"You'll go back with me?" he said. "There's a train just now. I wonder how my aunt is by this time... And so, Sue, you really came on my account all this way! At what an early time you must have started, poor thing!"
"Yes. Sitting up watching alone made me all nerves for you, and instead of going to bed when it got light I started. And now you won't frighten me like this again about your morals for nothing?"
He was not so sure that she had been frightened about his morals for nothing. He released her hand till they had entered the train, — it seemed the same carriage he had lately got out of with another — where they sat down side by side, Sue between him and the window. He regarded the delicate lines of her profile, and the small, tight, applelike convexities of her bodice, so different from Arabella's amplitudes. Though she knew he was looking at her she did not turn to him, but kept her eyes forward, as if afraid that by meeting his own some troublous discussion would be initiated.
"Sue — you are married now, you know, like me; and yet we have been in such a hurry that we have not said a word about it!"
"There's no necessity," she quickly returned.
"Oh well — perhaps not... But I wish"
"Jude — don't talk about ME — I wish you wouldn't!" she entreated. "It distresses me, rather. Forgive my saying it! ... Where did you stay last night?"
She had asked the question in perfect innocence, to change the topic. He knew that, and said merely, "At an inn," though it would have been a relief to tell her of his meeting with an unexpected one. But the latter's final announcement of her marriage in Australia bewildered him lest what he might say should do his ignorant wife an injury.
Their talk proceeded but awkwardly till they reached Alfredston. That Sue was not as she had been, but was labelled "Phillotson," paralyzed Jude whenever he wanted to commune with her as an individual. Yet she seemed unaltered — he could not say why. There remained the five-mile extra journey into the country, which it was just as easy to walk as to drive, the greater part of it being uphill. Jude had never before in his life gone that road with Sue, though he had with another. It was now as if he carried a bright light which temporarily banished the shady associations of the earlier time.
Sue talked; but Jude noticed that she still kept the conversation from herself. At length he inquired if her husband were well.
"O yes," she said. "He is obliged to be in the school all the day, or he would have come with me. He is so good and kind that to accompany me he would have dismissed the school for once, even against his principles — for he is strongly opposed to giving casual holidays — only I wouldn't let him. I felt it would be better to come alone. Aunt Drusilla, I knew, was so very eccentric; and his being almost a stranger to her now would have made it irksome to both. Since it turns out that she is hardly conscious I am glad I did not ask him."
Jude had walked moodily while this praise of Phillotson was being expressed. "Mr. Phillotson obliges you in everything, as he ought," he said.
"You ought to be a happy wife."
"And of course I am."
"Bride, I might almost have said, as yet. It is not so many weeks since I gave you to him, and — "
"Yes, I know! I know!" There was something in her face which belied her late assuring words, so strictly proper and so lifelessly spoken that they might have been taken from a list of model speeches in "The Wife's Guide to Conduct." Jude knew the quality of every vibration in Sue's voice, could read every symptom of her mental condition; and he was convinced that she was unhappy, although she had not been a month married. But her rushing away thus from home, to see the last of a relative whom she had hardly known in her life, proved nothing; for Sue naturally did such things as those.
"Well, you have my good wishes now as always, Mrs. Phillotson."
She reproached him by a glance.
"No, you are not Mrs. Phillotson," murmured Jude. "You are dear, free Sue Bridehead, only you don't know it! Wifedom has not yet squashed up and digested you in its vast maw as an atom which has no further individuality."
Sue put on a look of being offended, till she answered, "Nor has husbandom you, so far as I can see!"
"But it has!" he said, shaking his head sadly.
When they reached the lone cottage under the firs, between the Brown House and Marygreen, in which Jude and Arabella had lived and quarrelled, he turned to look at it. A squalid family lived there now. He could not help saying to Sue: "That's the house my wife and I occupied the whole of the time we lived together. I brought her home to that house."
She looked at it. "That to you was what the school-house at Shaston is to me."
"Yes; but I was not very happy there as you are in yours."
She closed her lips in retortive silence, and they walked some way till she glanced at him to see how he was taking it. "Of course I may have exaggerated your happiness — one never knows," he continued blandly.
"Don't think that, Jude, for a moment, even though you may have said it to sting me! He's as good to me as a man can be, and gives me perfect liberty — which elderly husbands don't do in general... If you think I am not happy because he's too old for me, you are wrong."
"I don't think anything against him — to you dear."
"And you won't say things to distress me, will you?"
"I will not."
He said no more, but he knew that, from some cause or other, in taking Phillotson as a husband, Sue felt that she had done what she ought not to have done.
They plunged into the concave field on the other side of which rose the village — the field wherein Jude had received a thrashing from the farmer many years earlier. On ascending to the village and approaching the house they found Mrs. Edlin standing at the door, who at sight of them lifted her hands deprecatingly. "She's downstairs, if you'll believe me!" cried the widow. "Out o' bed she got, and nothing could turn her. What will come o't I do not know!"
On entering, there indeed by the fireplace sat the old woman, wrapped in blankets, and turning upon them a countenance like that of Sebastiano's Lazarus. They must have looked their amazement, for she said in a hollow voice:
"Ah — sceered ye, have I! I wasn't going to bide up there no longer, to please nobody! 'Tis more than flesh and blood can bear, to be ordered to do this and that by a feller that don't know half as well as you do yourself! ... Ah — you'll rue this marrying as well as he!" she added, turning to Sue. "All our family do — and nearly all everybody else's. You should have done as I did, you simpleton! And Phillotson the schoolmaster, of all men! What made 'ee marry him?"
"What makes most women marry, Aunt?"
"Ah! You mean to say you loved the man!"
"I don't meant to say anything definite."
"Do ye love un?"
"Don't ask me, Aunt."
"I can mind the man very well. A very civil, honourable liver; but Lord! — I don't want to wownd your feelings, but — there be certain men here and there that no woman of any niceness can stomach. I should have said he was one. I don't say so NOW, since you must ha' known better than I — but that's what I SHOULD have said!"
Sue jumped up and went out. Jude followed her, and found her in the outhouse, crying.
"Don't cry, dear!" said Jude in distress. "She means well, but is very crusty and queer now, you know."