“This is fantastic,” murmured Jolyon. Well, the fellow couldn’t force his wife to live with him. Those days were past, anyway! And he looked around at Soames with the thought: ‘Is he real, this man?’ But Soames looked very real, sitting square yet almost elegant with the clipped moustache on his pale face, and a tooth showing where a lip was lifted in a fixed smile. There was a long silence, while Jolyon thought: ’Instead of helping her, I’ve made things worse.’ Suddenly Soames said:
“It would be the best thing that could happen to her in many ways.”
At those words such a turmoil began taking place in Jolyon that he could barely sit still in the cab. It was as if he were boxed up with hundreds of thousands of his countrymen, boxed up with that something in the national character which had always been to him revolting, something which he knew to be extremely natural and yet which seemed to him inexplicable—their intense belief in contracts and vested rights, their complacent sense of virtue in the exaction of those rights. Here beside him in the cab was the very embodiment, the corporeal sum as it were, of the possessive instinct—his own kinsman, too! It was uncanny and intolerable! ‘But there’s something more in it than that!’ he thought with a sick feeling. ’The dog, they say, returns to his vomit! The sight of her has reawakened something. Beauty! The devil’s in it!’
“As I say,” said Soames, “I have not made up my mind. I shall be obliged if you will kindly leave her quite alone.”
Jolyon bit his lips; he who had always hated rows almost welcomed the thought of one now.
“I can give you no such promise,” he said shortly.
“Very well,” said Soames, “then we know where we are. I’ll get down here.” And stopping the cab he got out without word or sign of farewell. Jolyon travelled on to his Club.
The first news of the war was being called in the streets, but he paid no attention. What could he do to help her? If only his father were alive! He could have done so much! But why could he not do all that his father could have done? Was he not old enough?—turned fifty and twice married, with grown-up daughters and a son. ‘Queer,’ he thought. ’If she were plain I shouldn’t be thinking twice about it. Beauty is the devil, when you’re sensitive to it!’ And into the Club reading-room he went with a disturbed heart. In that very room he and Bosinney had talked one summer afternoon; he well remembered even now the disguised and secret lecture he had given that young man in the interests of June, the diagnosis of the Forsytes he had hazarded; and how he had wondered what sort of woman it was he was warning him against. And now! He was almost in want of a warning himself. ‘It’s deuced funny!’ he thought, ’really deuced funny!’
SOAMES DISCOVERS WHAT HE WANTS