It was from this talk that he awoke with laughter. “But,” she had been saying, “Dick, I’ve always been accustomed to believe what I was told. It was so unkind of her to scorn me just because I happen to be second-hand.” And her voice awakened Shelton’s pity; it was like a frightened child’s. “I don’t know what I shall do if I have to form opinions for myself. I was n’t brought up to it. I ’ve always had them nice and secondhand. How am I to go to work? One must believe what other people do; not that I think much of other people, but, you do know what it is—one feels so much more comfortable,” and her skirts rustled. “But, Dick, whatever happens”—her voice entreated—“do let Antonia get her judgments secondhand. Never mind for me—if I must form opinions for myself, I must—but don’t let her; any old opinions so long as they are old. It ’s dreadful to have to think out new ones for oneself.” And he awoke. His dream had had in it the element called Art, for, in its gross absurdity, Mrs. Dennant had said things that showed her soul more fully than anything she would have said in life.
“No,” said a voice quite close, behind the hedge, “not many Frenchmen, thank the Lord! A few coveys of Hungarians over from the Duke’s. Sir James, some pie?”
Shelton raised himself with drowsy curiosity—still half asleep—and applied his face to a gap in the high, thick osiers of the hedge. Four men were seated on camp-stools round a folding-table, on which was a pie and other things to eat. A game-cart, well-adorned with birds and hares, stood at a short distance; the tails of some dogs were seen moving humbly, and a valet opening bottles. Shelton had forgotten that it was “the first.” The host was a soldierly and freckled man; an older man sat next him, square-jawed, with an absent-looking eye and sharpened nose; next him, again, there was a bearded person whom they seemed to call the Commodore; in the fourth, to his alarm, Shelton recognised the gentleman called Mabbey. It was really no matter for surprise to meet him miles from his own place, for he was one of those who wander with a valet and two guns from the twelfth of August to the end of January, and are then supposed to go to Monte Carlo or to sleep until the twelfth of August comes again.
He was speaking.
“Did you hear what a bag we made on the twelfth, Sir James?”
“Ah! yes; what was that? Have you sold your bay horse, Glennie?”
Shelton had not decided whether or no to sneak away, when the Commodore’s thick voice began:
“My man tellsh me that Mrs. Foliot—haw—has lamed her Arab. Does she mean to come out cubbing?”
Shelton observed the smile that came on all their faces. “Foliot ’s paying for his good time now; what a donkey to get caught!” it seemed to say. He turned his back and shut his eyes.
“Cubbing?” replied Glennie; “hardly.”
“Never could shee anything wonderful in her looks,” went on the Commodore; “so quiet, you never knew that she was in the room. I remember sayin’ to her once, ’Mrs. Lutheran, now what do you like besht in all the world?’ and what do you think she answered? ‘Music!’ Haw!”