But Irene’s silence this evening was exceptional. He had never before seen such an expression on her face. And since it is always the unusual which alarms, Soames was alarmed. He ate his savoury, and hurried the maid as she swept off the crumbs with the silver sweeper. When she had left the room, he filled his glass with wine and said:
“Anybody been here this afternoon?”
“What did she want?” It was an axiom with the Forsytes that people did not go anywhere unless they wanted something. “Came to talk about her lover, I suppose?”
Irene made no reply.
“It looks to me,” continued Soames, “as if she were sweeter on him than he is on her. She’s always following him about.”
Irene’s eyes made him feel uncomfortable.
“You’ve no business to say such a thing!” she exclaimed.
“Why not? Anybody can see it.”
“They cannot. And if they could, it’s disgraceful to say so.”
Soames’s composure gave way.
“You’re a pretty wife!” he said. But secretly he wondered at the heat of her reply; it was unlike her. “You’re cracked about June! I can tell you one thing: now that she has the Buccaneer in tow, she doesn’t care twopence about you, and, you’ll find it out. But you won’t see so much of her in future; we’re going to live in the country.”
He had been glad to get his news out under cover of this burst of irritation. He had expected a cry of dismay; the silence with which his pronouncement was received alarmed him.
“You don’t seem interested,” he was obliged to add.
“I knew it already.”
He looked at her sharply.
“Who told you?”
“How did she know?”
Irene did not answer. Baffled and uncomfortable, he said:
“It’s a fine thing for Bosinney, it’ll be the making of him. I suppose she’s told you all about it?”
There was another pause, and then Soames said:
“I suppose you don’t want to, go?”
Irene made no reply.
“Well, I can’t tell what you want. You never seem contented here.”
“Have my wishes anything to do with it?”
She took the vase of roses and left the room. Soames remained seated. Was it for this that he had signed that contract? Was it for this that he was going to spend some ten thousand pounds? Bosinney’s phrase came back to him: “Women are the devil!”
But presently he grew calmer. It might have, been worse. She might have flared up. He had expected something more than this. It was lucky, after all, that June had broken the ice for him. She must have wormed it out of Bosinney; he might have known she would.
He lighted his cigarette. After all, Irene had not made a scene! She would come round—that was the best of her; she was cold, but not sulky. And, puffing the cigarette smoke at a lady-bird on the shining table, he plunged into a reverie about the house. It was no good worrying; he would go and make it up presently. She would be sitting out there in the dark, under the Japanese sunshade, knitting. A beautiful, warm night....