Jude the Obscure HTML version

PART I: Chapter 5
DURING the three or four succeeding years a quaint and singular vehicle might
have been discerned moving along the lanes and by-roads near Marygreen,
driven in a quaint and singular way.
In the course of a month or two after the receipt of the books Jude had grown
callous to the shabby trick played him by the dead languages. In fact, his
disappointment at the nature of those tongues had, after a while, been the means
of still further glorifying the erudition of Christminster. To acquire languages,
departed or living in spite of such obstinacies as he now knew them inherently to
possess, was a herculean performance which gradually led him on to a greater
interest in it than in the presupposed patent process. The mountain-weight of
material under which the ideas lay in those dusty volumes called the classics
piqued him into a dogged, mouselike subtlety of attempt to move it piecemeal.
He had endeavoured to make his presence tolerable to his crusty maiden aunt by
assisting her to the best of his ability, and the business of the little cottage bakery
had grown in consequence. An aged horse with a hanging head had been
purchased for eight pounds at a sale, a creaking cart with a whity-brown tilt
obtained for a few pounds more, and in this turn-out it became Jude's business
thrice a week to carry loaves of bread to the villagers and solitary cotters
immediately round Marygreen.
The singularity aforesaid lay, after all, less in the conveyance itself than in Jude's
manner of conducting it along its route. Its interior was the scene of most of
Jude's education by "private study." As soon as the horse had learnt the road
and the houses at which he was to pause awhile, the boy, seated in front, would
slip the reins over his arm, ingeniously fix open, by means of a strap attached to
the tilt, the volume he was reading, spread the dictionary on his knees, and
plunge into the simpler passages from Caesar, Virgil, or Horace, as the case
might be, in his purblind stumbling way, and with an expenditure of labour that
would have made a tender-hearted pedagogue shed tears; yet somehow getting
at the meaning of what he read, and divining rather than beholding the spirit of
the original, which often to his mind was something else than that which he was
taught to look for.
The only copies he had been able to lay hands on were old Delphin editions,
because they were superseded, and therefore cheap. But, bad for idle
schoolboys, it did so happen that they were passably good for him. The
hampered and lonely itinerant conscientiously covered up the marginal readings,
and used them merely on points of construction, as he would have used a
comrade or tutor who should have happened to be passing by. And though Jude
may have had little chance of becoming a scholar by these rough and ready
means, he was in the way of getting into the groove he wished to follow.
While he was busied with these ancient pages, which had already been thumbed
by hands possibly in the grave, digging out the thoughts of these minds so
remote yet so near, the bony old horse pursued his rounds, and Jude would be