Chapter 10

The time arrived for killing the pig which Jude and his wife had fattened in their sty during the autumn months, and the butchering was timed to take place as soon as it was light in the morning, so that Jude might get to Alfredston without losing more than a quarter of a day.

The night had seemed strangely silent. Jude looked out of the window long before dawn, and perceived that the ground was covered with snow - snow rather deep for the season, it seemed, a few flakes still falling.

`I'm afraid the pig-killer won't be able to come,' he said to Arabella.

`Oh, he'll come. You must get up and make the water hot, if you want Challow to scald him. Though I like singeing best.'

`I'll get up,' said Jude. `I like the way of my own county.'

He went downstairs, lit the fire under the copper, and began feeding it with bean-stalks, all the time without a candle, the blaze flinging a cheerful shine into the room; though for him the sense of cheerfulness was lessened by thoughts on the reason of that blaze - to heat water to scald the bristles from the body of an animal that as yet lived, and whose voice could be continually heard from a corner of the garden. At half-past six, the time of appointment with the butcher, the water boiled, and Jude's wife came downstairs.

`Is Challow come?' she asked.


They waited, and it grew lighter, with the dreary light of a snowy dawn. She went out, gazed along the road, and returning said, `He's not coming. Drunk last night, I expect. The snow is not enough to hinder him, surely!'

`Then we must put it off. It is only the water boiled for nothing. The snow may be deep in the valley.'

`Can't be put off. There's no more victuals for the pig. He ate the last mixing o' barleymeal yesterday morning.'

`Yesterday morning? What has he lived on since?'


`What - he has been starving?'

`Yes. We always do it the last day or two, to save bother with the innerds. What ignorance, not to know that!'

`That accounts for his crying so. Poor creature!'

`Well - you must do the sticking - there's no help for it. I'll show you how. Or I'll do it myself - I think I could. Though as it is such a big pig I had rather Challow had done it. However, his basket o' knives and things have been already sent on here, and we can use 'em.'

`Of course you shan't do it,' said Jude. `I'll do it, since it must be done.'

He went out to the sty, shovelled away the snow for the space of a couple of yards or more, and placed the stool in front, with the knives and ropes at hand. A robin peered down at the preparations from the nearest tree, and, not liking the sinister look of the scene, flew away, though hungry. By this time Arabella had joined her husband, and Jude, rope in hand, got into the sty, and noosed the affrighted animal, who, beginning with a squeak of surprise, rose to repeated cries of rage. Arabella opened the sty-door, and

  By PanEris using Melati.

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