she veered round to darkness. Strange difference of sex, that time and circumstance, which enlarge the views of most men, narrow the views of women almost invariably. And now the ultimate horror has come - her giving herself like this to what she loathes, in her enslavement to forms! She, so sensitive, so shrinking, that the very wind seemed to blow on her with a touch of deference.... As for Sue and me when we were at our own best, long ago - when our minds were clear, and our love of truth fearless - the time was not ripe for us! Our ideas were fifty years too soon to be any good to us. And so the resistance they met with brought reaction in her, and recklessness and ruin on me! ... There - this, Mrs. Edlin, is how I go on to myself continually, as I lie here. I must be boring you awfully.'

`Not at all, my dear boy. I could hearken to 'ee all day.'

As Jude reflected more and more on her news, and grew more restless, he began in his mental agony to use terribly profane language about social conventions, which started a fit of coughing. Presently there came a knock at the door downstairs. As nobody answered it Mrs. Edlin herself went down.

The visitor said blandly: `The doctor.' The lanky form was that of Physician Vilbert, who had been called in by Arabella.

`How is my patient at present?' asked the physician.

`Oh bad - very bad! Poor chap, he got excited, and do blaspeam terribly, since I let out some gossip by accident - the more to my blame. But there - you must excuse a man in suffering for what he says, and I hope God will forgive him.'

`Ah. I'll go up and see him. Mrs. Fawley at home?'

`She's not in at present, but she'll be here soon.'

Vilbert went; but though Jude had hitherto taken the medicines of that skilful practitioner with the greatest indifference whenever poured down his throat by Arabella, he was now so brought to bay by events that he vented his opinion of Vilbert in the physician's face, and so forcibly, and with such striking epithets, that Vilbert soon scurried downstairs again. At the door he met Arabella, Mrs. Edlin having left. Arabella inquired how he thought her husband was now, and seeing that the doctor looked ruffled, asked him to take something. He assented.

`I'll bring it to you here in the passage,' she said. `There's nobody but me about the house to-day.'

She brought him a bottle and a glass, and he drank.

Arabella began shaking with suppressed laughter. `What is this, my dear?' he asked, smacking his lips.

`Oh - a drop of wine - and something in it.' Laughing again she said: `I poured your own love-philtre into it, that you sold me at the agricultural show, don't you re-member?'

`I do, I do! Clever woman! But you must be prepared for the consequences.' Putting his arm round her shoulders he kissed her there and then.

`Don't don't,' she whispered, laughing good-humouredly. `My man will hear.'

She let him out of the house, and as she went back she said to herself: `Well! Weak women must provide for a rainy day. And if my poor fellow upstairs do go off - as I suppose he will soon - it's well to keep chances open. And I can't pick and choose now as I could when I was younger. And one must take the old if one can't get the young.'

  By PanEris using Melati.

Previous chapter/page Back Home Email this Search Discuss Bookmark Next chapter
Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.