“Do you ever think that I found out my mistake—my hopeless, terrible mistake—the very first week of our marriage; that I went on trying three years—you know I went on trying? Was it for myself?”
Soames gritted his teeth. “God knows what it was. I’ve never understood you; I shall never understand you. You had everything you wanted; and you can have it again, and more. What’s the matter with me? I ask you a plain question: What is it?” Unconscious of the pathos in that enquiry, he went on passionately: “I’m not lame, I’m not loathsome, I’m not a boor, I’m not a fool. What is it? What’s the mystery about me?”
Her answer was a long sigh.
He clasped his hands with a gesture that for him was strangely full of expression. “When I came here to-night I was—I hoped—I meant everything that I could to do away with the past, and start fair again. And you meet me with ‘nerves,’ and silence, and sighs. There’s nothing tangible. It’s like—it’s like a spider’s web.”
That whisper from across the room maddened Soames afresh.
“Well, I don’t choose to be in a spider’s web. I’ll cut it.” He walked straight up to her. “Now!” What he had gone up to her to do he really did not know. But when he was close, the old familiar scent of her clothes suddenly affected him. He put his hands on her shoulders and bent forward to kiss her. He kissed not her lips, but a little hard line where the lips had been drawn in; then his face was pressed away by her hands; he heard her say: “Oh! No!” Shame, compunction, sense of futility flooded his whole being, he turned on his heel and went straight out.
VISIT TO IRENE
Jolyon found June waiting on the platform at Paddington. She had received his telegram while at breakfast. Her abode—a studio and two bedrooms in a St. John’s Wood garden—had been selected by her for the complete independence which it guaranteed. Unwatched by Mrs. Grundy, unhindered by permanent domestics, she could receive lame ducks at any hour of day or night, and not seldom had a duck without studio of its own made use of June’s. She enjoyed her freedom, and possessed herself with a sort of virginal passion; the warmth which she would have lavished on Bosinney, and of which—given her Forsyte tenacity—he must surely have tired, she now expended in championship of the underdogs and budding ‘geniuses’ of the artistic world. She lived, in fact, to turn ducks into the swans she believed they were. The very fervour of her protection warped her judgments. But she was loyal and liberal; her small eager hand was ever against the oppressions of academic and commercial opinion, and though her income was considerable, her bank balance was often a minus quantity.