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CHAPTER VII

JUNE'S VICTORY


June had waited for her chance, scanning the duller columns of
the journals, morning and evening with an assiduity which at
first puzzled old Jolyon; and when her chance came, she took it
with all the promptitude and resolute tenacity of her character.

She will always remember best in her life that morning when at
last she saw amongst the reliable Cause List of the Times
newspaper, under the heading of Court XIII, Mr. Justice Bentham,
the case of Forsyte v. Bosinney.

Like a gambler who stakes his last piece of money, she had
prepared to hazard her all upon this throw; it was not her nature
to contemplate defeat. How, unless with the instinct of a woman
in love, she knew that Bosinney's discomfiture in this action was
assured, cannot be told--on this assumption, however, she laid
her plans, as upon a certainty.

Half past eleven found her at watch in the gallery of Court
XIII., and there she remained till the case of Forsyte v.
Bosinney was over. Bosinney's absence did not disquiet her; she
had felt instinctively that he would not defend himself. At the
end of the judgment she hastened down, and took a cab to his
rooms.

She passed the open street-door and the offices on the three
lower floors without attracting notice; not till she reached the
top did her difficulties begin.

Her ring was not answered; she had now to make up her mind
whether she would go down and ask the caretaker in the basement
to let her in to await Mr. Bosinney's return, or remain patiently
outside the door, trusting that no one would, come up. She
decided on the latter course.

A quarter of an hour had passed in freezing vigil on the landing,
before it occurred to her that Bosinney had been used to leave
the key of his rooms under the door-mat. She looked and found it
there. For some minutes she could not decide to make use of it;
at last she let herself in and left the door open that anyone who
came might see she was there on business.

This was not the same June who had paid the trembling visit five
months ago; those months of suffering and restraint had made her
less sensitive; she had dwelt on this visit so long, with such
minuteness, that its terrors were discounted beforehand. She was
not there to fail this time, for if she failed no one could help
her.

Like some mother beast on the watch over her young, her little
quick figure never stood still in that room, but wandered from
wall to wall, from window to door, fingering now one thing, now
another. There was dust everywhere, the room could not have been
cleaned for weeks, and June, quick to catch at anything that
should buoy up her hope, saw in it a sign that he had been
obliged, for economy's sake, to give up his servant.

She looked into the bedroom; the bed was roughly made, as though
by the hand of man. Listening intently, she darted in, and
peered into his cupboards. A few shirts and collars, a pair of
muddy boots--the room was bare even of garments.

She stole back to the sitting-room, and now she noticed the
absence of all the little things he had set store by. The clock
that had been his mother's, the field-glasses that had hung over
the sofa; two really valuable old prints of Harrow, where his
father had been at school, and last, not least, the piece of
Japanese pottery she herself had given him. All were gone; and
in spite of the rage roused within her championing soul at the
thought that the world should treat him thus, their disappearance
augured happily for the success of her plan.

It was while looking at the spot where the piece of Japanese
pottery had stood that she felt a strange certainty of being
watched, and, turning, saw Irene in the open doorway.

The two stood gazing at each other for a minute in silence; then
June walked forward and held out her hand. Irene did not take
it.

When her hand was refused, June put it behind her. Her eyes grew
steady with anger; she waited for Irene to speak; and thus
waiting, took in, with who-knows-what rage of jealousy,
suspicion, and curiosity, every detail of her friend's face and
dress and figure.

Irene was clothed in her long grey fur; the travelling cap on her
head left a wave of gold hair visible above her forehead. The
soft fullness of the coat made her face as small as a child's.

Unlike June's cheeks, her cheeks had no colour in them, but were
ivory white and pinched as if with cold. Dark circles lay round
her eyes. In one hand she held a bunch of violets.

She looked back at June, no smile on her lips; and with those
great dark eyes fastened on her, the girl, for all her startled
anger, felt something of the old spell.

She spoke first, after all.

"What have you come for?" But the feeling that she herself was
being asked the same question, made her add: "This horrible case.
I came to tell him--he has lost it."

Irene did not speak, her eyes never moved from June's face, and
the girl cried:

"Don't stand there as if you were made of stone!"

Irene laughed: "I wish to God I were!"

But June turned away: "Stop!" she cried, "don't tell me! I don't
want to hear! I don't want to hear what you've come for. I
don't want to hear!" And like some uneasy spirit, she began
swiftly walking to and fro. Suddenly she broke out:

"I was here first. We can't both stay here together!"

On Irene's face a smile wandered up, and died out like a flicker
of firelight. She did not move. And then it was that June
perceived under the softness arid immobility of this figure
something desperate and resolved; something not to be turned
away, something dangerous. She tore off her hat, and, putting
both hands to her brow, pressed back the bronze mass of her hair.

"You have no right here!" she cried defiantly.

Irene answered: "I have no right anywhere!

"What do you mean?"

"I have left Soames. You always wanted me to!"

June put her hands over her ears.

"Don't! I don't want to hear anything--I don't want to know
anything. It's impossible to fight with you! What makes you
stand like that? Why don't you go?"

Irene's lips moved; she seemed to be saying: "Where should I go?"

June turned to the window. She could see the face of a clock
down in the street. It was nearly four. At any moment he might
come! She looked back across her shoulder, and her face was
distorted with anger.

But Irene had not moved; in her gloved hands she ceaselessly
turned and twisted the little bunch of violets.

The tears of rage and disappointment rolled down June's cheeks.

"How could you come?" she said. "You have been a false friend to
me!"

Again Irene laughed. June saw that she had played a wrong card,
and broke down.

"Why have you come?" she sobbed. "You've ruined my life, and now
you want to ruin his!"

Irene's mouth quivered; her eyes met June's with a look so
mournful that the girl cried out in the midst of her sobbing,
"No, no!"

But Irene's head bent till it touched her breast. She turned,
and went quickly out, hiding her lips with the little bunch of
violets.

June ran to the door. She heard the footsteps going down and
down. She called out: "Come back, Irene! Come back!"

The footsteps died away....

Bewildered and torn, the girl stood at the top of the stairs.
Why had Irene gone, leaving her mistress of the field? What did
it mean? Had she really given him up to her? Or had she...?
And she was the prey of a gnawing uncertainty.... Bosinney did
not come....

About six o'clock that afternoon old Jolyon returned from
Wistaria Avenue, where now almost every day he spent some hours,
and asked if his grand-daughter were upstairs. On being told
that she had just come in, he sent up to her room to request her
to come down and speak to him.

He had made up his mind to tell her that he was reconciled with
her father. In future bygones must be bygones. He would no
longer live alone, or practically alone, in this great house; he
was going to give it up, and take one in the country for his son,
where they could all go and live together. If June did not like
this, she could have an allowance and live by herself. It
wouldn't make much difference to her, for it was a long time
since she had shown him any affection.

But when June came down, her face was pinched and piteous; there
was a strained, pathetic look in her eyes. She snuggled up in
her old attitude on the arm of his chair, and what he said
compared but poorly with the clear, authoritative, injured
statement he had thought out with much care. His heart felt
sore, as the great heart of a mother-bird feels sore when its
youngling flies and bruises its wing. His words halted, as
though he were apologizing for having at last deviated from the
path of virtue, and succumbed, in defiance of sounder principles,
to his more natural instincts.

He seemed nervous lest, in thus announcing his intentions, he
should be setting his granddaughter a bad example; and now that
he came to the point, his way of putting the suggestion that, if
she didn't like it, she could live by herself and lump it, was
delicate in the extreme.'

"And if, by any chance, my darling," he said, "you found you
didn't get on--with them, why, I could make that all right. You
could have what you liked. We could find a little flat in London
where you could set up, and I could be running to continually.
But the children," he added, "are dear little things!"

Then, in the midst of this grave, rather transparent, explanation
of changed policy, his eyes twinkled. "This'll astonish
Timothy's weak nerves. That precious young thing will have
something to say about this, or I'm a Dutchman!"

June had not yet spoken. Perched thus on the arm of his chair,
with her head above him, her face was invisible. But presently
he felt her warm cheek against his own, and knew that, at all
events, there was nothing very alarming in her attitude towards
his news. He began to take courage.

"You'll like your father," he said--"an amiable chap. Never was
much push about him, but easy to get on with. You'll find him
artistic and all that."

And old Jolyon bethought him of the dozen or so water-colour
drawings all carefully locked up in his bedroom; for now that his
son was going to become a man of property he did not think them
quite such poor things as heretofore.

"As to your--your stepmother," he said, using the word with some
little difficulty, "I call her a refined woman--a bit of a Mrs.
Gummidge, I shouldn't wonder--but very fond of Jo. And the
children," he repeated--indeed, this sentence ran like music
through all his solemn self-justification--"are sweet little
things!"

If June had known, those words but reincarnated that tender love
for little children, for the young and weak, which in the past
had made him desert his son for her tiny self, and now, as the
cycle rolled, was taking him from her.

But he began to get alarmed at her silence, and asked
impatiently: "Well, what do you say?"

June slid down to his knee, and she in her turn began her tale.
She thought it would all go splendidly; she did not see any
difficulty, and she did not care a bit what people thought.

Old Jolyon wriggled. H'm! then people would think! He had
thought that after all these years perhaps they wouldn't! Well,
he couldn't help it! Nevertheless, he could not approve of his
granddaughter's way of putting it--she ought to mind what people
thought!

Yet he said nothing. His feelings were too mixed, too
inconsistent for expression.

No--went on June he did not care; what business was it of theirs?
There was only one thing--and with her cheek pressing against his
knee, old Jolyon knew at once that this something was no trifle:
As he was going to buy a house in the country, would he not--to
please her--buy that splendid house of Soames' at Robin Hill? It
was finished, it was perfectly beautiful, and no one would live
in it now. They would all be so happy there.

Old Jolyon was on the alert at once. Wasn't the 'man of
property' going to live in his new house, then? He never alluded
to Soames now but under this title.

"No"--June said--"he was not; she knew that he was not!"

How did she know?

She could not tell him, but she knew. She knew nearly for
certain! It was most unlikely; circumstances had changed!
Irene's words still rang in her head: "I have left Soames.
Where should I go?"

But she kept silence about that.

If her grandfather would only buy it and settle that wretched
claim that ought never to have been made on Phil! It would be
the very best thing for everybody, and everything--everything
might come straight

And June put her lips to his forehead, and pressed them close.

But old Jolyon freed himself from her caress, his face wore the
judicial look which came upon it when he dealt with affairs. He
asked: What did she mean? There was something behind all this--
had she been seeing Bosinney?

June answered: "No; but I have been to his rooms."

"Been to his rooms? Who took you there?"

June faced him steadily. "I went alone. He has lost that case.
I don't care whether it was right or wrong. I want to help him;
and I will!"

Old Jolyon asked again: "Have you seen him?" His glance seemed to
pierce right through the girl's eyes into her soul.

Again June answered: "No; he was not there. I waited, but he did
not come."

Old Jolyon made a movement of relief. She had risen and looked
down at him; so slight, and light, and young, but so fixed, and
so determined; and disturbed, vexed, as he was, he could not
frown away that fixed look. The feeling of being beaten, of the
reins having slipped, of being old and tired, mastered him.

"Ah!" he said at last, "you'll get yourself into a mess one of
these days, I can see. You want your own way in everything."

Visited by one of his strange bursts of philosophy, he added:
"Like that you were born; and like that you'll stay until you
die!"

And he, who in his dealings with men of business, with Boards,
with Forsytes of all descriptions, with such as were not
Forsytes, had always had his own way, looked at his indomitable
grandchild sadly--for he felt in her that quality which above all
others he unconsciously admired.

"Do you know what they say is going on?" he said slowly.

June crimsoned.

"Yes--no! I know--and I don't know--I don't care!" and she
stamped her foot.

"I believe," said old Jolyon, dropping his eyes, "that you'd have
him if he were dead!'

There was a long silence before he spoke again.

"But as to buying this house--you don't know what you're talking
about!"

June said that she did. She knew that he could get it if he
wanted. He would only have to give what it cost.

"What it cost! You know nothing about it. I won't go to Soames-
--I'll have nothing more to do with that young man."

"But you needn't; you can go to Uncle James. If you can't buy
the house, will you pay his lawsuit claim? I know he is terribly
hard up--I've seen it. You can stop it out of my money!"

A twinkle came into old Jolyon's eyes.

"Stop it out of your money! A pretty way

And what will you do, pray, without your money?"

But secretly, the idea of wresting the house from James and his
son had begun to take hold of him. He had heard on Forsyte
'Change much comment, much rather doubtful praise of this house.
It was 'too artistic,' but a fine place. To take from the 'man
of property' that on which he had set his heart, would be a
crowning triumph over James, practical proof that he was going to
make a man of property of Jo, to put him back in his proper
position, and there to keep him secure. Justice once for all on
those who had chosen to regard his son as a poor, penniless
outcast.

He would see, he would see! It might be out of the question; he
was not going to pay a fancy price, but if it could be done, why,
perhaps he would do it!

And still more secretly he knew that he could not refuse her.

But he did not commit himself. He would think it over--he said
to June.





Man of Property by John Galsworthy
Category:
English Novel

General Fiction
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