progress; and here they usually remained all the winter till they turned to seek again their old tracks in the following spring.
It was to this breezy and whimsical spot that Jude ascended from the nearest station for the first time in his life about four o'clock one afternoon, and entering on the summit of the peak after a toilsome climb, passed the first houses of the aerial town; and drew towards the school-house. The hour was too early; the pupils were still in school, humming small, like a swarm of gnats; and he withdrew a few steps along Abbey Walk, whence he regarded the spot which fate had made the home of all he loved best in the world. In front of the schools, which were extensive and stone-built, grew two enormous beeches with smooth mouse-coloured trunks, as such trees will only grow on chalk uplands. Within the mullioned and transomed windows he could see the black, brown, and flaxen crowns of the scholars over the sills, and to pass the time away he walked down to the level terrace where the abbey gardens once had spread, his heart throbbing in spite of him.
Unwilling to enter till the children were dismissed he remained here till young voices could be heard in the open air, and girls in white pinafores over red and blue frocks appeared dancing along the paths which the abbess, prioress, subprioress, and fifty nuns had demurely paced three centuries earlier. Retracing his steps he found that he had waited too long, and that Sue had gone out into the town at the heels of the last scholar, Mr. Phillotson having been absent all the afternoon at a teachers' meeting at Shottsford.
Jude went into the empty schoolroom and sat down, the girl who was sweeping the floor having informed him that Mrs. Phillotson would be back again in a few minutes. A piano stood near - actually the old piano that Phillotson had possessed at Marygreen - and though the dark afternoon almost prevented him seeing the notes Jude touched them in his humble way, and could not help modulating into the hymn which had so affected him in the previous week.
A figure moved behind him, and thinking it was still the girl with the broom Jude took no notice, till the person came close and laid her fingers lightly upon his bass hand. The imposed hand was a little one he seemed to know, and he turned.
`Don't stop,' said Sue. `I like it. I learnt it before I left Melchester. They used to play it in the training school.'
`I can't strum before you! Play it for me.'
`Oh well - I don't mind.'
Sue sat down, and her rendering of the piece, though not remarkable, seemed divine as compared with his own. She, like him, was evidently touched - to her own surprise - by the recalled air; and when she had finished, and he moved his hand towards hers, it met his own half-way. Jude grasped it - just as he had done before her marriage.
`It is odd,' she said, in a voice quite changed, `that I should care about that air; because - - '
`I am not that sort - quite.'
`Not easily moved?'
`I didn't quite mean that.'
`Oh, but you are one of that sort, for you are just like me at heart!'
`But not at head.'
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