"Very well," she said dubiously. "I didn't tell him I would come for certain."
Jude went to the widow's house adjoining, to let her know; and returning in a few minutes sat down again.
"It is horrible how we are circumstanced, Sue — horrible!" he said abruptly, with his eyes bent to the floor.
"I can't tell you all my part of the gloom. Your part is that you ought not to have married him. I saw it before you had done it, but I thought I mustn't interfere. I was wrong. I ought to have!"
"But what makes you assume all this, dear?"
"Because — I can see you through your feathers, my poor little bird!"
Her hand lay on the table, and Jude put his upon it. Sue drew hers away.
"That's absurd, Sue," cried he, "after what we've been talking about! I am more strict and formal than you, if it comes to that; and that you should object to such an innocent action shows that you are ridiculously inconsistent!"
"Perhaps it was too prudish," she said repentantly. "Only I have fancied it was a sort of trick of ours — too frequent perhaps. There, you may hold it as much as you like. Is that good of me?"
"But I must tell him."
"Oh — of course, if you think it necessary. But as it means nothing it may be bothering him needlessly."
"Well — are you sure you mean it only as my cousin?"
"Absolutely sure. I have no feelings of love left in me."
"That's news. How has it come to be?"
"I've seen Arabella."
She winced at the hit; then said curiously, "When did you see her?"
"When I was at Christminster."
"So she's come back; and you never told me! I suppose you will live with her now?"
"Of course — just as you live with your husband."
She looked at the window pots with the geraniums and cactuses, withered for want of attention, and through them at the outer distance, till her eyes began to grow moist. "What is it?" said Jude, in a softened tone.
"Why should you be so glad to go back to her if — if what you used to say to me is still true — I mean if it were true then! Of course it is not now! How could your heart go back to Arabella so soon?"
"A special Providence, I suppose, helped it on its way."
"Ah — it isn't true!" she said with gentle resentment. "You are teasing me — that's all — because you think I am not happy!"
"I don't know. I don't wish to know."
"If I were unhappy it would be my fault, my wickedness; not that I should have a right to dislike him! He is considerate to me in everything; and he is very interesting, from the amount of general knowledge he has acquired by reading everything that comes in his way.... Do you think, Jude, that a man ought to marry a woman his own age, or one younger than himself — eighteen years — as I am than he?"
"It depends upon what they feel for each other."
He gave her no opportunity of self-satisfaction, and she had to go on unaided, which she did in a vanquished tone, verging on tears:
"I — I think I must be equally honest with you as you have been with me. Perhaps you have seen what it is I want to say? — that though I like Mr. Phillotson as a friend, I don't like him — it is a torture to me to — live with him as a husband! — There, now I have let it out — I couldn't help it, although I have been — pretending I am happy. — Now you'll have a contempt for me for ever, I suppose!" She bent down her face upon her hands as they lay upon the cloth, and silently sobbed in little jerks that made the fragile three-legged table quiver.
"I have only been married a month or two!" she went on, still remaining bent upon the table, and sobbing into her hands. "And it is said that what a woman shrinks from — in the early days of her marriage — she shakes down to with comfortable indifference in half a dozen years. But that is much like saying that the amputation of a limb is no affliction, since a person gets comfortably accustomed to the use of a wooden leg or arm in the course of time!"
Jude could hardly speak, but he said, "I thought there was something wrong, Sue! Oh, I thought there was!"
"But it is not as you think! — there is nothing wrong except my own wickedness, I suppose you'd call it — a repugnance on my part, for a reason I cannot disclose, and what would not be admitted as one by the world in general! ... What tortures me so much is the necessity of being responsive to this man whenever he wishes, good as he is morally! — the dreadful contract to feel in a particular way in a matter whose essence is its voluntariness! ... I wish he would beat me, or be faithless to me, or do some open thing that I could talk about as a justification for feeling as I do! But he does nothing, except that he has grown a little cold since he has found out how I feel. That's why he didn't come to the funeral... Oh, I am very miserable — I don't know what to do! ... Don't come near me, Jude, because you mustn't. Don't — don't!"
But he had jumped up and put his face against hers — or rather against her ear, her face being inaccessible.
"I told you not to, Jude!"
"I know you did — I only wish to — console you! It all arose through my being married before we met, didn't it? You would have been my wife, Sue, wouldn't you, if it hadn't been for that?"
Instead of replying she rose quickly, and saying she was going to walk to her aunt's grave in the churchyard to recover herself, went out of the house. Jude did not follow her. Twenty minutes later he saw her cross the village green towards Mrs. Edlin's, and soon she sent a little girl to fetch her bag, and tell him she was too tired to see him again that night.
In the lonely room of his aunt's house, Jude sat watching the cottage of the Widow Edlin as it disappeared behind the night shade. He knew that Sue was sitting within its walls equally lonely and disheartened; and again questioned his devotional motto that all was for the best.
He retired to rest early, but his sleep was fitful from the sense that Sue was so near at hand. At some time near two o'clock, when he was beginning to sleep more soundly, he was aroused by a shrill squeak that had been familiar enough to him when he lived regularly at Marygreen. It was the cry of a rabbit caught in a gin. As was the little creature's habit, it did not soon repeat its cry; and probably would not do so more than once or twice; but would remain bearing its torture till the morrow when the trapper would come and knock it on the head.