Far from the Madding Crowd HTML version

The Sheep-Washing -- The Offer
BOLDWOOD did eventually call upon her. She was not at home. "Of course not,"
he murmured. In contemplating Bathsheba as a woman, he had forgotten the
accidents of her position as an agriculturist -- that being as much of a farmer, and
as extensive a farmer, as himself, her probable whereabouts was out-of-doors at
this time of the year. This, and the other oversights Boldwood was guilty of, were
natural to the mood, and still more natural to the circumstances. The great aids to
idealization in love were present here: occasional observation of her from a
distance, and the absence of social intercourse with her -- visual familiarity, oral
strangeness. The smaller human elements were kept out of sight; the pettinesses
that enter so largely into all earthly living and doing were disguised by the
accident of lover and loved-one not being on visiting terms; and there was hardly
awakened a thought in Boldwood that sorry household realities appertained to
her, or that she, like all others, had moments of commonplace, when to be least
plainly seen was to be most prettily remembered. Thus a mild sort of apotheosis
took place in his fancy, whilst she still lived and breathed within his own horizon,
a troubled creature like himself.
It was the end of May when the farmer determined to be no longer repulsed by
trivialities or distracted by suspense. He had by this time grown used to being in
love; the passion now startled him less even when it tortured him more, and he
felt himself adequate to the situation. On inquiring for her at her house they had
told him she was at the sheepwashing, and he went off to seek her there.
The sheep-washing pool was a perfectly circular basin of brickwork in the
meadows, full of the clearest water. To birds on the wing its glassy surface,
reflecting the light sky, must have been visible for miles around as a glistening
Cyclops' eye in a green face. The grass about the margin at this season was a
sight to remember long -- in a minor sort of way. Its activity in sucking the
moisture from the rich damp sod was almost a process observable by the eye.
The outskirts of this level water-meadow were diversified by rounded and hollow
pastures, where just now every flower that was not a buttercup was a daisy. The
river slid along noiselessly as a shade, the swelling reeds and sedge forming a
flexible palisade upon its moist brink. To the north of the mead were trees, the
leaves of which were new, soft, and moist, not yet having stiffened and darkened
under summer sun and drought, their colour being yellow beside a green -- green
beside a yellow. From the recesses of this knot of foliage the loud notes of three
cuckoos were resounding through the still air.
Boldwood went meditating down the slopes with his eyes on his boots, which the
yellow pollen from the buttercups had bronzed in artistic gradations. A tributary of
the main stream flowed through the basin of the pool by an inlet and outlet at
opposite points of its diameter. Shepherd Oak, Jan Coggan, Moon, Poorgrass,
Cain Ball, and several others were assembled here, all dripping wet to the very
roots of their hair, and Bathsheba was standing by in a new riding- habit -- the
most elegant she had ever worn -- the reins of her horse being looped over her
arm. Flagons of cider were rolling about upon the green. The meek sheep were