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Far from the Madding Crowd

1. Description of Farmer Oak -- An Incident
WHEN Farmer Oak smiled, the corners of his mouth spread till they were within
an unimportant distance of his ears, his eyes were reduced to chinks, and
diverging wrinkles appeared round them, extending upon his countenance like
the rays in a rudimentary sketch of the rising sun.
His Christian name was Gabriel, and on working days he was a young man of
sound judgment, easy motions, proper dress, and general good character. On
Sundays he was a man of misty views, rather given to postponing, and
hampered by his best clothes and umbrella: upon the whole, one who felt himself
to occupy morally that vast middle space of Laodicean neutrality which lay
between the Communion people of the parish and the drunken section, -- that is,
he went to church, but yawned privately by the time the con-gegation reached
the Nicene creed, and thought of what there would be for dinner when he meant
to be listening to the sermon. Or, to state his character as it stood in the scale of
public opinion, when his friends and critics were in tantrums, he was considered
rather a bad man; when they were pleased, he was rather a good man; when
they were neither, he was a man whose moral colour was a kind of pepper-and-
salt mixture.
Since he lived six times as many working-days as Sundays, Oak's appearance in
his old clothes was most peculiarly his own -- the mental picture formed by his
neighbours in imagining him being always dressed in that way. He wore a low-
crowned felt hat, spread out at the base by tight jamming upon the head for
security in high winds, and a coat like Dr. Johnson's; his lower extremities being
encased in ordinary leather leggings and boots emphatically large, affording to
each foot a roomy apartment so constructed that any wearer might stand in a
river all day long and know nothing of damp -- their maker being a conscientious
man who endeavoured to compensate for any weakness in his cut by unstinted
dimension and solidity.
Mr. Oak carried about him, by way of watch, what may be called a small silver
clock; in other words, it was a watch as to shape and intention, and a small clock
as to size. This instrument being several years older than Oak's grandfather, had
the peculiarity of going either too fast or not at all. The smaller of its hands, too,
occasionally slipped round on the pivot, and thus, though the minutes were told
with precision, nobody could be quite certain of the hour they belonged to. The
stopping peculiarity of his watch Oak remedied by thumps and shakes, and he
escaped any evil consequences from the other two defects by constant
comparisons with and observations of the sun and stars, and by pressing his
face close to the glass of his neighbours' windows, till he could discern the hour
marked by the green- faced timekeepers within. It may be mentioned that Oak's
fob being difficult of access, by reason of its somewhat high situation in the
waistband of his trousers (which also lay at a remote height under his waistcoat),
the watch was as a necessity pulled out by throwing the body to one side,
compressing the mouth and face to a mere mass of ruddy flesh on account of the
 
 
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