But shaking himself with sudden disgust, Soames returned to the path, and left that seeking for he knew not what.
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.