The stroke of scorn relieved his mind, and the next morning he laughed at his self-conceit. But the laugh was not a healthy one. He re-read the letter from the master, and the wisdom in its lines, which had at first exasperated him, chilled and depressed him now. He saw himself as a fool indeed.
Deprived of the objects of both intellect and emotion, he could not proceed to his work. Whenever he felt reconciled to his fate as a student, there came to disturb his calm his hopeless relations with Sue. That the one affined soul he had ever met was lost to him through his marriage returned upon him with cruel persistency, till, unable to bear it longer, he again rushed for distraction to the real Christminster life. He now sought it out in an obscure and low-ceiled tavern up a court which was well known to certain worthies of the place, and in brighter times would have interested him simply by its quaintness. Here he sat more or less all the day, convinced that he was at bottom a vicious character, of whom it was hopeless to expect anything.
In the evening the frequenters of the house dropped in one by one, Jude still retaining his seat in the corner, though his money was all spent, and he had not eaten anything the whole day except a biscuit. He surveyed his gathering companions with all the equanimity and philosophy of a man who has been drinking long and slowly, and made friends with several: to wit, Tinker Taylor, a decayed church-ironmonger who appeared to have been of a religious turn in earlier years, but was somewhat blasphemous now; also a red-nosed auctioneer; also two Gothic masons like himself, called Uncle Jim and Uncle Joe. There were present, too, some clerks, and a gown- and surplice-maker's assistant; two ladies who sported moral characters of various depths of shade, according to their company, nicknamed "Bower o' Bliss" and "Freckles"; some horsey men "in the know" of betting circles; a travelling actor from the theatre, and two devil-may-care young men who proved to be gownless undergraduates; they had slipped in by stealth to meet a man about bull-pups, and stayed to drink and smoke short pipes with the racing gents aforesaid, looking at their watches every now and then.
The conversation waxed general. Christminster society was criticized, the dons, magistrates, and other people in authority being sincerely pitied for their shortcomings, while opinions on how they ought to conduct themselves and their affairs to be properly respected, were exchanged in a large-minded and disinterested manner.
Jude Fawley, with the self-conceit, effrontery, and aplomb of a strong-brained fellow in liquor, threw in his remarks somewhat peremptorily; and his aims having been what they were for so many years, everything the others said turned upon his tongue, by a sort of mechanical craze, to the subject of scholarship and study, the extent of his own learning being dwelt upon with an insistence that would have appeared pitiable to himself in his sane hours.
"I don't care a damn," he was saying, "for any provost, warden, principal, fellow, or cursed master of arts in the university! What I know is that I'd lick 'em on their own ground if they'd give me a chance, and show 'em a few things they are not up to yet!"
"Hear, hear!" said the undergraduates from the corner, where they were talking privately about the pups.
"You always was fond o' books, I've heard," said Tinker Taylor, "and I don't doubt what you state. Now with me 'twas different. I always saw there was more to be learnt outside a book than in; and I took my steps accordingly, or I shouldn't have been the man I am."
"You aim at the Church, I believe?" said Uncle Joe. "If you are such a scholar as to pitch yer hopes so high as that, why not give us a specimen of your scholarship? Canst say the Creed in Latin, man? That was how they once put it to a chap down in my country."
"I should think so!" said Jude haughtily.
"Not he! Like his conceit!" screamed one of the ladies.
"Just you shut up, Bower o' Bliss!" said one of the undergraduates. "Silence!" He drank off the spirits in his tumbler, rapped with it on the counter, and announced, "The gentleman in the corner is going to rehearse the Articles of his Belief, in the Latin tongue, for the edification of the company."
"I won't!" said Jude.
"Yes — have a try!" said the surplice-maker.
"You can't!" said Uncle Joe.
"Yes, he can!" said Tinker Taylor.
"I'll swear I can!" said Jude. "Well, come now, stand me a small Scotch cold, and I'll do it straight off."
"That's a fair offer," said the undergraduate, throwing down the money for the whisky.
The barmaid concocted the mixture with the bearing of a person compelled to live amongst animals of an inferior species, and the glass was handed across to Jude, who, having drunk the contents, stood up and began rhetorically, without hesitation:
"Credo in unum Deum, Patrem omnipotentem, Factorem coeli et terrae, visibilium omnium et invisibilium."
"Good! Excellent Latin!" cried one of the undergraduates, who, however, had not the slightest conception of a single word.
A silence reigned among the rest in the bar, and the maid stood still, Jude's voice echoing sonorously into the inner parlour, where the landlord was dozing, and bringing him out to see what was going on. Jude had declaimed steadily ahead, and was continuing:
"Crucifixus etiam pro nobis: sub Pontio Pilato passus, et sepultus est. Et resurrexit tertia die, secundum Scripturas."
"That's the Nicene," sneered the second undergraduate. "And we wanted the Apostles'!"
"You didn't say so! And every fool knows, except you, that the Nicene is the most historic creed!"
"Let un go on, let un go on!" said the auctioneer.
But Jude's mind seemed to grow confused soon, and he could not get on. He put his hand to his forehead, and his face assumed an expression of pain.
"Give him another glass — then he'll fetch up and get through it," said Tinker Taylor.
Somebody threw down threepence, the glass was handed, Jude stretched out his arm for it without looking, and having swallowed the liquor, went on in a moment in a revived voice, raising it as he neared the end with the manner of a priest leading a congregation:
"Et in Spiritum Sanctum, Dominum et vivificantem, qui ex Patre Filioque procedit. Qui cum Patre et Filio simul adoratur et conglorificatur. Qui locutus est per prophetas.
"Et unam Catholicam et Apostolicam Ecclesiam. Confiteor unum Baptisma in remissionem peccatorum. Et exspecto Resurrectionem mortuorum. Et vitam venturi saeculi. Amen."
"Well done!" said several, enjoying the last word, as being the first and only one they had recognized.
Then Jude seemed to shake the fumes from his brain, as he stared round upon them.