“Oh no,” she called; “it’s not not nearly.
“Keep on putting them together, if you love me.”
“You know I love you,” answered Shelton, in a smothered voice.
Antonia gazed at him across her shoulder; puzzled and inquiring was her face.
“I’m not a bit like you,” she said. “What will you have for your room?”
“Cornflowers and clove pinks. Poppies are too frivolous, and pinks too—”
“White,” said Shelton.
“And mignonette too hard and—”
“Sweet. Why cornflowers?”
Antonia stood before him with her hands against her sides; her figure was so slim and young, her face uncertain and so grave.
“Because they’re dark and deep.”
“And why clove pinks?”
Antonia did not answer.
“And why clove pinks?”
“Because,” she said, and, flushing, touched a bee that had settled on her skirt, “because of something in you I don’t understand.”
“Ah! And what flowers shall t give you?”
She put her hands behind her.
“There are all the other flowers for me.”
Shelton snatched from the mass in front of him an Iceland poppy with straight stem and a curved neck, white pinks, and sprigs of hard, sweet mignonette, and held it out to her.
“There,” he said, “that’s you.” But Antonia did not move.
“Oh no, it is n’t!” and behind her back her fingers slowly crushed the petals of a blood-red poppy. She shook her head, smiling a brilliant smile. The blossoms fell, he flung his arms around her, and kissed her on the lips.
But his hands dropped; not fear exactly, nor exactly shame, had come to him. She had not resisted, but he had kissed the smile away; had kissed a strange, cold, frightened look, into her eyes.
“She did n’t mean to tempt me, then,” he thought, in surprise and anger. “What did she mean?” and, like a scolded dog, he kept his troubled watch upon her face.
“Where now?” Antonia asked, wheeling her chestnut mare, as they turned up High Street, Oxford City. “I won’t go back the same way, Dick!”
“We could have a gallop on Port Meadow, cross the Upper River twice, and get home that way; but you ’ll be tired.”
Antonia shook her head. Aslant her cheek the brim of a straw hat threw a curve of shade, her ear glowed transparent in the sun.
A difference had come in their relations since that kiss; outwardly she was the same good comrade, cool and quick. But as before a change one feels the subtle difference in the temper of the wind, so Shelton was affected by the inner change in her. He had made a blot upon her candour; he had tried to rub it out again, but there was left a mark, and it was ineffaceable. Antonia belonged to the most civilised division of the race most civilised in all the world, whose creed is “Let us love and hate, let us work and marry, but let us never give ourselves away; to give ourselves away is to leave a mark, and that is past forgive ness. Let our lives be like our faces, free from every kind of wrinkle, even those of laughter; in this way alone can we be really civilised.”