The schoolmaster was leaving the village
, and everybody seemed sorry. The miller at Cresscombe lent him the small white tilted cart and horse to carry
his goods to the city of his destination
, about twenty miles off, such a vehicle
proving of quite sufficient
size for the departing teacher's effects. For the schoolhouse had been partly furnished by the managers, and the only cumbersome article
possessed by the master
, in addition
to the packing-case of books, was a cottage
piano that he had bought at an auction
during the year in which he thought
of learning instrumental
music. But the enthusiasm
having waned he had never acquired any skill
in playing, and the purchased article
had been a perpetual
trouble to him ever since in moving house.
The rector had gone away for the day, being a man who disliked the sight
of changes. He did not mean
to return till
the evening, when the new school-teacher would have arrived and settled in, and everything would be smooth
The blacksmith, the farm bailiff
, and the schoolmaster himself were standing in perplexed
attitudes in the parlour before the instrument
. The master
had remarked that even if he got it into the cart he should not know what to do with it on his arrival at Christminster, the city he was bound
for, since he was only going into temporary
lodgings just at first.
A little boy of eleven, who had been thoughtfully assisting in the packing, joined the group of men, and as they rubbed their chins he spoke
up, blushing at the sound
of his own voice: "Aunt have got a great fuel-house, and it could be put there, perhaps, till
you've found a place to settle
," said the blacksmith.
It was decided that a deputation should wait on the boy's aunt-an old maiden
resident-and ask her if she would house the piano till
Mr. Phillotson should send for it. The smith
and the bailiff
started to see about the practicability of the suggested shelter
, and the boy and the schoolmaster were left standing alone.
"Sorry I am going, Jude?" asked the latter
Tears rose into the boy's eyes, for he was not among the regular day scholars, who came unromantically close to the schoolmaster's life, but one who had attended the night school only during the present teacher's term
. The regular scholars, if the truth must be told, stood at the present moment
afar off, like certain historic
to any enthusiastic
volunteering of aid
The boy awkwardly opened the book he held in his hand, which Mr. Phillotson had bestowed on him as a parting gift, and admitted that he was sorry.
"So am I," said Mr. Phillotson.
"Why do you go, sir?" asked the boy.
"Ah-that would be a long story. You wouldn't understand
my reasons, Jude. You will, perhaps, when you are older."
"I think I should now, sir."
The boy Jude assisted in loading some small articles, and at nine o'clock Mr. Phillotson mounted beside his box of books and other impedimenta, and bade his friends good-bye.
"I shan't forget
you, Jude," he said, smiling, as the cart moved off. "Be a good boy, remember
; and be kind to animals and birds, and read all you can. And if ever you come to Christminster remember
you hunt me out for old acquaintance
The cart creaked across the green, and disappeared round the corner
by the rectory-house. The boy returned to the draw-well at the edge
of the greensward, where he had left his buckets when he went to help his patron
and teacher in the loading. There was a quiver
in his lip now and after opening the well-cover to begin lowering the bucket he paused and leant with his forehead and arms against the framework
, his face wearing the fixity of a thoughtful
child's who has felt the pricks of life somewhat before his time. The well into which he was looking was as ancient
as the village
itself, and from his present position appeared as a long circular perspective
ending in a shining disk of quivering water at a distance
of a hundred feet down. There was a lining of green moss near the top, and nearer still the hart's-tongue fern
He said to himself, in the melodramatic
tones of a whimsical
boy, that the schoolmaster had drawn at that well scores of times on a morning like this, and would never draw there any more. "I've seen him look down into it, when he was tired
with his drawing, just as I do now, and when he rested a bit before carrying the buckets home! But he was too clever
to bide here any longer-a small sleepy place like this!"
A tear rolled from his eye into the depths of the well. The morning was a little foggy, and the boy's breathing unfurled itself as a thicker fog upon the still and heavy air. His thoughts were interrupted by a sudden outcry:
"Bring on that water, will ye, you idle
It came from an old woman who had emerged from her door towards the garden gate of a green-thatched cottage
not far off. The boy quickly waved a signal
, drew the water with what was a great effort
for one of his stature
, landed and emptied the big bucket into his own pair
of smaller ones, and pausing a moment
for breath, started with them across the patch
greensward whereon the well stood-nearly in the centre of the little village
, or rather hamlet
It was as old-fashioned
as it was small, and it rested in the lap
of an undulating upland adjoining the North Wessex downs. Old as it was, however, the well-shaft was probably
the only relic
of the local
history that remained absolutely
unchanged. Many of the thatched and dormered dwelling-houses had been pulled down of late years, and many trees felled on the green. Above all, the original
church, hump-backed, wood-turreted, and quaintly hipped, had been taken down, and either cracked up into heaps of road-metal in the lane, or utilized as pig-sty walls, garden seats, guard-stones to fences, and rockeries in the flower-beds of the neighbourhood. In place of it a tall new building of modern
, unfamiliar to English eyes, had been erected on a new piece of ground by a certain
obliterator of historic
records who had run down from London and back in a day. The site
whereon so long had stood the ancient temple
to the Christian divinities was not even recorded on the green and level
grass-plot that had immemorially been the churchyard, the obliterated graves being commemorated by eighteen-penny cast-iron crosses warranted to last five years.