The Mayor of Casterbridge
XVI-XXXI
Thomas Hardy

From afar the first thing one notices is the gaze of the young man upon the young woman. Young man and woman the most fitting terms here in this moment, as both at this moment flirt with the complications of adulthood while still basking in the ignorance of youth. For her part, the girl is looking away, and sitting at more of a distance than one might expect in this day and age from a young couple, which these two so clearly hope to be. There is a half-eaten iced yogurt between them, the kind that is the trend of late, and only one.

He is staring unabashedly, yes, this is the first thing you notice. Except then she stops flitting with her hands for a moment to turn her face to the right, perhaps to check on what he is doing, perhaps with the very real and inexplicably tangible feeling one gets when one is being watched, and he smiles almost as if he is surprised to have been caught, and breaks his stare. For her part, she turns her chin to the left and downward, demure.

I could imagine them in petticoats and suspenders, polished shoes and ostentatious hats. She is in a flannel shirt and jean shorts. Neither of them wear particularly tidy shoes. How things stay the same and are so different. How you can follow someone’s life, have already read it in a book written a hundred years ago, read it in a book written a hundred years after.

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