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CHAPTER VIII

PLANS OF THE HOUSE


Forsytes, as is generally admitted, have shells, like that
extremely useful little animal which is made into Turkish
delight, in other words, they are never seen, or if seen would
not be recognised, without habitats, composed of circumstance,
property, acquaintances, and wives, which seem to move along with
them in their passage through a world composed of thousands of
other Forsytes with their habitats. Without a habitat a Forsyte
is inconceivable--he would be like a novel without a plot, which
is well-known to be an anomaly.

To Forsyte eyes Bosinney appeared to have no habitat, he seemed
one of those rare and unfortunate men who go through life
surrounded by circumstance, property, acquaintances, and wives
that do not belong to them.

His rooms in Sloane Street, on the top floor, outside which, on a
plate, was his name, 'Philip Baynes Bosinney, Architect,' were
not those of a Forsyte.--He had no sitting-room apart from his
office, but a large recess had been screened off to conceal the
necessaries of life--a couch, an easy chair, his pipes, spirit
case, novels and slippers. The business part of the room had the
usual furniture; an open cupboard with pigeon-holes, a round oak
table, a folding wash-stand, some hard chairs, a standing desk of
large dimensions covered with drawings and designs. June had
twice been to tea there under the chaperonage of his aunt.

He was believed to have a bedroom at the back.

As far as the family had been able to ascertain his income, it
consisted of two consulting appointments at twenty pounds a year,
together with an odd fee once in a way, and--more worthy item--a
private annuity under his father's will of one hundred and fifty
pounds a year.

What had transpired concerning that father was not so reassuring.
It appeared that he had been a Lincolnshire country doctor of
Cornish extraction, striking appearance, and Byronic tendencies--
a well-known figure, in fact, in his county. Bosinney's uncle by
marriage, Baynes, of Baynes and Bildeboy, a Forsyte in instincts
if not in name, had but little that was worthy to relate of his
brother-in-law.

"An odd fellow!' he would say: 'always spoke of his three eldest
boys as 'good creatures, but so dull'; they're all doing
capitally in the Indian Civil! Philip was the only one he liked.
I've heard him talk in the queerest way; he once said to me: 'My
dear fellow, never let your poor wife know what you're thinking
of! But I didn't follow his advice; not I! An eccentric man!
He would say to Phil: 'Whether you live like a gentleman or not,
my boy, be sure you die like one! and he had himself embalmed in
a frock coat suit, with a satin cravat and a diamond pin. Oh,
quite an original, I can assure you I"

Of Bosinney himself Baynes would speak warmly, with a certain
compassion: "He's got a streak of his father's Byronism. Why,
look at the way he threw up his chances when he left my office;
going off like that for six months with a knapsack, and all for
what?--to study foreign architecture--foreign! What could he
expect? And there he is--a clever young fellow--doesn't make his
hundred a year! Now this engagement is the best thing that could
have happened--keep him steady; he's one of those that go to bed
all day and stay up all night, simply because they've no method;
but no vice about him--not an ounce of vice. Old Forsyte's a
rich man!"

Mr. Baynes made himself extremely pleasant to June, who
frequently visited his house in Lowndes Square at this period.

"This house of your cousin's--what a capital man of business--is
the very thing for Philip," he would say to her; "you mustn't
expect to see too much of him just now, my dear young lady. The
good cause--the good cause! The young man must make his way.
When I was his age I was at work day and night. My dear wife
used to say to me, 'Bobby, don't work too hard, think of your
health'; but I never spared myself!"

June had complained that her lover found no time to come to
Stanhope Gate.

The first time he came again they had not been together a quarter
of an hour before, by one of those coincidences of which she was
a mistress, Mrs. Septimus Small arrived. Thereon Bosinney rose
and hid himself, according to previous arrangement, in the little
study, to wait for her departure.

"My dear," said Aunt Juley, "how thin he is! I've often noticed
it with engaged people; but you mustn't let it get worse.
There's Barlow's extract of veal; it did your Uncle Swithin a lot
of good."

June, her little figure erect before the hearth, her small face
quivering grimly, for she regarded her aunt's untimely visit in
the light of a personal injury, replied with scorn:

"It's because he's busy; people who can do anything worth doing
are never fat!"

Aunt Juley pouted; she herself had always been thin, but the only
pleasure she derived from the fact was the opportunity of longing
to be stouter.

I don't think," she said mournfully, "that you ought to let them
call him 'The Buccaneer'; people might think it odd, now that
he's going to build a house for Soames. I do hope he will be
careful; it's so important for him. Soames has such good taste!"

"Taste!" cried June, flaring up at once; "wouldn't give that for
his taste, or any of the family's!"

Mrs. Small was taken aback.

"Your Uncle Swithin," she said, "always had beautiful taste! And
Soames's little house is lovely; you don't mean to say you don't
think so!"

"H'mph!" said June, "that's only because Irene's there!"

Aunt Juley tried to say something pleasant:

"And how will dear Irene like living in the country?"

June gazed at her intently, with a look in her eyes as if her
conscience had suddenly leaped up into them; it passed; and an
even more intent look took its place, as if she had stared that
conscience out of countenance. She replied imperiously:

Of course she'll like it; why shouldn't she?"

Mrs. Small grew nervous.

"I didn't know," she said; "I thought she mightn't like to leave
her friends. Your Uncle James says she doesn't take enough
interest in life. We think--I mean Timothy thinks--she ought to
go out more. I expect you'll miss her very much!"

June clasped her hands behind her neck.

"I do wish, "she cried, "Uncle Timothy wouldn't talk about what
doesn't concern him!"

Aunt Juley rose to the full height of her tall figure.

"He never talks about what doesn't concern him, she said.

June was instantly compunctious; she ran to her aunt and kissed
her.

"I'm very sorry, auntie; but I wish they'd let Irene alone."

Aunt Juley, unable to think of anything further on the subject
that would be suitable, was silent; she prepared for departure,
hooking her black silk cape across her chest, and, taking up her
green reticule:

"And how is your dear grandfather?" she asked in the hall, "I
expect he's very lonely now that all your time is taken up with
Mr. Bosinney."

She bent and kissed her niece hungrily, and with little, mincing
steps passed away.

The tears sprang up in June's eyes; running into the little
study, where Bosinney was sitting at the table drawing birds on
the back of an envelope, she sank down, by his side and cried:

"Oh, Phil! it's all so horrid!" Her heart was as warm as the
colour of her hair.

On the following Sunday morning, while Soames was shaving, a
message was brought him to the effect that Mr. Bosinney was
below, and would be glad to see him. Opening the door into his
wife's room, he said:

"Bosinney's downstairs. Just go and entertain him while I finish
shaving. I'll be down in a minute. It's about the plans, I
expect."

Irene looked at him, without reply, put the finishing touch to
her dress and went downstairs. He could not make her out about
this house. She had said nothing against it, and, as far as
Bosinney was concerned, seemed friendly enough.

>From the window of his dressing-room he could see them talking
together in the little court below. He hurried on with his
shaving, cutting his chin twice. He heard them laugh, and
thought to himself: "Well, they get on all right, anyway!"

As he expected, Bosinney had come round to fetch, him to look at
the plans.

He took his hat and went over.

The plans were spread on the oak table in the architect's room;
and pale, imperturbable, inquiring, Soames bent over them for a
long time without speaking.

He said at last in a puzzled voice:

"It's an odd sort of house!"

A rectangular house of two stories was designed in a quadrangle
round a covered-in court. This court, encircled by a gallery on
the upper floor, was roofed with a glass roof, supported by eight
columns running up from the ground.

It was indeed, to Forsyte eyes, an odd house.

"There's a lot of room cut to waste," pursued Soames.

Bosinney began to walk about, and Soames did not like the
expression on his face.

"The principle of this house," said the architect, "was that you
should have room to breathe--like a gentleman!"

Soames extended his finger and thumb, as if measuring the extent
of the distinction he should acquire; and replied:

"Oh! yes; I see."

The peculiar look came into Bosinney's face which marked all, his
enthusiasms.

"I've tried to plan you a house here with some self-respect of
its own. If you don't like it, you'd better say so. It's
certainly the last thing to be considered--who wants self-respect
in a house, when you can squeeze in an extra lavatory?" He put
his finger suddenly down on the left division of the centre
oblong: "You can swing a cat here. This is for your pictures,
divided from this court by curtains; draw them back and you'll
have a space of fifty-one by twenty-three six. This double-faced
stove in the centre, here, looks one way towards the court, one
way towards the picture room; this end wall is all window; You've
a southeast light from that, a north light from the court. The
rest of your pictures you can hang round the gallery upstairs, or
in the other rooms. "In architecture," he went on--and though
looking at Soames he did not seem to see him, which gave Soames
an unpleasant feeling--"as in life, you'll get no self-respect
without regularity. Fellows tell you that's old fashioned. It
appears to be peculiar any way; it never occurs to us to embody
the main principle of life in our buildings; we load our houses
with decoration, gimcracks, corners, anything to distract the
eye. On the contrary the eye should rest; get your effects with
a few strong lines. The whole thing is regularity there's no
self-respect without it."

Soames, the unconscious ironist, fixed his gaze on Bosinney's
tie, which was far from being in the perpendicular; he was
unshaven too, and his dress not remarkable for order.
Architecture appeared to have exhausted his regularity.

"Won't it look like a barrack?" he inquired.

He did not at once receive a reply.

"I can see what it is," said Bosinney, "you want one of Little-
master's houses--one of the pretty and commodious sort, where the
servants will live in garrets, and the front door be sunk so that
you may come up again. By all means try Littlemaster, you'll
find him a capital fellow, I've known him all my life!"

Soames was alarmed. He had really been struck by the plans, and
the concealment of his satisfaction had been merely instinctive.
It was difficult for him to pay a compliment. He despised people
who were lavish with their praises.

He found himself now in the embarrassing position of one who must
pay a compliment or run the risk of losing a good thing.
Bosinney was just the fellow who might tear up the plans and
refuse to act for him; a kind of grown-up child!

This grown-up childishness, to which he felt so superior,
exercised a peculiar and almost mesmeric effect on Soames, for he
had never felt anything like it in himself.

"Well," he stammered at last, "it's--it's, certainly original."

He had such a private distrust and even dislike of the word=original' that he
felt he had not really given himself away by
this remark.

Bosinney seemed pleased. It was the sort of thing that would
please a fellow like that! And his success encouraged Soames.

"It's--a big place," he said.

"Space, air, light," he heard Bosinney murmur, "you can't live
like a gentleman in one of Littlemaster's--he builds for
manufacturers."

Soames made a deprecating movement; he had been identified with a
gentleman; not for a good deal of money now would he be classed
with manufacturers. But his innate distrust of general
principles revived. What the deuce was the good of talking about
regularity and self-respect? It looked to him as if the house
would be cold.

"Irene can't stand the cold!" he said.

"Ah!" said Bosinney sarcastically. "Your wife? She doesn't like
the cold? I'll see to that; she shan't be cold. Look here!" he
pointed, to four marks at regular intervals on the walls of the
court. "I've given you hot-water pipes in aluminium casings; you
can get them with very good designs."

Soames looked suspiciously at these marks.

"It's all very well, all this," he' said, "but what's it going to
cost?'

The architect took a sheet of paper from his pocket:

"The house, of course, should be built entirely of stone, but, as
I thought you wouldn't stand that, I've compromised for a facing.
It ought to have a copper roof, but I've made it green slate. As
it is, including metal work, it'll cost you eight thousand five
hundred."

"Eight thousand five hundred?" said Soames. "Why, I gave you an
outside limit of eight!"

"Can't be done for a penny less," replied Bosinney coolly.

"You must take it or leave it!"

It was the only way, probably, that such a proposition could have
been made to Soames. He was nonplussed. Conscience told him to
throw the whole thing up. But the design was good, and he knew
it--there was completeness about it, and dignity; the servants'
apartments were excellent too. He would gain credit by living in
a house like that--with such individual features, yet perfectly.
well-arranged.

He continued poring over the plans, while Bosinney went into his
bedroom to shave and dress.

The two walked back to Montpellier Square in silence, Soames
watching him out of the corner of his eye.

The Buccaneer was rather a good-looking fellow--so he thought--
when he was properly got up.

Irene was bending over her flowers when the two men came in.

She spoke of sending across the Park to fetch June.

"No, no," said Soames, "we've still got business to talk over!"

At lunch he was almost cordial, and kept pressing Bosinney to
eat. He was pleased to see the architect in such high spirits,
and left him to spend the afternoon with Irene, while he stole
off to his pictures, after his Sunday habit. At tea-time he came
down to the drawing-room, and found them talking, as he expressed
it, nineteen to the dozen.

Unobserved in the doorway, he congratulated himself that things
were taking the right turn. It was lucky she and Bosinney got
on; she seemed to be falling into line with the idea of the new
house.

Quiet meditation among his pictures had decided him to spring the
five hundred if necessary; but he hoped that the afternoon might
have softened Bosinney's estimates. It was so purely a matter
which Bosinney could remedy if he liked; there must be a dozen
ways in which he could cheapen the production of a house without
spoiling the effect.

He awaited, therefore, his opportunity till Irene was handing the
architect his first cup of tea. A chink of sunshine through the
lace of the blinds warmed her cheek, shone in the gold of her
hair, and in her soft eyes. Possibly the same gleam deepened
Bosinney's colour, gave the rather startled look to his face.

Soames hated sunshine, and he at once got up, to draw the blind.
Then he took his own cup of tea from his wife, and said, more
coldly than he had intended:

"Can't you see your way to do it for eight thousand after all?
There must be a lot of little things you could alter."

Bosinney drank off his tea at a gulp, put down his cup, and
answered:

"Not one!"

Soames saw that his suggestion had touched some unintelligible
point of personal vanity.

"Well," he agreed, with sulky resignation; "you must have it your
own way, I suppose."

A few minutes later Bosinney rose to go, and Soames rose too, to
see him off the premises. The architect seemed in absurdly high
spirits. After watching him walk away at a swinging pace, Soames
returned moodily to the drawing-room, where Irene was putting
away the music, and, moved by an uncontrollable spasm of
curiosity, he asked:

"Well, what do you think of 'The Buccaneer'?"

He looked at the carpet while waiting for her answer, and he had
to wait some time.

"I don't know," she said at last.

"Do you think he's good-looking?"

Irene smiled. And it seemed to Soames that she was mocking him.

"Yes," she answered; "very."





Man of Property by John Galsworthy
Category:
English Novel

General Fiction
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