In truth, June had come in that afternoon with shining eyes, and the words: “Soames is a brick! It’s splendid for Phil—the very thing for him!”
Irene’s face remaining dark and puzzled, she went on:
“Your new house at Robin Hill, of course. What? Don’t you know?”
Irene did not know.
“Oh! then, I suppose I oughtn’t to have told you!” Looking impatiently at her friend, she cried: “You look as if you didn’t care. Don’t you see, it’s what I’ve’ been praying for—the very chance he’s been wanting all this time. Now you’ll see what he can do;” and thereupon she poured out the whole story.
Since her own engagement she had not seemed much interested in her friend’s position; the hours she spent with Irene were given to confidences of her own; and at times, for all her affectionate pity, it was impossible to keep out of her smile a trace of compassionate contempt for the woman who had made such a mistake in her life—such a vast, ridiculous mistake.
“He’s to have all the decorations as well—a free hand. It’s perfect—” June broke into laughter, her little figure quivered gleefully; she raised her hand, and struck a blow at a muslin curtain. “Do you, know I even asked Uncle James....” But, with a sudden dislike to mentioning that incident, she stopped; and presently, finding her friend so unresponsive, went away. She looked back from the pavement, and Irene was still standing in the doorway. In response to her farewell wave, Irene put her hand to her brow, and, turning slowly, shut the door....
Soames went to the drawing-room presently, and peered at her through the window.
Out in the shadow of the Japanese sunshade she was sitting very still, the lace on her white shoulders stirring with the soft rise and fall of her bosom.
But about this silent creature sitting there so motionless, in the dark, there seemed a warmth, a hidden fervour of feeling, as if the whole of her being had been stirred, and some change were taking place in its very depths.
He stole back to the dining-room unnoticed.
JAMES AT LARGE
It was not long before Soames’s determination to build went the round of the family, and created the flutter that any decision connected with property should make among Forsytes.
It was not his fault, for he had been determined that no one should know. June, in the fulness of her heart, had told Mrs. Small, giving her leave only to tell Aunt Ann—she thought it would cheer her, the poor old sweet! for Aunt Ann had kept her room now for many days.
Mrs. Small told Aunt Ann at once, who, smiling as she lay back on her pillows, said in her distinct, trembling old voice:
“It’s very nice for dear June; but I hope they will be careful—it’s rather dangerous!”
When she was left alone again, a frown, like a cloud presaging a rainy morrow, crossed her face.