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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 secret.

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
programme.

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 undoubtedly accessible.

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 very chic.

This dictum--that Bosinney was chic--caused quit 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, arid 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 had keys.

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,

'WINIFRED DARTIE.

'Montague believes the dinner at the Crown and Sceptre to be
quite eatable.'


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.

'Yours,

'AUGUSTUS FLIPPARD.'


It was late to send into the byeways 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 James.

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 Square.

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 slow!

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 dinner.

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 perpetual insurance.

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 queer.

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 such fun!"

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,
certainly!'

>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 limes.

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 her.

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 cat's.

"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 sprang forward.

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 Bosinney.

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 fuss!"

With that view Dartie at once concurred; looking upon James as a
private preserve, he disapproved of his being disturbed by the
troubles of others.

"Quite right," he said; "let Soames look after himself. He's
jolly well able to!"

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.





Man of Property by John Galsworthy
Category:
English Novel

General Fiction
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