Summary and Analysis
Boldwood sat in his living room, "where the atmosphere was that of a Puritan Sunday lasting all the week." He was increasingly fascinated by the anonymous valentine, which "must have had an origin and a motive." In spite of himself, Boldwood kept reverting to the mystery. He tried to visualize the sender. Sticking the letter in the corner of his mirror, he was conscious of it through the night. He slept badly and rose to watch the sunrise. Unearthly colors played on the glazed fields.
When the mailman came in his cart and proffered him an envelope, "Boldwood seized and opened it, expecting another anonymous one — so greatly are people's ideas of probability a mere sense that precedent will repeat itself." The mailman pointed out that the letter was for the new shepherd, and Boldwood realized that it was intended for Gabriel Oak. Recognizing a distant figure across the field, followed by a dog, Boldwood left to take the letter to Gabriel and to apologize for having opened it.
Hardy has furthered the plot by introducing the matter of the anonymous valentine and following it with another letter handed to Boldwood. Additional facets of Boldwood's character are revealed. Boldwood's complexities are here contrasted with Bathsheba's lack of sophistication; her frivolity is set alongside the brooding nature of the farmer. Oblivious to the effect of her whim, Bathsheba has undoubtedly slept the night through.
One is struck by the abundance of figures of speech in this chapter. These are stock in trade for any writer, but they are expertly handled by Hardy. As has been mentioned, Hardy drew his images from many sources — visual, physical, historical, natural, and mythological.