Nothing sacred to them! He shouldn’t be surprised if they began to break windows. In Pall Mall, past those august dwellings, to enter which people paid sixty pounds, this shrieking, whistling, dancing dervish of a crowd was swarming. From the Club windows his own kind were looking out on them with regulated amusement. They didn’t realise! Why, this was serious—might come to anything! The crowd was cheerful, but some day they would come in different mood! He remembered there had been a mob in the late eighties, when he was at Brighton; they had smashed things and made speeches. But more than dread, he felt a deep surprise. They were hysterical—it wasn’t English! And all about the relief of a little town as big as—Watford, six thousand miles away. Restraint, reserve! Those qualities to him more dear almost than life, those indispensable attributes of property and culture, where were they? It wasn’t English! No, it wasn’t English! So Soames brooded, threading his way on. It was as if he had suddenly caught sight of someone cutting the covenant ’for quiet possession’ out of his legal documents; or of a monster lurking and stalking out in the future, casting its shadow before. Their want of stolidity, their want of reverence! It was like discovering that nine-tenths of the people of England were foreigners. And if that were so—then, anything might happen!
At Hyde Park Corner he ran into George Forsyte, very sunburnt from racing, holding a false nose in his hand.
“Hallo, Soames!” he said, “have a nose!”
Soames responded with a pale smile.
“Got this from one of these sportsmen,” went on George, who had evidently been dining; “had to lay him out—for trying to bash my hat. I say, one of these days we shall have to fight these chaps, they’re getting so damned cheeky—all radicals and socialists. They want our goods. You tell Uncle James that, it’ll make him sleep.”
‘In vino veritas,’ thought Soames, but he only nodded, and passed on up Hamilton Place. There was but a trickle of roysterers in Park Lane, not very noisy. And looking up at the houses he thought: ’After all, we’re the backbone of the country. They won’t upset us easily. Possession’s nine points of the law.’
But, as he closed the door of his father’s house behind him, all that queer outlandish nightmare in the streets passed out of his mind almost as completely as if, having dreamed it, he had awakened in the warm clean morning comfort of his spring-mattressed bed.
Walking into the centre of the great empty drawing-room, he stood still.
A wife! Somebody to talk things over with. One had a right! Damn it! One had a right!
SOAMES IN PARIS