` - but I can work hard. I have staying power in abundance, thank God! and it is that which tells.... Yes, Christminster shall be my Alma Mater; and I'll be her beloved son, in whom she shall be well pleased.'
In his deep concentration on these transactions of the future Jude's walk had slackened, and he was now standing quite still, looking at the ground as though the future were thrown thereon by a magic lantern. On a sudden something smacked him sharply in the ear, and he became aware that a soft cold substance had been flung at him, and had fallen at his feet.
A glance told him what it was - a piece of flesh, the characteristic part of a barrow-pig, which the countrymen used for greasing their boots, as it was useless for any other purpose. Pigs were rather plentiful hereabout, being bred and fattened in large numbers in certain parts of North Wessex.
On the other side of the hedge was a stream, whence, as he now for the first time realized, had come the slight sounds of voices and laughter that had mingled with his dreams. He mounted the bank and looked over the fence. On the further side of the stream stood a small homestead, having a garden and pig-sties attached; in front of it, beside the brook, three young women were kneeling, with buckets and platters beside them containing heaps of pigs' chitterlings, which they were washing in the running water. One or two pairs of eyes slyly glanced up, and perceiving that his attention had at last been attracted, and that he was watching them, they braced themselves for inspection by putting their mouths demurely into shape and recommencing their rinsing operations with assiduity.
`Thank you!' said Jude severely.
`I didn't throw it, I tell you!' asserted one girl to her neighbour, as if unconscious of the young man's presence.
`Nor I,' the second answered.
`Oh, Anny, how can you!' said the third.
`If I had thrown anything at all, it shouldn't have been that!'
`Pooh! I don't care for him!' And they laughed and continued their work, without looking up, still ostentatiously accusing each other.
Jude grew sarcastic as he wiped his face, and caught their remarks.
`you didn't do it - oh no!' he said to the up-stream one of the three.
She whom he addressed was a fine dark-eyed girl, not exactly handsome, but capable of passing as such at a little distance, despite some coarseness of skin and fibre. She had a round and prominent bosom, full lips, perfect teeth, and the rich complexion of a Cochin hen's egg. She was a complete and substantial female animal - no more, no less; and Jude was almost certain that to her was attributable the enterprise of attracting his attention from dreams of the humaner letters to what was simmering in the minds around him.
`That you'll never be told,' said she deedily.
`Whoever did it was wasteful of other people's property.'
`Oh, that's nothing.'
`But you want to speak to me, I suppose?'
`Oh yes; if you like to.'
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