Jude seemed to pay no great heed to what she was announcing, or indeed to anything whatever. The entrance of Taylor infused fresh spirit into the company, and they remained sitting, till Arabella whispered to her father: "Now we may as well go."
"But the parson don't know?"
"Yes, I told him last night that we might come between eight and nine, as there were reasons of decency for doing it as early and quiet as possible; on account of it being our second marriage, which might make people curious to look on if they knew. He highly approved."
"Oh very well: I'm ready," said her father, getting up and shaking himself.
"Now, old darling," she said to Jude. "Come along, as you promised."
"When did I promise anything?" asked he, whom she had made so tipsy by her special knowledge of that line of business as almost to have made him sober again — or to seem so to those who did not know him.
"Why!" said Arabella, affecting dismay. "You've promised to marry me several times as we've sat here to-night. These gentlemen have heard you."
"I don't remember it," said Jude doggedly. "There's only one woman — but I won't mention her in this Capharnaum!"
Arabella looked towards her father. "Now, Mr. Fawley be honourable," said Donn. "You and my daughter have been living here together these three or four days, quite on the understanding that you were going to marry her. Of course I shouldn't have had such goings on in my house if I hadn't understood that. As a point of honour you must do it now."
"Don't say anything against my honour!" enjoined Jude hotly, standing up. "I'd marry the W — — of Babylon rather than do anything dishonourable! No reflection on you, my dear. It is a mere rhetorical figure — what they call in the books, hyperbole."
"Keep your figures for your debts to friends who shelter you," said Donn.
"If I am bound in honour to marry her — as I suppose I am — though how I came to be here with her I know no more than a dead man — marry her I will, so help me God! I have never behaved dishonourably to a woman or to any living thing. I am not a man who wants to save himself at the expense of the weaker among us!"
"There — never mind him, deary," said she, putting her cheek against Jude's. "Come up and wash your face, and just put yourself tidy, and off we'll go. Make it up with Father."
They shook hands. Jude went upstairs with her, and soon came down looking tidy and calm. Arabella, too, had hastily arranged herself, and accompanied by Donn away they went.
"Don't go," she said to the guests at parting. "I've told the little maid to get the breakfast while we are gone; and when we come back we'll all have some. A good strong cup of tea will set everybody right for going home."
When Arabella, Jude, and Donn had disappeared on their matrimonial errand the assembled guests yawned themselves wider awake, and discussed the situation with great interest. Tinker Taylor, being the most sober, reasoned the most lucidly.
"I don't wish to speak against friends," he said. "But it do seem a rare curiosity for a couple to marry over again! If they couldn't get on the first time when their minds were limp, they won't the second, by my reckoning."
"Do you think he'll do it?"
"He's been put upon his honour by the woman, so he med."
"He'd hardly do it straight off like this. He's got no licence nor anything."
"She's got that, bless you. Didn't you hear her say so to her father?"
"Well," said Tinker Taylor, relighting his pipe at the gas-jet. "Take her all together, limb by limb, she's not such a bad-looking piece — particular by candlelight. To be sure, halfpence that have been in circulation can't be expected to look like new ones from the mint. But for a woman that's been knocking about the four hemispheres for some time, she's passable enough. A little bit thick in the flitch perhaps: but I like a woman that a puff o' wind won't blow down."
Their eyes followed the movements of the little girl as she spread the breakfast-cloth on the table they had been using, without wiping up the slops of the liquor. The curtains were undrawn, and the expression of the house made to look like morning. Some of the guests, however, fell asleep in their chairs. One or two went to the door, and gazed along the street more than once. Tinker Taylor was the chief of these, and after a time he came in with a leer on his face.
"By Gad, they are coming! I think the deed's done!"
"No," said Uncle Joe, following him in. "Take my word, he turned rusty at the last minute. They are walking in a very unusual way; and that's the meaning of it!"
They waited in silence till the wedding-party could be heard entering the house. First into the room came Arabella boisterously; and her face was enough to show that her strategy had succeeded.
"Mrs. Fawley, I presume?" said Tinker Taylor with mock courtesy.
"Certainly. Mrs. Fawley again," replied Arabella blandly, pulling off her glove and holding out her left hand. "There's the padlock, see... Well, he was a very nice, gentlemanly man indeed. I mean the clergyman. He said to me as gentle as a babe when all was done: 'Mrs. Fawley, I congratulate you heartily,' he says. 'For having heard your history, and that of your husband, I think you have both done the right and proper thing. And for your past errors as a wife, and his as a husband, I think you ought now to be forgiven by the world, as you have forgiven each other,' says he. Yes: he was a very nice, gentlemanly man. 'The Church don't recognize divorce in her dogma, strictly speaking,' he says: 'and bear in mind the words of the service in your goings out and your comings in: What God hath joined together let no man put asunder.' Yes: he was a very nice, gentlemanly man... But, Jude, my dear, you were enough to make a cat laugh! You walked that straight, and held yourself that steady, that one would have thought you were going 'prentice to a judge; though I knew you were seeing double all the time, from the way you fumbled with my finger."
"I said I'd do anything to — save a woman's honour," muttered Jude. "And I've done it!"
"Well now, old deary, come along and have some breakfast."
"I want — some — more whisky," said Jude stolidly.
"Nonsense, dear. Not now! There's no more left. The tea will take the muddle out of our heads, and we shall be as fresh as larks."
"All right. I've — married you. She said I ought to marry you again, and I have straightway. It is true religion! Ha — ha — ha!"