Chapter 37

When Sue reached home Jude was awaiting her at the door to take the initial step towards their marriage. She clasped his arm, and they went along silently together, as true comrades oft-times do. He saw that she was preoccupied, and forbore to question her.

`Oh Jude - I've been talking to her,' she said at last. `I wish I hadn't! And yet it is best to be reminded of things.'

`I hope she was civil.'

`Yes. I - I can't help liking her - just a little bit! She's not an ungenerous nature; and I am so glad her difficulties have all suddenly ended.' She explained how Arabella had been summoned back, and would be enabled to retrieve her position. `I was referring to our old question. What Arabella has been saying to me has made me feel more than ever how hopelessly vulgar an institution legal marriage is - a sort of trap to catch a man - I can't bear to think of it. I wish I hadn't promised to let you put up the banns this morning!'

`Oh, don't mind me. Any time will do for me. I thought you might like to get it over quickly, now.'

`Indeed, I don't feel any more anxious now than I did before. Perhaps with any other man I might be a little anxious; but among the very few virtues possessed by your family and mine, dear, I think I may set staunchness. So I am not a bit frightened about losing you, now I really am yours and you really are mine. In fact, I am easier in my mind than I was, for my conscience is clear about Richard, who now has a right to his freedom. I felt we were deceiving him before.'

`Sue, you seem when you are like this to be one of the women of some grand old civilization, whom I used to read about in my bygone, wasted, classical days, rather than a denizen of a mere Christian country. I almost expect you to say at these times that you have just been talking to some friend whom you met in the Via Sacra, about the latest news of Octavia or Livia; or have been listening to Aspasia's eloquence, or have been watching Praxiteles chiselling away at his latest Venus, while Phryne made complaint that she was tired of posing.'

They had now reached the house of the parish clerk. Sue stood back, while her lover went up to the door. His hand was raised to knock when she said: `Jude!'

He looked round.

`Wait a minute, would you mind?'

He came back to her.

`Just let us think,' she said timidly. `I had such a horrid dream one night! ... And Arabella - - '

`What did Arabella say to you?' he asked

`Oh, she said that when people were tied up you could get the law of a man better if he beat you - and how when couples quarrelled.... Jude, do you think that when you must have me with you by law, we shall be so happy as we are now? The men and women of our family are very generous when everything depends upon their goodwill, but they always kick against compulsion. Don't you dread the attitude that insensibly arises out of legal obligation? Don't you think it is destructive to a passion whose essence is its gratuitousness?'

`Upon my word, love, you are beginning to frighten me, too, with all this foreboding! Well, let's go back and think it over.'

  By PanEris using Melati.

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