Tantissimi classici della letteratura e della cultura politica,
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Abbe Prevost - MANON LESCAUT
Alcott, Louisa M. - AN OLDFASHIONED GIRL
Alcott, Louisa M. - LITTLE MEN
Alcott, Louisa M. - LITTLE WOMEN
Alcott, Louisa May - JACK AND JILL
Alcott, Louisa May - LIFE LETTERS AND JOURNALS
Andersen, Hans Christian - FAIRY TALES
Anonimo - BEOWULF
Ariosto, Ludovico - ORLANDO ENRAGED
Aurelius, Marcus - MEDITATIONS
Austen, Jane - EMMA
Austen, Jane - MANSFIELD PARK
Austen, Jane - NORTHANGER ABBEY
Austen, Jane - PERSUASION
Austen, Jane - PRIDE AND PREJUDICE
Austen, Jane - SENSE AND SENSIBILITY
Authors, Various - LETTERS OF ABELARD AND HELOISE
Authors, Various - SELECTED ENGLISH LETTERS
Autori Vari - THE WORLD ENGLISH BIBLE
Bacon, Francis - THE ADVANCEMENT OF LEARNING
Balzac, Honore de - EUGENIE GRANDET
Balzac, Honore de - FATHER GORIOT
Baroness Orczy - THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL
Barrie, J. M. - PETER AND WENDY
Barrie, James M. - PETER PAN
Bierce, Ambrose - THE DEVIL'S DICTIONARY
Blake, William - SONGS OF INNOCENCE AND EXPERIENCE
Boccaccio, Giovanni - DECAMERONE
Brent, Linda - INCIDENTS IN THE LIFE OF A SLAVE GIRL
Bronte, Charlotte - JANE EYRE
Bronte, Charlotte - VILLETTE
Buchan, John - GREENMANTLE
Buchan, John - MR STANDFAST
Buchan, John - THE 39 STEPS
Bunyan, John - THE PILGRIM'S PROGRESS
Burckhardt, Jacob - THE CIVILIZATION OF THE RENAISSANCE IN ITALY
Burnett, Frances H. - A LITTLE PRINCESS
Burnett, Frances H. - LITTLE LORD FAUNTLEROY
Burnett, Frances H. - THE SECRET GARDEN
Butler, Samuel - EREWHON
Carlyle, Thomas - PAST AND PRESENT
Carlyle, Thomas - THE FRENCH REVOLUTION
Cellini, Benvenuto - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Cervantes - DON QUIXOTE
Chaucer, Geoffrey - THE CANTERBURY TALES
Chesterton, G. K. - A SHORT HISTORY OF ENGLAND
Chesterton, G. K. - THE BALLAD OF THE WHITE HORSE
Chesterton, G. K. - THE INNOCENCE OF FATHER BROWN
Chesterton, G. K. - THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH
Chesterton, G. K. - THE MAN WHO WAS THURSDAY
Chesterton, G. K. - THE WISDOM OF FATHER BROWN
Chesterton, G. K. - TWELVE TYPES
Chesterton, G. K. - WHAT I SAW IN AMERICA
Chesterton, Gilbert K. - HERETICS
Chopin, Kate - AT FAULT
Chopin, Kate - BAYOU FOLK
Chopin, Kate - THE AWAKENING AND SELECTED SHORT STORIES
Clark Hall, John R. - A CONCISE ANGLOSAXON DICTIONARY
Clarkson, Thomas - AN ESSAY ON THE SLAVERY AND COMMERCE OF THE HUMAN SPECIES
Clausewitz, Carl von - ON WAR
Coleridge, Herbert - A DICTIONARY OF THE FIRST OR OLDEST WORDS IN THE ENGLISH
Coleridge, S. T. - COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS
Coleridge, S. T. - HINTS TOWARDS THE FORMATION OF A MORE COMPREHENSIVE THEORY
Coleridge, S. T. - THE RIME OF THE ANCIENT MARINER
Collins, Wilkie - THE MOONSTONE
Collodi - PINOCCHIO
Conan Doyle, Arthur - A STUDY IN SCARLET
Conan Doyle, Arthur - MEMOIRS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES
Conan Doyle, Arthur - THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES
Conan Doyle, Arthur - THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES
Conan Doyle, Arthur - THE SIGN OF THE FOUR
Conrad, Joseph - HEART OF DARKNESS
Conrad, Joseph - LORD JIM
Conrad, Joseph - NOSTROMO
Conrad, Joseph - THE NIGGER OF THE NARCISSUS
Conrad, Joseph - TYPHOON
Crane, Stephen - LAST WORDS
Crane, Stephen - MAGGIE
Crane, Stephen - THE RED BADGE OF COURAGE
Crane, Stephen - WOUNDS IN THE RAIN
Dante - THE DIVINE COMEDY: HELL
Dante - THE DIVINE COMEDY: PARADISE
Dante - THE DIVINE COMEDY: PURGATORY
Darwin, Charles - THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF CHARLES DARWIN
Darwin, Charles - THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES
Defoe, Daniel - A GENERAL HISTORY OF THE PYRATES
Defoe, Daniel - A JOURNAL OF THE PLAGUE YEAR
Defoe, Daniel - CAPTAIN SINGLETON
Defoe, Daniel - MOLL FLANDERS
Defoe, Daniel - ROBINSON CRUSOE
Defoe, Daniel - THE COMPLETE ENGLISH TRADESMAN
Defoe, Daniel - THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF ROBINSON CRUSOE
Deledda, Grazia - AFTER THE DIVORCE
Dickens, Charles - A CHRISTMAS CAROL
Dickens, Charles - A TALE OF TWO CITIES
Dickens, Charles - BLEAK HOUSE
Dickens, Charles - DAVID COPPERFIELD
Dickens, Charles - DONBEY AND SON
Dickens, Charles - GREAT EXPECTATIONS
Dickens, Charles - HARD TIMES
Dickens, Charles - LETTERS VOLUME 1
Dickens, Charles - LITTLE DORRIT
Dickens, Charles - MARTIN CHUZZLEWIT
Dickens, Charles - NICHOLAS NICKLEBY
Dickens, Charles - OLIVER TWIST
Dickens, Charles - OUR MUTUAL FRIEND
Dickens, Charles - PICTURES FROM ITALY
Dickens, Charles - THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD
Dickens, Charles - THE OLD CURIOSITY SHOP
Dickens, Charles - THE PICKWICK PAPERS
Dickinson, Emily - POEMS
Dostoevsky, Fyodor - CRIME AND PUNISHMENT
Dostoyevsky, Fyodor - THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV
Du Maurier, George - TRILBY
Dumas, Alexandre - THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO
Dumas, Alexandre - THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK
Dumas, Alexandre - THE THREE MUSKETEERS
Eliot, George - DANIEL DERONDA
Eliot, George - MIDDLEMARCH
Eliot, George - SILAS MARNER
Eliot, George - THE MILL ON THE FLOSS
Engels, Frederick - THE CONDITION OF THE WORKING-CLASS IN ENGLAND IN 1844
Equiano - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Esopo - FABLES
Fenimore Cooper, James - THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS
Fielding, Henry - TOM JONES
France, Anatole - THAIS
France, Anatole - THE GODS ARE ATHIRST
France, Anatole - THE LIFE OF JOAN OF ARC
France, Anatole - THE SEVEN WIVES OF BLUEBEARD
Frank Baum, L. - THE PATCHWORK GIRL OF OZ
Frank Baum, L. - THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ
Franklin, Benjamin - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Frazer, James George - THE GOLDEN BOUGH
Freud, Sigmund - DREAM PSYCHOLOGY
Galsworthy, John - COMPLETE PLAYS
Galsworthy, John - STRIFE
Galsworthy, John - STUDIES AND ESSAYS
Galsworthy, John - THE FIRST AND THE LAST
Galsworthy, John - THE FORSYTE SAGA
Galsworthy, John - THE LITTLE MAN
Galsworthy, John - THE SILVER BOX
Galsworthy, John - THE SKIN GAME
Gaskell, Elizabeth - CRANFORD
Gaskell, Elizabeth - MARY BARTON
Gaskell, Elizabeth - NORTH AND SOUTH
Gaskell, Elizabeth - THE LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE
Gay, John - THE BEGGAR'S OPERA
Gentile, Maria - THE ITALIAN COOK BOOK
Gilbert and Sullivan - PLAYS
Goethe - FAUST
Gogol - DEAD SOULS
Goldsmith, Oliver - SHE STOOPS TO CONQUER
Goldsmith, Oliver - THE VICAR OF WAKEFIELD
Grahame, Kenneth - THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS
Grimm, Brothers - FAIRY TALES
Harding, A. R. - GINSENG AND OTHER MEDICINAL PLANTS
Hardy, Thomas - A CHANGED MAN AND OTHER TALES
Hardy, Thomas - FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD
Hardy, Thomas - JUDE THE OBSCURE
Hardy, Thomas - TESS OF THE D'URBERVILLES
Hardy, Thomas - THE MAYOR OF CASTERBRIDGE
Hartley, Cecil B. - THE GENTLEMEN'S BOOK OF ETIQUETTE
Hawthorne, Nathaniel - LITTLE MASTERPIECES
Hawthorne, Nathaniel - THE SCARLET LETTER
Henry VIII - LOVE LETTERS TO ANNE BOLEYN
Henry, O. - CABBAGES AND KINGS
Henry, O. - SIXES AND SEVENS
Henry, O. - THE FOUR MILLION
Henry, O. - THE TRIMMED LAMP
Henry, O. - WHIRLIGIGS
Hindman Miller, Gustavus - TEN THOUSAND DREAMS INTERPRETED
Hobbes, Thomas - LEVIATHAN
Homer - THE ILIAD
Homer - THE ODYSSEY
Hornaday, William T. - THE EXTERMINATION OF THE AMERICAN BISON
Hume, David - A TREATISE OF HUMAN NATURE
Hume, David - AN ENQUIRY CONCERNING HUMAN UNDERSTANDING
Hume, David - DIALOGUES CONCERNING NATURAL RELIGION
Ibsen, Henrik - A DOLL'S HOUSE
Ibsen, Henrik - AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE
Ibsen, Henrik - GHOSTS
Ibsen, Henrik - HEDDA GABLER
Ibsen, Henrik - JOHN GABRIEL BORKMAN
Ibsen, Henrik - ROSMERHOLM
Ibsen, Henrik - THE LADY FROM THE SEA
Ibsen, Henrik - THE MASTER BUILDER
Ibsen, Henrik - WHEN WE DEAD AWAKEN
Irving, Washington - THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW
James, Henry - ITALIAN HOURS
James, Henry - THE ASPERN PAPERS
James, Henry - THE BOSTONIANS
James, Henry - THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY
James, Henry - THE TURN OF THE SCREW
James, Henry - WASHINGTON SQUARE
Jerome, Jerome K. - THREE MEN IN A BOAT
Jerome, Jerome K. - THREE MEN ON THE BUMMEL
Jevons, Stanley - POLITICAL ECONOMY
Johnson, Samuel - A GRAMMAR OF THE ENGLISH TONGUE
Jonson, Ben - THE ALCHEMIST
Jonson, Ben - VOLPONE
Joyce, James - A PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN
Joyce, James - CHAMBER MUSIC
Joyce, James - DUBLINERS
Joyce, James - ULYSSES
Keats, John - ENDYMION
Keats, John - POEMS PUBLISHED IN 1817
Keats, John - POEMS PUBLISHED IN 1820
King James - THE BIBLE
Kipling, Rudyard - CAPTAINS COURAGEOUS
Kipling, Rudyard - INDIAN TALES
Kipling, Rudyard - JUST SO STORIES
Kipling, Rudyard - KIM
Kipling, Rudyard - THE JUNGLE BOOK
Kipling, Rudyard - THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING
Kipling, Rudyard - THE SECOND JUNGLE BOOK
Lawrence, D. H - THE RAINBOW
Lawrence, D. H - THE WHITE PEACOCK
Lawrence, D. H - TWILIGHT IN ITALY
Lawrence, D. H. - AARON'S ROD
Lawrence, D. H. - SONS AND LOVERS
Lawrence, D. H. - THE LOST GIRL
Lawrence, D. H. - WOMEN IN LOVE
Lear, Edward - BOOK OF NONSENSE
Lear, Edward - LAUGHABLE LYRICS
Lear, Edward - MORE NONSENSE
Lear, Edward - NONSENSE SONG
Leblanc, Maurice - ARSENE LUPIN VS SHERLOCK HOLMES
Leblanc, Maurice - THE ADVENTURES OF ARSENE LUPIN
Leblanc, Maurice - THE CONFESSIONS OF ARSENE LUPIN
Leblanc, Maurice - THE HOLLOW NEEDLE
Leblanc, Maurice - THE RETURN OF ARSENE LUPIN
Lehmann, Lilli - HOW TO SING
Leroux, Gaston - THE MAN WITH THE BLACK FEATHER
Leroux, Gaston - THE MYSTERY OF THE YELLOW ROOM
Leroux, Gaston - THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA
London, Jack - MARTIN EDEN
London, Jack - THE CALL OF THE WILD
London, Jack - WHITE FANG
Machiavelli, Nicolo' - THE PRINCE
Malthus, Thomas - PRINCIPLE OF POPULATION
Mansfield, Katherine - THE GARDEN PARTY AND OTHER STORIES
Marlowe, Christopher - THE JEW OF MALTA
Marryat, Captain - THE CHILDREN OF THE NEW FOREST
Maupassant, Guy De - BEL AMI
Melville, Hermann - MOBY DICK
Melville, Hermann - TYPEE
Mill, John Stuart - PRINCIPLES OF POLITICAL ECONOMY
Milton, John - PARADISE LOST
Mitra, S. M. - HINDU TALES FROM THE SANSKRIT
Montaigne, Michel de - ESSAYS
Montgomery, Lucy Maud - ANNE OF GREEN GABLES
More, Thomas - UTOPIA
Nesbit, E. - FIVE CHILDREN AND IT
Nesbit, E. - THE PHOENIX AND THE CARPET
Nesbit, E. - THE RAILWAY CHILDREN
Nesbit, E. - THE STORY OF THE AMULET
Newton, Isaac - OPTICKS
Nietsche, Friedrich - BEYOND GOOD AND EVIL
Nietsche, Friedrich - THUS SPAKE ZARATHUSTRA
Nightingale, Florence - NOTES ON NURSING
Owen, Wilfred - POEMS
Ozaki, Yei Theodora - JAPANESE FAIRY TALES
Pascal, Blaise - PENSEES
Pellico, Silvio - MY TEN YEARS IMPRISONMENT
Perrault, Charles - FAIRY TALES
Pirandello, Luigi - THREE PLAYS
Plato - THE REPUBLIC
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 1
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 2
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 3
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 4
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 5
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER
Potter, Beatrix - THE TALE OF PETER RABBIT
Proust, Marcel - SWANN'S WAY
Radcliffe, Ann - A SICILIAN ROMANCE
Ricardo, David - ON THE PRINCIPLES OF POLITICAL ECONOMY AND TAXATION
Richardson, Samuel - PAMELA
Rider Haggard, H. - ALLAN QUATERMAIN
Rider Haggard, H. - KING SOLOMON'S MINES
Rousseau, J. J. - THE ORIGIN AND FOUNDATION OF INEQUALITY AMONG MANKIND
Ruskin, John - THE SEVEN LAMPS OF ARCHITECTURE
Schiller, Friedrich - THE DEATH OF WALLENSTEIN
Schiller, Friedrich - THE PICCOLOMINI
Schopenhauer, Arthur - THE ART OF CONTROVERSY
Schopenhauer, Arthur - THE WISDOM OF LIFE
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - FLAPPERS AND PHILOSOPHERS
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - THE BEAUTIFUL AND DAMNED
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - THIS SIDE OF PARADISE
Scott, Walter - IVANHOE
Scott, Walter - QUENTIN DURWARD
Scott, Walter - ROB ROY
Scott, Walter - THE BRIDE OF LAMMERMOOR
Scott, Walter - WAVERLEY
Sedgwick, Anne Douglas - THE THIRD WINDOW
Sewell, Anna - BLACK BEAUTY
Shakespeare, William - COMPLETE WORKS
Shakespeare, William - HAMLET
Shakespeare, William - OTHELLO
Shakespeare, William - ROMEO AND JULIET
Shelley, Mary - FRANKENSTEIN
Shelley, Percy Bysshe - A DEFENCE OF POETRY AND OTHER ESSAYS
Shelley, Percy Bysshe - COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS
Sheridan, Richard B. - THE SCHOOL FOR SCANDAL
Sienkiewicz, Henryk - QUO VADIS
Smith, Adam - THE WEALTH OF NATIONS
Smollett, Tobias - TRAVELS THROUGH FRANCE AND ITALY
Spencer, Herbert - ESSAYS ON EDUCATION AND KINDRED SUBJECTS
Spyri, Johanna - HEIDI
Sterne, Laurence - A SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY
Sterne, Laurence - TRISTRAM SHANDY
Stevenson, Robert Louis - A CHILD'S GARDEN OF VERSES
Stevenson, Robert Louis - ESSAYS IN THE ART OF WRITING
Stevenson, Robert Louis - KIDNAPPED
Stevenson, Robert Louis - NEW ARABIAN NIGHTS
Stevenson, Robert Louis - THE BLACK ARROW
Stevenson, Robert Louis - THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE
Stevenson, Robert Louis - TREASURE ISLAND
Stoker, Bram - DRACULA
Strindberg, August - LUCKY PEHR
Strindberg, August - MASTER OLOF
Strindberg, August - THE RED ROOM
Strindberg, August - THE ROAD TO DAMASCUS
Strindberg, August - THERE ARE CRIMES AND CRIMES
Swift, Jonathan - A MODEST PROPOSAL
Swift, Jonathan - A TALE OF A TUB
Swift, Jonathan - GULLIVER'S TRAVELS
Swift, Jonathan - THE BATTLE OF THE BOOKS AND OTHER SHORT PIECES
Tagore, Rabindranath - FRUIT GATHERING
Tagore, Rabindranath - THE GARDENER
Tagore, Rabindranath - THE HUNGRY STONES AND OTHER STORIES
Thackeray, William - BARRY LYNDON
Thackeray, William - VANITY FAIR
Thackeray, William Makepeace - THE BOOK OF SNOBS
Thackeray, William Makepeace - THE ROSE AND THE RING
Thackeray, William Makepeace - THE VIRGINIANS
Thoreau, Henry David - WALDEN
Tolstoi, Leo - A LETTER TO A HINDU
Tolstoy, Lev - ANNA KARENINA
Tolstoy, Lev - WAR AND PEACE
Trollope, Anthony - AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Trollope, Anthony - BARCHESTER TOWERS
Trollope, Anthony - FRAMLEY PARSONAGE
Trollope, Anthony - THE EUSTACE DIAMONDS
Trollope, Anthony - THE MAN WHO KEPT HIS MONEY IN A BOX
Trollope, Anthony - THE WARDEN
Trollope, Anthony - THE WAY WE LIVE NOW
Twain, Mark - LIFE ON THE MISSISSIPPI
Twain, Mark - SPEECHES
Twain, Mark - THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN
Twain, Mark - THE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER
Twain, Mark - THE PRINCE AND THE PAUPER
Vari, Autori - THE MAGNA CARTA
Verga, Giovanni - SICILIAN STORIES
Verne, Jules - 20000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEAS
Verne, Jules - A JOURNEY TO THE CENTRE OF THE EARTH
Verne, Jules - ALL AROUND THE MOON
Verne, Jules - AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS
Verne, Jules - FIVE WEEKS IN A BALLOON
Verne, Jules - FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON
Verne, Jules - MICHAEL STROGOFF
Verne, Jules - THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND
Voltaire - PHILOSOPHICAL DICTIONARY
Vyasa - MAHABHARATA
Wallace, Edgar - SANDERS OF THE RIVER
Wallace, Edgar - THE DAFFODIL MYSTERY
Wallace, Lew - BEN HUR
Webster, Jean - DADDY LONG LEGS
Wedekind, Franz - THE AWAKENING OF SPRING
Wells, H. G. - KIPPS
Wells, H. G. - THE INVISIBLE MAN
Wells, H. G. - THE ISLAND OF DOCTOR MOREAU
Wells, H. G. - THE STOLEN BACILLUS AND OTHER INCIDENTS
Wells, H. G. - THE TIME MACHINE
Wells, H. G. - THE WAR OF THE WORLDS
Wells, H. G. - WHAT IS COMING
Wharton, Edith - THE AGE OF INNOCENCE
White, Andrew Dickson - FIAT MONEY INFLATION IN FRANCE
Wilde, Oscar - A WOMAN OF NO IMPORTANCE
Wilde, Oscar - AN IDEAL HUSBAND
Wilde, Oscar - DE PROFUNDIS
Wilde, Oscar - LADY WINDERMERE'S FAN
Wilde, Oscar - SALOME
Wilde, Oscar - SELECTED POEMS
Wilde, Oscar - THE BALLAD OF READING GAOL
Wilde, Oscar - THE CANTERVILLE GHOST
Wilde, Oscar - THE HAPPY PRINCE AND OTHER TALES
Wilde, Oscar - THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST
Wilde, Oscar - THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GREY
Wilde, Oscar - THE SOUL OF MAN
Wilson, Epiphanius - SACRED BOOKS OF THE EAST
Wollstonecraft, Mary - A VINDICATION OF THE RIGHTS OF WOMAN
Woolf, Virgina - NIGHT AND DAY
Woolf, Virgina - THE VOYAGE OUT
Woolf, Virginia - JACOB'S ROOM
Woolf, Virginia - MONDAY OR TUESDAY
Wordsworth, William - POEMS
Wordsworth, William - PROSE WORKS
Zola, Emile - THERESE RAQUIN
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ISTRUZIONI D'USO DETTAGLIATE
THE FORSYTE SAGA
By JOHN GALSWORTHY
Part 1. The Man of Property
Part 2. Indian Summer of a Forsyte
Part 3. Awakening
THE MAN OF PROPERTY
TO MY WIFE:
I DEDICATE THE FORSYTE SAGA IN ITS ENTIRETY,
BELIEVING IT TO BE OF ALL MY WORKS THE LEAST
UNWORTHY OF ONE WITHOUT WHOSE ENCOURAGEMENT,
SYMPATHY AND CRITICISM I COULD NEVER HAVE
BECOME EVEN SUCH A WRITER AS I AM.
""The Forsyte Saga" was the title originally destined for that part of it
which is called "The Man of Property"; and to adopt it for the collected
chronicles of the Forsyte family has indulged the Forsytean tenacity
that is in all of us. The word Saga might be objected to on the ground
that it connotes the heroic and that there is little heroism in these
pages. But it is used with a suitable irony; and, after all, this long
tale, though it may deal with folk in frock coats, furbelows, and a
gilt-edged period, is not devoid of the essential heat of conflict.
Discounting for the gigantic stature and blood-thirstiness of old days,
as they have come down to us in fairy-tale and legend, the folk of the
old Sagas were Forsytes, assuredly, in their possessive instincts, and
as little proof against the inroads of beauty and passion as Swithin,
Soames, or even Young Jolyon. And if heroic figures, in days that never
were, seem to startle out from their surroundings in fashion unbecoming
to a Forsyte of the Victorian era, we may be sure that tribal instinct
was even then the prime force, and that "family" and the sense of home
and property counted as they do to this day, for all the recent efforts
to "talk them out."
So many people have written and claimed that their families were the
originals of the Forsytes that one has been almost encouraged to believe
in the typicality of an imagined species. Manners change and modes
evolve, and "Timothy's on the Bayswater Road" becomes a nest of the
unbelievable in all except essentials; we shall not look upon its like
again, nor perhaps on such a one as James or Old Jolyon. And yet the
figures of Insurance Societies and the utterances of Judges reassure us
daily that our earthly paradise is still a rich preserve, where the wild
raiders, Beauty and Passion, come stealing in, filching security from
beneath our noses. As surely as a dog will bark at a brass band, so will
the essential Soames in human nature ever rise up uneasily against the
dissolution which hovers round the folds of ownership.
"Let the dead Past bury its dead" would be a better saying if the Past
ever died. The persistence of the Past is one of those tragi-comic
blessings which each new age denies, coming cocksure on to the stage to
mouth its claim to a perfect novelty.
But no Age is so new as that! Human Nature, under its changing
pretensions and clothes, is and ever will be very much of a Forsyte, and
might, after all, be a much worse animal.
Looking back on the Victorian era, whose ripeness, decline, and
'fall-of' is in some sort pictured in "The Forsyte Saga," we see now
that we have but jumped out of a frying-pan into a fire. It would be
difficult to substantiate a claim that the case of England was better in
1913 than it was in 1886, when the Forsytes assembled at Old Jolyon's to
celebrate the engagement of June to Philip Bosinney. And in 1920, when
again the clan gathered to bless the marriage of Fleur with Michael
Mont, the state of England is as surely too molten and bankrupt as in
the eighties it was too congealed and low-percented. If these chronicles
had been a really scientific study of transition one would have dwelt
probably on such factors as the invention of bicycle, motor-car, and
flying-machine; the arrival of a cheap Press; the decline of country
life and increase of the towns; the birth of the Cinema. Men are, in
fact, quite unable to control their own inventions; they at best develop
adaptability to the new conditions those inventions create.
But this long tale is no scientific study of a period; it is rather an
intimate incarnation of the disturbance that Beauty effects in the lives
The figure of Irene, never, as the reader may possibly have observed,
present, except through the senses of other characters, is a concretion
of disturbing Beauty impinging on a possessive world.
One has noticed that readers, as they wade on through the salt waters of
the Saga, are inclined more and more to pity Soames, and to think that
in doing so they are in revolt against the mood of his creator. Far
from it! He, too, pities Soames, the tragedy of whose life is the very
simple, uncontrollable tragedy of being unlovable, without quite a thick
enough skin to be thoroughly unconscious of the fact. Not even Fleur
loves Soames as he feels he ought to be loved. But in pitying Soames,
readers incline, perhaps, to animus against Irene: After all, they
think, he wasn't a bad fellow, it wasn't his fault; she ought to have
forgiven him, and so on!
And, taking sides, they lose perception of the simple truth, which
underlies the whole story, that where sex attraction is utterly and
definitely lacking in one partner to a union, no amount of pity, or
reason, or duty, or what not, can overcome a repulsion implicit in
Nature. Whether it ought to, or no, is beside the point; because in fact
it never does. And where Irene seems hard and cruel, as in the Bois de
Boulogne, or the Goupenor Gallery, she is but wisely realistic--knowing
that the least concession is the inch which precedes the impossible, the
A criticism one might pass on the last phase of the Saga is the
complaint that Irene and Jolyon those rebels against property--claim
spiritual property in their son Jon. But it would be hypercriticism,
as the tale is told. No father and mother could have let the boy marry
Fleur without knowledge of the facts; and the facts determine Jon, not
the persuasion of his parents. Moreover, Jolyon's persuasion is not
on his own account, but on Irene's, and Irene's persuasion becomes a
reiterated: "Don't think of me, think of yourself!" That Jon, knowing
the facts, can realise his mother's feelings, will hardly with justice
be held proof that she is, after all, a Forsyte.
But though the impingement of Beauty and the claims of Freedom on a
possessive world are the main prepossessions of the Forsyte Saga, it
cannot be absolved from the charge of embalming the upper-middle class.
As the old Egyptians placed around their mummies the necessaries of a
future existence, so I have endeavoured to lay beside the figures of
Aunts Ann and Juley and Hester, of Timothy and Swithin, of Old Jolyon
and James, and of their sons, that which shall guarantee them a little
life here-after, a little balm in the hurried Gilead of a dissolving
If the upper-middle class, with other classes, is destined to "move on"
into amorphism, here, pickled in these pages, it lies under glass for
strollers in the wide and ill-arranged museum of Letters. Here it rests,
preserved in its own juice: The Sense of Property. 1922."
THE MAN OF PROPERTY
by JOHN GALSWORTHY
"........You will answer
The slaves are ours....."
--Merchant of Venice.
TO EDWARD GARNETT
CHAPTER I--'AT HOME' AT OLD JOLYON'S
Those privileged to be present at a family festival of the Forsytes have
seen that charming and instructive sight--an upper middle-class family
in full plumage. But whosoever of these favoured persons has possessed
the gift of psychological analysis (a talent without monetary value and
properly ignored by the Forsytes), has witnessed a spectacle, not only
delightful in itself, but illustrative of an obscure human problem. In
plainer words, he has gleaned from a gathering of this family--no branch
of which had a liking for the other, between no three members of whom
existed anything worthy of the name of sympathy--evidence of that
mysterious concrete tenacity which renders a family so formidable a unit
of society, so clear a reproduction of society in miniature. He has been
admitted to a vision of the dim roads of social progress, has understood
something of patriarchal life, of the swarmings of savage hordes, of the
rise and fall of nations. He is like one who, having watched a tree
grow from its planting--a paragon of tenacity, insulation, and success,
amidst the deaths of a hundred other plants less fibrous, sappy, and
persistent--one day will see it flourishing with bland, full foliage, in
an almost repugnant prosperity, at the summit of its efflorescence.
On June 15, eighteen eighty-six, about four of the afternoon, the
observer who chanced to be present at the house of old Jolyon Forsyte
in Stanhope Gate, might have seen the highest efflorescence of the
This was the occasion of an 'at home' to celebrate the engagement of
Miss June Forsyte, old Jolyon's granddaughter, to Mr. Philip Bosinney.
In the bravery of light gloves, buff waistcoats, feathers and frocks,
the family were present, even Aunt Ann, who now but seldom left the
corner of her brother Timothy's green drawing-room, where, under the
aegis of a plume of dyed pampas grass in a light blue vase, she sat
all day reading and knitting, surrounded by the effigies of three
generations of Forsytes. Even Aunt Ann was there; her inflexible
back, and the dignity of her calm old face personifying the rigid
possessiveness of the family idea.
When a Forsyte was engaged, married, or born, the Forsytes were present;
when a Forsyte died--but no Forsyte had as yet died; they did not die;
death being contrary to their principles, they took precautions against
it, the instinctive precautions of highly vitalized persons who resent
encroachments on their property.
About the Forsytes mingling that day with the crowd of other guests,
there was a more than ordinarily groomed look, an alert, inquisitive
assurance, a brilliant respectability, as though they were attired in
defiance of something. The habitual sniff on the face of Soames Forsyte
had spread through their ranks; they were on their guard.
The subconscious offensiveness of their attitude has constituted old
Jolyon's 'home' the psychological moment of the family history, made it
the prelude of their drama.
The Forsytes were resentful of something, not individually, but as
a family; this resentment expressed itself in an added perfection of
raiment, an exuberance of family cordiality, an exaggeration of family
importance, and--the sniff. Danger--so indispensable in bringing out the
fundamental quality of any society, group, or individual--was what
the Forsytes scented; the premonition of danger put a burnish on their
armour. For the first time, as a family, they appeared to have an
instinct of being in contact, with some strange and unsafe thing.
Over against the piano a man of bulk and stature was wearing two
waistcoats on his wide chest, two waistcoats and a ruby pin, instead of
the single satin waistcoat and diamond pin of more usual occasions,
and his shaven, square, old face, the colour of pale leather, with
pale eyes, had its most dignified look, above his satin stock. This was
Swithin Forsyte. Close to the window, where he could get more than his
fair share of fresh air, the other twin, James--the fat and the lean of
it, old Jolyon called these brothers--like the bulky Swithin, over six
feet in height, but very lean, as though destined from his birth to
strike a balance and maintain an average, brooded over the scene with
his permanent stoop; his grey eyes had an air of fixed absorption in
some secret worry, broken at intervals by a rapid, shifting scrutiny
of surrounding facts; his cheeks, thinned by two parallel folds, and a
long, clean-shaven upper lip, were framed within Dundreary whiskers. In
his hands he turned and turned a piece of china. Not far off, listening
to a lady in brown, his only son Soames, pale and well-shaved,
dark-haired, rather bald, had poked his chin up sideways, carrying his
nose with that aforesaid appearance of 'sniff,' as though despising an
egg which he knew he could not digest. Behind him his cousin, the tall
George, son of the fifth Forsyte, Roger, had a Quilpish look on his
fleshy face, pondering one of his sardonic jests. Something inherent to
the occasion had affected them all.
Seated in a row close to one another were three ladies--Aunts Ann,
Hester (the two Forsyte maids), and Juley (short for Julia), who not in
first youth had so far forgotten herself as to marry Septimus Small, a
man of poor constitution. She had survived him for many years. With
her elder and younger sister she lived now in the house of Timothy, her
sixth and youngest brother, on the Bayswater Road. Each of these ladies
held fans in their hands, and each with some touch of colour,
some emphatic feather or brooch, testified to the solemnity of the
In the centre of the room, under the chandelier, as became a host, stood
the head of the family, old Jolyon himself. Eighty years of age, with
his fine, white hair, his dome-like forehead, his little, dark grey
eyes, and an immense white moustache, which drooped and spread below the
level of his strong jaw, he had a patriarchal look, and in spite of lean
cheeks and hollows at his temples, seemed master of perennial youth.
He held himself extremely upright, and his shrewd, steady eyes had lost
none of their clear shining. Thus he gave an impression of superiority
to the doubts and dislikes of smaller men. Having had his own way for
innumerable years, he had earned a prescriptive right to it. It would
never have occurred to old Jolyon that it was necessary to wear a look
of doubt or of defiance.
Between him and the four other brothers who were present, James,
Swithin, Nicholas, and Roger, there was much difference, much
similarity. In turn, each of these four brothers was very different from
the other, yet they, too, were alike.
Through the varying features and expression of those five faces could be
marked a certain steadfastness of chin, underlying surface distinctions,
marking a racial stamp, too prehistoric to trace, too remote and
permanent to discuss--the very hall-mark and guarantee of the family
Among the younger generation, in the tall, bull-like George, in pallid
strenuous Archibald, in young Nicholas with his sweet and tentative
obstinacy, in the grave and foppishly determined Eustace, there was
this same stamp--less meaningful perhaps, but unmistakable--a sign of
something ineradicable in the family soul. At one time or another during
the afternoon, all these faces, so dissimilar and so alike, had worn
an expression of distrust, the object of which was undoubtedly the man
whose acquaintance they were thus assembled to make. Philip Bosinney was
known to be a young man without fortune, but Forsyte girls had become
engaged to such before, and had actually married them. It was not
altogether for this reason, therefore, that the minds of the Forsytes
misgave them. They could not have explained the origin of a misgiving
obscured by the mist of family gossip. A story was undoubtedly told that
he had paid his duty call to Aunts Ann, Juley, and Hester, in a soft
grey hat--a soft grey hat, not even a new one--a dusty thing with a
shapeless crown. "So, extraordinary, my dear--so odd," Aunt Hester,
passing through the little, dark hall (she was rather short-sighted),
had tried to 'shoo' it off a chair, taking it for a strange,
disreputable cat--Tommy had such disgraceful friends! She was disturbed
when it did not move.
Like an artist for ever seeking to discover the significant trifle which
embodies the whole character of a scene, or place, or person, so those
unconscious artists--the Forsytes had fastened by intuition on this hat;
it was their significant trifle, the detail in which was embedded the
meaning of the whole matter; for each had asked himself: "Come, now,
should I have paid that visit in that hat?" and each had answered "No!"
and some, with more imagination than others, had added: "It would never
have come into my head!"
George, on hearing the story, grinned. The hat had obviously been
worn as a practical joke! He himself was a connoisseur of such. "Very
haughty!" he said, "the wild Buccaneer."
And this mot, the 'Buccaneer,' was bandied from mouth to mouth, till it
became the favourite mode of alluding to Bosinney.
Her aunts reproached June afterwards about the hat.
"We don't think you ought to let him, dear!" they had said.
June had answered in her imperious brisk way, like the little embodiment
of will she was: "Oh! what does it matter? Phil never knows what he's
No one had credited an answer so outrageous. A man not to know what he
had on? No, no! What indeed was this young man, who, in becoming
engaged to June, old Jolyon's acknowledged heiress, had done so well
for himself? He was an architect, not in itself a sufficient reason for
wearing such a hat. None of the Forsytes happened to be architects, but
one of them knew two architects who would never have worn such a hat
upon a call of ceremony in the London season.
Dangerous--ah, dangerous! June, of course, had not seen this, but,
though not yet nineteen, she was notorious. Had she not said to Mrs.
Soames--who was always so beautifully dressed--that feathers were
vulgar? Mrs. Soames had actually given up wearing feathers, so
dreadfully downright was dear June!
These misgivings, this disapproval, and perfectly genuine distrust, did
not prevent the Forsytes from gathering to old Jolyon's invitation. An
'At Home' at Stanhope Gate was a great rarity; none had been held for
twelve years, not indeed, since old Mrs. Jolyon had died.
Never had there been so full an assembly, for, mysteriously united in
spite of all their differences, they had taken arms against a common
peril. Like cattle when a dog comes into the field, they stood head
to head and shoulder to shoulder, prepared to run upon and trample the
invader to death. They had come, too, no doubt, to get some notion of
what sort of presents they would ultimately be expected to give; for
though the question of wedding gifts was usually graduated in this way:
'What are you givin'? Nicholas is givin' spoons!'--so very much depended
on the bridegroom. If he were sleek, well-brushed, prosperous-looking,
it was more necessary to give him nice things; he would expect them.
In the end each gave exactly what was right and proper, by a species
of family adjustment arrived at as prices are arrived at on the Stock
Exchange--the exact niceties being regulated at Timothy's commodious,
red-brick residence in Bayswater, overlooking the Park, where dwelt
Aunts Ann, Juley, and Hester.
The uneasiness of the Forsyte family has been justified by the simple
mention of the hat. How impossible and wrong would it have been for any
family, with the regard for appearances which should ever characterize
the great upper middle-class, to feel otherwise than uneasy!
The author of the uneasiness stood talking to June by the further door;
his curly hair had a rumpled appearance, as though he found what was
going on around him unusual. He had an air, too, of having a joke all to
himself. George, speaking aside to his brother, Eustace, said:
"Looks as if he might make a bolt of it--the dashing Buccaneer!"
This 'very singular-looking man,' as Mrs. Small afterwards called
him, was of medium height and strong build, with a pale, brown face, a
dust-coloured moustache, very prominent cheek-bones, and hollow checks.
His forehead sloped back towards the crown of his head, and bulged out
in bumps over the eyes, like foreheads seen in the Lion-house at the
Zoo. He had sherry-coloured eyes, disconcertingly inattentive at times.
Old Jolyon's coachman, after driving June and Bosinney to the theatre,
had remarked to the butler:
"I dunno what to make of 'im. Looks to me for all the world like an
'alf-tame leopard." And every now and then a Forsyte would come up,
sidle round, and take a look at him.
June stood in front, fending off this idle curiosity--a little bit of a
thing, as somebody once said, 'all hair and spirit,' with fearless blue
eyes, a firm jaw, and a bright colour, whose face and body seemed too
slender for her crown of red-gold hair.
A tall woman, with a beautiful figure, which some member of the family
had once compared to a heathen goddess, stood looking at these two with
a shadowy smile.
Her hands, gloved in French grey, were crossed one over the other, her
grave, charming face held to one side, and the eyes of all men near were
fastened on it. Her figure swayed, so balanced that the very air seemed
to set it moving. There was warmth, but little colour, in her cheeks;
her large, dark eyes were soft.
But it was at her lips--asking a question, giving an answer, with that
shadowy smile--that men looked; they were sensitive lips, sensuous
and sweet, and through them seemed to come warmth and perfume like the
warmth and perfume of a flower.
The engaged couple thus scrutinized were unconscious of this passive
goddess. It was Bosinney who first noticed her, and asked her name.
June took her lover up to the woman with the beautiful figure.
"Irene is my greatest chum," she said: "Please be good friends, you
At the little lady's command they all three smiled; and while they were
smiling, Soames Forsyte, silently appearing from behind the woman with
the beautiful figure, who was his wife, said:
"Ah! introduce me too!"
He was seldom, indeed, far from Irene's side at public functions, and
even when separated by the exigencies of social intercourse, could
be seen following her about with his eyes, in which were strange
expressions of watchfulness and longing.
At the window his father, James, was still scrutinizing the marks on the
piece of china.
"I wonder at Jolyon's allowing this engagement," he said to Aunt Ann.
"They tell me there's no chance of their getting married for years.
This young Bosinney" (he made the word a dactyl in opposition to general
usage of a short o) "has got nothing. When Winifred married Dartie, I
made him bring every penny into settlement--lucky thing, too--they'd ha'
had nothing by this time!"
Aunt Ann looked up from her velvet chair. Grey curls banded her
forehead, curls that, unchanged for decades, had extinguished in the
family all sense of time. She made no reply, for she rarely spoke,
husbanding her aged voice; but to James, uneasy of conscience, her look
was as good as an answer.
"Well," he said, "I couldn't help Irene's having no money. Soames was in
such a hurry; he got quite thin dancing attendance on her."
Putting the bowl pettishly down on the piano, he let his eyes wander to
the group by the door.
"It's my opinion," he said unexpectedly, "that it's just as well as it
Aunt Ann did not ask him to explain this strange utterance. She knew
what he was thinking. If Irene had no money she would not be so foolish
as to do anything wrong; for they said--they said--she had been asking
for a separate room; but, of course, Soames had not....
James interrupted her reverie:
"But where," he asked, "was Timothy? Hadn't he come with them?"
Through Aunt Ann's compressed lips a tender smile forced its way:
"No, he didn't think it wise, with so much of this diphtheria about; and
he so liable to take things."
"Well, HE takes good care of himself. I can't afford to take the care of
myself that he does."
Nor was it easy to say which, of admiration, envy, or contempt, was
dominant in that remark.
Timothy, indeed, was seldom seen. The baby of the family, a publisher
by profession, he had some years before, when business was at full tide,
scented out the stagnation which, indeed, had not yet come, but which
ultimately, as all agreed, was bound to set in, and, selling his share
in a firm engaged mainly in the production of religious books, had
invested the quite conspicuous proceeds in three per cent. consols. By
this act he had at once assumed an isolated position, no other Forsyte
being content with less than four per cent. for his money; and this
isolation had slowly and surely undermined a spirit perhaps better than
commonly endowed with caution. He had become almost a myth--a kind of
incarnation of security haunting the background of the Forsyte universe.
He had never committed the imprudence of marrying, or encumbering
himself in any way with children.
James resumed, tapping the piece of china:
"This isn't real old Worcester. I s'pose Jolyon's told you something
about the young man. From all I can learn, he's got no business,
no income, and no connection worth speaking of; but then, I know
nothing--nobody tells me anything."
Aunt Ann shook her head. Over her square-chinned, aquiline old face a
trembling passed; the spidery fingers of her hands pressed against each
other and interlaced, as though she were subtly recharging her will.
The eldest by some years of all the Forsytes, she held a peculiar
position amongst them. Opportunists and egotists one and all--though
not, indeed, more so than their neighbours--they quailed before her
incorruptible figure, and, when opportunities were too strong, what
could they do but avoid her!
Twisting his long, thin legs, James went on:
"Jolyon, he will have his own way. He's got no children"--and stopped,
recollecting the continued existence of old Jolyon's son, young Jolyon,
June's father, who had made such a mess of it, and done for himself
by deserting his wife and child and running away with that foreign
governess. "Well," he resumed hastily, "if he likes to do these things,
I s'pose he can afford to. Now, what's he going to give her? I s'pose
he'll give her a thousand a year; he's got nobody else to leave his
He stretched out his hand to meet that of a dapper, clean-shaven man,
with hardly a hair on his head, a long, broken nose, full lips, and cold
grey eyes under rectangular brows.
"Well, Nick," he muttered, "how are you?"
Nicholas Forsyte, with his bird-like rapidity and the look of a
preternaturally sage schoolboy (he had made a large fortune, quite
legitimately, out of the companies of which he was a director), placed
within that cold palm the tips of his still colder fingers and hastily
"I'm bad," he said, pouting--"been bad all the week; don't sleep at
night. The doctor can't tell why. He's a clever fellow, or I shouldn't
have him, but I get nothing out of him but bills."
"Doctors!" said James, coming down sharp on his words: "I've had all the
doctors in London for one or another of us. There's no satisfaction to
be got out of them; they'll tell you anything. There's Swithin, now.
What good have they done him? There he is; he's bigger than ever; he's
enormous; they can't get his weight down. Look at him!"
Swithin Forsyte, tall, square, and broad, with a chest like a pouter
pigeon's in its plumage of bright waistcoats, came strutting towards
"Er--how are you?" he said in his dandified way, aspirating the 'h'
strongly (this difficult letter was almost absolutely safe in his
keeping)--"how are you?"
Each brother wore an air of aggravation as he looked at the other two,
knowing by experience that they would try to eclipse his ailments.
"We were just saying," said James, "that you don't get any thinner."
Swithin protruded his pale round eyes with the effort of hearing.
"Thinner? I'm in good case," he said, leaning a little forward, "not one
of your thread-papers like you!"
But, afraid of losing the expansion of his chest, he leaned back
again into a state of immobility, for he prized nothing so highly as a
Aunt Ann turned her old eyes from one to the other. Indulgent and severe
was her look. In turn the three brothers looked at Ann. She was getting
shaky. Wonderful woman! Eighty-six if a day; might live another ten
years, and had never been strong. Swithin and James, the twins, were
only seventy-five, Nicholas a mere baby of seventy or so. All were
strong, and the inference was comforting. Of all forms of property their
respective healths naturally concerned them most.
"I'm very well in myself," proceeded James, "but my nerves are out of
order. The least thing worries me to death. I shall have to go to Bath."
"Bath!" said Nicholas. "I've tried Harrogate. That's no good. What I
want is sea air. There's nothing like Yarmouth. Now, when I go there I
"My liver's very bad," interrupted Swithin slowly. "Dreadful pain here;"
and he placed his hand on his right side.
"Want of exercise," muttered James, his eyes on the china. He quickly
added: "I get a pain there, too."
Swithin reddened, a resemblance to a turkey-cock coming upon his old
"Exercise!" he said. "I take plenty: I never use the lift at the Club."
"I didn't know," James hurried out. "I know nothing about anybody;
nobody tells me anything...."
Swithin fixed him with a stare:
"What do you do for a pain there?"
"I take a compound...."
"How are you, uncle?"
June stood before him, her resolute small face raised from her little
height to his great height, and her hand outheld.
The brightness faded from James's visage.
"How are you?" he said, brooding over her. "So you're going to Wales
to-morrow to visit your young man's aunts? You'll have a lot of rain
there. This isn't real old Worcester." He tapped the bowl. "Now, that
set I gave your mother when she married was the genuine thing."
June shook hands one by one with her three great-uncles, and turned
to Aunt Ann. A very sweet look had come into the old lady's face, she
kissed the girl's check with trembling fervour.
"Well, my dear," she said, "and so you're going for a whole month!"
The girl passed on, and Aunt Ann looked after her slim little figure.
The old lady's round, steel grey eyes, over which a film like a bird's
was beginning to come, followed her wistfully amongst the bustling
crowd, for people were beginning to say good-bye; and her finger-tips,
pressing and pressing against each other, were busy again with the
recharging of her will against that inevitable ultimate departure of her
'Yes,' she thought, 'everybody's been most kind; quite a lot of people
come to congratulate her. She ought to be very happy.' Amongst the
throng of people by the door, the well-dressed throng drawn from the
families of lawyers and doctors, from the Stock Exchange, and all the
innumerable avocations of the upper-middle class--there were only
some twenty percent of Forsytes; but to Aunt Ann they seemed all
Forsytes--and certainly there was not much difference--she saw only
her own flesh and blood. It was her world, this family, and she knew
no other, had never perhaps known any other. All their little secrets,
illnesses, engagements, and marriages, how they were getting on, and
whether they were making money--all this was her property, her delight,
her life; beyond this only a vague, shadowy mist of facts and persons of
no real significance. This it was that she would have to lay down when
it came to her turn to die; this which gave to her that importance, that
secret self-importance, without which none of us can bear to live; and
to this she clung wistfully, with a greed that grew each day! If life
were slipping away from her, this she would retain to the end.
She thought of June's father, young Jolyon, who had run away with that
foreign girl. And what a sad blow to his father and to them all. Such
a promising young fellow! A sad blow, though there had been no public
scandal, most fortunately, Jo's wife seeking for no divorce! A long time
ago! And when June's mother died, six years ago, Jo had married that
woman, and they had two children now, so she had heard. Still, he
had forfeited his right to be there, had cheated her of the complete
fulfilment of her family pride, deprived her of the rightful pleasure of
seeing and kissing him of whom she had been so proud, such a
promising young fellow! The thought rankled with the bitterness of a
long-inflicted injury in her tenacious old heart. A little water stood
in her eyes. With a handkerchief of the finest lawn she wiped them
"Well, Aunt Ann?" said a voice behind.
Soames Forsyte, flat-shouldered, clean-shaven, flat-cheeked,
flat-waisted, yet with something round and secret about his whole
appearance, looked downwards and aslant at Aunt Ann, as though trying to
see through the side of his own nose.
"And what do you think of the engagement?" he asked.
Aunt Ann's eyes rested on him proudly; of all the nephews since young
Jolyon's departure from the family nest, he was now her favourite, for
she recognised in him a sure trustee of the family soul that must so
soon slip beyond her keeping.
"Very nice for the young man," she said; "and he's a good-looking young
fellow; but I doubt if he's quite the right lover for dear June."
Soames touched the edge of a gold-lacquered lustre.
"She'll tame him," he said, stealthily wetting his finger and rubbing
it on the knobby bulbs. "That's genuine old lacquer; you can't get it
nowadays. It'd do well in a sale at Jobson's." He spoke with relish, as
though he felt that he was cheering up his old aunt. It was seldom he
was so confidential. "I wouldn't mind having it myself," he added; "you
can always get your price for old lacquer."
"You're so clever with all those things," said Aunt Ann. "And how is
Soames's smile died.
"Pretty well," he said. "Complains she can't sleep; she sleeps a great
deal better than I do," and he looked at his wife, who was talking to
Bosinney by the door.
Aunt Ann sighed.
"Perhaps," she said, "it will be just as well for her not to see so much
of June. She's such a decided character, dear June!"
Soames flushed; his flushes passed rapidly over his flat cheeks and
centered between his eyes, where they remained, the stamp of disturbing
"I don't know what she sees in that little flibbertigibbet," he burst
out, but noticing that they were no longer alone, he turned and again
began examining the lustre.
"They tell me Jolyon's bought another house," said his father's voice
close by; "he must have a lot of money--he must have more money than he
knows what to do with! Montpellier Square, they say; close to Soames!
They never told me, Irene never tells me anything!"
"Capital position, not two minutes from me," said the voice of Swithin,
"and from my rooms I can drive to the Club in eight."
The position of their houses was of vital importance to the Forsytes,
nor was this remarkable, since the whole spirit of their success was
Their father, of farming stock, had come from Dorsetshire near the
beginning of the century.
'Superior Dosset Forsyte, as he was called by his intimates, had been a
stonemason by trade, and risen to the position of a master-builder.
Towards the end of his life he moved to London, where, building on until
he died, he was buried at Highgate. He left over thirty thousand pounds
between his ten children. Old Jolyon alluded to him, if at all, as 'A
hard, thick sort of man; not much refinement about him.' The second
generation of Forsytes felt indeed that he was not greatly to their
credit. The only aristocratic trait they could find in his character was
a habit of drinking Madeira.
Aunt Hester, an authority on family history, described him thus: "I
don't recollect that he ever did anything; at least, not in my time. He
was er--an owner of houses, my dear. His hair about your Uncle Swithin's
colour; rather a square build. Tall? No--not very tall" (he had been
five feet five, with a mottled face); "a fresh-coloured man. I remember
he used to drink Madeira; but ask your Aunt Ann. What was his father?
He--er--had to do with the land down in Dorsetshire, by the sea."
James once went down to see for himself what sort of place this was that
they had come from. He found two old farms, with a cart track rutted
into the pink earth, leading down to a mill by the beach; a little grey
church with a buttressed outer wall, and a smaller and greyer chapel.
The stream which worked the mill came bubbling down in a dozen rivulets,
and pigs were hunting round that estuary. A haze hovered over the
prospect. Down this hollow, with their feet deep in the mud and their
faces towards the sea, it appeared that the primeval Forsytes had been
content to walk Sunday after Sunday for hundreds of years.
Whether or no James had cherished hopes of an inheritance, or of
something rather distinguished to be found down there, he came back to
town in a poor way, and went about with a pathetic attempt at making the
best of a bad job.
"There's very little to be had out of that," he said; "regular country
little place, old as the hills...."
Its age was felt to be a comfort. Old Jolyon, in whom a desperate
honesty welled up at times, would allude to his ancestors as: "Yeomen--I
suppose very small beer." Yet he would repeat the word 'yeomen' as if it
afforded him consolation.
They had all done so well for themselves, these Forsytes, that they were
all what is called 'of a certain position.' They had shares in all sorts
of things, not as yet--with the exception of Timothy--in consols, for
they had no dread in life like that of 3 per cent. for their money.
They collected pictures, too, and were supporters of such charitable
institutions as might be beneficial to their sick domestics. From their
father, the builder, they inherited a talent for bricks and mortar.
Originally, perhaps, members of some primitive sect, they were now
in the natural course of things members of the Church of England, and
caused their wives and children to attend with some regularity the
more fashionable churches of the Metropolis. To have doubted their
Christianity would have caused them both pain and surprise. Some of them
paid for pews, thus expressing in the most practical form their sympathy
with the teachings of Christ.
Their residences, placed at stated intervals round the park, watched
like sentinels, lest the fair heart of this London, where their desires
were fixed, should slip from their clutches, and leave them lower in
their own estimations.
There was old Jolyon in Stanhope Place; the Jameses in Park Lane;
Swithin in the lonely glory of orange and blue chambers in Hyde Park
Mansions--he had never married, not he--the Soamses in their nest off
Knightsbridge; the Rogers in Prince's Gardens (Roger was that remarkable
Forsyte who had conceived and carried out the notion of bringing up his
four sons to a new profession. "Collect house property, nothing like
it," he would say; "I never did anything else").
The Haymans again--Mrs. Hayman was the one married Forsyte sister--in a
house high up on Campden Hill, shaped like a giraffe, and so tall that
it gave the observer a crick in the neck; the Nicholases in Ladbroke
Grove, a spacious abode and a great bargain; and last, but not least,
Timothy's on the Bayswater Road, where Ann, and Juley, and Hester, lived
under his protection.
But all this time James was musing, and now he inquired of his host
and brother what he had given for that house in Montpellier Square. He
himself had had his eye on a house there for the last two years, but
they wanted such a price.
Old Jolyon recounted the details of his purchase.
"Twenty-two years to run?" repeated James; "The very house I was
after--you've given too much for it!"
Old Jolyon frowned.
"It's not that I want it," said James hastily; "it wouldn't suit my
purpose at that price. Soames knows the house, well--he'll tell you it's
too dear--his opinion's worth having."
"I don't," said old Jolyon, "care a fig for his opinion."
"Well," murmured James, "you will have your own way--it's a good
opinion. Good-bye! We're going to drive down to Hurlingham. They tell
me June's going to Wales. You'll be lonely tomorrow. What'll you do with
yourself? You'd better come and dine with us!"
Old Jolyon refused. He went down to the front door and saw them into
their barouche, and twinkled at them, having already forgotten his
spleen--Mrs. James facing the horses, tall and majestic with auburn
hair; on her left, Irene--the two husbands, father and son, sitting
forward, as though they expected something, opposite their wives.
Bobbing and bounding upon the spring cushions, silent, swaying to each
motion of their chariot, old Jolyon watched them drive away under the
During the drive the silence was broken by Mrs. James.
"Did you ever see such a collection of rumty-too people?"
Soames, glancing at her beneath his eyelids, nodded, and he saw Irene
steal at him one of her unfathomable looks. It is likely enough that
each branch of the Forsyte family made that remark as they drove away
from old Jolyon's 'At Home!'
Amongst the last of the departing guests the fourth and fifth brothers,
Nicholas and Roger, walked away together, directing their steps
alongside Hyde Park towards the Praed Street Station of the Underground.
Like all other Forsytes of a certain age they kept carriages of their
own, and never took cabs if by any means they could avoid it.
The day was bright, the trees of the Park in the full beauty of
mid-June foliage; the brothers did not seem to notice phenomena,
which contributed, nevertheless, to the jauntiness of promenade and
"Yes," said Roger, "she's a good-lookin' woman, that wife of Soames's.
I'm told they don't get on."
This brother had a high forehead, and the freshest colour of any of the
Forsytes; his light grey eyes measured the street frontage of the houses
by the way, and now and then he would level his, umbrella and take a
'lunar,' as he expressed it, of the varying heights.
"She'd no money," replied Nicholas.
He himself had married a good deal of money, of which, it being then the
golden age before the Married Women's Property Act, he had mercifully
been enabled to make a successful use.
"What was her father?"
"Heron was his name, a Professor, so they tell me."
Roger shook his head.
"There's no money in that," he said.
"They say her mother's father was cement."
Roger's face brightened.
"But he went bankrupt," went on Nicholas.
"Ah!" exclaimed Roger, "Soames will have trouble with her; you mark my
words, he'll have trouble--she's got a foreign look."
Nicholas licked his lips.
"She's a pretty woman," and he waved aside a crossing-sweeper.
"How did he get hold of her?" asked Roger presently. "She must cost him
a pretty penny in dress!"
"Ann tells me," replied Nicholas, "he was half-cracked about her. She
refused him five times. James, he's nervous about it, I can see."
"Ah!" said Roger again; "I'm sorry for James; he had trouble with
Dartie." His pleasant colour was heightened by exercise, he swung his
umbrella to the level of his eye more frequently than ever. Nicholas's
face also wore a pleasant look.
"Too pale for me," he said, "but her figures capital!"
Roger made no reply.
"I call her distinguished-looking," he said at last--it was the highest
praise in the Forsyte vocabulary. "That young Bosinney will never do
any good for himself. They say at Burkitt's he's one of these artistic
chaps--got an idea of improving English architecture; there's no money
in that! I should like to hear what Timothy would say to it."
They entered the station.
"What class are you going? I go second."
"No second for me," said Nicholas;--"you never know what you may catch."
He took a first-class ticket to Notting Hill Gate; Roger a second to
South Kensington. The train coming in a minute later, the two brothers
parted and entered their respective compartments. Each felt aggrieved
that the other had not modified his habits to secure his society a
little longer; but as Roger voiced it in his thoughts:
'Always a stubborn beggar, Nick!'
And as Nicholas expressed it to himself:
'Cantankerous chap Roger--always was!'
There was little sentimentality about the Forsytes. In that great
London, which they had conquered and become merged in, what time had
they to be sentimental?
CHAPTER II--OLD JOLYON GOES TO THE OPERA
At five o'clock the following day old Jolyon sat alone, a cigar between
his lips, and on a table by his side a cup of tea. He was tired, and
before he had finished his cigar he fell asleep. A fly settled on his
hair, his breathing sounded heavy in the drowsy silence, his upper lip
under the white moustache puffed in and out. From between the fingers
of his veined and wrinkled hand the cigar, dropping on the empty hearth,
burned itself out.
The gloomy little study, with windows of stained glass to exclude the
view, was full of dark green velvet and heavily-carved mahogany--a suite
of which old Jolyon was wont to say: 'Shouldn't wonder if it made a big
price some day!'
It was pleasant to think that in the after life he could get more for
things than he had given.
In the rich brown atmosphere peculiar to back rooms in the mansion of
a Forsyte, the Rembrandtesque effect of his great head, with its white
hair, against the cushion of his high-backed seat, was spoiled by the
moustache, which imparted a somewhat military look to his face. An old
clock that had been with him since before his marriage forty years ago
kept with its ticking a jealous record of the seconds slipping away
forever from its old master.
He had never cared for this room, hardly going into it from one year's
end to another, except to take cigars from the Japanese cabinet in the
corner, and the room now had its revenge.
His temples, curving like thatches over the hollows beneath, his
cheek-bones and chin, all were sharpened in his sleep, and there had
come upon his face the confession that he was an old man.
He woke. June had gone! James had said he would be lonely. James had
always been a poor thing. He recollected with satisfaction that he had
bought that house over James's head.
Serve him right for sticking at the price; the only thing the fellow
thought of was money. Had he given too much, though? It wanted a lot of
doing to--He dared say he would want all his money before he had
done with this affair of June's. He ought never to have allowed the
engagement. She had met this Bosinney at the house of Baynes, Baynes and
Bildeboy, the architects. He believed that Baynes, whom he knew--a bit
of an old woman--was the young man's uncle by marriage. After that she'd
been always running after him; and when she took a thing into her head
there was no stopping her. She was continually taking up with 'lame
ducks' of one sort or another. This fellow had no money, but she must
needs become engaged to him--a harumscarum, unpractical chap, who would
get himself into no end of difficulties.
She had come to him one day in her slap-dash way and told him; and, as
if it were any consolation, she had added:
"He's so splendid; he's often lived on cocoa for a week!"
"And he wants you to live on cocoa too?"
"Oh no; he is getting into the swim now."
Old Jolyon had taken his cigar from under his white moustaches, stained
by coffee at the edge, and looked at her, that little slip of a thing
who had got such a grip of his heart. He knew more about 'swims' than
his granddaughter. But she, having clasped her hands on his knees,
rubbed her chin against him, making a sound like a purring cat. And,
knocking the ash off his cigar, he had exploded in nervous desperation:
"You're all alike: you won't be satisfied till you've got what you want.
If you must come to grief, you must; I wash my hands of it."
So, he had washed his hands of it, making the condition that they should
not marry until Bosinney had at least four hundred a year.
"I shan't be able to give you very much," he had said, a formula to
which June was not unaccustomed. "Perhaps this What's-his-name will
provide the cocoa."
He had hardly seen anything of her since it began. A bad business! He
had no notion of giving her a lot of money to enable a fellow he knew
nothing about to live on in idleness. He had seen that sort of thing
before; no good ever came of it. Worst of all, he had no hope of shaking
her resolution; she was as obstinate as a mule, always had been from
a child. He didn't see where it was to end. They must cut their coat
according to their cloth. He would not give way till he saw young
Bosinney with an income of his own. That June would have trouble with
the fellow was as plain as a pikestaff; he had no more idea of money
than a cow. As to this rushing down to Wales to visit the young man's
aunts, he fully expected they were old cats.
And, motionless, old Jolyon stared at the wall; but for his open eyes,
he might have been asleep.... The idea of supposing that young cub
Soames could give him advice! He had always been a cub, with his nose in
the air! He would be setting up as a man of property next, with a place
in the country! A man of property! H'mph! Like his father, he was always
nosing out bargains, a cold-blooded young beggar!
He rose, and, going to the cabinet, began methodically stocking his
cigar-case from a bundle fresh in. They were not bad at the price, but
you couldn't get a good cigar, nowadays, nothing to hold a candle to
those old Superfinos of Hanson and Bridger's. That was a cigar!
The thought, like some stealing perfume, carried him back to those
wonderful nights at Richmond when after dinner he sat smoking on the
terrace of the Crown and Sceptre with Nicholas Treffry and Traquair and
Jack Herring and Anthony Thornworthy. How good his cigars were then!
Poor old Nick!--dead, and Jack Herring--dead, and Traquair--dead of
that wife of his, and Thornworthy--awfully shaky (no wonder, with his
Of all the company of those days he himself alone seemed left, except
Swithin, of course, and he so outrageously big there was no doing
anything with him.
Difficult to believe it was so long ago; he felt young still! Of all
his thoughts, as he stood there counting his cigars, this was the most
poignant, the most bitter. With his white head and his loneliness he
had remained young and green at heart. And those Sunday afternoons on
Hampstead Heath, when young Jolyon and he went for a stretch along the
Spaniard's Road to Highgate, to Child's Hill, and back over the Heath
again to dine at Jack Straw's Castle--how delicious his cigars were
then! And such weather! There was no weather now.
When June was a toddler of five, and every other Sunday he took her to
the Zoo, away from the society of those two good women, her mother and
her grandmother, and at the top of the bear den baited his umbrella with
buns for her favourite bears, how sweet his cigars were then!
Cigars! He had not even succeeded in out-living his palate--the famous
palate that in the fifties men swore by, and speaking of him, said:
"Forsyte's the best palate in London!" The palate that in a sense had
made his fortune--the fortune of the celebrated tea men, Forsyte and
Treffry, whose tea, like no other man's tea, had a romantic aroma, the
charm of a quite singular genuineness. About the house of Forsyte and
Treffry in the City had clung an air of enterprise and mystery, of
special dealings in special ships, at special ports, with special
He had worked at that business! Men did work in those days! these young
pups hardly knew the meaning of the word. He had gone into every detail,
known everything that went on, sometimes sat up all night over it. And
he had always chosen his agents himself, prided himself on it. His eye
for men, he used to say, had been the secret of his success, and the
exercise of this masterful power of selection had been the only part of
it all that he had really liked. Not a career for a man of his ability.
Even now, when the business had been turned into a Limited Liability
Company, and was declining (he had got out of his shares long ago), he
felt a sharp chagrin in thinking of that time. How much better he might
have done! He would have succeeded splendidly at the Bar! He had even
thought of standing for Parliament. How often had not Nicholas Treffry
said to him:
"You could do anything, Jo, if you weren't so d-damned careful of
yourself!" Dear old Nick! Such a good fellow, but a racketty chap! The
notorious Treffry! He had never taken any care of himself. So he was
dead. Old Jolyon counted his cigars with a steady hand, and it came into
his mind to wonder if perhaps he had been too careful of himself.
He put the cigar-case in the breast of his coat, buttoned it in, and
walked up the long flights to his bedroom, leaning on one foot and the
other, and helping himself by the bannister. The house was too big.
After June was married, if she ever did marry this fellow, as he
supposed she would, he would let it and go into rooms. What was the use
of keeping half a dozen servants eating their heads off?
The butler came to the ring of his bell--a large man with a beard, a
soft tread, and a peculiar capacity for silence. Old Jolyon told him to
put his dress clothes out; he was going to dine at the Club.
How long had the carriage been back from taking Miss June to the
station? Since two? Then let him come round at half-past six!
The Club which old Jolyon entered on the stroke of seven was one of
those political institutions of the upper middle class which have seen
better days. In spite of being talked about, perhaps in consequence of
being talked about, it betrayed a disappointing vitality. People had
grown tired of saying that the 'Disunion' was on its last legs. Old
Jolyon would say it, too, yet disregarded the fact in a manner truly
irritating to well-constituted Clubmen.
"Why do you keep your name on?" Swithin often asked him with profound
vexation. "Why don't you join the 'Polyglot'? You can't get a wine like
our Heidsieck under twenty shillin' a bottle anywhere in London;" and,
dropping his voice, he added: "There's only five hundred dozen left. I
drink it every night of my life."
"I'll think of it," old Jolyon would answer; but when he did think of
it there was always the question of fifty guineas entrance fee, and it
would take him four or five years to get in. He continued to think of
He was too old to be a Liberal, had long ceased to believe in the
political doctrines of his Club, had even been known to allude to them
as 'wretched stuff,' and it afforded him pleasure to continue a member
in the teeth of principles so opposed to his own. He had always had
a contempt for the place, having joined it many years ago when they
refused to have him at the 'Hotch Potch' owing to his being 'in trade.'
As if he were not as good as any of them! He naturally despised the
Club that did take him. The members were a poor lot, many of them in the
City--stockbrokers, solicitors, auctioneers--what not! Like most men
of strong character but not too much originality, old Jolyon set small
store by the class to which he belonged. Faithfully he followed their
customs, social and otherwise, and secretly he thought them 'a common
Years and philosophy, of which he had his share, had dimmed the
recollection of his defeat at the 'Hotch Potch'; and now in his thoughts
it was enshrined as the Queen of Clubs. He would have been a member all
these years himself, but, owing to the slipshod way his proposer, Jack
Herring, had gone to work, they had not known what they were doing in
keeping him out. Why! they had taken his son Jo at once, and he believed
the boy was still a member; he had received a letter dated from there
eight years ago.
He had not been near the 'Disunion' for months, and the house had
undergone the piebald decoration which people bestow on old houses and
old ships when anxious to sell them.
'Beastly colour, the smoking-room!' he thought. 'The dining-room is
Its gloomy chocolate, picked out with light green, took his fancy.
He ordered dinner, and sat down in the very corner, at the very table
perhaps! (things did not progress much at the 'Disunion,' a Club of
almost Radical principles) at which he and young Jolyon used to sit
twenty-five years ago, when he was taking the latter to Drury Lane,
during his holidays.
The boy had loved the theatre, and old Jolyon recalled how he used to
sit opposite, concealing his excitement under a careful but transparent
He ordered himself, too, the very dinner the boy had always chosen-soup,
whitebait, cutlets, and a tart. Ah! if he were only opposite now!
The two had not met for fourteen years. And not for the first time
during those fourteen years old Jolyon wondered whether he had been a
little to blame in the matter of his son. An unfortunate love-affair
with that precious flirt Danae Thornworthy (now Danae Pellew), Anthony
Thornworthy's daughter, had thrown him on the rebound into the arms
of June's mother. He ought perhaps to have put a spoke in the wheel of
their marriage; they were too young; but after that experience of Jo's
susceptibility he had been only too anxious to see him married. And in
four years the crash had come! To have approved his son's conduct
in that crash was, of course, impossible; reason and training--that
combination of potent factors which stood for his principles--told him
of this impossibility, and his heart cried out. The grim remorselessness
of that business had no pity for hearts. There was June, the atom with
flaming hair, who had climbed all over him, twined and twisted herself
about him--about his heart that was made to be the plaything and beloved
resort of tiny, helpless things. With characteristic insight he saw he
must part with one or with the other; no half-measures could serve in
such a situation. In that lay its tragedy. And the tiny, helpless thing
prevailed. He would not run with the hare and hunt with the hounds, and
so to his son he said good-bye.
That good-bye had lasted until now.
He had proposed to continue a reduced allowance to young Jolyon, but
this had been refused, and perhaps that refusal had hurt him more
than anything, for with it had gone the last outlet of his penned-in
affection; and there had come such tangible and solid proof of rupture
as only a transaction in property, a bestowal or refusal of such, could
His dinner tasted flat. His pint of champagne was dry and bitter stuff,
not like the Veuve Clicquots of old days.
Over his cup of coffee, he bethought him that he would go to the opera.
In the Times, therefore--he had a distrust of other papers--he read the
announcement for the evening. It was 'Fidelio.'
Mercifully not one of those new-fangled German pantomimes by that fellow
Putting on his ancient opera hat, which, with its brim flattened by use,
and huge capacity, looked like an emblem of greater days, and, pulling
out an old pair of very thin lavender kid gloves smelling strongly of
Russia leather, from habitual proximity to the cigar-case in the pocket
of his overcoat, he stepped into a hansom.
The cab rattled gaily along the streets, and old Jolyon was struck by
their unwonted animation.
'The hotels must be doing a tremendous business,' he thought. A
few years ago there had been none of these big hotels. He made a
satisfactory reflection on some property he had in the neighbourhood. It
must be going up in value by leaps and bounds! What traffic!
But from that he began indulging in one of those strange impersonal
speculations, so uncharacteristic of a Forsyte, wherein lay, in part,
the secret of his supremacy amongst them. What atoms men were, and what
a lot of them! And what would become of them all?
He stumbled as he got out of the cab, gave the man his exact fare,
walked up to the ticket office to take his stall, and stood there with
his purse in his hand--he always carried his money in a purse, never
having approved of that habit of carrying it loosely in the pockets, as
so many young men did nowadays. The official leaned out, like an old dog
from a kennel.
"Why," he said in a surprised voice, "it's Mr. Jolyon Forsyte! So it is!
Haven't seen you, sir, for years. Dear me! Times aren't what they were.
Why! you and your brother, and that auctioneer--Mr. Traquair, and Mr.
Nicholas Treffry--you used to have six or seven stalls here regular
every season. And how are you, sir? We don't get younger!"
The colour in old Jolyon's eyes deepened; he paid his guinea. They had
not forgotten him. He marched in, to the sounds of the overture, like an
old war-horse to battle.
Folding his opera hat, he sat down, drew out his lavender gloves in
the old way, and took up his glasses for a long look round the house.
Dropping them at last on his folded hat, he fixed his eyes on the
curtain. More poignantly than ever he felt that it was all over and done
with him. Where were all the women, the pretty women, the house used to
be so full of? Where was that old feeling in the heart as he waited for
one of those great singers? Where that sensation of the intoxication of
life and of his own power to enjoy it all?
The greatest opera-goer of his day! There was no opera now! That fellow
Wagner had ruined everything; no melody left, nor any voices to sing it.
Ah! the wonderful singers! Gone! He sat watching the old scenes acted, a
numb feeling at his heart.
From the curl of silver over his ear to the pose of his foot in its
elastic-sided patent boot, there was nothing clumsy or weak about old
Jolyon. He was as upright--very nearly--as in those old times when he
came every night; his sight was as good--almost as good. But what a
feeling of weariness and disillusion!
He had been in the habit all his life of enjoying things, even imperfect
things--and there had been many imperfect things--he had enjoyed
them all with moderation, so as to keep himself young. But now he was
deserted by his power of enjoyment, by his philosophy, and left with
this dreadful feeling that it was all done with. Not even the Prisoners'
Chorus, nor Florian's Song, had the power to dispel the gloom of his
If Jo were only with him! The boy must be forty by now. He had wasted
fourteen years out of the life of his only son. And Jo was no longer
a social pariah. He was married. Old Jolyon had been unable to refrain
from marking his appreciation of the action by enclosing his son a
cheque for L500. The cheque had been returned in a letter from the
'Hotch Potch,' couched in these words.
'MY DEAREST FATHER,
'Your generous gift was welcome as a sign that you might think worse of
me. I return it, but should you think fit to invest it for the benefit
of the little chap (we call him Jolly), who bears our Christian and, by
courtesy, our surname, I shall be very glad.
'I hope with all my heart that your health is as good as ever.
'Your loving son,
The letter was like the boy. He had always been an amiable chap. Old
Jolyon had sent this reply:
'MY DEAR JO,
'The sum (L500) stands in my books for the benefit of your boy, under
the name of Jolyon Forsyte, and will be duly-credited with interest at
5 per cent. I hope that you are doing well. My health remains good at
'With love, I am,
'Your affectionate Father,
And every year on the 1st of January he had added a hundred and the
interest. The sum was mounting up--next New Year's Day it would be
fifteen hundred and odd pounds! And it is difficult to say how much
satisfaction he had got out of that yearly transaction. But the
correspondence had ended.
In spite of his love for his son, in spite of an instinct, partly
constitutional, partly the result, as in thousands of his class, of
the continual handling and watching of affairs, prompting him to judge
conduct by results rather than by principle, there was at the bottom of
his heart a sort of uneasiness. His son ought, under the circumstances,
to have gone to the dogs; that law was laid down in all the novels,
sermons, and plays he had ever read, heard, or witnessed.
After receiving the cheque back there seemed to him to be something
wrong somewhere. Why had his son not gone to the dogs? But, then, who
He had heard, of course--in fact, he had made it his business to find
out--that Jo lived in St. John's Wood, that he had a little house in
Wistaria Avenue with a garden, and took his wife about with him into
society--a queer sort of society, no doubt--and that they had
two children--the little chap they called Jolly (considering the
circumstances the name struck him as cynical, and old Jolyon both
feared and disliked cynicism), and a girl called Holly, born since the
marriage. Who could tell what his son's circumstances really were? He
had capitalized the income he had inherited from his mother's father
and joined Lloyd's as an underwriter; he painted pictures,
too--water-colours. Old Jolyon knew this, for he had surreptitiously
bought them from time to time, after chancing to see his son's name
signed at the bottom of a representation of the river Thames in a
dealer's window. He thought them bad, and did not hang them because of
the signature; he kept them locked up in a drawer.
In the great opera-house a terrible yearning came on him to see his son.
He remembered the days when he had been wont to slide him, in a brown
holland suit, to and fro under the arch of his legs; the times when he
ran beside the boy's pony, teaching him to ride; the day he first took
him to school. He had been a loving, lovable little chap! After he went
to Eton he had acquired, perhaps, a little too much of that desirable
manner which old Jolyon knew was only to be obtained at such places
and at great expense; but he had always been companionable. Always a
companion, even after Cambridge--a little far off, perhaps, owing to
the advantages he had received. Old Jolyon's feeling towards our public
schools and 'Varsities never wavered, and he retained touchingly his
attitude of admiration and mistrust towards a system appropriate to
the highest in the land, of which he had not himself been privileged to
partake.... Now that June had gone and left, or as good as left him, it
would have been a comfort to see his son again. Guilty of this treason
to his family, his principles, his class, old Jolyon fixed his eyes
on the singer. A poor thing--a wretched poor thing! And the Florian a
It was over. They were easily pleased nowadays!
In the crowded street he snapped up a cab under the very nose of a stout
and much younger gentleman, who had already assumed it to be his own.
His route lay through Pall Mall, and at the corner, instead of going
through the Green Park, the cabman turned to drive up St. James's
Street. Old Jolyon put his hand through the trap (he could not bear
being taken out of his way); in turning, however, he found himself
opposite the 'Hotch Potch,' and the yearning that had been secretly with
him the whole evening prevailed. He called to the driver to stop. He
would go in and ask if Jo still belonged there.
He went in. The hall looked exactly as it did when he used to dine there
with Jack Herring, and they had the best cook in London; and he looked
round with the shrewd, straight glance that had caused him all his life
to be better served than most men.
"Mr. Jolyon Forsyte still a member here?"
"Yes, sir; in the Club now, sir. What name?"
Old Jolyon was taken aback.
"His father," he said.
And having spoken, he took his stand, back to the fireplace.
Young Jolyon, on the point of leaving the Club, had put on his hat, and
was in the act of crossing the hall, as the porter met him. He was no
longer young, with hair going grey, and face--a narrower replica of his
father's, with the same large drooping moustache--decidedly worn.
He turned pale. This meeting was terrible after all those years, for
nothing in the world was so terrible as a scene. They met and crossed
hands without a word. Then, with a quaver in his voice, the father said:
"How are you, my boy?"
The son answered:
"How are you, Dad?"
Old Jolyon's hand trembled in its thin lavender glove.
"If you're going my way," he said, "I can give you a lift."
And as though in the habit of taking each other home every night they
went out and stepped into the cab.
To old Jolyon it seemed that his son had grown. 'More of a man
altogether,' was his comment. Over the natural amiability of that son's
face had come a rather sardonic mask, as though he had found in the
circumstances of his life the necessity for armour. The features
were certainly those of a Forsyte, but the expression was more the
introspective look of a student or philosopher. He had no doubt been
obliged to look into himself a good deal in the course of those fifteen
To young Jolyon the first sight of his father was undoubtedly a
shock--he looked so worn and old. But in the cab he seemed hardly to
have changed, still having the calm look so well remembered, still being
upright and keen-eyed.
"You look well, Dad."
"Middling," old Jolyon answered.
He was the prey of an anxiety that he found he must put into words.
Having got his son back like this, he felt he must know what was his
"Jo," he said, "I should like to hear what sort of water you're in. I
suppose you're in debt?"
He put it this way that his son might find it easier to confess.
Young Jolyon answered in his ironical voice:
"No! I'm not in debt!"
Old Jolyon saw that he was angry, and touched his hand. He had run a
risk. It was worth it, however, and Jo had never been sulky with him.
They drove on, without speaking again, to Stanhope Gate. Old Jolyon
invited him in, but young Jolyon shook his head.
"June's not here," said his father hastily: "went of to-day on a visit.
I suppose you know that she's engaged to be married?"
"Already?" murmured young Jolyon'.
Old Jolyon stepped out, and, in paying the cab fare, for the first time
in his life gave the driver a sovereign in mistake for a shilling.
Placing the coin in his mouth, the cabman whipped his horse secretly on
the underneath and hurried away.
Old Jolyon turned the key softly in the lock, pushed open the door,
and beckoned. His son saw him gravely hanging up his coat, with an
expression on his face like that of a boy who intends to steal cherries.
The door of the dining-room was open, the gas turned low; a spirit-urn
hissed on a tea-tray, and close to it a cynical looking cat had fallen
asleep on the dining-table. Old Jolyon 'shoo'd' her off at once. The
incident was a relief to his feelings; he rattled his opera hat behind
"She's got fleas," he said, following her out of the room. Through the
door in the hall leading to the basement he called "Hssst!" several
times, as though assisting the cat's departure, till by some strange
coincidence the butler appeared below.
"You can go to bed, Parfitt," said old Jolyon. "I will lock up and put
When he again entered the dining-room the cat unfortunately preceded
him, with her tail in the air, proclaiming that she had seen through
this manouevre for suppressing the butler from the first....
A fatality had dogged old Jolyon's domestic stratagems all his life.
Young Jolyon could not help smiling. He was very well versed in irony,
and everything that evening seemed to him ironical. The episode of the
cat; the announcement of his own daughter's engagement. So he had no
more part or parcel in her than he had in the Puss! And the poetical
justice of this appealed to him.
"What is June like now?" he asked.
"She's a little thing," returned old Jolyon; "they say she's like me,
but that's their folly. She's more like your mother--the same eyes and
"Ah! and she is pretty?"
Old Jolyon was too much of a Forsyte to praise anything freely;
especially anything for which he had a genuine admiration.
"Not bad looking--a regular Forsyte chin. It'll be lonely here when
she's gone, Jo."
The look on his face again gave young Jolyon the shock he had felt on
first seeing his father.
"What will you do with yourself, Dad? I suppose she's wrapped up in
"Do with myself?" repeated old Jolyon with an angry break in his voice.
"It'll be miserable work living here alone. I don't know how it's
to end. I wish to goodness...." He checked himself, and added: "The
question is, what had I better do with this house?"
Young Jolyon looked round the room. It was peculiarly vast and dreary,
decorated with the enormous pictures of still life that he remembered
as a boy--sleeping dogs with their noses resting on bunches of carrots,
together with onions and grapes lying side by side in mild surprise.
The house was a white elephant, but he could not conceive of his father
living in a smaller place; and all the more did it all seem ironical.
In his great chair with the book-rest sat old Jolyon, the figurehead
of his family and class and creed, with his white head and dome-like
forehead, the representative of moderation, and order, and love of
property. As lonely an old man as there was in London.
There he sat in the gloomy comfort of the room, a puppet in the power of
great forces that cared nothing for family or class or creed, but moved,
machine-like, with dread processes to inscrutable ends. This was how it
struck young Jolyon, who had the impersonal eye.
The poor old Dad! So this was the end, the purpose to which he had
lived with such magnificent moderation! To be lonely, and grow older and
older, yearning for a soul to speak to!
In his turn old Jolyon looked back at his son. He wanted to talk about
many things that he had been unable to talk about all these years. It
had been impossible to seriously confide in June his conviction that
property in the Soho quarter would go up in value; his uneasiness
about that tremendous silence of Pippin, the superintendent of the New
Colliery Company, of which he had so long been chairman; his disgust at
the steady fall in American Golgothas, or even to discuss how, by some
sort of settlement, he could best avoid the payment of those death
duties which would follow his decease. Under the influence, however, of
a cup of tea, which he seemed to stir indefinitely, he began to speak at
last. A new vista of life was thus opened up, a promised land of talk,
where he could find a harbour against the waves of anticipation and
regret; where he could soothe his soul with the opium of devising how to
round off his property and make eternal the only part of him that was to
Young Jolyon was a good listener; it was his great quality. He kept his
eyes fixed on his father's face, putting a question now and then.
The clock struck one before old Jolyon had finished, and at the sound of
its striking his principles came back. He took out his watch with a look
"I must go to bed, Jo," he said.
Young Jolyon rose and held out his hand to help his father up. The old
face looked worn and hollow again; the eyes were steadily averted.
"Good-bye, my boy; take care of yourself."
A moment passed, and young Jolyon, turning on his, heel, marched out
at the door. He could hardly see; his smile quavered. Never in all
the fifteen years since he had first found out that life was no simple
business, had he found it so singularly complicated.
CHAPTER III--DINNER AT SWITHIN'S
In Swithin's orange and light-blue dining-room, facing the Park, the
round table was laid for twelve.
A cut-glass chandelier filled with lighted candles hung like a giant
stalactite above its centre, radiating over large gilt-framed mirrors,
slabs of marble on the tops of side-tables, and heavy gold chairs with
crewel worked seats. Everything betokened that love of beauty so deeply
implanted in each family which has had its own way to make into Society,
out of the more vulgar heart of Nature. Swithin had indeed an impatience
of simplicity, a love of ormolu, which had always stamped him amongst
his associates as a man of great, if somewhat luxurious taste; and out
of the knowledge that no one could possibly enter his rooms without
perceiving him to be a man of wealth, he had derived a solid and
prolonged happiness such as perhaps no other circumstance in life had
Since his retirement from land agency, a profession deplorable in
his estimation, especially as to its auctioneering department, he had
abandoned himself to naturally aristocratic tastes.
The perfect luxury of his latter days had embedded him like a fly in
sugar; and his mind, where very little took place from morning till
night, was the junction of two curiously opposite emotions, a lingering
and sturdy satisfaction that he had made his own way and his own
fortune, and a sense that a man of his distinction should never have
been allowed to soil his mind with work.
He stood at the sideboard in a white waistcoat with large gold and onyx
buttons, watching his valet screw the necks of three champagne bottles
deeper into ice-pails. Between the points of his stand-up collar,
which--though it hurt him to move--he would on no account have had
altered, the pale flesh of his under chin remained immovable. His eyes
roved from bottle to bottle. He was debating, and he argued like this:
Jolyon drinks a glass, perhaps two, he's so careful of himself. James,
he can't take his wine nowadays. Nicholas--Fanny and he would
swill water he shouldn't wonder! Soames didn't count; these young
nephews--Soames was thirty-one--couldn't drink! But Bosinney?
Encountering in the name of this stranger something outside the range
of his philosophy, Swithin paused. A misgiving arose within him! It
was impossible to tell! June was only a girl, in love too! Emily (Mrs.
James) liked a good glass of champagne. It was too dry for Juley, poor
old soul, she had no palate. As to Hatty Chessman! The thought of this
old friend caused a cloud of thought to obscure the perfect glassiness
of his eyes: He shouldn't wonder if she drank half a bottle!
But in thinking of his remaining guest, an expression like that of a
cat who is just going to purr stole over his old face: Mrs. Soames! She
mightn't take much, but she would appreciate what she drank; it was a
pleasure to give her good wine! A pretty woman--and sympathetic to him!
The thought of her was like champagne itself! A pleasure to give a good
wine to a young woman who looked so well, who knew how to dress, with
charming manners, quite distinguished--a pleasure to entertain her.
Between the points of his collar he gave his head the first small,
painful oscillation of the evening.
"Adolf!" he said. "Put in another bottle."
He himself might drink a good deal, for, thanks to that prescription of
Blight's, he found himself extremely well, and he had been careful to
take no lunch. He had not felt so well for weeks. Puffing out his lower
lip, he gave his last instructions:
"Adolf, the least touch of the West India when you come to the ham."
Passing into the anteroom, he sat down on the edge of a chair, with
his knees apart; and his tall, bulky form was wrapped at once in an
expectant, strange, primeval immobility. He was ready to rise at a
moment's notice. He had not given a dinner-party for months. This
dinner in honour of June's engagement had seemed a bore at first (among
Forsytes the custom of solemnizing engagements by feasts was religiously
observed), but the labours of sending invitations and ordering the
repast over, he felt pleasantly stimulated.
And thus sitting, a watch in his hand, fat, and smooth, and golden, like
a flattened globe of butter, he thought of nothing.
A long man, with side whiskers, who had once been in Swithin's service,
but was now a greengrocer, entered and proclaimed:
"Mrs. Chessman, Mrs. Septimus Small!"
Two ladies advanced. The one in front, habited entirely in red, had
large, settled patches of the same colour in her cheeks, and a hard,
dashing eye. She walked at Swithin, holding out a hand cased in a long,
"Well! Swithin," she said, "I haven't seen you for ages. How are you?
Why, my dear boy, how stout you're getting!"
The fixity of Swithin's eye alone betrayed emotion. A dumb and grumbling
anger swelled his bosom. It was vulgar to be stout, to talk of being
stout; he had a chest, nothing more. Turning to his sister, he grasped
her hand, and said in a tone of command:
Mrs. Septimus Small was the tallest of the four sisters; her good, round
old face had gone a little sour; an innumerable pout clung all over
it, as if it had been encased in an iron wire mask up to that evening,
which, being suddenly removed, left little rolls of mutinous flesh all
over her countenance. Even her eyes were pouting. It was thus that she
recorded her permanent resentment at the loss of Septimus Small.
She had quite a reputation for saying the wrong thing, and, tenacious
like all her breed, she would hold to it when she had said it, and add
to it another wrong thing, and so on. With the decease of her husband
the family tenacity, the family matter-of-factness, had gone sterile
within her. A great talker, when allowed, she would converse without the
faintest animation for hours together, relating, with epic monotony, the
innumerable occasions on which Fortune had misused her; nor did she ever
perceive that her hearers sympathized with Fortune, for her heart was
Having sat, poor soul, long by the bedside of Small (a man of poor
constitution), she had acquired, the habit, and there were countless
subsequent occasions when she had sat immense periods of time to amuse
sick people, children, and other helpless persons, and she could never
divest herself of the feeling that the world was the most ungrateful
place anybody could live in. Sunday after Sunday she sat at the feet of
that extremely witty preacher, the Rev. Thomas Scoles, who exercised a
great influence over her; but she succeeded in convincing everybody that
even this was a misfortune. She had passed into a proverb in the family,
and when anybody was observed to be peculiarly distressing, he was known
as a regular 'Juley.' The habit of her mind would have killed anybody
but a Forsyte at forty; but she was seventy-two, and had never looked
better. And one felt that there were capacities for enjoyment about her
which might yet come out. She owned three canaries, the cat Tommy,
and half a parrot--in common with her sister Hester;--and these poor
creatures (kept carefully out of Timothy's way--he was nervous about
animals), unlike human beings, recognising that she could not help being
blighted, attached themselves to her passionately.
She was sombrely magnificent this evening in black bombazine, with
a mauve front cut in a shy triangle, and crowned with a black velvet
ribbon round the base of her thin throat; black and mauve for evening
wear was esteemed very chaste by nearly every Forsyte.
Pouting at Swithin, she said:
"Ann has been asking for you. You haven't been near us for an age!"
Swithin put his thumbs within the armholes of his waistcoat, and
"Ann's getting very shaky; she ought to have a doctor!"
"Mr. and Mrs. Nicholas Forsyte!"
Nicholas Forsyte, cocking his rectangular eyebrows, wore a smile. He
had succeeded during the day in bringing to fruition a scheme for the
employment of a tribe from Upper India in the gold-mines of Ceylon. A
pet plan, carried at last in the teeth of great difficulties--he was
justly pleased. It would double the output of his mines, and, as he had
often forcibly argued, all experience tended to show that a man must
die; and whether he died of a miserable old age in his own country,
or prematurely of damp in the bottom of a foreign mine, was surely of
little consequence, provided that by a change in his mode of life he
benefited the British Empire.
His ability was undoubted. Raising his broken nose towards his listener,
he would add:
"For want of a few hundred of these fellows we haven't paid a dividend
for years, and look at the price of the shares. I can't get ten
shillings for them."
He had been at Yarmouth, too, and had come back feeling that he had
added at least ten years to his own life. He grasped Swithin's hand,
exclaiming in a jocular voice:
"Well, so here we are again!"
Mrs. Nicholas, an effete woman, smiled a smile of frightened jollity
behind his back.
"Mr. and Mrs. James Forsyte! Mr. and Mrs. Soames Forsyte!"
Swithin drew his heels together, his deportment ever admirable.
"Well, James, well Emily! How are you, Soames? How do you do?"
His hand enclosed Irene's, and his eyes swelled. She was a pretty
woman--a little too pale, but her figure, her eyes, her teeth! Too good
for that chap Soames!
The gods had given Irene dark brown eyes and golden hair, that strange
combination, provocative of men's glances, which is said to be the
mark of a weak character. And the full, soft pallor of her neck and
shoulders, above a gold-coloured frock, gave to her personality an
Soames stood behind, his eyes fastened on his wife's neck. The hands of
Swithin's watch, which he still held open in his hand, had left eight
behind; it was half an hour beyond his dinner-time--he had had no
lunch--and a strange primeval impatience surged up within him.
"It's not like Jolyon to be late!" he said to Irene, with uncontrollable
vexation. "I suppose it'll be June keeping him!"
"People in love are always late," she answered.
Swithin stared at her; a dusky orange dyed his cheeks.
"They've no business to be. Some fashionable nonsense!"
And behind this outburst the inarticulate violence of primitive
generations seemed to mutter and grumble.
"Tell me what you think of my new star, Uncle Swithin," said Irene
Among the lace in the bosom of her dress was shining a five-pointed
star, made of eleven diamonds. Swithin looked at the star. He had a
pretty taste in stones; no question could have been more sympathetically
devised to distract his attention.
"Who gave you that?" he asked.
There was no change in her face, but Swithin's pale eyes bulged as
though he might suddenly have been afflicted with insight.
"I dare say you're dull at home," he said. "Any day you like to come and
dine with me, I'll give you as good a bottle of wine as you'll get in
"Miss June Forsyte--Mr. Jolyon Forsyte!... Mr. Boswainey!..."
Swithin moved his arm, and said in a rumbling voice:
He took in Irene, on the ground that he had not entertained her since
she was a bride. June was the portion of Bosinney, who was placed
between Irene and his fiancee. On the other side of June was James with
Mrs. Nicholas, then old Jolyon with Mrs. James, Nicholas with Hatty
Chessman, Soames with Mrs. Small, completing, the circle to Swithin
Family dinners of the Forsytes observe certain traditions. There are,
for instance, no hors d'oeuvre. The reason for this is unknown. Theory
among the younger members traces it to the disgraceful price of oysters;
it is more probably due to a desire to come to the point, to a good
practical sense deciding at once that hors d'oeuvre are but poor things.
The Jameses alone, unable to withstand a custom almost universal in Park
Lane, are now and then unfaithful.
A silent, almost morose, inattention to each other succeeds to the
subsidence into their seats, lasting till well into the first entree,
but interspersed with remarks such as, "Tom's bad again; I can't tell
what's the matter with him!" "I suppose Ann doesn't come down in the
mornings?"--"What's the name of your doctor, Fanny?" "Stubbs?" "He's a
quack!"--"Winifred? She's got too many children. Four, isn't it? She's
as thin as a lath!"--"What d'you give for this sherry, Swithin? Too dry
With the second glass of champagne, a kind of hum makes itself heard,
which, when divested of casual accessories and resolved into its primal
element, is found to be James telling a story, and this goes on for
a long time, encroaching sometimes even upon what must universally be
recognised as the crowning point of a Forsyte feast--'the saddle of
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
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
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
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
"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
June was greatly encouraged by his interest. It had long been her pet
plan that her uncles should benefit themselves and Bosinney by building
"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
"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
"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
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
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
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
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
"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
"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
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
"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
And behind his speech seemed to sound again that rumbling violence of
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.
CHAPTER IV--PROJECTION OF THE HOUSE
Soames Forsyte walked out of his green-painted front door three days
after the dinner at Swithin's, and looking back from across the Square,
confirmed his impression that the house wanted 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,
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
In the plate-glass window of the picture shop his image stood and looked
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
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
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
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
"If you've nothing better to do on Sunday, come down with me to Robin
Hill, and give me your opinion on a building site."
"Are you going to build?"
"Perhaps," said Soames; "but don't speak of it. I just want your
"Quite so," said the architect.
Soames peered about the room.
"You're rather high up here," he remarked.
Any information he could gather about the nature and scope of Bosinney's
business would be all to the good.
"It does well enough for me so far," answered the architect. "You're
accustomed to the swells."
He knocked out his pipe, but replaced it empty between his teeth; it
assisted him perhaps to carry on the conversation. Soames noted a hollow
in each cheek, made as it were by suction.
"What do you pay for an office like this?" said he.
"Fifty too much," replied Bosinney.
This answer impressed Soames favourably.
"I suppose it is dear," he said. "I'll call for you--on Sunday about
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
"Let women into your plans," pursued Soames, "and you never know where
"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
"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 haze 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
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
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!
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
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
"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
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
"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
CHAPTER V--A FORSYTE MENAGE
Like the enlightened thousands of his class and generation in this great
city of London, who no longer believe in red velvet chairs, and know
that groups of modern Italian marble are 'vieux jeu,' Soames Forsyte
inhabited a house which did what it could. It owned a copper door
knocker of individual design, windows which had been altered to open
outwards, hanging flower boxes filled with fuchsias, and at the back
(a great feature) a little court tiled with jade-green tiles, and
surrounded by pink hydrangeas in peacock-blue tubs. Here, under a
parchment-coloured Japanese sunshade covering the whole end, inhabitants
or visitors could be screened from the eyes of the curious while they
drank tea and examined at their leisure the latest of Soames's little
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
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
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
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
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 he never spoke of a distaste born perhaps by
the perverse processes of Nature out of a secret fund of brutality in
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
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
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
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
He stole back to the dining-room unnoticed.
CHAPTER VI--JAMES AT LARGE
It was not long before Soames's determination to build went the round
of the family, and created the flutter that any decision connected with
property should make among Forsytes.
It was not his fault, for he had been determined that no one should
know. June, in the fulness of her heart, had told Mrs. Small, giving her
leave only to tell Aunt Ann--she thought it would cheer her, the poor
old sweet! for Aunt Ann had kept her room now for many days.
Mrs. Small told Aunt Ann at once, who, smiling as she lay back on her
pillows, said in her distinct, trembling old voice:
"It's very nice for dear June; but I hope they will be careful--it's
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
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
"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
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
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
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
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
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 hummed 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
"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
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
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.
CHAPTER VII--OLD JOLYON'S PECCADILLO
Old Jolyon came out of Lord's cricket ground that same afternoon with
the intention of going home. He had not reached Hamilton Terrace before
he changed his mind, and hailing a cab, gave the driver an address in
Wistaria Avenue. He had taken a resolution.
June had hardly been at home at all that week; she had given him nothing
of her company for a long time past, not, in fact, since she had become
engaged to Bosinney. He never asked her for her company. It was not his
habit to ask people for things! She had just that one idea now--Bosinney
and his affairs--and she left him stranded in his great house, with a
parcel of servants, and not a soul to speak to from morning to night.
His Club was closed for cleaning; his Boards in recess; there was
nothing, therefore, to take him into the City. June had wanted him to go
away; she would not go herself, because Bosinney was in London.
But where was he to go by himself? He could not go abroad alone; the sea
upset his liver; he hated hotels. Roger went to a hydropathic--he was
not going to begin that at his time of life, those new-fangled places
we're all humbug!
With such formulas he clothed to himself the desolation of his spirit;
the lines down his face deepening, his eyes day by day looking forth
with the melancholy which sat so strangely on a face wont to be strong
And 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 head 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
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.
CHAPTER VIII--PLANS OF THE HOUSE
Forsytes, as is generally admitted, have shells, like that extremely
useful little animal which is made into Turkish delight, in other
words, they are never seen, or if seen would not be recognised, without
habitats, composed of circumstance, property, acquaintances, and wives,
which seem to move along with them in their passage through a world
composed of thousands of other Forsytes with their habitats. Without a
habitat a Forsyte is inconceivable--he would be like a novel without a
plot, which is well-known to be an anomaly.
To Forsyte eyes Bosinney appeared to have no habitat, he seemed one
of those rare and unfortunate men who go through life surrounded by
circumstance, property, acquaintances, and wives that do not belong to
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. It
appeared that he had been a Lincolnshire country doctor of Cornish
extraction, striking appearance, and Byronic tendencies--a well-known
figure, in fact, in his county. Bosinney's uncle by marriage, Baynes,
of Baynes and Bildeboy, a Forsyte in instincts if not in name, had but
little that was worthy to relate of his brother-in-law.
"An odd fellow!' he would say: 'always spoke of his three eldest boys as
'good creatures, but so dull'; they're all doing capitally in the Indian
Civil! Philip was the only one he liked. I've heard him talk in the
queerest way; he once said to me: 'My dear fellow, never let your poor
wife know what you're thinking of! But I didn't follow his advice; not
I! An eccentric man! He would say to Phil: 'Whether you live like a
gentleman or not, my boy, be sure you die like one! and he had himself
embalmed in a frock coat suit, with a satin cravat and a diamond pin.
Oh, quite an original, I can assure you!"
Of Bosinney himself Baynes would speak warmly, with a certain
compassion: "He's got a streak of his father's Byronism. Why, look at
the way he threw up his chances when he left my office; going off like
that for six months with a knapsack, and all for what?--to study foreign
architecture--foreign! What could he expect? And there he is--a clever
young fellow--doesn't make his hundred a year! Now this engagement is
the best thing that could have happened--keep him steady; he's one
of those that go to bed all day and stay up all night, simply because
they've no method; but no vice about him--not an ounce of vice. Old
Forsyte's a rich man!"
Mr. Baynes made himself extremely pleasant to June, who frequently
visited his house in Lowndes Square at this period.
"This house of your cousin's--what a capital man of business--is the
very thing for Philip," he would say to her; "you mustn't expect to see
too much of him just now, my dear young lady. The good cause--the good
cause! The young man must make his way. When I was his age I was at work
day and night. My dear wife used to say to me, 'Bobby, don't work too
hard, think of your health'; but I never spared myself!"
June had complained that her lover found no time to come to Stanhope
The first time he came again they had not been together a quarter of an
hour before, by one of those coincidences of which she was a mistress,
Mrs. Septimus Small arrived. Thereon Bosinney rose and hid himself,
according to previous arrangement, in the little study, to wait for her
"My dear," said Aunt Juley, "how thin he is! I've often noticed it
with engaged people; but you mustn't let it get worse. There's Barlow's
extract of veal; it did your Uncle Swithin a lot of good."
June, her little figure erect before the hearth, her small face
quivering grimly, for she regarded her aunt's untimely visit in the
light of a personal injury, replied with scorn:
"It's because he's busy; people who can do anything worth doing are
Aunt Juley pouted; she herself had always been thin, but the only
pleasure she derived from the fact was the opportunity of longing to be
"I don't think," she said mournfully, "that you ought to let them call
him 'The Buccaneer'; people might think it odd, now that he's going
to build a house for Soames. I do hope he will be careful; it's so
important for him. Soames has such good taste!"
"Taste!" cried June, flaring up at once; "wouldn't give that for his
taste, or any of the family's!"
Mrs. Small was taken aback.
"Your Uncle Swithin," she said, "always had beautiful taste! And
Soames's little house is lovely; you don't mean to say you don't think
"H'mph!" said June, "that's only because Irene's there!"
Aunt Juley tried to say something pleasant:
"And how will dear Irene like living in the country?"
June gazed at her intently, with a look in her eyes as if her conscience
had suddenly leaped up into them; it passed; and an even more intent
look took its place, as if she had stared that conscience out of
countenance. She replied imperiously:
"Of course she'll like it; why shouldn't she?"
Mrs. Small grew nervous.
"I didn't know," she said; "I thought she mightn't like to leave her
friends. Your Uncle James says she doesn't take enough interest in life.
We think--I mean Timothy thinks--she ought to go out more. I expect
you'll miss her very much!"
June clasped her hands behind her neck.
"I do wish," she cried, "Uncle Timothy wouldn't talk about what doesn't
Aunt Juley rose to the full height of her tall figure.
"He never talks about what doesn't concern him," she said.
June was instantly compunctious; she ran to her aunt and kissed her.
"I'm very sorry, auntie; but I wish they'd let Irene alone."
Aunt Juley, unable to think of anything further on the subject that
would be suitable, was silent; she prepared for departure, hooking her
black silk cape across her chest, and, taking up her green reticule:
"And how is your dear grandfather?" she asked in the hall, "I expect
he's very lonely now that all your time is taken up with Mr. Bosinney."
She bent and kissed her niece hungrily, and with little, mincing steps
The tears sprang up in June's eyes; running into the little study,
where Bosinney was sitting at the table drawing birds on the back of an
envelope, she sank down by his side and cried:
"Oh, Phil! it's all so horrid!" Her heart was as warm as the colour of
On the following Sunday morning, while Soames was shaving, a message was
brought him to the effect that Mr. Bosinney was below, and would be glad
to see him. Opening the door into his wife's room, he said:
"Bosinney's downstairs. Just go and entertain him while I finish
shaving. I'll be down in a minute. It's about the plans, I expect."
Irene looked at him, without reply, put the finishing touch to her dress
and went downstairs. He could not make her out about this house. She had
said nothing against it, and, as far as Bosinney was concerned, seemed
From the window of his dressing-room he could see them talking together
in the little court below. He hurried on with his shaving, cutting his
chin twice. He heard them laugh, and thought to himself: "Well, they get
on all right, anyway!"
As he expected, Bosinney had come round to fetch him to look at the
He took his hat and went over.
The plans were spread on the oak table in the architect's room; and
pale, imperturbable, inquiring, Soames bent over them for a long time
He said at last in a puzzled voice:
"It's an odd sort of house!"
A rectangular house of two stories was designed in a quadrangle round a
covered-in court. This court, encircled by a gallery on the upper floor,
was roofed with a glass roof, supported by eight columns running up from
It was indeed, to Forsyte eyes, an odd house.
"There's a lot of room cut to waste," pursued Soames.
Bosinney began to walk about, and Soames did not like the expression on
"The principle of this house," said the architect, "was that you should
have room to breathe--like a gentleman!"
Soames extended his finger and thumb, as if measuring the extent of the
distinction he should acquire; and replied:
"Oh! yes; I see."
The peculiar look came into Bosinney's face which marked all his
"I've tried to plan you a house here with some self-respect of its own.
If you don't like it, you'd better say so. It's certainly the last
thing to be considered--who wants self-respect in a house, when you can
squeeze in an extra lavatory?" He put his finger suddenly down on the
left division of the centre oblong: "You can swing a cat here. This is
for your pictures, divided from this court by curtains; draw them
back and you'll have a space of fifty-one by twenty-three six. This
double-faced stove in the centre, here, looks one way towards the court,
one way towards the picture room; this end wall is all window; You've
a southeast light from that, a north light from the court. The rest of
your pictures you can hang round the gallery upstairs, or in the other
rooms." "In architecture," he went on--and though looking at Soames he
did not seem to see him, which gave Soames an unpleasant feeling--"as
in life, you'll get no self-respect without regularity. Fellows tell you
that's old fashioned. It appears to be peculiar any way; it never occurs
to us to embody the main principle of life in our buildings; we load
our houses with decoration, gimcracks, corners, anything to distract the
eye. On the contrary the eye should rest; get your effects with a few
strong lines. The whole thing is regularity there's no self-respect
Soames, the unconscious ironist, fixed his gaze on Bosinney's tie, which
was far from being in the perpendicular; he was unshaven too, and his
dress not remarkable for order. Architecture appeared to have exhausted
"Won't it look like a barrack?" he inquired.
He did not at once receive a reply.
"I can see what it is," said Bosinney, "you want one of Littlemaster's
houses--one of the pretty and commodious sort, where the servants will
live in garrets, and the front door be sunk so that you may come up
again. By all means try Littlemaster, you'll find him a capital fellow,
I've known him all my life!"
Soames was alarmed. He had really been struck by the plans, and the
concealment of his satisfaction had been merely instinctive. It was
difficult for him to pay a compliment. He despised people who were
lavish with their praises.
He found himself now in the embarrassing position of one who must pay a
compliment or run the risk of losing a good thing. Bosinney was just the
fellow who might tear up the plans and refuse to act for him; a kind of
This grown-up childishness, to which he felt so superior, exercised a
peculiar and almost mesmeric effect on Soames, for he had never felt
anything like it in himself.
"Well," he stammered at last, "it's--it's, certainly original."
He had such a private distrust and even dislike of the word 'original'
that he felt he had not really given himself away by this remark.
Bosinney seemed pleased. It was the sort of thing that would please a
fellow like that! And his success encouraged Soames.
"It's--a big place," he said.
"Space, air, light," he heard Bosinney murmur, "you can't live like a
gentleman in one of Littlemaster's--he builds for manufacturers."
Soames made a deprecating movement; he had been identified with a
gentleman; not for a good deal of money now would he be classed with
manufacturers. But his innate distrust of general principles
revived. What the deuce was the good of talking about regularity and
self-respect? It looked to him as if the house would be cold.
"Irene can't stand the cold!" he said.
"Ah!" said Bosinney sarcastically. "Your wife? She doesn't like the
cold? I'll see to that; she shan't be cold. Look here!" he pointed, to
four marks at regular intervals on the walls of the court. "I've given
you hot-water pipes in aluminium casings; you can get them with very
Soames looked suspiciously at these marks.
"It's all very well, all this," he said, "but what's it going to cost?"
The architect took a sheet of paper from his pocket:
"The house, of course, should be built entirely of stone, but, as I
thought you wouldn't stand that, I've compromised for a facing. It ought
to have a copper roof, but I've made it green slate. As it is, including
metal work, it'll cost you eight thousand five hundred."
"Eight thousand five hundred?" said Soames. "Why, I gave you an outside
limit of eight!"
"Can't be done for a penny less," replied Bosinney coolly.
"You must take it or leave it!"
It was the only way, probably, that such a proposition could have been
made to Soames. He was nonplussed. Conscience told him to throw the
whole thing up. But the design was good, and he knew it--there was
completeness about it, and dignity; the servants' apartments were
excellent too. He would gain credit by living in a house like that--with
such individual features, yet perfectly well-arranged.
He continued poring over the plans, while Bosinney went into his bedroom
to shave and dress.
The two walked back to Montpellier Square in silence, Soames watching
him out of the corner of his eye.
The Buccaneer was rather a good-looking fellow--so he thought--when he
was properly got up.
Irene was bending over her flowers when the two men came in.
She spoke of sending across the Park to fetch June.
"No, no," said Soames, "we've still got business to talk over!"
At lunch he was almost cordial, and kept pressing Bosinney to eat. He
was pleased to see the architect in such high spirits, and left him
to spend the afternoon with Irene, while he stole off to his pictures,
after his Sunday habit. At tea-time he came down to the drawing-room,
and found them talking, as he expressed it, nineteen to the dozen.
Unobserved in the doorway, he congratulated himself that things were
taking the right turn. It was lucky she and Bosinney got on; she seemed
to be falling into line with the idea of the new house.
Quiet meditation among his pictures had decided him to spring the
five hundred if necessary; but he hoped that the afternoon might have
softened Bosinney's estimates. It was so purely a matter which Bosinney
could remedy if he liked; there must be a dozen ways in which he could
cheapen the production of a house without spoiling the effect.
He awaited, therefore, his opportunity till Irene was handing the
architect his first cup of tea. A chink of sunshine through the lace of
the blinds warmed her cheek, shone in the gold of her hair, and in her
soft eyes. Possibly the same gleam deepened Bosinney's colour, gave the
rather startled look to his face.
Soames hated sunshine, and he at once got up, to draw the blind. Then he
took his own cup of tea from his wife, and said, more coldly than he had
"Can't you see your way to do it for eight thousand after all? There
must be a lot of little things you could alter."
Bosinney drank off his tea at a gulp, put down his cup, and answered:
Soames saw that his suggestion had touched some unintelligible point of
"Well," he agreed, with sulky resignation; "you must have it your own
way, I suppose."
A few minutes later Bosinney rose to go, and Soames rose too, to see him
off the premises. The architect seemed in absurdly high spirits. After
watching him walk away at a swinging pace, Soames returned moodily to
the drawing-room, where Irene was putting away the music, and, moved by
an uncontrollable spasm of curiosity, he asked:
"Well, what do you think of 'The Buccaneer'?"
He looked at the carpet while waiting for her answer, and he had to wait
"I don't know," she said at last.
"Do you think he's good-looking?"
Irene smiled. And it seemed to Soames that she was mocking him.
"Yes," she answered; "very."
CHAPTER IX--DEATH OF AUNT ANN
There came a morning at the end of September when Aunt Ann was unable
to take from Smither's hands the insignia of personal dignity. After
one look at the old face, the doctor, hurriedly sent for, announced that
Miss Forsyte had passed away in her sleep.
Aunts Juley and Hester were overwhelmed by the shock. They had never
imagined such an ending. Indeed, it is doubtful whether they had
ever realized that an ending was bound to come. Secretly they felt it
unreasonable of Ann to have left them like this without a word, without
even a struggle. It was unlike her.
Perhaps what really affected them so profoundly was the thought that a
Forsyte should have let go her grasp on life. If one, then why not all!
It was a full hour before they could make up their minds to tell
Timothy. If only it could be kept from him! If only it could be broken
to him by degrees!
And long they stood outside his door whispering together. And when it
was over they whispered together again.
He would feel it more, they were afraid, as time went on. Still, he had
taken it better than could have been expected. He would keep his bed, of
They separated, crying quietly.
Aunt Juley stayed in her room, prostrated by the blow. Her face,
discoloured by tears, was divided into compartments by the little ridges
of pouting flesh which had swollen with emotion. It was impossible to
conceive of life without Ann, who had lived with her for seventy-three
years, broken only by the short interregnum of her married life, which
seemed now so unreal. At fixed intervals she went to her drawer, and
took from beneath the lavender bags a fresh pocket-handkerchief. Her
warm heart could not bear the thought that Ann was lying there so cold.
Aunt Hester, the silent, the patient, that backwater of the family
energy, sat in the drawing-room, where the blinds were drawn; and she,
too, had wept at first, but quietly, without visible effect. Her guiding
principle, the conservation of energy, did not abandon her in sorrow.
She sat, slim, motionless, studying the grate, her hands idle in the
lap of her black silk dress. They would want to rouse her into doing
something, no doubt. As if there were any good in that! Doing something
would not bring back Ann! Why worry her?
Five o'clock brought three of the brothers, Jolyon and James and
Swithin; Nicholas was at Yarmouth, and Roger had a bad attack of gout.
Mrs. Hayman had been by herself earlier in the day, and, after seeing
Ann, had gone away, leaving a message for Timothy--which was kept from
him--that she ought to have been told sooner. In fact, there was a
feeling amongst them all that they ought to have been told sooner, as
though they had missed something; and James said:
"I knew how it'd be; I told you she wouldn't last through the summer."
Aunt Hester made no reply; it was nearly October, but what was the good
of arguing; some people were never satisfied.
She sent up to tell her sister that the brothers were there. Mrs. Small
came down at once. She had bathed her face, which was still swollen, and
though she looked severely at Swithin's trousers, for they were of light
blue--he had come straight from the club, where the news had reached
him--she wore a more cheerful expression than usual, the instinct for
doing the wrong thing being even now too strong for her.
Presently all five went up to look at the body. Under the pure white
sheet a quilted counter-pane had been placed, for now, more than ever,
Aunt Ann had need of warmth; and, the pillows removed, her spine and
head rested flat, with the semblance of their life-long inflexibility;
the coif banding the top of her brow was drawn on either side to the
level of the ears, and between it and the sheet her face, almost as
white, was turned with closed eyes to the faces of her brothers and
sisters. In its extraordinary peace the face was stronger than ever,
nearly all bone now under the scarce-wrinkled parchment of skin--square
jaw and chin, cheekbones, forehead with hollow temples, chiselled
nose--the fortress of an unconquerable spirit that had yielded to death,
and in its upward sightlessness seemed trying to regain that spirit, to
regain the guardianship it had just laid down.
Swithin took but one look at the face, and left the room; the sight,
he said afterwards, made him very queer. He went downstairs shaking the
whole house, and, seizing his hat, clambered into his brougham, without
giving any directions to the coachman. He was driven home, and all the
evening sat in his chair without moving.
He could take nothing for dinner but a partridge, with an imperial pint
Old Jolyon stood at the bottom of the bed, his hands folded in front of
him. He alone of those in the room remembered the death of his mother,
and though he looked at Ann, it was of that he was thinking. Ann was
an old woman, but death had come to her at last--death came to all! His
face did not move, his gaze seemed travelling from very far.
Aunt Hester stood beside him. She did not cry now, tears were
exhausted--her nature refused to permit a further escape of force; she
twisted her hands, looking not at Ann, but from side to side, seeking
some way of escaping the effort of realization.
Of all the brothers and sisters James manifested the most emotion. Tears
rolled down the parallel furrows of his thin face; where he should go
now to tell his troubles he did not know; Juley was no good, Hester
worse than useless! He felt Ann's death more than he had ever thought he
should; this would upset him for weeks!
Presently Aunt Hester stole out, and Aunt Juley began moving about,
doing 'what was necessary,' so that twice she knocked against something.
Old Jolyon, roused from his reverie, that reverie of the long, long
past, looked sternly at her, and went away. James alone was left by the
bedside; glancing stealthily round, to see that he was not observed, he
twisted his long body down, placed a kiss on the dead forehead, then he,
too, hastily left the room. Encountering Smither in the hall, he began
to ask her about the funeral, and, finding that she knew nothing,
complained bitterly that, if they didn't take care, everything would go
wrong. She had better send for Mr. Soames--he knew all about that sort
of thing; her master was very much upset, he supposed--he would want
looking after; as for her mistresses, they were no good--they had no
gumption! They would be ill too, he shouldn't wonder. She had better
send for the doctor; it was best to take things in time. He didn't think
his sister Ann had had the best opinion; if she'd had Blank she would
have been alive now. Smither might send to Park Lane any time she wanted
advice. Of course, his carriage was at their service for the funeral. He
supposed she hadn't such a thing as a glass of claret and a biscuit--he
had had no lunch!
The days before the funeral passed quietly. It had long been known, of
course, that Aunt Ann had left her little property to Timothy. There
was, therefore, no reason for the slightest agitation. Soames, who was
sole executor, took charge of all arrangements, and in due course sent
out the following invitation to every male member of the family:
Your presence is requested at the funeral of Miss Ann Forsyte, in
Highgate Cemetery, at noon of Oct. 1st. Carriages will meet at "The
Bower," Bayswater Road, at 10.45. No flowers by request. 'R.S.V.P.'
The morning came, cold, with a high, grey, London sky, and at half-past
ten the first carriage, that of James, drove up. It contained James and
his son-in-law Dartie, a fine man, with a square chest, buttoned very
tightly into a frock coat, and a sallow, fattish face adorned with dark,
well-curled moustaches, and that incorrigible commencement of whisker
which, eluding the strictest attempts at shaving, seems the mark of
something deeply ingrained in the personality of the shaver, being
especially noticeable in men who speculate.
Soames, in his capacity of executor, received the guests, for Timothy
still kept his bed; he would get up after the funeral; and Aunts Juley
and Hester would not be coming down till all was over, when it was
understood there would be lunch for anyone who cared to come back. The
next to arrive was Roger, still limping from the gout, and encircled
by three of his sons--young Roger, Eustace, and Thomas. George, the
remaining son, arrived almost immediately afterwards in a hansom, and
paused in the hall to ask Soames how he found undertaking pay.
They disliked each other.
Then came two Haymans--Giles and Jesse perfectly silent, and very well
dressed, with special creases down their evening trousers. Then old
Jolyon alone. Next, Nicholas, with a healthy colour in his face, and a
carefully veiled sprightliness in every movement of his head and body.
One of his sons followed him, meek and subdued. Swithin Forsyte, and
Bosinney arrived at the same moment,--and stood--bowing precedence to
each other,--but on the door opening they tried to enter together; they
renewed their apologies in the hall, and, Swithin, settling his stock,
which had become disarranged in the struggle, very slowly mounted the
stairs. The other Hayman; two married sons of Nicholas, together with
Tweetyman, Spender, and Warry, the husbands of married Forsyte and
Hayman daughters. The company was then complete, twenty-one in all, not
a male member of the family being absent but Timothy and young Jolyon.
Entering the scarlet and green drawing-room, whose apparel made so vivid
a setting for their unaccustomed costumes, each tried nervously to find
a seat, desirous of hiding the emphatic blackness of his trousers. There
seemed a sort of indecency in that blackness and in the colour of their
gloves--a sort of exaggeration of the feelings; and many cast shocked
looks of secret envy at 'the Buccaneer,' who had no gloves, and was
wearing grey trousers. A subdued hum of conversation rose, no one
speaking of the departed, but each asking after the other, as though
thereby casting an indirect libation to this event, which they had come
And presently James said:
"Well, I think we ought to be starting."
They went downstairs, and, two and two, as they had been told off in
strict precedence, mounted the carriages.
The hearse started at a foot's pace; the carriages moved slowly after.
In the first went old Jolyon with Nicholas; in the second, the twins,
Swithin and James; in the third, Roger and young Roger; Soames, young
Nicholas, George, and Bosinney followed in the fourth. Each of the other
carriages, eight in all, held three or four of the family; behind them
came the doctor's brougham; then, at a decent interval, cabs containing
family clerks and servants; and at the very end, one containing nobody
at all, but bringing the total cortege up to the number of thirteen.
So long as the procession kept to the highway of the Bayswater Road,
it retained the foot's-pace, but, turning into less important
thorough-fares, it soon broke into a trot, and so proceeded, with
intervals of walking in the more fashionable streets, until it arrived.
In the first carriage old Jolyon and Nicholas were talking of their
wills. In the second the twins, after a single attempt, had lapsed into
complete silence; both were rather deaf, and the exertion of making
themselves heard was too great. Only once James broke this silence:
"I shall have to be looking about for some ground somewhere. What
arrangements have you made, Swithin?"
And Swithin, fixing him with a dreadful stare, answered:
"Don't talk to me about such things!"
In the third carriage a disjointed conversation was carried on in the
intervals of looking out to see how far they had got, George remarking,
"Well, it was really time that the poor old lady went." He didn't
believe in people living beyond seventy, Young Nicholas replied mildly
that the rule didn't seem to apply to the Forsytes. George said he
himself intended to commit suicide at sixty. Young Nicholas, smiling and
stroking a long chin, didn't think his father would like that theory;
he had made a lot of money since he was sixty. Well, seventy was the
outside limit; it was then time, George said, for them to go and leave
their money to their children. Soames, hitherto silent, here joined in;
he had not forgotten the remark about the 'undertaking,' and, lifting
his eyelids almost imperceptibly, said it was all very well for people
who never made money to talk. He himself intended to live as long as he
could. This was a hit at George, who was notoriously hard up.
Bosinney muttered abstractedly "Hear, hear!" and, George yawning, the
Upon arriving, the coffin was borne into the chapel, and, two by two,
the mourners filed in behind it. This guard of men, all attached to the
dead by the bond of kinship, was an impressive and singular sight in
the great city of London, with its overwhelming diversity of life, its
innumerable vocations, pleasures, duties, its terrible hardness, its
terrible call to individualism.
The family had gathered to triumph over all this, to give a show
of tenacious unity, to illustrate gloriously that law of property
underlying the growth of their tree, by which it had thriven and spread,
trunk and branches, the sap flowing through all, the full growth reached
at the appointed time. The spirit of the old woman lying in her last
sleep had called them to this demonstration. It was her final appeal to
that unity which had been their strength--it was her final triumph that
she had died while the tree was yet whole.
She was spared the watching of the branches jut out beyond the point of
balance. She could not look into the hearts of her followers. The same
law that had worked in her, bringing her up from a tall, straight-backed
slip of a girl to a woman strong and grown, from a woman grown to a
woman old, angular, feeble, almost witchlike, with individuality all
sharpened and sharpened, as all rounding from the world's contact fell
off from her--that same law would work, was working, in the family she
had watched like a mother.
She had seen it young, and growing, she had seen it strong and grown,
and before her old eyes had time or strength to see any more, she died.
She would have tried, and who knows but she might have kept it young
and strong, with her old fingers, her trembling kisses--a little longer;
alas! not even Aunt Ann could fight with Nature.
'Pride comes before a fall!' In accordance with this, the greatest
of Nature's ironies, the Forsyte family had gathered for a last proud
pageant before they fell. Their faces to right and left, in single
lines, were turned for the most part impassively toward the ground,
guardians of their thoughts; but here and there, one looking upward,
with a line between his brows, searched to see some sight on the chapel
walls too much for him, to be listening to something that appalled. And
the responses, low-muttered, in voices through which rose the same tone,
the same unseizable family ring, sounded weird, as though murmured in
hurried duplication by a single person.
The service in the chapel over, the mourners filed up again to guard the
body to the tomb. The vault stood open, and, round it, men in black were
From that high and sacred field, where thousands of the upper middle
class lay in their last sleep, the eyes of the Forsytes travelled down
across the flocks of graves. There--spreading to the distance, lay
London, with no sun over it, mourning the loss of its daughter, mourning
with this family, so dear, the loss of her who was mother and guardian.
A hundred thousand spires and houses, blurred in the great grey web of
property, lay there like prostrate worshippers before the grave of this,
the oldest Forsyte of them all.
A few words, a sprinkle of earth, the thrusting of the coffin home, and
Aunt Ann had passed to her last rest.
Round the vault, trustees of that passing, the five brothers stood, with
white heads bowed; they would see that Ann was comfortable where she
was going. Her little property must stay behind, but otherwise, all that
could be should be done....
Then severally, each stood aside, and putting on his hat, turned back to
inspect the new inscription on the marble of the family vault:
SACRED TO THE MEMORY OF ANN FORSYTE,
THE DAUGHTER OF THE ABOVE JOLYON AND ANN FORSYTE,
WHO DEPARTED THIS LIFE THE 27TH DAY OF SEPTEMBER, 1886,
AGED EIGHTY-SEVEN YEARS AND FOUR DAYS
Soon perhaps, someone else would be wanting an inscription. It was
strange and intolerable, for they had not thought somehow, that Forsytes
could die. And one and all they had a longing to get away from this
painfulness, this ceremony which had reminded them of things they could
not bear to think about--to get away quickly and go about their business
It was cold, too; the wind, like some slow, disintegrating force,
blowing up the hill over the graves, struck them with its chilly breath;
they began to split into groups, and as quickly as possible to fill the
Swithin said he should go back to lunch at Timothy's, and he offered
to take anybody with him in his brougham. It was considered a doubtful
privilege to drive with Swithin in his brougham, which was not a large
one; nobody accepted, and he went off alone. James and Roger followed
immediately after; they also would drop in to lunch. The others
gradually melted away, Old Jolyon taking three nephews to fill up his
carriage; he had a want of those young faces.
Soames, who had to arrange some details in the cemetery office, walked
away with Bosinney. He had much to talk over with him, and, having
finished his business, they strolled to Hampstead, lunched together
at the Spaniard's Inn, and spent a long time in going into practical
details connected with the building of the house; they then proceeded to
the tram-line, and came as far as the Marble Arch, where Bosinney went
off to Stanhope Gate to see June.
Soames felt in excellent spirits when he arrived home, and confided to
Irene at dinner that he had had a good talk with Bosinney, who really
seemed a sensible fellow; they had had a capital walk too, which had
done his liver good--he had been short of exercise for a long time--and
altogether a very satisfactory day. If only it hadn't been for poor Aunt
Ann, he would have taken her to the theatre; as it was, they must make
the best of an evening at home.
"The Buccaneer asked after you more than once," he said suddenly. And
moved by some inexplicable desire to assert his proprietorship, he rose
from his chair and planted a kiss on his wife's shoulder.
CHAPTER I--PROGRESS OF THE HOUSE
The winter had been an open one. Things in the trade were slack; and as
Soames had reflected before making up his mind, it had been a good time
for building. The shell of the house at Robin Hill was thus completed by
the end of April.
Now that there was something to be seen for his money, he had been
coming down once, twice, even three times a week, and would mouse about
among the debris for hours, careful never to soil his clothes, moving
silently through the unfinished brickwork of doorways, or circling round
the columns in the central court.
And he would stand before them for minutes' together, as though peering
into the real quality of their substance.
On April 30 he had an appointment with Bosinney to go over the accounts,
and five minutes before the proper time he entered the tent which the
architect had pitched for himself close to the old oak tree.
The accounts were already prepared on a folding table, and with a nod
Soames sat down to study them. It was some time before he raised his
"I can't make them out," he said at last; "they come to nearly seven
hundred more than they ought."
After a glance at Bosinney's face he went on quickly:
"If you only make a firm stand against these builder chaps you'll get
them down. They stick you with everything if you don't look sharp....
Take ten per cent. off all round. I shan't mind it's coming out a
hundred or so over the mark!"
Bosinney shook his head:
"I've taken off every farthing I can!"
Soames pushed back the table with a movement of anger, which sent the
account sheets fluttering to the ground.
"Then all I can say is," he flustered out, "you've made a pretty mess of
"I've told you a dozen times," Bosinney answered sharply, "that there'd
be extras. I've pointed them out to you over and over again!"
"I know that," growled Soames: "I shouldn't have objected to a ten pound
note here and there. How was I to know that by 'extras' you meant seven
The qualities of both men had contributed to this not-inconsiderable
discrepancy. On the one hand, the architect's devotion to his idea, to
the image of a house which he had created and believed in--had made him
nervous of being stopped, or forced to the use of makeshifts; on the
other, Soames' not less true and wholehearted devotion to the very best
article that could be obtained for the money, had rendered him averse to
believing that things worth thirteen shillings could not be bought with
"I wish I'd never undertaken your house," said Bosinney suddenly. "You
come down here worrying me out of my life. You want double the value for
your money anybody else would, and now that you've got a house that for
its size is not to be beaten in the county, you don't want to pay for
it. If you're anxious to be off your bargain, I daresay I can find
the balance above the estimates myself, but I'm d----d if I do another
stroke of work for you!"
Soames regained his composure. Knowing that Bosinney had no capital, he
regarded this as a wild suggestion. He saw, too, that he would be kept
indefinitely out of this house on which he had set his heart, and just
at the crucial point when the architect's personal care made all the
difference. In the meantime there was Irene to be thought of! She had
been very queer lately. He really believed it was only because she had
taken to Bosinney that she tolerated the idea of the house at all. It
would not do to make an open breach with her.
"You needn't get into a rage," he said. "If I'm willing to put up with
it, I suppose you needn't cry out. All I meant was that when you tell me
a thing is going to cost so much, I like to--well, in fact, I--like to
know where I am."
"Look here!" said Bosinney, and Soames was both annoyed and surprised
by the shrewdness of his glance. "You've got my services dirt cheap. For
the kind of work I've put into this house, and the amount of time I've
given to it, you'd have had to pay Littlemaster or some other fool
four times as much. What you want, in fact, is a first-rate man for a
fourth-rate fee, and that's exactly what you've got!"
Soames saw that he really meant what he said, and, angry though he was,
the consequences of a row rose before him too vividly. He saw his house
unfinished, his wife rebellious, himself a laughingstock.
"Let's go over it," he said sulkily, "and see how the money's gone."
"Very well," assented Bosinney. "But we'll hurry up, if you don't mind.
I have to get back in time to take June to the theatre."
Soames cast a stealthy look at him, and said: "Coming to our place, I
suppose to meet her?" He was always coming to their place!
There had been rain the night before-a spring rain, and the earth smelt
of sap and wild grasses. The warm, soft breeze swung the leaves and the
golden buds of the old oak tree, and in the sunshine the blackbirds were
whistling their hearts out.
It was such a spring day as breathes into a man an ineffable yearning, a
painful sweetness, a longing that makes him stand motionless, looking
at the leaves or grass, and fling out his arms to embrace he knows not
what. The earth gave forth a fainting warmth, stealing up through the
chilly garment in which winter had wrapped her. It was her long caress
of invitation, to draw men down to lie within her arms, to roll their
bodies on her, and put their lips to her breast.
On just such a day as this Soames had got from Irene the promise he had
asked her for so often. Seated on the fallen trunk of a tree, he had
promised for the twentieth time that if their marriage were not a
success, she should be as free as if she had never married him!
"Do you swear it?" she had said. A few days back she had reminded him
of that oath. He had answered: "Nonsense! I couldn't have sworn any such
thing!" By some awkward fatality he remembered it now. What queer things
men would swear for the sake of women! He would have sworn it at any
time to gain her! He would swear it now, if thereby he could touch
her--but nobody could touch her, she was cold-hearted!
And memories crowded on him with the fresh, sweet savour of the spring
wind-memories of his courtship.
In the spring of the year 1881 he was visiting his old school-fellow
and client, George Liversedge, of Branksome, who, with the view of
developing his pine-woods in the neighbourhood of Bournemouth, had
placed the formation of the company necessary to the scheme in Soames's
hands. Mrs. Liversedge, with a sense of the fitness of things, had given
a musical tea in his honour. Later in the course of this function, which
Soames, no musician, had regarded as an unmitigated bore, his eye had
been caught by the face of a girl dressed in mourning, standing by
herself. The lines of her tall, as yet rather thin figure, showed
through the wispy, clinging stuff of her black dress, her black-gloved
hands were crossed in front of her, her lips slightly parted, and her
large, dark eyes wandered from face to face. Her hair, done low on
her neck, seemed to gleam above her black collar like coils of shining
metal. And as Soames stood looking at her, the sensation that most men
have felt at one time or another went stealing through him--a peculiar
satisfaction of the senses, a peculiar certainty, which novelists and
old ladies call love at first sight. Still stealthily watching her, he
at once made his way to his hostess, and stood doggedly waiting for the
music to cease.
"Who is that girl with yellow hair and dark eyes?" he asked.
"That--oh! Irene Heron. Her father, Professor Heron, died this year.
She lives with her stepmother. She's a nice girl, a pretty girl, but no
"Introduce me, please," said Soames.
It was very little that he found to say, nor did he find her responsive
to that little. But he went away with the resolution to see her again.
He effected his object by chance, meeting her on the pier with her
stepmother, who had the habit of walking there from twelve to one of a
forenoon. Soames made this lady's acquaintance with alacrity, nor was
it long before he perceived in her the ally he was looking for. His keen
scent for the commercial side of family life soon told him that Irene
cost her stepmother more than the fifty pounds a year she brought her;
it also told him that Mrs. Heron, a woman yet in the prime of life,
desired to be married again. The strange ripening beauty of her
stepdaughter stood in the way of this desirable consummation. And
Soames, in his stealthy tenacity, laid his plans.
He left Bournemouth without having given himself away, but in a month's
time came back, and this time he spoke, not to the girl, but to her
stepmother. He had made up his mind, he said; he would wait any time.
And he had long to wait, watching Irene bloom, the lines of her young
figure softening, the stronger blood deepening the gleam of her eyes,
and warming her face to a creamy glow; and at each visit he proposed to
her, and when that visit was at an end, took her refusal away with him,
back to London, sore at heart, but steadfast and silent as the grave. He
tried to come at the secret springs of her resistance; only once had he
a gleam of light. It was at one of those assembly dances, which
afford the only outlet to the passions of the population of seaside
watering-places. He was sitting with her in an embrasure, his senses
tingling with the contact of the waltz. She had looked at him over her,
slowly waving fan; and he had lost his head. Seizing that moving wrist,
he pressed his lips to the flesh of her arm. And she had shuddered--to
this day he had not forgotten that shudder--nor the look so passionately
averse she had given him.
A year after that she had yielded. What had made her yield he could
never make out; and from Mrs. Heron, a woman of some diplomatic talent,
he learnt nothing. Once after they were married he asked her, "What
made you refuse me so often?" She had answered by a strange silence. An
enigma to him from the day that he first saw her, she was an enigma to
Bosinney was waiting for him at the door; and on his rugged,
good-looking, face was a queer, yearning, yet happy look, as though he
too saw a promise of bliss in the spring sky, sniffed a coming happiness
in the spring air. Soames looked at him waiting there. What was the
matter with the fellow that he looked so happy? What was he waiting for
with that smile on his lips and in his eyes? Soames could not see
that for which Bosinney was waiting as he stood there drinking in the
flower-scented wind. And once more he felt baffled in the presence of
this man whom by habit he despised. He hastened on to the house.
"The only colour for those tiles," he heard Bosinney say,--"is ruby with
a grey tint in the stuff, to give a transparent effect. I should like
Irene's opinion. I'm ordering the purple leather curtains for the
doorway of this court; and if you distemper the drawing-room ivory cream
over paper, you'll get an illusive look. You want to aim all through the
decorations at what I call charm."
Soames said: "You mean that my wife has charm!"
Bosinney evaded the question.
"You should have a clump of iris plants in the centre of that court."
Soames smiled superciliously.
"I'll look into Beech's some time," he said, "and see what's
They found little else to say to each other, but on the way to the
Station Soames asked:
"I suppose you find Irene very artistic."
"Yes." The abrupt answer was as distinct a snub as saying: "If you want
to discuss her you can do it with someone else!"
And the slow, sulky anger Soames had felt all the afternoon burned the
brighter within him.
Neither spoke again till they were close to the Station, then Soames
"When do you expect to have finished?"
"By the end of June, if you really wish me to decorate as well."
Soames nodded. "But you quite understand," he said, "that the house is
costing me a lot beyond what I contemplated. I may as well tell you that
I should have thrown it up, only I'm not in the habit of giving up what
I've set my mind on."
Bosinney made no reply. And Soames gave him askance a look of dogged
dislike--for in spite of his fastidious air and that supercilious,
dandified taciturnity, Soames, with his set lips and squared chin, was
not unlike a bulldog....
When, at seven o'clock that evening, June arrived at 62, Montpellier
Square, the maid Bilson told her that Mr. Bosinney was in the
drawing-room; the mistress--she said--was dressing, and would be down in
a minute. She would tell her that Miss June was here.
June stopped her at once.
"All right, Bilson," she said, "I'll just go in. You, needn't hurry Mrs.
She took off her cloak, and Bilson, with an understanding look, did not
even open the drawing-room door for her, but ran downstairs.
June paused for a moment to look at herself in the little old-fashioned
silver mirror above the oaken rug chest--a slim, imperious young figure,
with a small resolute face, in a white frock, cut moon-shaped at the
base of a neck too slender for her crown of twisted red-gold hair.
She opened the drawing-room door softly, meaning to take him by
surprise. The room was filled with a sweet hot scent of flowering
She took a long breath of the perfume, and heard Bosinney's voice, not
in the room, but quite close, saying.
"Ah! there were such heaps of things I wanted to talk about, and now we
shan't have time!"
Irene's voice answered: "Why not at dinner?"
"How can one talk...."
June's first thought was to go away, but instead she crossed to the long
window opening on the little court. It was from there that the scent
of the azaleas came, and, standing with their backs to her, their faces
buried in the golden-pink blossoms, stood her lover and Irene.
Silent but unashamed, with flaming cheeks and angry eyes, the girl
"Come on Sunday by yourself--We can go over the house together."
June saw Irene look up at him through her screen of blossoms. It was not
the look of a coquette, but--far worse to the watching girl--of a woman
fearful lest that look should say too much.
"I've promised to go for a drive with Uncle...."
"The big one! Make him bring you; it's only ten miles--the very thing
for his horses."
"Poor old Uncle Swithin!"
A wave of the azalea scent drifted into June's face; she felt sick and
"Do! ah! do!"
"I must see you there--I thought you'd like to help me...."
The answer seemed to the girl to come softly with a tremble from amongst
the blossoms: "So I do!"
And she stepped into the open space of the window.
"How stuffy it is here!" she said; "I can't bear this scent!"
Her eyes, so angry and direct, swept both their faces.
"Were you talking about the house? I haven't seen it yet, you
know--shall we all go on Sunday?"'
From Irene's face the colour had flown.
"I am going for a drive that day with Uncle Swithin," she answered.
"Uncle Swithin! What does he matter? You can throw him over!"
"I am not in the habit of throwing people over!"
There was a sound of footsteps and June saw Soames standing just behind
"Well! if you are all ready," said Irene, looking from one to the other
with a strange smile, "dinner is too!"
CHAPTER II--JUNE'S TREAT
Dinner began in silence; the women facing one another, and the men.
In silence the soup was finished--excellent, if a little thick; and fish
was brought. In silence it was handed.
Bosinney ventured: "It's the first spring day."
Irene echoed softly: "Yes--the first spring day."
"Spring!" said June: "there isn't a breath of air!" No one replied.
The fish was taken away, a fine fresh sole from Dover. And Bilson
brought champagne, a bottle swathed around the neck with white....
Soames said: "You'll find it dry."
Cutlets were handed, each pink-frilled about the legs. They were refused
by June, and silence fell.
Soames said: "You'd better take a cutlet, June; there's nothing coming."
But June again refused, so they were borne away. And then Irene asked:
"Phil, have you heard my blackbird?"
Bosinney answered: "Rather--he's got a hunting-song. As I came round I
heard him in the Square."
"He's such a darling!"
"Salad, sir?" Spring chicken was removed.
But Soames was speaking: "The asparagus is very poor. Bosinney, glass of
sherry with your sweet? June, you're drinking nothing!"
June said: "You know I never do. Wine's such horrid stuff!"
An apple charlotte came upon a silver dish, and smilingly Irene said:
"The azaleas are so wonderful this year!"
To this Bosinney murmured: "Wonderful! The scent's extraordinary!"
June said: "How can you like the scent? Sugar, please, Bilson."
Sugar was handed her, and Soames remarked: "This charlottes good!"
The charlotte was removed. Long silence followed. Irene, beckoning,
said: "Take out the azalea, Bilson. Miss June can't bear the scent."
"No; let it stay," said June.
Olives from France, with Russian caviare, were placed on little plates.
And Soames remarked: "Why can't we have the Spanish?" But no one
The olives were removed. Lifting her tumbler June demanded: "Give me
some water, please." Water was given her. A silver tray was brought,
with German plums. There was a lengthy pause. In perfect harmony all
were eating them.
Bosinney counted up the stones: "This year--next year--some time."
Irene finished softly: "Never! There was such a glorious sunset. The
sky's all ruby still--so beautiful!"
He answered: "Underneath the dark."
Their eyes had met, and June cried scornfully: "A London sunset!"
Egyptian cigarettes were handed in a silver box. Soames, taking one,
remarked: "What time's your play begin?"
No one replied, and Turkish coffee followed in enamelled cups.
Irene, smiling quietly, said: "If only...."
"Only what?" said June.
"If only it could always be the spring!"
Brandy was handed; it was pale and old.
Soames said: "Bosinney, better take some brandy."
Bosinney took a glass; they all arose.
"You want a cab?" asked Soames.
June answered: "No! My cloaks please, Bilson." Her cloak was brought.
Irene, from the window, murmured: "Such a lovely night! The stars are
Soames added: "Well, I hope you'll both enjoy yourselves."
From the door June answered: "Thanks. Come, Phil."
Bosinney cried: "I'm coming."
Soames smiled a sneering smile, and said: "I wish you luck!"
And at the door Irene watched them go.
Bosinney called: "Good night!"
"Good night!" she answered softly....
June made her lover take her on the top of a 'bus, saying she wanted
air, and there sat silent, with her face to the breeze.
The driver turned once or twice, with the intention of venturing a
remark, but thought better of it. They were a lively couple! The spring
had got into his blood, too; he felt the need for letting steam escape,
and clucked his tongue, flourishing his whip, wheeling his horses,
and even they, poor things, had smelled the spring, and for a brief
half-hour spurned the pavement with happy hoofs.
The whole town was alive; the boughs, curled upward with their decking
of young leaves, awaited some gift the breeze could bring. New-lighted
lamps were gaining mastery, and the faces of the crowd showed pale under
that glare, while on high the great white clouds slid swiftly, softly,
over the purple sky.
Men in, evening dress had thrown back overcoats, stepping jauntily up
the steps of Clubs; working folk loitered; and women--those women who
at that time of night are solitary--solitary and moving eastward in a
stream--swung slowly along, with expectation in their gait, dreaming of
good wine and a good supper, or--for an unwonted minute, of kisses given
Those countless figures, going their ways under the lamps and the
moving-sky, had one and all received some restless blessing from the
stir of spring. And one and all, like those clubmen with their opened
coats, had shed something of caste, and creed, and custom, and by the
cock of their hats, the pace of their walk, their laughter, or their
silence, revealed their common kinship under the passionate heavens.
Bosinney and June entered the theatre in silence, and mounted to
their seats in the upper boxes. The piece had just begun, and the
half-darkened house, with its rows of creatures peering all one way,
resembled a great garden of flowers turning their faces to the sun.
June had never before been in the upper boxes. From the age of fifteen
she had habitually accompanied her grandfather to the stalls, and not
common stalls, but the best seats in the house, towards the centre of
the third row, booked by old Jolyon, at Grogan and Boyne's, on his way
home from the City, long before the day; carried in his overcoat pocket,
together with his cigar-case and his old kid gloves, and handed to June
to keep till the appointed night. And in those stalls--an erect old
figure with a serene white head, a little figure, strenuous and eager,
with a red-gold head--they would sit through every kind of play, and on
the way home old Jolyon would say of the principal actor: "Oh, he's a
poor stick! You should have seen little Bobson!"
She had looked forward to this evening with keen delight; it was stolen,
chaperone-less, undreamed of at Stanhope Gate, where she was supposed to
be at Soames'. She had expected reward for her subterfuge, planned for
her lover's sake; she had expected it to break up the thick, chilly
cloud, and make the relations between them which of late had been so
puzzling, so tormenting--sunny and simple again as they had been
before the winter. She had come with the intention of saying something
definite; and she looked at the stage with a furrow between her brows,
seeing nothing, her hands squeezed together in her lap. A swarm of
jealous suspicions stung and stung her.
If Bosinney was conscious of her trouble he made no sign.
The curtain dropped. The first act had come to an end.
"It's awfully hot here!" said the girl; "I should like to go out."
She was very white, and she knew--for with her nerves thus sharpened she
saw everything--that he was both uneasy and compunctious.
At the back of the theatre an open balcony hung over the street; she
took possession of this, and stood leaning there without a word, waiting
for him to begin.
At last she could bear it no longer.
"I want to say something to you, Phil," she said.
The defensive tone of his voice brought the colour flying to her cheek,
the words flying to her lips: "You don't give me a chance to be nice to
you; you haven't for ages now!"
Bosinney stared down at the street. He made no answer....
June cried passionately: "You know I want to do everything for you--that
I want to be everything to you...."
A hum rose from the street, and, piercing it with a sharp 'ping,'
the bell sounded for the raising of the curtain. June did not stir. A
desperate struggle was going on within her. Should she put everything to
the proof? Should she challenge directly that influence, that attraction
which was driving him away from her? It was her nature to challenge, and
she said: "Phil, take me to see the house on Sunday!"
With a smile quivering and breaking on her lips, and trying, how hard,
not to show that she was watching, she searched his face, saw it waver
and hesitate, saw a troubled line come between his brows, the blood rush
into his face. He answered: "Not Sunday, dear; some other day!"
"Why not Sunday? I shouldn't be in the way on Sunday."
He made an evident effort, and said: "I have an engagement."
"You are going to take...."
His eyes grew angry; he shrugged his shoulders, and answered: "An
engagement that will prevent my taking you to see the house!"
June bit her lip till the blood came, and walked back to her seat
without another word, but she could not help the tears of rage rolling
down her face. The house had been mercifully darkened for a crisis, and
no one could see her trouble.
Yet in this world of Forsytes let no man think himself immune from
In the third row behind, Euphemia, Nicholas's youngest daughter, with
her married-sister, Mrs. Tweetyman, were watching.
They reported at Timothy's, how they had seen June and her fiance at the
"In the stalls?" "No, not in the...." "Oh! in the dress circle, of
course. That seemed to be quite fashionable nowadays with young people!"
Well--not exactly. In the.... Anyway, that engagement wouldn't last
long. They had never seen anyone look so thunder and lightningy as that
little June! With tears of enjoyment in their eyes, they related how she
had kicked a man's hat as she returned to her seat in the middle of an
act, and how the man had looked. Euphemia had a noted, silent laugh,
terminating most disappointingly in squeaks; and when Mrs. Small,
holding up her hands, said: "My dear! Kicked a ha-at?" she let out such
a number of these that she had to be recovered with smelling-salts. As
she went away she said to Mrs. Tweetyman:
"Kicked a--ha-at! Oh! I shall die."
For 'that little June' this evening, that was to have been 'her treat,'
was the most miserable she had ever spent. God knows she tried to stifle
her pride, her suspicion, her jealousy!
She parted from Bosinney at old Jolyon's door without breaking down; the
feeling that her lover must be conquered was strong enough to sustain
her till his retiring footsteps brought home the true extent of her
The noiseless 'Sankey' let her in. She would have slipped up to her own
room, but old Jolyon, who had heard her entrance, was in the dining-room
"Come in and have your milk," he said. "It's been kept hot for you.
You're very late. Where have you been?"
June stood at the fireplace, with a foot on the fender and an arm on the
mantelpiece, as her grandfather had done when he came in that night of
the opera. She was too near a breakdown to care what she told him.
"We dined at Soames's."
"H'm! the man of property! His wife there and Bosinney?"
Old Jolyon's glance was fixed on her with the penetrating gaze from
which it was difficult to hide; but she was not looking at him, and
when she turned her face, he dropped his scrutiny at once. He had seen
enough, and too much. He bent down to lift the cup of milk for her from
the hearth, and, turning away, grumbled: "You oughtn't to stay out so
late; it makes you fit for nothing."
He was invisible now behind his paper, which he turned with a vicious
crackle; but when June came up to kiss him, he said: "Good-night, my
darling," in a tone so tremulous and unexpected, that it was all the
girl could do to get out of the room without breaking into the fit of
sobbing which lasted her well on into the night.
When the door was closed, old Jolyon dropped his paper, and stared long
and anxiously in front of him.
'The beggar!' he thought. 'I always knew she'd have trouble with him!'
Uneasy doubts and suspicions, the more poignant that he felt himself
powerless to check or control the march of events, came crowding upon
Was the fellow going to jilt her? He longed to go and say to him: "Look
here, you sir! Are you going to jilt my grand-daughter?" But how could
he? Knowing little or nothing, he was yet certain, with his unerring
astuteness, that there was something going on. He suspected Bosinney of
being too much at Montpellier Square.
'This fellow,' he thought, 'may not be a scamp; his face is not a bad
one, but he's a queer fish. I don't know what to make of him. I shall
never know what to make of him! They tell me he works like a nigger, but
I see no good coming of it. He's unpractical, he has no method. When he
comes here, he sits as glum as a monkey. If I ask him what wine he'll
have, he says: "Thanks, any wine." If I offer him a cigar, he smokes it
as if it were a twopenny German thing. I never see him looking at June
as he ought to look at her; and yet, he's not after her money. If
she were to make a sign, he'd be off his bargain to-morrow. But she
won't--not she! She'll stick to him! She's as obstinate as fate--She'll
never let go!'
Sighing deeply, he turned the paper; in its columns, perchance he might
And upstairs in her room June sat at her open window, where the spring
wind came, after its revel across the Park, to cool her hot cheeks and
burn her heart.
CHAPTER III--DRIVE WITH SWITHIN
Two lines of a certain song in a certain famous old school's songbook
run as follows:
'How the buttons on his blue frock shone, tra-la-la! How he carolled and
he sang, like a bird!...'
Swithin did not exactly carol and sing like a bird, but he felt
almost like endeavouring to hum a tune, as he stepped out of Hyde Park
Mansions, and contemplated his horses drawn up before the door.
The afternoon was as balmy as a day in June, and to complete the simile
of the old song, he had put on a blue frock-coat, dispensing with an
overcoat, after sending Adolf down three times to make sure that there
was not the least suspicion of east in the wind; and the frock-coat was
buttoned so tightly around his personable form, that, if the buttons did
not shine, they might pardonably have done so. Majestic on the pavement
he fitted on a pair of dog-skin gloves; with his large bell-shaped
top hat, and his great stature and bulk he looked too primeval for a
Forsyte. His thick white hair, on which Adolf had bestowed a touch of
pomatum, exhaled the fragrance of opoponax and cigars--the celebrated
Swithin brand, for which he paid one hundred and forty shillings the
hundred, and of which old Jolyon had unkindly said, he wouldn't smoke
them as a gift; they wanted the stomach of a horse!
"The new plaid rug!"
He would never teach that fellow to look smart; and Mrs. Soames he felt
sure, had an eye!
"The phaeton hood down; I am going--to--drive--a--lady!"
A pretty woman would want to show off her frock; and well--he was going
to drive a lady! It was like a new beginning to the good old days.
Ages since he had driven a woman! The last time, if he remembered, it
had been Juley; the poor old soul had been as nervous as a cat the whole
time, and so put him out of patience that, as he dropped her in the
Bayswater Road, he had said: "Well I'm d---d if I ever drive you again!"
And he never had, not he!
Going up to his horses' heads, he examined their bits; not that he knew
anything about bits--he didn't pay his coachman sixty pounds a year
to do his work for him, that had never been his principle. Indeed, his
reputation as a horsey man rested mainly on the fact that once, on Derby
Day, he had been welshed by some thimble-riggers. But someone at the
Club, after seeing him drive his greys up to the door--he always drove
grey horses, you got more style for the money, some thought--had called
him 'Four-in-hand Forsyte.' The name having reached his ears through
that fellow Nicholas Treffry, old Jolyon's dead partner, the great
driving man notorious for more carriage accidents than any man in the
kingdom--Swithin had ever after conceived it right to act up to it. The
name had taken his fancy, not because he had ever driven four-in-hand,
or was ever likely to, but because of something distinguished in the
sound. Four-in-hand Forsyte! Not bad! Born too soon, Swithin had missed
his vocation. Coming upon London twenty years later, he could not have
failed to have become a stockbroker, but at the time when he was obliged
to select, this great profession had not as yet became the chief glory
of the upper-middle class. He had literally been forced into land
Once in the driving seat, with the reins handed to him, and blinking
over his pale old cheeks in the full sunlight, he took a slow look
round--Adolf was already up behind; the cockaded groom at the horses'
heads stood ready to let go; everything was prepared for the signal, and
Swithin gave it. The equipage dashed forward, and before you could say
Jack Robinson, with a rattle and flourish drew up at Soames' door.
Irene came out at once, and stepped in--he afterward described it at
Timothy's--"as light as--er--Taglioni, no fuss about it, no wanting this
or wanting that;" and above all, Swithin dwelt on this, staring at
Mrs. Septimus in a way that disconcerted her a good deal, "no silly
nervousness!" To Aunt Hester he portrayed Irene's hat. "Not one of your
great flopping things, sprawling about, and catching the dust, that
women are so fond of nowadays, but a neat little--" he made a circular
motion of his hand, "white veil--capital taste."
"What was it made of?" inquired Aunt Hester, who manifested a languid
but permanent excitement at any mention of dress.
"Made of?" returned Swithin; "now how should I know?"
He sank into silence so profound that Aunt Hester began to be afraid he
had fallen into a trance. She did not try to rouse him herself, it not
being her custom.
'I wish somebody would come,' she thought; 'I don't like the look of
But suddenly Swithin returned to life. "Made of" he wheezed out slowly,
"what should it be made of?"
They had not gone four miles before Swithin received the impression that
Irene liked driving with him. Her face was so soft behind that white
veil, and her dark eyes shone so in the spring light, and whenever he
spoke she raised them to him and smiled.
On Saturday morning Soames had found her at her writing-table with a
note written to Swithin, putting him off. Why did she want to put him
off? he asked. She might put her own people off when she liked, he would
not have her putting off his people!
She had looked at him intently, had torn up the note, and said: "Very
And then she began writing another. He took a casual glance presently,
and saw that it was addressed to Bosinney.
"What are you writing to him about?" he asked.
Irene, looking at him again with that intent look, said quietly:
"Something he wanted me to do for him!"
"Humph!" said Soames,--"Commissions!"
"You'll have your work cut out if you begin that sort of thing!" He said
Swithin opened his eyes at the mention of Robin Hill; it was a long way
for his horses, and he always dined at half-past seven, before the
rush at the Club began; the new chef took more trouble with an early
dinner--a lazy rascal!
He would like to have a look at the house, however. A house appealed to
any Forsyte, and especially to one who had been an auctioneer. After all
he said the distance was nothing. When he was a younger man he had had
rooms at Richmond for many years, kept his carriage and pair there, and
drove them up and down to business every day of his life.
Four-in-hand Forsyte they called him! His T-cart, his horses had been
known from Hyde Park Corner to the Star and Garter. The Duke of Z....
wanted to get hold of them, would have given him double the money, but
he had kept them; know a good thing when you have it, eh? A look of
solemn pride came portentously on his shaven square old face, he rolled
his head in his stand-up collar, like a turkey-cock preening himself.
She was really--a charming woman! He enlarged upon her frock afterwards
to Aunt Juley, who held up her hands at his way of putting it.
Fitted her like a skin--tight as a drum; that was how he liked 'em,
all of a piece, none of your daverdy, scarecrow women! He gazed at Mrs.
Septimus Small, who took after James--long and thin.
"There's style about her," he went on, "fit for a king! And she's so
quiet with it too!"
"She seems to have made quite a conquest of you, any way," drawled Aunt
Hester from her corner.
Swithin heard extremely well when anybody attacked him.
"What's that?" he said. "I know a--pretty--woman when I see one, and all
I can say is, I don't see the young man about that's fit for her; but
perhaps--you--do, come, perhaps--you-do!"
"Oh?" murmured Aunt Hester, "ask Juley!"
Long before they reached Robin Hill, however, the unaccustomed airing
had made him terribly sleepy; he drove with his eyes closed, a life-time
of deportment alone keeping his tall and bulky form from falling askew.
Bosinney, who was watching, came out to meet them, and all three
entered the house together; Swithin in front making play with a stout
gold-mounted Malacca cane, put into his hand by Adolf, for his knees
were feeling the effects of their long stay in the same position. He had
assumed his fur coat, to guard against the draughts of the unfinished
The staircase--he said--was handsome! the baronial style! They would
want some statuary about! He came to a standstill between the columns of
the doorway into the inner court, and held out his cane inquiringly.
What was this to be--this vestibule, or whatever they called it? But
gazing at the skylight, inspiration came to him.
"Ah! the billiard-room!"
When told it was to be a tiled court with plants in the centre, he
turned to Irene:
"Waste this on plants? You take my advice and have a billiard table
Irene smiled. She had lifted her veil, banding it like a nun's coif
across her forehead, and the smile of her dark eyes below this seemed to
Swithin more charming than ever. He nodded. She would take his advice he
He had little to say of the drawing or dining-rooms, which he described
as "spacious"; but fell into such raptures as he permitted to a man of
his dignity, in the wine-cellar, to which he descended by stone steps,
Bosinney going first with a light.
"You'll have room here," he said, "for six or seven hundred dozen--a
very pooty little cellar!"
Bosinney having expressed the wish to show them the house from the copse
below, Swithin came to a stop.
"There's a fine view from here," he remarked; "you haven't such a thing
as a chair?"
A chair was brought him from Bosinney's tent.
"You go down," he said blandly; "you two! I'll sit here and look at the
He sat down by the oak tree, in the sun; square and upright, with one
hand stretched out, resting on the nob of his cane, the other planted on
his knee; his fur coat thrown open, his hat, roofing with its flat
top the pale square of his face; his stare, very blank, fixed on the
He nodded to them as they went off down through the fields. He was,
indeed, not sorry to be left thus for a quiet moment of reflection. The
air was balmy, not too much heat in the sun; the prospect a fine one,
a remarka.... His head fell a little to one side; he jerked it up and
thought: Odd! He--ah! They were waving to him from the bottom! He put
up his hand, and moved it more than once. They were active--the prospect
was remar.... His head fell to the left, he jerked it up at once; it
fell to the right. It remained there; he was asleep.
And asleep, a sentinel on the--top of the rise, he appeared to rule over
this prospect--remarkable--like some image blocked out by the special
artist, of primeval Forsytes in pagan days, to record the domination of
mind over matter!
And all the unnumbered generations of his yeoman ancestors, wont of a
Sunday to stand akimbo surveying their little plots of land, their grey
unmoving eyes hiding their instinct with its hidden roots of violence,
their instinct for possession to the exclusion of all the world--all
these unnumbered generations seemed to sit there with him on the top of
But from him, thus slumbering, his jealous Forsyte spirit travelled far,
into God-knows-what jungle of fancies; with those two young people, to
see what they were doing down there in the copse--in the copse where
the spring was running riot with the scent of sap and bursting buds,
the song of birds innumerable, a carpet of bluebells and sweet growing
things, and the sun caught like gold in the tops of the trees; to see
what they were doing, walking along there so close together on the path
that was too narrow; walking along there so close that they were always
touching; to watch Irene's eyes, like dark thieves, stealing the heart
out of the spring. And a great unseen chaperon, his spirit was there,
stopping with them to look at the little furry corpse of a mole, not
dead an hour, with his mushroom-and-silver coat untouched by the rain or
dew; watching over Irene's bent head, and the soft look of her pitying
eyes; and over that young man's head, gazing at her so hard, so
strangely. Walking on with them, too, across the open space where a
wood-cutter had been at work, where the bluebells were trampled down,
and a trunk had swayed and staggered down from its gashed stump.
Climbing it with them, over, and on to the very edge of the copse,
whence there stretched an undiscovered country, from far away in which
came the sounds, 'Cuckoo-cuckoo!'
Silent, standing with them there, and uneasy at their silence! Very
queer, very strange!
Then back again, as though guilty, through the wood--back to the
cutting, still silent, amongst the songs of birds that never ceased, and
the wild scent--hum! what was it--like that herb they put in--back to
the log across the path....
And then unseen, uneasy, flapping above them, trying to make noises,
his Forsyte spirit watched her balanced on the log, her pretty figure
swaying, smiling down at that young man gazing up with such strange,
shining eyes, slipping now--a--ah! falling, o--oh! sliding--down his
breast; her soft, warm body clutched, her head bent back from his
lips; his kiss; her recoil; his cry: "You must know--I love you!" Must
know--indeed, a pretty...? Love! Hah!
Swithin awoke; virtue had gone out of him. He had a taste in his mouth.
Where was he?
Damme! He had been asleep!
He had dreamed something about a new soup, with a taste of mint in it.
Those young people--where had they got to? His left leg had pins and
"Adolf!" The rascal was not there; the rascal was asleep somewhere.
He stood up, tall, square, bulky in his fur, looking anxiously down over
the fields, and presently he saw them coming.
Irene was in front; that young fellow--what had they nicknamed him--'The
Buccaneer?' looked precious hangdog there behind her; had got a flea in
his ear, he shouldn't wonder. Serve him right, taking her down all that
way to look at the house! The proper place to look at a house from was
They saw him. He extended his arm, and moved it spasmodically to
encourage them. But they had stopped. What were they standing there for,
talking--talking? They came on again. She had been, giving him a rub, he
had not the least doubt of it, and no wonder, over a house like that--a
great ugly thing, not the sort of house he was accustomed to.
He looked intently at their faces, with his pale, immovable stare. That
young man looked very queer!
"You'll never make anything of this!" he said tartly, pointing at the
Bosinney gazed at him as though he had not heard; and Swithin afterwards
described him to Aunt Hester as "an extravagant sort of fellow very odd
way of looking at you--a bumpy beggar!"
What gave rise to this sudden piece of psychology he did not state;
possibly Bosinney's, prominent forehead and cheekbones and chin, or
something hungry in his face, which quarrelled with Swithin's conception
of the calm satiety that should characterize the perfect gentleman.
He brightened up at the mention of tea. He had a contempt for tea--his
brother Jolyon had been in tea; made a lot of money by it--but he was
so thirsty, and had such a taste in his mouth, that he was prepared to
drink anything. He longed to inform Irene of the taste in his mouth--she
was so sympathetic--but it would not be a distinguished thing to do; he
rolled his tongue round, and faintly smacked it against his palate.
In a far corner of the tent Adolf was bending his cat-like moustaches
over a kettle. He left it at once to draw the cork of a pint-bottle of
champagne. Swithin smiled, and, nodding at Bosinney, said: "Why, you're
quite a Monte Cristo!" This celebrated novel--one of the half-dozen he
had read--had produced an extraordinary impression on his mind.
Taking his glass from the table, he held it away from him to scrutinize
the colour; thirsty as he was, it was not likely that he was going to
drink trash! Then, placing it to his lips, he took a sip.
"A very nice wine," he said at last, passing it before his nose; "not
the equal of my Heidsieck!"
It was at this moment that the idea came to him which he afterwards
imparted at Timothy's in this nutshell: "I shouldn't wonder a bit if
that architect chap were sweet upon Mrs. Soames!"
And from this moment his pale, round eyes never ceased to bulge with the
interest of his discovery.
"The fellow," he said to Mrs. Septimus, "follows her about with his
eyes like a dog--the bumpy beggar! I don't wonder at it--she's a very
charming woman, and, I should say, the pink of discretion!" A vague
consciousness of perfume caging about Irene, like that from a flower
with half-closed petals and a passionate heart, moved him to the
creation of this image. "But I wasn't sure of it," he said, "till I saw
him pick up her handkerchief."
Mrs. Small's eyes boiled with excitement.
"And did he give it her back?" she asked.
"Give it back?" said Swithin: "I saw him slobber on it when he thought I
Mrs. Small gasped--too interested to speak.
"But she gave him no encouragement," went on Swithin; he stopped, and
stared for a minute or two in the way that alarmed Aunt Hester so--he
had suddenly recollected that, as they were starting back in the
phaeton, she had given Bosinney her hand a second time, and let it stay
there too.... He had touched his horses smartly with the whip, anxious
to get her all to himself. But she had looked back, and she had not
answered his first question; neither had he been able to see her
face--she had kept it hanging down.
There is somewhere a picture, which Swithin has not seen, of a man
sitting on a rock, and by him, immersed in the still, green water, a
sea-nymph lying on her back, with her hand on her naked breast. She has
a half-smile on her face--a smile of hopeless surrender and of secret
Seated by Swithin's side, Irene may have been smiling like that.
When, warmed by champagne, he had her all to himself, he unbosomed
himself of his wrongs; of his smothered resentment against the new
chef at the club; his worry over the house in Wigmore Street, where the
rascally tenant had gone bankrupt through helping his brother-in-law as
if charity did not begin at home; of his deafness, too, and that pain he
sometimes got in his right side. She listened, her eyes swimming under
their lids. He thought she was thinking deeply of his troubles, and
pitied himself terribly. Yet in his fur coat, with frogs across the
breast, his top hat aslant, driving this beautiful woman, he had never
felt more distinguished.
A coster, however, taking his girl for a Sunday airing, seemed to have
the same impression about himself. This person had flogged his donkey
into a gallop alongside, and sat, upright as a waxwork, in his shallopy
chariot, his chin settled pompously on a red handkerchief, like
Swithin's on his full cravat; while his girl, with the ends of a
fly-blown boa floating out behind, aped a woman of fashion. Her swain
moved a stick with a ragged bit of string dangling from the end,
reproducing with strange fidelity the circular flourish of Swithin's
whip, and rolled his head at his lady with a leer that had a weird
likeness to Swithin's primeval stare.
Though for a time unconscious of the lowly ruffian's presence, Swithin
presently took it into his head that he was being guyed. He laid his
whip-lash across the mares flank. The two chariots, however, by some
unfortunate fatality continued abreast. Swithin's yellow, puffy face
grew red; he raised his whip to lash the costermonger, but was saved
from so far forgetting his dignity by a special intervention of
Providence. A carriage driving out through a gate forced phaeton and
donkey-cart into proximity; the wheels grated, the lighter vehicle
skidded, and was overturned.
Swithin did not look round. On no account would he have pulled up to
help the ruffian. Serve him right if he had broken his neck!
But he could not if he would. The greys had taken alarm. The phaeton
swung from side to side, and people raised frightened faces as they went
dashing past. Swithin's great arms, stretched at full length, tugged at
the reins. His cheeks were puffed, his lips compressed, his swollen face
was of a dull, angry red.
Irene had her hand on the rail, and at every lurch she gripped it
tightly. Swithin heard her ask:
"Are we going to have an accident, Uncle Swithin?"
He gasped out between his pants: "It's nothing; a--little fresh!"
"I've never been in an accident."
"Don't you move!" He took a look at her. She was smiling, perfectly
calm. "Sit still," he repeated. "Never fear, I'll get you home!"
And in the midst of all his terrible efforts, he was surprised to hear
her answer in a voice not like her own:
"I don't care if I never get home!"
The carriage giving a terrific lurch, Swithin's exclamation was jerked
back into his throat. The horses, winded by the rise of a hill, now
steadied to a trot, and finally stopped of their own accord.
"When"--Swithin described it at Timothy's--"I pulled 'em up, there she
was as cool as myself. God bless my soul! she behaved as if she didn't
care whether she broke her neck or not! What was it she said: 'I don't
care if I never get home?" Leaning over the handle of his cane, he
wheezed out, to Mrs. Small's terror: "And I'm not altogether surprised,
with a finickin' feller like young Soames for a husband!"
It did not occur to him to wonder what Bosinney had done after they had
left him there alone; whether he had gone wandering about like the dog
to which Swithin had compared him; wandering down to that copse where
the spring was still in riot, the cuckoo still calling from afar; gone
down there with her handkerchief pressed to lips, its fragrance mingling
with the scent of mint and thyme. Gone down there with such a wild,
exquisite pain in his heart that he could have cried out among the
trees. Or what, indeed, the fellow had done. In fact, till he came to
Timothy's, Swithin had forgotten all about him.
CHAPTER IV--JAMES GOES TO SEE FOR HIMSELF
Those ignorant of Forsyte 'Change would not, perhaps, foresee all the
stir made by Irene's visit to the house.
After Swithin had related at Timothy's the full story of his memorable
drive, the same, with the least suspicion of curiosity, 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 departure.
"Almost rude!" Mrs. Small said to Aunt Hester, when June was gone.
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
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, flame-like blossom.
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 had
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
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
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.
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 suffer
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 felt sure.
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 it.
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 neighbourhood.
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
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
"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, saying:
"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
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 view.
"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 responsibility."
"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
He took out a silk handkerchief and wiped his brow. They entered the
house. Like Swithin, James was impressed by the inner court-yard.
"You must have spent a deuce 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 curiosity.
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
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
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 Bosinney, said:
"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
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 it."
Nervous and baffled, James was constitutionally prevented from letting
the matter drop.
"Oh!" he said, "she has seen it? Soames brought her down, I suppose?"
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 her."
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 spot!"
"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.
CHAPTER V--SOAMES AND BOSINNEY CORRESPOND
James said nothing to his son of this visit to the house; but, having
occasion to go to Timothy's one 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 didn't know.
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
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
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, May 15,
'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 hand.
'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 valuable suggestions.
'Please make up your mind, therefore, whether you want me to decorate
for you, or to retire which on the whole I should prefer to do.
'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 free hand.
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 Tacitus:
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 irritatingly 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
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
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 and
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 behind it.
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 his joke!"
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
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--still 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 this
. . . . "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
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, arose:
"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
"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 report
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
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 divine."
The reverend gentleman resumed his seat. The late superintendent'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 humanitarianism. 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 Jolyon said:
"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 business, gentlemen...."
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
Soames awaited his opportunity. The last shareholder was vanishing
through the door, when he approached his uncle, who was putting on his
"Can I speak to you for a minute, Uncle Jolyon?"
It is uncertain what Soames expected to get out of this interview.
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 own son...!
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 walking-stick.
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
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 it!"
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 nonsense!"
"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,
'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 the following:
'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:
CHAPTER VI--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 said.
He went out by Underground 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
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
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 other.
"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
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 and subtle.
The attitude he had adopted towards sexual matters fifteen years before,
however, was too different from his father's. There was no bridging the
He said coolly: "I suppose he's fallen in love with some other woman?"
Old Jolyon gave him a dubious look: "I can't tell," he said; "they say
"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 face.
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 perambulating
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
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 vanished.
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
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 Jolyon.
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
Young Jolyon, who had taken Holly up in his arms, stood motionless at
the corner, looking after the cab.
CHAPTER VII--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 sentiments.
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 fruits.
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 gilt-edged
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 could
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 errand.
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 conclave above.
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
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 believe them?
No! he cherished, hugging it pathetically to his bosom the secret theory
that there was something distinguished somewhere in his ancestry.
"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
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 the crest....
"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
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 universally respected.
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
"Rubbish like that!" he called it. Francie had borrowed young
Flageoletti from Euphemia, to play it in the drawing-room at Prince's
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 it.
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 day, auntie."
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
"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 dressed."
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 her."
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 Piccadilly.
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 Iseeum.'
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 with Winifred.
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 fit 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
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
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 year...."
"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
"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, frock-coated
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
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 for Timothy.
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; good-bye, Winifred."
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
Presently Francie said: "Do you know, I think Uncle Jolyon is terribly
changed this last year. What do you think, Aunt Hester?"
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
"Poor dear Jolyon," she said, "somebody ought to see to it for him!"
There was again silence; then, as though in terror of being left
solitarily behind, all five visitors rose simultaneously, and took their
Mrs. Small, Aunt Hester, and their cat were left once more alone,
the sound of a door closing in the distance announced the approach of
That evening, when Aunt Hester had just got off to sleep in the back
bedroom that used to be Aunt Juley's before Aunt Juley took Aunt Ann's,
her door was opened, and Mrs. Small, in a pink night-cap, a candle in
her hand, entered: "Hester!" she said. "Hester!"
Aunt Hester faintly rustled the sheet.
"Hester," repeated Aunt Juley, to make quite sure that she had awakened
her, "I am quite troubled about poor dear Jolyon. What," Aunt Juley
dwelt on the word, "do you think ought to be done?"
Aunt Hester again rustled the sheet, her voice was heard faintly
pleading: "Done? How should I know?"
Aunt Juley turned away satisfied, and closing the door with extra
gentleness so as not to disturb dear Hester, let it slip through her
fingers and fall to with a 'crack.'
Back in her own room, she stood at the window gazing at the moon over
the trees in the Park, through a chink in the muslin curtains, close
drawn lest anyone should see. And there, with her face all round and
pouting in its pink cap, and her eyes wet, she thought of 'dear Jolyon,'
so old and so lonely, and how she could be of some use to him; and how
he would come to love her, as she had never been loved since--since poor
Septimus went away.
CHAPTER VIII--DANCE AT ROGER'S
Roger's house in Prince's Gardens was brilliantly alight. Large numbers
of wax candles had been collected and placed in cut-glass chandeliers,
and the parquet floor of the long, double drawing-room reflected these
constellations. An appearance of real spaciousness had been secured by
moving out all the furniture on to the upper landings, and enclosing
the room with those strange appendages of civilization known as 'rout'
seats. In a remote corner, embowered in palms, was a cottage piano, with
a copy of the 'Kensington Coil' open on the music-stand.
Roger had objected to a band. He didn't see in the least what they
wanted with a band; he wouldn't go to the expense, and there was an end
of it. Francie (her mother, whom Roger had long since reduced to chronic
dyspepsia, went to bed on such occasions), had been obliged to content
herself with supplementing the piano by a young man who played the
cornet, and she so arranged with palms that anyone who did not look into
the heart of things might imagine there were several musicians secreted
there. She made up her mind to tell them to play loud--there was a lot
of music in a cornet, if the man would only put his soul into it.
In the more cultivated American tongue, she was 'through' at
last--through that tortuous labyrinth of make-shifts, which must be
traversed before fashionable display can be combined with the sound
economy of a Forsyte. Thin but brilliant, in her maize-coloured frock
with much tulle about the shoulders, she went from place to place,
fitting on her gloves, and casting her eye over it all.
To the hired butler (for Roger only kept maids) she spoke about the
wine. Did he quite understand that Mr. Forsyte wished a dozen bottles of
the champagne from Whiteley's to be put out? But if that were finished
(she did not suppose it would be, most of the ladies would drink water,
no doubt), but if it were, there was the champagne cup, and he must do
the best he could with that.
She hated having to say this sort of thing to a butler, it was so infra
dig.; but what could you do with father? Roger, indeed, after making
himself consistently disagreeable about the dance, would come down
presently, with his fresh colour and bumpy forehead, as though he had
been its promoter; and he would smile, and probably take the prettiest
woman in to supper; and at two o'clock, just as they were getting into
the swing, he would go up secretly to the musicians and tell them to
play 'God Save the Queen,' and go away.
Francie devoutly hoped he might soon get tired, and slip off to bed.
The three or four devoted girl friends who were staying in the house for
this dance had partaken with her, in a small, abandoned room upstairs,
of tea and cold chicken-legs, hurriedly served; the men had been sent
out to dine at Eustace's Club, it being felt that they must be fed up.
Punctually on the stroke of nine arrived Mrs. Small alone. She made
elaborate apologies for the absence of Timothy, omitting all mention
of Aunt Hester, who, at the last minute, had said she could not be
bothered. Francie received her effusively, and placed her on a rout
seat, where she left her, pouting and solitary in lavender-coloured
satin--the first time she had worn colour since Aunt Ann's death.
The devoted maiden friends came now from their rooms, each by magic
arrangement in a differently coloured frock, but all with the same
liberal allowance of tulle on the shoulders and at the bosom--for they
were, by some fatality, lean to a girl. They were all taken up to Mrs.
Small. None stayed with her more than a few seconds, but clustering
together talked and twisted their programmes, looking secretly at the
door for the first appearance of a man.
Then arrived in a group a number of Nicholases, always punctual--the
fashion up Ladbroke Grove way; and close behind them Eustace and his
men, gloomy and smelling rather of smoke.
Three or four of Francie's lovers now appeared, one after the other;
she had made each promise to come early. They were all clean-shaven and
sprightly, with that peculiar kind of young-man sprightliness which
had recently invaded Kensington; they did not seem to mind each other's
presence in the least, and wore their ties bunching out at the ends,
white waistcoats, and socks with clocks. All had handkerchiefs concealed
in their cuffs. They moved buoyantly, each armoured in professional
gaiety, as though he had come to do great deeds. Their faces when they
danced, far from wearing the traditional solemn look of the dancing
Englishman, were irresponsible, charming, suave; they bounded, twirling
their partners at great pace, without pedantic attention to the rhythm
of the music.
At other dancers they looked with a kind of airy scorn--they, the light
brigade, the heroes of a hundred Kensington 'hops'--from whom alone
could the right manner and smile and step be hoped.
After this the stream came fast; chaperones silting up along the wall
facing the entrance, the volatile element swelling the eddy in the
Men were scarce, and wallflowers wore their peculiar, pathetic
expression, a patient, sourish smile which seemed to say: "Oh, no! don't
mistake me, I know you are not coming up to me. I can hardly expect
that!" And Francie would plead with one of her lovers, or with some
callow youth: "Now, to please me, do let me introduce you to Miss Pink;
such a nice girl, really!" and she would bring him up, and say: "Miss
Pink--Mr. Gathercole. Can you spare him a dance?" Then Miss Pink,
smiling her forced smile, colouring a little, answered: "Oh! I think
so!" and screening her empty card, wrote on it the name of Gathercole,
spelling it passionately in the district that he proposed, about the
But when the youth had murmured that it was hot, and passed, she
relapsed into her attitude of hopeless expectation, into her patient,
Mothers, slowly fanning their faces, watched their daughters, and in
their eyes could be read all the story of those daughters' fortunes. As
for themselves, to sit hour after hour, dead tired, silent, or talking
spasmodically--what did it matter, so long as the girls were having a
good time! But to see them neglected and passed by! Ah! they smiled,
but their eyes stabbed like the eyes of an offended swan; they longed to
pluck young Gathercole by the slack of his dandified breeches, and drag
him to their daughters--the jackanapes!
And all the cruelties and hardness of life, its pathos and unequal
chances, its conceit, self-forgetfulness, and patience, were presented
on the battle-field of this Kensington ball-room.
Here and there, too, lovers--not lovers like Francie's, a peculiar
breed, but simply lovers--trembling, blushing, silent, sought each other
by flying glances, sought to meet and touch in the mazes of the dance,
and now and again dancing together, struck some beholder by the light in
Not a second before ten o'clock came the Jameses--Emily, Rachel,
Winifred (Dartie had been left behind, having on a former occasion drunk
too much of Roger's champagne), and Cicely, the youngest, making her
debut; behind them, following in a hansom from the paternal mansion
where they had dined, Soames and Irene.
All these ladies had shoulder-straps and no tulle--thus showing at once,
by a bolder exposure of flesh, that they came from the more fashionable
side of the Park.
Soames, sidling back from the contact of the dancers, took up a position
against the wall. Guarding himself with his pale smile, he stood
watching. Waltz after waltz began and ended, couple after couple brushed
by with smiling lips, laughter, and snatches of talk; or with set lips,
and eyes searching the throng; or again, with silent, parted lips, and
eyes on each other. And the scent of festivity, the odour of flowers,
and hair, of essences that women love, rose suffocatingly in the heat of
the summer night.
Silent, with something of scorn in his smile, Soames seemed to notice
nothing; but now and again his eyes, finding that which they sought,
would fix themselves on a point in the shifting throng, and the smile
die off his lips.
He danced with no one. Some fellows danced with their wives; his sense
of 'form' had never permitted him to dance with Irene since their
marriage, and the God of the Forsytes alone can tell whether this was a
relief to him or not.
She passed, dancing with other men, her dress, iris-coloured, floating
away from her feet. She danced well; he was tired of hearing women say
with an acid smile: "How beautifully your wife dances, Mr. Forsyte--it's
quite a pleasure to watch her!" Tired of answering them with his
sidelong glance: "You think so?"
A young couple close by flirted a fan by turns, making an unpleasant
draught. Francie and one of her lovers stood near. They were talking of
He heard Roger's voice behind, giving an order about supper to a
servant. Everything was very second-class! He wished that he had not
come! He had asked Irene whether she wanted him; she had answered with
that maddening smile of hers "Oh, no!"
Why had he come? For the last quarter of an hour he had not even seen
her. Here was George advancing with his Quilpish face; it was too late
to get out of his way.
"Have you seen 'The Buccaneer'?" said this licensed wag; "he's on the
warpath--hair cut and everything!"
Soames said he had not, and crossing the room, half-empty in an interval
of the dance, he went out on the balcony, and looked down into the
A carriage had driven up with late arrivals, and round the door hung
some of those patient watchers of the London streets who spring up to
the call of light or music; their faces, pale and upturned above their
black and rusty figures, had an air of stolid watching that annoyed
Soames. Why were they allowed to hang about; why didn't the bobby move
But the policeman took no notice of them; his feet were planted apart
on the strip of crimson carpet stretched across the pavement; his face,
under the helmet, wore the same stolid, watching look as theirs.
Across the road, through the railings, Soames could see the branches
of trees shining, faintly stirring in the breeze, by the gleam of the
street lamps; beyond, again, the upper lights of the houses on the other
side, so many eyes looking down on the quiet blackness of the garden;
and over all, the sky, that wonderful London sky, dusted with the
innumerable reflection of countless lamps; a dome woven over between
its stars with the refraction of human needs and human fancies--immense
mirror of pomp and misery that night after night stretches its kindly
mocking over miles of houses and gardens, mansions and squalor, over
Forsytes, policemen, and patient watchers in the streets.
Soames turned away, and, hidden in the recess, gazed into the lighted
room. It was cooler out there. He saw the new arrivals, June and her
grandfather, enter. What had made them so late? They stood by the
doorway. They looked fagged. Fancy Uncle Jolyon turning out at this
time of night! Why hadn't June come to Irene, as she usually did, and
it occurred to him suddenly that he had seen nothing of June for a long
Watching her face with idle malice, he saw it change, grow so pale that
he thought she would drop, then flame out crimson. Turning to see at
what she was looking, he saw his wife on Bosinney's arm, coming from
the conservatory at the end of the room. Her eyes were raised to his,
as though answering some question he had asked, and he was gazing at her
Soames looked again at June. Her hand rested on old Jolyon's arm; she
seemed to be making a request. He saw a surprised look on his uncle's
face; they turned and passed through the door out of his sight.
The music began again--a waltz--and, still as a statue in the recess of
the window, his face unmoved, but no smile on his lips, Soames waited.
Presently, within a yard of the dark balcony, his wife and Bosinney
passed. He caught the perfume of the gardenias that she wore, saw the
rise and fall of her bosom, the languor in her eyes, her parted lips,
and a look on her face that he did not know. To the slow, swinging
measure they danced by, and it seemed to him that they clung to each
other; he saw her raise her eyes, soft and dark, to Bosinney's, and drop
Very white, he turned back to the balcony, and leaning on it, gazed down
on the Square; the figures were still there looking up at the light with
dull persistency, the policeman's face, too, upturned, and staring, but
he saw nothing of them. Below, a carriage drew up, two figures got in,
and drove away....
That evening June and old Jolyon sat down to dinner at the usual hour.
The girl was in her customary high-necked frock, old Jolyon had not
At breakfast she had spoken of the dance at Uncle Roger's, she wanted to
go; she had been stupid enough, she said, not to think of asking anyone
to take her. It was too late now.
Old Jolyon lifted his keen eyes. June was used to go to dances with
Irene as a matter of course! and deliberately fixing his gaze on her, he
asked: "Why don't you get Irene?"
No! June did not want to ask Irene; she would only go if--if her
grandfather wouldn't mind just for once for a little time!
At her look, so eager and so worn, old Jolyon had grumblingly consented.
He did not know what she wanted, he said, with going to a dance like
this, a poor affair, he would wager; and she no more fit for it than a
cat! What she wanted was sea air, and after his general meeting of the
Globular Gold Concessions he was ready to take her. She didn't want to
go away? Ah! she would knock herself up! Stealing a mournful look at
her, he went on with his breakfast.
June went out early, and wandered restlessly about in the heat. Her
little light figure that lately had moved so languidly about its
business, was all on fire. She bought herself some flowers. She
wanted--she meant to look her best. He would be there! She knew well
enough that he had a card. She would show him that she did not care. But
deep down in her heart she resolved that evening to win him back. She
came in flushed, and talked brightly all lunch; old Jolyon was there,
and he was deceived.
In the afternoon she was overtaken by a desperate fit of sobbing. She
strangled the noise against the pillows of her bed, but when at last
it ceased she saw in the glass a swollen face with reddened eyes, and
violet circles round them. She stayed in the darkened room till dinner
All through that silent meal the struggle went on within her.
She looked so shadowy and exhausted that old Jolyon told 'Sankey' to
countermand the carriage, he would not have her going out.... She was to
go to bed! She made no resistance. She went up to her room, and sat in
the dark. At ten o'clock she rang for her maid.
"Bring some hot water, and go down and tell Mr. Forsyte that I feel
perfectly rested. Say that if he's too tired I can go to the dance by
The maid looked askance, and June turned on her imperiously. "Go," she
said, "bring the hot water at once!"
Her ball-dress still lay on the sofa, and with a sort of fierce care she
arrayed herself, took the flowers in her hand, and went down, her small
face carried high under its burden of hair. She could hear old Jolyon in
his room as she passed.
Bewildered and vexed, he was dressing. It was past ten, they would not
get there till eleven; the girl was mad. But he dared not cross her--the
expression of her face at dinner haunted him.
With great ebony brushes he smoothed his hair till it shone like silver
under the light; then he, too, came out on the gloomy staircase.
June met him below, and, without a word, they went to the carriage.
When, after that drive which seemed to last for ever, she entered
Roger's drawing-room, she disguised under a mask of resolution a very
torment of nervousness and emotion. The feeling of shame at what might
be called 'running after him' was smothered by the dread that he might
not be there, that she might not see him after all, and by that dogged
resolve--somehow, she did not know how--to win him back.
The sight of the ballroom, with its gleaming floor, gave her a feeling
of joy, of triumph, for she loved dancing, and when dancing she floated,
so light was she, like a strenuous, eager little spirit. He would surely
ask her to dance, and if he danced with her it would all be as it was
before. She looked about her eagerly.
The sight of Bosinney coming with Irene from the conservatory, with that
strange look of utter absorption on his face, struck her too suddenly.
They had not seen--no one should see--her distress, not even her
She put her hand on Jolyon's arm, and said very low:
"I must go home, Gran; I feel ill."
He hurried her away, grumbling to himself that he had known how it would
To her he said nothing; only when they were once more in the carriage,
which by some fortunate chance had lingered near the door, he asked her:
"What is it, my darling?"
Feeling her whole slender body shaken by sobs, he was terribly alarmed.
She must have Blank to-morrow. He would insist upon it. He could not
have her like this.... There, there!
June mastered her sobs, and squeezing his hand feverishly, she lay back
in her corner, her face muffled in a shawl.
He could only see her eyes, fixed and staring in the dark, but he did
not cease to stroke her hand with his thin fingers.
CHAPTER IX--EVENING AT RICHMOND
Other eyes besides the eyes of June and of Soames had seen 'those
two' (as Euphemia had already begun to call them) coming from the
conservatory; other eyes had noticed the look on Bosinney's face.
There are moments when Nature reveals the passion hidden beneath the
careless calm of her ordinary moods--violent spring flashing white on
almond-blossom through the purple clouds; a snowy, moonlit peak, with
its single star, soaring up to the passionate blue; or against the
flames of sunset, an old yew-tree standing dark guardian of some fiery
There are moments, too, when in a picture-gallery, a work, noted by the
casual spectator as '......Titian--remarkably fine,' breaks through the
defences of some Forsyte better lunched perhaps than his fellows,
and holds him spellbound in a kind of ecstasy. There are things, he
feels--there are things here which--well, which are things. Something
unreasoning, unreasonable, is upon him; when he tries to define it with
the precision of a practical man, it eludes him, slips away, as the
glow of the wine he has drunk is slipping away, leaving him cross, and
conscious of his liver. He feels that he has been extravagant, prodigal
of something; virtue has gone out of him. He did not desire this glimpse
of what lay under the three stars of his catalogue. God forbid that
he should know anything about the forces of Nature! God forbid that he
should admit for a moment that there are such things! Once admit that,
and where was he? One paid a shilling for entrance, and another for the
The look which June had seen, which other Forsytes had seen, was like
the sudden flashing of a candle through a hole in some imaginary canvas,
behind which it was being moved--the sudden flaming-out of a vague,
erratic glow, shadowy and enticing. It brought home to onlookers the
consciousness that dangerous forces were at work. For a moment they
noticed it with pleasure, with interest, then felt they must not notice
it at all.
It supplied, however, the reason of June's coming so late and
disappearing again without dancing, without even shaking hands with her
lover. She was ill, it was said, and no wonder.
But here they looked at each other guiltily. They had no desire to
spread scandal, no desire to be ill-natured. Who would have? And to
outsiders no word was breathed, unwritten law keeping them silent.
Then came the news that June had gone to the seaside with old Jolyon.
He had carried her off to Broadstairs, for which place there was just
then a feeling, Yarmouth having lost caste, in spite of Nicholas, and no
Forsyte going to the sea without intending to have an air for his money
such as would render him bilious in a week. That fatally aristocratic
tendency of the first Forsyte to drink Madeira had left his descendants
So June went to the sea. The family awaited developments; there was
nothing else to do.
But how far--how far had 'those two' gone? How far were they going to
go? Could they really be going at all? Nothing could surely come of it,
for neither of them had any money. At the most a flirtation, ending, as
all such attachments should, at the proper time.
Soames' sister, Winifred Dartie, who had imbibed with the breezes of
Mayfair--she lived in Green Street--more fashionable principles in
regard to matrimonial behaviour than were current, for instance, in
Ladbroke Grove, laughed at the idea of there being anything in it. The
'little thing'--Irene was taller than herself, and it was real testimony
to the solid worth of a Forsyte that she should always thus be a 'little
thing'--the little thing was bored. Why shouldn't she amuse herself?
Soames was rather tiring; and as to Mr. Bosinney--only that buffoon
George would have called him the Buccaneer--she maintained that he was
This dictum--that Bosinney was chic--caused quite a sensation. It failed
to convince. That he was 'good-looking in a way' they were prepared to
admit, but that anyone could call a man with his pronounced cheekbones,
curious eyes, and soft felt hats chic was only another instance of
Winifred's extravagant way of running after something new.
It was that famous summer when extravagance was fashionable, when the
very earth was extravagant, chestnut-trees spread with blossom, and
flowers drenched in perfume, as they had never been before; when roses
blew in every garden; and for the swarming stars the nights had hardly
space; when every day and all day long the sun, in full armour, swung
his brazen shield above the Park, and people did strange things,
lunching and dining in the open air. Unprecedented was the tale of cabs
and carriages that streamed across the bridges of the shining river,
bearing the upper-middle class in thousands to the green glories of
Bushey, Richmond, Kew, and Hampton Court. Almost every family with any
pretensions to be of the carriage-class paid one visit that year to
the horse-chestnuts at Bushey, or took one drive amongst the Spanish
chestnuts of Richmond Park. Bowling smoothly, if dustily, along, in
a cloud of their own creation, they would stare fashionably at the
antlered heads which the great slow deer raised out of a forest of
bracken that promised to autumn lovers such cover as was never seen
before. And now and again, as the amorous perfume of chestnut flowers
and of fern was drifted too near, one would say to the other: "My dear!
What a peculiar scent!"
And the lime-flowers that year were of rare prime, near honey-coloured.
At the corners of London squares they gave out, as the sun went down, a
perfume sweeter than the honey bees had taken--a perfume that stirred a
yearning unnamable in the hearts of Forsytes and their peers, taking the
cool after dinner in the precincts of those gardens to which they alone
And that yearning made them linger amidst the dim shapes of flower-beds
in the failing daylight, made them turn, and turn, and turn again, as
though lovers were waiting for them--waiting for the last light to die
away under the shadow of the branches.
Some vague sympathy evoked by the scent of the limes, some sisterly
desire to see for herself, some idea of demonstrating the soundness
of her dictum that there was 'nothing in it'; or merely the craving to
drive down to Richmond, irresistible that summer, moved the mother of
the little Darties (of little Publius, of Imogen, Maud, and Benedict) to
write the following note to her sister-in-law:
'DEAR IRENE, 'June 30.
'I hear that Soames is going to Henley tomorrow for the night. I thought
it would be great fun if we made up a little party and drove down to,
Richmond. Will you ask Mr. Bosinney, and I will get young Flippard.
'Emily (they called their mother Emily--it was so chic) will lend us the
carriage. I will call for you and your young man at seven o'clock.
'Your affectionate sister,
'Montague believes the dinner at the Crown and Sceptre to be quite
Montague was Dartie's second and better known name--his first being
Moses; for he was nothing if not a man of the world.
Her plan met with more opposition from Providence than so benevolent a
scheme deserved. In the first place young Flippard wrote:
'DEAR Mrs. DARTIE,
'Awfully sorry. Engaged two deep.
It was late to send into the by-ways and hedges to remedy this
misfortune. With the promptitude and conduct of a mother, Winifred
fell back on her husband. She had, indeed, the decided but tolerant
temperament that goes with a good deal of profile, fair hair, and
greenish eyes. She was seldom or never at a loss; or if at a loss, was
always able to convert it into a gain.
Dartie, too, was in good feather. Erotic had failed to win the
Lancashire Cup. Indeed, that celebrated animal, owned as he was by a
pillar of the turf, who had secretly laid many thousands against him,
had not even started. The forty-eight hours that followed his scratching
were among the darkest in Dartie's life.
Visions of James haunted him day and night. Black thoughts about Soames
mingled with the faintest hopes. On the Friday night he got drunk, so
greatly was he affected. But on Saturday morning the true Stock
Exchange instinct triumphed within him. Owing some hundreds, which by
no possibility could he pay, he went into town and put them all on
Concertina for the Saltown Borough Handicap.
As he said to Major Scrotton, with whom he lunched at the Iseeum: "That
little Jew boy, Nathans, had given him the tip. He didn't care a cursh.
He wash in--a mucker. If it didn't come up--well then, damme, the old
man would have to pay!"
A bottle of Pol Roger to his own cheek had given him a new contempt for
It came up. Concertina was squeezed home by her neck--a terrible squeak!
But, as Dartie said: There was nothing like pluck!
He was by no means averse to the expedition to Richmond. He would
'stand' it himself! He cherished an admiration for Irene, and wished to
be on more playful terms with her.
At half-past five the Park Lane footman came round to say: Mrs. Forsyte
was very sorry, but one of the horses was coughing!
Undaunted by this further blow, Winifred at once despatched little
Publius (now aged seven) with the nursery governess to Montpellier
They would go down in hansoms and meet at the Crown and Sceptre at 7.45.
Dartie, on being told, was pleased enough. It was better than going down
with your back to the horses! He had no objection to driving down with
Irene. He supposed they would pick up the others at Montpellier Square,
and swop hansoms there?
Informed that the meet was at the Crown and Sceptre, and that he would
have to drive with his wife, he turned sulky, and said it was d---d
At seven o'clock they started, Dartie offering to bet the driver
half-a-crown he didn't do it in the three-quarters of an hour.
Twice only did husband and wife exchange remarks on the way.
Dartie said: "It'll put Master Soames's nose out of joint to hear his
wife's been drivin' in a hansom with Master Bosinney!"
Winifred replied: "Don't talk such nonsense, Monty!"
"Nonsense!" repeated Dartie. "You don't know women, my fine lady!"
On the other occasion he merely asked: "How am I looking? A bit puffy
about the gills? That fizz old George is so fond of is a windy wine!"
He had been lunching with George Forsyte at the Haversnake.
Bosinney and Irene had arrived before them. They were standing in one of
the long French windows overlooking the river.
Windows that summer were open all day long, and all night too, and day
and night the scents of flowers and trees came in, the hot scent of
parching grass, and the cool scent of the heavy dews.
To the eye of the observant Dartie his two guests did not appear to
be making much running, standing there close together, without a word.
Bosinney was a hungry-looking creature--not much go about him.
He left them to Winifred, however, and busied himself to order the
A Forsyte will require good, if not delicate feeding, but a Dartie will
tax the resources of a Crown and Sceptre. Living as he does, from hand
to mouth, nothing is too good for him to eat; and he will eat it. His
drink, too, will need to be carefully provided; there is much drink
in this country 'not good enough' for a Dartie; he will have the best.
Paying for things vicariously, there is no reason why he should stint
himself. To stint yourself is the mark of a fool, not of a Dartie.
The best of everything! No sounder principle on which a man can base
his life, whose father-in-law has a very considerable income, and a
partiality for his grandchildren.
With his not unable eye Dartie had spotted this weakness in James
the very first year after little Publius's arrival (an error); he had
profited by his perspicacity. Four little Darties were now a sort of
The feature of the feast was unquestionably the red mullet. This
delectable fish, brought from a considerable distance in a state of
almost perfect preservation, was first fried, then boned, then served in
ice, with Madeira punch in place of sauce, according to a recipe known
to a few men of the world.
Nothing else calls for remark except the payment of the bill by Dartie.
He had made himself extremely agreeable throughout the meal; his bold,
admiring stare seldom abandoning Irene's face and figure. As he was
obliged to confess to himself, he got no change out of her--she was cool
enough, as cool as her shoulders looked under their veil of creamy lace.
He expected to have caught her out in some little game with Bosinney;
but not a bit of it, she kept up her end remarkably well. As for that
architect chap, he was as glum as a bear with a sore head--Winifred
could barely get a word out of him; he ate nothing, but he certainly
took his liquor, and his face kept getting whiter, and his eyes looked
It was all very amusing.
For Dartie himself was in capital form, and talked freely, with a
certain poignancy, being no fool. He told two or three stories verging
on the improper, a concession to the company, for his stories were not
used to verging. He proposed Irene's health in a mock speech. Nobody
drank it, and Winifred said: "Don't be such a clown, Monty!"
At her suggestion they went after dinner to the public terrace
overlooking the river.
"I should like to see the common people making love," she said, "it's
There were numbers of them walking in the cool, after the day's heat,
and the air was alive with the sound of voices, coarse and loud, or soft
as though murmuring secrets.
It was not long before Winifred's better sense--she was the only Forsyte
present--secured them an empty bench. They sat down in a row. A heavy
tree spread a thick canopy above their heads, and the haze darkened
slowly over the river.
Dartie sat at the end, next to him Irene, then Bosinney, then Winifred.
There was hardly room for four, and the man of the world could feel
Irene's arm crushed against his own; he knew that she could not withdraw
it without seeming rude, and this amused him; he devised every now and
again a movement that would bring her closer still. He thought: 'That
Buccaneer Johnny shan't have it all to himself! It's a pretty tight fit,
From far down below on the dark river came drifting the tinkle of a
mandoline, and voices singing the old round:
'A boat, a boat, unto the ferry, For we'll go over and be merry; And
laugh, and quaff, and drink brown sherry!'
And suddenly the moon appeared, young and tender, floating up on her
back from behind a tree; and as though she had breathed, the air was
cooler, but down that cooler air came always the warm odour of the
Over his cigar Dartie peered round at Bosinney, who was sitting with his
arms crossed, staring straight in front of him, and on his face the look
of a man being tortured.
And Dartie shot a glance at the face between, so veiled by the
overhanging shadow that it was but like a darker piece of the darkness
shaped and breathed on; soft, mysterious, enticing.
A hush had fallen on the noisy terrace, as if all the strollers were
thinking secrets too precious to be spoken.
And Dartie thought: 'Women!'
The glow died above the river, the singing ceased; the young moon hid
behind a tree, and all was dark. He pressed himself against Irene.
He was not alarmed at the shuddering that ran through the limbs he
touched, or at the troubled, scornful look of her eyes. He felt her
trying to draw herself away, and smiled.
It must be confessed that the man of the world had drunk quite as much
as was good for him.
With thick lips parted under his well-curled moustaches, and his bold
eyes aslant upon her, he had the malicious look of a satyr.
Along the pathway of sky between the hedges of the tree tops the stars
clustered forth; like mortals beneath, they seemed to shift and swarm
and whisper. Then on the terrace the buzz broke out once more, and
Dartie thought: 'Ah! he's a poor, hungry-looking devil, that Bosinney!'
and again he pressed himself against Irene.
The movement deserved a better success. She rose, and they all followed
The man of the world was more than ever determined to see what she was
made of. Along the terrace he kept close at her elbow. He had within him
much good wine. There was the long drive home, the long drive and
the warm dark and the pleasant closeness of the hansom cab--with its
insulation from the world devised by some great and good man. That
hungry architect chap might drive with his wife--he wished him joy of
her! And, conscious that his voice was not too steady, he was careful
not to speak; but a smile had become fixed on his thick lips.
They strolled along toward the cabs awaiting them at the farther end.
His plan had the merit of all great plans, an almost brutal
simplicity--he would merely keep at her elbow till she got in, and get
in quickly after her.
But when Irene reached the cab she did not get in; she slipped, instead,
to the horse's head. Dartie was not at the moment sufficiently master
of his legs to follow. She stood stroking the horse's nose, and, to his
annoyance, Bosinney was at her side first. She turned and spoke to him
rapidly, in a low voice; the words 'That man' reached Dartie. He stood
stubbornly by the cab step, waiting for her to come back. He knew a
trick worth two of that!
Here, in the lamp-light, his figure (no more than medium height), well
squared in its white evening waistcoat, his light overcoat flung over
his arm, a pink flower in his button-hole, and on his dark face that
look of confident, good-humoured insolence, he was at his best--a
thorough man of the world.
Winifred was already in her cab. Dartie reflected that Bosinney would
have a poorish time in that cab if he didn't look sharp! Suddenly he
received a push which nearly overturned him in the road. Bosinney's
voice hissed in his ear: "I am taking Irene back; do you understand?" He
saw a face white with passion, and eyes that glared at him like a wild
"Eh?" he stammered. "What? Not a bit. You take my wife!"
"Get away!" hissed Bosinney--"or I'll throw you into the road!"
Dartie recoiled; he saw as plainly as possible that the fellow meant it.
In the space he made Irene had slipped by, her dress brushed his legs.
Bosinney stepped in after her.
"Go on!" he heard the Buccaneer cry. The cabman flicked his horse. It
Dartie stood for a moment dumbfounded; then, dashing at the cab where
his wife sat, he scrambled in.
"Drive on!" he shouted to the driver, "and don't you lose sight of that
fellow in front!"
Seated by his wife's side, he burst into imprecations. Calming himself
at last with a supreme effort, he added: "A pretty mess you've made of
it, to let the Buccaneer drive home with her; why on earth couldn't you
keep hold of him? He's mad with love; any fool can see that!"
He drowned Winifred's rejoinder with fresh calls to the Almighty; nor
was it until they reached Barnes that he ceased a Jeremiad, in the
course of which he had abused her, her father, her brother, Irene,
Bosinney, the name of Forsyte, his own children, and cursed the day when
he had ever married.
Winifred, a woman of strong character, let him have his say, at the end
of which he lapsed into sulky silence. His angry eyes never deserted
the back of that cab, which, like a lost chance, haunted the darkness in
front of him.
Fortunately he could not hear Bosinney's passionate pleading--that
pleading which the man of the world's conduct had let loose like a
flood; he could not see Irene shivering, as though some garment had
been torn from her, nor her eyes, black and mournful, like the eyes of a
beaten child. He could not hear Bosinney entreating, entreating, always
entreating; could not hear her sudden, soft weeping, nor see that poor,
hungry-looking devil, awed and trembling, humbly touching her hand.
In Montpellier Square their cabman, following his instructions to the
letter, faithfully drew up behind the cab in front. The Darties saw
Bosinney spring out, and Irene follow, and hasten up the steps with
bent head. She evidently had her key in her hand, for she disappeared
at once. It was impossible to tell whether she had turned to speak to
The latter came walking past their cab; both husband and wife had an
admirable view of his face in the light of a street lamp. It was working
with violent emotion.
"Good-night, Mr. Bosinney!" called Winifred.
Bosinney started, clawed off his hat, and hurried on. He had obviously
forgotten their existence.
"There!" said Dartie, "did you see the beast's face? What did I say?
Fine games!" He improved the occasion.
There had so clearly been a crisis in the cab that Winifred was unable
to defend her theory.
She said: "I shall say nothing about it. I don't see any use in making a
With that view Dartie at once concurred; looking upon James as a private
preserve, he disapproved of his being disturbed by the troubles of
"Quite right," he said; "let Soames look after himself. He's jolly well
Thus speaking, the Darties entered their habitat in Green Street, the
rent of which was paid by James, and sought a well-earned rest. The hour
was midnight, and no Forsytes remained abroad in the streets to spy out
Bosinney's wanderings; to see him return and stand against the rails
of the Square garden, back from the glow of the street lamp; to see him
stand there in the shadow of trees, watching the house where in the dark
was hidden she whom he would have given the world to see for a single
minute--she who was now to him the breath of the lime-trees, the meaning
of the light and the darkness, the very beating of his own heart.
CHAPTER X--DIAGNOSIS OF A FORSYTE
It is in the nature of a Forsyte to be ignorant that he is a Forsyte;
but young Jolyon was well aware of being one. He had not known it till
after the decisive step which had made him an outcast; since then the
knowledge had been with him continually. He felt it throughout his
alliance, throughout all his dealings with his second wife, who was
emphatically not a Forsyte.
He knew that if he had not possessed in great measure the eye for what
he wanted, the tenacity to hold on to it, the sense of the folly of
wasting that for which he had given so big a price--in other words,
the 'sense of property' he could never have retained her (perhaps never
would have desired to retain her) with him through all the financial
troubles, slights, and misconstructions of those fifteen years; never
have induced her to marry him on the death of his first wife; never have
lived it all through, and come up, as it were, thin, but smiling.
He was one of those men who, seated cross-legged like miniature Chinese
idols in the cages of their own hearts, are ever smiling at themselves a
doubting smile. Not that this smile, so intimate and eternal, interfered
with his actions, which, like his chin and his temperament, were quite a
peculiar blend of softness and determination.
He was conscious, too, of being a Forsyte in his work, that painting of
water-colours to which he devoted so much energy, always with an eye
on himself, as though he could not take so unpractical a pursuit quite
seriously, and always with a certain queer uneasiness that he did not
make more money at it.
It was, then, this consciousness of what it meant to be a Forsyte, that
made him receive the following letter from old Jolyon, with a mixture of
sympathy and disgust:
'July 1. 'MY DEAR JO,'
(The Dad's handwriting had altered very little in the thirty odd years
that he remembered it.)
'We have been here now a fortnight, and have had good weather on the
whole. The air is bracing, but my liver is out of order, and I shall be
glad enough to get back to town. I cannot say much for June, her health
and spirits are very indifferent, and I don't see what is to come of
it. She says nothing, but it is clear that she is harping on this
engagement, which is an engagement and no engagement, and--goodness
knows what. I have grave doubts whether she ought to be allowed
to return to London in the present state of affairs, but she is so
self-willed that she might take it into her head to come up at any
moment. The fact is someone ought to speak to Bosinney and ascertain
what he means. I'm afraid of this myself, for I should certainly rap
him over the knuckles, but I thought that you, knowing him at the Club,
might put in a word, and get to ascertain what the fellow is about. You
will of course in no way commit June. I shall be glad to hear from you
in the course of a few days whether you have succeeded in gaining any
information. The situation is very distressing to me, I worry about it
With my love to Jolly and Holly.
'Your affect. father,
Young Jolyon pondered this letter so long and seriously that his
wife noticed his preoccupation, and asked him what was the matter. He
It was a fixed principle with him never to allude to June. She
might take alarm, he did not know what she might think; he hastened,
therefore, to banish from his manner all traces of absorption, but in
this he was about as successful as his father would have been, for
he had inherited all old Jolyon's transparency in matters of domestic
finesse; and young Mrs. Jolyon, busying herself over the affairs of
the house, went about with tightened lips, stealing at him unfathomable
He started for the Club in the afternoon with the letter in his pocket,
and without having made up his mind.
To sound a man as to 'his intentions' was peculiarly unpleasant to him;
nor did his own anomalous position diminish this unpleasantness. It was
so like his family, so like all the people they knew and mixed with, to
enforce what they called their rights over a man, to bring him up to the
mark; so like them to carry their business principles into their private
And how that phrase in the letter--'You will, of course, in no way
commit June'--gave the whole thing away.
Yet the letter, with the personal grievance, the concern for June, the
'rap over the knuckles,' was all so natural. No wonder his father wanted
to know what Bosinney meant, no wonder he was angry.
It was difficult to refuse! But why give the thing to him to do? That
was surely quite unbecoming; but so long as a Forsyte got what he was
after, he was not too particular about the means, provided appearances
How should he set about it, or how refuse? Both seemed impossible. So,
He arrived at the Club at three o'clock, and the first person he saw was
Bosinney himself, seated in a corner, staring out of the window.
Young Jolyon sat down not far off, and began nervously to reconsider his
position. He looked covertly at Bosinney sitting there unconscious. He
did not know him very well, and studied him attentively for perhaps the
first time; an unusual looking man, unlike in dress, face, and manner
to most of the other members of the Club--young Jolyon himself, however
different he had become in mood and temper, had always retained the neat
reticence of Forsyte appearance. He alone among Forsytes was ignorant of
Bosinney's nickname. The man was unusual, not eccentric, but unusual;
he looked worn, too, haggard, hollow in the cheeks beneath those broad,
high cheekbones, though without any appearance of ill-health, for he was
strongly built, with curly hair that seemed to show all the vitality of
a fine constitution.
Something in his face and attitude touched young Jolyon. He knew what
suffering was like, and this man looked as if he were suffering.
He got up and touched his arm.
Bosinney started, but exhibited no sign of embarrassment on seeing who
Young Jolyon sat down.
"I haven't seen you for a long time," he said. "How are you getting on
with my cousin's house?"
"It'll be finished in about a week."
"I congratulate you!"
"Thanks--I don't know that it's much of a subject for congratulation."
"No?" queried young Jolyon; "I should have thought you'd be glad to get
a long job like that off your hands; but I suppose you feel it much as I
do when I part with a picture--a sort of child?"
He looked kindly at Bosinney.
"Yes," said the latter more cordially, "it goes out from you and there's
an end of it. I didn't know you painted."
"Only water-colours; I can't say I believe in my work."
"Don't believe in it? There--how can you do it? Work's no use unless you
believe in it!"
"Good," said young Jolyon; "it's exactly what I've always said.
By-the-bye, have you noticed that whenever one says 'Good,' one always
adds 'it's exactly what I've always said'! But if you ask me how I do
it, I answer, because I'm a Forsyte."
"A Forsyte! I never thought of you as one!"
"A Forsyte," replied young Jolyon, "is not an uncommon animal. There
are hundreds among the members of this Club. Hundreds out there in the
streets; you meet them wherever you go!"
"And how do you tell them, may I ask?" said Bosinney.
"By their sense of property. A Forsyte takes a practical--one might say
a commonsense--view of things, and a practical view of things is based
fundamentally on a sense of property. A Forsyte, you will notice, never
gives himself away."
Young Jolyon's eye twinkled.
"Not much. As a Forsyte myself, I have no business to talk. But I'm a
kind of thoroughbred mongrel; now, there's no mistaking you: You're
as different from me as I am from my Uncle James, who is the perfect
specimen of a Forsyte. His sense of property is extreme, while you have
practically none. Without me in between, you would seem like a different
species. I'm the missing link. We are, of course, all of us the slaves
of property, and I admit that it's a question of degree, but what I
call a 'Forsyte' is a man who is decidedly more than less a slave of
property. He knows a good thing, he knows a safe thing, and his grip
on property--it doesn't matter whether it be wives, houses, money, or
reputation--is his hall-mark."
"Ah!" murmured Bosinney. "You should patent the word."
"I should like," said young Jolyon, "to lecture on it:
"Properties and quality of a Forsyte: This little animal, disturbed
by the ridicule of his own sort, is unaffected in his motions by the
laughter of strange creatures (you or I). Hereditarily disposed to
myopia, he recognises only the persons of his own species, amongst which
he passes an existence of competitive tranquillity."
"You talk of them," said Bosinney, "as if they were half England."
"They are," repeated young Jolyon, "half England, and the better half,
too, the safe half, the three per cent. half, the half that counts. It's
their wealth and security that makes everything possible; makes your art
possible, makes literature, science, even religion, possible. Without
Forsytes, who believe in none of these things, and habitats but turn
them all to use, where should we be? My dear sir, the Forsytes are the
middlemen, the commercials, the pillars of society, the cornerstones of
convention; everything that is admirable!"
"I don't know whether I catch your drift," said Bosinney, "but I fancy
there are plenty of Forsytes, as you call them, in my profession."
"Certainly," replied young Jolyon. "The great majority of architects,
painters, or writers have no principles, like any other Forsytes. Art,
literature, religion, survive by virtue of the few cranks who really
believe in such things, and the many Forsytes who make a commercial use
of them. At a low estimate, three-fourths of our Royal Academicians
are Forsytes, seven-eighths of our novelists, a large proportion of the
press. Of science I can't speak; they are magnificently represented in
religion; in the House of Commons perhaps more numerous than anywhere;
the aristocracy speaks for itself. But I'm not laughing. It is dangerous
to go against the majority and what a majority!" He fixed his eyes on
Bosinney: "It's dangerous to let anything carry you away--a house, a
They looked at each other.--And, as though he had done that which no
Forsyte did--given himself away, young Jolyon drew into his shell.
Bosinney broke the silence.
"Why do you take your own people as the type?" said he.
"My people," replied young Jolyon, "are not very extreme, and they
have their own private peculiarities, like every other family, but they
possess in a remarkable degree those two qualities which are the real
tests of a Forsyte--the power of never being able to give yourself up to
anything soul and body, and the 'sense of property'."
Bosinney smiled: "How about the big one, for instance?"
"Do you mean Swithin?" asked young Jolyon. "Ah! in Swithin there's
something primeval still. The town and middle-class life haven't
digested him yet. All the old centuries of farm work and brute
force have settled in him, and there they've stuck, for all he's so
Bosinney seemed to ponder. "Well, you've hit your cousin Soames off to
the life," he said suddenly. "He'll never blow his brains out."
Young Jolyon shot at him a penetrating glance.
"No," he said; "he won't. That's why he's to be reckoned with. Look out
for their grip! It's easy to laugh, but don't mistake me. It doesn't do
to despise a Forsyte; it doesn't do to disregard them!"
"Yet you've done it yourself!"
Young Jolyon acknowledged the hit by losing his smile.
"You forget," he said with a queer pride, "I can hold on, too--I'm
a Forsyte myself. We're all in the path of great forces. The man who
leaves the shelter of the wall--well--you know what I mean. I don't,"
he ended very low, as though uttering a threat, "recommend every man
to-go-my-way. It depends."
The colour rushed into Bosinney's face, but soon receded, leaving it
sallow-brown as before. He gave a short laugh, that left his lips fixed
in a queer, fierce smile; his eyes mocked young Jolyon.
"Thanks," he said. "It's deuced kind of you. But you're not the only
chaps that can hold on." He rose.
Young Jolyon looked after him as he walked away, and, resting his head
on his hand, sighed.
In the drowsy, almost empty room the only sounds were the rustle of
newspapers, the scraping of matches being struck. He stayed a long time
without moving, living over again those days when he, too, had sat long
hours watching the clock, waiting for the minutes to pass--long hours
full of the torments of uncertainty, and of a fierce, sweet aching; and
the slow, delicious agony of that season came back to him with its
old poignancy. The sight of Bosinney, with his haggard face, and his
restless eyes always wandering to the clock, had roused in him a pity,
with which was mingled strange, irresistible envy.
He knew the signs so well. Whither was he going--to what sort of fate?
What kind of woman was it who was drawing him to her by that magnetic
force which no consideration of honour, no principle, no interest could
withstand; from which the only escape was flight.
Flight! But why should Bosinney fly? A man fled when he was in danger
of destroying hearth and home, when there were children, when he felt
himself trampling down ideals, breaking something. But here, so he had
heard, it was all broken to his hand.
He himself had not fled, nor would he fly if it were all to come over
again. Yet he had gone further than Bosinney, had broken up his own
unhappy home, not someone else's: And the old saying came back to him:
'A man's fate lies in his own heart.'
In his own heart! The proof of the pudding was in the eating--Bosinney
had still to eat his pudding.
His thoughts passed to the woman, the woman whom he did not know, but
the outline of whose story he had heard.
An unhappy marriage! No ill-treatment--only that indefinable malaise,
that terrible blight which killed all sweetness under Heaven; and so
from day to day, from night to night, from week to week, from year to
year, till death should end it.
But young Jolyon, the bitterness of whose own feelings time had
assuaged, saw Soames' side of the question too. Whence should a man like
his cousin, saturated with all the prejudices and beliefs of his class,
draw the insight or inspiration necessary to break up this life? It was
a question of imagination, of projecting himself into the future
beyond the unpleasant gossip, sneers, and tattle that followed on such
separations, beyond the passing pangs that the lack of the sight of her
would cause, beyond the grave disapproval of the worthy. But few men,
and especially few men of Soames' class, had imagination enough for
that. A deal of mortals in this world, and not enough imagination to go
round! And sweet Heaven, what a difference between theory and practice;
many a man, perhaps even Soames, held chivalrous views on such matters,
who when the shoe pinched found a distinguishing factor that made of
himself an exception.
Then, too, he distrusted his judgment. He had been through the
experience himself, had tasted too the dregs the bitterness of an
unhappy marriage, and how could he take the wide and dispassionate view
of those who had never been within sound of the battle? His evidence was
too first-hand--like the evidence on military matters of a soldier who
has been through much active service, against that of civilians who have
not suffered the disadvantage of seeing things too close. Most people
would consider such a marriage as that of Soames and Irene quite fairly
successful; he had money, she had beauty; it was a case for compromise.
There was no reason why they should not jog along, even if they hated
each other. It would not matter if they went their own ways a little so
long as the decencies were observed--the sanctity of the marriage tie,
of the common home, respected. Half the marriages of the upper classes
were conducted on these lines: Do not offend the susceptibilities of
Society; do not offend the susceptibilities of the Church. To avoid
offending these is worth the sacrifice of any private feelings. The
advantages of the stable home are visible, tangible, so many pieces of
property; there is no risk in the statu quo. To break up a home is at
the best a dangerous experiment, and selfish into the bargain.
This was the case for the defence, and young Jolyon sighed.
'The core of it all,' he thought, 'is property, but there are many
people who would not like it put that way. To them it is "the sanctity
of the marriage tie"; but the sanctity of the marriage tie is dependent
on the sanctity of the family, and the sanctity of the family is
dependent on the sanctity of property. And yet I imagine all these
people are followers of One who never owned anything. It is curious!
And again young Jolyon sighed.
'Am I going on my way home to ask any poor devils I meet to share my
dinner, which will then be too little for myself, or, at all events,
for my wife, who is necessary to my health and happiness? It may be that
after all Soames does well to exercise his rights and support by his
practice the sacred principle of property which benefits us all, with
the exception of those who suffer by the process.'
And so he left his chair, threaded his way through the maze of seats,
took his hat, and languidly up the hot streets crowded with carriages,
reeking with dusty odours, wended his way home.
Before reaching Wistaria Avenue he removed old Jolyon's letter from his
pocket, and tearing it carefully into tiny pieces, scattered them in the
dust of the road.
He let himself in with his key, and called his wife's name. But she had
gone out, taking Jolly and Holly, and the house was empty; alone in the
garden the dog Balthasar lay in the shade snapping at flies.
Young Jolyon took his seat there, too, under the pear-tree that bore no
CHAPTER XI--BOSINNEY ON PAROLE
The day after the evening at Richmond Soames returned from Henley by a
morning train. Not constitutionally interested in amphibious sports, his
visit had been one of business rather than pleasure, a client of some
importance having asked him down.
He went straight to the City, but finding things slack, he left at three
o'clock, glad of this chance to get home quietly. Irene did not expect
him. Not that he had any desire to spy on her actions, but there was no
harm in thus unexpectedly surveying the scene.
After changing to Park clothes he went into the drawing-room. She was
sitting idly in the corner of the sofa, her favourite seat; and there
were circles under her eyes, as though she had not slept.
He asked: "How is it you're in? Are you expecting somebody?"
"Yes that is, not particularly."
"Mr. Bosinney said he might come."
"Bosinney. He ought to be at work."
To this she made no answer.
"Well," said Soames, "I want you to come out to the Stores with me, and
after that we'll go to the Park."
"I don't want to go out; I have a headache."
Soames replied: "If ever I want you to do anything, you've always got a
headache. It'll do you good to come and sit under the trees."
She did not answer.
Soames was silent for some minutes; at last he said: "I don't know what
your idea of a wife's duty is. I never have known!"
He had not expected her to reply, but she did.
"I have tried to do what you want; it's not my fault that I haven't been
able to put my heart into it."
"Whose fault is it, then?" He watched her askance.
"Before we were married you promised to let me go if our marriage was
not a success. Is it a success?"
"Success," he stammered--"it would be a success if you behaved yourself
"I have tried," said Irene. "Will you let me go?"
Soames turned away. Secretly alarmed, he took refuge in bluster.
"Let you go? You don't know what you're talking about. Let you go? How
can I let you go? We're married, aren't we? Then, what are you talking
about? For God's sake, don't let's have any of this sort of nonsense!
Get your hat on, and come and sit in the Park."
"Then, you won't let me go?"
He felt her eyes resting on him with a strange, touching look.
"Let you go!" he said; "and what on earth would you do with yourself if
I did? You've got no money!"
"I could manage somehow."
He took a swift turn up and down the room; then came and stood before
"Understand," he said, "once and for all, I won't have you say this sort
of thing. Go and get your hat on!"
She did not move.
"I suppose," said Soames, "you don't want to miss Bosinney if he comes!"
Irene got up slowly and left the room. She came down with her hat on.
They went out.
In the Park, the motley hour of mid-afternoon, when foreigners and other
pathetic folk drive, thinking themselves to be in fashion, had passed;
the right, the proper, hour had come, was nearly gone, before Soames and
Irene seated themselves under the Achilles statue.
It was some time since he had enjoyed her company in the Park. That was
one of the past delights of the first two seasons of his married life,
when to feel himself the possessor of this gracious creature before all
London had been his greatest, though secret, pride. How many afternoons
had he not sat beside her, extremely neat, with light grey gloves and
faint, supercilious smile, nodding to acquaintances, and now and again
removing his hat.
His light grey gloves were still on his hands, and on his lips his smile
sardonic, but where the feeling in his heart?
The seats were emptying fast, but still he kept her there, silent and
pale, as though to work out a secret punishment. Once or twice he made
some comment, and she bent her head, or answered "Yes" with a tired
Along the rails a man was walking so fast that people stared after him
when he passed.
"Look at that ass!" said Soames; "he must be mad to walk like that in
He turned; Irene had made a rapid movement.
"Hallo!" he said: "it's our friend the Buccaneer!"
And he sat still, with his sneering smile, conscious that Irene was
sitting still, and smiling too.
"Will she bow to him?" he thought.
But she made no sign.
Bosinney reached the end of the rails, and came walking back amongst
the chairs, quartering his ground like a pointer. When he saw them he
stopped dead, and raised his hat.
The smile never left Soames' face; he also took off his hat.
Bosinney came up, looking exhausted, like a man after hard physical
exercise; the sweat stood in drops on his brow, and Soames' smile seemed
to say: "You've had a trying time, my friend.... What are "you" doing in
the Park?" he asked. "We thought you despised such frivolity!"
Bosinney did not seem to hear; he made his answer to Irene: "I've been
round to your place; I hoped I should find you in."
Somebody tapped Soames on the back, and spoke to him; and in the
exchange of those platitudes over his shoulder, he missed her answer,
and took a resolution.
"We're just going in," he said to Bosinney; "you'd better come back
to dinner with us." Into that invitation he put a strange bravado, a
stranger pathos: "You, can't deceive me," his look and voice seemed
saying, "but see--I trust you--I'm not afraid of you!"
They started back to Montpellier Square together, Irene between them. In
the crowded streets Soames went on in front. He did not listen to their
conversation; the strange resolution of trustfulness he had taken seemed
to animate even his secret conduct. Like a gambler, he said to himself:
'It's a card I dare not throw away--I must play it for what it's worth.
I have not too many chances.'
He dressed slowly, heard her leave her room and go downstairs, and, for
full five minutes after, dawdled about in his dressing-room. Then
he went down, purposely shutting the door loudly to show that he was
coming. He found them standing by the hearth, perhaps talking, perhaps
not; he could not say.
He played his part out in the farce, the long evening through--his
manner to his guest more friendly than it had ever been before; and when
at last Bosinney went, he said: "You must come again soon; Irene likes
to have you to talk about the house!" Again his voice had the strange
bravado and the stranger pathos; but his hand was cold as ice.
Loyal to his resolution, he turned away from their parting, turned
away from his wife as she stood under the hanging lamp to say
good-night--away from the sight of her golden head shining so under the
light, of her smiling mournful lips; away from the sight of Bosinney's
eyes looking at her, so like a dog's looking at its master.
And he went to bed with the certainty that Bosinney was in love with his
The summer night was hot, so hot and still that through every opened
window came in but hotter air. For long hours he lay listening to her
She could sleep, but he must lie awake. And, lying awake, he hardened
himself to play the part of the serene and trusting husband.
In the small hours he slipped out of bed, and passing into his
dressing-room, leaned by the open window.
He could hardly breathe.
A night four years ago came back to him--the night but one before his
marriage; as hot and stifling as this.
He remembered how he had lain in a long cane chair in the window of his
sitting-room off Victoria Street. Down below in a side street a man had
banged at a door, a woman had cried out; he remembered, as though it
were now, the sound of the scuffle, the slam of the door, the dead
silence that followed. And then the early water-cart, cleansing the
reek of the streets, had approached through the strange-seeming, useless
lamp-light; he seemed to hear again its rumble, nearer and nearer, till
it passed and slowly died away.
He leaned far out of the dressing-room window over the little court
below, and saw the first light spread. The outlines of dark walls and
roofs were blurred for a moment, then came out sharper than before.
He remembered how that other night he had watched the lamps paling all
the length of Victoria Street; how he had hurried on his clothes and
gone down into the street, down past houses and squares, to the street
where she was staying, and there had stood and looked at the front of
the little house, as still and grey as the face of a dead man.
And suddenly it shot through his mind; like a sick man's fancy: What's
he doing?--that fellow who haunts me, who was here this evening, who's
in love with my wife--prowling out there, perhaps, looking for her as I
know he was looking for her this afternoon; watching my house now, for
all I can tell!
He stole across the landing to the front of the house, stealthily drew
aside a blind, and raised a window.
The grey light clung about the trees of the square, as though Night,
like a great downy moth, had brushed them with her wings. The lamps
were still alight, all pale, but not a soul stirred--no living thing in
Yet suddenly, very faint, far off in the deathly stillness, he heard
a cry writhing, like the voice of some wandering soul barred out of
heaven, and crying for its happiness. There it was again--again! Soames
shut the window, shuddering.
Then he thought: 'Ah! it's only the peacocks, across the water.'
CHAPTER XII--JUNE PAYS SOME CALLS
Jolyon stood in the narrow hall at Broadstairs, inhaling that odour
of oilcloth and herrings which permeates all respectable seaside
lodging-houses. On a chair--a shiny leather chair, displaying its
horsehair through a hole in the top left-hand corner--stood a black
despatch case. This he was filling with papers, with the Times, and a
bottle of Eau-de Cologne. He had meetings that day of the 'Globular Gold
Concessions' and the 'New Colliery Company, Limited,' to which he was
going up, for he never missed a Board; to 'miss a Board' would be one
more piece of evidence that he was growing old, and this his jealous
Forsyte spirit could not bear.
His eyes, as he filled that black despatch case, looked as if at any
moment they might blaze up with anger. So gleams the eye of a schoolboy,
baited by a ring of his companions; but he controls himself, deterred by
the fearful odds against him. And old Jolyon controlled himself,
keeping down, with his masterful restraint now slowly wearing out, the
irritation fostered in him by the conditions of his life.
He had received from his son an unpractical letter, in which by rambling
generalities the boy seemed trying to get out of answering a plain
question. 'I've seen Bosinney,' he said; 'he is not a criminal. The
more I see of people the more I am convinced that they are never good or
bad--merely comic, or pathetic. You probably don't agree with me!'
Old Jolyon did not; he considered it cynical to so express oneself; he
had not yet reached that point of old age when even Forsytes, bereft of
those illusions and principles which they have cherished carefully
for practical purposes but never believed in, bereft of all corporeal
enjoyment, stricken to the very heart by having nothing left to hope
for--break through the barriers of reserve and say things they would
never have believed themselves capable of saying.
Perhaps he did not believe in 'goodness' and 'badness' any more than
his son; but as he would have said: He didn't know--couldn't tell;
there might be something in it; and why, by an unnecessary expression of
disbelief, deprive yourself of possible advantage?
Accustomed to spend his holidays among the mountains, though (like a
true Forsyte) he had never attempted anything too adventurous or too
foolhardy, he had been passionately fond of them. And when the wonderful
view (mentioned in Baedeker--'fatiguing but repaying')--was disclosed to
him after the effort of the climb, he had doubtless felt the existence
of some great, dignified principle crowning the chaotic strivings, the
petty precipices, and ironic little dark chasms of life. This was as
near to religion, perhaps, as his practical spirit had ever gone.
But it was many years since he had been to the mountains. He had taken
June there two seasons running, after his wife died, and had realized
bitterly that his walking days were over.
To that old mountain--given confidence in a supreme order of things he
had long been a stranger.
He knew himself to be old, yet he felt young; and this troubled him. It
troubled and puzzled him, too, to think that he, who had always been
so careful, should be father and grandfather to such as seemed born
to disaster. He had nothing to say against Jo--who could say anything
against the boy, an amiable chap?--but his position was deplorable, and
this business of June's nearly as bad. It seemed like a fatality, and
a fatality was one of those things no man of his character could either
understand or put up with.
In writing to his son he did not really hope that anything would come
of it. Since the ball at Roger's he had seen too clearly how the land
lay--he could put two and two together quicker than most men--and, with
the example of his own son before his eyes, knew better than any Forsyte
of them all that the pale flame singes men's wings whether they will or
In the days before June's engagement, when she and Mrs. Soames were
always together, he had seen enough of Irene to feel the spell she cast
over men. She was not a flirt, not even a coquette--words dear to the
heart of his generation, which loved to define things by a good, broad,
inadequate word--but she was dangerous. He could not say why. Tell him
of a quality innate in some women--a seductive power beyond their own
control! He would but answer: 'Humbug!' She was dangerous, and there was
an end of it. He wanted to close his eyes to that affair. If it was, it
was; he did not want to hear any more about it--he only wanted to save
June's position and her peace of mind. He still hoped she might once
more become a comfort to himself.
And so he had written. He got little enough out of the answer. As to
what young Jolyon had made of the interview, there was practically only
the queer sentence: 'I gather that he's in the stream.' The stream! What
stream? What was this new-fangled way of talking?
He sighed, and folded the last of the papers under the flap of the bag;
he knew well enough what was meant.
June came out of the dining-room, and helped him on with his summer
coat. From her costume, and the expression of her little resolute face,
he saw at once what was coming.
"I'm going with you," she said.
"Nonsense, my dear; I go straight into the City. I can't have you
"I must see old Mrs. Smeech."
"Oh, your precious 'lame ducks!" grumbled out old Jolyon. He did not
believe her excuse, but ceased his opposition. There was no doing
anything with that pertinacity of hers.
At Victoria he put her into the carriage which had been ordered for
himself--a characteristic action, for he had no petty selfishnesses.
"Now, don't you go tiring yourself, my darling," he said, and took a cab
on into the city.
June went first to a back-street in Paddington, where Mrs. Smeech,
her 'lame duck,' lived--an aged person, connected with the charring
interest; but after half an hour spent in hearing her habitually
lamentable recital, and dragooning her into temporary comfort, she went
on to Stanhope Gate. The great house was closed and dark.
She had decided to learn something at all costs. It was better to face
the worst, and have it over. And this was her plan: To go first to
Phil's aunt, Mrs. Baynes, and, failing information there, to Irene
herself. She had no clear notion of what she would gain by these visits.
At three o'clock she was in Lowndes Square. With a woman's instinct when
trouble is to be faced, she had put on her best frock, and went to the
battle with a glance as courageous as old Jolyon's itself. Her tremors
had passed into eagerness.
Mrs. Baynes, Bosinney's aunt (Louisa was her name), was in her kitchen
when June was announced, organizing the cook, for she was an excellent
housewife, and, as Baynes always said, there was 'a lot in a good
dinner.' He did his best work after dinner. It was Baynes who built that
remarkably fine row of tall crimson houses in Kensington which compete
with so many others for the title of 'the ugliest in London.'
On hearing June's name, she went hurriedly to her bedroom, and, taking
two large bracelets from a red morocco case in a locked drawer, put
them on her white wrists--for she possessed in a remarkable degree that
'sense of property,' which, as we know, is the touchstone of Forsyteism,
and the foundation of good morality.
Her figure, of medium height and broad build, with a tendency to
embonpoint, was reflected by the mirror of her whitewood wardrobe, in
a gown made under her own organization, of one of those half-tints,
reminiscent of the distempered walls of corridors in large hotels. She
raised her hands to her hair, which she wore a la Princesse de Galles,
and touched it here and there, settling it more firmly on her head, and
her eyes were full of an unconscious realism, as though she were looking
in the face one of life's sordid facts, and making the best of it. In
youth her cheeks had been of cream and roses, but they were mottled now
by middle-age, and again that hard, ugly directness came into her eyes
as she dabbed a powder-puff across her forehead. Putting the puff down,
she stood quite still before the glass, arranging a smile over her high,
important nose, her chin, (never large, and now growing smaller
with the increase of her neck), her thin-lipped, down-drooping mouth.
Quickly, not to lose the effect, she grasped her skirts strongly in both
hands, and went downstairs.
She had been hoping for this visit for some time past. Whispers had
reached her that things were not all right between her nephew and his
fiancee. Neither of them had been near her for weeks. She had asked Phil
to dinner many times; his invariable answer had been 'Too busy.'
Her instinct was alarmed, and the instinct in such matters of this
excellent woman was keen. She ought to have been a Forsyte; in young
Jolyon's sense of the word, she certainly had that privilege, and merits
description as such.
She had married off her three daughters in a way that people said was
beyond their deserts, for they had the professional plainness only to be
found, as a rule, among the female kind of the more legal callings. Her
name was upon the committees of numberless charities connected with
the Church-dances, theatricals, or bazaars--and she never lent her name
unless sure beforehand that everything had been thoroughly organized.
She believed, as she often said, in putting things on a commercial
basis; the proper function of the Church, of charity, indeed, of
everything, was to strengthen the fabric of 'Society.' Individual
action, therefore, she considered immoral. Organization was the only
thing, for by organization alone could you feel sure that you were
getting a return for your money. Organization--and again, organization!
And there is no doubt that she was what old Jolyon called her--"a 'dab'
at that"--he went further, he called her "a humbug."
The enterprises to which she lent her name were organized so admirably
that by the time the takings were handed over, they were indeed skim
milk divested of all cream of human kindness. But as she often justly
remarked, sentiment was to be deprecated. She was, in fact, a little
This great and good woman, so highly thought of in ecclesiastical
circles, was one of the principal priestesses in the temple of
Forsyteism, keeping alive day and night a sacred flame to the God of
Property, whose altar is inscribed with those inspiring words: 'Nothing
for nothing, and really remarkably little for sixpence.'
When she entered a room it was felt that something substantial had come
in, which was probably the reason of her popularity as a patroness.
People liked something substantial when they had paid money for it; and
they would look at her--surrounded by her staff in charity ballrooms,
with her high nose and her broad, square figure, attired in an uniform
covered with sequins--as though she were a general.
The only thing against her was that she had not a double name. She was a
power in upper middle-class society, with its hundred sets and circles,
all intersecting on the common battlefield of charity functions, and
on that battlefield brushing skirts so pleasantly with the skirts
of Society with the capital 'S.' She was a power in society with the
smaller 's,' that larger, more significant, and more powerful body,
where the commercially Christian institutions, maxims, and 'principle,'
which Mrs. Baynes embodied, were real life-blood, circulating freely,
real business currency, not merely the sterilized imitation that flowed
in the veins of smaller Society with the larger 'S.' People who knew her
felt her to be sound--a sound woman, who never gave herself away, nor
anything else, if she could possibly help it.
She had been on the worst sort of terms with Bosinney's father, who had
not infrequently made her the object of an unpardonable ridicule. She
alluded to him now that he was gone as her 'poor, dear, irreverend
She greeted June with the careful effusion of which she was a mistress,
a little afraid of her as far as a woman of her eminence in the
commercial and Christian world could be afraid--for so slight a girl
June had a great dignity, the fearlessness of her eyes gave her that.
And Mrs. Baynes, too, shrewdly recognized that behind the uncompromising
frankness of June's manner there was much of the Forsyte. If the girl
had been merely frank and courageous, Mrs. Baynes would have thought
her 'cranky,' and despised her; if she had been merely a Forsyte, like
Francie--let us say--she would have patronized her from sheer weight of
metal; but June, small though she was--Mrs. Baynes habitually admired
quantity--gave her an uneasy feeling; and she placed her in a chair
opposite the light.
There was another reason for her respect which Mrs. Baynes, too good a
churchwoman to be worldly, would have been the last to admit--she often
heard her husband describe old Jolyon as extremely well off, and was
biassed towards his granddaughter for the soundest of all reasons.
To-day she felt the emotion with which we read a novel describing a hero
and an inheritance, nervously anxious lest, by some frightful lapse of
the novelist, the young man should be left without it at the end.
Her manner was warm; she had never seen so clearly before how
distinguished and desirable a girl this was. She asked after old
Jolyon's health. A wonderful man for his age; so upright, and young
looking, and how old was he? Eighty-one! She would never have thought
it! They were at the sea! Very nice for them; she supposed June heard
from Phil every day? Her light grey eyes became more prominent as she
asked this question; but the girl met the glance without flinching.
"No," she said, "he never writes!"
Mrs. Baynes's eyes dropped; they had no intention of doing so, but they
did. They recovered immediately.
"Of course not. That's Phil all over--he was always like that!"
"Was he?" said June.
The brevity of the answer caused Mrs. Baynes's bright smile a moment's
hesitation; she disguised it by a quick movement, and spreading her
skirts afresh, said: "Why, my dear--he's quite the most harum-scarum
person; one never pays the slightest attention to what he does!"
The conviction came suddenly to June that she was wasting her time; even
were she to put a question point-blank, she would never get anything out
of this woman.
'Do you see him?' she asked, her face crimsoning.
The perspiration broke out on Mrs. Baynes' forehead beneath the powder.
"Oh, yes! I don't remember when he was here last--indeed, we haven't
seen much of him lately. He's so busy with your cousin's house; I'm
told it'll be finished directly. We must organize a little dinner to
celebrate the event; do come and stay the night with us!"
"Thank you," said June. Again she thought: 'I'm only wasting my time.
This woman will tell me nothing.'
She got up to go. A change came over Mrs. Baynes. She rose too; her lips
twitched, she fidgeted her hands. Something was evidently very wrong,
and she did not dare to ask this girl, who stood there, a slim, straight
little figure, with her decided face, her set jaw, and resentful
eyes. She was not accustomed to be afraid of asking questions--all
organization was based on the asking of questions!
But the issue was so grave that her nerve, normally strong, was fairly
shaken; only that morning her husband had said: "Old Mr. Forsyte must be
worth well over a hundred thousand pounds!"
And this girl stood there, holding out her hand--holding out her hand!
The chance might be slipping away--she couldn't tell--the chance of
keeping her in the family, and yet she dared not speak.
Her eyes followed June to the door.
Then with an exclamation Mrs. Baynes ran forward, wobbling her bulky
frame from side to side, and opened it again.
Too late! She heard the front door click, and stood still, an expression
of real anger and mortification on her face.
June went along the Square with her bird-like quickness. She detested
that woman now whom in happier days she had been accustomed to think
so kind. Was she always to be put off thus, and forced to undergo this
She would go to Phil himself, and ask him what he meant. She had the
right to know. She hurried on down Sloane Street till she came to
Bosinney's number. Passing the swing-door at the bottom, she ran up the
stairs, her heart thumping painfully.
At the top of the third flight she paused for breath, and holding on to
the bannisters, stood listening. No sound came from above.
With a very white face she mounted the last flight. She saw the door,
with his name on the plate. And the resolution that had brought her so
The full meaning of her conduct came to her. She felt hot all over;
the palms of her hands were moist beneath the thin silk covering of her
She drew back to the stairs, but did not descend. Leaning against the
rail she tried to get rid of a feeling of being choked; and she gazed
at the door with a sort of dreadful courage. No! she refused to go down.
Did it matter what people thought of her? They would never know! No one
would help her if she did not help herself! She would go through with
Forcing herself, therefore, to leave the support of the wall, she rang
the bell. The door did not open, and all her shame and fear suddenly
abandoned her; she rang again and again, as though in spite of its
emptiness she could drag some response out of that closed room, some
recompense for the shame and fear that visit had cost her. It did not
open; she left off ringing, and, sitting down at the top of the stairs,
buried her face in her hands.
Presently she stole down, out into the air. She felt as though she had
passed through a bad illness, and had no desire now but to get home as
quickly as she could. The people she met seemed to know where she had
been, what she had been doing; and suddenly--over on the opposite side,
going towards his rooms from the direction of Montpellier Square--she
saw Bosinney himself.
She made a movement to cross into the traffic. Their eyes met, and he
raised his hat. An omnibus passed, obscuring her view; then, from the
edge of the pavement, through a gap in the traffic, she saw him walking
And June stood motionless, looking after him.
CHAPTER XIII--PERFECTION OF THE HOUSE
'One mockturtle, clear; one oxtail; two glasses of port.'
In the upper room at French's, where a Forsyte could still get heavy
English food, James and his son were sitting down to lunch.
Of all eating-places James liked best to come here; there was something
unpretentious, well-flavoured, and filling about it, and though he
had been to a certain extent corrupted by the necessity for being
fashionable, and the trend of habits keeping pace with an income that
would increase, he still hankered in quiet City moments after the tasty
fleshpots of his earlier days. Here you were served by hairy English
waiters in aprons; there was sawdust on the floor, and three round
gilt looking-glasses hung just above the line of sight. They had only
recently done away with the cubicles, too, in which you could have your
chop, prime chump, with a floury-potato, without seeing your neighbours,
like a gentleman.
He tucked the top corner of his napkin behind the third button of his
waistcoat, a practice he had been obliged to abandon years ago in the
West End. He felt that he should relish his soup--the entire morning had
been given to winding up the estate of an old friend.
After filling his mouth with household bread, stale, he at once began:
"How are you going down to Robin Hill? You going to take Irene? You'd
better take her. I should think there'll be a lot that'll want seeing
Without looking up, Soames answered: "She won't go."
"Won't go? What's the meaning of that? She's going to live in the house,
Soames made no reply.
"I don't know what's coming to women nowadays," mumbled James; "I never
used to have any trouble with them. She's had too much liberty. She's
Soames lifted his eyes: "I won't have anything said against her," he
The silence was only broken now by the supping of James's soup.
The waiter brought the two glasses of port, but Soames stopped him.
"That's not the way to serve port," he said; "take them away, and bring
Rousing himself from his reverie over the soup, James took one of his
rapid shifting surveys of surrounding facts.
"Your mother's in bed," he said; "you can have the carriage to take you
down. I should think Irene'd like the drive. This young Bosinney'll be
there, I suppose, to show you over."
"I should like to go and see for myself what sort of a job he's made
finishing off," pursued James. "I'll just drive round and pick you both
"I am going down by train," replied Soames. "If you like to drive round
and see, Irene might go with you, I can't tell."
He signed to the waiter to bring the bill, which James paid.
They parted at St. Paul's, Soames branching off to the station, James
taking his omnibus westwards.
He had secured the corner seat next the conductor, where his long legs
made it difficult for anyone to get in, and at all who passed him he
looked resentfully, as if they had no business to be using up his air.
He intended to take an opportunity this afternoon of speaking to Irene.
A word in time saved nine; and now that she was going to live in the
country there was a chance for her to turn over a new leaf! He could see
that Soames wouldn't stand very much more of her goings on!
It did not occur to him to define what he meant by her 'goings on'; the
expression was wide, vague, and suited to a Forsyte. And James had more
than his common share of courage after lunch.
On reaching home, he ordered out the barouche, with special instructions
that the groom was to go too. He wished to be kind to her, and to give
her every chance.
When the door of No.62 was opened he could distinctly hear her singing,
and said so at once, to prevent any chance of being denied entrance.
Yes, Mrs. Soames was in, but the maid did not know if she was seeing
James, moving with the rapidity that ever astonished the observers
of his long figure and absorbed expression, went forthwith into the
drawing-room without permitting this to be ascertained. He found Irene
seated at the piano with her hands arrested on the keys, evidently
listening to the voices in the hall. She greeted him without smiling.
"Your mother-in-law's in bed," he began, hoping at once to enlist her
sympathy. "I've got the carriage here. Now, be a good girl, and put on
your hat and come with me for a drive. It'll do you good!"
Irene looked at him as though about to refuse, but, seeming to change
her mind, went upstairs, and came down again with her hat on.
"Where are you going to take me?" she asked.
"We'll just go down to Robin Hill," said James, spluttering out his
words very quick; "the horses want exercise, and I should like to see
what they've been doing down there."
Irene hung back, but again changed her mind, and went out to the
carriage, James brooding over her closely, to make quite sure.
It was not before he had got her more than half way that he began:
"Soames is very fond of you--he won't have anything said against you;
why don't you show him more affection?"
Irene flushed, and said in a low voice: "I can't show what I haven't
James looked at her sharply; he felt that now he had her in his own
carriage, with his own horses and servants, he was really in command of
the situation. She could not put him off; nor would she make a scene in
"I can't think what you're about," he said. "He's a very good husband!"
Irene's answer was so low as to be almost inaudible among the sounds of
traffic. He caught the words: "You are not married to him!"
"What's that got to do with it? He's given you everything you want. He's
always ready to take you anywhere, and now he's built you this house in
the country. It's not as if you had anything of your own."
Again James looked at her; he could not make out the expression on her
face. She looked almost as if she were going to cry, and yet....
"I'm sure," he muttered hastily, "we've all tried to be kind to you."
Irene's lips quivered; to his dismay James saw a tear steal down her
cheek. He felt a choke rise in his own throat.
"We're all fond of you," he said, "if you'd only"--he was going to say,
"behave yourself," but changed it to--"if you'd only be more of a wife
Irene did not answer, and James, too, ceased speaking. There was
something in her silence which disconcerted him; it was not the silence
of obstinacy, rather that of acquiescence in all that he could find to
say. And yet he felt as if he had not had the last word. He could not
He was unable, however, to long keep silence.
"I suppose that young Bosinney," he said, "will be getting married to
Irene's face changed. "I don't know," she said; "you should ask her."
"Does she write to you?"
"How's that?" said James. "I thought you and she were such great
Irene turned on him. "Again," she said, "you should ask her!"
"Well," flustered James, frightened by her look, "it's very odd that I
can't get a plain answer to a plain question, but there it is."
He sat ruminating over his rebuff, and burst out at last:
"Well, I've warned you. You won't look ahead. Soames he doesn't say
much, but I can see he won't stand a great deal more of this sort of
thing. You'll have nobody but yourself to blame, and, what's more,
you'll get no sympathy from anybody."
Irene bent her head with a little smiling bow. "I am very much obliged
James did not know what on earth to answer.
The bright hot morning had changed slowly to a grey, oppressive
afternoon; a heavy bank of clouds, with the yellow tinge of coming
thunder, had risen in the south, and was creeping up.
The branches of the trees dropped motionless across the road without the
smallest stir of foliage. A faint odour of glue from the heated horses
clung in the thick air; the coachman and groom, rigid and unbending,
exchanged stealthy murmurs on the box, without ever turning their heads.
To James' great relief they reached the house at last; the silence and
impenetrability of this woman by his side, whom he had always thought so
soft and mild, alarmed him.
The carriage put them down at the door, and they entered.
The hall was cool, and so still that it was like passing into a tomb;
a shudder ran down James's spine. He quickly lifted the heavy leather
curtains between the columns into the inner court.
He could not restrain an exclamation of approval.
The decoration was really in excellent taste. The dull ruby tiles that
extended from the foot of the walls to the verge of a circular clump
of tall iris plants, surrounding in turn a sunken basin of white marble
filled with water, were obviously of the best quality. He admired
extremely the purple leather curtains drawn along one entire side,
framing a huge white-tiled stove. The central partitions of the skylight
had been slid back, and the warm air from outside penetrated into the
very heart of the house.
He stood, his hands behind him, his head bent back on his high, narrow
shoulders, spying the tracery on the columns and the pattern of the
frieze which ran round the ivory-coloured walls under the gallery.
Evidently, no pains had been spared. It was quite the house of a
gentleman. He went up to the curtains, and, having discovered how they
were worked, drew them asunder and disclosed the picture-gallery, ending
in a great window taking up the whole end of the room. It had a black
oak floor, and its walls, again, were of ivory white. He went on
throwing open doors, and peeping in. Everything was in apple-pie order,
ready for immediate occupation.
He turned round at last to speak to Irene, and saw her standing over in
the garden entrance, with her husband and Bosinney.
Though not remarkable for sensibility, James felt at once that something
was wrong. He went up to them, and, vaguely alarmed, ignorant of the
nature of the trouble, made an attempt to smooth things over.
"How are you, Mr. Bosinney?" he said, holding out his hand. "You've been
spending money pretty freely down here, I should say!"
Soames turned his back, and walked away.
James looked from Bosinney's frowning face to Irene, and, in his
agitation, spoke his thoughts aloud: "Well, I can't tell what's the
matter. Nobody tells me anything!" And, making off after his son, he
heard Bosinney's short laugh, and his "Well, thank God! You look so...."
Most unfortunately he lost the rest.
What had happened? He glanced back. Irene was very close to the
architect, and her face not like the face he knew of her. He hastened up
to his son.
Soames was pacing the picture-gallery.
"What's the matter?" said James. "What's all this?"
Soames looked at him with his supercilious calm unbroken, but James knew
well enough that he was violently angry.
"Our friend," he said, "has exceeded his instructions again, that's all.
So much the worse for him this time."
He turned round and walked back towards the door. James followed
hurriedly, edging himself in front. He saw Irene take her finger from
before her lips, heard her say something in her ordinary voice, and
began to speak before he reached them.
"There's a storm coming on. We'd better get home. We can't take you, I
suppose, Mr. Bosinney? No, I suppose not. Then, good-bye!" He held out
his hand. Bosinney did not take it, but, turning with a laugh, said:
"Good-bye, Mr. Forsyte. Don't get caught in the storm!" and walked away.
"Well," began James, "I don't know...."
But the sight of Irene's face stopped him. Taking hold of his
daughter-in-law by the elbow, he escorted her towards the carriage. He
felt certain, quite certain, they had been making some appointment or
Nothing in this world is more sure to upset a Forsyte than the discovery
that something on which he has stipulated to spend a certain sum
has cost more. And this is reasonable, for upon the accuracy of his
estimates the whole policy of his life is ordered. If he cannot rely
on definite values of property, his compass is amiss; he is adrift upon
bitter waters without a helm.
After writing to Bosinney in the terms that have already been
chronicled, Soames had dismissed the cost of the house from his mind.
He believed that he had made the matter of the final cost so very
plain that the possibility of its being again exceeded had really never
entered his head. On hearing from Bosinney that his limit of twelve
thousand pounds would be exceeded by something like four hundred, he had
grown white with anger. His original estimate of the cost of the house
completed had been ten thousand pounds, and he had often blamed himself
severely for allowing himself to be led into repeated excesses. Over
this last expenditure, however, Bosinney had put himself completely
in the wrong. How on earth a fellow could make such an ass of himself
Soames could not conceive; but he had done so, and all the rancour and
hidden jealousy that had been burning against him for so long was now
focussed in rage at this crowning piece of extravagance. The attitude of
the confident and friendly husband was gone. To preserve property--his
wife--he had assumed it, to preserve property of another kind he lost it
"Ah!" he had said to Bosinney when he could speak, "and I suppose you're
perfectly contented with yourself. But I may as well tell you that
you've altogether mistaken your man!"
What he meant by those words he did not quite know at the time, but
after dinner he looked up the correspondence between himself and
Bosinney to make quite sure. There could be no two opinions about
it--the fellow had made himself liable for that extra four hundred, or,
at all events, for three hundred and fifty of it, and he would have to
make it good.
He was looking at his wife's face when he came to this conclusion.
Seated in her usual seat on the sofa, she was altering the lace on a
collar. She had not once spoken to him all the evening.
He went up to the mantelpiece, and contemplating his face in the mirror
said: "Your friend the Buccaneer has made a fool of himself; he will
have to pay for it!"
She looked at him scornfully, and answered: "I don't know what you are
"You soon will. A mere trifle, quite beneath your contempt--four hundred
"Do you mean that you are going to make him pay that towards this
"And you know he's got nothing?"
"Then you are meaner than I thought you."
Soames turned from the mirror, and unconsciously taking a china cup from
the mantelpiece, clasped his hands around it as though praying. He saw
her bosom rise and fall, her eyes darkening with anger, and taking no
notice of the taunt, he asked quietly:
"Are you carrying on a flirtation with Bosinney?"
"No, I am not!"
Her eyes met his, and he looked away. He neither believed nor
disbelieved her, but he knew that he had made a mistake in asking; he
never had known, never would know, what she was thinking. The sight of
her inscrutable face, the thought of all the hundreds of evenings he
had seen her sitting there like that soft and passive, but unreadable,
unknown, enraged him beyond measure.
"I believe you are made of stone," he said, clenching his fingers so
hard that he broke the fragile cup. The pieces fell into the grate. And
"You seem to forget," she said, "that cup is not!"
Soames gripped her arm. "A good beating," he said, "is the only thing
that would bring you to your senses," but turning on his heel, he left
CHAPTER XIV--SOAMES SITS ON THE STAIRS
Soames went up-stairs that night with the feeling that he had gone too
far. He was prepared to offer excuses for his words.
He turned out the gas still burning in the passage outside their room.
Pausing, with his hand on the knob of the door, he tried to shape his
apology, for he had no intention of letting her see that he was nervous.
But the door did not open, nor when he pulled it and turned the handle
firmly. She must have locked it for some reason, and forgotten.
Entering his dressing-room, where the gas was also lighted and burning
low, he went quickly to the other door. That too was locked. Then he
noticed that the camp bed which he occasionally used was prepared, and
his sleeping-suit laid out upon it. He put his hand up to his forehead,
and brought it away wet. It dawned on him that he was barred out.
He went back to the door, and rattling the handle stealthily, called:
"Unlock the door, do you hear? Unlock the door!"
There was a faint rustling, but no answer.
"Do you hear? Let me in at once--I insist on being let in!"
He could catch the sound of her breathing close to the door, like the
breathing of a creature threatened by danger.
There was something terrifying in this inexorable silence, in the
impossibility of getting at her. He went back to the other door, and
putting his whole weight against it, tried to burst it open. The door
was a new one--he had had them renewed himself, in readiness for their
coming in after the honeymoon. In a rage he lifted his foot to kick
in the panel; the thought of the servants restrained him, and he felt
suddenly that he was beaten.
Flinging himself down in the dressing-room, he took up a book.
But instead of the print he seemed to see his wife--with her yellow hair
flowing over her bare shoulders, and her great dark eyes--standing like
an animal at bay. And the whole meaning of her act of revolt came to
him. She meant it to be for good.
He could not sit still, and went to the door again. He could still hear
her, and he called: "Irene! Irene!"
He did not mean to make his voice pathetic.
In ominous answer, the faint sounds ceased. He stood with clenched
Presently he stole round on tiptoe, and running suddenly at the other
door, made a supreme effort to break it open. It creaked, but did not
yield. He sat down on the stairs and buried his face in his hands.
For a long time he sat there in the dark, the moon through the skylight
above laying a pale smear which lengthened slowly towards him down the
stairway. He tried to be philosophical.
Since she had locked her doors she had no further claim as a wife, and
he would console himself with other women.
It was but a spectral journey he made among such delights--he had no
appetite for these exploits. He had never had much, and he had lost the
habit. He felt that he could never recover it. His hunger could only
be appeased by his wife, inexorable and frightened, behind these shut
doors. No other woman could help him.
This conviction came to him with terrible force out there in the dark.
His philosophy left him; and surly anger took its place. Her conduct
was immoral, inexcusable, worthy of any punishment within his power. He
desired no one but her, and she refused him!
She must really hate him, then! He had never believed it yet. He did not
believe it now. It seemed to him incredible. He felt as though he had
lost for ever his power of judgment. If she, so soft and yielding as
he had always judged her, could take this decided step--what could not
Then he asked himself again if she were carrying on an intrigue with
Bosinney. He did not believe that she was; he could not afford to
believe such a reason for her conduct--the thought was not to be faced.
It would be unbearable to contemplate the necessity of making his
marital relations public property. Short of the most convincing proofs
he must still refuse to believe, for he did not wish to punish himself.
And all the time at heart--he did believe.
The moonlight cast a greyish tinge over his figure, hunched against the
Bosinney was in love with her! He hated the fellow, and would not spare
him now. He could and would refuse to pay a penny piece over
twelve thousand and fifty pounds--the extreme limit fixed in the
correspondence; or rather he would pay, he would pay and sue him for
damages. He would go to Jobling and Boulter and put the matter in their
hands. He would ruin the impecunious beggar! And suddenly--though what
connection between the thoughts?--he reflected that Irene had no money
either. They were both beggars. This gave him a strange satisfaction.
The silence was broken by a faint creaking through the wall. She was
going to bed at last. Ah! Joy and pleasant dreams! If she threw the door
open wide he would not go in now!
But his lips, that were twisted in a bitter smile, twitched; he covered
his eyes with his hands....
It was late the following afternoon when Soames stood in the dining-room
window gazing gloomily into the Square.
The sunlight still showered on the plane-trees, and in the breeze their
gay broad leaves shone and swung in rhyme to a barrel organ at the
corner. It was playing a waltz, an old waltz that was out of fashion,
with a fateful rhythm in the notes; and it went on and on, though
nothing indeed but leaves danced to the tune.
The woman did not look too gay, for she was tired; and from the tall
houses no one threw her down coppers. She moved the organ on, and three
doors off began again.
It was the waltz they had played at Roger's when Irene had danced with
Bosinney; and the perfume of the gardenias she had worn came back to
Soames, drifted by the malicious music, as it had been drifted to him
then, when she passed, her hair glistening, her eyes so soft, drawing
Bosinney on and on down an endless ballroom.
The organ woman plied her handle slowly; she had been grinding her tune
all day-grinding it in Sloane Street hard by, grinding it perhaps to
Soames turned, took a cigarette from the carven box, and walked back to
the window. The tune had mesmerized him, and there came into his view
Irene, her sunshade furled, hastening homewards down the Square, in a
soft, rose-coloured blouse with drooping sleeves, that he did not know.
She stopped before the organ, took out her purse, and gave the woman
Soames shrank back and stood where he could see into the hall.
She came in with her latch-key, put down her sunshade, and stood looking
at herself in the glass. Her cheeks were flushed as if the sun had
burned them; her lips were parted in a smile. She stretched her arms out
as though to embrace herself, with a laugh that for all the world was
like a sob.
Soames stepped forward.
"Very-pretty!" he said.
But as though shot she spun round, and would have passed him up the
stairs. He barred the way.
"Why such a hurry?" he said, and his eyes fastened on a curl of hair
fallen loose across her ear....
He hardly recognised her. She seemed on fire, so deep and rich the
colour of her cheeks, her eyes, her lips, and of the unusual blouse she
She put up her hand and smoothed back the curl. She was breathing fast
and deep, as though she had been running, and with every breath perfume
seemed to come from her hair, and from her body, like perfume from an
"I don't like that blouse," he said slowly, "it's a soft, shapeless
He lifted his finger towards her breast, but she dashed his hand aside.
"Don't touch me!" she cried.
He caught her wrist; she wrenched it away.
"And where may you have been?" he asked.
"In heaven--out of this house!" With those words she fled upstairs.
Outside--in thanksgiving--at the very door, the organ-grinder was
playing the waltz.
And Soames stood motionless. What prevented him from following her?
Was it that, with the eyes of faith, he saw Bosinney looking down from
that high window in Sloane Street, straining his eyes for yet another
glimpse of Irene's vanished figure, cooling his flushed face, dreaming
of the moment when she flung herself on his breast--the scent of her
still in the air around, and the sound of her laugh that was like a sob?
CHAPTER I--MRS. MACANDER'S EVIDENCE
Many people, no doubt, including the editor of the 'Ultra
Vivisectionist,' then in the bloom of its first youth, would say that
Soames was less than a man not to have removed the locks from his wife's
doors, and, after beating her soundly, resumed wedded happiness.
Brutality is not so deplorably diluted by humaneness as it used to be,
yet a sentimental segment of the population may still be relieved to
learn that he did none of these things. For active brutality is not
popular with Forsytes; they are too circumspect, and, on the whole, too
softhearted. And in Soames there was some common pride, not sufficient
to make him do a really generous action, but enough to prevent his
indulging in an extremely mean one, except, perhaps, in very hot blood.
Above all this a true Forsyte refused to feel himself ridiculous.
Short of actually beating his wife, he perceived nothing to be done; he
therefore accepted the situation without another word.
Throughout the summer and autumn he continued to go to the office, to
sort his pictures, and ask his friends to dinner.
He did not leave town; Irene refused to go away. The house at Robin
Hill, finished though it was, remained empty and ownerless. Soames had
brought a suit against the Buccaneer, in which he claimed from him the
sum of three hundred and fifty pounds.
A firm of solicitors, Messrs. Freak and Able, had put in a defence
on Bosinney's behalf. Admitting the facts, they raised a point on the
correspondence which, divested of legal phraseology, amounted to this:
To speak of 'a free hand in the terms of this correspondence' is an
By a chance, fortuitous but not improbable in the close borough of legal
circles, a good deal of information came to Soames' ear anent this line
of policy, the working partner in his firm, Bustard, happening to sit
next at dinner at Walmisley's, the Taxing Master, to young Chankery, of
the Common Law Bar.
The necessity for talking what is known as 'shop,' which comes on all
lawyers with the removal of the ladies, caused Chankery, a young
and promising advocate, to propound an impersonal conundrum to his
neighbour, whose name he did not know, for, seated as he permanently was
in the background, Bustard had practically no name.
He had, said Chankery, a case coming on with a 'very nice point.' He
then explained, preserving every professional discretion, the riddle
in Soames' case. Everyone, he said, to whom he had spoken, thought it
a nice point. The issue was small unfortunately, 'though d----d
serious for his client he believed'--Walmisley's champagne was bad
but plentiful. A Judge would make short work of it, he was afraid. He
intended to make a big effort--the point was a nice one. What did his
Bustard, a model of secrecy, said nothing. He related the incident to
Soames however with some malice, for this quiet man was capable of human
feeling, ending with his own opinion that the point was 'a very nice
In accordance with his resolve, our Forsyte had put his interests
into the hands of Jobling and Boulter. From the moment of doing so he
regretted that he had not acted for himself. On receiving a copy of
Bosinney's defence he went over to their offices.
Boulter, who had the matter in hand, Jobling having died some years
before, told him that in his opinion it was rather a nice point; he
would like counsel's opinion on it.
Soames told him to go to a good man, and they went to Waterbuck, Q.C.,
marking him ten and one, who kept the papers six weeks and then wrote as
'In my opinion the true interpretation of this correspondence depends
very much on the intention of the parties, and will turn upon the
evidence given at the trial. I am of opinion that an attempt should be
made to secure from the architect an admission that he understood he was
not to spend at the outside more than twelve thousand and fifty pounds.
With regard to the expression, "a free hand in the terms of this
correspondence," to which my attention is directed, the point is a nice
one; but I am of opinion that upon the whole the ruling in "Boileau v.
The Blasted Cement Co., Ltd.," will apply.'
Upon this opinion they acted, administering interrogatories, but to
their annoyance Messrs. Freak and Able answered these in so masterly a
fashion that nothing whatever was admitted and that without prejudice.
It was on October 1 that Soames read Waterbuck's opinion, in the
dining-room before dinner.
It made him nervous; not so much because of the case of 'Boileau v. The
Blasted Cement Co., Ltd.,' as that the point had lately begun to seem to
him, too, a nice one; there was about it just that pleasant flavour
of subtlety so attractive to the best legal appetites. To have his own
impression confirmed by Waterbuck, Q.C., would have disturbed any man.
He sat thinking it over, and staring at the empty grate, for though
autumn had come, the weather kept as gloriously fine that jubilee year
as if it were still high August. It was not pleasant to be disturbed; he
desired too passionately to set his foot on Bosinney's neck.
Though he had not seen the architect since the last afternoon at Robin
Hill, he was never free from the sense of his presence--never free from
the memory of his worn face with its high cheek bones and enthusiastic
eyes. It would not be too much to say that he had never got rid of
the feeling of that night when he heard the peacock's cry at dawn--the
feeling that Bosinney haunted the house. And every man's shape that he
saw in the dark evenings walking past, seemed that of him whom George
had so appropriately named the Buccaneer.
Irene still met him, he was certain; where, or how, he neither knew, nor
asked; deterred by a vague and secret dread of too much knowledge. It
all seemed subterranean nowadays.
Sometimes when he questioned his wife as to where she had been, which
he still made a point of doing, as every Forsyte should, she looked very
strange. Her self-possession was wonderful, but there were moments when,
behind the mask of her face, inscrutable as it had always been to him,
lurked an expression he had never been used to see there.
She had taken to lunching out too; when he asked Bilson if her mistress
had been in to lunch, as often as not she would answer: "No, sir."
He strongly disapproved of her gadding about by herself, and told her
so. But she took no notice. There was something that angered, amazed,
yet almost amused him about the calm way in which she disregarded his
wishes. It was really as if she were hugging to herself the thought of a
triumph over him.
He rose from the perusal of Waterbuck, Q.C.'s opinion, and, going
upstairs, entered her room, for she did not lock her doors till
bed-time--she had the decency, he found, to save the feelings of the
servants. She was brushing her hair, and turned to him with strange
"What do you want?" she said. "Please leave my room!"
He answered: "I want to know how long this state of things between us is
to last? I have put up with it long enough."
"Will you please leave my room?"
"Will you treat me as your husband?"
"Then, I shall take steps to make you."
He stared, amazed at the calmness of her answer. Her lips were
compressed in a thin line; her hair lay in fluffy masses on her bare
shoulders, in all its strange golden contrast to her dark eyes--those
eyes alive with the emotions of fear, hate, contempt, and odd, haunting
"Now, please, will you leave my room?" He turned round, and went sulkily
He knew very well that he had no intention of taking steps, and he saw
that she knew too--knew that he was afraid to.
It was a habit with him to tell her the doings of his day: how such and
such clients had called; how he had arranged a mortgage for Parkes;
how that long-standing suit of Fryer v. Forsyte was getting on, which,
arising in the preternaturally careful disposition of his property by
his great uncle Nicholas, who had tied it up so that no one could get
at it at all, seemed likely to remain a source of income for several
solicitors till the Day of Judgment.
And how he had called in at Jobson's, and seen a Boucher sold, which he
had just missed buying of Talleyrand and Sons in Pall Mall.
He had an admiration for Boucher, Watteau, and all that school. It was a
habit with him to tell her all these matters, and he continued to do it
even now, talking for long spells at dinner, as though by the volubility
of words he could conceal from himself the ache in his heart.
Often, if they were alone, he made an attempt to kiss her when she said
good-night. He may have had some vague notion that some night she would
let him; or perhaps only the feeling that a husband ought to kiss his
wife. Even if she hated him, he at all events ought not to put himself
in the wrong by neglecting this ancient rite.
And why did she hate him? Even now he could not altogether believe it.
It was strange to be hated!--the emotion was too extreme; yet he hated
Bosinney, that Buccaneer, that prowling vagabond, that night-wanderer.
For in his thoughts Soames always saw him lying in wait--wandering. Ah,
but he must be in very low water! Young Burkitt, the architect, had seen
him coming out of a third-rate restaurant, looking terribly down in the
During all the hours he lay awake, thinking over the situation,
which seemed to have no end--unless she should suddenly come to her
senses--never once did the thought of separating from his wife seriously
enter his head....
And the Forsytes! What part did they play in this stage of Soames'
Truth to say, little or none, for they were at the sea.
From hotels, hydropathics, or lodging-houses, they were bathing daily;
laying in a stock of ozone to last them through the winter.
Each section, in the vineyard of its own choosing, grew and culled and
pressed and bottled the grapes of a pet sea-air.
The end of September began to witness their several returns.
In rude health and small omnibuses, with considerable colour in their
cheeks, they arrived daily from the various termini. The following
morning saw them back at their vocations.
On the next Sunday Timothy's was thronged from lunch till dinner.
Amongst other gossip, too numerous and interesting to relate, Mrs.
Septimus Small mentioned that Soames and Irene had not been away.
It remained for a comparative outsider to supply the next evidence of
It chanced that one afternoon late in September, Mrs. MacAnder, Winifred
Dartie's greatest friend, taking a constitutional, with young Augustus
Flippard, on her bicycle in Richmond Park, passed Irene and Bosinney
walking from the bracken towards the Sheen Gate.
Perhaps the poor little woman was thirsty, for she had ridden long on a
hard, dry road, and, as all London knows, to ride a bicycle and talk to
young Flippard will try the toughest constitution; or perhaps the sight
of the cool bracken grove, whence 'those two' were coming down, excited
her envy. The cool bracken grove on the top of the hill, with the oak
boughs for roof, where the pigeons were raising an endless wedding hymn,
and the autumn, humming, whispered to the ears of lovers in the fern,
while the deer stole by. The bracken grove of irretrievable delights,
of golden minutes in the long marriage of heaven and earth! The bracken
grove, sacred to stags, to strange tree-stump fauns leaping around the
silver whiteness of a birch-tree nymph at summer dusk.
This lady knew all the Forsytes, and having been at June's 'at home,'
was not at a loss to see with whom she had to deal. Her own marriage,
poor thing, had not been successful, but having had the good sense and
ability to force her husband into pronounced error, she herself had
passed through the necessary divorce proceedings without incurring
She was therefore a judge of all that sort of thing, and lived in one of
those large buildings, where in small sets of apartments, are gathered
incredible quantities of Forsytes, whose chief recreation out of
business hours is the discussion of each other's affairs.
Poor little woman, perhaps she was thirsty, certainly she was bored, for
Flippard was a wit. To see 'those two' in so unlikely a spot was quite a
At the MacAnder, like all London, Time pauses.
This small but remarkable woman merits attention; her all-seeing eye
and shrewd tongue were inscrutably the means of furthering the ends of
With an air of being in at the death, she had an almost distressing
power of taking care of herself. She had done more, perhaps, in her way
than any woman about town to destroy the sense of chivalry which
still clogs the wheel of civilization. So smart she was, and spoken of
endearingly as 'the little MacAnder!'
Dressing tightly and well, she belonged to a Woman's Club, but was by no
means the neurotic and dismal type of member who was always thinking of
her rights. She took her rights unconsciously, they came natural to
her, and she knew exactly how to make the most of them without exciting
anything but admiration amongst that great class to whom she was
affiliated, not precisely perhaps by manner, but by birth, breeding, and
the true, the secret gauge, a sense of property.
The daughter of a Bedfordshire solicitor, by the daughter of a
clergyman, she had never, through all the painful experience of being
married to a very mild painter with a cranky love of Nature, who had
deserted her for an actress, lost touch with the requirements, beliefs,
and inner feeling of Society; and, on attaining her liberty, she placed
herself without effort in the very van of Forsyteism.
Always in good spirits, and 'full of information,' she was universally
welcomed. She excited neither surprise nor disapprobation when
encountered on the Rhine or at Zermatt, either alone, or travelling with
a lady and two gentlemen; it was felt that she was perfectly capable of
taking care of herself; and the hearts of all Forsytes warmed to that
wonderful instinct, which enabled her to enjoy everything without giving
anything away. It was generally felt that to such women as Mrs. MacAnder
should we look for the perpetuation and increase of our best type of
woman. She had never had any children.
If there was one thing more than another that she could not stand it was
one of those soft women with what men called 'charm' about them, and for
Mrs. Soames she always had an especial dislike.
Obscurely, no doubt, she felt that if charm were once admitted as
the criterion, smartness and capability must go to the wall; and she
hated--with a hatred the deeper that at times this so-called charm
seemed to disturb all calculations--the subtle seductiveness which she
could not altogether overlook in Irene.
She said, however, that she could see nothing in the woman--there was no
'go' about her--she would never be able to stand up for herself--anyone
could take advantage of her, that was plain--she could not see in fact
what men found to admire!
She was not really ill-natured, but, in maintaining her position after
the trying circumstances of her married life, she had found it so
necessary to be 'full of information,' that the idea of holding her
tongue about 'those two' in the Park never occurred to her.
And it so happened that she was dining that very evening at Timothy's,
where she went sometimes to 'cheer the old things up,' as she was wont
to put it. The same people were always asked to meet her: Winifred
Dartie and her husband; Francie, because she belonged to the artistic
circles, for Mrs. MacAnder was known to contribute articles on dress
to 'The Ladies Kingdom Come'; and for her to flirt with, provided they
could be obtained, two of the Hayman boys, who, though they never said
anything, were believed to be fast and thoroughly intimate with all that
was latest in smart Society.
At twenty-five minutes past seven she turned out the electric light
in her little hall, and wrapped in her opera cloak with the chinchilla
collar, came out into the corridor, pausing a moment to make sure she
had her latch-key. These little self-contained flats were convenient; to
be sure, she had no light and no air, but she could shut it up whenever
she liked and go away. There was no bother with servants, and she never
felt tied as she used to when poor, dear Fred was always about, in his
mooney way. She retained no rancour against poor, dear Fred, he was
such a fool; but the thought of that actress drew from her, even now, a
little, bitter, derisive smile.
Firmly snapping the door to, she crossed the corridor, with its gloomy,
yellow-ochre walls, and its infinite vista of brown, numbered doors.
The lift was going down; and wrapped to the ears in the high cloak, with
every one of her auburn hairs in its place, she waited motionless for
it to stop at her floor. The iron gates clanked open; she entered. There
were already three occupants, a man in a great white waistcoat, with
a large, smooth face like a baby's, and two old ladies in black, with
Mrs. MacAnder smiled at them; she knew everybody; and all these three,
who had been admirably silent before, began to talk at once. This was
Mrs. MacAnder's successful secret. She provoked conversation.
Throughout a descent of five stories the conversation continued, the
lift boy standing with his back turned, his cynical face protruding
through the bars.
At the bottom they separated, the man in the white waistcoat
sentimentally to the billiard room, the old ladies to dine and say to
each other: "A dear little woman!" "Such a rattle!" and Mrs. MacAnder to
When Mrs. MacAnder dined at Timothy's, the conversation (although
Timothy himself could never be induced to be present) took that wider,
man-of-the-world tone current among Forsytes at large, and this, no
doubt, was what put her at a premium there.
Mrs. Small and Aunt Hester found it an exhilarating change. "If only,"
they said, "Timothy would meet her!" It was felt that she would do him
good. She could tell you, for instance, the latest story of Sir Charles
Fiste's son at Monte Carlo; who was the real heroine of Tynemouth Eddy's
fashionable novel that everyone was holding up their hands over,
and what they were doing in Paris about wearing bloomers. She was so
sensible, too, knowing all about that vexed question, whether to send
young Nicholas' eldest into the navy as his mother wished, or make
him an accountant as his father thought would be safer. She strongly
deprecated the navy. If you were not exceptionally brilliant or
exceptionally well connected, they passed you over so disgracefully,
and what was it after all to look forward to, even if you became an
admiral--a pittance! An accountant had many more chances, but let him be
put with a good firm, where there was no risk at starting!
Sometimes she would give them a tip on the Stock Exchange; not that Mrs.
Small or Aunt Hester ever took it. They had indeed no money to invest;
but it seemed to bring them into such exciting touch with the realities
of life. It was an event. They would ask Timothy, they said. But they
never did, knowing in advance that it would upset him. Surreptitiously,
however, for weeks after they would look in that paper, which they took
with respect on account of its really fashionable proclivities, to see
whether 'Bright's Rubies' or 'The Woollen Mackintosh Company' were up or
down. Sometimes they could not find the name of the company at all; and
they would wait until James or Roger or even Swithin came in, and ask
them in voices trembling with curiosity how that 'Bolivia Lime and
Speltrate' was doing--they could not find it in the paper.
And Roger would answer: "What do you want to know for? Some trash!
You'll go burning your fingers--investing your money in lime, and things
you know nothing about! Who told you?" and ascertaining what they had
been told, he would go away, and, making inquiries in the City, would
perhaps invest some of his own money in the concern.
It was about the middle of dinner, just in fact as the saddle of mutton
had been brought in by Smither, that Mrs. MacAnder, looking airily
round, said: "Oh! and whom do you think I passed to-day in Richmond
Park? You'll never guess--Mrs. Soames and--Mr. Bosinney. They must have
been down to look at the house!"
Winifred Dartie coughed, and no one said a word. It was the piece of
evidence they had all unconsciously been waiting for.
To do Mrs. MacAnder justice, she had been to Switzerland and the Italian
lakes with a party of three, and had not heard of Soames' rupture with
his architect. She could not tell, therefore, the profound impression
her words would make.
Upright and a little flushed, she moved her small, shrewd eyes from face
to face, trying to gauge the effect of her words. On either side of her
a Hayman boy, his lean, taciturn, hungry face turned towards his plate,
ate his mutton steadily.
These two, Giles and Jesse, were so alike and so inseparable that
they were known as the Dromios. They never talked, and seemed always
completely occupied in doing nothing. It was popularly supposed that
they were cramming for an important examination. They walked without
hats for long hours in the Gardens attached to their house, books in
their hands, a fox-terrier at their heels, never saying a word, and
smoking all the time. Every morning, about fifty yards apart, they
trotted down Campden Hill on two lean hacks, with legs as long as their
own, and every morning about an hour later, still fifty yards apart,
they cantered up again. Every evening, wherever they had dined, they
might be observed about half-past ten, leaning over the balustrade of
the Alhambra promenade.
They were never seen otherwise than together; in this way passing their
lives, apparently perfectly content.
Inspired by some dumb stirring within them of the feelings of gentlemen,
they turned at this painful moment to Mrs. MacAnder, and said in
precisely the same voice: "Have you seen the...?"
Such was her surprise at being thus addressed that she put down her
fork; and Smither, who was passing, promptly removed her plate. Mrs.
MacAnder, however, with presence of mind, said instantly: "I must have a
little more of that nice mutton."
But afterwards in the drawing--room she sat down by Mrs. Small,
determined to get to the bottom of the matter. And she began:
"What a charming woman, Mrs. Soames; such a sympathetic temperament!
Soames is a really lucky man!"
Her anxiety for information had not made sufficient allowance for that
inner Forsyte skin which refuses to share its troubles with outsiders.
Mrs. Septimus Small, drawing herself up with a creak and rustle of her
whole person, said, shivering in her dignity:
"My dear, it is a subject we do not talk about!"
CHAPTER II--NIGHT IN THE PARK
Although with her infallible instinct Mrs. Small had said the very thing
to make her guest 'more intriguee than ever,' it is difficult to see how
else she could truthfully have spoken.
It was not a subject which the Forsytes could talk about even among
themselves--to use the word Soames had invented to characterize to
himself the situation, it was 'subterranean.'
Yet, within a week of Mrs. MacAnder's encounter in Richmond Park, to all
of them--save Timothy, from whom it was carefully kept--to James on his
domestic beat from the Poultry to Park Lane, to George the wild one,
on his daily adventure from the bow window at the Haversnake to the
billiard room at the 'Red Pottle,' was it known that 'those two' had
gone to extremes.
George (it was he who invented many of those striking expressions still
current in fashionable circles) voiced the sentiment more accurately
than any one when he said to his brother Eustace that 'the Buccaneer'
was 'going it'; he expected Soames was about 'fed up.'
It was felt that he must be, and yet, what could be done? He ought
perhaps to take steps; but to take steps would be deplorable.
Without an open scandal which they could not see their way to
recommending, it was difficult to see what steps could be taken. In this
impasse, the only thing was to say nothing to Soames, and nothing to
each other; in fact, to pass it over.
By displaying towards Irene a dignified coldness, some impression might
be made upon her; but she was seldom now to be seen, and there seemed
a slight difficulty in seeking her out on purpose to show her coldness.
Sometimes in the privacy of his bedroom James would reveal to Emily the
real suffering that his son's misfortune caused him.
"I can't tell," he would say; "it worries me out of my life. There'll
be a scandal, and that'll do him no good. I shan't say anything to him.
There might be nothing in it. What do you think? She's very artistic,
they tell me. What? Oh, you're a 'regular Juley! Well, I don't know; I
expect the worst. This is what comes of having no children. I knew how
it would be from the first. They never told me they didn't mean to have
any children--nobody tells me anything!"
On his knees by the side of the bed, his eyes open and fixed with worry,
he would breathe into the counterpane. Clad in his nightshirt, his neck
poked forward, his back rounded, he resembled some long white bird.
"Our Father-," he repeated, turning over and over again the thought of
this possible scandal.
Like old Jolyon, he, too, at the bottom of his heart set the blame of
the tragedy down to family interference. What business had that lot--he
began to think of the Stanhope Gate branch, including young Jolyon and
his daughter, as 'that lot'--to introduce a person like this Bosinney
into the family? (He had heard George's soubriquet, 'The Buccaneer,' but
he could make nothing of that--the young man was an architect.)
He began to feel that his brother Jolyon, to whom he had always looked
up and on whose opinion he had relied, was not quite what he had
Not having his eldest brother's force of character, he was more sad than
angry. His great comfort was to go to Winifred's, and take the little
Darties in his carriage over to Kensington Gardens, and there, by the
Round Pond, he could often be seen walking with his eyes fixed anxiously
on little Publius Dartie's sailing-boat, which he had himself freighted
with a penny, as though convinced that it would never again come to
shore; while little Publius--who, James delighted to say, was not a bit
like his father skipping along under his lee, would try to get him to
bet another that it never would, having found that it always did. And
James would make the bet; he always paid--sometimes as many as three
or four pennies in the afternoon, for the game seemed never to pall
on little Publius--and always in paying he said: "Now, that's for your
money-box. Why, you're getting quite a rich man!" The thought of his
little grandson's growing wealth was a real pleasure to him. But little
Publius knew a sweet-shop, and a trick worth two of that.
And they would walk home across the Park, James' figure, with high
shoulders and absorbed and worried face, exercising its tall, lean
protectorship, pathetically unregarded, over the robust child-figures of
Imogen and little Publius.
But those Gardens and that Park were not sacred to James. Forsytes and
tramps, children and lovers, rested and wandered day after day, night
after night, seeking one and all some freedom from labour, from the reek
and turmoil of the streets.
The leaves browned slowly, lingering with the sun and summer-like warmth
of the nights.
On Saturday, October 5, the sky that had been blue all day deepened
after sunset to the bloom of purple grapes. There was no moon, and a
clear dark, like some velvety garment, was wrapped around the trees,
whose thinned branches, resembling plumes, stirred not in the still,
warm air. All London had poured into the Park, draining the cup of
summer to its dregs.
Couple after couple, from every gate, they streamed along the paths and
over the burnt grass, and one after another, silently out of the lighted
spaces, stole into the shelter of the feathery trees, where, blotted
against some trunk, or under the shadow of shrubs, they were lost to all
but themselves in the heart of the soft darkness.
To fresh-comers along the paths, these forerunners formed but part of
that passionate dusk, whence only a strange murmur, like the confused
beating of hearts, came forth. But when that murmur reached each couple
in the lamp-light their voices wavered, and ceased; their arms enlaced,
their eyes began seeking, searching, probing the blackness. Suddenly,
as though drawn by invisible hands, they, too, stepped over the railing,
and, silent as shadows, were gone from the light.
The stillness, enclosed in the far, inexorable roar of the town, was
alive with the myriad passions, hopes, and loves of multitudes of
struggling human atoms; for in spite of the disapproval of that great
body of Forsytes, the Municipal Council--to whom Love had long been
considered, next to the Sewage Question, the gravest danger to the
community--a process was going on that night in the Park, and in a
hundred other parks, without which the thousand factories, churches,
shops, taxes, and drains, of which they were custodians, were as
arteries without blood, a man without a heart.
The instincts of self-forgetfulness, of passion, and of love, hiding
under the trees, away from the trustees of their remorseless enemy,
the 'sense of property,' were holding a stealthy revel, and Soames,
returning from Bayswater--for he had been alone to dine at
Timothy's--walking home along the water, with his mind upon that coming
lawsuit, had the blood driven from his heart by a low laugh and the
sound of kisses. He thought of writing to the Times the next morning, to
draw the attention of the Editor to the condition of our parks. He did
not, however, for he had a horror of seeing his name in print.
But starved as he was, the whispered sounds in the stillness, the
half-seen forms in the dark, acted on him like some morbid stimulant. He
left the path along the water and stole under the trees, along the deep
shadow of little plantations, where the boughs of chestnut trees hung
their great leaves low, and there was blacker refuge, shaping his course
in circles which had for their object a stealthy inspection of chairs
side by side, against tree-trunks, of enlaced lovers, who stirred at his
Now he stood still on the rise overlooking the Serpentine, where, in
full lamp-light, black against the silver water, sat a couple who never
moved, the woman's face buried on the man's neck--a single form, like a
carved emblem of passion, silent and unashamed.
And, stung by the sight, Soames hurried on deeper into the shadow of the
In this search, who knows what he thought and what he sought? Bread
for hunger--light in darkness? Who knows what he expected to
find--impersonal knowledge of the human heart--the end of his private
subterranean tragedy--for, again, who knew, but that each dark couple,
unnamed, unnameable, might not be he and she?
But it could not be such knowledge as this that he was seeking--the wife
of Soames Forsyte sitting in the Park like a common wench! Such thoughts
were inconceivable; and from tree to tree, with his noiseless step, he
Once he was sworn at; once the whisper, "If only it could always be like
this!" sent the blood flying again from his heart, and he waited there,
patient and dogged, for the two to move. But it was only a poor thin
slip of a shop-girl in her draggled blouse who passed him, clinging to
her lover's arm.
A hundred other lovers too whispered that hope in the stillness of the
trees, a hundred other lovers clung to each other.
But shaking himself with sudden disgust, Soames returned to the path,
and left that seeking for he knew not what.
CHAPTER III--MEETING AT THE BOTANICAL
Young Jolyon, whose circumstances were not those of a Forsyte, found at
times a difficulty in sparing the money needful for those country
jaunts and researches into Nature, without having prosecuted which no
watercolour artist ever puts brush to paper.
He was frequently, in fact, obliged to take his colour-box into
the Botanical Gardens, and there, on his stool, in the shade of a
monkey-puzzler or in the lee of some India-rubber plant, he would spend
long hours sketching.
An Art critic who had recently been looking at his work had delivered
himself as follows:
"In a way your drawings are very good; tone and colour, in some of
them certainly quite a feeling for Nature. But, you see, they're so
scattered; you'll never get the public to look at them. Now, if you'd
taken a definite subject, such as 'London by Night,' or 'The Crystal
Palace in the Spring,' and made a regular series, the public would have
known at once what they were looking at. I can't lay too much stress
upon that. All the men who are making great names in Art, like Crum
Stone or Bleeder, are making them by avoiding the unexpected; by
specializing and putting their works all in the same pigeon-hole, so
that the public know at once where to go. And this stands to reason,
for if a man's a collector he doesn't want people to smell at the canvas
to find out whom his pictures are by; he wants them to be able to say
at once, 'A capital Forsyte!' It is all the more important for you to be
careful to choose a subject that they can lay hold of on the spot, since
there's no very marked originality in your style."
Young Jolyon, standing by the little piano, where a bowl of dried rose
leaves, the only produce of the garden, was deposited on a bit of faded
damask, listened with his dim smile.
Turning to his wife, who was looking at the speaker with an angry
expression on her thin face, he said:
"You see, dear?"
"I do not," she answered in her staccato voice, that still had a little
foreign accent; "your style has originality."
The critic looked at her, smiled' deferentially, and said no more. Like
everyone else, he knew their history.
The words bore good fruit with young Jolyon; they were contrary to all
that he believed in, to all that he theoretically held good in his Art,
but some strange, deep instinct moved him against his will to turn them
He discovered therefore one morning that an idea had come to him for
making a series of watercolour drawings of London. How the idea had
arisen he could not tell; and it was not till the following year, when
he had completed and sold them at a very fair price, that in one of his
impersonal moods, he found himself able to recollect the Art critic, and
to discover in his own achievement another proof that he was a Forsyte.
He decided to commence with the Botanical Gardens, where he had already
made so many studies, and chose the little artificial pond, sprinkled
now with an autumn shower of red and yellow leaves, for though the
gardeners longed to sweep them off, they could not reach them with their
brooms. The rest of the gardens they swept bare enough, removing every
morning Nature's rain of leaves; piling them in heaps, whence from
slow fires rose the sweet, acrid smoke that, like the cuckoo's note for
spring, the scent of lime trees for the summer, is the true emblem of
the fall. The gardeners' tidy souls could not abide the gold and green
and russet pattern on the grass. The gravel paths must lie unstained,
ordered, methodical, without knowledge of the realities of life, nor of
that slow and beautiful decay which flings crowns underfoot to star the
earth with fallen glories, whence, as the cycle rolls, will leap again
Thus each leaf that fell was marked from the moment when it fluttered a
good-bye and dropped, slow turning, from its twig.
But on that little pond the leaves floated in peace, and praised Heaven
with their hues, the sunlight haunting over them.
And so young Jolyon found them.
Coming there one morning in the middle of October, he was disconcerted
to find a bench about twenty paces from his stand occupied, for he had a
proper horror of anyone seeing him at work.
A lady in a velvet jacket was sitting there, with her eyes fixed on the
ground. A flowering laurel, however, stood between, and, taking shelter
behind this, young Jolyon prepared his easel.
His preparations were leisurely; he caught, as every true artist should,
at anything that might delay for a moment the effort of his work, and he
found himself looking furtively at this unknown dame.
Like his father before him, he had an eye for a face. This face was
He saw a rounded chin nestling in a cream ruffle, a delicate face with
large dark eyes and soft lips. A black 'picture' hat concealed the hair;
her figure was lightly poised against the back of the bench, her knees
were crossed; the tip of a patent-leather shoe emerged beneath her
skirt. There was something, indeed, inexpressibly dainty about the
person of this lady, but young Jolyon's attention was chiefly riveted by
the look on her face, which reminded him of his wife. It was as though
its owner had come into contact with forces too strong for her. It
troubled him, arousing vague feelings of attraction and chivalry. Who
was she? And what doing there, alone?
Two young gentlemen of that peculiar breed, at once forward and shy,
found in the Regent's Park, came by on their way to lawn tennis, and he
noted with disapproval their furtive stares of admiration. A loitering
gardener halted to do something unnecessary to a clump of pampas grass;
he, too, wanted an excuse for peeping. A gentleman, old, and, by his
hat, a professor of horticulture, passed three times to scrutinize her
long and stealthily, a queer expression about his lips.
With all these men young Jolyon felt the same vague irritation. She
looked at none of them, yet was he certain that every man who passed
would look at her like that.
Her face was not the face of a sorceress, who in every look holds out to
men the offer of pleasure; it had none of the 'devil's beauty' so highly
prized among the first Forsytes of the land; neither was it of that
type, no less adorable, associated with the box of chocolate; it was not
of the spiritually passionate, or passionately spiritual order, peculiar
to house-decoration and modern poetry; nor did it seem to promise to
the playwright material for the production of the interesting and
neurasthenic figure, who commits suicide in the last act.
In shape and colouring, in its soft persuasive passivity, its sensuous
purity, this woman's face reminded him of Titian's 'Heavenly Love,' a
reproduction of which hung over the sideboard in his dining-room. And
her attraction seemed to be in this soft passivity, in the feeling she
gave that to pressure she must yield.
For what or whom was she waiting, in the silence, with the trees
dropping here and there a leaf, and the thrushes strutting close on
grass, touched with the sparkle of the autumn rime? Then her charming
face grew eager, and, glancing round, with almost a lover's jealousy,
young Jolyon saw Bosinney striding across the grass.
Curiously he watched the meeting, the look in their eyes, the long
clasp of their hands. They sat down close together, linked for all their
outward discretion. He heard the rapid murmur of their talk; but what
they said he could not catch.
He had rowed in the galley himself! He knew the long hours of waiting
and the lean minutes of a half-public meeting; the tortures of suspense
that haunt the unhallowed lover.
It required, however, but a glance at their two faces to see that this
was none of those affairs of a season that distract men and women about
town; none of those sudden appetites that wake up ravening, and are
surfeited and asleep again in six weeks. This was the real thing! This
was what had happened to himself! Out of this anything might come!
Bosinney was pleading, and she so quiet, so soft, yet immovable in her
passivity, sat looking over the grass.
Was he the man to carry her off, that tender, passive being, who would
never stir a step for herself? Who had given him all herself, and would
die for him, but perhaps would never run away with him!
It seemed to young Jolyon that he could hear her saying: "But, darling,
it would ruin you!" For he himself had experienced to the full the
gnawing fear at the bottom of each woman's heart that she is a drag on
the man she loves.
And he peeped at them no more; but their soft, rapid talk came to
his ears, with the stuttering song of some bird who seemed trying to
remember the notes of spring: Joy--tragedy? Which--which?
And gradually their talk ceased; long silence followed.
'And where does Soames come in?' young Jolyon thought. 'People think she
is concerned about the sin of deceiving her husband! Little they know
of women! She's eating, after starvation--taking her revenge! And Heaven
help her--for he'll take his.'
He heard the swish of silk, and, spying round the laurel, saw them
walking away, their hands stealthily joined....
At the end of July old Jolyon had taken his grand-daughter to the
mountains; and on that visit (the last they ever paid) June recovered
to a great extent her health and spirits. In the hotels, filled with
British Forsytes--for old Jolyon could not bear a 'set of Germans,' as
he called all foreigners--she was looked upon with respect--the only
grand-daughter of that fine-looking, and evidently wealthy, old Mr.
Forsyte. She did not mix freely with people--to mix freely with people
was not June's habit--but she formed some friendships, and notably one
in the Rhone Valley, with a French girl who was dying of consumption.
Determining at once that her friend should not die, she forgot, in the
institution of a campaign against Death, much of her own trouble.
Old Jolyon watched the new intimacy with relief and disapproval; for
this additional proof that her life was to be passed amongst 'lame
ducks' worried him. Would she never make a friendship or take an
interest in something that would be of real benefit to her?
'Taking up with a parcel of foreigners,' he called it. He often,
however, brought home grapes or roses, and presented them to 'Mam'zelle'
with an ingratiating twinkle.
Towards the end of September, in spite of June's disapproval,
Mademoiselle Vigor breathed her last in the little hotel at St. Luc, to
which they had moved her; and June took her defeat so deeply to heart
that old Jolyon carried her away to Paris. Here, in contemplation of the
'Venus de Milo' and the 'Madeleine,' she shook off her depression,
and when, towards the middle of October, they returned to town, her
grandfather believed that he had effected a cure.
No sooner, however, had they established themselves in Stanhope Gate
than he perceived to his dismay a return of her old absorbed and
brooding manner. She would sit, staring in front of her, her chin on her
hand, like a little Norse spirit, grim and intent, while all around in
the electric light, then just installed, shone the great, drawing-room
brocaded up to the frieze, full of furniture from Baple and Pullbred's.
And in the huge gilt mirror were reflected those Dresden china groups
of young men in tight knee breeches, at the feet of full-bosomed ladies
nursing on their laps pet lambs, which old Jolyon had bought when he was
a bachelor and thought so highly of in these days of degenerate taste.
He was a man of most open mind, who, more than any Forsyte of them all,
had moved with the times, but he could never forget that he had bought
these groups at Jobson's, and given a lot of money for them. He often
said to June, with a sort of disillusioned contempt:
"You don't care about them! They're not the gimcrack things you and your
friends like, but they cost me seventy pounds!" He was not a man who
allowed his taste to be warped when he knew for solid reasons that it
One of the first things that June did on getting home was to go round to
Timothy's. She persuaded herself that it was her duty to call there, and
cheer him with an account of all her travels; but in reality she went
because she knew of no other place where, by some random speech, or
roundabout question, she could glean news of Bosinney.
They received her most cordially: And how was her dear grandfather? He
had not been to see them since May. Her Uncle Timothy was very poorly,
he had had a lot of trouble with the chimney-sweep in his bedroom; the
stupid man had let the soot down the chimney! It had quite upset her
June sat there a long time, dreading, yet passionately hoping, that they
would speak of Bosinney.
But paralyzed by unaccountable discretion, Mrs. Septimus Small let fall
no word, neither did she question June about him. In desperation the
girl asked at last whether Soames and Irene were in town--she had not
yet been to see anyone.
It was Aunt Hester who replied: Oh, yes, they were in town, they had not
been away at all. There was some little difficulty about the house, she
believed. June had heard, no doubt! She had better ask her Aunt Juley!
June turned to Mrs. Small, who sat upright in her chair, her hands
clasped, her face covered with innumerable pouts. In answer to the
girl's look she maintained a strange silence, and when she spoke it was
to ask June whether she had worn night-socks up in those high hotels
where it must be so cold of a night.
June answered that she had not, she hated the stuffy things; and rose to
Mrs. Small's infallibly chosen silence was far more ominous to her than
anything that could have been said.
Before half an hour was over she had dragged the truth from Mrs. Baynes
in Lowndes Square, that Soames was bringing an action against Bosinney
over the decoration of the house.
Instead of disturbing her, the news had a strangely calming effect; as
though she saw in the prospect of this struggle new hope for herself.
She learnt that the case was expected to come on in about a month, and
there seemed little or no prospect of Bosinney's success.
"And whatever he'll do I can't think," said Mrs. Baynes; "it's very
dreadful for him, you know--he's got no money--he's very hard up. And we
can't help him, I'm sure. I'm told the money-lenders won't lend if you
have no security, and he has none--none at all."
Her embonpoint had increased of late; she was in the full swing of
autumn organization, her writing-table literally strewn with the menus
of charity functions. She looked meaningly at June, with her round eyes
The sudden flush that rose on the girl's intent young face--she must
have seen spring up before her a great hope--the sudden sweetness of
her smile, often came back to Lady Baynes in after years (Baynes was
knighted when he built that public Museum of Art which has given so much
employment to officials, and so little pleasure to those working classes
for whom it was designed).
The memory of that change, vivid and touching, like the breaking open
of a flower, or the first sun after long winter, the memory, too, of all
that came after, often intruded itself, unaccountably, inopportunely on
Lady Baynes, when her mind was set upon the most important things.
This was the very afternoon of the day that young Jolyon witnessed the
meeting in the Botanical Gardens, and on this day, too, old Jolyon
paid a visit to his solicitors, Forsyte, Bustard, and Forsyte, in the
Poultry. Soames was not in, he had gone down to Somerset House; Bustard
was buried up to the hilt in papers and that inaccessible apartment,
where he was judiciously placed, in order that he might do as much work
as possible; but James was in the front office, biting a finger, and
lugubriously turning over the pleadings in Forsyte v. Bosinney.
This sound lawyer had only a sort of luxurious dread of the 'nice
point,' enough to set up a pleasurable feeling of fuss; for his good
practical sense told him that if he himself were on the Bench he would
not pay much attention to it. But he was afraid that this Bosinney would
go bankrupt and Soames would have to find the money after all, and costs
into the bargain. And behind this tangible dread there was always
that intangible trouble, lurking in the background, intricate, dim,
scandalous, like a bad dream, and of which this action was but an
outward and visible sign.
He raised his head as old Jolyon came in, and muttered: "How are you,
Jolyon? Haven't seen you for an age. You've been to Switzerland, they
tell me. This young Bosinney, he's got himself into a mess. I knew how
it would be!" He held out the papers, regarding his elder brother with
Old Jolyon read them in silence, and while he read them James looked at
the floor, biting his fingers the while.
Old Jolyon pitched them down at last, and they fell with a thump
amongst a mass of affidavits in 're Buncombe, deceased,' one of the many
branches of that parent and profitable tree, 'Fryer v. Forsyte.'
"I don't know what Soames is about," he said, "to make a fuss over a few
hundred pounds. I thought he was a man of property."
James' long upper lip twitched angrily; he could not bear his son to be
attacked in such a spot.
"It's not the money," he began, but meeting his brother's glance,
direct, shrewd, judicial, he stopped.
There was a silence.
"I've come in for my Will," said old Jolyon at last, tugging at his
James' curiosity was roused at once. Perhaps nothing in this life
was more stimulating to him than a Will; it was the supreme deal with
property, the final inventory of a man's belongings, the last word on
what he was worth. He sounded the bell.
"Bring in Mr. Jolyon's Will," he said to an anxious, dark-haired clerk.
"You going to make some alterations?" And through his mind there flashed
the thought: 'Now, am I worth as much as he?'
Old Jolyon put the Will in his breast pocket, and James twisted his long
"You've made some nice purchases lately, they tell me," he said.
"I don't know where you get your information from," answered old Jolyon
sharply. "When's this action coming on? Next month? I can't tell what
you've got in your minds. You must manage your own affairs; but if you
take my advice, you'll settle it out of Court. Good-bye!" With a cold
handshake he was gone.
James, his fixed grey-blue eye corkscrewing round some secret anxious
image, began again to bite his finger.
Old Jolyon took his Will to the offices of the New Colliery Company,
and sat down in the empty Board Room to read it through. He answered
'Down-by-the-starn' Hemmings so tartly when the latter, seeing his
Chairman seated there, entered with the new Superintendent's first
report, that the Secretary withdrew with regretful dignity; and sending
for the transfer clerk, blew him up till the poor youth knew not where
It was not--by George--as he (Down-by-the-starn) would have him know,
for a whippersnapper of a young fellow like him, to come down to that
office, and think that he was God Almighty. He (Down-by-the-starn) had
been head of that office for more years than a boy like him could count,
and if he thought that when he had finished all his work, he could sit
there doing nothing, he did not know him, Hemmings (Down-by-the-starn),
and so forth.
On the other side of the green baize door old Jolyon sat at the
long, mahogany-and-leather board table, his thick, loose-jointed,
tortoiseshell eye-glasses perched on the bridge of his nose, his gold
pencil moving down the clauses of his Will.
It was a simple affair, for there were none of those vexatious little
legacies and donations to charities, which fritter away a man's
possessions, and damage the majestic effect of that little paragraph in
the morning papers accorded to Forsytes who die with a hundred thousand
A simple affair. Just a bequest to his son of twenty thousand, and
'as to the residue of my property of whatsoever kind whether realty or
personalty, or partaking of the nature of either--upon trust to pay the
proceeds rents annual produce dividends or interest thereof and thereon
to my said grand-daughter June Forsyte or her assigns during her life to
be for her sole use and benefit and without, etc... and from and after
her death or decease upon trust to convey assign transfer or make over
the said last-mentioned lands hereditaments premises trust moneys stocks
funds investments and securities or such as shall then stand for and
represent the same unto such person or persons whether one or more for
such intents purposes and uses and generally in such manner way and form
in all respects as the said June Forsyte notwithstanding coverture shall
by her last Will and Testament or any writing or writings in the nature
of a Will testament or testamentary disposition to be by her duly made
signed and published direct appoint or make over give and dispose of
the same And in default etc.... Provided always...' and so on, in seven
folios of brief and simple phraseology.
The Will had been drawn by James in his palmy days. He had foreseen
almost every contingency.
Old Jolyon sat a long time reading this Will; at last he took half a
sheet of paper from the rack, and made a prolonged pencil note; then
buttoning up the Will, he caused a cab to be called and drove to the
offices of Paramor and Herring, in Lincoln's Inn Fields. Jack Herring
was dead, but his nephew was still in the firm, and old Jolyon was
closeted with him for half an hour.
He had kept the hansom, and on coming out, gave the driver the
address--3, Wistaria Avenue.
He felt a strange, slow satisfaction, as though he had scored a victory
over James and the man of property. They should not poke their noses
into his affairs any more; he had just cancelled their trusteeships of
his Will; he would take the whole of his business out of their hands,
and put it into the hands of young Herring, and he would move the
business of his Companies too. If that young Soames were such a man of
property, he would never miss a thousand a year or so; and under his
great white moustache old Jolyon grimly smiled. He felt that what he was
doing was in the nature of retributive justice, richly deserved.
Slowly, surely, with the secret inner process that works the destruction
of an old tree, the poison of the wounds to his happiness, his will, his
pride, had corroded the comely edifice of his philosophy. Life had worn
him down on one side, till, like that family of which he was the head,
he had lost balance.
To him, borne northwards towards his son's house, the thought of the
new disposition of property, which he had just set in motion, appeared
vaguely in the light of a stroke of punishment, levelled at that
family and that Society, of which James and his son seemed to him
the representatives. He had made a restitution to young Jolyon,
and restitution to young Jolyon satisfied his secret craving for
revenge-revenge against Time, sorrow, and interference, against all that
incalculable sum of disapproval that had been bestowed by the world for
fifteen years on his only son. It presented itself as the one possible
way of asserting once more the domination of his will; of forcing James,
and Soames, and the family, and all those hidden masses of Forsytes--a
great stream rolling against the single dam of his obstinacy--to
recognise once and for all that he would be master. It was sweet to
think that at last he was going to make the boy a richer man by far than
that son of James, that 'man of property.' And it was sweet to give to
Jo, for he loved his son.
Neither young Jolyon nor his wife were in (young Jolyon indeed was not
back from the Botanical), but the little maid told him that she expected
the master at any moment:
"He's always at 'ome to tea, sir, to play with the children."
Old Jolyon said he would wait; and sat down patiently enough in the
faded, shabby drawing room, where, now that the summer chintzes
were removed, the old chairs and sofas revealed all their threadbare
deficiencies. He longed to send for the children; to have them there
beside him, their supple bodies against his knees; to hear Jolly's:
"Hallo, Gran!" and see his rush; and feel Holly's soft little hand
stealing up against his cheek. But he would not. There was solemnity
in what he had come to do, and until it was over he would not play. He
amused himself by thinking how with two strokes of his pen he was going
to restore the look of caste so conspicuously absent from everything
in that little house; how he could fill these rooms, or others in some
larger mansion, with triumphs of art from Baple and Pullbred's; how he
could send little Jolly to Harrow and Oxford (he no longer had faith in
Eton and Cambridge, for his son had been there); how he could procure
little Holly the best musical instruction, the child had a remarkable
As these visions crowded before him, causing emotion to swell his heart,
he rose, and stood at the window, looking down into the little walled
strip of garden, where the pear-tree, bare of leaves before its time,
stood with gaunt branches in the slow-gathering mist of the autumn
afternoon. The dog Balthasar, his tail curled tightly over a piebald,
furry back, was walking at the farther end, sniffing at the plants, and
at intervals placing his leg for support against the wall.
And old Jolyon mused.
What pleasure was there left but to give? It was pleasant to give, when
you could find one who would be thankful for what you gave--one of your
own flesh and blood! There was no such satisfaction to be had out of
giving to those who did not belong to you, to those who had no claim
on you! Such giving as that was a betrayal of the individualistic
convictions and actions of his life, of all his enterprise, his labour,
and his moderation, of the great and proud fact that, like tens of
thousands of Forsytes before him, tens of thousands in the present, tens
of thousands in the future, he had always made his own, and held his
own, in the world.
And, while he stood there looking down on the smut-covered foliage
of the laurels, the black-stained grass-plot, the progress of the dog
Balthasar, all the suffering of the fifteen years during which he had
been baulked of legitimate enjoyment mingled its gall with the sweetness
of the approaching moment.
Young Jolyon came at last, pleased with his work, and fresh from long
hours in the open air. On hearing that his father was in the drawing
room, he inquired hurriedly whether Mrs. Forsyte was at home, and being
informed that she was not, heaved a sigh of relief. Then putting his
painting materials carefully in the little coat-closet out of sight, he
With characteristic decision old Jolyon came at once to the point. "I've
been altering my arrangements, Jo," he said. "You can cut your coat a
bit longer in the future--I'm settling a thousand a year on you at once.
June will have fifty thousand at my death; and you the rest. That dog of
yours is spoiling the garden. I shouldn't keep a dog, if I were you!"
The dog Balthasar, seated in the centre of the lawn, was examining his
Young Jolyon looked at the animal, but saw him dimly, for his eyes were
"Yours won't come short of a hundred thousand, my boy," said old Jolyon;
"I thought you'd better know. I haven't much longer to live at my age. I
shan't allude to it again. How's your wife? And--give her my love."
Young Jolyon put his hand on his father's shoulder, and, as neither
spoke, the episode closed.
Having seen his father into a hansom, young Jolyon came back to the
drawing-room and stood, where old Jolyon had stood, looking down on
the little garden. He tried to realize all that this meant to him, and,
Forsyte that he was, vistas of property were opened out in his brain;
the years of half rations through which he had passed had not sapped his
natural instincts. In extremely practical form, he thought of travel,
of his wife's costume, the children's education, a pony for Jolly, a
thousand things; but in the midst of all he thought, too, of Bosinney
and his mistress, and the broken song of the thrush. Joy--tragedy!
The old past--the poignant, suffering, passionate, wonderful past,
that no money could buy, that nothing could restore in all its burning
sweetness--had come back before him.
When his wife came in he went straight up to her and took her in his
arms; and for a long time he stood without speaking, his eyes closed,
pressing her to him, while she looked at him with a wondering, adoring,
doubting look in her eyes.
CHAPTER IV--VOYAGE INTO THE INFERNO
The morning after a certain night on which Soames at last asserted his
rights and acted like a man, he breakfasted alone.
He breakfasted by gaslight, the fog of late November wrapping the town
as in some monstrous blanket till the trees of the Square even were
barely visible from the dining-room window.
He ate steadily, but at times a sensation as though he could not swallow
attacked him. Had he been right to yield to his overmastering hunger of
the night before, and break down the resistance which he had suffered
now too long from this woman who was his lawful and solemnly constituted
He was strangely haunted by the recollection of her face, from before
which, to soothe her, he had tried to pull her hands--of her terrible
smothered sobbing, the like of which he had never heard, and still
seemed to hear; and he was still haunted by the odd, intolerable feeling
of remorse and shame he had felt, as he stood looking at her by the
flame of the single candle, before silently slinking away.
And somehow, now that he had acted like this, he was surprised at
Two nights before, at Winifred Dartie's, he had taken Mrs. MacAnder
into dinner. She had said to him, looking in his face with her
sharp, greenish eyes: "And so your wife is a great friend of that Mr.
Not deigning to ask what she meant, he had brooded over her words.
They had roused in him a fierce jealousy, which, with the peculiar
perversion of this instinct, had turned to fiercer desire.
Without the incentive of Mrs. MacAnder's words he might never have done
what he had done. Without their incentive and the accident of finding
his wife's door for once unlocked, which had enabled him to steal upon
Slumber had removed his doubts, but the morning brought them again. One
thought comforted him: No one would know--it was not the sort of thing
that she would speak about.
And, indeed, when the vehicle of his daily business life, which needed
so imperatively the grease of clear and practical thought, started
rolling once more with the reading of his letters, those nightmare-like
doubts began to assume less extravaga
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