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Jude the obscure, p.1

Jude the Obscure, page 1


Jude the Obscure

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Jude the Obscure



  Thomas Hardy


  PART FIRST At Marygreen

  PART SECOND At Christminster

  PART THIRD At Melchester

  PART FOURTH At Shaston

  PART FIFTH At Aldbrickham and Elsewhere

  PART SIXTH At Christminster Again

  Part First


  "Yea, many there be that have run out of their wits for women, and become servants for their sakes. Many also have perished, have erred, and sinned, for women.... O ye men, how can it be but women should be strong, seeing they do thus?"--ESDRAS.


  The schoolmaster was leaving the village, and everybody seemed sorry.The miller at Cresscombe lent him the small white tilted cart andhorse to carry his goods to the city of his destination, about twentymiles off, such a vehicle proving of quite sufficient size for thedeparting teacher's effects. For the schoolhouse had been partlyfurnished by the managers, and the only cumbersome article possessedby the master, in addition to the packing-case of books, was acottage piano that he had bought at an auction during the year inwhich he thought of learning instrumental music. But the enthusiasmhaving waned he had never acquired any skill in playing, and thepurchased article had been a perpetual trouble to him ever since inmoving house.

  The rector had gone away for the day, being a man who disliked thesight of changes. He did not mean to return till the evening, whenthe new school-teacher would have arrived and settled in, andeverything would be smooth again.

  The blacksmith, the farm bailiff, and the schoolmaster himself werestanding in perplexed attitudes in the parlour before the instrument.The master had remarked that even if he got it into the cart heshould not know what to do with it on his arrival at Christminster,the city he was bound for, since he was only going into temporarylodgings just at first.

  A little boy of eleven, who had been thoughtfully assisting in thepacking, joined the group of men, and as they rubbed their chins hespoke up, blushing at the sound of his own voice: "Aunt have got agreat fuel-house, and it could be put there, perhaps, till you'vefound a place to settle in, sir."

  "A proper good notion," said the blacksmith.

  It was decided that a deputation should wait on the boy's aunt--anold maiden resident--and ask her if she would house the piano tillMr. Phillotson should send for it. The smith and the bailiff startedto see about the practicability of the suggested shelter, and the boyand the schoolmaster were left standing alone.

  "Sorry I am going, Jude?" asked the latter kindly.

  Tears rose into the boy's eyes, for he was not among the regular dayscholars, who came unromantically close to the schoolmaster's life,but one who had attended the night school only during the presentteacher's term of office. The regular scholars, if the truth mustbe told, stood at the present moment afar off, like certain historicdisciples, indisposed to any enthusiastic volunteering of aid.

  The boy awkwardly opened the book he held in his hand, which Mr.Phillotson had bestowed on him as a parting gift, and admitted thathe was sorry.

  "So am I," said Mr. Phillotson.

  "Why do you go, sir?" asked the boy.

  "Ah--that would be a long story. You wouldn't understand my reasons,Jude. You will, perhaps, when you are older."

  "I think I should now, sir."

  "Well--don't speak of this everywhere. You know what a universityis, and a university degree? It is the necessary hallmark of a manwho wants to do anything in teaching. My scheme, or dream, is to bea university graduate, and then to be ordained. By going to live atChristminster, or near it, I shall be at headquarters, so to speak,and if my scheme is practicable at all, I consider that being on thespot will afford me a better chance of carrying it out than I shouldhave elsewhere."

  The smith and his companion returned. Old Miss Fawley's fuel-housewas dry, and eminently practicable; and she seemed willing to givethe instrument standing-room there. It was accordingly left inthe school till the evening, when more hands would be available forremoving it; and the schoolmaster gave a final glance round.

  The boy Jude assisted in loading some small articles, and at nineo'clock Mr. Phillotson mounted beside his box of books and other_impedimenta_, and bade his friends good-bye.

  "I shan't forget you, Jude," he said, smiling, as the cart moved off."Be a good boy, remember; and be kind to animals and birds, and readall you can. And if ever you come to Christminster remember you huntme out for old acquaintance' sake."

  The cart creaked across the green, and disappeared round the cornerby the rectory-house. The boy returned to the draw-well at the edgeof the greensward, where he had left his buckets when he went to helphis patron and teacher in the loading. There was a quiver in his lipnow and after opening the well-cover to begin lowering the bucket hepaused and leant with his forehead and arms against the framework,his face wearing the fixity of a thoughtful child's who has felt thepricks of life somewhat before his time. The well into which he waslooking was as ancient as the village itself, and from his presentposition appeared as a long circular perspective ending in a shiningdisk of quivering water at a distance of a hundred feet down.There was a lining of green moss near the top, and nearer still thehart's-tongue fern.

  He said to himself, in the melodramatic tones of a whimsical boy,that the schoolmaster had drawn at that well scores of times on amorning like this, and would never draw there any more. "I've seenhim look down into it, when he was tired with his drawing, just as Ido now, and when he rested a bit before carrying the buckets home!But he was too clever to bide here any longer--a small sleepy placelike this!"

  A tear rolled from his eye into the depths of the well. The morningwas a little foggy, and the boy's breathing unfurled itself asa thicker fog upon the still and heavy air. His thoughts wereinterrupted by a sudden outcry:

  "Bring on that water, will ye, you idle young harlican!"

  It came from an old woman who had emerged from her door towards thegarden gate of a green-thatched cottage not far off. The boy quicklywaved a signal of assent, drew the water with what was a great effortfor one of his stature, landed and emptied the big bucket into hisown pair of smaller ones, and pausing a moment for breath, startedwith them across the patch of clammy greensward whereon the wellstood--nearly in the centre of the little village, or rather hamletof Marygreen.

  It was as old-fashioned as it was small, and it rested in the lap ofan undulating upland adjoining the North Wessex downs. Old as itwas, however, the well-shaft was probably the only relic of the localhistory that remained absolutely unchanged. Many of the thatchedand dormered dwelling-houses had been pulled down of late years, andmany trees felled on the green. Above all, the original church,hump-backed, wood-turreted, and quaintly hipped, had been takendown, and either cracked up into heaps of road-metal in the lane, orutilized as pig-sty walls, garden seats, guard-stones to fences, androckeries in the flower-beds of the neighbourhood. In place of ita tall new building of modern Gothic design, unfamiliar to Englisheyes, had been erected on a new piece of ground by a certainobliterator of historic records who had run down from London and backin a day. The site whereon so long had stood the ancient temple tothe Christian divinities was not even recorded on the green and levelgrass-plot that had immemorially been the churchyard, the obliteratedgraves being commemorated by eighteen-penny cast-iron crosseswarranted to last five years.

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