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  • 1906
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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 of philosophy:

“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 sons.

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 ago.

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 speaking.

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 trouble!”

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 mastication.

“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 his mouth….

“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 June scornfully.

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 to June.

“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 imagination.

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 for that?”

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 Italian!”

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 Jobson’s.”

“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 live!”

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.



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 painting.

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 side.

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 opinion.”

“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 about eleven.”

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 site.

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.”

Bosinney nodded.

“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 strolled out.

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 site.

“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 larks.

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 Bosinney.

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 again.”

“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 it.”

“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 first site.

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 decision.



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 body.

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 word.

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 her heart.

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 remorse.

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 here.”

“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 would.

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 know?”

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.



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 lips.

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, I….”

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 too long.

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 appeared alongside.

“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 them!

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 dress.

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 money!”

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 closely.

“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 suspiciously.

“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 James.

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 by bullying.

“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 day.

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 like that?

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 bedroom.



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 garden?

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 enemy.

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 painfully pathetic.

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 different.

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 short.

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 calmly.

“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 lot.”

Young Jolyon replied: “Yes, we’re a ramshackle lot.”‘

The silence was now only broken by the sound of the dog Balthasar’s scratching.

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 father’s shoulder.

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 again.

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 or kind.

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 to it!

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 to do.

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 half-past eight!

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.



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.