eBooks Cube
 
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 answered.

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 coming out!"

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 for love.

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
cigarcase 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.

"Yes?"

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 observation.

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 theatre.

"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 disappoint-
ingly in squeaks; and when Mrs. Small, holding up her hands, said:
"My dear! Kicked a ha-at?" she let out such anumber 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 wretchedness.

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 doorway.

"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?"

"Yes."

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 him.

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--Sh'ell never let go!'

Sighing deeply, he turned the paper; in its columns, perchance he
might find consolation.

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.





Man of Property by John Galsworthy
Category:
English Novel

General Fiction
Nabou.com: the big site