It would be superfluous to say what his answer was; and how he thought what he would have done had he been free, which should have rendered a long residence with a female friend quite unnecessary for Sue. He felt he might have been pretty sure of his own victory if it had come to a conflict between Phillotson and himself for the possession of her.
Yet Jude was in danger of attaching more meaning to Sue's impulsive note than it really was intended to bear.
After the lapse of a few days he found himself hoping that she would write again. But he received no further communication; and in the intensity of his solicitude he sent another note, suggesting that he should pay her a visit some Sunday, the distance being under eighteen miles.
He expected a reply on the second morning after despatching his missive; but none came. The third morning arrived; the postman did not stop. This was Saturday, and in a feverish state of anxiety about her he sent off three brief lines stating that he was coming the following day, for he felt sure something had happened.
His first and natural thought had been that she was ill from her immersion; but it soon occurred to him that somebody would have written for her in such a case. Conjectures were put an end to by his arrival at the village school-house near Shaston on the bright morning of Sunday, between eleven and twelve o'clock, when the parish was as vacant as a desert, most of the inhabitants having gathered inside the church, whence their voices could occasionally be heard in unison.
A little girl opened the door. `Miss Bridehead is up-stairs,' she said. `And will you please walk up to her?'
`Is she ill?' asked Jude hastily.
`Only a little - not very.'
Jude entered and ascended. On reaching the landing a voice told him which way to turn - the voice of Sue calling his name. He passed the doorway, and found her lying in a little bed in a room a dozen feet square.
`Oh, Sue!' he cried, sitting down beside her and taking her hand. `How is this! You couldn't write?'
`No - it wasn't that!' she answered. `I did catch a bad cold - but I could have written. Only I wouldn't!'
`Why not? - frightening me like this!'
`Yes - that was what I was afraid of! But I had decided not to write to you any more. They won't have me back at the school - that's why I couldn't write. Not the fact, but the reason!'
`They not only won't have me, but they gave me a parting piece of advice - - '
She did not answer directly. `I vowed I never would tell you, Jude - it is so vulgar and distressing!'
`Is it about us?'
`But do tell me!'
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