Part 4 out of 21
the merest touch of malice, and a real desire to do good, was
passed on to June.
"And what a dreadful thing to say, my dear!" ended Aunt Juley;
"that about not going home. What did she mean?"
It was a strange recital for the girl. She heard it flushing
painfully, and, suddenly, with a curt handshake, took her
"Almost rude!" Mrs. Small said to Aunt Hester, when June was
The proper construction was put on her reception of the news.
She was upset. Something was therefore very wrong. Odd! She
and Irene had been such friends!
It all tallied too well with whispers and hints that had been
going about for some time past. Recollections of Euphemia's
account of the visit to the theatre--Mr. Bosinney always at
Soames's? Oh, indeed! Yes, of course, he would be about the
house! Nothing open. Only upon the greatest, the most important
provocation was it necessary to say anything open on Forsyte
'Change. This machine was too nicely adjusted; a hint, the
merest trifling expression of regret or doubt, sufficed to set
the family soul so sympathetic--vibrating. No one desired that
harm should come of these vibrations--far from it; they were set
in motion with the best intentions, with the feeling, that each
member of the family had a stake in the family soul.
And much kindness lay at the bottom of the gossip; it would
frequently result in visits of condolence being made, in
accordance with the customs of Society, thereby conferring a real
benefit upon the sufferers, and affording consolation to the
sound, who felt pleasantly that someone at all events was
suffering from that from which they themselves were not
suffering. In fact, it was simply a desire to keep things
well-aired, the desire which animates the Public Press, that
brought James, for instance, into communication with Mrs.
Septimus, Mrs. Septimus, with the little Nicholases, the little
Nicholases with who-knows-whom, and so on. That great class to
which they had risen, and now belonged, demanded a certain
candour, a still more certain reticence. This combination
guaranteed their membership.
Many of the younger Forsytes felt, very naturally, and would
openly declare, that they did not want their affairs pried into;
but so powerful was the invisible, magnetic current of family
gossip, that for the life of them they could not help knowing all
about everything. It was felt to be hopeless.
One of them (young Roger) had made an heroic attempt to free the
rising generation, by speaking of Timothy as an 'old cat.' The
effort had justly recoiled upon himself; the words, coming round
in the most delicate way to Aunt Juley's ears, were repeated by
her in a shocked voice to Mrs. Roger, whence they returned again
to young Roger.
And, after all, it was only the wrong-doers who suffered; as, for
instance, George, when he lost all that money playing billiards;
or young Roger himself, when he was so dreadfully near to
marrying the girl to whom, it was whispered, he was already
married by the laws of Nature; or again Irene, who was thought,
rather than said, to be in danger.
All this was not only pleasant but salutary. And it made so many
hours go lightly at Timothy's in the Bayswater Road; so many
hours that must otherwise have been sterile and heavy to those
three who lived there; and Timothy's was but one of hundreds of
such homes in this City of London--the homes of neutral persons
of the secure classes, who are out of the battle themselves, and
must find their reason for existing, in the battles of others.
But for the sweetness of family gossip, it must indeed have been
lonely there. Rumours and tales, reports, surmises--were they
not the children of the house, as dear and precious as the
prattling babes the brother and sisters had missed in their own
journey? To talk about them was as near as they could get to
the possession of all those children and grandchildren, after
whom their soft hearts yearned. For though it is doubtful
whether Timothy's heart yearned, it is indubitable that at the
arrival of each fresh Forsyte child he was quite upset.
Useless for young Roger to say, "Old cat!" for Euphemia to hold up
her hands and cry: "Oh! those three!" and break into her silent
laugh with the squeak at the end. Useless, and not too kind.
The situation which at this stage might seem, and especially to
Forsyte eyes, strange--not to say 'impossible'--was, in view of
certain facts, not so strange after all. Some things had been
lost sight of. And first, in the security bred of many harmless
marriages, it had been forgotten that Love is no hot-house
flower, but a wild plant, born of a wet night, born of an hour
of sunshine; sprung from wild seed, blown along the road by a
wild wind. A wild plant that, when it blooms by chance within
the hedge of our gardens, we call a flower; and when it blooms
outside we call a weed; but, flower or weed, whose scent and
colour are always, wild! And further--the facts and figures of
their own lives being against the perception of this truth--it
was not generally recognised by Forsytes that, where, this wild
plant springs, men and women are but moths around the pale,
It was long since young Jolyon's escapade--there was danger of a
tradition again arising that people in their position never cross
the hedge to pluck that flower; that one could reckon on having
love, like measles, once in due season, and getting over it
comfortably for all time--as with measles, on a soothing mixture
of butter and honey--in the arms of wedlock.
Of all those whom this strange rumour about Bosinney and Mrs.
Soames reached, James was the most affected. He had long
forgotten how he had hovered, lanky and pale, in side whiskers of
chestnut hue, round Emily, in the days of his own courtship. He
had long forgotten the small house in the purlieus of Mayfair,
where he had spent the early days of his married life, or rather,
he had long forgotten the early days, not the small house,--a
Forsyte never forgot a house--he had afterwards sold it at a
clear profit of four hundred pounds.
He had long forgotten those days, with their hopes and fears and
doubts about the prudence of the match (for Emily, though pretty,
had nothing, and he himself at that time was making a bare
thousand a year), and that strange, irresistible attraction which
had drawn him on, till he felt he must die if he could not marry
the girl with the fair hair, looped so neatly back, the fair arms
emerging from a skin-tight bodice, the fair form decorously
shielded by a cage of really stupendous circumference.
James had passed through the fire, but he had passed also through
the river of years which washes out the fire; he had experienced
the saddest experience of all--forgetfulness of what it was like
to be in love.
Forgotten! Forgotten so long, that he had forgotten even that he
And now this rumour had come upon him, this rumour about his
son's wife; very vague, a shadow dodging among the palpable,
straightforward appearances of things, unreal, unintelligible as
a ghost, but carrying with it, like a ghost, inexplicable terror.
He tried to bring it home to his mind, but it was no more use
than trying to apply to himself one of those tragedies he read of
daily in his evening paper. He simply could not. There could be
nothing in it. It was all their nonsense. She didn't get on
with Soames as well as she might, but she was a good little
thing--a good little thing!
Like the not inconsiderable majority of men, James relished a
nice little bit of scandal, and would say, in a matter-of-fact
tone, licking his lips, "Yes, yes--she and young Dyson; they tell
me they're living at Monte Carlo!"
But the significance of an affair of this sort--of its past, its
present, or its future--had never struck him. What it meant,
what torture and raptures had gone to its construction, what
slow, overmastering fate had lurked within the facts, very naked,
sometimes sordid, but generally spicy, presented to his gaze. He
was not in the habit of blaming, praising, drawing deductions, or
generalizing at all about such things; he simply listened rather
greedily, and repeated what he was told, finding considerable
benefit from the practice, as from the consumption of a sherry
and bitters before a meal.
Now, however, that such a thing--or rather the rumour, the breath
of it--had come near him personally, he felt as in a fog, which
filled his mouth full of a bad, thick flavour, and made it
difficult to draw breath.
A scandal! A possible scandal!
To repeat this word to himself thus was the only way in which he
could focus or make it thinkable. He had forgotten the
sensations necessary for understanding the progress, fate, or
meaning of any such business; he simply could no longer grasp the
possibilities of people running any risk for the sake of passion.
Amongst all those persons of his acquaintance, who went into the
City day after day and did their business there, whatever it was,
and in their leisure moments bought shares, and houses, and ate
dinners, and played games, as he was told, it would have seemed
to him ridiculous to suppose that there were any who would run
risks for the sake of anything so recondite, so figurative, as
Passion! He seemed, indeed, to have heard of it, and rules such
as 'A young man and a young woman ought never to be trusted
together' were fixed in his mind as the parallels of latitude are
fixed on a map (for all Forsytes, when it comes to 'bed-rock'
matters of fact, have quite a fine taste in realism); but as to
anything else--well, he could only appreciate it at all through
the catch-word 'scandal.'
Ah! but there was no truth in it--could not be. He was not
afraid; she was really a good little thing. But there it was
when you got a thing like that into your mind. And James was of
a nervous temperament--one of those men whom things will not
leave alone, who suffer tortures from anticipation and
indecision. For fear of letting something slip that he might
otherwise secure, he was physically unable to make up his mind
until absolutely certain that, by not making it up, he would
In life, however, there were many occasions when the business of
making up his mind did not even rest with himself, and this was
one of them.
What could he do? Talk it over with Soames? That would only
make matters worse. And, after all, there was nothing in it, he
It was all that house. He had mistrusted the idea from the
first. What did Soames want to go into the country for? And, if
he must go spending a lot of money building himself a house, why
not have a first-rate man, instead of this young Bosinney, whom
nobody knew anything about? He had told them how it would be.
And he had heard that the house was costing Soames a pretty penny
beyond what he had reckoned on spending.
This fact, more than any other, brought home to James the real
danger of the situation. It was always like this with these
'artistic' chaps; a sensible man should have nothing to say to
them. He had warned Irene, too. And see what had come of it!
And it suddenly sprang into James's mind that he ought to go and
see for himself. In the midst of that fog of uneasiness in which
his mind was enveloped the notion that he could go and look at
the house afforded him inexplicable satisfaction. It may have
been simply the decision to do something--more possibly the fact
that he was going to look at a house--that gave him relief.
He felt that in staring at an edifice of bricks and mortar, of
wood and stone, built by the suspected man himself, he would be
looking into the heart of that rumour about Irene.
Without saying a word, therefore, to anyone, he took a hansom to
the station and proceeded by train to Robin Hill; thence--there
being no 'flies,' in accordance with the custom of the
neighbourhood--he found himself obliged to walk.
He started slowly up the hill, his angular knees and high
shoulders bent complainingly, his eyes fixed on his feet, yet,
neat for all that, in his high hat and his frock-coat, on which
was the speckless gloss imparted by perfect superintendence.
Emily saw to that; that is, she did not, of course, see to it--
people of good position not seeing to each other's buttons, and
Emily was of good position--but she saw that the butler saw to
He had to ask his way three times; on each occasion he repeated
the directions given him, got the man to repeat them, then
repeated them a second time, for he was naturally of a talkative
disposition, and one could not be too careful in a new
He kept assuring them that it was a new house he was looking for;
it was only, however, when he was shown the roof through the
trees that he could feel really satisfied that he had not been
directed entirely wrong.
A heavy sky seemed to cover the world with the grey whiteness of
a whitewashed ceiling. There was no freshness or fragrance in
the air. On such a day even British workmen scarcely cared to do
more then they were obliged, and moved about their business
without the drone of talk which whiles away the pangs of labour.
Through spaces of the unfinished house, shirt-sleeved figures
worked slowly, and sounds arose--spasmodic knockings, the
scraping of metal, the sawing of wood, with the rumble of
wheelbarrows along boards; now and again the foreman's dog,
tethered by a string to an oaken beam, whimpered feebly, with a
sound like the singing of a kettle.
The fresh-fitted window-panes, daubed each with a white patch in
the centre, stared out at James like the eyes of a blind dog.
And the building chorus went on, strident and mirthless under the
grey-white sky. But the thrushes, hunting amongst the fresh-
turned earth for worms, were silent quite.
James picked his way among the heaps of gravel--the drive was
being laid--till he came opposite the porch. Here he stopped and
raised his eyes. There was but little to see from this point of
view, and that little he took in at once; but he stayed in this
position many minutes, and who shall know of what he thought.
His china-blue eyes under white eyebrows that jutted out in
little horns, never stirred; the long upper lip of his wide
mouth, between the fine white whiskers, twitched once or twice;
it was easy to see from that anxious rapt expression, whence
Soames derived the handicapped look which sometimes came upon his
face. James might have been saying to himself: 'I don't know--
life's a tough job.'
In this position Bosinney surprised him.
James brought his eyes down from whatever bird's-nest they had
been looking for in the sky to Bosinney's face, on which was a
kind of humorous scorn.
"How do you do, Mr. Forsyte? Come down to see for yourself?"
It was exactly what James, as we know, had come for, and he was
made correspondingly uneasy. He held out his hand, however,
"How are you?" without looking at Bosinney.
The latter made way for him with an ironical smile.
James scented something suspicious in this courtesy. "I should
like to walk round the outside first," he said, "and see what
you've been doing!"
A flagged terrace of rounded stones with a list of two or three
inches to port had been laid round the south-east and south-west
sides of the house, and ran with a bevelled edge into mould,
which was in preparation for being turfed; along this terrace
James led the way.
"Now what did this cost?" he asked, when he saw the terrace
extending round the corner.
"What should you think?" inquired Bosinney.
"How should I know?" replied James somewhat nonplussed; "two or
three hundred, I dare say!"
"The exact sum!"
James gave him a sharp look, but the architect appeared
unconscious, and he put the answer down to mishearing.
On arriving at the garden entrance, he stopped to look at the
"That ought to come down," he said, pointing to the oak-tree.
"You think so? You think that with the tree there you don't get
enough view for your money."
Again James eyed him suspiciously--this young man had a peculiar
way of putting things: "Well!" he said, with a perplexed,
nervous, emphasis, "I don't see what you want with a tree."
"It shall come down to-morrow," said Bosinney.
James was alarmed. "Oh," he said, "don't go saying I said it was
to come down! I know nothing about it!"
James went on in a fluster: "Why, what should I know about it?
It's nothing to do with me! You do it on your own
"You'll allow me to mention your name?"
James grew more and more alarmed: "I don't know what you want
mentioning my name for," he muttered; "you'd better leave the
tree alone. It's not your tree!"
He took out a silk handkerchief and wiped his brow. They entered
the house. Like Swithin, James was impressed by the inner
You must have spent a douce of a lot of money here," he said,
after staring at the columns and gallery for some time. "Now,
what did it cost to put up those columns?"
"I can't tell you off-hand," thoughtfully answered Bosinney, "but
I know it was a deuce of a lot!"
"I should think so," said James. "I should...." He caught the
architect's eye, and broke off. And now, whenever he came to
anything of which he desired to know the cost, he stifled that
Bosinney appeared determined that he should see everything, and
had not James been of too 'noticing' a nature, he would
certainly have found himself going round the house a second time.
He seemed so anxious to be asked questions, too, that James felt
he must be on his guard. He began to suffer from his exertions,
for, though wiry enough for a man of his long build, he was
seventy-five years old.
He grew discouraged; he seemed no nearer to anything, had not
obtained from his inspection any of the knowledge he had vaguely
hoped for. He had merely increased his dislike and mistrust of
this young man, who had tired him out with his politeness, and in
whose manner he now certainly detected mockery.
The fellow was sharper than he had thought, and better-looking
than he had hoped. He had a--a 'don't care' appearance that
James, to whom risk was the most intolerable thing in life, did
not appreciate; a peculiar smile, too, coming when least
expected; and very queer eyes. He reminded James, as he said
afterwards, of a hungry cat. This was as near as he could get,
in conversation with Emily, to a description of the peculiar
exasperation, velvetiness, and mockery, of which Bosinney's
manner had been composed.
At last, having seen all that was to be seen, he came out again
at the door where he had gone in; and now, feeling that he was
wasting time and strength and money, all for nothing, he took the
courage of a Forsyte in both hands, and, looking sharply at
"I dare say you see a good deal of my daughter-in-law; now, what
does she think of the house? But she hasn't seen it, I suppose?"
This he said, knowing all about Irene's visit not, of course,
that there was anything in the visit, except that extraordinary
remark she had made about 'not caring to get home'--and the story
of how June had taken the news!
He had determined, by this way of putting the question, to give
Bosinney a chance, as he said to himself.
The latter was long in answering, but kept his eyes with
uncomfortable steadiness on James.
"She has seen the house, but I can't tell you what she thinks of
Nervous and baffled, James was constitutionally prevented from
letting the matter drop.
"Oh!" he said, "she has seen it? Soames brought her down, I
Bosinney smilingly replied: "Oh, no!"
"What, did she come down alone?"
"Then--who brought her?"
"I really don't know whether I ought to tell you who brought
To James, who knew that it was Swithin, this answer appeared
"Why!" he stammered, "you know that...." but he stopped, suddenly
perceiving his danger.
"Well," he said, "if you don't want to tell me I suppose you
won't! Nobody tells me anything."
Somewhat to his surprise Bosinney asked him a question.
"By the by," he said, "could you tell me if there are likely to
be any more of you coming down? I should like to be on the
"Any more?" said James bewildered, "who should there be more? I
don't know of any more. Good-bye?"
Looking at the ground he held out his hand, crossed the palm of
it with Bosinney's, and taking his umbrella just above the silk,
walked away along the terrace.
Before he turned the corner he glanced back, and saw Bosinney
following him slowly--'slinking along the wall' as he put it to
himself, 'like a great cat.' He paid no attention when the young
fellow raised his hat.
Outside the drive, and out of sight, he slackened his pace still
more. Very slowly, more bent than when he came, lean, hungry,
and disheartened, he made his way back to the station.
The Buccaneer, watching him go so sadly home, felt sorry perhaps
for his behaviour to the old man.
SOAMES AND BOSINNEY CORRESPOND
James said nothing to his son of this visit to the house; but,
having occasion to go to Timothy's on morning on a matter
connected with a drainage scheme which was being forced by the
sanitary authorities on his brother, he mentioned it there.
It was not, he said, a bad house. He could see that a good deal
could be made of it. The fellow was clever in his way, though
what it was going to cost Soames before it was done with he
Euphemia Forsyte, who happened to be in the room--she had come
round to borrow the Rev. Mr. Scoles' last novel, 'Passion and
Paregoric', which was having such a vogue--chimed in.
"I saw Irene yesterday at the Stores; she and Mr. Bosinney were
having a nice little chat in the Groceries."
It was thus, simply, that she recorded a scene which had really
made a deep and complicated impression on her. She had been
hurrying to the silk department of the Church and Commercial
Stores--that Institution than which, with its admirable system,
admitting only guaranteed persons on a basis of payment before
delivery, no emporium can be more highly recommended to Forsytes-
-to match a piece of prunella silk for her mother, who was
waiting in the carriage outside.
Passing through the Groceries her eye was unpleasantly attracted
by the back view of a very beautiful figure. It was so
charmingly proportioned, so balanced, and so well clothed, that
Euphemia's instinctive propriety was at once alarmed; such
figures, she knew, by intuition rather than experience, were
rarely connected with virtue--certainly never in her mind, for
her own back was somewhat difficult to fit.
Her suspicions were fortunately confirmed. A young man coming
from the Drugs had snatched off his hat, and was accosting the
lady with the unknown back.
It was then that she saw with whom she had to deal; the lady was
undoubtedly Mrs. Soames, the young man Mr. Bosinney. Concealing
herself rapidly over the purchase of a box of Tunisian dates, for
she was impatient of awkwardly meeting people with parcels in her
hands, and at the busy time of the morning, she was quite
unintentionally an interested observer of their little interview.
Mrs. Soames, usually somewhat pale, had a delightful colour in
her cheeks; and Mr. Bosinney's manner was strange, though
attractive (she thought him rather a distinguished-looking man,
and George's name for him, 'The Buccaneer'--about which there was
something romantic--quite charming). He seemed to be pleading.
Indeed, they talked so earnestly--or, rather, he talked so
earnestly, for Mrs. Soames did not say much--that they caused,
inconsiderately, an eddy in the traffic. One nice old General,
going towards Cigars, was obliged to step quite out of the way,
and chancing to look up and see Mrs. Soames' face, he actually
took off his hat, the old fool! So like a man!
But it was Mrs. Soames' eyes that worried Euphemia. She never
once looked at Mr. Bosinney until he moved on, and then she
looked after him. And, oh, that look!
On that look Euphemia had spent much anxious thought. It is not
too much to say that it had hurt her with its dark, lingering
softness, for all the world as though the woman wanted to
drag him back, and unsay something she had been saying.
Ah, well, she had had no time to go deeply into the matter just
then, with that prunella silk on her hands; but she was 'very
intriguee'--very! She had just nodded to Mrs. Soames, to show her
that she had seen; and, as she confided, in talking it over
afterwards, to her chum Francie (Roger's daughter), "Didn't she
look caught out just? ...."
James, most averse at the first blush to accepting any news
confirmatory of his own poignant suspicions, took her up at once.
"Oh" he said, "they'd be after wall-papers no doubt."
Euphemia smiled. "In the Groceries?" she said softly; and,
taking 'Passion and Paregoric' from the table, added: "And so
you'll lend me this, dear Auntie? Good-bye!" and went away.
James left almost immediately after; he was late as it was.
When he reached the office of Forsyte, Bustard and Forsyte, he
found Soames, sitting in his revolving, chair, drawing up a
defence. The latter greeted his father with a curt good-morning,
and, taking an envelope from his pocket, said:
"It may interest you to look through this."
James read as follows:
309D, SLOANE STREET,
'The construction of your house being now completed, my duties as
architect have come to an end. If I am to go on with the
business of decoration, which at your request I undertook, I
should like you to clearly understand that I must have a free
'You never come down without suggesting something that goes
counter to my scheme. I have here three letters from you, each
of which recommends an article I should never dream of putting
in. I had your father here yesterday afternoon, who made further
'Please make up your mind, therefore, whether you want me to
decorate for you, or to retire which on the whole I should prefer
'But understand that, if I decorate, I decorate alone, without
interference of any sort.
If I do the thing, I will do it thoroughly, but I must have a
The exact and immediate cause of this letter cannot, of course,
be told, though it is not improbable that Bosinney may have been
moved by some sudden revolt against his position towards Soames--
that eternal position of Art towards Property--which is so
admirably summed up, on the back of the most indispensable of
modern appliances, in a sentence comparable to the very finest in
THOS. T. SORROW, Inventor.
BERT M. PADLAND, Proprietor.
"What are you going to say to him?" James asked.
Soames did not even turn his head. "I haven't made up my mind,"
he said, and went on with his defence.
A client of his, having put some buildings on a piece of ground
that did not belong to him, had been suddenly and most irritat-
ingly warned to take them off again. After carefully going into
the facts, however, Soames had seen his way to advise that his
client had what was known as a title by possession, and that,
though undoubtedly the ground did not belong to him, he was
entitled to keep it, and had better do so; and he was now
following up this advice by taking steps to--as the sailors say--
'make it so.'
He had a distinct reputation for sound advice; people saying of
him: "Go to young Forsyte--a long-headed fellow!" and he prized
this reputation highly.
His natural taciturnity was in his favour; nothing could be more
calculated to give people, especially people with property
(Soames had no other clients), the impression that he was a safe
man. And he was safe. Tradition, habit, education, inherited
aptitude, native caution, all joined to form a solid professional
honesty, superior to temptation--from the very fact that it was
built on an innate avoidance of risk. How could he fall, when
his soul abhorred circumstances which render a fall possible--a
man cannot fall off the floor!
And those countless Forsytes, who, in the course of innumerable
transactions concerned with property of all sorts (from wives to
water rights), had occasion for the services of a safe man,
found it both reposeful and profitable to confide in Soames.
That slight superciliousness of his, combined with an air of
mousing amongst precedents, was in his favour too--a man would
not be supercilious unless he knew!
He was really at the head of the business, for though James still
came nearly every day to, see for himself, he did little now but
sit in his chair, twist his legs, slightly confuse things already
decided, and presently go away again, and the other partner,
Bustard, was a poor thing, who did a great deal of work, but
whose opinion was never taken.
So Soames went steadily on with his defence. Yet it would be
idle to say that his mind was at ease. He was suffering from a
sense of impending trouble, that had haunted him for some time
past. He tried to think it physical--a condition of his liver--
but knew that it was not.
He looked at his watch. In a quarter of an hour he was due at
the General Meeting of the New Colliery Company--one of Uncle
Jolyon's concerns; he should see Uncle Jolyon there, and say
something to him about Bosinney--he had not made up his mind
what, but something--in any case he should not answer this letter
until he had seen Uncle Jolyon. He got up and methodically put
away the draft of his defence. Going into a dark little
cupboard, he turned up the light, washed his hands with a piece
of brown Windsor soap, and dried them on a roller towel. Then he
brushed his hair, paying strict attention to the parting, turned
down the light, took his hat, and saying he would be back at
half-past two, stepped into the Poultry.
It was not far to the Offices of the New Colliery Company in
Ironmonger Lane, where, and not at the Cannon Street Hotel, in
accordance with the more ambitious practice of other companies,
the General Meeting was always held. Old Jolyon had from the
first set his face against the Press. What business--he said--
had the Public with his concerns!
Soames arrived on the stroke of time, and took his seat alongside
the Board, who, in a row, each Director behind his own ink-pot,
faced their Shareholders.
In the centre of this row old Jolyon, conspicuous in his black,
tightly-buttoned frock-coat and his white moustaches, was leaning
back with finger tips crossed on a copy of the Directors' report
On his right hand, always a little larger than life, sat the
Secretary, 'Down-by-the-starn' Hemmings; an all-too-sad sadness
beaming in his fine eyes; his iron-grey beard, in mourning like
the rest of him, giving the feeling of an all-too-black tie
The occasion indeed was a melancholy one, only six weeks having
elapsed since that telegram had come from Scorrier, the mining
expert, on a private mission to the Mines, informing them that
Pippin, their Superintendent, had committed suicide in
endeavouring, after his extraordinary two years' silence, to
write a letter to his Board. That letter was on the table now;
it would be read to the Shareholders, who would of course be put
into possession of all the facts.
Hemmings had often said to Soames, standing with his coat-tails
divided before the fireplace:
"What our Shareholders don't know about our affairs isn't worth
knowing. You may take that from me, Mr. Soames."
On one occasion, old Jolyon being present, Soames recollected a
little unpleasantness. His uncle had looked up sharply and said:
"Don't talk nonsense, Hemmings! You mean that what they do know
isn't worth knowing!" Old Jolyon detested humbug.
Hemmings, angry-eyed, and wearing a smile like that of a trained
poodle, had replied in an outburst of artificial applause: "Come,
now, that's good, sir--that's very good. Your uncle will have
The next time he had seen Soames he had taken the opportunity of
saying to him: "The chairman's getting very old!--I can't get him
to understand things; and he's so wilful--but what can you
expect, with a chin like his?"
Soames had nodded.
Everyone knew that Uncle Jolyon's chin was a caution. He was
looking worried to-day, in spite of his General Meeting look; he
(Soames) should certainly speak to him about Bosinney.
Beyond old Jolyon on the left was little Mr. Booker, and he, too,
wore his General Meeting look, as though searching for some
particularly tender shareholder. And next him was the deaf
director, with a frown; and beyond the deaf director, again, was
old Mr. Bleedham, very bland, and having an air of conscious
virtue--as well he might, knowing that the brown-paper parcel he
always brought to the Board-room was concealed behind his hat
(one of that old-fashioned class, of flat-brimmed top-hats which
go with very large bow ties, clean-shaven lips, fresh cheeks, and
neat little, white whiskers).
Soames always attended the General Meeting; it was considered
better that he should do so, in case 'anything should arise!' He
glanced round with his close, supercilious air at the walls of
the room, where hung plans of the mine and harbour, together with
a large photograph of a shaft leading to a working which had
proved quite remarkably unprofitable. This photograph--a witness
to the eternal irony underlying commercial enterprise till
retained its position on the--wall, an effigy of the directors'
pet, but dead, lamb.
And now old Jolyon rose, to present the report and accounts.
Veiling under a Jove-like serenity that perpetual antagonism
deep-seated in the bosom of a director towards his shareholders,
he faced them calmly. Soames faced them too. He knew most of
them by sight. There was old Scrubsole, a tar man, who always
came, as Hemmings would say, 'to make himself nasty,' a
cantankerous-looking old fellow with a red face, a jowl, and an
enormous low-crowned hat reposing on his knee. And the Rev. Mr.
Boms, who always proposed a vote of thanks to the chairman, in
which he invariably expressed the hope that the Board would not
forget to elevate their employees, using the word with a double
e, as being more vigorous and Anglo-Saxon (he had the strong
Imperialistic tendencies of his cloth). It was his salutary
custom to buttonhole a director afterwards, and ask him whether
he thought the coming year would be good or bad; and, according
to the trend of the answer, to buy or sell three shares within
the ensuing fortnight.
And there was that military man, Major O'Bally, who could not
help speaking, if only to second the re-election of the auditor,
and who sometimes caused serious consternation by taking toasts--
proposals rather--out of the hands of persons who had been
flattered with little slips of paper, entrusting the said
proposals to their care.
These made up the lot, together with four or five strong, silent
shareholders, with whom Soames could sympathize--men of business,
who liked to keep an eye on their affairs for themselves, without
being fussy--good, solid men, who came to the City every day and
went back in the evening to good, solid wives.
Good, solid wives! There was something in that thought which
roused the nameless uneasiness in Soames again.
What should he say to his uncle? What answer should he make to
. . . . "If any shareholder has any question to put, I shall
be glad to answer it." A soft thump. Old Jolyon had let the
report and accounts fall, and stood twisting his tortoise-shell
glasses between thumb and forefinger.
The ghost of a smile appeared on Soames' face. They had better
hurry up with their questions! He well knew his uncle's method
(the ideal one) of at once saying: "I propose, then, that the
report and accounts be adopted!" Never let them get their wind--
shareholders were notoriously wasteful of time!
A tall, white-bearded man, with a gaunt, dissatisfied face,
"I believe I am in order, Mr. Chairman, in raising a question on
this figure of L5000 in the accounts. 'To the widow and
family"' (he looked sourly round), "'of our late superintendent,'
who so--er--ill-advisedly (I say--ill-advisedly) committed
suicide, at a time when his services were of the utmost value to
this Company. You have stated that the agreement which he has so
unfortunately cut short with his own hand was for a period of
five years, of which one only had expired--I--"
Old Jolyon made a gesture of impatience.
"I believe I am in order, Mr. Chairman--I ask whether this amount
paid, or proposed to be paid, by the Board to the er--deceased--
is for services which might have been rendered to the Company--
had he not committed suicide?"
"It is in recognition of past services, which we all know--you as
well as any of us--to have been of vital value."
"Then, sir, all I have to say is that the services being past,
the amount is too much."
The shareholder sat down.
Old Jolyon waited a second and said: "I now propose that the
The shareholder rose again: "May I ask if the Board realizes
that it is not their money which--I don't hesitate to say that if
it were their money...."
A second shareholder, with a round, dogged face, whom Soames
recognised as the late superintendent's brother-in-law, got up
and said warmly: "In my opinion, sir, the sum is not enough!"
The Rev. Mr. Boms now rose to his feet. "If I may venture to
express myself," he said, "I should say that the fact of the--er-
-deceased having committed suicide should weigh very heavily--
very heavily with our worthy chairman. I have no doubt it has
weighed with him, for--I say this for myself and I think for
everyone present (hear, hear)--he enjoys our confidence in a high
degree. We all desire, I should hope, to be charitable. But I
feel sure" (he-looked severely at the late superintendent's
brother-in-law) "that he will in some way, by some written
expression, or better perhaps by reducing the amount, record our
grave disapproval that so promising and valuable a life should
have been thus impiously removed from a sphere where both its own
interests and--if I may say so--our interests so imperatively
demanded its continuance. We should not--nay, we may not--
countenance so grave a dereliction of all duty, both human and
The reverend gentleman resumed his seat. The late super-
intendent's brother-in-law again rose: "What I have said I
stick to," he said; "the amount is not enough!"
The first shareholder struck in: "I challenge the legality of the
payment. In my opinion this payment is not legal. The Company's
solicitor is present; I believe I am in order in asking him the
All eyes were now turned upon Soames. Something had arisen!
He stood up, close-lipped and cold; his nerves inwardly
fluttered, his attention tweaked away at last from contemplation
of that cloud looming on the horizon of his mind.
"The point," he said in a low, thin voice, "is by no means clear.
As there is no possibility of future consideration being
received, it is doubtful whether the payment is strictly legal.
If it is desired, the opinion of the court could be taken."
The superintendent's brother-in-law frowned, and said in a
meaning tone: "We have no doubt the opinion of the court could be
taken. May I ask the name of the gentleman who has given us that
striking piece of information? Mr. Soames Forsyte? Indeed!" He
looked from Soames to old Jolyon in a pointed manner.
A flush coloured Soames' pale cheeks, but his superciliousness
did not waver. Old Jolyon fixed his eyes on the speaker.
"If," he said, "the late superintendents brother-in-law has
nothing more to say, I propose that the report and accounts...."
At this moment, however, there rose one of those five silent,
stolid shareholders, who had excited Soames' sympathy. He said:
"I deprecate the proposal altogether. We are expected to give
charity to this man's wife and children, who, you tell us, were
dependent on him. They may have been; I do not care whether they
were or not. I object to the whole thing on principle. It is
high time a stand was made against this sentimental human-
itarianism. The country is eaten up with it. I object to
my money being paid to these people of whom I know nothing, who
have done nothing to earn it. I object in toto; it is not
business. I now move that the report and accounts be put back,
and amended by striking out the grant altogether."
Old Jolyon had remained standing while the strong, silent man was
speaking. The speech awoke an echo in all hearts, voicing, as it
did, the worship of strong men, the movement against generosity,
which had at that time already commenced among the saner members
of the community.
The words 'it is not business' had moved even the Board;
privately everyone felt that indeed it was not. But they knew
also the chairman's domineering temper and tenacity. He, too, at
heart must feel that it was not business; but he was committed to
his own proposition. Would he go back upon it? It was thought
to be unlikely.
All waited with interest. Old Jolyon held up his hand;
dark-rimmed glasses depending between his finger and thumb
quivered slightly with a suggestion of menace.
He addressed the strong, silent shareholder.
"Knowing, as you do, the efforts of our late superintendent upon
the occasion of the explosion at the mines, do you seriously wish
me to put that amendment, sir?"
Old Jolyon put the amendment.
"Does anyone second this?" he asked, looking calmly round.
And it was then that Soames, looking at his uncle, felt the power
of will that was in that old man. No one stirred. Looking
straight into the eyes of the strong, silent shareholder, old
"I now move, 'That the report and accounts for the year 1886 be
received and adopted.' You second that? Those in favour signify
the same in the usual way. Contrary--no. Carried. The next
Soames smiled. Certainly Uncle Jolyon had a way with him!
But now his attention relapsed upon Bosinney.
Odd how that fellow haunted his thoughts, even in business hours.
Irene's visit to the house--but there was nothing in that, except
that she might have told him; but then, again, she never did tell
him anything. She was more silent, more touchy, every day. He
wished to God the house were finished, and they were in it, away
from London. Town did not suit her; her nerves were not strong
enough. That nonsense of the separate room had cropped up again!
The meeting was breaking up now. Underneath the photograph of
the lost shaft Hemmings was buttonholed by the Rev. Mr. Boms.
Little Mr. Booker, his bristling eyebrows wreathed in angry
smiles, was having a parting turn-up with old Scrubsole. The two
hated each other like poison. There was some matter of a
tar-contract between them, little Mr. Booker having secured it
from the Board for a nephew of his, over old Scrubsole's head.
Soames had heard that from Hemmings, who liked a gossip, more
especially about his directors, except, indeed, old Jolyon, of
whom he was afraid.
Soames awaited his opportunity. The last shareholder was
vanishing through the door, when he approached his uncle, who was
putting on his hat.
"Can I speak to you for a minute, Uncle Jolyon?"
It is uncertain what Soames expected to get out of this
Apart from that somewhat mysterious awe in which Forsytes in
general held old Jolyon, due to his philosophic twist, or
perhaps--as Hemmings would doubtless have said--to his chin,
there was, and always had been, a subtle antagonism between the
younger man and the old. It had lurked under their dry manner of
greeting, under their non-committal allusions to each other, and
arose perhaps from old Jolyon's perception of the quiet tenacity
('obstinacy,' he rather naturally called it) of the young man, of
a secret doubt whether he could get his own way with him.
Both these Forsytes, wide asunder as the poles in many respects,
possessed in their different ways--to a greater degree than the
rest of the family--that essential quality of tenacious and
prudent insight into 'affairs,' which is the highwater mark of
their great class. Either of them, with a little luck and
opportunity, was equal to a lofty career; either of them would
have made a good financier, a great contractor, a statesman,
though old Jolyon, in certain of his moods when under the
influence of a cigar or of Nature--would have been capable of,
not perhaps despising, but certainly of questioning, his own high
position, while Soames, who never smoked cigars, would not.
Then, too, in old Jolyon's mind there was always the secret ache,
that the son of James--of James, whom he had always thought such
a poor thing, should be pursuing the paths of success, while his
And last, not least--for he was no more outside the radiation of
family gossip than any other Forsyte--he had now heard the
sinister, indefinite, but none the less disturbing rumour about
Bosinney, and his pride was wounded to the quick.
Characteristically, his irritation turned not against Irene but
against Soames. The idea that his nephew's wife (why couldn't
the fellow take better care of her--Oh! quaint injustice! as
though Soames could possibly take more care!)--should be drawing
to herself June's lover, was intolerably humiliating. And seeing
the danger, he did not, like James, hide it away in sheer
nervousness, but owned with the dispassion of his broader
outlook, that it was not unlikely; there was something very
attractive about Irene!
He had a presentiment on the subject of Soames' communication as
they left the Board Room together, and went out into the noise
and hurry of Cheapside. They walked together a good minute
without speaking, Soames with his mousing, mincing step, and old
Jolyon upright and using his umbrella languidly as a
They turned presently into comparative quiet, for old Jolyon's
way to a second Board led him in the direction of Moorage Street.
Then Soames, without lifting his eyes, began: "I've had this
letter from Bosinney. You see what he says; I thought I'd let
you know. I've spent a lot more than I intended on this house,
and I want the position to be clear."
Old Jolyon ran his eyes unwillingly over the letter: "What he
says is clear enough," he said.
"He talks about 'a free hand,'" replied Soames.
Old Jolyon looked at him. The long-suppressed irritation and
antagonism towards this young fellow, whose affairs were
beginning to intrude upon his own, burst from him.
"Well, if you don't trust him, why do you employ him?"
Soames stole a sideway look: "It's much too late to go into
that," he said, "I only want it to be quite understood that if I
give him a free hand, he doesn't let me in. I thought if you
were to speak to him, it would carry more weight!"
"No," said old Jolyon abruptly; "I'll have nothing to do with
The words of both uncle and nephew gave the impression of
unspoken meanings, far more important, behind. And the look they
interchanged was like a revelation of this consciousness.
"Well," said Soames; "I thought, for June's sake, I'd tell you,
that's all; I thought you'd better know I shan't stand any
"What is that to me?" old Jolyon took him up.
"Oh! I don't know," said Soames, and flurried by that sharp look
he was unable to say more. "Don't say I didn't tell you," he
added sulkily, recovering his composure.
"Tell me!" said old Jolyon; "I don't know what you mean. You
come worrying me about a thing like this. I don't want to hear
about your affairs; you must manage them yourself!"
"Very well," said Soames immovably, "I will!"
"Good-morning, then," said old Jolyon, and they parted.
Soames retraced his steps, and going into a celebrated eating-
house, asked for a plate of smoked salmon and a glass of
Chablis; he seldom ate much in the middle of the day, and
generally ate standing, finding the position beneficial to his
liver, which was very sound, but to which he desired to put down
all his troubles.
When he had finished he went slowly back to his office, with bent
head, taking no notice of the swarming thousands on the
pavements, who in their turn took no notice of him.
The evening post carried the following reply to Bosinney:
'FORSYTE, BUSTARD AND FORSYTE,
'Commissioners for Oaths,
'92001, BRANCH LANE, POULTRY, E.C.,
'May 17, 1887.
'I have, received your letter, the terms of which not a little
surprise me. I was under the impression that you had, and have
had all along, a "free hand"; for I do not recollect that any
suggestions I have been so unfortunate as to make have met with
your approval. In giving you, in accordance with your request,
this "free hand," I wish you to clearly understand that the total
cost of the house as handed over to me completely decorated,
inclusive of your fee (as arranged between us), must not exceed
twelve thousand pounds--L12,000. This gives you an ample margin,
and, as you know, is far more than I originally contemplated.
On the following day he received a note from Bosinney:
'PHILIP BAYNES BOSINNEY,
'309D, SLOANE STREET, S.W.,
'If you think that in such a delicate matter as decoration I can
bind myself to the exact pound, I am afraid you are mistaken. I
can see that you are tired of the arrangement, and of me, and I
had better, therefore, resign.
'PHILIP BAYNES BOSINNEY.'
Soames pondered long and painfully over his answer, and late at
night in the dining-room, when Irene had gone to bed, he composed
'62, MONTPELLIER SQUARE, S.W.,
'May 19, 1887.
'I think that in both our interests it would be extremely
undesirable that matters should be so left at this stage. I did
not mean to say that if you should exceed the sum named in my
letter to you by ten or twenty or even fifty pounds, there would
be any difficulty between us. This being so, I should like you
to reconsider your answer. You have a "free hand" in the terms
of this correspondence, and I hope you will see your way to
completing the decorations, in the matter of which I know it is
difficult to be absolutely exact.
Bosinney's answer, which came in the course of the next day, was:
OLD JOLYON AT THE ZOO
Old Jolyon disposed of his second Meeting--an ordinary Board--
summarily. He was so dictatorial that his fellow directors were
left in cabal over the increasing domineeringness of old Forsyte,
which they were far from intending to stand much longer, they
He went out by Undergound to Portland Road Station, whence he
took a cab and drove to the Zoo.
He had an assignation there, one of those assignations that had
lately been growing more frequent, to which his increasing
uneasiness about June and the 'change in her,' as he expressed
it, was driving him.
She buried herself away, and was growing thin; if he spoke to her
he got no answer, or had his head snapped off, or she looked as
if she would burst into tears. She was as changed as she could
be, all through this Bosinney. As for telling him about
anything, not a bit of it!
And he would sit for long spells brooding, his paper unread
before him, a cigar extinct between his lips. She had been such
a companion to him ever since she was three years old! And he
loved her so!
Forces regardless of family or class or custom were beating down
his guard; impending events over which he had no control threw
their shadows on his head. The irritation of one accustomed to
have his way was roused against he knew not what.
Chafing at the slowness of his cab, he reached the Zoo door; but,
with his sunny instinct for seizing the good of each moment, he
forgot his vexation as he walked towards the tryst.
From the stone terrace above the bear-pit his son and his two
grandchildren came hastening down when they saw old Jolyon
coming, and led him away towards the lion-house. They supported
him on either side, holding one to each of his hands,--whilst
Jolly, perverse like his father, carried his grandfather's
umbrella in such a way as to catch people's legs with the crutch
of the handle.
Young Jolyon followed.
It was as good as a play to see his father with the children, but
such a play as brings smiles with tears behind. An old man and
two small children walking together can be seen at any hour of
the day; but the sight of old Jolyon, with Jolly and Holly seemed
to young Jolyon a special peep-show of the things that lie at the
bottom of our hearts. The complete surrender of that erect old
figure to those little figures on either hand was too poignantly
tender, and, being a man of an habitual reflex action, young
Jolyon swore softly under his breath. The show affected him in a
way unbecoming to a Forsyte, who is nothing if not undemonstrative.
Thus they reached the lion-house.
There had been a morning fete at the Botanical Gardens, and a
large number of Forsy...'--that is, of well-dressed people who
kept carriages had brought them on to the Zoo, so as to have
more, if possible, for their money, before going back to Rutland
Gate or Bryanston Square.
"Let's go on to the Zoo," they had said to each other; "it'll be
great fun!" It was a shilling day; and there would not be all
those horrid common people.
In front of the long line of cages they were collected in rows,
watching the tawny, ravenous beasts behind the bars await their
only pleasure of the four-and-twenty hours. The hungrier the
beast, the greater the fascination. But whether because the
spectators envied his appetite, or, more humanely, because it
was so soon to be satisfied, young Jolyon could not tell.
Remarks kept falling on his ears: "That's a nasty-looking brute,
that tiger!" "Oh, what a love! Look at his little mouth!"
"Yes, he's rather nice! Don't go too near, mother."
And frequently, with little pats, one or another would clap their
hands to their pockets behind and look round, as though expecting
young Jolyon or some disinterested-looking person to relieve them
of the contents.
A well-fed man in a white waistcoat said slowly through his
teeth: "It's all greed; they can't be hungry. Why, they take no
exercise." At these words a tiger snatched a piece of bleeding
liver, and the fat man laughed. His wife, in a Paris model frock
and gold nose-nippers, reproved him: "How can you laugh, Harry?
Such a horrid sight!"
Young Jolyon frowned.
The circumstances of his life, though he had ceased to take a too
personal view of them, had left him subject to an intermittent
contempt; and the class to which he had belonged--the carriage
class--especially excited his sarcasm.
To shut up a lion or tiger in confinement was surely a horrible
barbarity. But no cultivated person would admit this.
The idea of its being barbarous to confine wild animals had
probably never even occurred to his father for instance; he
belonged to the old school, who considered it at once humanizing
and educational to confine baboons and panthers, holding the
view, no doubt, that in course of time they might induce these
creatures not so unreasonably to die of misery and heart-
sickness against the bars of their cages, and put the society
to the expense of getting others! In his eyes, as in the eyes
of all Forsytes, the pleasure of seeing these beautiful
creatures in a state of captivity far outweighed the
inconvenience of imprisonment to beasts whom God had so
improvidently placed in a state of freedom! It was for the
animals good, removing them at once from the countless dangers
of open air and exercise, and enabling them to exercise their
functions in the guaranteed seclusion of a private compartment!
Indeed, it was doubtful what wild animals were made for but to be
shut up in cages!
But as young Jolyon had in his constitution the elements of
impartiality, he reflected that to stigmatize as barbarity that
which was merely lack of imagination must be wrong; for none who
held these views had been placed in a similar position to the
animals they caged, and could not, therefore, be expected to
enter into their sensations. It was not until they were leaving
the gardens--Jolly and Holly in a state of blissful delirium--
that old Jolyon found an opportunity of speaking to his son on
the matter next his heart. "I don't know what to make of it," he
said; "if she's to go on as she's going on now, I can't tell
what's to come. I wanted her to see the doctor, but she won't.
She's not a bit like me. She's your mother all over. Obstinate
as a mule! If she doesn't want to do a thing, she won't, and
there's an end of it!"
Young Jolyon smiled; his eyes had wandered to his father's chin.
'A pair of you,' he thought, but he said nothing.
"And then," went on old Jolyon, "there's this Bosinney. I
should like to punch the fellow's head, but I can't, I suppose,
though--I don't see why you shouldn't," he added doubtfully.
"What has he done? Far better that it should come to an end, if
they don't hit it off!"
Old Jolyon looked at his son. Now they had actually come to
discuss a subject connected with the relations between the sexes
he felt distrustful. Jo would be sure to hold some loose view or
"Well, I don't know what you think," he said; "I dare say your
sympathy's with him--shouldn't be surprised; but I think he's
behaving precious badly, and if he comes my way I shall tell him
so." He dropped the subject.
It was impossible to discuss with his son the true nature and
meaning of Bosinney's defection. Had not his son done the very
same thing (worse, if possible) fifteen years ago? There seemed
no end to the consequences of that piece of folly.
Young Jolyon also was silent; he had quickly penetrated his
father's thought, for, dethroned from the high seat of an obvious
and uncomplicated view of things, he had become both perceptive
The attitude he had adopted towards sexual matters fifteen years
before, however, was too different from his father's. There was
no bridging the gulf.
He said coolly: "I suppose he's fallen in love with some other
Old Jolyon gave him a dubious look: "I can't tell," he said;
"they say so!"
"Then, it's probably true," remarked young Jolyon unexpectedly;
"and I suppose they've told you who she is?"
"Yes," said old Jolyon, "Soames's wife!"
Young Jolyon did not whistle: The circumstances of his own life
had rendered him incapable of whistling on such a subject, but he
looked at his father, while the ghost of a smile hovered over his
If old Jolyon saw, he took no notice.
"She and June were bosom friends!" he muttered.
"Poor little June!" said young Jolyon softly. He thought of his
daughter still as a babe of three.
Old Jolyon came to a sudden halt.
"I don't believe a word of it," he said, "it's some old woman's
tale. Get me a cab, Jo, I'm tired to death!"
They stood at a corner to see if an empty cab would come along,
while carriage after carriage drove past, bearing Forsytes of all
descriptions from the Zoo. The harness, the liveries, the gloss
on the horses' coats, shone and glittered in the May sunlight,
and each equipage, landau, sociable, barouche, Victoria, or
brougham, seemed to roll out proudly from its wheels:
'I and my horses and my men you know,'
Indeed the whole turn-out have cost a pot.
But we were worth it every penny. Look
At Master and at Missis now, the dawgs!
Ease with security--ah! that's the ticket!
And such, as everyone knows, is fit accompaniment for a
Amongst these carriages was a barouche coming at a greater pace
than the others, drawn by a pair of bright bay horses. It swung
on its high springs, and the four people who filled it seemed
rocked as in a cradle.
This chariot attracted young Jolyon's attention; and suddenly, on
the back seat, he recognised his Uncle James, unmistakable in
spite of the increased whiteness of his whiskers; opposite, their
backs defended by sunshades, Rachel Forsyte and her elder but
married sister, Winifred Dartie, in irreproachable toilettes, had
posed their heads haughtily, like two of the birds they had been
seeing at the Zoo; while by James' side reclined Dartie, in a
brand-new frock-coat buttoned tight and square, with a large
expanse of carefully shot linen protruding below each wristband.
An extra, if subdued, sparkle, an added touch of the best gloss
or varnish characterized this vehicle, and seemed to distinguish
it from all the others, as though by some happy extravagance--
like that which marks out the real 'work of art' from the
ordinary 'picture'--it were designated as the typical car, the
very throne of Forsytedom.
Old Jolyon did not see them pass; he was petting poor Holly who
was tired, but those in the carriage had taken in the little
group; the ladies' heads tilted suddenly, there was a spasmodic
screening movement of parasols; James' face protruded naively,
like the head of a long bird, his mouth slowly opening. The
shield-like rounds of the parasols grew smaller and smaller, and
Young Jolyon saw that he had been recognised, even by Winifred,
who could not have been more than fifteen when he had forfeited
the right to be considered a Forsyte.
There was not much change in them! He remembered the exact look
of their turn-out all that time ago: Horses, men, carriage--all
different now, no doubt--but of the precise stamp of fifteen
years before; the same neat display, the same nicely calculated
arrogance ease with security! The swing exact, the pose of the
sunshades exact, exact the spirit of the whole thing.
And in the sunlight, defended by the haughty shields of parasols,
carriage after carriage went by.
"Uncle James has just passed, with his female folk," said young
His father looked black. "Did your uncle see us? Yes? Hmph!
What's he want, coming down into these parts?"
An empty cab drove up at this moment, and old Jolyon stopped it.
"I shall see you again before long, my boy!" he said. "Don't you
go paying any attention to what I've been saying about young
Bosinney--I don't believe a word of it!"
Kissing the children, who tried to detain him, he stepped in and
was borne away.
Young Jolyon, who had taken Holly up in his arms, stood
motionless at the corner, looking after the cab.
AFTERNOON AT TIMOTHY'S
If old Jolyon, as he got into his cab, had said: 'I won't believe
a word of it!' he would more truthfully have expressed his
The notion that James and his womankind had seen him in the
company of his son had awakened in him not only the impatience he
always felt when crossed, but that secret hostility natural
between brothers, the roots of which--little nursery rivalries--
sometimes toughen and deepen as life goes on, and, all hidden,
support a plant capable of producing in season the bitterest
Hitherto there had been between these six brothers no more
unfriendly feeling than that caused by the secret and natural
doubt that the others might be richer than themselves; a feeling
increased to the pitch of curiosity by the approach of death--
that end of all handicaps--and the great 'closeness' of their man
of business, who, with some sagacity, would profess to Nicholas
ignorance of James' income, to James ignorance of old Jolyon's,
to Jolyon ignorance of Roger's, to Roger ignorance of Swithin's,
while to Swithin he would say most irritatingly that Nicholas
must be a rich man. Timothy alone was exempt, being in
But now, between two of them at least, had arisen a very
different sense of injury. From the moment when James had the
impertinence to pry into his affairs--as he put it--old Jolyon no
longer chose to credit this story about Bosinney. His grand-
daughter slighted through a member of 'that fellow's' family!
He made up his mind that Bosinney was maligned. There must be
some other reason for his defection.
June had flown out at him, or something; she was as touchy as she
He would, however, let Timothy have a bit of his mind, and see if
he would go on dropping hints! And he would not let the grass
grow under his feet either, he would go there at once, and take
very good care that he didn't have to go again on the same
He saw James' carriage blocking the pavement in front of 'The
Bower.' So they had got there before him--cackling about having
seen him, he dared say! And further on, Swithin's greys were
turning their noses towards the noses of James' bays, as though
in conclave over the family, while their coachmen were in
Old Jolyon, depositing his hat on the chair in the narrow hall,
where that hat of Bosinney's had so long ago been mistaken for a
cat, passed his thin hand grimly over his face with its great
drooping white moustaches, as though to remove all traces of
expression, and made his way upstairs.
He found the front drawing-room full. It was full enough at the
best of times--without visitors--without any one in it--for
Timothy and his sisters, following the tradition of their
generation, considered that a room was not quite 'nice' unless it
was 'properly' furnished. It held, therefore, eleven chairs, a
sofa, three tables, two cabinets, innumerable knicknacks, and
part of a large grand piano. And now, occupied by Mrs. Small,
Aunt Hester, by Swithin, James, Rachel, Winifred, Euphemia, who
had come in again to return 'Passion and Paregoric' which she had
read at lunch, and her chum Frances, Roger's daughter (the
musical Forsyte, the one who composed songs), there was only one
chair left unoccupied, except, of course, the two that nobody
ever sat on--and the only standing room was occupied by the cat,
on whom old Jolyon promptly stepped.
In these days it was by no means unusual for Timothy to have so
many visitors. The family had always, one and all, had a real
respect for Aunt Ann, and now that she was gone, they were coming
far more frequently to The Bower, and staying longer.
Swithin had been the first to arrive, and seated torpid in a red
satin chair with a gilt back, he gave every appearance of lasting
the others out. And symbolizing Bosinney's name 'the big one,'
with his great stature and bulk, his thick white hair, his puffy
immovable shaven face, he looked more primeval than ever in the
highly upholstered room.
His conversation, as usual of late, had turned at once upon
Irene, and he had lost no time in giving Aunts Juley and Hester
his opinion with regard to this rumour he heard was going about.
No--as he said--she might want a bit of flirtation--a pretty
woman must have her fling; but more than that he did not believe.
Nothing open; she had too much good sense, too much proper
appreciation of what was due to her position, and to the family!
No sc..., he was going to say 'scandal' but the very idea was so
preposterous that he waved his hand as though to say--'but let
Granted that Swithin took a bachelor's view of the situation--
still what indeed was not due to that family in which so many had
done so well for themselves, had attained a certain position? If
he had heard in dark, pessimistic moments the words 'yeomen' and
'very small beer' used in connection with his origin, did he
No! he cherished, hugging it pathetically to his bosom the
secret theory that there was something distinguished somewhere in
"Must be," he once said to young Jolyon, before the latter went
to the bad. "Look at us, we've got on! There must be good blood
in us somewhere."
He had been fond of young Jolyon: the boy had been in a good set
at College, had known that old ruffian Sir Charles Fiste's
sons--a pretty rascal one of them had turned out, too; and there
was style about him--it was a thousand pities he had run off with
that half-foreign governess! If he must go off like that why
couldn't he have chosen someone who would have done them credit!
And what was he now?--an underwriter at Lloyd's; they said he
even painted pictures--pictures! Damme! he might have ended as
Sir Jolyon Forsyte, Bart., with a seat in Parliament, and a place
in the country!
It was Swithin who, following the impulse which sooner or later
urges thereto some member of every great family, went to the
Heralds' Office, where they assured him that he was undoubtedly
of the same family as the well-known Forsites with an 'i,' whose
arms were 'three dexter buckles on a sable ground gules,' hoping
no doubt to get him to take them up.
Swithin, however, did not do this, but having ascertained that
the crest was a 'pheasant proper,' and the motto 'For Forsite,'
he had the pheasant proper placed upon his carriage and the
buttons of his coachman, and both crest and motto on his
writing-paper. The arms he hugged to himself, partly because,
not having paid for them, he thought it would look ostentatious
to put them on his carriage, and he hated ostentation, and partly
because he, like any practical man all over the country, had a
secret dislike and contempt for things he could not understand he
found it hard, as anyone might, to swallow 'three dexter buckles
on a sable ground gules.'
He never forgot, however, their having told him that if he paid
for them he would be entitled to use them, and it strengthened
his conviction that he was a gentleman. Imperceptibly the rest
of the family absorbed the 'pheasant proper,' and some, more
serious than others, adopted the motto; old Jolyon, however,
refused to use the latter, saying that it was humbug meaning
nothing, so far as he could see.
Among the older generation it was perhaps known at bottom from
what great historical event they derived their crest; and if
pressed on the subject, sooner than tell a lie--they did not like
telling lies, having an impression that only Frenchmen and
Russians told them--they would confess hurriedly that Swithin had
got hold of it somehow.
Among the younger generation the matter was wrapped in a
discretion proper. They did not want to hurt the feelings of
their elders, nor to feel ridiculous themselves; they simply used
"No," said Swithin, "he had had an opportunity of seeing for
himself, and what he should say was, that there was nothing in
her manner to that young Buccaneer or Bosinney or whatever his
name was, different from her manner to himself; in fact, he
should rather say...." But here the entrance of Frances
and Euphemia put an unfortunate stop to the conversation, for
this was not a subject which could be discussed before young
And though Swithin was somewhat upset at being stopped like this
on the point of saying something important, he soon recovered his
affability. He was rather fond of Frances--Francie, as she was
called in the family. She was so smart, and they told him she
made a pretty little pot of pin-money by her songs; he called it
very clever of her.
He rather prided himself indeed on a liberal attitude towards
women, not seeing any reason why they shouldn't paint pictures,
or write tunes, or books even, for the matter of that, especially
if they could turn a useful penny by it; not at all--kept them
out of mischief. It was not as if they were men!
'Little Francie,' as she was usually called with good-natured
contempt, was an important personage, if only as a standing
illustration of the attitude of Forsytes towards the Arts. She
was not really 'little,' but rather tall, with dark hair for a
Forsyte, which, together with a grey eye, gave her what was
called 'a Celtic appearance.' She wrote songs with titles like
'Breathing Sighs,' or 'Kiss me, Mother, ere I die,' with a
refrain like an anthem:
'Kiss me, Mother, ere I die;
Kiss me-kiss me, Mother, ah!
Kiss, ah! kiss me e-ere I-
Kiss me, Mother, ere I d-d-die!'
She wrote the words to them herself, and other poems. In lighter
moments she wrote waltzes, one of which, the 'Kensington Coil,'
was almost national to Kensington, having a sweet dip in it.
It was very original. Then there were her 'Songs for Little
People,' at once educational and witty, especially 'Gran'ma's
Porgie,' and that ditty, almost prophetically imbued with the
coming Imperial spirit, entitled 'Black Him In His Little Eye.'
Any publisher would take these, and reviews like 'High Living,'
and the 'Ladies' Genteel Guide' went into raptures over: 'Another
of Miss Francie Forsyte's spirited ditties, sparkling and
pathetic. We ourselves were moved to tears and laughter. Miss
Forsyte should go far.'
With the true instinct of her breed, Francie had made a point of
knowing the right people--people who would write about her, and
talk about her, and people in Society, too--keeping a mental
register of just where to exert her fascinations, and an eye on
that steady scale of rising prices, which in her mind's eye
represented the future. In this way she caused herself to be
Once, at a time when her emotions were whipped by an attachment--
for the tenor of Roger's life, with its whole-hearted collection
of house property, had induced in his only daughter a tendency
towards passion--she turned to great and sincere work, choosing
the sonata form, for the violin. This was the only one of her
productions that troubled the Forsytes. They felt at once that
it would not sell.
Roger, who liked having a clever daughter well enough, and often
alluded to the amount of pocket-money she made for herself, was
upset by this violin sonata.
"Rubbish like that!" he called it. Francie had borrowed young
Flageoletti from Euphemia, to play it in the drawing-room at
As a matter of fact Roger was right. It was rubbish, but--
annoying! the sort of rubbish that wouldn't sell. As every
Forsyte knows, rubbish that sells is not rubbish at all--far from
And yet, in spite of the sound common sense which fixed the worth
of art at what it would fetch, some of the Forsytes--Aunt
Hester, for instance, who had always been musical--could not help
regretting that Francie's music was not 'classical'; the same
with her poems. But then, as Aunt Hester said, they didn't see
any poetry nowadays, all the poems were 'little light things.'
There was nobody who could write a poem like 'Paradise Lost,' or
'Childe Harold'; either of which made you feel that you really
had read something. Still, it was nice for Francie to have
something to occupy her; while other girls were spending money
shopping she was making it!
And both Aunt Hester and Aunt Juley were always ready to listen
to the latest story of how Francie had got her price increased.
They listened now, together with Swithin, who sat pretending not
to, for these young people talked so fast and mumbled so, he
never could catch what they said.
"And I can't think," said Mrs. Septimus, "how you do it. I
should never have the audacity!"
Francie smiled lightly. "I'd much rather deal with a man than a
woman. Women are so sharp!"
"My dear," cried Mrs. Small, "I'm sure we're not."
Euphemia went off into her silent laugh, and, ending with the
squeak, said, as though being strangled: "Oh, you'll kill me some
Swithin saw no necessity to laugh; he detested people laughing
when he himself perceived no joke. Indeed, he detested Euphemia
altogether, to whom he always alluded as 'Nick's daughter, what's
she called--the pale one?' He had just missed being her god-
father--indeed, would have been, had he not taken a firm stand
against her outlandish name. He hated becoming a godfather.
Swithin then said to Francie with dignity: "It's a fine day--
er--for the time of year." But Euphemia, who knew perfectly well
that he had refused to be her godfather, turned to Aunt Hester,
and began telling her how she had seen Irene--Mrs. Soames--at the
Church and Commercial Stores.
"And Soames was with her?" said Aunt Hester, to whom Mrs. Small
had as yet had no opportunity of relating the incident.
"Soames with her? Of course not!"
"But was she all alone in London?"
"Oh, no; there was Mr. Bosinney with her. She was perfectly
But Swithin, hearing the name Irene, looked severely at Euphemia,
who, it is true, never did look well in a dress, whatever she may
have done on other occasions, and said:
"Dressed like a lady, I've no doubt. It's a pleasure to see
At this moment James and his daughters were announced. Dartie,
feeling badly in want of a drink, had pleaded an appointment with
his dentist, and, being put down at the Marble Arch, had got into
a hansom, and was already seated in the window of his club in
His wife, he told his cronies, had wanted to take him to pay some
calls. It was not in his line--not exactly. Haw!
Hailing the waiter, he sent him out to the hall to see what had
won the 4.30 race. He was dog-tired, he said, and that was a
fact; had been drivin' about with his wife to 'shows' all the
afternoon. Had put his foot down at last. A fellow must live
his own life.
At this moment, glancing out of the bay window--for he loved this
seat whence he could see everybody pass--his eye unfortunately,
or perhaps fortunately, chanced to light on the figure of Soames,
who was mousing across the road from the Green Park-side, with
the evident intention of coming in, for he, too, belonged to 'The
Dartie sprang to his feet; grasping his glass, he muttered
something about 'that 4.30 race,' and swiftly withdrew to the
card-room, where Soames never came. Here, in complete isolation
and a dim light, he lived his own life till half past seven, by
which hour he knew Soames must certainly have left the club.
It would not do, as he kept repeating to himself whenever he felt
the impulse to join the gossips in the bay-window getting too
strong for him--it absolutely would not do, with finances as low
as his, and the 'old man' (James) rusty ever since that business
over the oil shares, which was no fault of his, to risk a row
If Soames were to see him in the club it would be sure to come
round to her that he wasn't at the dentist's at all. He never
knew a family where things 'came round' so. Uneasily, amongst
the green baize card-tables, a frown on his olive coloured face,
his check trousers crossed, and patent-leather boots shining
through the gloom, he sat biting his forefinger, and wondering
where the deuce he was to get the money if Erotic failed to win
the Lancashire Cup.
His thoughts turned gloomily to the Forsytes. What a set they
were! There was no getting anything out of them--at least, it
was a matter of extreme difficulty. They were so d---d
particular about money matters; not a sportsman amongst the lot,
unless it were George. That fellow Soames, for instance, would
have a ft if you tried to borrow a tenner from him, or, if he
didn't have a fit, he looked at you with his cursed supercilious
smile, as if you were a lost soul because you were in want of
And that wife of his (Dartie's mouth watered involuntarily), he
had tried to be on good terms with her, as one naturally would
with any pretty sister-in-law, but he would be cursed if the (he
mentally used a coarse word)--would have anything to say to him--
she looked at him, indeed, as if he were dirt--and yet she could
go far enough, he wouldn't mind betting. He knew women; they
weren't made with soft eyes and figures like that for nothing, as
that fellow Soames would jolly soon find out, if there were
anything in what he had heard about this Buccaneer Johnny.
Rising from his chair, Dartie took a turn across the room, ending
in front of the looking-glass over the marble chimney-piece; and
there he stood for a long time contemplating in the glass the
reflection of his face. It had that look, peculiar to some men,
of having been steeped in linseed oil, with its waxed dark
moustaches and the little distinguished commencements of side
whiskers; and concernedly he felt the promise of a pimple on the
side of his slightly curved and fattish nose.
In the meantime old Jolyon had found the remaining chair in
Timothy's commodious drawing-room. His advent had obviously put
a stop to the conversation, decided awkwardness having set in.
Aunt Juley, with her well-known kindheartedness, hastened to set
people at their ease again.
"Yes, Jolyon," she said, "we were just saying that you haven't
been here for a long time; but we mustn't be surprised. You're
busy, of course? James was just saying what a busy time of
"Was he?" said old Jolyon, looking hard at James. "It wouldn't
be half so busy if everybody minded their own business."
James, brooding in a small chair from which his knees ran uphill,
shifted his feet uneasily, and put one of them down on the cat,
which had unwisely taken refuge from old Jolyon beside him.
"Here, you've got a cat here," he said in an injured voice,
withdrawing his foot nervously as he felt it squeezing into the
soft, furry body.
"Several," said old Jolyon, looking at one face and another; "I
trod on one just now."
A silence followed.
Then Mrs. Small, twisting her fingers and gazing round with
'pathetic calm', asked: "And how is dear June?"
A twinkle of humour shot through the sternness of old Jolyon's
eyes. Extraordinary old woman, Juley! No one quite like her for
saying the wrong thing!
"Bad!" he said; "London don't agree with her--too many people
about, too much clatter and chatter by half." He laid emphasis on
the words, and again looked James in the face.
A feeling of its being too dangerous to take a step in any
direction, or hazard any remark, had fallen on them all.
Something of the sense of the impending, that comes over the
spectator of a Greek tragedy, had entered that upholstered room,
filled with those white-haired, frockcoated old men, and
fashionably attired women, who were all of the same blood,
between all of whom existed an unseizable resemblance.
Not that they were conscious of it--the visits of such fateful,
bitter spirits are only felt.
Then Swithin rose. He would not sit there, feeling like that--he
was not to be put down by anyone! And, manoeuvring round the
room with added pomp, he shook hands with each separately.
"You tell Timothy from me," he said, "that he coddles himself too
much!" Then, turning to Francie, whom he considered 'smart,' he
added: "You come with me for a drive one of these days." But this
conjured up the vision of that other eventful drive which had
been so much talked about, and he stood quite still for a second,
with glassy eyes, as though waiting to catch up with the
significance of what he himself had said; then, suddenly
recollecting that he didn't care a damn, he turned to old Jolyon:
"Well, good-bye, Jolyon! You shouldn't go about without an
overcoat; you'll be getting sciatica or something!" And, kicking
the cat slightly with the pointed tip of his patent leather boot,
he took his huge form away.
When he had gone everyone looked secretly at the others, to see
how they had taken the mention of the word 'drive'--the word
which had become famous, and acquired an overwhelming importance,
as the only official--so to speak--news in connection with the
vague and sinister rumour clinging to the family tongue.
Euphemia, yielding to an impulse, said with a short laugh: "I'm
glad Uncle Swithin doesn't ask me to go for drives."
Mrs. Small, to reassure her and smooth over any little
awkwardness the subject might have, replied: "My dear, he likes
to take somebody well dressed, who will do him a little credit.
I shall never forget the drive he took me. It was an
experience!" And her chubby round old face was spread for a
moment with a strange contentment; then broke into pouts, and
tears came into her eyes. She was thinking of that long ago
driving tour she had once taken with Septimus Small.
James, who had relapsed into his nervous brooding in the little
chair, suddenly roused himself: "He's a funny fellow, Swithin,"
he said, but in a half-hearted way.
Old Jolyon's silence, his stern eyes, held them all in a kind of
paralysis. He was disconcerted himself by the effect of his own
words--an effect which seemed to deepen the importance of the
very rumour he had come to scotch; but he was still angry.
He had not done with them yet--No, no--he would give them another
rub or two.
He did not wish to rub his nieces, he had no quarrel with them--a
young and presentable female always appealed to old Jolyon's
clemency--but that fellow James, and, in a less degree perhaps,
those others, deserved all they would get. And he, too, asked
As though feeling that some danger threatened her younger
brother, Aunt Juley suddenly offered him tea: "There it is," she
said, "all cold and nasty, waiting for you in the back drawing
room, but Smither shall make you some fresh."
Old Jolyon rose: "Thank you," he said, looking straight at James,
"but I've no time for tea, and--scandal, and the rest of it!
It's time I was at home. Good-bye, Julia; good-bye, Hester;
Without more ceremonious adieux, he marched out.
Once again in his cab, his anger evaporated, for so it ever was
with his wrath--when he had rapped out, it was gone. Sadness
came over his spirit. He had stopped their mouths, maybe, but at
what a cost! At the cost of certain knowledge that the rumour he
had been resolved not to believe was true. June was abandoned,
and for the wife of that fellow's son! He felt it was true, and
hardened himself to treat it as if it were not; but the pain he
hid beneath this resolution began slowly, surely, to vent itself
in a blind resentment against James and his son.
The six women and one man left behind in the little drawing-room
began talking as easily as might be after such an occurrence, for
though each one of them knew for a fact that he or she never
talked scandal, each one of them also knew that the other six
did; all were therefore angry and at a loss. James only was
silent, disturbed, to the bottom of his soul.
Presently Francie said: "Do you know, I think Uncle Jolyon is
terribly changed this last year. What do you think, Aunt
Aunt Hester made a little movement of recoil: "Oh, ask your Aunt
Julia!" she said; "I know nothing about it."
No one else was afraid of assenting, and James muttered gloomily
at the floor: "He's not half the man he was."
"I've noticed it a long time," went on Francie; "he's aged
Aunt Juley shook her head; her face seemed suddenly to have
become one immense pout.
"Poor dear Jolyon," she said, "somebody ought to see to it for
There was again silence; then, as though in terror of being left
solitarily behind, all five visitors rose simultaneously, and
took their departure.
Mrs. Small, Aunt Hester, and their cat were left once more alone,