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Far from the Madding Crowd

21.
Troubles in the Fold -- A Message
GABRIEL OAK had ceased to feed the Weatherbury flock for about four-and-
twenty hours, when on Sunday afternoon the elderly gentlemen Joseph
Poorgrass, Matthew Moon, Fray, and half-a-dozen others, came running up to
the house of the mistress of the Upper Farm.
"Whatever IS the matter, men?" she said, meeting them at the door just as she
was coming out on her way to church, and ceasing in a moment from the close
compression of her two red lips, with which she had accompanied the exertion of
pulling on a tight glove. "Sixty!" said Joseph Poorgrass.
"Seventy!" said Moon.
"Fifty-nine!" said Susan Tall's husband.
"-- Sheep have broke fence," said Fray.
"-- And got into a field of young clover," said Tall.
"-- Young clover!" said Moon. "-- Clover!" said Joseph Poorgrass.
"And they be getting blasted," said Henery Fray.
"That they be," said Joseph.
"And will all die as dead as nits, if they bain't got out and cured!" said Tall.
Joseph's countenance was drawn into lines and puckers by his concern. Fray's
forehead was wrinkled both perpendicularly and crosswise, after the pattern of a
portcullis, expressive of a double despair. Laban Tall's lips were thin, and his
face was rigid. Matthew's jaws sank, and his eyes turned whichever way the
strongest muscle happened to pull them.
"Yes," said Joseph, "and I was sitting at home, looking for Ephesians, and says I
to myself, ''Tis nothing but Corinthians and Thessalonians in this danged
Testament,' when who should come in but Henery there: 'Joseph,' he said, 'the
sheep have blasted theirselves ----'"
With Bathsheba it was a moment when thought was speech and speech
exclamation. Moreover, she had hardly recovered her equanimity since the
disturbance which she had suffered from Oak's remarks.
"That's enough -- that's enough! -- oh, you fools!" she cried, throwing the parasol
and Prayer-book into the passage, and running out of doors in the direction
signified. "To come to me, and not go and get them out directly! Oh, the stupid
numskulls!"
Her eyes were at their darkest and brightest now. Bathsheba's beauty belonged
rather to the demonian than to the angelic school, she never looked so well as
when she was angry -- and particularly when the effect was heightened by a
rather dashing velvet dress, carefully put on before a glass.
All the ancient men ran in a jumbled throng after her to the clover-field, Joseph
sinking down in the midst when about half-way, like an individual withering in a
world which was more and more insupportable. Having once received the
stimulus that her presence always gave them they went round among the sheep
with a will. The majority of the afflicted animals were lying down, and could not be
stirred. These were bodily lifted out, and the others driven into the adjoining field.
 
 
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