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Far from the Madding Crowd

4. Gabriel's Resolve -- The Visit -- The Mistake
THE only superiority in women that is tolerable to the rival sex is, as a rule, that
of the unconscious kind; but a superiority which recognizes itself may sometimes
please by suggesting possibilities of capture to the subordinated man.
This well-favoured and comely girl soon made appreciable inroads upon the
emotional constitution of young Farmer Oak.
Love, being an extremely exacting usurer (a sense of exorbitant profit, spiritually,
by an exchange of hearts, being at the bottom of pure passions, as that of
exorbitant profit, bodily or materially, is at the bottom of those of lower
atmosphere), every morning Oak's feelings were as sensitive as the money-
market in calculations upon his chances. His dog waited for his meals in a way
so like that in which Oak waited for the girl's presence, that the farmer was quite
struck with the resemblance, felt it lowering, and would not look at the dog.
However, he continued to watch through the hedge for her regular coming, and
thus his sentiments towards her were deepened without any corresponding effect
being produced upon herself. Oak had nothing finished and ready to say as yet,
and not being able to frame love phrases which end where they begin;
passionate tales --
-- Full of sound and fury -- signifying nothing --
he said no word at all.
By making inquiries he found that the girl's name was Bathsheba Everdene, and
that the cow would go dry in about seven days. He dreaded the eighth day.
At last the eighth day came. The cow had ceased to give milk for that year, and
Bathsheba Everdene came up the hill no more. Gabriel had reached a pitch of
existence he never could have anticipated a short time before. He liked saying
"Bathsheba" as a private enjoyment instead of whistling; turned over his taste to
black hair, though he had sworn by brown ever since he was a boy, isolated
himself till the space he filled in the public eye was contemptibly small. Love is a
possible strength in an actual weakness. Marriage transforms a distraction into a
support, the power of which should be, and happily often is, in direct proportion to
the degree of imbecility it supplants. Oak began now to see light in this direction,
and said to himself, "I'll make her my wife, or upon my soul I shall be good for
All this while he was perplexing himself about an errand on which he might
consistently visit the cottage of Bathsheba's aunt.
He found his opportunity in the death of a ewe, mother of a living lamb. On a day
which had a summer face and a winter constitution -- a fine January morning,
when there was just enough blue sky visible to make cheerfully-disposed people
wish for more, and an occasional gleam of silvery sunshine, Oak put the lamb
into a respectable Sunday basket, and stalked across the fields to the house of
Mrs. Hurst, the aunt -- George, the dog walking behind, with a countenance of
great concern at the serious turn pastoral affairs seemed to be taking.
Gabriel had watched the blue wood-smoke curling from the chimney with strange
meditation. At evening he had fancifully traced it down the chimney to the spot of