On Valentine’s Day Boldwood sits down to read his mail, and immediately sees the seal. Suddenly his quiet existence seems to distort and invite passion. Disturbed, he places the valentine in the corner of his mirror and goes to bed. He can’t decide if it is deliberate or simply impertinent. As he tries to sleep, the moon casts strange shadows into his room.
Boldwood’s disturbed state contrasts with Bathsheba’s giddy thoughtlessness in sending the letter. Meanwhile, the description of the moon suggests a correspondence between Boldwood’s feeling of uncertainty and natural forces beyond human control.
Suddenly, Boldwood decides to see if anything more might be in the envelope. He jumps up, but finds nothing, and reads again, “Marry me.” He catches sight of his reflection in the mirror—wan with vacant, wide eyes—and chastises himself for his excitability. Towards dawn he gets up to watch the sunrise, and notices the hardened frost and icicles, as well as the footprints of birds over the snow. He hears a noise and looks at the road: it’s the mailman, who hands him a letter, though it’s addressed to the new shepherd at Weatherbury Farm. Boldwood realizes it’s a mistake—it’s for Miss Everdene’s shepherd, not his. He suddenly sees Gabriel on the ridge, and says he’ll take the letter to Gabriel himself—this, he thinks, is an opportunity, and he follows Gabriel as he descends towards Warren’s Malthouse.
While Bathsheba has often been described at looking in the mirror contentedly, admiring her own reflection, now Boldwood stares at himself in the mirror but has a different response, one of suspicion and discomfort. Boldwood is newly attuned to the more predictable side of nature, which now contrasts with the inner conflict he’s experiencing as he wonders how to react to the secret valentine and how to find out who sent it. The letter to Gabriel is his chance to invite someone else into the mystery and hopefully resolve it.