She trembled, turned, and said `Good morning.' His tone was so utterly removed from all she had expected as a beginning. It was lowness and quiet accentuated; an emphasis of deep meanings, their form, at the same time, being scarcely expressed. Silence has sometimes a remarkable power of showing itself as the disembodied soul of feeling wandering without its carcase, and it is then more impressive than speech. In the same way, to say a little is often to tell more than to say a great deal. Boldwood told everything in that word.

As the consciousness expands on learning that what was fancied to be the rumble of wheels is the reverberation of thunder, so did Bathsheba's at her intuitive conviction.

`I feel - almost too much - to think,' he said, with a solemn simplickty. `I have come to speak to you without preface. My life is not my own since I have beheld you clearly, Miss Everdene - I come to make you an offer of marriage.'

Bathsheba tried to preserve an absolutely neutral countenance, and all the motion she made was that of closing lips which had previously been a little parted.

`I am now forty-one years old,' he went on. `I may have been called a confirmed bachelor, and I was a confirmed bachelor. I had never any views of myself as a husband in my earlier days, nor have I made any calculation on the subject since I have been older. But we all change, and my change, in this matter, came with seeing you. I have felt lately, more and more, that my present way of living is bad in every respect. Beyond all things, I want you as my wife.'

`I feel, Mr Boldwood, that though I respect you much, I do not feel - what would justify me to - in accepting your offer,' she stammered.

This giving back of dignity for dignity seemed to open the sluices of feeling that Boldwood had as yet kept closed.

`My life is a burden without you,' he exclaimed, in a low voice. `I want you - I want you to let me say I love you again and again!'

Bathsheba answered nothing, and the mare upon her arm seemed so impressed that instead of cropping the herbage she looked up.

`I think and hope you care enough for me to listen to what I have to tell!'

Bathsheba's momentary impulse at hearing this was to ask why he thought that, till she remembered that, far from being a conceited assumption on Boldwood's part, it was but the natural conclusion of serious reflection based on deceptive premises of her own offering.

`I wish I could say courteous flatteries to you,' the farmer continued in an easier tone, `and put my tugged feeling into a graceful shape: but I have neither power nor patience to learn such things. I want you for my wife - so wildly that no other feeling can abide in me; but I should not have spoken out had I not been led to hope.'

`The valentine again! O that valentine!' she said to herself, but not a word to him.

`If you can love me say so' Miss Everdene. If not - don't say no!'

`Mr Boldwood, it is painful to have to say I am surprised, so that I don't know how to answer you with propriety and respect - but am only just able to speak out my feeling I mean my meaning; that I am afraid I can't marry you, much as I respect you. You are too dignified for me to suit you, sir.'

`But, Miss Everdene!'

  By PanEris using Melati.

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