Jude the Obscure
PART V: Chapter 5
THE purpose of a chronicler of moods and deeds does not require him to
express his personal views upon the grave controversy above given. That the
twain were happy--between their times of sadness--was indubitable. And when
the unexpected apparition of Jude's child in the house had shown itself to be no
such disturbing event as it had looked, but one that brought into their lives a new
and tender interest of an ennobling and unselfish kind, it rather helped than
injured their happiness.
To be sure, with such pleasing anxious beings as they were, the boy's coming
also brought with it much thought for the future, particularly as he seemed at
present to be singularly deficient in all the usual hopes of childhood. But the pair
tried to dismiss, for a while at least, a too strenuously forward view.
There is in Upper Wessex an old town of nine or ten thousand souls; the town
may be called Stoke-Barehills. It stands with its gaunt, unattractive, ancient
church, and its new red brick suburb, amid the open, chalk-soiled cornlands, near
the middle of an imaginary triangle which has for its three corners the towns of
Aldbrickham and Wintoncester, and the important military station of Quartershot.
The great western highway from London passes through it, near a point where
the road branches into two, merely to unite again some twenty miles further
westward. Out of this bifurcation and reunion there used to arise among wheeled
travellers, before railway days, endless questions of choice between the
respective ways. But the question is now as dead as the scot-and-lot freeholder,
the road waggoner, and the mail coachman who disputed it; and probably not a
single inhabitant of Stoke-Barehills is now even aware that the two roads which
part in his town ever meet again; for nobody now drives up and down the great
western highway dally.
The most familiar object in Stoke-Barehills nowadays is its cemetery, standing
among some picturesque mediaeval ruins beside the railway; the modern
chapels, modern tombs, and modern shrubs having a look of intrusiveness amid
the crumbling and ivy-covered decay of the ancient walls.
On a certain day, however, in the particular year which has now been reached by
this narrative--the month being early June-- the features of the town excite little
interest, though many visitors arrive by the trains; some down-trains, in especial,
nearly emptying themselves here. It is the week of the Great Wessex Agricultural
Show, whose vast encampment spreads over the open outskirts of the town like
the tents of an investing army. Rows of marquees, huts, booths, pavilions,
arcades, porticoes-- every kind of structure short of a permanent one-- cover the
green field for the space of a square half-mile, and the crowds of arrivals walk
through the town in a mass, and make straight for the exhibition ground. The way
thereto is lined with shows, stalls, and hawkers on foot, who make a market-
place of the whole roadway to the show proper, and lead some of the
improvident to lighten their pockets appreciably before they reach the gates of
the exhibition they came expressly to see.