Chapter 22

Jude's reverie was interrupted by the creak of footsteps ascending the stairs.

He whisked Sue's clothing from the chair where it was drying, thrust it under the bed, and sat down to his book. Somebody knocked and opened the door immediately. It was the landlady.

`Oh, I didn't know whether you was in or not, Mr. Fawley. I wanted to know if you would require supper. I see you've a young gentleman - - '

`Yes, ma'am. But I think I won't come down to-night. Will you bring supper up on a tray, and I'll have a cup of tea as well.'

It was Jude's custom to go downstairs to the kitchen, and eat his meals with the family, to save trouble. His landlady brought up the supper, however, on this occasion, and he took it from her at the door.

When she had descended he set the teapot on the hob, and drew out Sue's clothes anew; but they were far from dry. A thick woollen gown, he found, held a deal of water. So he hung them up again, and enlarged his fire and mused as the steam from the garments went up the chimney.

Suddenly she said, `Jude!'

`Yes. All right. How do you feel now?'

`Better. Quite well. Why, I fell asleep, didn't I? What time is it? Not late surely?'

`It is past ten.'

`Is it really? What shall I do!' she said, starting up.

`Stay where you are.'

`Yes; that's what I want to do. But I don't know what they would say! And what will you do?'

`I am going to sit here by the fire all night, and read. To-morrow is Sunday, and I haven't to go out anywhere. Perhaps you will be saved a severe illness by resting there. Don't be frightened. I'm all right. Look here, what I have got for you. Some supper.'

When she had sat upright she breathed plaintively and said, `I do feel rather weak still. l thought I was well; and I ought not to be here, ought I?' But the supper fortified her somewhat, and when she had had some tea and had lain back again she was bright and cheerful.

The tea must have been green, or too long drawn, for she seemed preternaturally wakeful afterwards, though Jude, who had not taken any, began to feel heavy; till her conversation fixed his attention.

`You called me a creature of civilization, or something, didn't you?' she said, breaking a silence. `It was very odd you should have done that.'


`Well, because it is provokingly wrong. I am a sort of negation of it.'

`You are very philosophical. `A negation' is profound talking.'

`Is it? Do I strike you as being learned?' she asked, with a touch of raillery.

`No - not learned. Only you don't talk quite like a girl - well, a girl who has had no advantages.'

  By PanEris using Melati.

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