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Far from the Madding Crowd

10.
Mistress and Men
HALF-AN-HOUR later Bathsheba, in finished dress, and followed by Liddy,
entered the upper end of the old hall to find that her men had all deposited
themselves on a long form and a settle at the lower extremity. She sat down at a
table and opened the time-book, pen in her hand, with a canvas money-bag
beside her. From this she poured a small heap of coin. Liddy chose a position at
her elbow and began to sew, sometimes pausing and looking round, or with the
air of a privileged person, taking up one of the half-sovereigns lying before her
and surveying it merely as a work of art, while strictly preventing her
countenance from expressing any wish to possess it as money.
"Now before I begin, men," said Bathsheba, "I have two matters to speak of. The
first is that the bailiff is dismissed for thieving, and that I have formed a resolution
to have no bailiff at all, but to manage everything with my own head and hands."
The men breathed an audible breath of amazement.
"The next matter is, have you heard anything of Fanny?"
"Nothing, ma'am."
"Have you done anything?"
"I met Farmer Boldwood," said Jacob Smallbury, "and I went with him and two of
his men, and dragged Newmill Pond, but we found nothing."
"And the new shepherd have been to Buck's Head, by Yalbury, thinking she had
gone there, but nobody had seed her," said Laban Tall.
"Hasn't William Smallbury been to Casterbridge?"
"Yes, ma'am, but he's not yet come home. He promised to be back by six."
"It wants a quarter to six at present," said Bathsheba, looking at her watch. "I
daresay he'll be in directly. Well, now then" -- she looked into the book -- "Joseph
Poorgrass, are you there?"
"Yes, sir -- ma'am I mane," said the person addressed. "I be the personal name
of Poorgrass."
"And what are you?"
"Nothing in my own eye. In the eye of other people -- well, I don't say it; though
public thought will out."
"What do you do on the farm?"
"I do do carting things all the year, and in seed time I shoots the rooks and
sparrows, and helps at pig-killing, sir."
"How much to you?"
"Please nine and ninepence and a good halfpenny where 'twas a bad one, sir --
ma'am I mane."
"Quite correct. Now here are ten shillings in addition as a small present, as I am
a new comer."
Bathsheba blushed slightly at the sense of being generous in public, and Henery
Fray, who had drawn up towards her chair, lifted his eyebrows and fingers to
express amazement on a small scale.
"How much do I owe you -- that man in the corner -- what's your name?"
continued Bathsheba.
 
 
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