Part 2 out of 21
Forsyte feast--'the saddle of mutton.'
No Forsyte has given a dinner without providing a saddle of
mutton. There is something in its succulent solidity which makes
it suitable to people 'of a certain position.' It is nourishing
and tasty; the sort of thing a man remembers eating. It has a
past and a future, like a deposit paid into a bank; and it is
something that can be argued about.
Each branch of the family tenaciously held to a particular
locality--old Jolyon swearing by Dartmoor, James by Welsh,
Swithin by Southdown, Nicholas maintaining that people might
sneer, but there was nothing like New Zealand! As for Roger, the
'original' of the brothers, he had been obliged to invent a
locality of his own, and with an ingenuity worthy of a man who
had devised a new profession for his sons, he had discovered a
shop where they sold German; on being remonstrated with, he had
proved his point by producing a butcher's bill, which showed that
he paid more than any of the others. It was on this occasion
that old Jolyon, turning to June, had said in one of his bursts
"You may depend upon it, they're a cranky lot, the Forsytes--and
you'll find it out, as you grow older!"
Timothy alone held apart, for though he ate saddle of mutton
heartily, he was, he said, afraid of it.
To anyone interested psychologically in Forsytes, this great
saddle-of-mutton trait is of prime importance; not only does it
illustrate their tenacity, both collectively and as individuals,
but it marks them as belonging in fibre and instincts to that
great class which believes in nourishment and flavour, and yields
to no sentimental craving for beauty.
Younger members of the family indeed would have done without a
joint altogether, preferring guinea-fowl, or lobster salad--
something which appealed to the imagination, and had less
nourishment--but these were females; or, if not, had been
corrupted by their wives, or by mothers, who having been forced
to eat saddle of mutton throughout their married lives, had
passed a secret hostility towards it into the fibre of their
The great saddle-of-mutton controversy at an end, a Tewkesbury
ham commenced, together with the least touch of West Indian--
Swithin was so long over this course that he caused a block in
the progress of the dinner. To devote himself to it with better
heart, he paused in his conversation.
From his seat by Mrs. Septimus Small Soames was watching. He had
a reason of his own connected with a pet building scheme, for
observing Bosinney. The architect might do for his purpose; he
looked clever, as he sat leaning back in his chair, moodily
making little ramparts with bread-crumbs. Soames noted his dress
clothes to be well cut, but too small, as though made many years
He saw him turn to Irene and say something and her face sparkle
as he often saw it sparkle at other people--never at himself. He
tried to catch what they were saying, but Aunt Juley was
Hadn't that always seemed very extraordinary to Soames? Only
last Sunday dear Mr. Scole, had been so witty in his sermon, so
sarcastic, "For what," he had said, "shall it profit a man if he
gain his own soul, but lose all his property?" That, he had
said, was the motto of the middle-class; now, what had he meant
by that? Of course, it might be what middle-class people
believed--she didn't know; what did Soames think?
He answered abstractedly: "How should I know? Scoles is a
humbug, though, isn't he?" For Bosinney was looking round the
table, as if pointing out the peculiarities of the guests, and
Soames wondered what he was saying. By her smile Irene was
evidently agreeing with his remarks. She seemed always to agree
with other people.
Her eyes were turned on himself; Soames dropped his glance at
once. The smile had died off her lips.
A humbug? But what did Soames mean? If Mr. Scoles was a humbug,
a clergyman--then anybody might be--it was frightful!
"Well, and so they are!" said Soames.
During Aunt Juley's momentary and horrified silence he caught
some words of Irene's that sounded like: 'Abandon hope, all ye
who enter here!'
But Swithin had finished his ham.
"Where do you go for your mushrooms?" he was saying to Irene in a
voice like a courtier's; "you ought to go to Smileybob's--he'll
give 'em you fresh. These little men, they won't take the
Irene turned to answer him, and Soames saw Bosinney watching her
and smiling to himself. A curious smile the fellow had. A
half-simple arrangement, like a child who smiles when he is
pleased. As for George's nickname--'The Buccaneer'--he did not
think much of that. And, seeing Bosinney turn to June, Soames
smiled too, but sardonically--he did not like June, who was not
looking too pleased.
This was not surprising, for she had just held the following
conversation with James:
"I stayed on the river on my way home, Uncle James, and saw a
beautiful site for a house."
James, a slow and thorough eater, stopped the process of
"Eh?" he said. "Now, where was that?"
"Close to Pangbourne."
James placed a piece of ham in his mouth, and June waited.
"I suppose you wouldn't know whether the land about there was
freehold?" he asked at last. "You wouldn't know anything about
the price of land about there?"
"Yes," said June; "I made inquiries." Her little resolute face
under its copper crown was suspiciously eager and aglow.
James regarded her with the air of an inquisitor.
"What? You're not thinking of buying land!" he ejaculated,
dropping his fork.
June was greatly encouraged by his interest. It had long been
her pet plan that her uncles should benefit themselves and
Bosinney by building country-houses.
"Of course not," she said. "I thought it would be such a
splendid place for--you or--someone to build a country-house!"
James looked at her sideways, and placed a second piece of ham in
"Land ought to be very dear about there," he said.
What June had taken for personal interest was only the impersonal
excitement of every Forsyte who hears of something eligible in
danger of passing into other hands. But she refused to see the
disappearance of her chance, and continued to press her point.
"You ought to go into the country, Uncle James. I wish I had a
lot of money, I wouldn't live another day in London."
James was stirred to the depths of his long thin figure; he had
no idea his niece held such downright views.
"Why don't you go into the country?" repeated June; "it would do
you a lot of good."
"Why?" began James in a fluster. "Buying land--what good d'you
suppose I can do buying land, building houses?--I couldn't get
four per cent. for my money!"
"What does that matter? You'd get fresh air."
"Fresh air!" exclaimed James; "what should I do with fresh air,"
"I should have thought anybody liked to have fresh air," said
James wiped his napkin all over his mouth.
"You don't know the value of money," he said, avoiding her eye.
"No! and I hope I never shall!" and, biting her lip with
inexpressible mortification, poor June was silent.
Why were her own relations so rich, and Phil never knew where the
money was coming from for to-morrow's tobacco. Why couldn't they
do something for him? But they were so selfish. Why couldn't
they build country-houses? She had all that naive dogmatism
which is so pathetic, and sometimes achieves such great results.
Bosinney, to whom she turned in her discomfiture, was talking to
Irene, and a chill fell on June's spirit. Her eyes grew steady
with anger, like old Jolyon's when his will was crossed.
James, too, was much disturbed. He felt as though someone had
threatened his right to invest his money at five per cent.
Jolyon had spoiled her. None of his girls would have said such a
thing. James had always been exceedingly liberal to his
children, and the consciousness of this made him feel it all the
more deeply. He trifled moodily with his strawberries, then,
deluging them with cream, he ate them quickly; they, at all
events, should not escape him.
No wonder he was upset. Engaged for fifty-four years (he had
been admitted a solicitor on the earliest day sanctioned by the
law) in arranging mortgages, preserving investments at a dead
level of high and safe interest, conducting negotiations on the
principle of securing the utmost possible out of other people
compatible with safety to his clients and himself, in
calculations as to the exact pecuniary possibilities of all the
relations of life, he had come at last to think purely in terms
of money. Money was now his light, his medium for seeing, that
without which he was really unable to see, really not cognisant
of phenomena; and to have this thing, "I hope I shall never know
the value of money!" said to his face, saddened and exasperated
him. He knew it to be nonsense, or it would have frightened him.
What was the world coming to! Suddenly recollecting the story of
young Jolyon, however, he felt a little comforted, for what could
you expect with a father like that! This turned his thoughts
into a channel still less pleasant. What was all this talk about
Soames and Irene?
As in all self-respecting families, an emporium had been
established where family secrets were bartered, and family stock
priced. It was known on Forsyte 'Change that Irene regretted her
marriage. Her regret was disapproved of. She ought to have
known her own mind; no dependable woman made these mistakes.
James reflected sourly that they had a nice house (rather small)
in an excellent position, no children, and no money troubles.
Soames was reserved about his affairs, but he must be getting a
very warm man. He had a capital income from the business--for
Soames, like his father, was a member of that well-known firm of
solicitors, Forsyte, Bustard and Forsyte--and had always been very
careful. He had done quite unusually well with some mortgages he
had taken up, too--a little timely foreclosure--most lucky hits!
There was no reason why Irene should not be happy, yet they said
she'd been asking for a separate room. He knew where that ended.
It wasn't as if Soames drank.
James looked at his daughter-in-law. That unseen glance of his
was cold and dubious. Appeal and fear were in it, and a sense of
personal grievance. Why should he be worried like this? It was
very likely all nonsense; women were funny things! They
exaggerated so, you didn't know what to believe; and then, nobody
told him anything, he had to find out everything for himself.
Again he looked furtively at Irene, and across from her to
Soames. The latter, listening to Aunt Juley, was looking up,
under his brows in the direction of Bosinney.
'He's fond of her, I know,' thought James. 'Look at the way he's
always giving her things.'
And the extraordinary unreasonableness of her disaffection struck
him with increased force.
It was a pity, too, she was a taking little thing, and he, James,
would be really quite fond of her if she'd only let him. She had
taken up lately with June; that was doing her no good, that was
certainly doing her no good. She was getting to have opinions of
her own. He didn't know what she wanted with anything of the
sort. She'd a good home, and everything she could wish for. He
felt that her friends ought to be chosen for her. To go on like
this was dangerous.
June, indeed, with her habit of championing the unfortunate, had
dragged from Irene a confession, and, in return, had preached the
necessity of facing the evil, by separation, if need be. But in
the face of these exhortations, Irene had kept a brooding silence,
as though she found terrible the thought of this struggle carried
through in cold blood. He would never give her up, she had said
"Who cares?" June cried; "let him do what he likes--you've only
to stick to it!" And she had not scrupled to say something of
this sort at Timothy's; James, when he heard of it, had felt a
natural indignation and horror.
What if Irene were to take it into her head to--he could hardly
frame the thought--to leave Soames? But he felt this thought so
unbearable that he at once put it away; the shady visions it
conjured up, the sound of family tongues buzzing in his ears, the
horror of the conspicuous happening so close to him, to one of
his own children! Luckily, she had no money--a beggarly fifty
pound a year! And he thought of the deceased Heron, who had had
nothing to leave her, with contempt. Brooding over his glass,
his long legs twisted under the table, he quite omitted to rise
when the ladies left the room. He would have to speak to Soames-
-would have to put him on his guard; they could not go on like
this, now that such a contingency had occurred to him. And he
noticed with sour disfavour that June had left her wine-glasses
full of wine.
'That little, thing's at the bottom of it all,' he mused;
'Irene'd never have thought of it herself.' James was a man of
The voice of Swithin roused him from his reverie.
"I gave four hundred pounds for it," he was saying. "Of course
it's a regular work of art."
"Four hundred! H'm! that's a lot of money!" chimed in Nicholas.
The object alluded to was an elaborate group of statuary in
Italian marble, which, placed upon a lofty stand (also of
marble), diffused an atmosphere of culture throughout the room.
The subsidiary figures, of which there were six, female, nude,
and of highly ornate workmanship, were all pointing towards the
central figure, also nude, and female, who was pointing at
herself; and all this gave the observer a very pleasant sense of
her extreme value. Aunt Juley, nearly opposite, had had the
greatest difficulty in not looking at it all the evening.
Old Jolyon spoke; it was he who had started the discussion.
"Four hundred fiddlesticks! Don't tell me you gave four hundred
Between the points of his collar Swithin's chin made the second
painful oscillatory movement of the evening.
"Four-hundred-pounds, of English money; not a farthing less. I
don't regret it. It's not common English--it's genuine modern
Soames raised the corner of his lip in a smile, and looked across
at Bosinney. The architect was grinning behind the fumes of his
cigarette. Now, indeed, he looked more like a buccaneer.
"There's a lot of work about it," remarked James hastily, who was
really moved by the size of the group. "It'd sell well at
"The poor foreign dey-vil that made it," went on Swithin," asked
me five hundred--I gave him four. It's worth eight. Looked
half-starved, poor dey-vil!
"Ah!" chimed in Nicholas suddenly, "poor, seedy-lookin' chaps,
these artists; it's a wonder to me how they live. Now, there's
young Flageoletti, that Fanny and the girls are always hav'in'
in, to play the fiddle; if he makes a hundred a year it's as much
as ever he does!"
James shook his head. "Ah!" he said, "I don't know how they
Old Jolyon had risen, and, cigar in mouth, went to inspect the
group at close quarters.
"Wouldn't have given two for it!" he pronounced at last.
Soames saw his father and Nicholas glance at each other
anxiously; and, on the other side of Swithin, Bosinney, still
shrouded in smoke.
'I wonder what he thinks of it?' thought Soames, who knew well
enough that this group was hopelessly vieux jeu; hopelessly of
the last generation. There was no longer any sale at Jobson's
for such works of art.
Swithin's answer came at last. "You never knew anything about a
statue. You've got your pictures, and that's all!"
Old Jolyon walked back to his seat, puffing his cigar. It was
not likely that he was going to be drawn into an argument with an
obstinate beggar like Swithin, pig-headed as a mule, who had
never known a statue from a---straw hat.
"Stucco!" was all he said.
It had long been physically impossible for Swithin to start; his
fist came down on the table.
"Stucco! I should like to see anything you've got in your house
half as good!"
And behind his speech seemed to sound again that rumbling
violence of primitive generations.
It was James who saved the situation.
"Now, what do you say, Mr. Bosinney? You're an architect; you
ought to know all about statues and things!"
Every eye was turned upon Bosinney; all waited with a strange,
suspicious look for his answer.
And Soames, speaking for the first time, asked:
"Yes, Bosinney, what do you say?"
Bosinney replied coolly:
"The work is a remarkable one."
His words were addressed to Swithin, his eyes smiled slyly at old
Jolyon; only Soames remained unsatisfied.
"Remarkable for what?"
"For its naivete"
The answer was followed by an impressive silence; Swithin alone
was not sure whether a compliment was intended.
PROJECTION OF THE HOUSE
Soames Forsyte walked out of his green-painted front door three
days after the dinner at Swithin's, and looking back from across
the Square, confirmed his impression that the house wanted
He had left his wife sitting on the sofa in the drawing-room, her
hands crossed in her lap, manifestly waiting for him to go out.
This was not unusual. It happened, in fact, every day.
He could not understand what she found wrong with him. It was
not as if he drank! Did he run into debt, or gamble, or swear;
was he violent; were his friends rackety; did he stay out at
night? On the contrary.
The profound, subdued aversion which he felt in his wife was a
mystery to him, and a source of the most terrible irritation.
That she had made a mistake, and did not love him, had tried to
love him and could not love him, was obviously no reason.
He that could imagine so outlandish a cause for his wife's not
getting on with him was certainly no Forsyte.
Soames was forced, therefore, to set the blame entirely down to
his wife. He had never met a woman so capable of inspiring
affection. They could not go anywhere without his seeing how all
the men were attracted by her; their looks, manners, voices,
betrayed it; her behaviour under this attention had been beyond
reproach. That she was one of those women--not too common in the
Anglo-Saxon race--born to be loved and to love, who when not
loving are not living, had certainly never even occurred to him.
Her power of attraction, he regarded as part of her value as his
property; but it made him, indeed, suspect that she could give as
well as receive; and she gave him nothing! 'Then why did she
marry me?' was his continual thought. He had, forgotten his
courtship; that year and a half when he had besieged and lain in
wait for her, devising schemes for her entertainment, giving her
presents, proposing to her periodically, and keeping her other
admirers away with his perpetual presence. He had forgotten the
day when, adroitly taking advantage of an acute phase of her
dislike to her home surroundings, he crowned his labours with
success. If he remembered anything, it was the dainty
capriciousness with which the gold-haired, dark-eyed girl had
treated him. He certainly did not remember the look on her face-
-strange, passive, appealing--when suddenly one day she had
yielded, and said that she would marry him.
It had been one of those real devoted wooings which books and
people praise, when the lover is at length rewarded for hammering
the iron till it is malleable, and all must be happy ever after
as the wedding bells.
Soames walked eastwards, mousing doggedly along on the shady
The house wanted doing, up, unless he decided to move into the
country, and build.
For the hundredth time that month he turned over this problem.
There was no use in rushing into things! He was very comfortably
off, with an increasing income getting on for three thousand a
year; but his invested capital was not perhaps so large as his
father believed--James had a tendency to expect that his children
should be better off than they were. 'I can manage eight
thousand easily enough,' he thought, 'without calling in either
Robertson's or Nicholl's.'
He had stopped to look in at a picture shop, for Soames was an
'amateur' of pictures, and had a little-room in No. 62,
Montpellier Square, full of canvases, stacked against the wall,
which he had no room to hang. He brought them home with him on
his way back from the City, generally after dark, and would enter
this room on Sunday afternoons, to spend hours turning the
pictures to the light, examining the marks on their backs, and
occasionally making notes.
They were nearly all landscapes with figures in the foreground, a
sign of some mysterious revolt against London, its tall houses,
its interminable streets, where his life and the lives of his
breed and class were passed. Every now and then he would take
one or two pictures away with him in a cab, and stop at Jobson's
on his way into the City.
He rarely showed them to anyone; Irene, whose opinion he secretly
respected and perhaps for that reason never solicited, had only
been into the room on rare occasions, in discharge of some wifely
duty. She was not asked to look at the pictures, and she never
did. To Soames this was another grievance. He hated that pride
of hers, and secretly dreaded it.
In the plate-glass window of the picture shop his image stood and
looked at him.
His sleek hair under the brim of the tall hat had a sheen like
the hat itself; his cheeks, pale and flat, the line of his
clean-shaven lips, his firm chin with its greyish shaven tinge,
and the buttoned strictness of his black cut-away coat, conveyed
an appearance of reserve and secrecy, of imperturbable, enforced
composure; but his eyes, cold,--grey, strained--looking, with a
line in the brow between them, examined him wistfully, as if they
knew of a secret weakness.
He noted the subjects of the pictures, the names of the painters,
made a calculation of their values, but without the satisfaction
he usually derived from this inward appraisement, and walked on.
No. 62 would do well enough for another year, if he decided to
build! The times were good for building, money had not been so
dear for years; and the site he had seen at Robin Hill, when he
had gone down there in the spring to inspect the Nicholl
mortgage--what could be better! Within twelve miles of Hyde Park
Corner, the value of the land certain to go up, would always
fetch more than he gave for it; so that a house, if built in
really good style, was a first-class investment.
The notion of being the one member of his family with a country
house weighed but little with him; for to a true Forsyte,
sentiment, even the sentiment of social position, was a luxury
only to be indulged in after his appetite for more material
pleasure had been satisfied.
To get Irene out of London, away from opportunities of going
about and seeing people, away from her friends and those who put
ideas into her head! That was the thing! She was too thick with
June! June disliked him. He returned the sentiment. They were
of the same blood.
It would be everything to get Irene out of town. The house would
please her she would enjoy messing about with the decoration, she
was very artistic!
The house must be in good style, something that would always be
certain to command a price, something unique, like that last
house of Parkes, which had a tower; but Parkes had himself said
that his architect was ruinous. You never knew where you were
with those fellows; if they had a name they ran you into no end
of expense and were conceited into the bargain.
And a common architect was no good--the memory of Parkes' tower
precluded the employment of a common architect:
This was why he had thought of Bosinney. Since the dinner at
Swithin's he had made enquiries, the result of which had been
meagre, but encouraging: "One of the new school."
"As clever as you like--a bit--a bit up in the air!"
He had not been able to discover what houses Bosinney had built,
nor what his charges were. The impression he gathered was that
he would be able to make his own terms. The more he reflected on
the idea, the more he liked it. It would be keeping the thing in
the family, with Forsytes almost an instinct; and he would be
able to get 'favoured-nation,' if not nominal terms--only fair,
considering the chance to Bosinney of displaying his talents, for
this house must be no common edifice.
Soames reflected complacently on the work it would be sure to
bring the young man; for, like every Forsyte, he could be a
thorough optimist when there was anything to be had out of it.
Bosinney's office was in Sloane Street, close at, hand, so that
he would be able to keep his eye continually on the plans.
Again, Irene would not be to likely to object to leave London if
her greatest friend's lover were given the job. June's marriage
might depend on it. Irene could not decently stand in the way of
June's marriage; she would never do that, he knew her too well.
And June would be pleased; of this he saw the advantage.
Bosinney looked clever, but he had also--and--it was one of his
great attractions--an air as if he did not quite know on which
side his bread were buttered; he should be easy to deal with in
money matters. Soames made this reflection in no defrauding
spirit; it was the natural attitude of his mind--of the mind of
any good business man--of all those thousands of good business
men through whom he was threading his way up Ludgate Hill.
Thus he fulfilled the inscrutable laws of his great class--of
human nature itself--when he reflected, with a sense of comfort,
that Bosinney would be easy to deal with in money matters.
While he elbowed his way on, his eyes, which he usually kept
fixed on the ground before his feet, were attracted upwards by
the dome of St. Paul's. It had a peculiar fascination for him,
that old dome, and not once, but twice or three times a week,
would he halt in his daily pilgrimage to enter beneath and stop
in the side aisles for five or ten minutes, scrutinizing the
names and epitaphs on the monuments. The attraction for him of
this great church was inexplicable, unless it enabled him to
concentrate his thoughts on the business of the day. If any
affair of particular moment, or demanding peculiar acuteness, was
weighing on his mind, he invariably went in, to wander with
mouse-like attention from epitaph to epitaph. Then retiring in
the same noiseless way, he would hold steadily on up Cheapside, a
thought more of dogged purpose in his gait, as though he had seen
something which he had made up his mind to buy.
He went in this morning, but, instead of stealing from monument
to monument, turned his eyes upwards to the columns and spacings
of the walls, and remained motionless.
His uplifted face, with the awed and wistful look which faces
take on themselves in church, was whitened to a chalky hue in the
vast building. His gloved hands were clasped in front over the
handle of his umbrella. He lifted them. Some sacred inspiration
perhaps had come to him.
'Yes,' he thought, 'I must have room to hang my pictures.
That evening, on his return from the City, he called at
Bosinney's office. He found the architect in his shirt-sleeves,
smoking a pipe, and ruling off lines on a plan. Soames refused a
drink, and came at once to the point.
"If you've nothing better to do on Sunday, come down with me to
Robin Hill, and give me your opinion on a building site."
"Are you going to build?"
"Perhaps," said Soames; "but don't speak of it. I just want your
"Quite so," said the architect.
Soames peered about the room.
"You're rather high up here," he remarked.
Any information he could gather about the nature and scope of
Bosinney's business would be all to the good.
"It does well enough for me so far," answered the architect.
"You're accustomed to the swells."
He knocked out his pipe, but replaced it empty between his teeth;
it assisted him perhaps to carry on the conversation. Soames
noted a hollow in each cheek, made as it were by suction.
"What do you pay for an office like this?" said he.
"Fifty too much," replied Bosinney.
This answer impressed Soames favourably.
"I suppose it is dear," he said. "I'll call for you--on Sunday
The following Sunday therefore he called for Bosinney in a
hansom, and drove him to the station. On arriving at Robin Hill,
they found no cab, and started to walk the mile and a half to the
It was the 1st of August--a perfect day, with a burning sun and
cloudless sky--and in the straight, narrow road leading up the
hill their feet kicked up a yellow dust.
"Gravel soil," remarked Soames, and sideways he glanced at the
coat Bosinney wore. Into the side-pockets of this coat were
thrust bundles of papers, and under one arm was carried a queer-
looking stick. Soames noted these and other peculiarities.
No one but a clever man, or, indeed, a buccaneer, would have
taken such liberties with his appearance; and though these
eccentricities were revolting to Soames, he derived a certain
satisfaction from them, as evidence of qualities by which he must
inevitably profit. If the fellow could build houses, what did
his clothes matter?
"I told you," he said, "that I want this house to be a surprise,
so don't say anything about it. I never talk of my affairs until
they're carried through."
"Let women into your plans," pursued Soames, "and you never know
where it'll end."
"Ah!" Said Bosinney, "women are the devil!"
This feeling had long been at the--bottom of Soames's heart; he
had never, however, put it into words.
"Oh!" he Muttered, "so you're beginning to...." He stopped, but
added, with an uncontrollable burst of spite: "June's got a
temper of her own--always had."
"A temper's not a bad thing in an angel."
Soames had never called Irene an angel. He could not so have
violated his best instincts, letting other people into the secret
of her value, and giving himself away. He made no reply.
They had struck into a half-made road across a warren. A
cart-track led at right-angles to a gravel pit, beyond which the
chimneys of a cottage rose amongst a clump of trees at the border
of a thick wood. Tussocks of feathery grass covered the rough
surface of the ground, and out of these the larks soared into the
hate of sunshine. On the far horizon, over a countless
succession of fields and hedges, rose a line of downs.
Soames led till they had crossed to the far side, and there he
stopped. It was the chosen site; but now that he was about to
divulge the spot to another he had become uneasy.
"The agent lives in that cottage," he said; "he'll give us some
lunch--we'd better have lunch before we go into this matter."
He again took the lead to the cottage, where the agent, a tall
man named Oliver, with a heavy face and grizzled beard, welcomed
them. During lunch, which Soames hardly touched, he kept looking
at Bosinney, and once or twice passed his silk handkerchief
stealthily over his forehead. The meal came to an end at last,
and Bosinney rose.
"I dare say you've got business to talk over," he said; "I'll
just go and nose about a bit." Without waiting for a reply he
Soames was solicitor to this estate, and he spent nearly an hour
in the agent's company, looking at ground-plans and discussing
the Nicholl and other mortgages; it was as it were by an
afterthought that he brought up the question of the building
"Your people," he said, "ought to come down in their price to me,
considering that I shall be the first to build."
Oliver shook his head.
The site you've fixed on, Sir, he said, "is the cheapest we've
got. Sites at the top of the slope are dearer by a good bit."
"Mind," said Soames," I've not decided; it's quite possible I
shan't build at all. The ground rent's very high."
"Well, Mr. Forsyte, I shall be sorry if you go off, and I think
you'll make a mistake, Sir. There's not a bit of land near
London with such a view as this, nor one that's cheaper, all
things considered; we've only to advertise, to get a mob of
people after it."
They looked at each other. Their faces said very plainly: 'I
respect you as a man of business; and you can't expect me to
believe a word you say.'
Well, repeated Soames, "I haven't made up my mind; the thing will
very likely go off!" With these words, taking up his umbrella,
he put his chilly hand into the agent's, withdrew it without the
faintest pressure, and went out into the sun.
He walked slowly back towards the site in deep thought. His
instinct told him that what the agent had said was true. A cheap
site. And the beauty of it was, that he knew the agent did not
really think it cheap; so that his own intuitive knowledge was a
victory over the agent's.
'Cheap or not, I mean to have it,' he thought.
The larks sprang up in front of his feet, the air was full of
butterflies, a sweet fragrance rose from the wild grasses. The
sappy scent of the bracken stole forth from the wood, where,
hidden in the depths, pigeons were cooing, and from afar on the
warm breeze, came the rhythmic chiming of church bells.
Soames walked with his eyes on the ground, his lips opening and
closing as though in anticipation of a delicious morsel. But
when he arrived at the site, Bosinney was nowhere to be seen.
After waiting some little time, he crossed the warren in the
direction of the slope. He would have shouted, but dreaded the
sound of his voice.
The warren was as lonely as a prairie, its silence only broken by
the rustle of rabbits bolting to their holes, and the song of the
Soames, the pioneer-leader of the great Forsyte army advancing to
the civilization of this wilderness, felt his spirit daunted by
the loneliness, by the invisible singing, and the hot, sweet air.
He had begun to retrace his steps when he at last caught sight of
The architect was sprawling under a large oak tree, whose trunk,
with a huge spread of bough and foliage, ragged with age, stood
on the verge of the rise.
Soames had to touch him on the shoulder before he looked up.
"Hallo! Forsyte," he said, "I've found the very place for your
house! Look here!"
Soames stood and looked, then he said, coldly:
"You may be very clever, but this site will cost me half as much
"Hang the cost, man. Look at the view!"
Almost from their feet stretched ripe corn, dipping to a small
dark copse beyond. A plain of fields and hedges spread to the
distant grey-bluedowns. In a silver streak to the right could be
seen the line of the river.
The sky was so blue, and the sun so bright, that an eternal
summer seemed to reign over this prospect. Thistledown floated
round them, enraptured by the serenity, of the ether. The heat
danced over the corn, and, pervading all, was a soft, insensible
hum, like the murmur of bright minutes holding revel between
earth and heaven.
Soames looked. In spite of himself, something swelled in his
breast. To live here in sight of all this, to be able to point
it out to his friends, to talk of it, to possess it! His cheeks
flushed. The warmth, the radiance, the glow, were sinking into
his senses as, four years before, Irene's beauty had sunk into
his senses and made him long for her. He stole a glance at
Bosinney, whose eyes, the eyes of the coachman's 'half-tame
leopard,' seemed running wild over the landscape. The sunlight
had caught the promontories of the fellow's face, the bumpy
cheekbones, the point of his chin, the vertical ridges above his
brow; and Soames watched this rugged, enthusiastic, careless face
with an unpleasant feeling.
A long, soft ripple of wind flowed over the corn, and brought a
puff of warm air into their faces.
"I could build you a teaser here," said Bosinney, breaking the
silence at last.
"I dare say," replied Soames, drily. "You haven't got to pay for
"For about eight thousand I could build you a palace."
Soames had become very pale--a struggle was going on within him.
He dropped his eyes, and said stubbornly:
"I can't afford it."
And slowly, with his mousing walk, he led the way back to the
They spent some time there going into particulars of the
projected house, and then Soames returned to the agent's cottage.
He came out in about half an hour, and, joining Bosinney,
started for the station.
"Well," he said, hardly opening his lips, "I've taken that site
of yours, after all."
And again he was silent, confusedly debating how it was that this
fellow, whom by habit he despised, should have overborne his own
A FORSYTE MENAGE
Like the enlightened thousands of his class and generation in
this great city of London, who no longer believe in red velvet
chairs, and know that groups of modern Italian marble are 'vieux
jeu,' Soames Forsyte inhabited a house which did what it could.
It owned a copper door knocker of individual design, windows
which had been altered to open outwards, hanging flower boxes
filled with fuchsias, and at the back (a great feature) a little
court tiled with jade-green tiles, and surrounded by pink
hydrangeas in peacock-blue tubs. Here, under a parchment-
coloured Japanese sunshade covering the whole end, inhabitants
or visitors could be screened from the eyes of the curious
while they drank tea and examined at their leisure the latest
of Soames's little silver boxes.
The inner decoration favoured the First Empire and William
Morris. For its size, the house was commodious; there were
countless nooks resembling birds' nests, and little things made
of silver were deposited like eggs.
In this general perfection two kinds of fastidiousness were at
war. There lived here a mistress who would have dwelt daintily
on a desert island; a master whose daintiness was, as it were, an
investment, cultivated by the owner for his advancement, in
accordance with the laws of competition. This competitive
daintiness had caused Soames in his Marlborough days to be the
first boy into white waistcoats in summer, and corduroy
waistcoats in winter, had prevented him from ever appearing in
public with his tie climbing up his collar, and induced him to
dust his patent leather boots before a great multitude assembled
on Speech Day to hear him recite Moliere.
Skin-like immaculateness had grown over Soames, as over many
Londoners; impossible to conceive of him with a hair out of
place, a tie deviating one-eighth of an inch from the
perpendicular, a collar unglossed! He would not have gone
without a bath for worlds--it was the fashion to take baths; and
how bitter was his scorn of people who omitted them!
But Irene could be imagined, like some nymph, bathing in wayside
streams, for the joy of the freshness and of seeing her own fair
In this conflict throughout the house the woman had gone to the
wall. As in the struggle between Saxon and Celt still going on
within the nation, the more impressionable and receptive
temperament had had forced on it a conventional superstructure.
Thus the house had acquired a close resemblance to hundreds of
other houses with the same high aspirations, having become: 'That
very charming little house of the Soames Forsytes, quite
individual, my dear--really elegant.'
For Soames Forsyte--read James Peabody, Thomas Atkins, or
Emmanuel Spagnoletti, the name in fact of any upper-middle class
Englishman in London with any pretensions to taste; and though
the decoration be different, the phrase is just.
On the evening of August 8, a week after the expedition to Robin
Hill, in the dining-room of this house--'quite individual, my
dear--really elegant'--Soames and Irene were seated at dinner. A
hot dinner on Sundays was a little distinguishing elegance common
to this house and many others. Early in married life Soames had
laid down the rule: 'The servants must give us hot dinner on
Sundays--they've nothing to do but play the concertina.'
The custom had produced no revolution. For--to Soames a rather
deplorable sign--servants were devoted to Irene, who, in defiance
of all safe tradition, appeared to recognise their right to a
share in the weaknesses of human nature.
The happy pair were seated, not opposite each other, but
rectangularly, at the handsome rosewood table; they dined without
a cloth--a distinguishing elegance--and so far had not spoken a
Soames liked to talk during dinner about business, or what he had
been buying, and so long as he talked Irene's silence did not
distress him. This evening he had found it impossible to talk.
The decision to build had been weighing on his mind all the week,
and he had made up his mind to tell her.
His nervousness about this disclosure irritated him profoundly;
she had no business to make him feel like that--a wife and a
husband being one person. She had not looked at him once since
they sat down; and he wondered what on earth she had been
thinking about all the time. It was hard, when a man worked as
he did, making money for her--yes, and with an ache in his heart-
-that she should sit there, looking--looking as if she saw the
walls of the room closing in. It was enough to make a man get up
and leave the table.
The light from the rose-shaded lamp fell on her neck and arms--
Soames liked her to dine in a low dress, it gave him an
inexpressible feeling of superiority to the majority of his
acquaintance, whose wives were contented with their best high
frocks or with tea-gowns, when they dined at home. Under that
rosy light her amber-coloured hair and fair skin made strange
contrast with her dark brown eyes.
Could a man own anything prettier than this dining-table with its
deep tints, the starry, soft-petalled roses, the ruby-coloured
glass, and quaint silver furnishing; could a man own anything
prettier than the woman who sat at it? Gratitude was no virtue
among Forsytes, who, competitive, and full of common-sense, had
no occasion for it; and Soames only experienced a sense of
exasperation amounting to pain, that he did not own her as it was
his right to own her, that he could not, as by stretching out
his hand to that rose, pluck her and sniff the very secrets of
Out of his other property, out of all the things he had
collected, his silver, his pictures, his houses, his investments,
he got a secret and intimate feeling; out of her he got none.
In this house of his there was writing on every wall. His
business-like temperament protested against a mysterious warning
that she was not made for him. He had married this woman,
conquered her, made her his own, and it seemed to him contrary to
the most fundamental of all laws, the law of possession, that he
could do no more than own her body--if indeed he could do that,
which he was beginning to doubt. If any one had asked him if he
wanted to own her soul, the question would have seemed to him
both ridiculous and sentimental. But he did so want, and the
writing said he never would.
She was ever silent, passive, gracefully averse; as though
terrified lest by word, motion, or sign she might lead him to
believe that she was fond of him; and he asked himself: Must I
always go on like this?
Like most novel readers of his generation (and Soames was a great
novel reader), literature coloured his view of life; and he had
imbibed the belief that it was only a question of time.
In the end the husband always gained the affection of his wife.
Even in those cases--a class of book he was not very fond of--
which ended in tragedy, the wife always died with poignant
regrets on her lips, or if it were the husband who died--
unpleasant thought--threw herself on his body in an agony of
He often took Irene to the theatre, instinctively choosing the
modern Society Plays with the modern Society conjugal problem, so
fortunately different from any conjugal problem in real life. He
found that they too always ended in the same way, even when there
was a lover in the case. While he was watching the play Soames
often sympathized with the lover; but before he reached home
again, driving with Irene in a hansom, he saw that this would not
do, and he was glad the play had ended as it had. There was one
class of husband that had just then come into fashion, the
strong, rather rough, but extremely sound man, who was peculiarly
successful at the end of the play; with this person Soames was
really not in sympathy, and had it not been for his own position,
would have expressed his disgust with the fellow. But he was so
conscious of how vital to himself was the necessity for being a
successful, even a 'strong,' husband, that be never spoke of a
distaste born perhaps by the perverse processes of Nature out of
a secret fund of brutality in himself.
But Irene's silence this evening was exceptional. He had never
before seen such an expression on her face. And since it is
always the unusual which alarms, Soames was alarmed. He ate his
savoury, and hurried the maid as she swept off the crumbs with
the silver sweeper. When she had left the room, he filled his.
glass with wine and said:
"Anybody been here this afternoon?"
"What did she want?" It was an axiom with the Forsytes that
people did not go anywhere unless they wanted something. "Came
to talk about her lover, I suppose?"
Irene made no reply.
"It looks to me," continued Soames, "as if she were sweeter on him
than he is on her. She's always following him about."
Irene's eyes made him feel uncomfortable.
"You've no business to say such a thing!" she exclaimed.
"Why not? Anybody can see it."
"They cannot. And if they could, it's disgraceful to say so."
Soames's composure gave way.
"You're a pretty wife!" he said. But secretly he wondered at the
heat of her reply; it was unlike her. "You're cracked about
June! I can tell you one thing: now that she has the Buccaneer
in tow, she doesn't care twopence about you, and, you'll find it
out. But you won't see so much of her in future; we're going to
live in the country."
He had been glad to get his news out under cover of this burst of
irritation. He had expected a cry of dismay; the silence with
which his pronouncement was received alarmed him.
"You don't seem interested," he was obliged to add.
"I knew it already."
He looked at her sharply.
"Who told you?"
"How did she know?"
Irene did not answer. Baffled and uncomfortable, he said:
"It's a fine thing for Bosinney, it'll be the making of him. I
suppose she's told you all about it?"
There was another pause, and then Soames said:
"I suppose you don't want to, go?"
Irene made no reply.
"Well, I can't tell what you want. You never seem contented
"Have my wishes anything to do with it?"
She took the vase of roses and left the room. Soames remained
seated. Was it for this that he had signed that contract? Was
it for this that he was going to spend some ten thousand pounds?
Bosinney's phrase came back to him: "Women are the devil!"
But presently he grew calmer. It might have, been worse. She
might have flared up. He had expected something more than this.
It was lucky, after all, that June had broken the ice for him.
She must have wormed it out of Bosinney; he might have known she
He lighted his cigarette. After all, Irene had not made a scene!
She would come round--that was the best of her; she was cold, but
not sulky. And, puffing the cigarette smoke at a lady-bird on
the shining table, he plunged into a reverie about the house. It
was no good worrying; he would go and make it up presently. She
would be sitting out there in the dark, under the Japanese
sunshade, knitting. A beautiful, warm night....
In truth, June had come in that afternoon with shining eyes, and
the words: "Soames is a brick! It's splendid for Phil--the very
thing for him!"
Irene's face remaining dark and puzzled, she went on:
"Your new house at Robin Hill, of course. What? Don't you
Irene did not know.
"Oh! then, I suppose I oughtn't to have told you!" Looking
impatiently at her friend, she cried: "You look as if you didn't
care. Don't you see, it's what I've' been praying for--the very
chance he's been wanting all this time. Now you'll see what he
can do;" and thereupon she poured out the whole story.
Since her own engagement she had not seemed much interested in
her friend's position; the hours she spent with Irene were given
to confidences of her own; and at times, for all her affectionate
pity, it was impossible to keep out of her smile a trace of
compassionate contempt for the woman who had made such a mistake
in her life--such a vast, ridiculous mistake.
"He's to have all the decorations as well--a free hand. It's
perfect--" June broke into laughter, her little figure quivered
gleefully; she raised her hand, and struck a blow at a muslin
curtain. "Do you, know I even asked Uncle James...." But, with a
sudden dislike to mentioning that incident, she stopped; and
presently, finding her friend so unresponsive, went away. She
looked back from the pavement, and Irene was still standing in
the doorway. In response to her farewell wave, Irene put her
hand to her brow, and, turning slowly, shut the door....
Soames went to the drawing-room presently, and peered at her
through the window.
Out in the shadow of the Japanese sunshade she was sitting very
still, the lace on her white shoulders stirring with the soft
rise and fall of her bosom.
But about this silent creature sitting there so motionless, in
the dark, there seemed a warmth, a hidden fervour of feeling, as
if the whole of her being had been stirred, and some change were
taking place in its very depths.
He stole back to the dining-room unnoticed.
JAMES AT LARGE
It was not long before Soames's determination to build went the
round of the family, and created the flutter that any decision
connected with property should make among Forsytes.
It was not his fault, for he had been determined that no one
should know. June, in the fulness of her heart, had told Mrs.
Small, giving her leave only to tell Aunt Ann--she thought it
would cheer her, the poor old sweet! for Aunt Ann had kept her
room now for many days.
Mrs. Small told Aunt Ann at once, who, smiling as she lay back on
her pillows, said in her distinct, trembling old voice:
"It's very nice for dear June; but I hope they will be careful--
it's rather dangerous!"
When she was left alone again, a frown, like a cloud presaging a
rainy morrow, crossed her face.
While she was lying there so many days the process of recharging
her will went on all the time; it spread to her face, too, and
tightening movements were always in action at the corners of her
The maid Smither, who had been in her service since girlhood, and
was spoken of as "Smither--a good girl--but so slow!"--the maid
Smither performed every morning with extreme punctiliousness the
crowning ceremony of that ancient toilet. Taking from the
recesses of their pure white band-box those flat, grey curls,
the insignia of personal dignity, she placed them securely in her
mistress's hands, and turned her back.
And every day Aunts Juley and Hester were required to come and
report on Timothy; what news there was of Nicholas; whether dear
June had succeeded in getting Jolyon to shorten the engagement,
now that Mr. Bosinney was building Soames a house; whether young
Roger's wife was really--expecting; how the operation on Archie
had succeeded; and what Swithin had done about that empty house
in Wigmore Street, where the tenant had lost all his money and
treated him so badly; above all, about Soames; was Irene still--
still asking for a separate room? And every morning Smither was
told: "I shall be coming down this afternoon, Smither, about two
o'clock. I shall want your arm, after all these days in bed!"
After telling Aunt Ann, Mrs. Small had spoken of the house in the
strictest confidence to Mrs. Nicholas, who in her turn had asked
Winifred Dartie for confirmation, supposing, of course, that,
being Soames's sister, she would know all about it. Through her
it had in due course come round to the ears of James. He had been
a good deal agitated.
"Nobody," he said, "told him anything." And, rather than go
direct to Soames himself, of whose taciturnity he was afraid, he
took his umbrella and went round to Timothy's.
He found Mrs. Septimus and Hester (who had been told--she was so
safe, she found it tiring to talk) ready, and indeed eager, to
discuss the news. It was very good of dear Soames, they thought,
to employ Mr. Bosinney, but rather risky. What had George named
him? 'The Buccaneer' How droll! But George was always droll!
However, it would be all in the family they supposed they must
really look upon Mr. Bosinney as belonging to the family, though
it seemed strange.
James here broke in:
"Nobody knows anything about him. I don't see what Soames wants
with a young man like that. I shouldn't be surprised if Irene
had put her oar in. I shall speak to...."
"Soames," interposed Aunt Juley, "told Mr. Bosinney that he
didn't wish it mentioned. He wouldn't like it to be talked
about, I'm sure, and if Timothy knew he would be very vexed,
James put his hand behind his ear:
"What?" he said. "I'm getting very deaf. I suppose I don't hear
people. Emily's got a bad toe. We shan't be able to start for
Wales till the end of the month. There' s always something!"
And, having got what he wanted, he took his hat and went away.
It was a fine afternoon, and he walked across the Park towards
Soames's, where he intended to dine, for Emily's toe kept her in
bed, and Rachel and Cicely were on a visit to the country. He
took the slanting path from the Bayswater side of the Row to the
Knightsbridge Gate, across a pasture of short, burnt grass,
dotted with blackened sheep, strewn with seated couples and
strange waifs; lying prone on their faces, like corpses on a
field over which the wave of battle has rolled.
He walked rapidly, his head bent, looking neither to right nor,
left. The appearance of this park, the centre of his own
battle-field, where he had all his life been fighting, excited no
thought or speculation in his mind. These corpses flung down,
there, from out the press and turmoil of the struggle, these
pairs of lovers sitting cheek by jowl for an hour of idle Elysium
snatched from the monotony of their treadmill, awakened no
fancies in his mind; he had outlived that kind of imagination;
his nose, like the nose of a sheep, was fastened to the pastures
on which he browsed.
One of his tenants had lately shown a disposition to be
behind-hand in his rent, and it had become a grave question
whether he had not better turn him out at once, and so run the
risk of not re-letting before Christmas. Swithin had just been
let in very badly, but it had served him right--he had held on
He pondered this as he walked steadily, holding his umbrella
carefully by the wood, just below the crook of the handle, so as
to keep the ferule off the ground, and not fray the silk in the
middle. And, with his thin, high shoulders stooped, his long
legs moving with swift mechanical precision, this passage through
the Park, where the sun shone with a clear flame on so much
idleness--on so many human evidences of the remorseless battle of
Property, raging beyond its ring--was like the flight of some
land bird across the sea.
He felt a--touch on the arm as he came out at Albert Gate.
It was Soames, who, crossing from the shady side of Piccadilly,
where he had been walking home from the office, had suddenly
"Your mother's in bed," said James; "I was, just coming to you,
but I suppose I shall be in the way."
The outward relations between James and his son were marked by a
lack of sentiment peculiarly Forsytean, but for all that the two
were by no means unattached. Perhaps they regarded one another
as an investment; certainly they were solicitous of each other's
welfare, glad of each other's company. They had never exchanged
two words upon the more intimate problems of life, or revealed in
each other's presence the existence of any deep feeling.
Something beyond the power of word-analysis bound them together,
something hidden deep in the fibre of nations and families--for
blood, they say, is thicker than water--and neither of them was a
cold-blooded man. Indeed, in James love of his children was now
the prime motive of his existence. To have creatures who were
parts of himself, to whom he might transmit the money he saved,
was at the root of his saving; and, at seventy-five, what was
left that could give him pleasure, but--saving? The kernel of
life was in this saving for his children.
Than James Forsyte, notwithstanding all his 'Jonah-isms,' there
was no saner man (if the leading symptom of sanity, as we are
told, is self-preservation, though without doubt Timothy went too
far) in all this London, of which he owned so much, and loved
with such a dumb love, as the centre of his opportunities. He
had the marvellous instinctive sanity of the middle class. In
him--more than in Jolyon, with his masterful will and his moments
of tenderness and philosophy--more than in Swithin, the martyr to
crankiness--Nicholas, the sufferer from ability--and Roger, the
victim of enterprise--beat the true pulse of compromise; of all
the brothers he was least remarkable in mind and person, and for
that reason more likely to live for ever.
To James, more than to any of the others, was "the family"
significant and dear. There had always been something primitive
and cosy in his attitude towards life; he loved the family
hearth, he loved gossip, and he loved grumbling. All his
decisions were formed of a cream which he skimmed off the family
mind; and, through that family, off the minds of thousands of
other families of similar fibre. Year after year, week after
week, he went to Timothy's, and in his brother's front
drawing-room--his legs twisted, his long white whiskers framing
his clean-shaven mouth--would sit watching the family pot simmer,
the cream rising to the top; and he would go away sheltered,
refreshed, comforted, with an indefinable sense of comfort.
Beneath the adamant of his self-preserving instinct there was
much real softness in James; a visit to Timothy's was like an
hour spent in the lap of a mother; and the deep craving he
himself had for the protection of the family wing reacted in turn
on his feelings towards his own children; it was a nightmare to
him to think of them exposed to the treatment of the world, in
money, health, or reputation. When his old friend John Street's
son volunteered for special service, he shook his head
querulously, and wondered what John Street was about to allow it;
and when young Street was assagaied, he took it so much to heart
that he made a point of calling everywhere with the special
object of saying: He knew how it would be--he'd no patience with
When his son-in-law Dartie had that financial crisis, due to
speculation in Oil Shares, James made himself ill worrying over
it; the knell of all prosperity seemed to have sounded. It took
him three months and a visit to Baden-Baden to get better; there
was something terrible in the idea that but for his, James's,
money, Dartie's name might have appeared in the Bankruptcy List.
Composed of a physiological mixture so sound that if he had an
earache he thought he was dying, he regarded the occasional
ailments of his wife and children as in the nature of personal
grievances, special interventions of Providence for the purpose
of destroying his peace of mind; but he did not believe at all in
the ailments of people outside his own immediate family,
affirming them in every case to be due to neglected liver.
His universal comment was: "What can they expect? I have it
myself, if I'm not careful!"
When he went to Soames's that evening he felt that life was hard
on him: There was Emily with a bad toe, and Rachel gadding about
in the country; he got no sympathy from anybody; and Ann, she was
ill--he did not believe she would last through the summer; he had
called there three times now without her being able to see him!
And this idea of Soames's, building a house, that would have to
be looked into. As to the trouble with Irene, he didn't know
what was to come of that--anything might come of it!
He entered 62, Montpellier Square with the fullest intentions of
being miserable. It was already half-past seven, and Irene,
dressed for dinner, was seated in the drawing-room. She was
wearing her gold-coloured frock--for, having been displayed at a
dinner-party, a soiree, and a dance, it was now to be worn at
home--and she had adorned the bosom with a cascade of lace, on
which James's eyes riveted themselves at once.
"Where do you get your things?" he said in an aggravated voice.
"I never see Rachel and Cicely looking half so well. That
rose-point, now--that's not real!"
Irene came close, to prove to him that he was in error.
And, in spite of himself, James felt the influence of her
deference, of the faint seductive perfume exhaling from her. No
self-respecting Forsyte surrendered at a blow; so he merely said:
He didn't know--he expected she was spending a pretty penny on
The gong sounded, and, putting her white arm within his, Irene
took him into the dining-room. She seated him in Soames's usual
place, round the corner on her left. The light fell softly
there, so that he would not be worried by the gradual dying of
the day; and she began to talk to him about himself.
Presently, over James came a change, like the mellowing that
steals upon a fruit in the, sun; a sense of being caressed, and
praised, and petted, and all without the bestowal of a single
caress or word of praise. He felt that what he was eating was
agreeing with him; he could not get that feeling at home; he did
not know when he had enjoyed a glass of champagne so much, and,
on inquiring the brand and price, was surprised to find that it
was one of which he had a large stock himself, but could never
drink; he instantly formed the resolution to let his wine
merchant know that he had been swindled.
Looking up from his food, he remarked:
"You've a lot of nice things about the place. Now, what did you
give for that sugar-sifter? Shouldn't wonder if it was worth
He was particularly pleased with the appearance of a picture, on
the wall opposite, which he himself had given them:
"I'd no idea it was so good!" he said.
They rose to go into the drawing-room, and James followed Irene
"That's what I call a capital little dinner," he murmured,
breathing pleasantly down on her shoulder; "nothing heavy--and
not too Frenchified. But I can't get it at home. I pay my cook
sixty pounds a year, but she can't give me a dinner like that!"
He had as yet made no allusion to the building of the house, nor
did he when Soames, pleading the excuse of business, betook
himself to the room at the top, where he kept his pictures.
James was left alone with his daughter-in-law. The glow of the
wine, and of an excellent liqueur, was still within him. He felt
quite warm towards her. She was really a taking little thing;
she listened to you, and seemed to understand what you were
saying; and, while talking, he kept examining her figure, from
her bronze-coloured shoes to the waved gold of her hair. She was
leaning back in an Empire chair, her shoulders poised against the
top--her body, flexibly straight and unsupported from the hips,
swaying when she moved, as though giving to the arms of a lover.
Her lips were smiling, her eyes half-closed.
It may have been a recognition of danger in the very charm of her
attitude, or a twang of digestion, that caused a sudden dumbness
to fall on James. He did not remember ever having been quite
alone with Irene before. And, as he looked at her, an odd
feeling crept over him, as though he had come across something
strange and foreign.
Now what was she thinking about--sitting back like that?
Thus when he spoke it was in a sharper voice, as if he had been
awakened from a pleasant dream.
"What d'you do with yourself all day?" he said. "You never come
round to Park Lane!"
She seemed to be making very lame excuses, and James did not look
at her. He did not want to believe that she was really avoiding
them--it would mean too much.
"I expect the fact is, you haven't time," he said; "You're always
about with June. I expect you're useful to her with her young
man, chaperoning, and one thing and another. They tell me she's
never at home now; your Uncle Jolyon he doesn't like it, I fancy,
being left so much alone as he is. They tell me she's always
hanging about for this young Bosinney; I suppose he comes here
every day. Now, what do you think of him? D'you think he knows
his own mind? He seems to me a poor thing. I should say the
grey mare was the better horse!"
The colour deepened in Irene's face; and James watched her
"Perhaps you don't quite understand Mr. Bosinney," she said.
"Don't understand him!" James humied out: "Why not?--you can see
he's one of these artistic chaps. They say he's clever--they all
think they're clever. You know more about him than I do," he
added; and again his suspicious glance rested on her.
"He is designing a house for Soames," she said softly, evidently
trying to smooth things over.
"That brings me to what I was going to say," continued James; "I
don't know what Soames wants with a young man like that; why
doesn't he go to a first-rate man?"
"Perhaps Mr. Bosinney is first-rate!"
James rose, and took a turn with bent head.
"That's it'," he said, "you young people, you all stick together;
you all think you know best!"
Halting his tall, lank figure before her, he raised a finger, and
levelled it at her bosom, as though bringing an indictment
against her beauty:
"All I can say is, these artistic people, or whatever they call
themselves, they're as unreliable as they can be; and my advice
to you is, don't you have too much to do with him!"
Irene smiled; and in the curve of her lips was a strange
provocation. She seemed to have lost her deference. Her breast
rose and fell as though with secret anger; she drew her hands
inwards from their rest on the arms of her chair until the tips
of her fingers met, and her dark eyes looked unfathomably at
The latter gloomily scrutinized the floor.
"I tell you my opinion," he said, "it's a pity you haven't got a
child to think about, and occupy you!"
A brooding look came instantly on Irene's face, and even James
became conscious of the rigidity that took possession of her
whole figure beneath the softness of its silk and lace clothing.
He was frightened by the effect he had produced, and like most
men with but little courage, he sought at once to justify himself
"You don't seem to care about going about. Why don't you drive
down to Hurlingham with us? And go to the theatre now and then.
At your time of life you ought to take an interest in things.
You're a young woman!"
The brooding look darkened on her face; he grew nervous.
"Well, I know nothing about it," he said; "nobody tells me
anything. Soames ought to be able to take care of himself. If
he can't take care of himself he mustn't look to me--that's all."
Biting the corner of his forefinger he stole a cold, sharp look
at his daughter-in-law.
He encountered her eyes fixed on his own, so dark and deep, that
he stopped, and broke into a gentle perspiration.
"Well, I must be going," he said after a short pause, and a
minute later rose, with a slight appearance of surprise, as
though he had expected to be asked to stop. Giving his hand to
Irene, he allowed himself to be conducted to the door, and let
out into the street. He would not have a cab, he would walk,
Irene was to say good-night to Soames for him, and if she wanted
a little gaiety, well, he would drive her down to Richmond any
He walked home, and going upstairs, woke Emily out of the first
sleep she had had for four and twenty hours, to tell her that it
was his impression things were in a bad way at Soames's; on this
theme he descanted for half an hour, until at last, saying that
he would not sleep a wink, he turned on his side and instantly
began to snore.
In Montpellier Square Soames, who had come from the picture room,
stood invisible at the top of the stairs, watching Irene sort the
letters brought by the last post. She turned back into the
drawing-room; but in a minute came out, and stood as if
listening. Then she came stealing up the stairs, with a kitten
in her arms. He could see her face bent over the little beast,
which was purring against her neck. Why couldn't she look at him
Suddenly she saw him, and her face changed.
"Any letters for me?" he said.
He stood aside, and without another word she passed on into the
OLD JOLYON'S PECCADILLO
Old Jolyon came out of Lord's cricket ground that same afternoon
with the intention of going home. He had not reached Hamilton
Terrace before he changed his mind, and hailing a cab, gave the
driver an address in Wistaria Avenue. He had taken a resolution.
June had hardly been at home at all that week; she had given him
nothing of her company for a long time past, not, in fact, since
she had become engaged to Bosinney. He never asked her for her
company. It was not his habit to ask people for things! She had
just that one idea now--Bosinney and his affairs--and she left
him stranded in his great house, with a parcel of servants, and
not a soul to speak to from morning to night. His Club was
closed for cleaning; his Boards in recess; there was nothing,
therefore, to take him into the City. June had wanted him to go
away; she would not go herself, because Bosinney was in London.
But where was he to go by himself? He could not go abroad alone;
the sea upset his liver; he hated hotels. Roger went to a
hydropathic--he was not going to begin that at his time of life,
those new-fangled places we're all humbug!
With such formulas he clothed to himself the desolation of his
spirit; the lines down his face deepening, his eyes day by day
looking forth with the melancholy which sat so strangely on a
face wont to be strong and serene.
And so that afternoon he took this journey through St. John's
Wood, in the golden-light that sprinkled the rounded green bushes
of the acacia's before the little houses, in the summer sunshine
that seemed holding a revel over the little gardens; and he
looked about him with interest; for this was a district which no
Forsyte entered without open disapproval and secret curiosity.
His cab stopped in front of a small house of that peculiar buff
colour which implies a long immunity from paint. It had an outer
gate, and a rustic approach.
He stepped out, his bearing extremely composed; his massive head,
with its drooping moustache and wings of white hair, very
upright, under an excessively large top hat; his glance firm, a
little angry. He had been driven into this!
"Mrs. Jolyon Forsyte at home?"
"Oh, yes sir!--what name shall I say, if you please, sir?"
Old Jolyon could not help twinkling at the little maid as he gave
his name. She seemed to him such a funny little toad!
And he followed her through the dark hall, into a small double,
drawing-room, where the furniture was covered in chintz, and the
little maid placed him in a chair.
"They're all in the garden, sir; if you'll kindly take a seat,
I'll tell them."
Old Jolyon sat down in the chintz-covered chair, and looked
around him. The whole place seemed to him, as he would have
expressed it, pokey; there was a certain--he could not tell
exactly what--air of shabbiness, or rather of making two ends
meet, about everything. As far as he could see, not a single
piece of furniture was worth a five-pound note. The walls,
distempered rather a long time ago, were decorated with
water-colour sketches; across the ceiling meandered a long crack.
These little houses were all old, second-rate concerns; he should
hope the rent was under a hundred a year; it hurt him more than
he could have said, to think of a Forsyte--his own son living in
such a place.
The little maid came back. Would he please to go down into the
Old Jolyon marched out through the French windows. In descending
the steps he noticed that they wanted painting.
Young Jolyon, his wife, his two children, and his dog Balthasar,
were all out there under a pear-tree.
This walk towards them was the most courageous act of old
Jolyon's life; but no muscle of his face moved, no nervous
gesture betrayed him. He kept his deep-set eyes steadily on the
In those two minutes he demonstrated to perfection all that
unconscious soundness, balance, and vitality of fibre that made,
of him and so many others of his class the core of the nation.
In the unostentatious conduct of their own affairs, to the
neglect of everything else, they typified the essential
individualism, born in the Briton from the natural isolation of
his country's life.
The dog Balthasar sniffed round the edges of his trousers; this
friendly and cynical mongrel--offspring of a liaison between a
Russian poodle and a fox-terrier--had a nose for the unusual.
The strange greetings over, old Jolyon seated himself in a wicker
chair, and his two grandchildren, one on each side of his knees,
looked at him silently, never having seen so old a man.
They were unlike, as though recognising the difference set
between them by the circumstances of their births. Jolly, the
child of sin, pudgy-faced, with his tow-coloured hair brushed off
his forehead, and a dimple in his chin, had an air of stubborn
amiability, and the eyes of a Forsyte; little Holly, the child of
wedlock, was a dark-skinned, solemn soul, with her mother's, grey
and wistful eyes.
The dog Balthasar, having walked round the three small flower-
beds, to show his extreme contempt for things at large, had also
taken a seat in front of old Jolyon, and, oscillating a tail
curled by Nature tightly over his back, was staring up with
eyes that did not blink.
Even in the garden, that sense of things being pokey haunted old
Jolyon; the wicker chair creaked under his weight; the
garden-beds looked 'daverdy'; on the far side, under the smut-
stained wall, cats had made a path.
While he and his grandchildren thus regarded each other with the
peculiar scrutiny, curious yet trustful, that passes between the
very young and the very old, young Jolyon watched his wife.
The colour had deepened in her thin, oval face, with its straight
brows, and large, grey eyes. Her hair, brushed in fine, high
curves back from her forehead, was going grey, like his own, and
this greyness made the sudden vivid colour in her cheeks
The look on her face, such as he had never seen there before,
such as she had always hidden from him, was full of secret
resentments, and longings, and fears. Her eyes, under their
twitching brows, stared painfully. And she was silent.
Jolly alone sustained the conversation; he had many possessions,
and was anxious that his unknown friend with extremely large
moustaches, and hands all covered with blue veins, who sat with
legs crossed like his own father (a habit he was himself trying
to acquire), should know it; but being a Forsyte, though not yet
quite eight years old, he made no mention of the thing at the
moment dearest to his heart--a camp of soldiers in a shop-window,
which his father had promised to buy. No doubt it seemed to him
too precious; a tempting of Providence to mention it yet.
And the sunlight played through the leaves on that little party
of the three generations grouped tranquilly under the pear-tree,
which had long borne no fruit.
Old Jolyon's furrowed face was reddening patchily, as old men's
faces redden in the sun. He took one of Jolly's hands in his
own; the boy climbed on to his knee; and little Holly, mesmerized
by this sight, crept up to them; the sound of the dog Balthasar's
scratching arose rhythmically.
Suddenly young Mrs. Jolyon got up and hurried indoors. A minute
later her husband muttered an excuse, and followed. Old Jolyon
was left alone with his grandchildren.
And Nature with her quaint irony began working in him one of her
strange revolutions, following her cyclic laws into the depths of
his heart. And that tenderness for little children, that passion
for the beginnings of life which had once made him forsake his
son and follow June, now worked in him to forsake June and follow
these littler things. Youth, like a flame, burned ever in his
breast, and to youth he turned, to the round little limbs, so
reckless, that wanted care, to the small round faces so
unreasonably solemn or bright, to the treble tongues, and the
shrill, chuckling laughter, to the insistent tugging hands, and
the feel of small bodies against his legs, to all that was young
and young, and once more young. And his eyes grew soft, his
voice, and thin-veined hands soft, and soft his heart within him.
And to those small creatures he became at once a place of
pleasure, a place where they were secure, and could talk and
laugh and play; till, like sunshine, there radiated from old
Jolyon's wicker chair the perfect gaiety of three hearts.
But with young Jolyon following to his wife's room it was
He found her seated on a chair before her dressing-glass, with
her hands before her face.
Her shoulders were shaking with sobs. This passion of hers for
suffering was mysterious to him. He had been through a hundred
of these moods; how he had survived them he never knew, for he
could never believe they were moods, and that the last hour of
his partnership had not struck.
In the night she would be sure to throw her arms round his
neck and say: "Oh! Jo, how I make you suffer!" as she had done a
hundred times before.
He reached out his hand, and, unseen, slipped his razor-case into
his pocket. 'I cannot stay here,' he thought, 'I must go down!'
Without a word he left the room, and went back to the lawn.
Old Jolyon had little Holly on his knee; she had taken possession
of his watch; Jolly, very red in the face, was trying to show
that he could stand on his head. The dog Balthasar, as close as
he might be to the tea-table, had fixed his eyes on the cake.
Young Jolyon felt a malicious desire to cut their enjoyment
What business had his father to come and upset his wife like
this? It was a shock, after all these years! He ought to have
known; he ought to have given them warning; but when did a
Forsyte ever imagine that his conduct could upset anybody! And
in his thoughts he did old Jolyon wrong.
He spoke sharply to the children, and told them to go in to their
tea. Greatly surprised, for they had never heard their father
speak sharply before, they went off, hand in hand, little Holly
looking back over her shoulder.
Young Jolyon poured out the tea.
"My wife's not the thing today," he said, but he knew well enough
that his father had penetrated the cause of that sudden
withdrawal, and almost hated the old man for sitting there so
"You've got a nice little house here," said old Jolyon with a
shrewd look; "I suppose you've taken a lease of it!"
Young Jolyon nodded.
"I don't like the neighbourhood," said old Jolyon; "a ramshackle
Young Jolyon replied: "Yes, we're a ramshackle lot."'
The silence was now only broken by the sound of the dog
Old Jolyon said simply: "I suppose I oughtn't to have come here,
Jo; but I get so lonely!"
At these words young Jolyon got up and put his hand on his
In the next house someone was playing over and over again: 'La
Donna mobile' on an untuned piano; and the little garden had
fallen into shade, the sun now only reached the wall at the end,
whereon basked a crouching cat, her yellow eyes turned sleepily
down on the dog Balthasar. There was a drowsy hum of very
distant traffic; the creepered trellis round the garden shut out
everything but sky, and house, and pear-tree, with its top
branches still gilded by the sun.
For some time they sat there, talking but little. Then old
Jolyon rose to go, and not a word was said about his coming
He walked away very sadly. What a poor miserable place; and he
thought of the great, empty house in Stanhope Gate, fit residence
for a Forsyte, with its huge billiard-room and drawing-room that
no one entered from one week's end to another.
That woman, whose face he had rather liked, was too thin-skinned
by half; she gave Jo a bad time he knew! And those sweet
children! Ah! what a piece of awful folly!
He walked towards the Edgware Road, between rows of little
houses, all suggesting to him (erroneously no doubt, but the
prejudices of a Forsyte are sacred) shady histories of some sort
Society, forsooth, the chattering hags and jackanapes--had set
themselves up to pass judgment on his flesh and blood! A parcel
of old women! He stumped his umbrella on the ground, as though
to drive it into the heart of that unfortunate body, which had
dared to ostracize his son and his son's son, in whom he could
have lived again!
He stumped his umbrella fiercely; yet he himself had followed
Society's behaviour for fifteen years--had only today been false
He thought of June, and her dead mother, and the whole story,
with all his old bitterness. A wretched business!
He was a long time reaching Stanhope Gate, for, with native
perversity, being extremely tired, he walked the whole way.
After washing his hands in the lavatory downstairs, he went to
the dining-room to wait for dinner, the only room he used when
June was out--it was less lonely so. The evening paper had not
yet come; he had finished the Times, there was therefore nothing
The room faced the backwater of traffic, and was very silent. He
disliked dogs, but a dog even would have been company. His gaze,
travelling round the walls, rested on a picture entitled: 'Group
of Dutch fishing boats at sunset'; the chef d'oeuvre of his
collection. It gave him no pleasure. He closed his eyes. He
was lonely! He oughtn't to complain, he knew, but he couldn't
help it: He was a poor thing--had always been a poor thing--no
pluck! Such was his thought.
The butler came to lay the table for dinner, and seeing his
master apparently asleep, exercised extreme caution in his
movements. This bearded man also wore a moustache, which had
given rise to grave doubts in the minds of many members--of the
family--, especially those who, like Soames, had been to public
schools, and were accustomed to niceness in such matters. Could
he really be considered a butler? Playful spirits alluded to him
as: 'Uncle Jolyon's Nonconformist'; George, the acknowledged wag,
had named him: 'Sankey.'
He moved to and fro between the great polished sideboard and the
great polished table inimitably sleek and soft.
Old Jolyon watched him, feigning sleep. The fellow was a sneak--
he had always thought so--who cared about nothing but rattling
through his work, and getting out to his betting or his woman or
goodness knew what! A slug! Fat too! And didn't care a pin
about his master!
But then against his will, came one of those moments of
philosophy which made old Jolyon different from other Forsytes:
After all why should the man care? He wasn't paid to care, and
why expect it? In this world people couldn't look for affection
unless they paid for it. It might be different in the next--he
didn't know--couldn't tell! And again he shut his eyes.
Relentless and stealthy, the butler pursued his labours, taking
things from the various compartments of the sideboard. His back
seemed always turned to old Jolyon; thus, he robbed his
operations of the unseemliness of being carried on in his
master's presence; now and then he furtively breathed on the
silver, and wiped it with a piece of chamois leather. He
appeared to pore over the quantities of wine in the decanters,
which he carried carefully and rather high, letting his heard
droop over them protectingly. When he had finished, he stood for
over a minute watching his master, and in his greenish eyes there
was a look of contempt:
After all, this master of his was an old buffer, who hadn't much
left in him!
Soft as a tom-cat, he crossed the room to press the bell. His
orders were 'dinner at seven.' What if his master were asleep; he
would soon have him out of that; there was the night to sleep in!
He had himself to think of, for he was due at his Club at
In answer to the ring, appeared a page boy with a silver soup
tureen. The butler took it from his hands and placed it on the.
table, then, standing by the open door, as though about to usher
company into the room, he said in a solemn voice:
"Dinner is on the table, sir!"
Slowly old Jolyon got up out of his chair, and sat down at the
table to eat his dinner.
PLANS OF THE HOUSE
Forsytes, as is generally admitted, have shells, like that
extremely useful little animal which is made into Turkish
delight, in other words, they are never seen, or if seen would
not be recognised, without habitats, composed of circumstance,
property, acquaintances, and wives, which seem to move along with
them in their passage through a world composed of thousands of
other Forsytes with their habitats. Without a habitat a Forsyte
is inconceivable--he would be like a novel without a plot, which
is well-known to be an anomaly.
To Forsyte eyes Bosinney appeared to have no habitat, he seemed
one of those rare and unfortunate men who go through life
surrounded by circumstance, property, acquaintances, and wives
that do not belong to them.
His rooms in Sloane Street, on the top floor, outside which, on a
plate, was his name, 'Philip Baynes Bosinney, Architect,' were
not those of a Forsyte.--He had no sitting-room apart from his
office, but a large recess had been screened off to conceal the
necessaries of life--a couch, an easy chair, his pipes, spirit
case, novels and slippers. The business part of the room had the
usual furniture; an open cupboard with pigeon-holes, a round oak
table, a folding wash-stand, some hard chairs, a standing desk of
large dimensions covered with drawings and designs. June had
twice been to tea there under the chaperonage of his aunt.
He was believed to have a bedroom at the back.
As far as the family had been able to ascertain his income, it
consisted of two consulting appointments at twenty pounds a year,
together with an odd fee once in a way, and--more worthy item--a
private annuity under his father's will of one hundred and fifty
pounds a year.
What had transpired concerning that father was not so reassuring.