And, with that question gnawing at him, he went out into the orchard. The grass was drenching wet, so he descended to the road. Two wood-pigeons were crooning to each other, truest of all sounds of summer; there was no wind, and the flies had begun humming. In the air, cleared of dust, the scent of hay was everywhere. What about those poor devils of laborers, now? They would get the sack for this! and he was suddenly beset with a feeling of disgust. This world where men, and women too, held what they had, took what they could; this world of seeing only one thing at a time; this world of force, and cunning, of struggle, and primitive appetites; of such good things, too, such patience, endurance, heroism—and yet at heart so unutterably savage!
He was very tired; but it was too wet to sit down, so he walked on. Now and again he passed a laborer going to work; but very few in all those miles, and they quite silent. ‘Did they ever really whistle?’ Felix thought. ’Were they ever jolly ploughmen? Or was that always a fiction? Surely, if they can’t give tongue this morning, they never can!’ He crossed a stile and took a slanting path through a little wood. The scent of leaves and sap, the dapple of sunlight—all the bright early glow and beauty struck him with such force that he could have cried out in the sharpness of sensation. At that hour when man was still abed and the land lived its own life, how full and sweet and wild that life seemed, how in love with itself! Truly all the trouble in the world came from the manifold disharmonies of the self-conscious animal called Man!
Then, coming out on the road again, he saw that he must be within a mile or two of Becket; and finding himself suddenly very hungry, determined to go there and get some breakfast.
Duly shaved with one of Stanley’s razors, bathed, and breakfasted, Felix was on the point of getting into the car to return to Joyfields when he received a message from his mother: Would he please go up and see her before he went?
He found her looking anxious and endeavoring to conceal it.
Having kissed him, she drew him to her sofa and said: “Now, darling, come and sit down here, and tell me all about this dreadful business.” And taking up an odorator she blew over him a little cloud of scent. “It’s quite a new perfume; isn’t it delicious?”
Felix, who dreaded scent, concealed his feelings, sat down, and told her. And while he told her he was conscious of how pathetically her fastidiousness was quivering under those gruesome details—fighting with policemen, fighting with common men, prison—for A lady; conscious too of her still more pathetic effort to put a good face on it. When he had finished she remained so perfectly still, with lips so hard compressed, that he said:
“It’s no good worrying, Mother.”