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Far from the Madding Crowd

5. Departure of Bathsheba -- A Pastoral Tragedy
THE news which one day reached Gabriel, that Bathsheba Everdene had left the
neighbourhood, had an influence upon him which might have surprised any who
never suspected that the more emphatic the renunciation the less absolute its
character.
It may have been observed that there is no regulal path for getting out of love as
there is for getting in. Some people look upon marriage as a short cut that way,
but it has been known to fail. Separation, which was the means that chance
offered to Gabriel Oak by Bathsheba's disappearance though effectual with
people of certain humours is apt to idealize the removed object with others --
notably those whose affection, placid and regular as it may be, flows deep and
long. Oak belonged to the even-tempered order of humanity, and felt the secret
fusion of himself in Bathsheba to be burning with a finer flame now that she was
gone -- that was all.
His incipient friendship with her aunt had been nipped by the failure of his suit,
and all that Oak learnt of Bathsheba's movements was done indirectly. It
appeared that she had gone to a place called Weatherbury, more than twenty
miles off, but in what capacity -- whether as a visitor, or permanently, he could
not discover.
Gabriel had two dogs. George, the elder, exhibited an ebony-tipped nose,
surrounded by a narrow margin of pink flesh, and a coat marked in random
splotches approximating in colour to white and slaty grey; but the grey, after
years of sun and rain, had been scorched and washed out of the more prominent
locks, leaving them of a reddish-brown, as if the blue component of the grey had
faded, like the indigo from the same kind of colour in Turner's pictures. In
substance it had originally been hair, but long contact with sheep seemed to be
turning it by degrees into wool of a poor quality and staple.
This dog had originally belonged to a shepherd of inferior morals and dreadful
temper, and the result was that George knew the exact degrees of condemnation
signified by cursing and swearing of all descriptions better than the wickedest old
man in the neighbourhood. Long experience had so precisely taught the animal
the difference between such exclamations as "Come in!" and "D ---- ye, come in!"
that he knew to a hair's breadth the rate of trotting back from the ewes' tails that
each call involved, if a staggerer with the sheep crook was to be escaped.
Though old, he was clever and trustworthy still.
The young dog, George's son, might possibly have been the image of his mother,
for there was not much resemblance between him and George. He was learning
the sheep-keeping business, so as to follow on at the flock when the other should
die, but had got no further than the rudiments as yet -- still finding an insuperable
difficulty in distinguishing between doing a thing well enough and doing it too
well. So earnest and yet so wrong-headed was this young dog (he had no, name
in particular, and answered with perfect readiness to any pleasant interjection),
that if sent behind the flock to help them on, he did it so thoroughly that he would
 
 
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