IT was some two months later in the year, and the pair had met constantly during the interval. Arabella seemed dissatisfied; she was always imagining, and waiting, and wondering.
One day she met the itinerant Vilbert. She, like all the cottagers thereabout, knew the quack well, and she began telling him of her experiences. Arabella had been gloomy, but before he left her she had grown brighter. That evening she kept an appointment with Jude, who seemed sad.
"I am going away," he said to her. "I think I ought to go. I think it will be better both for you and for me. I wish some things had never begun! I was much to blame, I know. But it is never too late to mend."
Arabella began to cry. "How do you know it is not too late?" she said. "That's all very well to say! I haven't told you yet!" and she looked into his face with streaming eyes.
"What?" he asked, turning pale. "Not ... ?"
"Yes! And what shall I do if you desert me?"
"Oh, Arabella--how can you say that, my dear! You _know_ I wouldn't desert you!"
"I have next to no wages as yet, you know; or perhaps I should have thought of this before.... But, of course if that's the case, we must marry! What other thing do you think I could dream of doing?"
"I thought--I thought, deary, perhaps you would go away all the more for that, and leave me to face it alone!"
"You knew better! Of course I never dreamt six months ago, or even three, of marrying. It is a complete smashing up of my plans--I mean my plans before I knew you, my dear. But what are they, after all! Dreams about books, and degrees, and impossible fellowships, and all that. Certainly we'll marry: we must!"
That night he went out alone, and walked in the dark self-communing. He knew well, too well, in the secret centre of his brain, that Arabella was not worth a great deal as a specimen of womankind. Yet, such being the custom of the rural districts among honourable young men who had drifted so far into intimacy with a woman as he unfortunately had done, he was ready to abide by what he had said, and take the consequences. For his own soothing he kept up a factitious belief in her. His idea of her was the thing of most consequence, not Arabella herself, he sometimes said laconically.
The banns were put in and published the very next Sunday. The people of the parish all said what a simple fool young Fawley was. All his reading had only come to this, that he would have to sell his books to buy saucepans. Those who guessed the probable state of affairs, Arabella's parents being among them, declared that it was the sort of conduct they would have expected of such an honest young man as Jude in reparation of the wrong he had done his innocent sweetheart. The parson who married them seemed to think it satisfactory too. And so, standing before the aforesaid officiator, the two swore that at every other time of their lives till death took them, they would assuredly believe, feel, and desire precisely as they had believed, felt, and desired during the few preceding weeks. What was as remarkable as the undertaking itself was the fact that nobody seemed at all surprised at what they swore.
Fawley's aunt being a baker she made him a bride-cake, saying bitterly that it was the last thing she could do for him, poor silly fellow; and that it would have been far better if, instead of his living to trouble her, he had gone underground years before with his father and mother. Of this cake Arabella took some slices, wrapped them up in white note-paper, and sent them to her companions in the pork-dressing business, Anny and Sarah, labelling each packet _"In remembrance of good advice."_
The prospects of the newly married couple were certainly not very brilliant even to the most sanguine mind. He, a stone-mason's apprentice, nineteen years of age, was working for half wages till he should be out of his time. His wife was absolutely useless in a town-lodging, where he at first had considered it would be necessary for them to live. But the urgent need of adding to income in ever so little a degree caused him to take a lonely roadside cottage between the Brown House and Marygreen, that he might have the profits of a vegetable garden, and utilize her past experiences by letting her keep a pig. But it was not the sort of life he had bargained for, and it was a long way to walk to and from Alfredston every day. Arabella, however, felt that all these make-shifts were temporary; she had gained a husband; that was the thing-- a husband with a lot of earning power in him for buying her frocks and hats when he should begin to get frightened a bit, and stick to his trade, and throw aside those stupid books for practical undertakings.
So to the cottage he took her on the evening of the marriage, giving up his old room at his aunt's--where so much of the hard labour at Greek and Latin had been carried on.
A little chill overspread him at her first unrobing. A long tail of hair, which Arabella wore twisted up in an enormous knob at the back of her head, was deliberately unfastened, stroked out, and hung upon the looking-glass which he had bought her.
"What--it wasn't your own?" he said, with a sudden distaste for her.
"Oh no--it never is nowadays with the better class."
"Nonsense! Perhaps not in towns. But in the country it is supposed to be different. Besides, you've enough of your own, surely?"
"Yes, enough as country notions go. But in town the men expect more, and when I was barmaid at Aldbrickham----"
"Barmaid at Aldbrickham?"
"Well, not exactly barmaid--I used to draw the drink at a public-house there--just for a little time; that was all. Some people put me up to getting this, and I bought it just for a fancy. The more you have the better in Aldbrickham, which is a finer town than all your Christminsters. Every lady of position wears false hair--the barber's assistant told me so."
Jude thought with a feeling of sickness that though this might be true to some extent, for all that he knew, many unsophisticated girls would and did go to towns and remain there for years without losing their simplicity of life and embellishments. Others, alas, had an instinct towards artificiality in their very blood, and became adepts in counterfeiting at the first glimpse of it. However, perhaps there was no great sin in a woman adding to her hair, and he resolved to think no more of it.
A new-made wife can usually manage to excite interest for a few weeks, even though the prospects of the house-hold ways and means are cloudy. There is a certain piquancy about her situation, and her manner to her acquaintance at the sense of it, which carries off the gloom of facts, and renders even the humblest bride independent awhile of the real. Mrs. Jude Fawley was walking in the streets of Alfredston one market-day with this quality in her carriage when she met Anny her former friend, whom she had not seen since the wedding.
As usual they laughed before talking; the world seemed funny to them without saying it.
"So it turned out a good plan, you see!" remarked the girl to the wife. "I knew it would with such as him. He's a dear good fellow, and you ought to be proud of un."
"I am," said Mrs. Fawley quietly.
"And when do you expect?"
"Ssh! Not at all."
"I was mistaken."
"Oh, Arabella, Arabella; you be a deep one! Mistaken! well, that's clever-- it's a real stroke of genius! It is a thing I never thought o', wi' all my experience! I never thought beyond bringing about the real thing-- not that one could sham it!"
"Don't you be too quick to cry sham! 'Twasn't sham. I didn't know."
"My word--won't he be in a taking! He'll give it to 'ee o' Saturday nights! Whatever it was, he'll say it was a trick-- a double one, by the Lord!"
"I'll own to the first, but not to the second.... Pooh-- he won't care! He'll be glad I was wrong in what I said. He'll shake down, bless 'ee--men always do. What can 'em do otherwise? Married is married."
Nevertheless it was with a little uneasiness that Arabella approached the time when in the natural course of things she would have to reveal that the alarm she had raised had been without foundation. The occasion was one evening at bedtime, and they were in their chamber in the lonely cottage by the wayside to which Jude walked home from his work every day. He had worked hard the whole twelve hours, and had retired to rest before his wife. When she came into the room he was between sleeping and waking, and was barely conscious of her undressing before the little looking-glass as he lay.
One action of hers, however, brought him to full cognition. Her face being reflected towards him as she sat, he could perceive that she was amusing herself by artificially producing in each cheek the dimple before alluded to, a curious accomplishment of which she was mistress, effecting it by a momentary suction. It seemed to him for the first time that the dimples were far oftener absent from her face during his intercourse with her nowadays than they had been in the earlier weeks of their acquaintance.
"Don't do that, Arabella!" he said suddenly. "There is no harm in it, but--I don't like to see you."
She turned and laughed. "Lord, I didn't know you were awake!" she said. "How countrified you are! That's nothing."
"Where did you learn it?"
"Nowhere that I know of. They used to stay without any trouble when I was at the public-house; but now they won't. My face was fatter then."
"I don't care about dimples. I don't think they improve a woman-- particularly a married woman, and of full-sized figure like you."
"Most men think otherwise."
"I don't care what most men think, if they do. How do you know?"
"I used to be told so when I was serving in the tap-room."
"Ah--that public-house experience accounts for your knowing about the adulteration of the ale when we went and had some that Sunday evening. I thought when I married you that you had always lived in your father's house."
"You ought to have known better than that, and seen I was a little more finished than I could have been by staying where I was born. There was not much to do at home, and I was eating my head off, so I went away for three months."
"You'll soon have plenty to do now, dear, won't you?"
"How do you mean?"
"Why, of course--little things to make."
"When will it be? Can't you tell me exactly, instead of in such general terms as you have used?"
"There's nothing to tell. I made a mistake."
"It was a mistake."
He sat bolt upright in bed and looked at her. "How can that be?"
"Women fancy wrong things sometimes."
"But--! Why, of course, so unprepared as I was, without a stick of furniture, and hardly a shilling, I shouldn't have hurried on our affair, and brought you to a half-furnished hut before I was ready, if it had not been for the news you gave me, which made it necessary to save you, ready or no.... Good God!"
"Don't take on, dear. What's done can't be undone."
"I have no more to say!"
He gave the answer simply, and lay down; and there was silence between them.
When Jude awoke the next morning he seemed to see the world with a different eye. As to the point in question he was compelled to accept her word; in the circumstances he could not have acted otherwise while ordinary notions prevailed. But how came they to prevail?
There seemed to him, vaguely and dimly, something wrong in a social ritual which made necessary a cancelling of well-formed schemes involving years of thought and labour, of foregoing a man's one opportunity of showing himself superior to the lower animals, and of contributing his units of work to the general progress of his generation, because of a momentary surprise by a new and transitory instinct which had nothing in it of the nature of vice, and could be only at the most called weakness. He was inclined to inquire what he had done, or she lost, for that matter, that he deserved to be caught in a gin which would cripple him, if not her also, for the rest of a lifetime? There was perhaps something fortunate in the fact that the immediate reason of his marriage had proved to be non-existent. But the marriage remained.