"Have you told Mr. Phillotson about this university scholar friend?"
"Yes — long ago. I have never made any secret of it to anybody."
"What did he say?"
"He did not pass any criticism — only said I was everything to him, whatever I did; and things like that."
Jude felt much depressed; she seemed to get further and further away from him with her strange ways and curious unconsciousness of gender.
"Aren't you REALLY vexed with me, dear Jude?" she suddenly asked, in a voice of such extraordinary tenderness that it hardly seemed to come from the same woman who had just told her story so lightly. "I would rather offend anybody in the world than you, I think!"
"I don't know whether I am vexed or not. I know I care very much about you!"
"I care as much for you as for anybody I ever met."
"You don't care MORE! There, I ought not to say that. Don't answer it!"
There was another long silence. He felt that she was treating him cruelly, though he could not quite say in what way. Her very helplessness seemed to make her so much stronger than he.
"I am awfully ignorant on general matters, although I have worked so hard," he said, to turn the subject. "I am absorbed in theology, you know. And what do you think I should be doing just about now, if you weren't here? I should be saying my evening prayers. I suppose you wouldn't like — "
"Oh no, no," she answered, "I would rather not, if you don't mind. I should seem so — such a hypocrite."
"I thought you wouldn't join, so I didn't propose it. You must remember that I hope to be a useful minister some day."
"To be ordained, I think you said?"
"Then you haven't given up the idea? — I thought that perhaps you had by this time."
"Of course not. I fondly thought at first that you felt as I do about that, as you were so mixed up in Christminster Anglicanism. And Mr. Phillotson — "
"I have no respect for Christminster whatever, except, in a qualified degree, on its intellectual side," said Sue Bridehead earnestly. "My friend I spoke of took that out of me. He was the most irreligious man I ever knew, and the most moral. And intellect at Christminster is new wine in old bottles. The mediaevalism of Christminster must go, be sloughed off, or Christminster itself will have to go. To be sure, at times one couldn't help having a sneaking liking for the traditions of the old faith, as preserved by a section of the thinkers there in touching and simple sincerity; but when I was in my saddest, rightest mind I always felt,
'O ghastly glories of saints, dead limbs of gibbeted Gods!'"...
"Sue, you are not a good friend of mine to talk like that!"
"Then I won't, dear Jude!" The emotional throat-note had come back, and she turned her face away.
"I still think Christminster has much that is glorious; though I was resentful because I couldn't get there." He spoke gently, and resisted his impulse to pique her on to tears.
"It is an ignorant place, except as to the townspeople, artizans, drunkards, and paupers," she said, perverse still at his differing from her. "THEY see life as it is, of course; but few of the people in the colleges do. You prove it in your own person. You are one of the very men Christminster was intended for when the colleges were founded; a man with a passion for learning, but no money, or opportunities, or friends. But you were elbowed off the pavement by the millionaires' sons."
"Well, I can do without what it confers. I care for something higher."
"And I for something broader, truer," she insisted. "At present intellect in Christminster is pushing one way, and religion the other; and so they stand stock-still, like two rams butting each other."
"What would Mr. Phillotson — "
"It is a place full of fetishists and ghost-seers!"
He noticed that whenever he tried to speak of the schoolmaster she turned the conversation to some generalizations about the offending university. Jude was extremely, morbidly, curious about her life as Phillotson's protegee and betrothed; yet she would not enlighten him.
"Well, that's just what I am, too," he said. "I am fearful of life, spectre-seeing always."
"But you are good and dear!" she murmured.
His heart bumped, and he made no reply.
"You are in the Tractarian stage just now, are you not?" she added, putting on flippancy to hide real feeling, a common trick with her. "Let me see — when was I there? In the year eighteen hundred and — "
"There's a sarcasm in that which is rather unpleasant to me, Sue. Now will you do what I want you to? At this time I read a chapter, and then say prayers, as I told you. Now will you concentrate your attention on any book of these you like, and sit with your back to me, and leave me to my custom? You are sure you won't join me?"
"I'll look at you."
"No. Don't tease, Sue!"
"Very well — I'll do just as you bid me, and I won't vex you, Jude," she replied, in the tone of a child who was going to be good for ever after, turning her back upon him accordingly. A small Bible other than the one he was using lay near her, and during his retreat she took it up, and turned over the leaves.
"Jude," she said brightly, when he had finished and come back to her; "will you let me make you a NEW New Testament, like the one I made for myself at Christminster?"
"Oh yes. How was that made?"
"I altered my old one by cutting up all the Epistles and Gospels into separate brochures, and rearranging them in chronological order as written, beginning the book with Thessalonians, following on with the Epistles, and putting the Gospels much further on. Then I had the volume rebound. My university friend Mr. — but never mind his name, poor boy — said it was an excellent idea. I know that reading it afterwards made it twice as interesting as before, and twice as understandable."
"H'm!" said Jude, with a sense of sacrilege.
"And what a literary enormity this is," she said, as she glanced into the pages of Solomon's Song. "I mean the synopsis at the head of each chapter, explaining away the real nature of that rhapsody. You needn't be alarmed: nobody claims inspiration for the chapter headings. Indeed, many divines treat them with contempt. It seems the drollest thing to think of the four-and-twenty elders, or bishops, or whatever number they were, sitting with long faces and writing down such stuff."
Jude looked pained. "You are quite Voltairean!" he murmured.