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PART III


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 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 Irish bull.

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 neighbour
say?

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 one.'

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 follows

'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 riot 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 fierceness.

"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?"

"No."

"Then, I shall take steps to make you."

"Do!"

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 triumph.

"Now, please, will you leave my room?" He turned round, and went
sulkily out.

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 mouth!

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' subterranean tragedy?

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 interest.

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 censure.

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 merciful 'pick-me-up.'

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 Providence.

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 mittened
hands.

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 her cab.

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!"





Man of Property by John Galsworthy
Category:
English Novel

General Fiction
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