"I am not that sort — quite."
"Not easily moved?"
"I didn't quite mean that."
"Oh, but you ARE one of that sort, for you are just like me at heart!"
"But not at head."
She played on and suddenly turned round; and by an unpremeditated instinct each clasped the other's hand again.
She uttered a forced little laugh as she relinquished his quickly. "How funny!" she said. "I wonder what we both did that for?"
"I suppose because we are both alike, as I said before."
"Not in our thoughts! Perhaps a little in our feelings."
"And they rule thoughts... Isn't it enough to make one blaspheme that the composer of that hymn is one of the most commonplace men I ever met!"
"What — you know him?"
"I went to see him."
"Oh, you goose — to do just what I should have done! Why did you?"
"Because we are not alike," he said drily.
"Now we'll have some tea," said Sue. "Shall we have it here instead of in my house? It is no trouble to get the kettle and things brought in. We don't live at the school you know, but in that ancient dwelling across the way called Old-Grove Place. It is so antique and dismal that it depresses me dreadfully. Such houses are very well to visit, but not to live in — I feel crushed into the earth by the weight of so many previous lives there spent. In a new place like these schools there is only your own life to support. Sit down, and I'll tell Ada to bring the tea-things across."
He waited in the light of the stove, the door of which she flung open before going out, and when she returned, followed by the maiden with tea, they sat down by the same light, assisted by the blue rays of a spirit-lamp under the brass kettle on the stand.
"This is one of your wedding-presents to me," she said, signifying the latter.
"Yes," said Jude.
The kettle of his gift sang with some satire in its note, to his mind; and to change the subject he said, "Do you know of any good readable edition of the uncanonical books of the New Testament? You don't read them in the school I suppose?"
"Oh dear no! — 'twould alarm the neighbourhood... Yes, there is one. I am not familiar with it now, though I was interested in it when my former friend was alive. Cowper's Apocryphal Gospels."
"That sounds like what I want." His thoughts, however reverted with a twinge to the "former friend" — by whom she meant, as he knew, the university comrade of her earlier days. He wondered if she talked of him to Phillotson.
"The Gospel of Nicodemus is very nice," she went on to keep him from his jealous thoughts, which she read clearly, as she always did. Indeed when they talked on an indifferent subject, as now, there was ever a second silent conversation passing between their emotions, so perfect was the reciprocity between them. "It is quite like the genuine article. All cut up into verses, too; so that it is like one of the other evangelists read in a dream, when things are the same, yet not the same. But, Jude, do you take an interest in those questions still? Are you getting up Apologetica?"
"Yes. I am reading Divinity harder than ever."
She regarded him curiously.
"Why do you look at me like that?" said Jude.
"Oh — why do you want to know?"
"I am sure you can tell me anything I may be ignorant of in that subject. You must have learnt a lot of everything from your dear dead friend!"
"We won't get on to that now!" she coaxed. "Will you be carving out at that church again next week, where you learnt the pretty hymn?"
"That will be very nice. Shall I come and see you there? It is in this direction, and I could come any afternoon by train for half an hour?"
"No. Don't come!"
"What — aren't we going to be friends, then, any longer, as we used to be?"
"I didn't know that. I thought you were always going to be kind to me!"
"No, I am not."
"What have I done, then? I am sure I thought we two — " The tremolo in her voice caused her to break off.
"Sue, I sometimes think you are a flirt," said he abruptly.
There was a momentary pause, till she suddenly jumped up; and to his surprise he saw by the kettle-flame that her face was flushed.
"I can't talk to you any longer, Jude!" she said, the tragic contralto note having come back as of old. "It is getting too dark to stay together like this, after playing morbid Good Friday tunes that make one feel what one shouldn't! ... We mustn't sit and talk in this way any more. Yes — you must go away, for you mistake me! I am very much the reverse of what you say so cruelly — Oh, Jude, it WAS cruel to say that! Yet I can't tell you the truth — I should shock you by letting you know how I give way to my impulses, and how much I feel that I shouldn't have been provided with attractiveness unless it were meant to be exercised! Some women's love of being loved is insatiable; and so, often, is their love of loving; and in the last case they may find that they can't give it continuously to the chamber-officer appointed by the bishop's licence to receive it. But you are so straightforward, Jude, that you can't understand me! ... Now you must go. I am sorry my husband is not at home."
"I perceive I have said that in mere convention! Honestly I don't think I am sorry. It does not matter, either way, sad to say!"
As they had overdone the grasp of hands some time sooner, she touched his fingers but lightly when he went out now. He had hardly gone from the door when, with a dissatisfied look, she jumped on a form and opened the iron casement of a window beneath which he was passing in the path without. "When do you leave here to catch your train, Jude?" she asked.
He looked up in some surprise. "The coach that runs to meet it goes in three-quarters of an hour or so."
"What will you do with yourself for the time?"
"Oh — wander about, I suppose. Perhaps I shall go and sit in the old church."