Jude the Obscure
PART I: Chapter 3
NOT a soul was visible on the hedgeless highway, or on either side of it, and the
white road seemed to ascend and diminish till it joined the sky. At the very top it
was crossed at right angles by a green "ridgeway"--the Ickneild Street and
original Roman road through the district. This ancient track ran east and west for
many miles, and down almost to within living memory had been used for driving
flocks and herds to fairs and markets. But it was now neglected and overgrown.
The boy had never before strayed so far north as this from the nestling hamlet in
which he had been deposited by the carrier from a railway station southward, one
dark evening some few months earlier, and till now he had had no suspicion that
such a wide, flat, low-lying country lay so near at hand, under the very verge of
his upland world. The whole northern semicircle between east and west, to a
distance of forty or fifty miles, spread itself before him; a bluer, moister
atmosphere, evidently, than that he breathed up here.
Not far from the road stood a weather-beaten old barn of reddish-grey brick and
tile. It was known as the Brown House by the people of the locality. He was about
to pass it when he perceived a ladder against the eaves; and the reflection that
the higher he got, the further he could see, led Jude to stand and regard it. On
the slope of the roof two men were repairing the tiling. He turned into the
ridgeway and drew towards the barn.
When he had wistfully watched the workmen for some time he took courage, and
ascended the ladder till he stood beside them.
"Well, my lad, and what may you want up here?"
"I wanted to know where the city of Christminster is, if you please."
"Christminster is out across there, by that clump. You can see it-- at least you
can on a clear day. Ah, no, you can't now."
The other tiler, glad of any kind of diversion from the monotony of his labour, had
also turned to look towards the quarter designated. "You can't often see it in
weather like this," he said. "The time I've noticed it is when the sun is going down
in a blaze of flame, and it looks like--I don't know what."
"The heavenly Jerusalem," suggested the serious urchin.
"Ay--though I should never ha' thought of it myself.... But I can't see no
The boy strained his eyes also; yet neither could he see the far-off city. He
descended from the barn, and abandoning Christminster with the versatility of his
age he walked along the ridge-track, looking for any natural objects of interest
that might lie in the banks thereabout. When he repassed the barn to go back to
Marygreen he observed that the ladder was still in its place, but that the men had
finished their day's work and gone away.
It was waning towards evening; there was still a faint mist, but it had cleared a
little except in the damper tracts of subjacent country and along the river-
courses. He thought again of Christminster, and wished, since he had come two
or three miles from his aunt's house on purpose, that he could have seen for
once this attractive city of which he had been told. But even if he waited here it