Part 8 out of 8
when his son came in. He looked very wan in his great armchair.
And his eyes travelling round the walls with their pictures of
still life, and the masterpiece 'Dutch fishing-boats at Sunset'
seemed as though passing their gaze over his life with its hopes,
its gains, its achievements.
"Ah! Jo!" he said, "is that you? I've told poor little June.
But that's not all of it. Are you going to Soames'? She's
brought it on herself, I suppose; but somehow I can't bear to
think of her, shut up there--and all alone." And holding up his
thin, veined hand, he clenched it.
After leaving James and old Jolyon in the mortuary of the
hospital, Soames hurried aimlessly along the streets.
The tragic event of Bosinney's death altered the complexion of
everything. There was no longer the same feeling that to lose a
minute would be fatal, nor would he now risk communicating the
fact of his wife's flight to anyone till the inquest was over.
That morning he had risen early, before the postman came, had
taken the first-post letters from the box himself, and, though
there had been none from Irene, he had made an opportunity of
telling Bilson that her mistress was at the sea; he would
probably, he said, be going down himself from Saturday to Monday.
This had given him time to breathe, time to leave no stone
unturned to find her.
But now, cut off from taking steps by Bosinney's death--that
strange death, to think of which was like putting a hot iron to
his heart, like lifting a great weight from it--he did not know
how to pass his day; and he wandered here and there through the
streets, looking at every face he met, devoured by a hundred
And as he wandered, he thought of him who had finished his
wandering, his prowling, and would never haunt his house again.
Already in the afternoon he passed posters announcing the
identity of the dead man, and bought the papers to see what they
said. He would stop their mouths if he could, and he went into
the City, and was closeted with Boulter for a long time.
On his way home, passing the steps of Jobson's about half past
four, he met George Forsyte, who held out an evening paper to
"Here! Have you seen this about the poor Buccaneer?"
Soames answered stonily: "Yes."
George stared at him. He had never liked Soames; he now held him
responsible for Bosinney's death. Soames had done for him--done
for him by that act of property that had sent the Buccaneer to
run amok that fatal afternoon.
'The poor fellow,' he was thinking, 'was so cracked with
jealousy, so cracked for his vengeance, that he heard nothing of
the omnibus in that infernal fog.'
Soames had done for him! And this judgment was in George's eyes.
"They talk of suicide here," he said at last. "That cat won't
Soames shook his head. "An accident," he muttered.
Clenching his fist on the paper, George crammed it into his
pocket. He could not resist a parting shot.
"H'mm! All flourishing at home? Any little Soameses yet?"
With a face as white as the steps of Jobson's, and a lip raised
as if snarling, Soames brushed past him and was gone....
On reaching home, and entering the little lighted hall with his
latchkey, the first thing that caught his eye was his wife's
gold-mounted umbrella lying on the rug chest. Flinging off his
fur coat, he hurried to the drawing-room.
The curtains were drawn for the night, a bright fire of
cedar-logs burned in the grate, and by its light he saw Irene
sitting in her usual corner on the sofa. He shut the door
softly, and went towards her. She did not move, and did not seem
to see him.
"So you've come back?" he said. "Why are you sitting here in the
Then he caught sight of her face, so white and motionless that it
seemed as though the blood must have stopped flowing in her
veins; and her eyes, that looked enormous, like the great, wide,
startled brown eyes of an owl.
Huddled in her grey fur against the sofa cushions, she had a
strange resemblance to a captive owl, bunched fir its soft
feathers against the wires of a cage. The supple erectness of
her figure was gone, as though she had been broken by cruel
exercise; as though there were no longer any reason for being
beautiful, and supple, and erect.
"So you've come back," he repeated.
She never looked up, and never spoke, the firelight playing over
her motionless figure.
Suddenly she tried to rise, but he prevented her; it was then
that he understood.
She had come back like an animal wounded to death, not knowing
where to turn, not knowing what she was doing. The sight of her
figure, huddled in the fur, was enough.
He knew then for certain that Bosinney had been her lover; knew
that she had seen the report of his death--perhaps, like himself,
had bought a paper at the draughty corner of a street, and read
She had come back then of her own accord, to the cage she had
pined to be free of--and taking in all the tremendous
significance of this, he longed to cry: "Take your hated body,
that I love, out of my house! Take away that pitiful white face,
so cruel and soft--before I crush it. Get out of my sight; never
let me see you again!"
And, at those unspoken words, he seemed to see her rise and move
away, like a woman in a terrible dream, from which she was
fighting to awake--rise and go out into the dark and cold, without
a thought of him, without so much as the knowledge of his
Then he cried, contradicting what he had not yet spoken, "No;
stay there!" And turning away from her, he sat down in his
accustomed chair on the other side of the hearth.
They sat in silence.
And Soames thought: 'Why is all this? Why should I suffer so?
What have I done? It is not my fault!'
Again he looked at her, huddled like a bird that is shot and
dying, whose poor breast you see panting as the air is taken from
it, whose poor eyes look at you who have shot it, with a slow,
soft, unseeing look, taking farewell of all that is good--of the
sun, and the air, and its mate.
So they sat, by the firelight, in the silence, one on each side
of the hearth.
And the fume of the burning cedar logs, that he loved so well,
seemed to grip Soames by the throat till he could bear it no
longer. And going out into the hall he flung the door wide, to
gulp down the cold air that came in; then without hat or overcoat
went out into the Square.
Along the garden rails a half-starved cat came rubbing her way
towards him, and Soames thought: 'Suffering! when will it cease,
At a front door across the way was a man of his acquaintance
named Rutter, scraping his boots, with an air of 'I am master
here.' And Soames walked on.
From far in the clear air the bells of the church where he and
Irene had been married were pealing in 'practice' for the advent
of Christ, the chimes ringing out above the sound of traffic. He
felt a craving for strong drink, to lull him to indifference, or
rouse him to fury. If only he could burst out of himself, out of
this web that for the first time in his life he felt around him.
If only he could surrender to the thought: 'Divorce her--turn her
out! She has forgotten you. Forget her!'
If only he could surrender to the thought: 'Let her go--she has
If only he could surrender to the desire: 'Make a slave of her--
she is in your power!'
If only even he could surrender to the sudden vision: 'What does
it all matter?' Forget himself for a minute, forget that it
mattered what he did, forget that whatever he did he must
If only he could act on an impulse!
He could forget nothing; surrender to no thought, vision, or
desire; it was all too serious; too close around him, an
On the far side of the Square newspaper boys were calling their
evening wares, and the ghoulish cries mingled and jangled with
the sound of those church bells.
Soames covered his ears. The thought flashed across him that but
for a chance, he himself, and not Bosinney, might be lying dead,
and she, instead of crouching there like a shot bird with those
Something soft touched his legs, the cat was rubbing herself
against them. And a sob that shook him from head to foot burst
from Soames' chest. Then all was still again in the dark, where
the houses seemed to stare at him, each with a master and
mistress of its own, and a secret story of happiness or sorrow.
And suddenly he saw that his own door was open, and black against
the light from the hall a man standing with his back turned.
Something slid too in his breast, and he stole up close behind.
He could see his own fur coat flung across the carved oak chair;
the Persian rugs; the silver bowls, the rows of porcelain plates
arranged along the walls, and this unknown man who was standing
And sharply he asked: "What is it you want, sir?"
The visitor turned. It was young Jolyon.
"The door was open," he said. "Might I see your wife for a
minute, I have a message for her?"
Soames gave him a strange, sidelong stare.
"My wife can see no one," he muttered doggedly.
Young Jolyon answered gently: "I shouldn't keep her a minute."
Soames brushed by him and barred the way.
"She can see no one," he said again.
Young Jolyon's glance shot past him into the hall, and Soames
turned. There in the drawing-room doorway stood Irene, her eyes
were wild and eager, her lips were parted, her hands out-
stretched. In the sight of both men that light vanished from
her face; her hands dropped to her sides; she stood like stone.
Soames spun round, and met his visitor's eyes, and at the look he
saw in them, a sound like a snarl escaped him. He drew his lips
back in the ghost of a smile.
"This is my house," he said; "I manage my own affairs. I've told
you once--I tell you again; we are not at home."
And in young Jolyon's face he slammed the door.