He turned for distraction to the landscape, with its April clouds, trim hedgerows, homely coverts. But strange ideas would come, and he was discontented with himself; the conversation he had had, the personality of this young foreigner, disturbed him. It was all as though he had made a start in some fresh journey through the fields of thought.
Five years before the journey just described Shelton had stood one afternoon on the barge of his old college at the end of the summer races. He had been “down” from Oxford for some years, but these Olympian contests still attracted him.
The boats were passing, and in the usual rush to the barge side his arm came in contact with a soft young shoulder. He saw close to him a young girl with fair hair knotted in a ribbon, whose face was eager with excitement. The pointed chin, long neck, the fluffy hair, quick gestures, and the calm strenuousness of her grey-blue eyes, impressed him vividly.
“Oh, we must bump them!” he heard her sigh.
“Do you know my people, Shelton?” said a voice behind his back; and he was granted a touch from the girl’s shy, impatient hand, the warmer fingers of a lady with kindly eyes resembling a hare’s, the dry hand-clasp of a gentleman with a thin, arched nose, and a quizzical brown face.
“Are you the Mr. Shelton who used to play the ‘bones’ at Eton?” said the lady. “Oh; we so often heard of you from Bernard! He was your fag, was n’t he? How distressin’ it is to see these poor boys in the boats!”
“Mother, they like it!” cried the girl.
“Antonia ought to be rowing, herself,” said her father, whose name was Dennant.
Shelton went back with them to their hotel, walking beside Antonia through the Christchurch meadows, telling her details of his college life. He dined with them that evening, and, when he left, had a feeling like that produced by a first glass of champagne.
The Dennants lived at Holm Oaks, within six miles of Oxford, and two days later he drove over and paid a call. Amidst the avocations of reading for the Bar, of cricket, racing, shooting, it but required a whiff of some fresh scent—hay, honeysuckle, clover—to bring Antonia’s face before him, with its uncertain colour and its frank, distant eyes. But two years passed before he again saw her. Then, at an invitation from Bernard Dennant, he played cricket for the Manor of Holm Oaks against a neighbouring house; in the evening there was dancing oh the lawn. The fair hair was now turned up, but the eyes were quite unchanged. Their steps went together, and they outlasted every other couple on the slippery grass. Thence, perhaps, sprang her respect for him; he was wiry, a little taller than herself, and seemed to talk of things that interested her. He found out she was seventeen, and she found out that he was twenty-nine. The following