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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 pat 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 to profit.

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 wild spring.

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 charming!

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 was sound.

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 grand-
father? 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 uncle.

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 leave.

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 of parrot-grey.

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 nervous gloom.

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 moustache.

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 legs regretfully.

"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 to look.

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 pounds.

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 be 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 aptitude.

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 blackstained 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 went in.

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 tail.

Young Jolyon looked at the animal, but saw him dimly, for his
eyes were misty.

"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! Which? Which?

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.





Man of Property by John Galsworthy
Category:
English Novel

General Fiction
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