Mrs. MACANDER’S evidence
Many people, no doubt, including the editor of the ’Ultra Vivisectionist,’ then in the bloom of its first youth, would say that Soames was less than a man not to have removed the locks from his wife’s doors, and, after beating her soundly, resumed wedded happiness.
Brutality is not so deplorably diluted by humaneness as it used to be, yet a sentimental segment of the population may still be relieved to learn that he did none of these things. For active brutality is not popular with Forsytes; they are too circumspect, and, on the whole, too softhearted. And in Soames there was some common pride, not sufficient to make him do a really generous action, but enough to prevent his indulging in an extremely mean one, except, perhaps, in very hot blood. Above all this a true Forsyte refused to feel himself ridiculous. Short of actually beating his wife, he perceived nothing to be done; he therefore accepted the situation without another word.
Throughout the summer and autumn he continued to go to the office, to sort his pictures, and ask his friends to dinner.
He did not leave town; Irene refused to go away. The house at Robin Hill, finished though it was, remained empty and ownerless. Soames had brought a suit against the Buccaneer, in which he claimed from him the sum of three hundred and fifty pounds.
A firm of solicitors, Messrs. Freak and Able, had put in a defence on Bosinney’s behalf. Admitting the facts, they raised a point on the correspondence which, divested of legal phraseology, amounted to this: To speak of ‘a free hand in the terms of this correspondence’ is an Irish bull.
By a chance, fortuitous but not improbable in the close borough of legal circles, a good deal of information came to Soames’ ear anent this line of policy, the working partner in his firm, Bustard, happening to sit next at dinner at Walmisley’s, the Taxing Master, to young Chankery, of the Common Law Bar.
The necessity for talking what is known as ‘shop,’ which comes on all lawyers with the removal of the ladies, caused Chankery, a young and promising advocate, to propound an impersonal conundrum to his neighbour, whose name he did not know, for, seated as he permanently was in the background, Bustard had practically no name.
He had, said Chankery, a case coming on with a ‘very nice point.’ He then explained, preserving every professional discretion, the riddle in Soames’ case. Everyone, he said, to whom he had spoken, thought it a nice point. The issue was small unfortunately, ’though d——d serious for his client he believed’—Walmisley’s champagne was bad but plentiful. A Judge would make short work of it, he was afraid. He intended to make a big effort—the point was a nice one. What did his neighbour say?