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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."

"Who?"

"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?"

Soames frowned.

"Success," he stammered--"it would be a success if you behaved
yourself properly!"

"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 her.

"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 smile.

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 this heat!"

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 wife.

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 breathing.

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 sight

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.'





Man of Property by John Galsworthy
Category:
English Novel

General Fiction
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