Chapter 48

The place was the door of Jude's lodging in the out-skirts of Christminster - far from the precincts of St. Silas' where he had formerly lived, which saddened him to sickness. The rain was coming down. A woman in shabby black stood on the doorstep talking to Jude, who held the door in his hand.

`I am lonely, destitute, and houseless - that's what I am! Father has turned me out of doors after borrowing every penny I'd got, to put it into his business, and then accusing me of laziness when I was only waiting for a situation. I am at the mercy of the world! If you can't take me and help me, Jude, I must go to the workhouse, or to something worse. Only just now two undergraduates winked at me as I came along. 'Tis hard for a woman to keep virtuous where there's so many young men!'

The woman in the rain who spoke thus was Arabella, the evening being that of the day after Sue's remarriage with Phillotson.

`I am sorry for you, but I am only in lodgings,' said Jude coldly.

`Then you turn me away?'

`I'll give you enough to get food and lodging for a few days.'

`Oh, but can't you have the kindness to take me in? I cannot endure going to a public house to lodge; and I am so lonely. Please, Jude, for old times' sake!'

`No, no,' said Jude hastily. `I don't want to be reminded of those things; and if you talk about them I shall not help you.'

`Then I suppose I must go!' said Arabella. She bent her head against the doorpost and began sobbing.

`The house is full,' said Jude. `And I have only a little extra room to my own - not much more than a closet - where I keep my tools, and templates, and the few books I have left!'

`That would be a palace for me!'

`There is no bedstead in it.'

`A bit of a bed could be made on the floor. It would be good enough for me.'

Unable to be harsh with her, and not knowing what to do, Jude called the man who let the lodgings, and said this was an acquaintance of his in great distress for want of temporary shelter.

`You may remember me as barmaid at the Lamb and Flag formerly?' spoke up Arabella. `My father has insulted me this afternoon, and I've left him, though without a penny!'

The householder said he could not recall her features. `But still, if you are a friend of Mr. Fawley's we'll do what we can for a day or two - if he'll make himself answerable?'

`Yes, yes,' said Jude. `She has really taken me quite unawares; but I should wish to help her out of her difficulty.' And an arrangement was ultimately come to under which a bed was to be thrown down in Jude's lumber-room, to make it comfortable for Arabella till she could get out of the strait she was in - not by her own fault, as she declared - and return to her father's again.

While they were waiting for this to be done Arabella said: `You know the news, I suppose?'

`I guess what you mean; but I know nothing.'

`I had a letter from Anny at Alfredston to-day. She had just heard that the wedding was to be yesterday: but she didn't know if it had come off.'

  By PanEris using Melati.

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