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Far from the Madding Crowd

23.
Eventide -- A Second Declaration
FOR the shearing-supper a long table was placed on the grass-plot beside the
house, the end of the table being thrust over the sill of the wide parlour window
and a foot or two into the room. Miss Everdene sat inside the window, facing
down the table. She was thus at the head without mingling with the men.
This evening Bathsheba was unusually excited, her red cheeks and lips
contrasting lustrously with the mazy skeins of her shadowy hair. She seemed to
expect assistance, and the seat at the bottom of the table was at her request left
vacant until after they had begun the meal. She then asked Gabriel to take the
place and the duties appertaining to that end, which he did with great readiness.
At this moment Mr. Boldwood came in at the gate, and crossed the green to
Bathsheba at the window. He apologized for his lateness: his arrival was
evidently by arrangement.
"Gabriel," said she, "will you move again, please, and let Mr. Boldwood come
there?"
Oak moved in silence back to his original seat.
The gentleman-farmer was dressed in cheerful style, in a new coat and white
waistcoat, quite contrasting with his usual sober suits of grey. Inwardy, too, he
was blithe, and consequently chatty to an exceptional degree. So also was
Bathsheba now that he had come, though the uninvited presence of Pennyways,
the bailiff who had been dismissed for theft, disturbed her equanimity for a while.
Supper being ended, Coggan began on his own private account, without
reference to listeners: --
I've lost my love, and l care not, I've lost my love, and l care not; I shall soon
have another That's better than t'other; I've lost my love, and I care not.
This lyric, when concluded, was received with a silently appreciative gaze at the
table, implying that the performance, like a work by those established authors
who are independent of notices in the papers, was a well-known delight which
required no applause.
"Now, Master Poorgrass, your song!" said Coggan.
"I be all but in liquor, and the gift is wanting in me," said Joseph, diminishing
himself.
"Nonsense; wou'st never be so ungrateful, Joseph -- never!" said Coggan,
expressing hurt feelings by an inflection of voice. "And mistress is looking hard at
ye, as much as to say, "Sing at once, Joseph Poorgrass."
"Faith, so she is; well, I must suffer it! ... Just eye my features, and see if the tell-
tale blood overheats me much, neighbours?"
"No, yer blushes be quite reasonable," said Coggan.
"I always tries to keep my colours from rising when a beauty's eyes get fixed on
me," said Joseph, differently; "but if so be 'tis willed they do, they must."
"Now, Joseph, your song, please," said Bathsheba, from the window.
"Well, really, ma'am," he replied, in a yielding tone, "I don't know what to say. It
would be a poor plain ballet of my own composure."
"Hear, hear!" said the supper-party.
 
 
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