A long, soft ripple of wind flowed over the corn, and brought a puff of warm air into their faces.
“I could build you a teaser here,” said Bosinney, breaking the silence at last.
“I dare say,” replied Soames, drily. “You haven’t got to pay for it.”
“For about eight thousand I could build you a palace.”
Soames had become very pale—a struggle was going on within him. He dropped his eyes, and said stubbornly:
“I can’t afford it.”
And slowly, with his mousing walk, he led the way back to the first site.
They spent some time there going into particulars of the projected house, and then Soames returned to the agent’s cottage.
He came out in about half an hour, and, joining Bosinney, started for the station.
“Well,” he said, hardly opening his lips, “I’ve taken that site of yours, after all.”
And again he was silent, confusedly debating how it was that this fellow, whom by habit he despised, should have overborne his own decision.
A FORSYTE MENAGE
Like the enlightened thousands of his class and generation in this great city of London, who no longer believe in red velvet chairs, and know that groups of modern Italian marble are ‘vieux jeu,’ Soames Forsyte inhabited a house which did what it could. It owned a copper door knocker of individual design, windows which had been altered to open outwards, hanging flower boxes filled with fuchsias, and at the back (a great feature) a little court tiled with jade-green tiles, and surrounded by pink hydrangeas in peacock-blue tubs. Here, under a parchment-coloured Japanese sunshade covering the whole end, inhabitants or visitors could be screened from the eyes of the curious while they drank tea and examined at their leisure the latest of Soames’s little silver boxes.
The inner decoration favoured the First Empire and William Morris. For its size, the house was commodious; there were countless nooks resembling birds’ nests, and little things made of silver were deposited like eggs.
In this general perfection two kinds of fastidiousness were at war. There lived here a mistress who would have dwelt daintily on a desert island; a master whose daintiness was, as it were, an investment, cultivated by the owner for his advancement, in accordance with the laws of competition. This competitive daintiness had caused Soames in his Marlborough days to be the first boy into white waistcoats in summer, and corduroy waistcoats in winter, had prevented him from ever appearing in public with his tie climbing up his collar, and induced him to dust his patent leather boots before a great multitude assembled on Speech Day to hear him recite Moliere.
Skin-like immaculateness had grown over Soames, as over many Londoners; impossible to conceive of him with a hair out of place, a tie deviating one-eighth of an inch from the perpendicular, a collar unglossed! He would not have gone without a bath for worlds—it was the fashion to take baths; and how bitter was his scorn of people who omitted them!