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Chapter 5

During the three or four succeeding years a quaint and singular
vehicle might have been discerned moving along the lanes and by-roads
near Marygreen, driven in a quaint and singular way.

In the course of a month or two after the receipt of the books
Jude had grown callous to the shabby trick played him by the dead
languages. In fact, his disappointment at the nature of those
tongues had, after a while, been the means of still further
glorifying the erudition of Christminster. To acquire languages,
departed or living in spite of such obstinacies as he now knew them
inherently to possess, was a herculean performance which gradually
led him on to a greater interest in it than in the presupposed patent
process. The mountain-weight of material under which the ideas lay
in those dusty volumes called the classics piqued him into a dogged,
mouselike subtlety of attempt to move it piecemeal.

He had endeavoured to make his presence tolerable to his crusty
maiden aunt by assisting her to the best of his ability, and the
business of the little cottage bakery had grown in consequence. An
aged horse with a hanging head had been purchased for eight pounds at
a sale, a creaking cart with a whity-brown tilt obtained for a few
pounds more, and in this turn-out it became Jude's business thrice a
week to carry loaves of bread to the villagers and solitary cotters
immediately round Marygreen.

The singularity aforesaid lay, after all, less in the conveyance
itself than in Jude's manner of conducting it along its route.
Its interior was the scene of most of Jude's education by "private
study." As soon as the horse had learnt the road and the houses
at which he was to pause awhile, the boy, seated in front, would
slip the reins over his arm, ingeniously fix open, by means of a
strap attached to the tilt, the volume he was reading, spread the
dictionary on his knees, and plunge into the simpler passages from
Caesar, Virgil, or Horace, as the case might be, in his purblind
stumbling way, and with an expenditure of labour that would have made
a tender-hearted pedagogue shed tears; yet somehow getting at the
meaning of what he read, and divining rather than beholding the
spirit of the original, which often to his mind was something else
than that which he was taught to look for.

The only copies he had been able to lay hands on were old Delphin
editions, because they were superseded, and therefore cheap. But,
bad for idle schoolboys, it did so happen that they were passably
good for him. The hampered and lonely itinerant conscientiously
covered up the marginal readings, and used them merely on points of
construction, as he would have used a comrade or tutor who should
have happened to be passing by. And though Jude may have had little
chance of becoming a scholar by these rough and ready means, he was
in the way of getting into the groove he wished to follow.

While he was busied with these ancient pages, which had already been
thumbed by hands possibly in the grave, digging out the thoughts
of these minds so remote yet so near, the bony old horse pursued
his rounds, and Jude would be aroused from the woes of Dido by the
stoppage of his cart and the voice of some old woman crying, "Two
to-day, baker, and I return this stale one."

He was frequently met in the lanes by pedestrians and others without
his seeing them, and by degrees the people of the neighbourhood
began to talk about his method of combining work and play (such they
considered his reading to be), which, though probably convenient
enough to himself, was not altogether a safe proceeding for other
travellers along the same roads. There were murmurs. Then a private
resident of an adjoining place informed the local policeman that the
baker's boy should not be allowed to read while driving, and insisted
that it was the constable's duty to catch him in the act, and
take him to the police court at Alfredston, and get him fined for
dangerous practices on the highway. The policeman thereupon lay in
wait for Jude, and one day accosted him and cautioned him.

As Jude had to get up at three o'clock in the morning to heat the
oven, and mix and set in the bread that he distributed later in the
day, he was obliged to go to bed at night immediately after laying
the sponge; so that if he could not read his classics on the highways
he could hardly study at all. The only thing to be done was,
therefore, to keep a sharp eye ahead and around him as well as he
could in the circumstances, and slip away his books as soon as
anybody loomed in the distance, the policeman in particular. To do
that official justice, he did not put himself much in the way of
Jude's bread-cart, considering that in such a lonely district the
chief danger was to Jude himself, and often on seeing the white tilt
over the hedges he would move in another direction.

On a day when Fawley was getting quite advanced, being now about
sixteen, and had been stumbling through the "Carmen Sæculare," on
his way home, he found himself to be passing over the high edge of
the plateau by the Brown House. The light had changed, and it was
the sense of this which had caused him to look up. The sun was going
down, and the full moon was rising simultaneously behind the woods in
the opposite quarter. His mind had become so impregnated with the
poem that, in a moment of the same impulsive emotion which years
before had caused him to kneel on the ladder, he stopped the horse,
alighted, and glancing round to see that nobody was in sight, knelt
down on the roadside bank with open book. He turned first to the
shiny goddess, who seemed to look so softly and critically at his
doings, then to the disappearing luminary on the other hand, as he
began:


"Phoebe silvarumque potens Diana!"


The horse stood still till he had finished the hymn, which Jude
repeated under the sway of a polytheistic fancy that he would never
have thought of humouring in broad daylight.

Reaching home, he mused over his curious superstition, innate or
acquired, in doing this, and the strange forgetfulness which had led
to such a lapse from common sense and custom in one who wished, next
to being a scholar, to be a Christian divine. It had all come of
reading heathen works exclusively. The more he thought of it the
more convinced he was of his inconsistency. He began to wonder
whether he could be reading quite the right books for his object
in life. Certainly there seemed little harmony between this pagan
literature and the mediæval colleges at Christminster, that
ecclesiastical romance in stone.

Ultimately he decided that in his sheer love of reading he had taken
up a wrong emotion for a Christian young man. He had dabbled in
Clarke's Homer, but had never yet worked much at the New Testament
in the Greek, though he possessed a copy, obtained by post from a
second-hand bookseller. He abandoned the now familiar Ionic for a
new dialect, and for a long time onward limited his reading almost
entirely to the Gospels and Epistles in Griesbach's text. Moreover,
on going into Alfredston one day, he was introduced to patristic
literature by finding at the bookseller's some volumes of the
Fathers which had been left behind by an insolvent clergyman of the
neighbourhood.

As another outcome of this change of groove he visited on Sundays all
the churches within a walk, and deciphered the Latin inscriptions on
fifteenth-century brasses and tombs. On one of these pilgrimages he
met with a hunch-backed old woman of great intelligence, who read
everything she could lay her hands on, and she told him more yet
of the romantic charms of the city of light and lore. Thither he
resolved as firmly as ever to go.

But how live in that city? At present he had no income at all. He
had no trade or calling of any dignity or stability whatever on which
he could subsist while carrying out an intellectual labour which
might spread over many years.

What was most required by citizens? Food, clothing, and shelter.
An income from any work in preparing the first would be too meagre;
for making the second he felt a distaste; the preparation of the
third requisite he inclined to. They built in a city; therefore he
would learn to build. He thought of his unknown uncle, his cousin
Susanna's father, an ecclesiastical worker in metal, and somehow
mediæval art in any material was a trade for which he had rather a
fancy. He could not go far wrong in following his uncle's footsteps,
and engaging himself awhile with the carcases that contained the
scholar souls.

As a preliminary he obtained some small blocks of freestone, metal
not being available, and suspending his studies awhile, occupied his
spare half-hours in copying the heads and capitals in his parish
church.

There was a stone-mason of a humble kind in Alfredston, and as
soon as he had found a substitute for himself in his aunt's little
business, he offered his services to this man for a trifling wage.
Here Jude had the opportunity of learning at least the rudiments of
freestone-working. Some time later he went to a church-builder in
the same place, and under the architect's direction became handy at
restoring the dilapidated masonries of several village churches round
about.

Not forgetting that he was only following up this handicraft as
a prop to lean on while he prepared those greater engines which
he flattered himself would be better fitted for him, he yet was
interested in his pursuit on its own account. He now had lodgings
during the week in the little town, whence he returned to Marygreen
village every Saturday evening. And thus he reached and passed his
nineteenth year.

Thomas Hardy