was considered to be about the best man they
could have to try the action. He was a 'strong' Judge.
Waterbuck, Q.C., in pleasing conjunction with an almost rude
neglect of Boulter and Fiske paid to Soames a good deal of
attention, by instinct or the sounder evidence of rumour, feeling
him to be a man of property.
He held with remarkable consistency to the opinion he had already
expressed in writing, that the issue would depend to a great
extent on the evidence given at the trial, and in a few well
directed remarks he advised Soames not to be too careful in
giving that evidence. "A little bluffness, Mr. Forsyte," he said,
"a little bluffness," and after he had spoken he laughed firmly,
closed his lips tight, and scratched his head just below where he
had pushed his wig back, for all the world like the gentleman-
farmer for whom he loved to be taken. He was considered perhaps
the leading man in breach of promise cases.
Soames used the underground again in going home.
The fog was worse than ever at Sloane Square station. Through
the still, thick blur, men groped in and out; women, very few,
grasped their reticules to their bosoms and handkerchiefs to
their mouths; crowned with the weird excrescence of the driver,
haloed by a vague glow of lamp-light that seemed to drown in
vapour before it reached the pavement, cabs loomed dim-shaped ever
and again, and discharged citizens, bolting like rabbits to their
And these shadowy figures, wrapped each in his own little shroud
of fog, took no notice of each other. In the great warren, each
rabbit for himself, especially those clothed in the more
expensive fur, who, afraid of carriages on foggy days, are driven
One figure, however, not far from Soames, waited at the station
Some buccaneer or lover, of whom each Forsyte thought: 'Poor
devil! looks as if he were having a bad time!' Their kind hearts
beat a stroke faster for that poor, waiting, anxious lover in the
fog; but they hurried by, well knowing that they had neither time