It was a note:
I have made a mistake. Please forgive me, and go away.—Antonia.
When he had read this note, Shelton put it down beside his sleeve-links on his dressing table, stared in the mirror at himself, and laughed. But his lips soon stopped him laughing; he threw himself upon his bed and pressed his face into the pillows. He lay there half-dressed throughout the night, and when he rose, soon after dawn, he had not made his mind up what to do. The only thing he knew for certain was that he must not meet Antonia.
At last he penned the following:
I have had a sleepless night with toothache, and think it best to run up to the dentist at once. If a tooth must come out, the sooner the better.
He addressed it to Mrs. Dennant, and left it on his table. After doing this he threw himself once more upon his bed, and this time fell into a doze.
He woke with a start, dressed, and let himself quietly out. The likeness of his going to that of Ferrand struck him. “Both outcasts now,” he thought.
He tramped on till noon without knowing or caring where he went; then, entering a field, threw himself down under the hedge, and fell asleep.
He was awakened by a whirr. A covey of partridges, with wings glistening in the sun, were straggling out across the adjoining field of mustard. They soon settled in the old-maidish way of partridges, and began to call upon each other.
Some cattle had approached him in his sleep, and a beautiful bay cow, with her head turned sideways, was snuffing at him gently, exhaling her peculiar sweetness. She was as fine in legs and coat as any race-horse. She dribbled at the corners of her black, moist lips; her eye was soft and cynical. Breathing the vague sweetness of the mustard-field, rubbing dry grasp-stalks in his fingers, Shelton had a moment’s happiness—the happiness of sun and sky, of the eternal quiet, and untold movements of the fields. Why could not human beings let their troubles be as this cow left the flies that clung about her eyes? He dozed again, and woke up with a laugh, for this was what he dreamed:
He fancied he was in a room, at once the hall and drawing-room of some country house. In the centre of this room a lady stood, who was looking in a hand-glass at her face. Beyond a door or window could be seen a garden with a row of statues, and through this door people passed without apparent object.
Suddenly Shelton saw his mother advancing to the lady with the hand-glass, whom now he recognised as Mrs. Foliot. But, as he looked, his mother changed to Mrs. Dennant, and began speaking in a voice that was a sort of abstract of refinement. “Je fais de la philosophic,” it said; “I take the individual for what she’s worth. I do not condemn; above all, one must have spirit!” The lady with the mirror continued looking in the glass; and, though he could not see her face, he could see its image-pale, with greenish eyes, and a smile like scorn itself. Then, by a swift transition, he was walking in the garden talking to Mrs. Dennant.