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CHAPTER XVII



IN THE MARKET-PLACE


ON Saturday Boldwood was in Casterbridge market
house as usual, when the disturber of his dreams entered
and became visible to him. Adam had awakened from
his deep sleep, and behold! there was Eve. The
farmer took courage, and for the first time really looked
at her.
Material causes and emotional effects are not to be
arranged in regular equation. The result from capital
employed in the production of any movement of a
mental nature is sometimes as tremendous as the cause
itself is absurdly minute. When women are in a freakish
mood, their usual intuition, either from carelessness or
inherent defect, seemingly fails to teach them this, and
hence it was that Bathsheba was fated to be astonished
today.
Boldwood looked at her -- not slily, critically, or
understandingly, but blankly at gaze, in the way a
reaper looks up at a passing train -- as something foreign
to his element, and but dimly understood. To Bold-
wood women had been remote phenomena rather than
necessary complements -- comets of such uncertain
aspect, movement, and permanence, that whether
their orbits were as geometrical, unchangeable, and
as subject to laws as his own, or as absolutely erratic
as they superficially appeared, he had not deemed it
his duty to consider.
He saw her black hair, her correct facial curves
and profile, and the roundness of her chin and throat.
He saw then the side of her eyelids, eyes, and lashes,
and the shape of her ear. Next he noticed her figure,
her skirt, and the very soles of her shoes.
Boldwood thought her beautiful, but wondered
whether he was right in his thought, for it seemed
impossible that this romance in the flesh, if so sweet
as he imagined, could have been going on long without
creating a commotion of delight among men, and pro-
voking more inquiry than Bathsheba had done, even
though that was not a little. To the best of his judge-
ment neither nature nor art could improve this perfect
one of an imperfect many. His heart began to move
within him. Boldwood, it must be remembered, though
forty years of age, had never before inspected a woman
with the very centre and force of his glance; they had
struck upon all his senses at wide angles.
Was she really beautiful? He could not assure
himself that his opinion was true even now. He fur-
tively said to a neighbour, "Is Miss Everdene considered
handsome?"
"O yes; she was a good deal noticed the first
time she came, if you remember. A very handsome
girl indeed."
A man is never more credulous than in receiving
favourable opinions on the beauty of a woman he is
half, or quite, in love with; a mere child's word on the
point has the weight of an R.A.'s. Boldwood was
satisfied now.
And this charming woman had in effect said to
him, "Marry me." Why should she have done that
strange thing? Boldwood's blindness to the difference
between approving of what circumstances suggest, and
originating what they do not suggest, was well matched
by Bathsheba's insensibility to the possibly great issues
of little beginnings.
She was at this moment coolly dealing with a dashing
young farmer, adding up accounts with him as indiffer-
ently as if his face had been the pages of a ledger. It
was evident that such a nature as his had no attraction
for a woman of Bathsheba's taste. But Boldwood grew
hot down to his hands with an incipient jealousy; he
trod for the first time the threshold of "the injured
lover's hell." His first impulse was to go and thrust
himself between them. This could be done, but only
in one way -- by asking to see a sample of her corn.
Boldwood renounced the idea. He could not make
the request; it was debasing loveliness to ask it to
buy and sell, and jarred with his conceptions of her.
All this time Bathsheba was conscious of having
broken into that dignified stronghold at last. His
eyes, she knew, were following her everywhere. This
was a triumph; and had it come naturally, such a
triumph would have been the sweeter to her for this
piquing delay. But it had been brought about by
misdirected ingenuity, and she valued it only as she
valued an artificial flower or a wax fruit.
Being a woman with some good sense in reasoning
on subjects wherein her heart was not involved, Bath-
sheba genuinely repented that a freak which had owed
its existence as much to Liddy as to herself, should
ever have been undertaken, to disturb the placidity of
a man she respected too highly to deliberately tease.
She that day nearly formed the intention of begging
his pardon on the very next occasion of their meeting.
The worst features of this arrangement were that, if
he thought she ridiculed him, an apology would in-
crease the offence by being disbelieved; and if he
thought she wanted him to woo her, it would read
like additional evidence of her forwardness.





Far From The Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
Category:
English Literature
 
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