Chapter 27

On the morrow between nine and half-past they were journeying back to Christminster, the only two occupants of a compartment in a third-class railway-carriage. Having, like Jude, made rather a hasty toilet to catch the train, Arabella looked a little frowsy, and her face was very far from possessing the animation which had characterized it at the bar the night before. When they came out of the station she found that she still had half an hour to spare before she was due at the bar. They walked in silence a little way out of the town in the direction of Alfredston. Jude looked up the far highway.

`Ah ... poor feeble me!' he murmured at last.

`What?' said she.

`This is the very road by which I came into Christminster years ago full of plans!'

`Well, whatever the road is I think my time is nearly up, as I have to be in the bar by eleven o'clock. And as I said, I shan't ask for the day to go with you to see your aunt. So perhaps we had better part here. I'd sooner not walk up Chief Street with you, since we've come to no conclusion at all.'

`Very well. But you said when we were getting up this morning that you had something you wished to tell me before I left?'

`So I had - two things - one in particular. But you wouldn't promise to keep it a secret. I'll tell you now if you promise? As an honest woman I wish you to know it.... It was what I began telling you in the night - about that gentleman who managed the Sydney hotel.' Arabella spoke somewhat hurriedly for her. `You'll keep it close?'

`Yes - yes - I promise!' said Jude impatiently. `Of course I don't want to reveal your secrets.'

`Whenever I met him out for a walk, he used to say that he was much taken with my looks, and he kept pressing me to marry him. I never thought of coming back to England again; and being out there in Australia, with no home of my own after leaving my father, I at last agreed, and did.'

`What - marry him?'


`Regularly - legally - in church?'

`Yes. And lived with him till shortly before I left. It was stupid, I know; but I did! There, now I've told you. Don't round upon me! He talks of coming back to England, poor old chap. But if he does, he won't be likely to find me.'

Jude stood pale and fixed.

`Why the devil didn't you tell me last, night!' he said.

`Well - I didn't.... Won't you make it up with me, then?'

`So in talking of `your husband' to the bar gentlemen you meant him, of course - not me!'

`Of course.... Come, don't fuss about it.'

`I have nothing more to say!' replied Jude. `I have nothing at all to say about the - crime - you've confessed to!'

  By PanEris using Melati.

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