Chapter 38

Their next and second attempt thereat was more deliberately made, though it was begun on the morning following the singular child's arrival at their home.

Him they found to be in the habit of sitting silent, his quaint and weird face set, and his eyes resting on things they did not see in the substantial world.

`His face is like the tragic mask of Melpomene,' said Sue. `What is your name, dear? Did you tell us?'

`Little Father Time is what they always called me. It is a nickname; because I look so aged, they say.'

`And you talk so, too,' said Sue tenderly. `It is strange, Jude, that these preternaturally old boys almost always come from new countries. But what were you christened?'

`I never was.'

`Why was that?'

`Because, if I died in damnation, 'twould save the expense of a Christian funeral.'

`Oh - your name is not Jude, then?' said his father with some disappointment.

The boy shook his head. `Never heerd on it.'

`Of course not,' said Sue quickly; `since she was hating you all the time!'

`We'll have him christened,' said Jude; and privately to Sue: `The day we are married.' Yet the advent of the child disturbed him.

Their position lent them shyness, and having an impression that a marriage at a superintendent registrar's office was more private than an ecclesiastical one, they decided to avoid a church this time. Both Sue and Jude together went to the office of the district to give notice: they had become such companions that they could hardly do anything of importance except in each other's company.

Jude Fawley signed the form of notice, Sue looking over his shoulder and watching his hand as it traced the words. As she read the four-square undertaking, never before seen by her, into which her own and Jude's names were inserted, and by which that very volatile essence, their love for each other, was supposed to be made permanent, her face seemed to grow painfully apprehensive. `Names and Surnames of the Parties' - (they were to be parties now, not lovers, she thought). `Condition' - (a horrid idea) - `Rank or Occupation' - `Age' - `Dwelling at' - `Length of Residence' - `Church or Building in which the Marriage is to be solemnized' - `District and County in which the Parties respectively dwell.'

`It spoils the sentiment, doesn't it!' she said on their way home. `It seems making a more sordid business of it even than signing the contract in a vestry. There is a little poetry in a church. But we'll try to get through with it, dearest, now.'

`We will. `For what man is he that hath betrothed a wife and hath not taken her? Let him go and return unto his house, lest he die in the battle, and another man take her.' So said the Jewish law-giver.'

`How you know the Scriptures, Jude! You really ought to have been a parson. I can only quote profane writers!'

During the interval before the issuing of the certificate Sue, in her housekeeping errands, sometimes walked past the office, and furtively glancing in saw affixed to the wall the notice of the purposed clinch to their union. She could not bear its aspect. Coming after her previous experience of matrimony, all the romance of their attachment seemed to be starved away by placing her present case in the same

  By PanEris using Melati.

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