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Chapter 1

AT CHRISTMINSTER

"Save his own soul he hath no star."--SWINBURNE.


"Notitiam primosque gradus vicinia fecit;
Tempore crevit amor."--OVID.


I


The next noteworthy move in Jude's life was that in which he appeared
gliding steadily onward through a dusky landscape of some three
years' later leafage than had graced his courtship of Arabella,
and the disruption of his coarse conjugal life with her. He was
walking towards Christminster City, at a point a mile or two to the
south-west of it.

He had at last found himself clear of Marygreen and Alfredston: he
was out of his apprenticeship, and with his tools at his back seemed
to be in the way of making a new start--the start to which, barring
the interruption involved in his intimacy and married experience with
Arabella, he had been looking forward for about ten years.

Jude would now have been described as a young man with a forcible,
meditative, and earnest rather than handsome cast of countenance.
He was of dark complexion, with dark harmonizing eyes, and he wore
a closely trimmed black beard of more advanced growth than is usual
at his age; this, with his great mass of black curly hair, was some
trouble to him in combing and washing out the stone-dust that settled
on it in the pursuit of his trade. His capabilities in the latter,
having been acquired in the country, were of an all-round sort,
including monumental stone-cutting, gothic free-stone work for the
restoration of churches, and carving of a general kind. In London
he would probably have become specialized and have made himself a
"moulding mason," a "foliage sculptor"--perhaps a "statuary."

He had that afternoon driven in a cart from Alfredston to the village
nearest the city in this direction, and was now walking the remaining
four miles rather from choice than from necessity, having always
fancied himself arriving thus.

The ultimate impulse to come had had a curious origin--one more
nearly related to the emotional side of him than to the intellectual,
as is often the case with young men. One day while in lodgings at
Alfredston he had gone to Marygreen to see his old aunt, and had
observed between the brass candlesticks on her mantlepiece the
photograph of a pretty girlish face, in a broad hat with radiating
folds under the brim like the rays of a halo. He had asked who she
was. His grand-aunt had gruffly replied that she was his cousin
Sue Bridehead, of the inimical branch of the family; and on further
questioning the old woman had replied that the girl lived in
Christminster, though she did not know where, or what she was doing.

His aunt would not give him the photograph. But it haunted him; and
ultimately formed a quickening ingredient in his latent intent of
following his friend the school master thither.

He now paused at the top of a crooked and gentle declivity,
and obtained his first near view of the city. Grey-stoned and
dun-roofed, it stood within hail of the Wessex border, and almost
with the tip of one small toe within it, at the northernmost point of
the crinkled line along which the leisurely Thames strokes the fields
of that ancient kingdom. The buildings now lay quiet in the sunset,
a vane here and there on their many spires and domes giving sparkle
to a picture of sober secondary and tertiary hues.

Reaching the bottom he moved along the level way between pollard
willows growing indistinct in the twilight, and soon confronted the
outmost lamps of the town--some of those lamps which had sent into
the sky the gleam and glory that caught his strained gaze in his days
of dreaming, so many years ago. They winked their yellow eyes at him
dubiously, and as if, though they had been awaiting him all these
years in disappointment at his tarrying, they did not much want him
now.

He was a species of Dick Whittington whose spirit was touched to
finer issues than a mere material gain. He went along the outlying
streets with the cautious tread of an explorer. He saw nothing of
the real city in the suburbs on this side. His first want being a
lodging he scrutinized carefully such localities as seemed to offer
on inexpensive terms the modest type of accommodation he demanded;
and after inquiry took a room in a suburb nicknamed "Beersheba,"
though he did not know this at the time. Here he installed himself,
and having had some tea sallied forth.

It was a windy, whispering, moonless night. To guide himself he
opened under a lamp a map he had brought. The breeze ruffled and
fluttered it, but he could see enough to decide on the direction he
should take to reach the heart of the place.

After many turnings he came up to the first ancient mediæval pile
that he had encountered. It was a college, as he could see by the
gateway. He entered it, walked round, and penetrated to dark corners
which no lamplight reached. Close to this college was another; and
a little further on another; and then he began to be encircled as it
were with the breath and sentiment of the venerable city. When he
passed objects out of harmony with its general expression he allowed
his eyes to slip over them as if he did not see them.

A bell began clanging, and he listened till a hundred-and-one strokes
had sounded. He must have made a mistake, he thought: it was meant
for a hundred.

When the gates were shut, and he could no longer get into the
quadrangles, he rambled under the walls and doorways, feeling with
his fingers the contours of their mouldings and carving. The minutes
passed, fewer and fewer people were visible, and still he serpentined
among the shadows, for had he not imagined these scenes through
ten bygone years, and what mattered a night's rest for once? High
against the black sky the flash of a lamp would show crocketed
pinnacles and indented battlements. Down obscure alleys, apparently
never trodden now by the foot of man, and whose very existence seemed
to be forgotten, there would jut into the path porticoes, oriels,
doorways of enriched and florid middle-age design, their extinct air
being accentuated by the rottenness of the stones. It seemed
impossible that modern thought could house itself in such decrepit
and superseded chambers.

Knowing not a human being here, Jude began to be impressed with
the isolation of his own personality, as with a self-spectre, the
sensation being that of one who walked but could not make himself
seen or heard. He drew his breath pensively, and, seeming thus
almost his own ghost, gave his thoughts to the other ghostly
presences with which the nooks were haunted.

During the interval of preparation for this venture, since his wife
and furniture's uncompromising disappearance into space, he had read
and learnt almost all that could be read and learnt by one in his
position, of the worthies who had spent their youth within these
reverend walls, and whose souls had haunted them in their maturer
age. Some of them, by the accidents of his reading, loomed out in
his fancy disproportionately large by comparison with the rest. The
brushings of the wind against the angles, buttresses, and door-jambs
were as the passing of these only other inhabitants, the tappings
of each ivy leaf on its neighbour were as the mutterings of their
mournful souls, the shadows as their thin shapes in nervous movement,
making him comrades in his solitude. In the gloom it was as if he
ran against them without feeling their bodily frames.

The streets were now deserted, but on account of these things he
could not go in. There were poets abroad, of early date and of late,
from the friend and eulogist of Shakespeare down to him who has
recently passed into silence, and that musical one of the tribe who
is still among us. Speculative philosophers drew along, not always
with wrinkled foreheads and hoary hair as in framed portraits, but
pink-faced, slim, and active as in youth; modern divines sheeted in
their surplices, among whom the most real to Jude Fawley were the
founders of the religious school called Tractarian; the well-known
three, the enthusiast, the poet, and the formularist, the echoes
of whose teachings had influenced him even in his obscure home.
A start of aversion appeared in his fancy to move them at sight of
those other sons of the place, the form in the full-bottomed wig,
statesman, rake, reasoner, and sceptic; the smoothly shaven historian
so ironically civil to Christianity; with others of the same
incredulous temper, who knew each quad as well as the faithful, and
took equal freedom in haunting its cloisters.

He regarded the statesmen in their various types, men of firmer
movement and less dreamy air; the scholar, the speaker, the plodder;
the man whose mind grew with his growth in years, and the man whose
mind contracted with the same.

The scientists and philologists followed on in his mind-sight in
an odd impossible combination, men of meditative faces, strained
foreheads, and weak-eyed as bats with constant research;
then official characters--such men as governor-generals and
lord-lieutenants, in whom he took little interest; chief-justices and
lord chancellors, silent thin-lipped figures of whom he knew barely
the names. A keener regard attached to the prelates, by reason of
his own former hopes. Of them he had an ample band--some men of
heart, others rather men of head; he who apologized for the Church
in Latin; the saintly author of the Evening Hymn; and near them the
great itinerant preacher, hymn-writer, and zealot, shadowed like Jude
by his matrimonial difficulties.

Jude found himself speaking out loud, holding conversations with
them as it were, like an actor in a melodrama who apostrophizes the
audience on the other side of the footlights; till he suddenly ceased
with a start at his absurdity. Perhaps those incoherent words of the
wanderer were heard within the walls by some student or thinker over
his lamp; and he may have raised his head, and wondered what voice it
was, and what it betokened. Jude now perceived that, so far as solid
flesh went, he had the whole aged city to himself with the exception
of a belated townsman here and there, and that he seemed to be
catching a cold.

A voice reached him out of the shade; a real and local voice:

"You've been a-settin' a long time on that plinth-stone, young man.
What med you be up to?"

It came from a policeman who had been observing Jude without the
latter observing him.

Jude went home and to bed, after reading up a little about these men
and their several messages to the world from a book or two that he
had brought with him concerning the sons of the university. As he
drew towards sleep various memorable words of theirs that he had
just been conning seemed spoken by them in muttering utterances;
some audible, some unintelligible to him. One of the spectres (who
afterwards mourned Christminster as "the home of lost causes," though
Jude did not remember this) was now apostrophizing her thus:

"Beautiful city! so venerable, so lovely, so unravaged by the fierce
intellectual life of our century, so serene! ... Her ineffable charm
keeps ever calling us to the true goal of all of us, to the ideal, to
perfection."

Another voice was that of the Corn Law convert, whose phantom he had
just seen in the quadrangle with a great bell. Jude thought his soul
might have been shaping the historic words of his master-speech:

"Sir, I may be wrong, but my impression is that my duty towards a
country threatened with famine requires that that which has been the
ordinary remedy under all similar circumstances should be resorted to
now, namely, that there should be free access to the food of man from
whatever quarter it may come... Deprive me of office to-morrow, you
can never deprive me of the consciousness that I have exercised the
powers committed to me from no corrupt or interested motives, from no
desire to gratify ambition, for no personal gain."

Then the sly author of the immortal Chapter on Christianity: "How
shall we excuse the supine inattention of the Pagan and philosophic
world, to those evidences [miracles] which were presented by
Omnipotence? ... The sages of Greece and Rome turned aside from the
awful spectacle, and appeared unconscious of any alterations in the
moral or physical government of the world."

Then the shade of the poet, the last of the optimists:


How the world is made for each of us!

* * * * *

And each of the Many helps to recruit
The life of the race by a general plan.


Then one of the three enthusiasts he had seen just now, the author of
the _Apologia_:

"My argument was ... that absolute certitude as to the truths of
natural theology was the result of an assemblage of concurring and
converging probabilities ... that probabilities which did not reach
to logical certainty might create a mental certitude."

The second of them, no polemic, murmured quieter things:


Why should we faint, and fear to live alone,
Since all alone, so Heaven has will'd, we die?


He likewise heard some phrases spoken by the phantom with the short
face, the genial Spectator:

"When I look upon the tombs of the great, every motion of envy dies
in me; when I read the epitaphs of the beautiful, every inordinate
desire goes out; when I meet with the grief of parents upon a
tombstone, my heart melts with compassion; when I see the tombs of
the parents themselves, I consider the vanity of grieving for those
whom we must quickly follow."

And lastly a gentle-voiced prelate spoke, during whose meek, familiar
rhyme, endeared to him from earliest childhood, Jude fell asleep:


Teach me to live, that I may dread
The grave as little as my bed.
Teach me to die ...


He did not wake till morning. The ghostly past seemed to have gone,
and everything spoke of to-day. He started up in bed, thinking he
had overslept himself and then said:

"By Jove--I had quite forgotten my sweet-faced cousin, and that she's
here all the time! ... and my old schoolmaster, too." His words
about his schoolmaster had, perhaps, less zest in them than his words
concerning his cousin.

Thomas Hardy