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Far from the Madding Crowd

14.
Effect of the Letter – Sunrise
AT dusk, on the evening of St. Valentine's Day, Bold-wood sat down to supper as
usual, by a beaming fire of aged logs. Upon the mantel-shelf before him was a
time-piece, surmounted by a spread eagle, and upon the eagle's wings was the
letter Bathsheba had sent. Here the bachelor's gaze was continually fastening
itself, till the large red seal became as a blot of blood on the retina of his eye; and
as he ate and drank he still read in fancy the words thereon, although they were
too remote for his sight --
"MARRY ME."
The pert injunction was like those crystal substances which, colourless
themselves, assume the tone of objects about them. Here, in the quiet of
Boldwood's parlour, where everything that was not grave was extraneous, and
where the atmosphere was that of a Puritan Sunday lasting all the week, the
letter and its dictum changed their tenor from the thoughtlessness of their origin
to a deep solemnity, imbibed from their accessories now.
Since the receipt of the missive in the morning, Boldwood had felt the symmetry
of his existence to be slowly getting distorted in the direction of an ideal passion.
The disturbance was as the first floating weed to Columbus -- the contemptibly
little suggesting possibilities of the infinitely great.
The letter must have had an origin and a motive. That the latter was of the
smallest magnitude compatible with its existence at all, Boldwood, of course, did
not know. And such an explanation did not strike him as a possibility even. It is
foreign to a mystified condition of mind to realize of the mystifier that the
processes of approving a course suggested by circumstance, and of striking out
a course from inner impulse, would look the same in the result. The vast
difference between starting a train of events, and directing into a particular
groove a series already started, is rarely apparent to the person confounded by
the issue.
When Boldwood went to bed he placed the valentine in the corner of the looking-
glass. He was conscious of its presence, even when his back was turned upon it.
It was the first time in Boldwood's life that such an event had occurred. The same
fascination that caused him to think it an act which had a deliberate motive
prevented him from regarding it as an impertinence. He looked again at the
direction. The mysterious influences of night invested the writing with the
presence of the unknown writer. Somebody's some WOMAN'S -- hand had
travelled softly over the paper bearing his name; her unrevealed eyes had
watched every curve as she formed it; her brain had seen him in imagination the
while. Why should she have imagined him? Her mouth -- were the lips red or
pale, plump or creased? -- had curved itself to a certain expression as the pen
went on -- the corners had moved with all their natural tremulousness: what had
been the expression?
The vision of the woman writing, as a supplement to the words written, had no
individuality. She was a misty shape, and well she might be, considering that her
original was at that moment sound asleep and oblivious of all love and letter-
 
 
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