Part 7 out of 8
nor money to spare for any suffering but their own.
Only a policeman, patrolling slowly and at intervals, took an
interest in that waiting figure, the brim of whose slouch hat
half hid a face reddened by the cold, all thin, and haggard, over
which a hand stole now and again to smooth away anxiety, or renew
the resolution that kept him waiting there. But the waiting
lover (if lover he were) was used to policemen's scrutiny, or too
absorbed in his anxiety, for he never flinched. A hardened case,
accustomed to long trysts, to anxiety, and fog, and cold, if only
his mistress came at last. Foolish lover! Fogs last until the
spring; there is also snow and rain, no comfort anywhere; gnawing
fear if you bring her out, gnawing fear if you bid her stay at
"Serve him right; he should arrange his affairs better!"
So any respectable Forsyte. Yet, if that sounder citizen could
have listened at the waiting lover's heart, out there in the fog
and the cold, he would have said again: "Yes, poor devil he's
having a bad time!"
Soames got into his cab, and, with the glass down, crept along
Sloane Street, and so along the Brompton Road, and home. He
reached his house at five.
His wife was not in. She had gone out a quarter of an hour
before. Out at such a time of night, into this terrible fog!
What was the meaning of that?
He sat by the dining-room fire, with the door open, disturbed to
the soul, trying to read the evening paper. A book was no good--
in daily papers alone was any narcotic to such worry as his.
From the customary events recorded in the journal he drew some
comfort. 'Suicide of an actress'--'Grave indisposition of a
Statesman' (that chronic sufferer)--'Divorce of an army officer'
--'Fire in a colliery'--he read them all. They helped him a
little--prescribed by the greatest of all doctors, our natural
It was nearly seven when he heard her come in.
The incident of the night before had long lost its importance
under stress of anxiety at her strange sortie into the fog. But
now that Irene was home, the memory of her broken-hearted sobbing
came back to him, and he felt nervous at the thought of facing
She was already on the stairs; her grey fur coat hung to her
knees, its high collar almost hid her face, she wore a thick
She neither turned to look at him nor spoke. No ghost or
stranger could have passed more silently.
Bilson came to lay dinner, and told him that Mrs. Forsyte was not
coming down; she was having the soup in her room.
For once Soames did not 'change'; it was, perhaps, the first time
in his life that he had sat down to dinner with soiled cuffs,
and, not even noticing them, he brooded long over his wine. He
sent Bilson to light a fire in his picture-room, and presently
went up there himself.
Turning on the gas, he heaved a deep sigh, as though amongst
these treasures, the backs of which confronted him in stacks,
around the little room, he had found at length his peace of mind.
He went straight up to the greatest treasure of them all, an
undoubted Turner, and, carrying it to the easel, turned its face
to the light. There had been a movement in Turners, but he had
not been able to make up his mind to part with it. He stood for
a long time, his pale, clean-shaven face poked forward above his
stand-up collar, looking at the picture as though he were adding
it up; a wistful expression came into his eyes; he found,
perhaps, that it came to too little. He took it down from the
easel to put it back against the wall; but, in crossing the room,
stopped, for he seemed to hear sobbing.
It was nothing--only the sort of thing that had been bothering
him in the morning. And soon after, putting the high guard
before the blazing fire, he stole downstairs.
Fresh for the morrow! was his thought. It was long before he
went to sleep....
It is now to George Forsyte that the mind must turn for light on
the events of that fog-engulfed afternoon.
The wittiest and most sportsmanlike of the Forsytes had passed
the day reading a novel in the paternal mansion at Princes'
Gardens. Since a recent crisis in his financial affairs he had
been kept on parole by Roger, and compelled to reside 'at home.'
Towards five o'clock he went out, and took train at South
Kensington Station (for everyone to-day went Underground). His
intention was to dine, and pass the evening playing billiards at
the Red Pottle--that unique hostel, neither club, hotel, nor good
He got out at Charing Cross, choosing it in preference to his
more usual St. James's Park, that he might reach Jermyn Street
by better lighted ways.
On the platform his eyes--for in combination with a composed and
fashionable appearance, George had sharp eyes, and was always on
the look-out for fillips to his sardonic humour--his eyes were
attracted by a man, who, leaping from a first-class compartment,
staggered rather than walked towards the exit.
'So ho, my bird!' said George to himself; 'why, it's "the
Buccaneer!"' and he put his big figure on the trail. Nothing
afforded him greater amusement than a drunken man.
Bosinney, who wore a slouch hat, stopped in front of him, spun
around, and rushed back towards the carriage he had just left.
He was too late. A porter caught him by the coat; the train was
already moving on.
George's practised glance caught sight of the face of a lady clad
in a grey fur coat at the carriage window. It was Mrs. Soames--
and George felt that this was interesting!
And now he followed Bosinney more closely than ever--up the
stairs, past the ticket collector into the street. In that
progress, however, his feelings underwent a change; no longer
merely curious and amused, he felt sorry for the poor fellow he
was shadowing. 'The Buccaneer' was not drunk, but seemed to be
acting under the stress of violent emotion; he was talking to
himself, and all that George could catch were the words "Oh,
God!" Nor did he appear to know what he was doing, or where
going; but stared, hesitated, moved like a man out of his mind;
and from being merely a joker in search of amusement, George felt
that he must see the poor chap through.
He had 'taken the knock'--'taken the knock!' And he wondered what
on earth Mrs. Soames had been saying, what on earth she had been
telling him in the railway carriage. She had looked bad enough
herself! It made George sorry to think of her travelling on with
her trouble all alone.
He followed close behind Bosinney's elbow--tall, burly figure,
saying nothing, dodging warily--and shadowed him out into the
There was something here beyond a jest! He kept his head
admirably, in spite of some excitement, for in addition to
compassion, the instincts of the chase were roused within him.
Bosinney walked right out into the thoroughfare--a vast muffled
blackness, where a man could not see six paces before him; where,
all around, voices or whistles mocked the sense of direction; and
sudden shapes came rolling slow upon them; and now and then a
light showed like a dim island in an infinite dark sea.
And fast into this perilous gulf of night walked Bosinney, and
fast after him walked George. If the fellow meant to put his
'twopenny' under a 'bus, he would stop it if he could! Across
the street and back the hunted creature strode, not groping as
other men were groping in that gloom, but driven forward as
though the faithful George behind wielded a knout; and this chase
after a haunted man began to have for George the strangest
But it was now that the affair developed in a way which ever
afterwards caused it to remain green in his mind. Brought to a
stand-still in the fog, he heard words which threw a sudden light
on these proceedings. What Mrs. Soames had said to Bosinney in
the train was now no longer dark. George understood from those
mutterings that Soames had exercised his rights over an estranged
and unwilling wife in the greatest--the supreme act of property.
His fancy wandered in the fields of this situation; it impressed
him; he guessed something of the anguish, the sexual confusion
and horror in Bosinney's heart. And he thought: 'Yes, it's a bit
thick! I don't wonder the poor fellow is half-cracked!'
He had run his quarry to earth on a bench under one of the lions
in Trafalgar Square, a monster sphynx astray like themselves in
that gulf of darkness. Here, rigid and silent, sat Bosinney, and
George, in whose patience was a touch of strange brotherliness,
took his stand behind. He was not lacking in a certain delicacy-
-a sense of form--that did not permit him to intrude upon this
tragedy, and he waited, quiet as the lion above, his fur collar
hitched above his ears concealing the fleshy redness of his
cheeks, concealing all but his eyes with their sardonic,
compassionate stare. And men kept passing back from business on
the way to their clubs--men whose figures shrouded in cocoons of
fog came into view like spectres, and like spectres vanished.
Then even in his compassion George's Quilpish humour broke forth
in a sudden longing to pluck these spectres by the sleeve, and
"Hi, you Johnnies! You don't often see a show like this! Here's
a poor devil whose mistress has just been telling him a pretty
little story of her husband; walk up, walk up! He's taken the
knock, you see."
In fancy he saw them gaping round the tortured lover; and grinned
as he thought of some respectable, newly-married spectre enabled
by the state of his own affections to catch an inkling of what
was going on within Bosinney; he fancied he could see his mouth
getting wider and wider, and the fog going down and down. For in
George was all that contempt of the of the married middle-class--
peculiar to the wild and sportsmanlike spirits in its ranks.
But he began to be bored. Waiting was not what he had bargained
'After all,' he thought, 'the poor chap will get over it; not the
first time such a thing has happened in this little city!' But
now his quarry again began muttering words of violent hate and
anger. And following a sudden impulse George touched him on the
Bosinney spun round.
"Who are you? What do you want?"
George could have stood it well enough in the light of the gas
lamps, in the light of that everyday world of which he was so
hardy a connoisseur; but in this fog, where all was gloomy and
unreal, where nothing had that matter-of-fact value associated by
Forsytes with earth, he was a victim to strange qualms, and as he
tried to stare back into the eyes of this maniac, he thought:
'If I see a bobby, I'll hand him over; he's not fit to be at
But waiting for no answer, Bosinney strode off into the fog, and
George followed, keeping perhaps a little further off, yet more
than ever set on tracking him down.
'He can't go on long like this,' he thought. 'It's God's own
miracle he's not been run over already.' He brooded no more on
policemen, a sportsman's sacred fire alive again within him.
Into a denser gloom than ever Bosinney held on at a furious pace;
but his pursuer perceived more method in his madness--he was
clearly making his way westwards.
'He's really going for Soames!' thought George. The idea was
attractive. It would be a sporting end to such a chase. He had
always disliked his cousin.
The shaft of a passing cab brushed against his shoulder and made
him leap aside. He did not intend to be killed for the Buccaneer,
or anyone. Yet, with hereditary tenacity, he stuck to the trail
through vapour that blotted out everything but the shadow of the
hunted man and the dim moon of the nearest lamp.
Then suddenly, with the instinct of a town-stroller, George knew
himself to be in Piccadilly. Here he could find his way blindfold;
and freed from the strain of geographical uncertainty, his mind
returned to Bosinney's trouble.
Down the long avenue of his man-about-town experience, bursting,
as it were, through a smirch of doubtful amours, there stalked to
him a memory of his youth. A memory, poignant still, that brought
the scent of hay, the gleam of moonlight, a summer magic, into
the reek and blackness of this London fog--the memory of a night
when in the darkest shadow of a lawn he had overheard from a
woman's lips that he was not her sole possessor. And for a moment
George walked no longer in black Piccadilly, but lay again, with
hell in his heart, and his face to the sweet-smelling, dewy grass,
in the long shadow of poplars that hid the moon.
A longing seized him to throw his arm round the Buccaneer, and
say, "Come, old boy. Time cures all. Let's go and drink it off!"
But a voice yelled at him, and he started back. A cab rolled out
of blackness, and into blackness disappeared. And suddenly
George perceived that he had lost Bosinney. He ran forward and
back, felt his heart clutched by a sickening fear, the dark fear
which lives in the wings of the fog. Perspiration started out on
his brow. He stood quite still, listening with all his might.
"And then," as he confided to Dartie the same evening in the
course of a game of billiards at the Red Pottle, "I lost him."
Dartie twirled complacently at his dark moustache. He had just
put together a neat break of twenty-three,--failing at a 'Jenny.'
"And who was she?" he asked.
George looked slowly at the 'man of the world's' fattish, sallow
face, and a little grim smile lurked about the curves of his
cheeks and his heavy-lidded eyes.
'No, no, my fine fellow,' he thought, 'I'm not going to tell
you.' For though he mixed with Dartie a good deal, he thought him
a bit of a cad.
"Oh, some little love-lady or other," he said, and chalked his
"A love-lady!" exclaimed Dartie--he used a more figurative
expression. "I made sure it was our friend Soa...."
"Did you?" said George curtly. "Then damme you've made an
He missed his shot. He was careful not to allude to the subject
again till, towards eleven o'clock, having, in his poetic
phraseology, 'looked upon the drink when it was yellow,' he drew
aside the blind, and gazed out into the street. The murky
blackness of the fog was but faintly broken by the lamps of the
'Red Pottle,' and no shape of mortal man or thing was in sight.
"I can't help thinking of that poor Buccaneer," he said. "He may
be wandering out there now in that fog. If he's not a corpse,"
he added with strange dejection.
"Corpse!" said Dartie, in whom the recollection of his defeat at
Richmond flared up. "He's all right. Ten to one if he wasn't
George turned on him, looking really formidable, with a sort of
savage gloom on his big face.
"Dry up!" he said. "Don't I tell you he's 'taken the knock!"'
In the morning of his case, which was second in the list, Soames
was again obliged to start without seeing Irene, and it was just
as well, for he had not as yet made up his mind what attitude to
adopt towards her.
He had been requested to be in court by half-past ten, to provide
against the event of the first action (a breach of promise)
collapsing, which however it did not, both sides showing a
courage that afforded Waterbuck, Q.C., an opportunity for
improving his already great reputation in this class of case. He
was opposed by Ram, the other celebrated breach of promise man.
It was a battle of giants.
The court delivered judgment just before the luncheon interval.
The jury left the box for good, and Soames went out to get
something to eat. He met James standing at the little luncheon-
bar, like a pelican in the wilderness of the galleries, bent over
a sandwich with a glass of sherry before him. The spacious
emptiness of the great central hall, over which father and son
brooded as they stood together, was marred now and then for a
fleeting moment by barristers in wig and gown hurriedly bolting
across, by an occasional old lady or rusty-coated man, looking up
in a frightened way, and by two persons, bolder than their
generation, seated in an embrasure arguing. The sound of their
voices arose, together with a scent as of neglected wells, which,
mingling with the odour of the galleries, combined to form the
savour, like nothing but the emanation of a refined cheese, so
indissolubly connected with the administration of British
It was not long before James addressed his son.
"When's your case coming on? I suppose it'll be on directly. I
shouldn't wonder if this Bosinney'd say anything; I should think
he'd have to. He'll go bankrupt if it goes against him." He took
a large bite at his sandwich and a mouthful of sherry. "Your
mother," he said, "wants you and Irene to come and dine
A chill smile played round Soames' lips; he looked back at his
father. Anyone who had seen the look, cold and furtive, thus
interchanged, might have been pardoned for not appreciating the
real understanding between them. James finished his sherry at a
"How much?" he asked.
On returning to the court Soames took at once his rightful seat
on the front bench beside his solicitor. He ascertained where
his father was seated with a glance so sidelong as to commit
James, sitting back with his hands clasped over the handle of his
umbrella, was brooding on the end of the bench immediately behind
counsel, whence he could get away at once when the case was over.
He considered Bosinney's conduct in every way outrageous, but he
did not wish to run up against him, feeling that the meeting
would be awkward.
Next to the Divorce Court, this court was, perhaps, the favourite
emporium of justice, libel, breach of promise, and other
commercial actions being frequently decided there. Quite a
sprinkling of persons unconnected with the law occupied the back
benches, and the hat of a woman or two could be seen in the
The two rows of seats immediately in front of James were
gradually filled by barristers in wigs, who sat down to make
pencil notes, chat, and attend to their teeth; but his interest
was soon diverted from these lesser lights of justice by the
entrance of Waterbuck, Q.C., with the wings of his silk gown
rustling, and his red, capable face supported by two short, brown
whiskers. The famous Q.C. looked, as James freely admitted, the
very picture of a man who could heckle a witness.
For all his experience, it so happened that he had never seen
Waterbuck, Q.C., before, and, like many Forsytes in the lower
branch of the profession, he had an extreme admiration for a good
cross-examiner. The long, lugubrious folds in his cheeks relaxed
somewhat after seeing him, especially as he now perceived that
Soames alone was represented by silk.
Waterbuck, Q.C., had barely screwed round on his elbow to chat
with his Junior before Mr. Justice Bentham himself appeared--a
thin, rather hen-like man, with a little stoop, clean-shaven
under his snowy wig. Like all the rest of the court, Waterbuck
rose, and remained on his feet until the judge was seated. James
rose but slightly; he was already comfortable, and had no opinion
of Bentham, having sat next but one to him at dinner twice at the
Bumley Tomms'. Bumley Tomm was rather a poor thing, though he
had been so successful. James himself had given him his first
brief. He was excited, too, for he had just found out that
Bosinney was not in court.
'Now, what's he mean by that?' he kept on thinking.
The case having been called on, Waterbuck, Q.C., pushing back his
papers, hitched his gown on his shoulder, and, with a
semi-circular look around him, like a man who is going to bat,
arose and addressed the Court.
The facts, he said, were not in dispute, and all that his
Lordship would be asked was to interpret the correspondence which
had taken place between his client and the defendant, an
architect, with reference to the decoration of a house. He
would, however, submit that this correspondence could only mean
one very plain thing. After briefly reciting the history of the
house at Robin Hill, which he described as a mansion, and the
actual facts of expenditure, he went on as follows:
"My client, Mr. Soames Forsyte, is a gentleman, a man of
property, who would be the last to dispute any legitimate claim
that might be made against him, but he has met with such
treatment from his architect in the matter of this house, over
which he has, as your lordship has heard, already spent some
twelve--some twelve thousand pounds, a sum considerably in
advance of the amount he had originally contemplated, that as a
matter of principle--and this I cannot too strongly emphasize--as
a matter of principle, and in the interests of others, he has
felt himself compelled to bring this action. The point put
forward in defence by the architect I will suggest to your
lordship is not worthy of a moment's serious consideration." He
then read the correspondence.
His client, "a man of recognised position," was prepared to go
into the box, and to swear that he never did authorize, that it
was never in his mind to authorize, the expenditure of any money
beyond the extreme limit of twelve thousand and fifty pounds,
which he had clearly fixed; and not further to waste the time of
the court, he would at once call Mr. Forsyte.
Soames then went into the box. His whole appearance was striking
in its composure. His face, just supercilious enough, pale and
clean-shaven, with a little line between the eyes, and compressed
lips; his dress in unostentatious order, one hand neatly gloved,
the other bare. He answered the questions put to him in a
somewhat low, but distinct voice. His evidence under cross-
examination savoured of taciturnity.
Had he not used the expression, "a free hand"? No.
The expression he had used was 'a free hand in the terms of this
"Would you tell the Court that that was English?"
"What do you say it means?"
"What it says!"
"Are you prepared to deny that it is a contradiction in terms?"
"You are not an Irishman?"
"Are you a well-educated man?"
"And yet you persist in that statement?"
Throughout this and much more cross-examination, which turned
again and again around the 'nice point,' James sat with his hand
behind his ear, his eyes fixed upon his son.
He was proud of him! He could not but feel that in similar
circumstances he himself would have been tempted to enlarge his
replies, but his instinct told him that this taciturnity was the
very thing. He sighed with relief, however, when Soames, slowly
turning, and without any change of expression, descended from the
When it came to the turn of Bosinney's Counsel to address the
Judge, James redoubled his attention, and he searched the Court
again and again to see if Bosinney were not somewhere concealed.
Young Chankery began nervously; he was placed by Bosinney's
absence in an awkward position. He therefore did his best to
turn that absence to account.
He could not but fear--he said--that his client had met with an
accident. He had fully expected him there to give evidence; they
had sent round that morning both to Mr. Bosinney's office and to
his rooms (though he knew they were one and the same, he thought
it was as well not to say so), but it was not known where he was,
and this he considered to be ominous, knowing how anxious Mr.
Bosinney had been to give his evidence. He had not, however,
been instructed to apply for an adjournment, and in default of
such instruction he conceived it his duty to go on. The plea on
which he somewhat confidently relied, and which his client, had
he not unfortunately been prevented in some way from attending,
would have supported by his evidence, was that such an expression
as a 'free hand' could not be limited, fettered, and rendered
unmeaning, by any verbiage which might follow it. He would go
further and say that the correspondence showed that whatever he
might have said in his evidence, Mr. Forsyte had in fact never
contemplated repudiating liability on any of the work ordered or
executed by his architect. The defendant had certainly never
contemplated such a contingency, or, as was demonstrated by his
letters, he would never have proceeded with the work--a work of
extreme delicacy, carried out with great care and efficiency, to
meet and satisfy the fastidious taste of a connoisseur, a rich
man, a man of property. He felt strongly on this point, and
feeling strongly he used, perhaps, rather strong words when he
said that this action was of a most unjustifiable, unexpected,
indeed--unprecedented character. If his Lordship had had the
opportunity that he himself had made it his duty to take, to go
over this very fine house and see the great delicacy and beauty
of the decorations executed by his client--an artist in his most
honourable profession--he felt convinced that not for one moment
would his Lordship tolerate this, he would use no stronger word
than daring attempt to evade legitimate responsibility.
Taking the text of Soames' letters, he lightly touched on
'Boileau v. The Blasted Cement Company, Limited.' "It is
doubtful," he said, "what that authority has decided; in any case
I would submit that it is just as much in my favour as in my
friend's." He then argued the 'nice point' closely. With all
due deference he submitted that Mr. Forsyte's expression
nullified itself. His client not being a rich man, the matter
was a serious one for him; he was a very talented architect,
whose professional reputation was undoubtedly somewhat at stake.
He concluded with a perhaps too personal appeal to the Judge, as
a lover of the arts, to show himself the protector of artists,
from what was occasionally--he said occasionally--the too iron
hand of capital. "What," he said, "will be the position of the
artistic professions, if men of property like this Mr. Forsyte
refuse, and are allowed to refuse, to carry out the obligations
of the commissions which they have given." He would now call
his client, in case he should at the last moment have found
himself able to be present.
The name Philip Baynes Bosinney was called three times by the
Ushers, and the sound of the calling echoed with strange
melancholy throughout the Court and Galleries.
The crying of this name, to which no answer was returned, had
upon James a curious effect: it was like calling for your lost
dog about the streets. And the creepy feeling that it gave him,
of a man missing, grated on his sense of comfort and security-on
his cosiness. Though he could not have said why, it made him
He looked now at the clock--a quarter to three! It would be all
over in a quarter of an hour. Where could the young fellow be?
It was only when Mr. Justice Bentham delivered judgment that he
got over the turn he had received.
Behind the wooden erection, by which he was fenced from more
ordinary mortals, the learned Judge leaned forward. The electric
light, just turned on above his head, fell on his face, and
mellowed it to an orange hue beneath the snowy crown of his wig;
the amplitude of his robes grew before the eye; his whole figure,
facing the comparative dusk of the Court, radiated like some
majestic and sacred body. He cleared his throat, took a sip of
water, broke the nib of a quill against the desk, and, folding
his bony hands before him, began.
To James he suddenly loomed much larger than he had ever thought
Bentham would loom. It was the majesty of the law; and a person
endowed with a nature far less matter-of-fact than that of James
might have been excused for failing to pierce this halo, and
disinter therefrom the somewhat ordinary Forsyte, who walked and
talked in every-day life under the name of Sir Walter Bentham.
He delivered judgment in the following words:
"The facts in this case are not in dispute. On May 15 last the
defendant wrote to the plaintiff, requesting to be allowed to
withdraw from his professional position in regard to the
decoration of the plaintiff's house, unless he were given 'a free
hand.' The plaintiff, on May 17, wrote back as follows: 'In
giving you, in accordance with your request, this free hand, I
wish you to clearly understand that the total cost of the house
as handed over to me completely decorated, inclusive of your fee
(as arranged between us) must not exceed twelve thousand pounds.'
To this letter the defendant replied on May 18: 'If you think
that in such a delicate matter as decoration I can bind myself to
the exact pound, I am afraid you are mistaken.' On May 19 the
plaintiff wrote as follows: 'I did not mean to say that if you
should exceed the sum named in my letter to you by ten or twenty
or even fifty pounds there would be any difficulty between us.
You have a free hand in the terms of this correspondence, and I
hope you will see your way to completing the decorations.' On
May 20 the defendant replied thus shortly: 'Very well.'
"In completing these decorations, the defendant incurred
liabilities and expenses which brought the total cost of this
house up to the sum of twelve thousand four hundred pounds, all
of which expenditure has been defrayed by the plaintiff. This
action has been brought by the plaintiff to recover from the
defendant the sum of three hundred and fifty pounds expended by
him in excess of a sum of twelve thousand and fifty pounds,
alleged by the plaintiff to have been fixed by this
correspondence as the maximum sum that the defendant had
authority to expend.
"The question for me to decide is whether or no the defendant is
liable to refund to the plaintiff this sum. In my judgment he is
"What in effect the plaintiff has said is this 'I give you a free
hand to complete these decorations, provided that you keep within
a total cost to me of twelve thousand pounds. If you exceed that
sum by as much as fifty pounds, I will not hold you responsible;
beyond that point you are no agent of mine, and I shall repudiate
liability.' It is not quite clear to me whether, had the
plaintiff in fact repudiated liability under his agent's
contracts, he would, under all the circumstances, have been
successful in so doing; but he has not adopted this course. He
has accepted liability, and fallen back upon his rights against
the defendant under the terms of the latter's engagement.
"In my judgment the plaintiff is entitled to recover this sum
from the defendant.
"It has been sought, on behalf of the defendant, to show that no
limit of expenditure was fixed or intended to be fixed by this
correspondence. If this were so, I can find no reason for the
plaintiff's importation into the correspondence of the figures of
twelve thousand pounds and subsequently of fifty pounds. The
defendant's contention would render these figures meaningless.
It is manifest to me that by his letter of May 20 he assented to
a very clear proposition, by the terms of which he must be held
to be bound.
"For these reasons there will be judgment for the plaintiff for
the amount claimed with costs."
James sighed, and stooping, picked up his umbrella which had
fallen with a rattle at the words 'importation into this
Untangling his legs, he rapidly left the Court; without waiting
for his son, he snapped up a hansom cab (it was a clear, grey
afternoon) and drove straight to Timothy's where he found
Swithin; and to him, Mrs. Septimus Small, and Aunt Hester, he
recounted the whole proceedings, eating two muffins not
altogether in the intervals of speech.
"Soames did very well," he ended; "he's got his head screwed on
the right way. This won't please Jolyon. It's a bad business
for that young Bosinney; he'll go bankrupt, I shouldn't wonder,"
and then after a long pause, during which he had stared
disquietly into the fire, he added
"He wasn't there--now why?"
There was a sound of footsteps. The figure of a thick-set man,
with the ruddy brown face of robust health, was seen in the back
drawing-room. The forefinger of his upraised hand was outlined
against the black of his frock coat. He spoke in a grudging
"Well, James," he said, "I can't--I can't stop," and turning
round, he walked out.
It was Timothy.
James rose from his chair. "There!" he said, "there! I knew
there was something wro...." He checked himself, and was silent,
staring before him, as though he had seen a portent.
SOAMES BREAKS THE NEWS
In leaving the Court Soames did not go straight home. He felt
disinclined for the City, and drawn by need for sympathy in his
triumph, he, too, made his way, but slowly and on foot, to
Timothy's in the Bayswater Road.
His father had just left; Mrs. Small and Aunt Hester, in
possession of the whole story, greeted him warmly. They were
sure he was hungry after all that evidence. Smither should toast
him some more muffins, his dear father had eaten them all. He
must put his legs up on the sofa; and he must have a glass of
prune brandy too. It was so strengthening.
Swithin was still present, having lingered later than his wont,
for he felt in want of exercise. On hearing this suggestion, he
'pished.' A pretty pass young men were coming to! His own liver
was out of order, and he could not bear the thought of anyone
else drinking prune brandy.
He went away almost immediately, saying to Soames: "And how's
your wife? You tell her from me that if she's dull, and likes to
come and dine with me quietly, I'll give her such a bottle of
champagne as she doesn't get every day." Staring down from his
height on Soames he contracted his thick, puffy, yellow hand as
though squeezing within it all this small fry, and throwing out
his chest he waddled slowly away.
Mrs. Small and Aunt Hester were left horrified. Swithin was so
They themselves were longing to ask Soames how Irene would take
the result, yet knew that they must not; he would perhaps say
something of his own accord, to throw some light on this, the
present burning question in their lives, the question that from
necessity of silence tortured them almost beyond bearing; for
even Timothy had now been told, and the effect on his health was
little short of alarming. And what, too, would June do? This,
also, was a most exciting, if dangerous speculation!
They had never forgotten old Jolyon's visit, since when he had
not once been to see them; they had never forgotten the feeling
it gave all who were present, that the family was no longer what
it had been--that the family was breaking up.
But Soames gave them no help, sitting with his knees crossed,
talking of the Barbizon school of painters, whom he had just
discovered. These were the coming men, he said; he should not
wonder if a lot of money were made over them; he had his eye on
two pictures by a man called Corot, charming things; if he could
get them at a reasonable price he was going to buy them--they
would, he thought, fetch a big price some day.
Interested as they could not but be, neither Mrs. Septimus Small
nor Aunt Hester could entirely acquiesce in being thus put off.
It was interesting--most interesting--and then Soames was so
clever that they were sure he would do something with those
pictures if anybody could; but what was his plan now that he had
won his case; was he going to leave London at once, and live in
the country, or what was he going to do?
Soames answered that he did not know, he thought they should be
moving soon. He rose and kissed his aunts.
No sooner had Aunt Juley received this emblem of departure than a
change came over her, as though she were being visited by
dreadful courage; every little roll of flesh on her face seemed
trying to escape from an invisible, confining mask.
She rose to the full extent of her more than medium height, and
said: "It has been on my mind a long time, dear, and if nobody
else will tell you, I have made up my mind that...."
Aunt Hester interrupted her: "Mind, Julia, you do it...." she
gasped--"on your own responsibility!"
Mrs. Small went on as though she had not heard: "I think you
ought to know, dear, that Mrs. MacAnder saw Irene walking in
Richmond Park with Mr. Bosinney."
Aunt Hester, who had also risen, sank back in her chair, and
turned her face away. Really Juley was too--she should not do
such things when she--Aunt Hester, was in the room; and,
breathless with anticipation, she waited for what Soames would
He had flushed the peculiar flush which always centred between
his eyes; lifting his hand, and, as it were, selecting a finger,
he bit a nail delicately; then, drawling it out between set lips,
he said: "Mrs. MacAnder is a cat!"
Without waiting for any reply, he left the room.
When he went into Timothy's he had made up his mind what course
to pursue on getting home. He would go up to Irene and say:
"Well, I've won my case, and there's an end of it! I don't want
to be hard on Bosinney; I'll see if we can't come to some
arrangement; he shan't be pressed. And now let's turn over a
new leaf! We'll let the house, and get out of these fogs. We'll
go down to Robin Hill at once. I--I never meant to be rough with
you! Let's shake hands--and--" Perhaps she would let him kiss
her, and forget!
When he came out of Timothy's his intentions were no longer so
simple. The smouldering jealousy and suspicion of months blazed
up within him. He would put an end to that sort of thing once
and for all; he would not have her drag his name in the dirt! If
she could not or would not love him, as was her duty and his
right--she should not play him tricks with anyone else! He would
tax her with it; threaten to divorce her! That would make her
behave; she would never face that. But--but--what if she did?
He was staggered; this had not occurred to him.
What if she did? What if she made him a confession? How would
he stand then? He would have to bring a divorce!
A divorce! Thus close, the word was paralyzing, so utterly at
variance with all the principles that had hitherto guided his
life. Its lack of compromise appalled him; he felt--like the
captain of a ship, going to the side of his vessel, and, with his
own hands throwing over the most precious of his bales. This
jettisoning of his property with his own hand seemed uncanny to
Soames. It would injure him in his profession: He would have to
get rid of the house at Robin Hill, on which he had spent so much
money, so much anticipation--and at a sacrifice. And she! She
would no longer belong to him, not even in name! She would pass
out of his life, and he--he should never see her again!
He traversed in the cab the length of a street without getting
beyond the thought that he should never see her again!
But perhaps there was nothing to confess, even now very likely
there was nothing to confess. Was it wise to push things so far?
Was it wise to put himself into a position where he might have to
eat his words? The result of this case would ruin Bosinney; a
ruined man was desperate, but--what could he do? He might go
abroad, ruined men always went abroad. What could they do--if
indeed it was 'they'--without money? It would be better to wait
and see how things turned out. If necessary, he could have her
watched. The agony of his jealousy (for all the world like the
crisis of an aching tooth) came on again; and he almost cried
out. But he must decide, fix on some course of action before he
got home. When the cab drew up at the door, he had decided
He entered, pale, his hands moist with perspiration, dreading to
meet her, burning to meet her, ignorant of what he was to say or
The maid Bilson was in the hall, and in answer to his question:
"Where is your mistress?" told him that Mrs. Forsyte had left the
house about noon, taking with her a trunk and bag.
Snatching the sleeve of his fur coat away from her grasp, he
"What?" he exclaimed; "what's that you said?" Suddenly
recollecting that he must not betray emotion, he added: "What
message did she leave?" and noticed with secret terror the
startled look of the maid's eyes.
"Mrs. Forsyte left no message, sir."
"No message; very well, thank you, that will do. I shall be
The maid went downstairs, leaving him still in his fur coat, idly
turning over the visiting cards in the porcelain bowl that stood
on the carved oak rug chest in the hall.
Mr. and Mrs. Bareham Culcher.
Mrs. Septimus Small.
Mr. Solomon Thornworthy.
Miss Hermione Bellis.
Miss Winifred Bellis.
Miss Ella Bellis.
Who the devil were all these people? He seemed to have forgotten
all familiar things. The words 'no message--a trunk, and a bag,'
played a hide-and-seek in his brain. It was incredible that she
had left no message, and, still in his fur coat, he ran upstairs
two steps at a time, as a young married man when he comes home
will run up to his wife's room.
Everything was dainty, fresh, sweet-smelling; everything in
perfect order. On the great bed with its lilac silk quilt, was
the bag she had made and embroidered with her own hands to hold
her sleeping things; her slippers ready at the foot; the sheets
even turned over at the head as though expecting her.
On the table stood the silver-mounted brushes and bottles from
her dressing bag, his own present. There must, then, be some
mistake. What bag had she taken? He went to the bell to summon
Bilson, but remembered in time that he must assume knowledge of
where Irene had gone, take it all as a matter of course, and
grope out the meaning for himself.
He locked the doors, and tried to think, but felt his brain going
round; and suddenly tears forced themselves into his eyes.
Hurriedly pulling off his coat, he looked at himself in the
He was too pale, a greyish tinge all over his face; he poured out
water, and began feverishly washing.
Her silver-mounted brushes smelt faintly of the perfumed lotion
she used for her hair; and at this scent the burning sickness of
his jealousy seized him again.
Struggling into his fur, he ran downstairs and out into the
He had not lost all command of himself, however, and as he went
down Sloane Street he framed a story for use, in case he should
not find her at Bosinney's. But if he should? His power of
decision again failed; he reached the house without knowing what
he should do if he did find her there.
It was after office hours, and the street door was closed; the
woman who opened it could not say whether Mr. Bosinney were in or
no; she had not seen him that day, not for two or three days; she
did not attend to him now, nobody attended to him, he....
Soames interrupted her, he would go up and see for himself. He
went up with a dogged, white face.
The top floor was unlighted, the door closed, no one answered his
ringing, he could hear no sound. He was obliged to descend,
shivering under his fur, a chill at his heart. Hailing a cab, he
told the man to drive to Park Lane.
On the way he tried to recollect when he had last given her a
cheque; she could not have more than three or four pounds, but
there were her jewels; and with exquisite torture he remembered
how much money she could raise on these; enough to take them
abroad; enough for them to live on for months! He tried to
calculate; the cab stopped, and he got out with the calculation
The butler asked whether Mrs. Soames was in the cab, the master
had told him they were both expected to dinner.
Soames answered: "No. Mrs. Forsyte has a cold."
The butler was sorry.
Soames thought he was looking at him inquisitively, and
remembering that he was not in dress clothes, asked: "Anybody
here to dinner, Warmson?"
"Nobody but Mr. and Mrs. Dartie, sir."
Again it seemed to Soames that the butler was looking curiously
at him. His composure gave way.
"What are you looking at?" he said. "What's the matter with me,
The butler blushed, hung up the fur coat, murmured something that
sounded like: "Nothing, sir, I'm sure, sir," and stealthily
Soames walked upstairs. Passing the drawing-room without a look,
he went straight up to his mother's and father's bedroom.
James, standing sideways, the concave lines of his tall, lean
figure displayed to advantage in shirt-sleeves and evening
waistcoat, his head bent, the end of his white tie peeping askew
from underneath one white Dundreary whisker, his eyes peering
with intense concentration, his lips pouting, was hooking the top
hooks of his wife's bodice. Soames stopped; he felt half-choked,
whether because he had come upstairs too fast, or for some other
reason. He--he himself had never--never been asked to....
He heard his father's voice, as though there were a pin in his
mouth, saying: "Who's that? Who's there? What d'you want?" His
mother's: "Here, Felice, come and hook this; your master'll never
He put his hand up to his throat, and said hoarsely:
He noticed gratefully the affectionate surprise in Emily's:
"Well, my dear boy?" and James', as he dropped the hook: "What,
Soames! What's brought you up? Aren't you well?"
He answered mechanically: "I'm all right," and looked at them,
and it seemed impossible to bring out his news.
James, quick to take alarm, began: "You don't look well. I
expect you've taken a chill--it's liver, I shouldn't wonder.
Your mother'll give you...."
But Emily broke in quietly: "Have you brought Irene?"
Soames shook his head.
"No," he stammered, "she--she's left me!"
Emily deserted the mirror before which she was standing. Her
tall, full figure lost its majesty and became very human as she
came running over to Soames.
"My dear boy! My dear boy!"
She put her lips to his forehead, and stroked his hand.
James, too, had turned full towards his son; his face looked
"Left you?" he said. "What d'you mean--left you? You never told
me she was going to leave you."
Soames answered surlily: "How could I tell? What's to be done?"
James began walking up and down; he looked strange and stork-like
without a coat. "What's to be done!" he muttered. "How should I
know what's to be done? What's the good of asking me? Nobody
tells me anything, and then they come and ask me what's to be
done; and I should like to know how I'm to tell them! Here's
your mother, there she stands; she doesn't say anything. What I
should say you've got to do is to follow her.."
Soames smiled; his peculiar, supercilious smile had never before
"I don't know where she's gone," he said.
"Don't know where she's gone!" said James. "How d'you mean,
don't know where she's gone? Where d'you suppose she's gone?
She's gone after that young Bosinney, that's where she's gone. I
knew how it would be."
Soames, in the long silence that followed, felt his mother
pressing his hand. And all that passed seemed to pass as though
his own power of thinking or doing had gone to sleep.
His father's face, dusky red, twitching as if he were going to
cry, and words breaking out that seemed rent from him by some
spasm in his soul.
"There'll be a scandal; I always said so." Then, no one saying
anything: "And there you stand, you and your mother!"
And Emily's voice, calm, rather contemptuous: "Come, now, James!
Soames will do all that he can."
And James, staring at the floor, a little brokenly: "Well, I
can't help you; I'm getting old. Don't you be in too great a
hurry, my boy."
And his mother's voice again: "Soames will do all he can to get
her back. We won't talk of it. It'll all come right, I dare
And James: "Well, I can't see how it can come right. And if she
hasn't gone off with that young Bosinney, my advice to you is not
to listen to her, but to follow her and get her back."
Once more Soames felt his mother stroking his hand, in token of
her approval, and as though repeating some form of sacred oath,
he muttered between his teeth: "I will!"
All three went down to the drawing-room together. There, were
gathered the three girls and Dartie; had Irene been present, the
family circle would have been complete.
James sank into his armchair, and except for a word of cold
greeting to Dartie, whom he both despised and dreaded, as a man
likely to be always in want of money, he said nothing till dinner
was announced. Soames, too, was silent; Emily alone, a woman of
cool courage, maintained a conversation with Winifred on trivial
subjects. She was never more composed in her manner and
conversation than that evening.
A decision having been come to not to speak of Irene's flight, no
view was expressed by any other member of the family as to the
right course to be pursued; there can be little doubt, from the
general tone adopted in relation to events as they afterwards
turned out, that James's advice: "Don't you listen to her,
follow-her and get her back!" would, with here and there an
exception, have been regarded as sound, not only in Park Lane,
but amongst the Nicholases, the Rogers, and at Timothy's. Just
as it would surely have been endorsed by that wider body of
Forsytes all over London, who were merely excluded from judgment
by ignorance of the story.
In spite then of Emily's efforts, the dinner was served by
Warmson and the footman almost in silence. Dartie was sulky, and
drank all he could get; the girls seldom talked to each other at
any time. James asked once where June was, and what she was
doing with herself in these days. No one could tell him. He
sank back into gloom. Only when Winifred recounted how little
Publius had given his bad penny to a beggar, did he brighten up.
"Ah!" he said, "that's a clever little chap. I don't know
what'll become of him, if he goes on like this. An intelligent
little chap, I call him!" But it was only a flash.
The courses succeeded one another solemnly, under the electric
light, which glared down onto the table, but barely reached the
principal ornament of the walls, a so-called 'Sea Piece by
Turner,' almost entirely composed of cordage and drowning men.
Champagne was handed, and then a bottle of James' prehistoric
port, but as by the chill hand of some skeleton.
At ten o'clock Soames left; twice in reply to questions, he had
said that Irene was not well; he felt he could no longer trust
himself. His mother kissed him with her large soft kiss, and he
pressed her hand, a flush of warmth in his cheeks. He walked
away in the cold wind, which whistled desolately round the
corners of the streets, under a sky of clear steel-blue, alive
with stars; he noticed neither their frosty greeting, nor the
crackle of the curled-up plane-leaves, nor the night-women
hurrying in their shabby furs, nor the pinched faces of vagabonds
at street corners. Winter was come! But Soames hastened home,
oblivious; his hands trembled as he took the late letters from
the gilt wire cage into which they had been thrust through the
slit in the door.'
None from Irene!
He went into the dining-room; the fire was bright there, his
chair drawn up to it, slippers ready, spirit case, and carven
cigarette box on the table; but after staring at it all for a
minute or two, he turned out the light and went upstairs.
There was a fire too in his dressing-room, but her room was
dark and cold. It was into this room that Soames went.
He made a great illumination with candles, and for a long time
continued pacing up and down between the bed and the door. He
could not get used to the thought that she had really left him,
and as though still searching for some message, some reason, some
reading of all the mystery of his married life, he began opening
every recess and drawer.
There were her dresses; he had always liked, indeed insisted,
that she should be well-dressed--she had taken very few; two or
three at most, and drawer after drawer; full of linen and silk
things, was untouched.
Perhaps after all it was only a freak, and she had gone to the
seaside for a few days' change. If only that were so, and she
were really coming back, he would never again do as he had done
that fatal night before last, never again run that risk--though
it was her duty, her duty as a wife; though she did belong to
him--he would never again run that risk; she was evidently not
quite right in her head!
He stooped over the drawer where she kept her jewels; it was not
locked, and came open as he pulled; the jewel box had the key in
it. This surprised him until he remembered that it was sure to
be empty. He opened it.
It was far from empty. Divided, in little green velvet
compartments, were all the things he had given her, even her
watch, and stuck into the recess that contained--the watch was a
three-cornered note addressed 'Soames Forsyte,' in Irene's
'I think I have taken nothing that you or your people have given
me.' And that was all.
He looked at the clasps and bracelets of diamonds and pearls, at
the little flat gold watch with a great diamond set in sapphires,
at the chains and rings, each in its nest, and the tears rushed
up in his eyes and dropped upon them.
Nothing that she could have done, nothing that she had done,
brought home to him like this the inner significance of her act.
For the moment, perhaps, he understood nearly all there was to
understand--understood that she loathed him, that she had loathed
him for years, that for all intents and purposes they were like
people living in different worlds, that there was no hope for
him, never had been; even, that she had suffered--that she was to
In that moment of emotion he betrayed the Forsyte in him--forgot
himself, his interests, his property--was capable of almost
anything; was lifted into the pure ether of the selfless and
Such moments pass quickly.
And as though with the tears he had purged himself of weakness,
he got up, locked the box, and slowly, almost trembling, carried
it with him into the other room.
June had waited for her chance, scanning the duller columns of
the journals, morning and evening with an assiduity which at
first puzzled old Jolyon; and when her chance came, she took it
with all the promptitude and resolute tenacity of her character.
She will always remember best in her life that morning when at
last she saw amongst the reliable Cause List of the Times
newspaper, under the heading of Court XIII, Mr. Justice Bentham,
the case of Forsyte v. Bosinney.
Like a gambler who stakes his last piece of money, she had
prepared to hazard her all upon this throw; it was not her nature
to contemplate defeat. How, unless with the instinct of a woman
in love, she knew that Bosinney's discomfiture in this action was
assured, cannot be told--on this assumption, however, she laid
her plans, as upon a certainty.
Half past eleven found her at watch in the gallery of Court
XIII., and there she remained till the case of Forsyte v.
Bosinney was over. Bosinney's absence did not disquiet her; she
had felt instinctively that he would not defend himself. At the
end of the judgment she hastened down, and took a cab to his
She passed the open street-door and the offices on the three
lower floors without attracting notice; not till she reached the
top did her difficulties begin.
Her ring was not answered; she had now to make up her mind
whether she would go down and ask the caretaker in the basement
to let her in to await Mr. Bosinney's return, or remain patiently
outside the door, trusting that no one would, come up. She
decided on the latter course.
A quarter of an hour had passed in freezing vigil on the landing,
before it occurred to her that Bosinney had been used to leave
the key of his rooms under the door-mat. She looked and found it
there. For some minutes she could not decide to make use of it;
at last she let herself in and left the door open that anyone who
came might see she was there on business.
This was not the same June who had paid the trembling visit five
months ago; those months of suffering and restraint had made her
less sensitive; she had dwelt on this visit so long, with such
minuteness, that its terrors were discounted beforehand. She was
not there to fail this time, for if she failed no one could help
Like some mother beast on the watch over her young, her little
quick figure never stood still in that room, but wandered from
wall to wall, from window to door, fingering now one thing, now
another. There was dust everywhere, the room could not have been
cleaned for weeks, and June, quick to catch at anything that
should buoy up her hope, saw in it a sign that he had been
obliged, for economy's sake, to give up his servant.
She looked into the bedroom; the bed was roughly made, as though
by the hand of man. Listening intently, she darted in, and
peered into his cupboards. A few shirts and collars, a pair of
muddy boots--the room was bare even of garments.
She stole back to the sitting-room, and now she noticed the
absence of all the little things he had set store by. The clock
that had been his mother's, the field-glasses that had hung over
the sofa; two really valuable old prints of Harrow, where his
father had been at school, and last, not least, the piece of
Japanese pottery she herself had given him. All were gone; and
in spite of the rage roused within her championing soul at the
thought that the world should treat him thus, their disappearance
augured happily for the success of her plan.
It was while looking at the spot where the piece of Japanese
pottery had stood that she felt a strange certainty of being
watched, and, turning, saw Irene in the open doorway.
The two stood gazing at each other for a minute in silence; then
June walked forward and held out her hand. Irene did not take
When her hand was refused, June put it behind her. Her eyes grew
steady with anger; she waited for Irene to speak; and thus
waiting, took in, with who-knows-what rage of jealousy,
suspicion, and curiosity, every detail of her friend's face and
dress and figure.
Irene was clothed in her long grey fur; the travelling cap on her
head left a wave of gold hair visible above her forehead. The
soft fullness of the coat made her face as small as a child's.
Unlike June's cheeks, her cheeks had no colour in them, but were
ivory white and pinched as if with cold. Dark circles lay round
her eyes. In one hand she held a bunch of violets.
She looked back at June, no smile on her lips; and with those
great dark eyes fastened on her, the girl, for all her startled
anger, felt something of the old spell.
She spoke first, after all.
"What have you come for?" But the feeling that she herself was
being asked the same question, made her add: "This horrible case.
I came to tell him--he has lost it."
Irene did not speak, her eyes never moved from June's face, and
the girl cried:
"Don't stand there as if you were made of stone!"
Irene laughed: "I wish to God I were!"
But June turned away: "Stop!" she cried, "don't tell me! I don't
want to hear! I don't want to hear what you've come for. I
don't want to hear!" And like some uneasy spirit, she began
swiftly walking to and fro. Suddenly she broke out:
"I was here first. We can't both stay here together!"
On Irene's face a smile wandered up, and died out like a flicker
of firelight. She did not move. And then it was that June
perceived under the softness arid immobility of this figure
something desperate and resolved; something not to be turned
away, something dangerous. She tore off her hat, and, putting
both hands to her brow, pressed back the bronze mass of her hair.
"You have no right here!" she cried defiantly.
Irene answered: "I have no right anywhere!
"What do you mean?"
"I have left Soames. You always wanted me to!"
June put her hands over her ears.
"Don't! I don't want to hear anything--I don't want to know
anything. It's impossible to fight with you! What makes you
stand like that? Why don't you go?"
Irene's lips moved; she seemed to be saying: "Where should I go?"
June turned to the window. She could see the face of a clock
down in the street. It was nearly four. At any moment he might
come! She looked back across her shoulder, and her face was
distorted with anger.
But Irene had not moved; in her gloved hands she ceaselessly
turned and twisted the little bunch of violets.
The tears of rage and disappointment rolled down June's cheeks.
"How could you come?" she said. "You have been a false friend to
Again Irene laughed. June saw that she had played a wrong card,
and broke down.
"Why have you come?" she sobbed. "You've ruined my life, and now
you want to ruin his!"
Irene's mouth quivered; her eyes met June's with a look so
mournful that the girl cried out in the midst of her sobbing,
But Irene's head bent till it touched her breast. She turned,
and went quickly out, hiding her lips with the little bunch of
June ran to the door. She heard the footsteps going down and
down. She called out: "Come back, Irene! Come back!"
The footsteps died away....
Bewildered and torn, the girl stood at the top of the stairs.
Why had Irene gone, leaving her mistress of the field? What did
it mean? Had she really given him up to her? Or had she...?
And she was the prey of a gnawing uncertainty.... Bosinney did
About six o'clock that afternoon old Jolyon returned from
Wistaria Avenue, where now almost every day he spent some hours,
and asked if his grand-daughter were upstairs. On being told
that she had just come in, he sent up to her room to request her
to come down and speak to him.
He had made up his mind to tell her that he was reconciled with
her father. In future bygones must be bygones. He would no
longer live alone, or practically alone, in this great house; he
was going to give it up, and take one in the country for his son,
where they could all go and live together. If June did not like
this, she could have an allowance and live by herself. It
wouldn't make much difference to her, for it was a long time
since she had shown him any affection.
But when June came down, her face was pinched and piteous; there
was a strained, pathetic look in her eyes. She snuggled up in
her old attitude on the arm of his chair, and what he said
compared but poorly with the clear, authoritative, injured
statement he had thought out with much care. His heart felt
sore, as the great heart of a mother-bird feels sore when its
youngling flies and bruises its wing. His words halted, as
though he were apologizing for having at last deviated from the
path of virtue, and succumbed, in defiance of sounder principles,
to his more natural instincts.
He seemed nervous lest, in thus announcing his intentions, he
should be setting his granddaughter a bad example; and now that
he came to the point, his way of putting the suggestion that, if
she didn't like it, she could live by herself and lump it, was
delicate in the extreme.'
"And if, by any chance, my darling," he said, "you found you
didn't get on--with them, why, I could make that all right. You
could have what you liked. We could find a little flat in London
where you could set up, and I could be running to continually.
But the children," he added, "are dear little things!"
Then, in the midst of this grave, rather transparent, explanation
of changed policy, his eyes twinkled. "This'll astonish
Timothy's weak nerves. That precious young thing will have
something to say about this, or I'm a Dutchman!"
June had not yet spoken. Perched thus on the arm of his chair,
with her head above him, her face was invisible. But presently
he felt her warm cheek against his own, and knew that, at all
events, there was nothing very alarming in her attitude towards
his news. He began to take courage.
"You'll like your father," he said--"an amiable chap. Never was
much push about him, but easy to get on with. You'll find him
artistic and all that."
And old Jolyon bethought him of the dozen or so water-colour
drawings all carefully locked up in his bedroom; for now that his
son was going to become a man of property he did not think them
quite such poor things as heretofore.
"As to your--your stepmother," he said, using the word with some
little difficulty, "I call her a refined woman--a bit of a Mrs.
Gummidge, I shouldn't wonder--but very fond of Jo. And the
children," he repeated--indeed, this sentence ran like music
through all his solemn self-justification--"are sweet little
If June had known, those words but reincarnated that tender love
for little children, for the young and weak, which in the past
had made him desert his son for her tiny self, and now, as the
cycle rolled, was taking him from her.
But he began to get alarmed at her silence, and asked
impatiently: "Well, what do you say?"
June slid down to his knee, and she in her turn began her tale.
She thought it would all go splendidly; she did not see any
difficulty, and she did not care a bit what people thought.
Old Jolyon wriggled. H'm! then people would think! He had
thought that after all these years perhaps they wouldn't! Well,
he couldn't help it! Nevertheless, he could not approve of his
granddaughter's way of putting it--she ought to mind what people
Yet he said nothing. His feelings were too mixed, too
inconsistent for expression.
No--went on June he did not care; what business was it of theirs?
There was only one thing--and with her cheek pressing against his
knee, old Jolyon knew at once that this something was no trifle:
As he was going to buy a house in the country, would he not--to
please her--buy that splendid house of Soames' at Robin Hill? It
was finished, it was perfectly beautiful, and no one would live
in it now. They would all be so happy there.
Old Jolyon was on the alert at once. Wasn't the 'man of
property' going to live in his new house, then? He never alluded
to Soames now but under this title.
"No"--June said--"he was not; she knew that he was not!"
How did she know?
She could not tell him, but she knew. She knew nearly for
certain! It was most unlikely; circumstances had changed!
Irene's words still rang in her head: "I have left Soames.
Where should I go?"
But she kept silence about that.
If her grandfather would only buy it and settle that wretched
claim that ought never to have been made on Phil! It would be
the very best thing for everybody, and everything--everything
might come straight
And June put her lips to his forehead, and pressed them close.
But old Jolyon freed himself from her caress, his face wore the
judicial look which came upon it when he dealt with affairs. He
asked: What did she mean? There was something behind all this--
had she been seeing Bosinney?
June answered: "No; but I have been to his rooms."
"Been to his rooms? Who took you there?"
June faced him steadily. "I went alone. He has lost that case.
I don't care whether it was right or wrong. I want to help him;
and I will!"
Old Jolyon asked again: "Have you seen him?" His glance seemed to
pierce right through the girl's eyes into her soul.
Again June answered: "No; he was not there. I waited, but he did
Old Jolyon made a movement of relief. She had risen and looked
down at him; so slight, and light, and young, but so fixed, and
so determined; and disturbed, vexed, as he was, he could not
frown away that fixed look. The feeling of being beaten, of the
reins having slipped, of being old and tired, mastered him.
"Ah!" he said at last, "you'll get yourself into a mess one of
these days, I can see. You want your own way in everything."
Visited by one of his strange bursts of philosophy, he added:
"Like that you were born; and like that you'll stay until you
And he, who in his dealings with men of business, with Boards,
with Forsytes of all descriptions, with such as were not
Forsytes, had always had his own way, looked at his indomitable
grandchild sadly--for he felt in her that quality which above all
others he unconsciously admired.
"Do you know what they say is going on?" he said slowly.
"Yes--no! I know--and I don't know--I don't care!" and she
stamped her foot.
"I believe," said old Jolyon, dropping his eyes, "that you'd have
him if he were dead!"
There was a long silence before he spoke again.
"But as to buying this house--you don't know what you're talking
June said that she did. She knew that he could get it if he
wanted. He would only have to give what it cost.
"What it cost! You know nothing about it. I won't go to Soames-
--I'll have nothing more to do with that young man."
"But you needn't; you can go to Uncle James. If you can't buy
the house, will you pay his lawsuit claim? I know he is terribly
hard up--I've seen it. You can stop it out of my money!"
A twinkle came into old Jolyon's eyes.
"Stop it out of your money! A pretty way. And what will you do,
pray, without your money?"
But secretly, the idea of wresting the house from James and his
son had begun to take hold of him. He had heard on Forsyte
'Change much comment, much rather doubtful praise of this house.
It was 'too artistic,' but a fine place. To take from the 'man
of property' that on which he had set his heart, would be a
crowning triumph over James, practical proof that he was going to
make a man of property of Jo, to put him back in his proper
position, and there to keep him secure. Justice once for all on
those who had chosen to regard his son as a poor, penniless
He would see, he would see! It might be out of the question; he
was not going to pay a fancy price, but if it could be done, why,
perhaps he would do it!
And still more secretly he knew that he could not refuse her.
But he did not commit himself. He would think it over--he said
Old Jolyon was not given to hasty decisions; it is probable that
he would have continued to think over the purchase of the house
at Robin Hill, had not June's face told him that he would have no
peace until he acted.
At breakfast next morning she asked him what time she should
order the carriage.
"Carriage!" he said, with some appearance of innocence; "what
for? I'm not going out!"
She answered: "If you don't go early, you won't catch Uncle James
before he goes into the City."
"James! what about your Uncle James?"
"The house," she replied, in such a voice that he no longer
"I've not made up my mind," he said.
"You must! You must! Oh! Gran--think of me!"
Old Jolyon grumbled out: "Think of you--I'm always thinking of
you, but you don't think of yourself; you don't think what you're
letting yourself in for. Well, order the carriage at ten!"
At a quarter past he was placing his umbrella in the stand at
Park Lane--he did not choose to relinquish his hat and coat;
telling Warmson that he wanted to see his master, he went,
without being announced, into the study, and sat down.
James was still in the dining-room talking to Soames, who had
come round again before breakfast. On hearing who his visitor
was, he muttered nervously: "Now, what's be want, I wonder?"
He then got up.
"Well," he said to Soames, "don't you go doing anything in a
hurry. The first thing is to find out where she is--I should go
to Stainer's about it; they're the best men, if they can't find
her, nobody can." And suddenly moved to strange softness, he
muttered to himself, "Poor little thing, I can't tell what she
was thinking about!" and went out blowing his nose.
Old Jolyon did not rise on seeing his brother, but held out his
hand, and exchanged with him the clasp of a Forsyte.
James took another chair by the table, and leaned his head on his
"Well," he said, "how are you? We don't see much of you
Old Jolyon paid no attention to the remark.
"How's Emily?" he asked; and waiting for no reply, went on
"I've come to see you about this affair of young Bosinney's. I'm
told that new house of his is a white elephant."
"I don't know anything about a white elephant," said James, "I
know he's lost his case, and I should say he'll go bankrupt."
Old Jolyon was not slow to seize the opportunity this gave him.
"I shouldn't wonder a bit!" he agreed; "and if he goes bankrupt,
the 'man of property'--that is, Soames'll be out of pocket. Now,
what I was thinking was this: If he's not going to live there...."
Seeing both surprise and suspicion in James' eye, he quickly went
on: "I don't want to know anything; I suppose Irene's put her
foot down--it's not material to me. But I'm thinking of a house
in the country myself, not too far from London, and if it suited
me I don't say that I mightn't look at it, at a price."
James listened to this statement with a strange mixture of doubt,
suspicion, and relief, merging into a dread of something behind,
and tinged with the remains of his old undoubted reliance upon
his elder brother's good faith and judgment. There was anxiety,
too, as to what old Jolyon could have heard and how he had heard
it; and a sort of hopefulness arising from the thought that if
June's connection with Bosinney were completely at an end, her
grandfather would hardly seem anxious to help the young fellow.
Altogether he was puzzled; as he did not like either to show
this, or to commit himself in any way, he said:
"They tell me you're altering your Will in favour of your son."
He had not been told this; he had merely added the fact of having
seen old Jolyon with his son and grandchildren to the fact that
he had taken his Will away from Forsyte, Bustard and Forsyte.
The shot went home.
"Who told you that?" asked old Jolyon.
"I'm sure I don't know," said James; "I can't remember names--I
know somebody told me Soames spent a lot of money on this house;
he's not likely to part with it except at a good price."
"Well," said old Jolyon, "if, he thinks I'm going to pay a fancy
price, he's mistaken. I've not got the money to throw away that
he seems to have. Let him try and sell it at a forced sale, and
see what he'll get. It's not every man's house, I hear!"
James, who was secretly also of this opinion, answered: "It's a
gentleman's house. Soames is here now if you'd like to see him."
"No," said old Jolyon, "I haven't got as far as that; and I'm not
likely to, I can see that very well if I'm met in this manner!"
James was a little cowed; when it came to the actual figures of a
commercial transaction he was sure of himself, for then he was
dealing with facts, not with men; but preliminary negotiations
such as these made him nervous--he never knew quite how far he
"Well," he said, "I know nothing about it. Soames, he tells me
nothing; I should think he'd entertain it--it's a question of
"Oh!" said old Jolyon, "don't let him make a favour of it!" He
placed his hat on his head in dudgeon.
The door was opened and Soames came in.
"There's a policeman out here," he said with his half smile, "for
Old Jolyon looked at him angrily, and James said: "A policeman?
I don't know anything about a policeman. But I suppose you know
something about him," he added to old Jolyon with a look of
suspicion: "I suppose you'd better see him!"
In the hall an Inspector of Police stood stolidly regarding with
heavy-lidded pale-blue eyes the fine old English furniture picked
up by James at the famous Mavrojano sale in Portman Square.
"You'll find my brother in there," said James.
The Inspector raised his fingers respectfully to his peaked cap,
and entered the study.
James saw him go in with a strange sensation.
"Well," he said to Soames, "I suppose we must wait and see what
he wants. Your uncle's been here about the house!"
He returned with Soames into the dining-room, but could not rest.
"Now what does he want?" he murmured again.
"Who?" replied Soames: "the Inspector? They sent him round from
Stanhope Gate, that's all I know. That 'nonconformist' of Uncle
Jolyon's has been pilfering, I shouldn't wonder!"
But in spite of his calmness, he too was ill at ease.
At the end of ten minutes old Jolyon came in. He walked up to
the table, and stood there perfectly silent pulling at his long
white moustaches. James gazed up at him with opening mouth; he
had never seen his brother look like this.
Old Jolyon raised his hand, and said slowly:
"Young Bosinney has been run over in the fog and killed."
Then standing above his brother and his nephew, and looking down
at him with his deep eyes:
"There's--some--talk--of--suicide," he said.
James' jaw dropped. "Suicide! What should he do that for?"
Old Jolyon answered sternly: "God knows, if you and your son
But James did not reply.
For all men of great age, even for all Forsytes, life has had
bitter experiences. The passer-by, who sees them wrapped in
cloaks of custom, wealth, and comfort, would never suspect that
such black shadows had fallen on their roads. To every man of
great age--to Sir Walter Bentham himself--the idea of suicide has
once at least been present in the ante-room of his soul; on the
threshold, waiting to enter, held out from the inmost chamber by
some chance reality, some vague fear, some painful hope. To
Forsytes that final renunciation of property is hard. Oh! it is
hard! Seldom--perhaps never--can they achieve, it; and yet, how
near have they not sometimes been!
So even with James! Then in the medley of his thoughts, he broke
out: "Why I saw it in the paper yesterday: 'Run over in the fog!'
They didn't know his name!" He turned from one face to the other
in his confusion of soul; but instinctively all the time he was
rejecting that rumour of suicide. He dared not entertain this
thought, so against his interest, against the interest of his
son, of every Forsyte. He strove against it; and as his nature
ever unconsciously rejected that which it could not with safety
accept, so gradually he overcame this fear. It was an accident!
It must have been!
Old Jolyon broke in on his reverie.
"Death was instantaneous. He lay all day yesterday at the
hospital. There was nothing to tell them who he was. I am going
there now; you and your son had better come too."
No one opposing this command he led the way from the room.
The day was still and clear and bright, and driving over to Park
Lane from Stanhope Gate, old Jolyon had had the carriage open.
Sitting back on the padded cushions, finishing his cigar, he had
noticed with pleasure the keen crispness of the air, the bustle
of the cabs and people; the strange, almost Parisian, alacrity
that the first fine day will bring into London streets after a
spell of fog or rain. And he had felt so happy; he had not felt
like it for months. His confession to June was off his mind; he
had the prospect of his son's, above all, of his grandchildren's
company in the future--(he had appointed to meet young Jolyon at
the Hotch Potch that very manning to--discuss it again); and
there was the pleasurable excitement of a coming encounter, a
coming victory, over James and the 'man of property' in the
matter of the house.
He had the carriage closed now; he had no heart to look on
gaiety; nor was it right that Forsytes should be seen driving
with an Inspector of Police.
In that carriage the Inspector spoke again of the death:
"It was not so very thick--Just there. The driver says the
gentleman must have had time to see what he was about, he seemed
to walk right into it. It appears that he was very hard up, we
found several pawn tickets at his rooms, his account at the bank
is overdrawn, and there's this case in to-day's papers;" his cold
blue eyes travelled from one to another of the three Forsytes in
Old Jolyon watching from his corner saw his brother's face
change, and the brooding, worried, look deepen on it. At the
Inspector's words, indeed, all James' doubts and fears revived.
Hard-up--pawn-tickets--an overdrawn account! These words that
had all his life been a far-off nightmare to him, seemed to make
uncannily real that suspicion of suicide which must on no account
be entertained. He sought his son's eye; but lynx-eyed,
taciturn, immovable, Soames gave no answering look. And to old
Jolyon watching, divining the league of mutual defence between
them, there came an overmastering desire to have his own son at
his side, as though this visit to the dead man's body was a
battle in which otherwise he must single-handed meet those two.
And the thought of how to keep June's name out of the business
kept whirring in his brain. James had his son to support him!
Why should he not send for Jo?
Taking out his card-case, he pencilled the following message:
'Come round at once. I've sent the carriage for you.'
On getting out he gave this card to his coachman, telling him to
drive--as fast as possible to the Hotch Potch Club, and if Mr.
Jolyon Forsyte were there to give him the card and bring him at
once. If not there yet, he was to wait till he came.
He followed the others slowly up the steps, leaning on his
umbrella, and stood a moment to get his breath. The Inspector
said: "This is the mortuary, sir. But take your time."
In the bare, white-walled room, empty of all but a streak of
sunshine smeared along the dustless floor, lay a form covered by
a sheet. With a huge steady hand the Inspector took the hem and
turned it back. A sightless face gazed up at them, and on either
side of that sightless defiant face the three Forsytes gazed
down; in each one of them the secret emotions, fears, and pity of
his own nature rose and fell like the rising, falling waves of
life, whose wish those white walls barred out now for ever from
Bosinney. And in each one of them the trend of his nature, the
odd essential spring, which moved him in fashions minutely,
unalterably different from those of every other human being,
forced him to a different attitude of thought. Far from the
others, yet inscrutably close, each stood thus, alone with death,
silent, his eyes lowered.
The Inspector asked softly:
"You identify the gentleman, sir?"
Old Jolyon raised his head and nodded. He looked at his brother
opposite, at that long lean figure brooding over the dead man,
with face dusky red, and strained grey eyes; and at the figure of
Soames white and still by his father's side. And all that he had
felt against those two was gone like smoke in the long white
presence of Death. Whence comes it, how comes it--Death? Sudden
reverse of all that goes before; blind setting forth on a path
that leads to where? Dark quenching of the fire! The heavy,
brutal crushing--out that all men must go through, keeping their
eyes clear and brave unto the end! Small and of no import,
insects though they are! And across old Jolyon's face there
flitted a gleam, for Soames, murmuring to the Inspector, crept
Then suddenly James raised his eyes. There was a queer appeal in
that suspicious troubled look: "I know I'm no match for you," it
seemed to say. And, hunting for handkerchief he wiped his brow;
then, bending sorrowful and lank over the dead man, he too turned
and hurried out.
Old Jolyon stood, still as death, his eyes fixed on the body.
Who shall tell of what he was thinking? Of himself, when his
hair was brown like the hair of that young fellow dead before
him? Of himself, with his battle just beginning, the long, long
battle he had loved; the battle that was over for this young man
almost before it had begun? Of his grand-daughter, with her
broken hopes? Of that other woman? Of the strangeness, and the
pity of it? And the irony, inscrutable, and bitter of that end?
Justice! There was no justice for men, for they were ever in the
Or perhaps in his philosophy he thought: Better to be out of, it
all! Better to have done with it, like this poor youth....
Some one touched him on the arm.
A tear started up and wetted his eyelash. "Well," he said, "I'm
no good here. I'd better be going. You'll come to me as soon as
you can, Jo," and with his head bowed he went away.
It was young Jolyon's turn to take his stand beside the dead man,
round whose fallen body he seemed to see all the Forsytes
breathless, and prostrated. The stroke had fallen too swiftly.
The forces underlying every tragedy--forces that take no denial,
working through cross currents to their ironical end, had met and
fused with a thunder-clap, flung out the victim, and flattened to
the ground all those that stood around.
Or so at all events young Jolyon seemed to see them, lying around
He asked the Inspector to tell him what had happened, and the
latter, like a man who does not every day get such a chance,
again detailed such facts as were known.
"There's more here, sir, however," he said, "than meets the eye.
I don't believe in suicide, nor in pure accident, myself. It's
more likely I think that he was suffering under great stress
of mind, and took no notice of things about him. Perhaps you can
throw some light on these."
He took from his pocket a little packet and laid it on the table.
Carefully undoing it, he revealed a lady's handkerchief, pinned
through the folds with a pin of discoloured Venetian gold, the
stone of which had fallen from the socket. A scent of dried
violets rose to young Jolyon's nostrils.
"Found in his breast pocket," said the Inspector; "the name has
been cut away!"
Young Jolyon with difficulty answered: "I'm afraid I cannot help
you!" But vividly there rose before him the face he had seen
light up, so tremulous and glad, at Bosinney's coming! Of her he
thought more than of his own daughter, more than of them all--of
her with the dark, soft glance, the delicate passive face,
waiting for the dead man, waiting even at that moment, perhaps,
still and patient in the sunlight.
He walked sorrowfully away from the hospital towards his father's
house, reflecting that this death would break up the Forsyte
family. The stroke had indeed slipped past their defences into
the very wood of their tree. They might flourish to all
appearance as before, preserving a brave show before the eyes of
London, but the trunk was dead, withered by the same flash that
had stricken down Bosinney. And now the saplings would take its
place, each one a new custodian of the sense of property.
Good forest of Forsytes! thought young Jolyon--soundest timber
of our land!
Concerning the cause of this death--his family would doubtless
reject with vigour the suspicion of suicide, which was so
compromising! They would take it as an accident, a stroke of
fate. In their hearts they would even feel it an intervention of
Providence, a retribution--had not Bosinney endangered their two
most priceless possessions, the pocket and the hearth? And they
would talk of 'that unfortunate accident of young Bosinney's,'
but perhaps they would not talk--silence might be better!
As for himself, he regarded the bus-driver's account of the
accident as of very little value. For no one so madly in love
committed suicide for want of money; nor was Bosinney the sort of
fellow to set much store by a financial crisis. And so he too
rejected this theory of suicide, the dead man's face rose too
clearly before him. Gone in the heyday of his summer--and to
believe thus that an accident had cut Bosinney off in the full
sweep of his passion was more than ever pitiful to young Jolyon.
Then came a vision of Soames' home as it now was, and must be
hereafter. The streak of lightning had flashed its clear uncanny
gleam on bare bones with grinning spaces between, the disguising
flesh was gone....
In the dining-room at Stanhope Gate old Jolyon was sitting alone