A short time later, Jim notices that his grandmother has been crying. She has learned of his secret journeys to the Firemen’s Hall dances, and she is ashamed of his deceitfulness. In an attempt to atone for his actions, Jim swears off the dances, but he finds himself lonely again as a result.
At his high school commencement, Jim gives an oration that the crowd receives wonderfully. Afterward, Ántonia breathlessly congratulates him and is moved to tears when he declares that he dedicated the oration to her father. Jim is thrilled with his success.
During the summer, Jim commits himself to a rigorous study schedule in preparation for his upcoming university studies. His one -holiday comes in July, when he arranges to meet a party of girls, including Ántonia and Lena, at the river. As he approaches, he spots Ántonia sitting alone by a stream and notices she has been crying. When Jim asks her why she is sad, she confesses to him her pangs of homesickness for the old country and for her father. Later in the day, Ántonia and Jim rejoin the rest of the girls, and they spend the afternoon playing games and talking together until sunset.
Left alone to housesit for the Cutters in late August, Ántonia has an uneasy feeling about spending the night by herself. Jim agrees to sleep there in her stead and comes back to the Burdens each morning for breakfast. On his third night in the house, he is roused by a noise, but quickly falls back asleep. A short while later, he wakes to the noise of someone in the same room and comes face to face with Cutter, who was expecting to find Ántonia in the room. Cutter has used the trip as an elaborate scheme to abandon his wife and either seduce or rape Ántonia. He had told Ántonia that he left his valuables under her bed and that she must not leave them unattended at night. A scuffle ensues, and Jim manages to escape Cutter by leaping out of the window and running through the dark town in his nightshirt. He eventually makes his way home, only to find that he has suffered several severe bruises and cuts.
Jim holes up in his room to recover, and Mrs. Burden accompanies Ántonia to the Cutters to pack her trunk. They find the house in utter disarray, and, as they are gathering up the torn garments, Mrs. Cutter arrives at the front door. After doing her best to calm Mrs. Cutter down, Mrs. Burden listens in amazement as Mrs. Cutter relates the elaborate ruse that her husband concocted: he put her on the wrong train while he slipped back to Black Hawk in his failed scheme to have his way with Ántonia.
Frances Harling, the no-nonsense businesswoman of the novel, perfectly describes the core of Jim’s affliction. Criticizing Jim over his affections for the hired girls, Frances says, “The problem with you, Jim, is that you’re romantic.” Frances’s objection to Jim’s social persona lies both in his withdrawal from society and in the glorified sense of glamour that he bestows upon Ántonia, Lena, and the rest of their kind. Frances, who speaks for the more respectable realms of Black Hawk society, represents a class of people whom Jim despises. Jim contrasts the staid propriety of a house full of “hand-painted china that must not be used” with the carefree charms of the free spirits he deems “my country girls.”