(Masterpieces of British Fiction)

Soames Forsyte was a member of the board of the Providential Premium Reassurance Society. Against his better judgment, the society had invested much of its holdings in foreign securities. Because the European exchange was so unstable, Soames insisted that the report to the stockholders be detailed. Not long afterward, Butterfield, a clerk in the P.P.R.S. office, overheard a conversation between Elderson, the manager, and a German. The German insisted that Elderson, who had received commissions on the society’s investments in Germany, should see to it that the board made good any losses if the mark fell in value. Accused of bribery, Elderson denied the charge and dismissed Butterfield. When pressed, however, Elderson escaped to the Continent. The stockholders were outraged that the board had permitted Elderson to get away. Although Soames explained that any early revelation of the manager’s dishonesty would have been futile, he received very little support from his listeners. He resigned from the board.

Michael Mont, Soames’s son-in-law, was a publisher. When Butterfield lost his job with the P.P.R.S., Soames asked Michael to give the clerk employment. Butterfield prospered as a salesman of special editions.

Michael’s wife, Fleur, had been spoiled by her father. She was restless, passionate, and not in love with her husband. Wilfred Desert, an artist, was deeply in love with her, but she knew that he could provide only adventure, not love. Wilfred finally left the country for Arabia. For a time, the relationship of Michael and Fleur appeared happier, and Fleur gave birth to a son, whom they named Christopher.

Before she married Michael, Fleur had been in love with her cousin, Jon Forsyte, but because of a family feud, she could not marry him. Jon had gone to America, where he fell in love with a Southern girl, Anne Wilmot, and married her.

A year or so before Christopher’s birth, Michael entered Parliament. To help her husband and to provide herself with diversion, Fleur entertained many prominent people. One night, Soames overheard one of Fleur’s guests, Marjorie Ferrar, speak of her as a snob. He asked Marjorie to leave the house. Fleur was impatient with her father for interfering, but she criticized Marjorie for creating an unpleasant scene. Marjorie demanded an apology. After an offer of settlement from Soames, Marjorie still insisted on the apology and took her suit into court. Soames and his...

(The entire section is 1006 words.)