One Sunday afternoon，on the thirteenth of February，Bathsheba and Liddy were in the sitting－room together. It was a dull，cold day，and they were both very bored.
‘Have you ever tried to discover who you're going to marry，miss，’asked Liddy，‘with a Bible and a key？’
‘I don't believe in such foolish games，Liddy. ’
‘Well，some people believe it works. ’
‘All right，let's try it，’said Bathsheba suddenly，jumping up from her seat. Together they opened the big family Bible and put a key on a page.
‘Now you think of someone you could marry，miss，’said Liddy，‘then read aloud the words on that page，and if the Bible moves，perhaps you'll marry him. ’
Bathsheba read the words，holding the Bible. As they watched，the Bible turned in her hands，and Bathsheba blushed.
‘Who were you thinking of？’asked Liddy curiously.
‘I'm not going to tell you，’answered her mistress.
‘By the way，did you notice Mr Boldwood in church this morning？’asked Liddy，making it very clear who she was thinking of. ‘He didn't turn his head once to look at you！’
‘Why should he？’replied Bathsheba，annoyed. ‘I didn't ask him to look at me. ’
‘Oh no. But everybody else in church was looking at you. ’
Bathsheba did not reply to this. After a few minutes she said，‘Oh，I nearly forgot the valentine card I bought yester－ day！’
‘A valentine！Who's it for，miss？Farmer Boldwood？’
‘No，of course not. It's for one of the village children，that sweet little boy of Jan Coggan's. I'll write the address on the envelope now，and we'll post it today. ’
‘What fun it would be to send it to that silly old Bold－ wood！’laughed Liddy.
Bathsheba paused to consider. It was certainly a little de－ pressing that the wealthiest and most important man in the area did not seem to admire her，as all the other men did.
‘We'll throw a coin to decide，’she said lightly. ‘No，we shouldn't play with money on a Sunday. I know，we'll throw this book. If it comes down open，I'll send the valentine to Jan's son. If it comes down shut，I'll send it to Boldwood. ’ The little book went up in the air and came down shut. Bathsheba immediately picked up her pen and wrote Bold-wood's address on the envelope.
‘Now we need a seal，’she said. ‘Look for an interesting one，Liddy. Ah，let's use this one. I can't remember what it says，but I know it's funny. ’When she had sealed the enve－lope，Bathsheba looked closely at the words left by the seal：
‘Just right！’she cried. ‘That would make even a vicar laugh！’And so the valentine was sent，not for love，but as a joke. Bathsheba had no idea of the effect it would have.
It arrived at Mr Boldwood's house on the morning of St Valentine's Day，14th February He was puzzled，but strangely excited by it He had never received one before，and all day he thought about it. Who could the woman be who admired him so much that she sent him a valentine？He kept on looking at it，until the words on the large red seal danced in front of his tired eyes，and he could no longer read them. But he knew what they said：
The valentine had destroyed the peaceful routine of Bold－wood's life. That night he dreamed of the unknown woman，and when he woke up very early，the first thing he saw was the valentine，with its message in red，on the table by his bed.
‘Marry me，’he repeated to himself. He was too restless to sleep any more so he went out for a walk. He watched the sun rise over the snowy fields，and on his way home he met the postman，who handed him a letter. Boldwood took it quickly and opened it，thinking it could be from the sender of the valentine.
‘I don't think it's for you，sir，’said the postman. ‘I think it's for your shepherd. ’
Boldwood looked at the address on the envelope：
To the new shepherd，
‘Oh，what a mistake！It isn't mine，or my shepherd's. It must be for Miss Everdene's shepherd. His name is Gabriel Oak. ’
At that moment he noticed a figure in a distant field.
‘Ah，there he is now，’Boldwood added. ‘I'll take the let－ ter to him myself. ’The shepherd started walking towards the malthouse，and Boldwood followed him，holding the letter.