Jude the Obscure HTML version

PART III: Chapter 10
JUDE returned to Melchester, which had the questionable recommendation of
being only a dozen and a half miles from his Sue's now permanent residence. At
first he felt that this nearness was a distinct reason for not going southward at all;
but Christminster was too sad a place to bear, while the proximity of Shaston to
Melchester might afford him the glory of worsting the Enemy in a close
engagement, such as was deliberately sought by the priests and virgins of the
early Church, who, disdaining an ignominious flight from temptation, became
even chamber-partners with impunity. Jude did not pause to remember that, in
the laconic words of the historian, "insulted Nature sometimes vindicated her
rights" in such circumstances.
He now returned with feverish desperation to his study for the priesthood-- in the
recognition that the single-mindedness of his aims, and his fidelity to the cause,
had been more than questionable of late. His passion for Sue troubled his soul;
yet his lawful abandonment to the society of Arabella for twelve hours seemed
instinctively a worse thing-- even though she had not told him of her Sydney
husband till afterwards. He had, he verily believed, overcome all tendency to fly
to liquor-- which, indeed, he had never done from taste, but merely as an escape
from intolerable misery of mind. Yet he perceived with despondency that, taken
all round, he was a man of too many passions to make a good clergyman; the
utmost he could hope for was that in a life of constant internal warfare between
flesh and spirit the former might not always be victorious.
As a hobby, auxiliary to his readings in Divinity, he developed his slight skill in
church-music and thorough-bass, till he could join in part-singing from notation
with some accuracy. A mile or two from Melchester there was a restored village
church, to which Jude had originally gone to fix the new columns and capitals. By
this means he had become acquainted with the organist, and the ultimate result
was that he joined the choir as a bass voice.
He walked out to this parish twice every Sunday, and sometimes in the week.
One evening about Easter the choir met for practice, and a new hymn which
Jude had heard of as being by a Wessex composer was to be tried and prepared
for the following week. It turned out to be a strangely emotional composition. As
they all sang it over and over again its harmonies grew upon Jude, and moved
him exceedingly.
When they had finished he went round to the organist to make inquiries. The
score was in manuscript, the name of the composer being at the head, together
with the title of the hymn: "The Foot of the Cross."
"Yes," said the organist. "He is a local man. He is a professional musician at
Kennetbridge--between here and Christminster. The vicar knows him. He was
brought up and educated in Christminster traditions, which accounts for the
quality of the piece. I think he plays in the large church there, and has a surpliced
choir. He comes to Melchester sometimes, and once tried to get the cathedral
organ when the post was vacant. The hymn is getting about everywhere this