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Chapter 4

The man whom Sue, in her mental _volte-face_, was now regarding as
her inseparable husband, lived still at Marygreen.

On the day before the tragedy of the children, Phillotson had seen
both her and Jude as they stood in the rain at Christminster watching
the procession to the theatre. But he had said nothing of it at the
moment to his companion Gillingham, who, being an old friend, was
staying with him at the village aforesaid, and had, indeed, suggested
the day's trip to Christminster.

"What are you thinking of?" said Gillingham, as they went home. "The
university degree you never obtained?"

"No, no," said Phillotson gruffly. "Of somebody I saw to-day." In a
moment he added, "Susanna."

"I saw her, too."

"You said nothing."

"I didn't wish to draw your attention to her. But, as you did see
her, you should have said: 'How d'ye do, my dear-that-was?'"

"Ah, well. I might have. But what do you think of this: I have good
reason for supposing that she was innocent when I divorced her--that
I was all wrong. Yes, indeed! Awkward, isn't it?"

"She has taken care to set you right since, anyhow, apparently."

"H'm. That's a cheap sneer. I ought to have waited, unquestionably."

At the end of the week, when Gillingham had gone back to his school
near Shaston, Phillotson, as was his custom, went to Alfredston
market; ruminating again on Arabella's intelligence as he walked down
the long hill which he had known before Jude knew it, though his
history had not beaten so intensely upon its incline. Arrived in
the town he bought his usual weekly local paper; and when he had sat
down in an inn to refresh himself for the five miles' walk back, he
pulled the paper from his pocket and read awhile. The account of the
"strange suicide of a stone-mason's children" met his eye.

Unimpassioned as he was, it impressed him painfully, and puzzled him
not a little, for he could not understand the age of the elder child
being what it was stated to be. However, there was no doubt that the
newspaper report was in some way true.

"Their cup of sorrow is now full!" he said: and thought and thought
of Sue, and what she had gained by leaving him.

Arabella having made her home at Alfredston, and the schoolmaster
coming to market there every Saturday, it was not wonderful that in
a few weeks they met again--the precise time being just alter her
return from Christminster, where she had stayed much longer than she
had at first intended, keeping an interested eye on Jude, though Jude
had seen no more of her. Phillotson was on his way homeward when he
encountered Arabella, and she was approaching the town.

"You like walking out this way, Mrs. Cartlett?" he said.

"I've just begun to again," she replied. "It is where I lived
as maid and wife, and all the past things of my life that are
interesting to my feelings are mixed up with this road. And they
have been stirred up in me too, lately; for I've been visiting at
Christminster. Yes; I've seen Jude."

"Ah! How do they bear their terrible affliction?"

"In a ve-ry strange way--ve-ry strange! She don't live with him any
longer. I only heard of it as a certainty just before I left; though
I had thought things were drifting that way from their manner when I
called on them."

"Not live with her husband? Why, I should have thought 'twould have
united them more."

"He's not her husband, after all. She has never really married him
although they have passed as man and wife so long. And now, instead
of this sad event making 'em hurry up, and get the thing done
legally, she's took in a queer religious way, just as I was in my
affliction at losing Cartlett, only hers is of a more 'sterical sort
than mine. And she says, so I was told, that she's your wife in the
eye of Heaven and the Church--yours only; and can't be anybody else's
by any act of man."

"Ah--indeed? ... Separated, have they!"

"You see, the eldest boy was mine--"

"Oh--yours!"

"Yes, poor little fellow--born in lawful wedlock, thank God. And
perhaps she feels, over and above other things, that I ought to have
been in her place. I can't say. However, as for me, I am soon off
from here. I've got Father to look after now, and we can't live in
such a hum-drum place as this. I hope soon to be in a bar again at
Christminster, or some other big town."

They parted. When Phillotson had ascended the hill a few steps he
stopped, hastened back, and called her.

"What is, or was, their address?"

Arabella gave it.

"Thank you. Good afternoon."

Arabella smiled grimly as she resumed her way, and practised
dimple-making all along the road from where the pollard willows begin
to the old almshouses in the first street of the town.

Meanwhile Phillotson ascended to Marygreen, and for the first time
during a lengthened period he lived with a forward eye. On crossing
under the large trees of the green to the humble schoolhouse to which
he had been reduced he stood a moment, and pictured Sue coming out of
the door to meet him. No man had ever suffered more inconvenience
from his own charity, Christian or heathen, than Phillotson had done
in letting Sue go. He had been knocked about from pillar to post at
the hands of the virtuous almost beyond endurance; he had been nearly
starved, and was now dependent entirely upon the very small stipend
from the school of this village (where the parson had got ill-spoken
of for befriending him). He had often thought of Arabella's remarks
that he should have been more severe with Sue, that her recalcitrant
spirit would soon have been broken. Yet such was his obstinate and
illogical disregard of opinion, and of the principles in which he had
been trained, that his convictions on the rightness of his course
with his wife had not been disturbed.

Principles which could be subverted by feeling in one direction were
liable to the same catastrophe in another. The instincts which had
allowed him to give Sue her liberty now enabled him to regard her
as none the worse for her life with Jude. He wished for her still,
in his curious way, if he did not love her, and, apart from policy,
soon felt that he would be gratified to have her again as his, always
provided that she came willingly.

But artifice was necessary, he had found, for stemming the cold and
inhumane blast of the world's contempt. And here were the materials
ready made. By getting Sue back and remarrying her on the
respectable plea of having entertained erroneous views of her, and
gained his divorce wrongfully, he might acquire some comfort, resume
his old courses, perhaps return to the Shaston school, if not even to
the Church as a licentiate.

He thought he would write to Gillingham to inquire his views, and
what he thought of his, Phillotson's, sending a letter to her.
Gillingham replied, naturally, that now she was gone it were best to
let her be, and considered that if she were anybody's wife she was
the wife of the man to whom she had borne three children and owed
such tragical adventures. Probably, as his attachment to her seemed
unusually strong, the singular pair would make their union legal in
course of time, and all would be well, and decent, and in order.

"But they won't--Sue won't!" exclaimed Phillotson to himself.
"Gillingham is so matter of fact. She's affected by Christminster
sentiment and teaching. I can see her views on the indissolubility
of marriage well enough, and I know where she got them. They are not
mine; but I shall make use of them to further mine."

He wrote a brief reply to Gillingham. "I know I am entirely wrong,
but I don't agree with you. As to her having lived with and had
three children by him, my feeling is (though I can advance no logical
or moral defence of it, on the old lines) that it has done little
more than finish her education. I shall write to her, and learn
whether what that woman said is true or no."

As he had made up his mind to do this before he had written to his
friend, there had not been much reason for writing to the latter at
all. However, it was Phillotson's way to act thus.

He accordingly addressed a carefully considered epistle to Sue, and,
knowing her emotional temperament, threw a Rhadamanthine strictness
into the lines here and there, carefully hiding his heterodox
feelings, not to frighten her. He stated that, it having come to his
knowledge that her views had considerably changed, he felt compelled
to say that his own, too, were largely modified by events subsequent
to their parting. He would not conceal from her that passionate
love had little to do with his communication. It arose from a wish
to make their lives, if not a success, at least no such disastrous
failure as they threatened to become, through his acting on what
he had considered at the time a principle of justice, charity, and
reason.

To indulge one's instinctive and uncontrolled sense of justice and
right, was not, he had found, permitted with impunity in an old
civilization like ours. It was necessary to act under an acquired
and cultivated sense of the same, if you wished to enjoy an average
share of comfort and honour; and to let crude loving kindness take
care of itself.

He suggested that she should come to him there at Marygreen.

On second thoughts he took out the last paragraph but one; and having
rewritten the letter he dispatched it immediately, and in some
excitement awaited the issue.

A few days after a figure moved through the white fog which enveloped
the Beersheba suburb of Christminster, towards the quarter in which
Jude Fawley had taken up his lodging since his division from Sue. A
timid knock sounded upon the door of his abode.

It was evening--so he was at home; and by a species of divination he
jumped up and rushed to the door himself.

"Will you come out with me? I would rather not come in. I want
to--to talk with you--and to go with you to the cemetery."

It had been in the trembling accents of Sue that these words came.
Jude put on his hat. "It is dreary for you to be out," he said.
"But if you prefer not to come in, I don't mind."

"Yes--I do. I shall not keep you long."

Jude was too much affected to go on talking at first; she, too, was
now such a mere cluster of nerves that all initiatory power seemed
to have left her, and they proceeded through the fog like Acherontic
shades for a long while, without sound or gesture.

"I want to tell you," she presently said, her voice now quick, now
slow, "so that you may not hear of it by chance. I am going back to
Richard. He has--so magnanimously--agreed to forgive all."

"Going back? How can you go--"

"He is going to marry me again. That is for form's sake, and to
satisfy the world, which does not see things as they are. But of
course I AM his wife already. Nothing has changed that."

He turned upon her with an anguish that was well-nigh fierce.

"But you are MY wife! Yes, you are. You know it. I have always
regretted that feint of ours in going away and pretending to come
back legally married, to save appearances. I loved you, and you
loved me; and we closed with each other; and that made the marriage.
We still love--you as well as I--KNOW it, Sue! Therefore our
marriage is not cancelled."

"Yes; I know how you see it," she answered with despairing
self-suppression. "But I am going to marry him again, as it would
be called by you. Strictly speaking you, too--don't mind my saying
it, Jude!--you should take back--Arabella."

"I should? Good God--what next! But how if you and I had married
legally, as we were on the point of doing?"

"I should have felt just the same--that ours was not a marriage.
And I would go back to Richard without repeating the sacrament, if
he asked me. But 'the world and its ways have a certain worth' (I
suppose): therefore I concede a repetition of the ceremony... Don't
crush all the life out of me by satire and argument, I implore you!
I was strongest once, I know, and perhaps I treated you cruelly.
But Jude, return good for evil! I am the weaker now. Don't
retaliate upon me, but be kind. Oh be kind to me--a poor wicked
woman who is trying to mend!"

He shook his head hopelessly, his eyes wet. The blow of her
bereavement seemed to have destroyed her reasoning faculty. The once
keen vision was dimmed. "All wrong, all wrong!" he said huskily.
"Error--perversity! It drives me out of my senses. Do you care for
him? Do you love him? You know you don't! It will be a fanatic
prostitution--God forgive me, yes--that's what it will be!"

"I don't love him--I must, must, own it, in deepest remorse! But I
shall try to learn to love him by obeying him."

Jude argued, urged, implored; but her conviction was proof against
all. It seemed to be the one thing on earth on which she was firm,
and that her firmness in this had left her tottering in every other
impulse and wish she possessed.

"I have been considerate enough to let you know the whole truth,
and to tell it you myself," she said in cut tones; "that you might
not consider yourself slighted by hearing of it at second hand. I
have even owned the extreme fact that I do not love him. I did not
think you would be so rough with me for doing so! I was going to
ask you..."

"To give you away?"

"No. To send--my boxes to me--if you would. But I suppose you
won't."

"Why, of course I will. What--isn't he coming to fetch you--to marry
you from here? He won't condescend to do that?"

"No--I won't let him. I go to him voluntarily, just as I went away
from him. We are to be married at his little church at Marygreen."

She was so sadly sweet in what he called her wrong-headedness that
Jude could not help being moved to tears more than once for pity of
her. "I never knew such a woman for doing impulsive penances, as
you, Sue! No sooner does one expect you to go straight on, as the
one rational proceeding, than you double round the corner!"

"Ah, well; let that go! ... Jude, I must say good-bye! But I wanted
you to go to the cemetery with me. Let our farewell be there--beside
the graves of those who died to bring home to me the error of my
views."

They turned in the direction of the place, and the gate was opened to
them on application. Sue had been there often, and she knew the way
to the spot in the dark. They reached it, and stood still.

"It is here--I should like to part," said she.

"So be it!"

"Don't think me hard because I have acted on conviction. Your
generous devotion to me is unparalleled, Jude! Your worldly failure,
if you have failed, is to your credit rather than to your blame.
Remember that the best and greatest among mankind are those who do
themselves no worldly good. Every successful man is more or less a
selfish man. The devoted fail... 'Charity seeketh not her own.'"

"In that chapter we are at one, ever beloved darling, and on it we'll
part friends. Its verses will stand fast when all the rest that you
call religion has passed away!"

"Well--don't discuss it. Good-bye, Jude; my fellow-sinner, and
kindest friend!"

"Good-bye, my mistaken wife. Good-bye!"

Thomas Hardy