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Far from the Madding Crowd

7. Recognition -- A Timid Girl
BATHSHEBA withdrew into the shade. She scarcely knew whether most to be
amused at the singularity of the meeting, or to be concerned at its awkwardness.
There was room for a little pity, also for a very little exultation: the former at his
position, the latter at her own. Embarrassed she was not, and she remembered
Gabriel's declaration of love to her at Norcombe only to think she had nearly
forgotten it.
"Yes," she murmured, putting on an air of dignity, and turning again to him with a
little warmth of cheek; "I do want a shepherd. But ----"
"He's the very man, ma'am," said one of the villagers, quietly.
Conviction breeds conviction. "Ay, that 'a is," said a second, decisively.
"The man, truly!" said a third, with heartiness."
"He's all there!" said number four, fervidly.
"Then will you tell him to speak to the bailiff, said Bathsheba.
All was practical again now. A summer eve and loneliness would have been
necessary to give the meeting its proper fulness of romance.
The bailiff was pointed out to Gabriel, who, checking the palpitation within his
breast at discovering that this Ashtoreth of strange report was only a modification
of Venus the well-known and admired, retired with him to talk over the necessary
preliminaries of hiring.
The fire before them wasted away. "Men," said Bathsheba, "you shall take a little
refreshment after this extra work. Will you come to the house?"
"We could knock in a bit and a drop a good deal freer, Miss, if so be ye'd send it
to Warren's Malthouse," replied the spokesman.
Bathsheba then rode off into the darkness, and the men straggled on to the
village in twos and threes -- Oak and the bailiff being left by the rick alone.
"And now," said the bailiff, finally, "all is settled, I think, about your coming, and I
am going home-along. Good- night to ye, shepherd."
"Can you get me a lodging?" inquired Gabriel.
"That I can't, indeed," he said, moving past Oak as a Christian edges past an
offertory-plate when he does not mean to contribute. "If you follow on the road till
you come to Warren's Malthouse, where they are all gone to have their snap of
victuals, I daresay some of 'em will tell you of a place. Good-night to ye,
shepherd."
The bailiff who showed this nervous dread of loving his neighbour as himself,
went up the hill, and Oak walked on to the village, still astonished at the
rencounter with Bathsheba, glad of his nearness to her, and perplexed at the
rapidity with which the unpractised girl of Norcombe had developed into the
supervising and cool woman here. But some women only require an emergency
to make them fit for one.
Obliged, to some extent, to forgo dreaming in order to find the way, he reached
the churchyard, and passed round it under the wall where several ancient trees
grew. There was a wide margin of grass along here, and Gabriel's footsteps were
deadened by its softness, even at this indurating period of the year. When
 
 
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