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It was bad policy to recall her--he knew it while he pursued it. But he could not help it. She came back.
"Sue," he murmured, "do you wish to make it up, and stay? I'll forgive you and condone everything!"
"Oh you can't, you can't!" she said hastily. "You can't condone it now!"
"He is your husband now, in effect, you mean, of course?"
"You may assume it. He is obtaining a divorce from his wife Arabella."
"His wife! It is altogether news to me that he has a wife."
"It was a bad marriage."
"Like mine. He is not doing it so much on his own account as on hers. She wrote and told him it would be a kindness to her, since then she could marry and live respectably. And Jude has agreed."
"A wife.... A kindness to her. Ah, yes; a kindness to her to release her altogether.... But I don't like the sound of it. I can forgive, Sue."
"No, no! You can't have me back now I have been so wicked-- as to do what I have done!"
There had arisen in Sue's face that incipient fright which showed itself whenever he changed from friend to husband, and which made her adopt any line of defence against marital feeling in him. "I MUST go now. I'll come again--may I?"
"I don't ask you to go, even now. I ask you to stay."
"I thank you, Richard; but I must. As you are not so ill as I thought, I CANNOT stay!"
"She's his--his from lips to heel!" said Phillotson; but so faintly that in closing the door she did not hear it. The dread of a reactionary change in the schoolmaster's sentiments, coupled, perhaps, with a faint shamefacedness at letting even him know what a slipshod lack of thoroughness, from a man's point of view, characterized her transferred allegiance, prevented her telling him of her, thus far, incomplete relations with Jude; and Phillotson lay writhing like a man in hell as he pictured the prettily dressed, maddening compound of sympathy and averseness who bore his name, returning impatiently to the home of her lover.
Gillingham was so interested in Phillotson's affairs, and so seriously concerned about him, that he walked up the hill-side to Shaston two or three times a week, although, there and back, it was a journey of nine miles, which had to be performed between tea and supper, after a hard day's work in school. When he called on the next occasion after Sue's visit his friend was downstairs, and Gillingham noticed that his restless mood had been supplanted by a more fixed and composed one.
"She's been here since you called last," said Phillotson.
"Not Mrs. Phillotson?"
"Ah! You have made it up?"
"No.... She just came, patted my pillow with her little white hand, played the thoughtful nurse for half an hour, and went away."
"Well--I'm hanged! A little hussy!"
"What do you say?"
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, what a tantalizing, capricious little woman! If she were not your wife"
"She is not; she's another man's except in name and law. And I have been thinking--it was suggested to me by a conversation I had with her--that, in kindness to her, I ought to dissolve the legal tie altogether; which, singularly enough, I think I can do, now she has been back, and refused my request to stay after I said I had forgiven her. I believe that fact would afford me opportunity of doing it, though I did not see it at the moment. What's the use of keeping her chained on to me if she doesn't belong to me? I know--I feel absolutely certain--that she would welcome my taking such a step as the greatest charity to her. For though as a fellow-creature she sympathizes with, and pities me, and even weeps for me, as a husband she cannot endure me-- she loathes me--there's no use in mincing words--she loathes me, and my only manly, and dignified, and merciful course is to complete what I have begun.... And for worldly reasons, too, it will be better for her to be independent. I have hopelessly ruined my prospects because of my decision as to what was best for us, though she does not know it; I see only dire poverty ahead from my feet to the grave; for I can be accepted as teacher no more. I shall probably have enough to do to make both ends meet during the remainder of my life, now my occupation's gone; and I shall be better able to bear it alone. I may as well tell you that what has suggested my letting her go is some news she brought me--the news that Fawley is doing the same."
"Oh--he had a spouse, too? A queer couple, these lovers!"
"Well--I don't want your opinion on that. What I was going to say is that my liberating her can do her no possible harm, and will open up a chance of happiness for her which she has never dreamt of hitherto. For then they'll be able to marry, as they ought to have done at first."
Gillingham did not hurry to reply. "I may disagree with your motive," he said gently, for he respected views he could not share. "But I think you are right in your determination--if you can carry it out. I doubt, however, if you can."
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Jude the Obscure -- by Thomas Hardy