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Far from the Madding Crowd

20.
Perplexity -- Grinding the Shears -- A Quarrel
"HE is so disinterested and kind to offer me all that I can desire," Bathsheba
mused.
Yet Farmer Boldwood, whether by nature kind or the reverse to kind, did not
exercise kindness, here. The rarest offerings of the purest loves are but a self-
indulgence, and no generosity at all.
Bathsheba, not being the least in love with him, was eventually able to look
calmly at his offer. It was one which many women of her own station in the
neighbourhood, and not a few of higher rank, would have been wild to accept
and proud to publish. In every point of view, ranging from politic to passionate, it
was desirable that she, a lonely girl, should marry, and marry this earnest, well-
to-do, and respected man. He was close to her doors: his standing was sufficient:
his qualities were even supererogatory. Had she felt, which she did not, any wish
whatever for the married state in the abstract, she could not reasonably have
rejected him, being a woman who frequently appealed to her understanding for
deliverance from her whims. Boldwood as a means to marriage was
unexceptionable: she esteemed and liked him, yet she did not want him. It
appears that ordinary men take wives because possession is not possible
without marriage, and that ordinary women accept husbands because marriage
is not possible without possession; with totally differing aims the method is the
same on both sides. But the understood incentive on the woman's part was
wanting here. Besides, Bathsheba's position as absolute mistress of a farm and
house was a novel one, and the novelty had not yet begun to wear off.
But a disquiet filled her which was somewhat to her credit, for it would have
affected few. Beyond the mentioned reasons with which she combated her
objections, she had a strong feeling that, having been the one who began the
game, she ought in honesty to accept the consequences. Still the reluctance
remained. She said in the same breath that it would be ungenerous not to marry
Boldwood, and that she couldn't do it to save her life.
Bathsheba's was an impulsive nature under a deliberative aspect. An Elizabeth in
brain and a Mary Stuart in spirit, she often performed actions of the greatest
temerity with a manner of extreme discretion. Many of her thoughts were perfect
syllogisms; unluckily they always remained thoughts. Only a few were irrational
assumptions; but, unfortunately, they were the ones which most frequently grew
into deeds.
The next day to that of the declaration she found Gabriel Oak at the bottom of
her garden, grinding his shears for the sheep-shearing. All the surrounding
cottages were more or less scenes of the same operation; the scurr of whetting
spread into the sky from all parts of the village as from an armoury previous to a
campaign. Peace and war kiss each other at their hours of preparation -- sickles,
scythes, shears, and pruning-hooks, ranking with swords, bayonets, and lances,
in their common necessity for point and edge.
Cainy Ball turned the handle of Gabriel's grindstone, his head performing a
melancholy see-saw up and down with each turn of the wheel. Oak stood
 
 
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