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Far from the Madding Crowd

17.
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 Boldwood 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 provoking more inquiry than Bathsheba had done, even though
that was not a little. To the best of his judgement 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 furtively said to a neighbour, "Is Miss Everdene considered
handsome?"
"Oh 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.
 
 
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