Far From the Maddening Crowd HTML version

February 1895
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 bet ween the Communion people of the
parish and the drunken section, – that is, he went to
church, but yawned privately by the time the congregation
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
whos e 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-c rowned 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,
aording 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 minut es
were told wit h 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
comparis ons 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 dicult of access, by reason of its somewhat