‘I'll make her my wife，’he declared to himself，‘or I'll never be able to concentrate on work again！’
When she stopped coming to feed the sick cow，he had to find a reason for visiting her. So he took a young lamb，whose mother had died，and carried it in a basket across the fields to Mrs Hurst's house.
‘I've brought a lamb for Miss Everdene，’he told Bathshe－ba's aunt. ‘Girls usually like looking after lambs. ’
‘Thank you，Mr Oak，’replied Mrs Hurst，‘but Bathsheba is only a visitor here. I don't know if she'll keep it. ’
‘To tell you the truth，Mrs Hurst，the lamb isn't my real reason for coming. I want to ask Miss Everdene if she'd like to be married. ’
‘Really？’asked Mrs Hurst，looking closely at him.
‘Yes Because if she would，I'd like to marry her. Do you know if she has any other young men courting her at the moment？’
‘Oh yes，a lot of young men，’said Mrs Hurst. ‘You see，Farmer Oak，she's so handsome，and so well-educated too. Of course,I haven't actually seen any of her young men，but she must have at least ten or twelve！’
‘That's unfortunate，’said Farmer Oak，staring sadly at the floor. ‘I'm just a very ordinary man，and my only chance was being the first to ask to marry her. Well，that was all I came for. I'd better go home now， Mrs Hurst. ’
He had gone halfway across the first field when he heard a cry behind him. He turned，and saw a girl running after him. It was Bathsheba. Gabriel blushed.
‘Farmer Oak，’she called breathlessly，‘I want to say——my aunt made a mistake when she told you I had a lot of young men courting me. In fact，I haven't got any，and I've never had any. ’
‘I am glad to hear that！’said Gabriel，with a wide smile，holding out his hand to take hers. But she pulled her hand away quickly. ‘I have a nice comfortable little farm，’he added，a little less confidently. ‘And when we are married，I'm sure I can work twice as hard as I do now，and earn more. ’
He stretched out his arm towards her. Bathsheba moved rapidly behind a tree to avoid him. ‘But，Farmer Oak，’she said in surprise，‘I never said I was going to marry you. ’
‘Well！’said Gabriel，disappointed. ‘To run after me like this， and then say you don't want me！’
‘I only wanted to explain that my aunt was wrong，’she answered eagerly. ‘Anyway，I had to run to catch up with you，so I didn't have time to decide whetherl wanted to marry or not. ’
‘Just think for a minute or two，’replied Gabriel hopefully. ‘I'll wait a while， Miss Everdene. Will you marry me？ Do，Bathsheba. I love you very much！’
‘I'll try to think，’she answered. ‘Give me time，’and she looked away from him at the distant hills.
‘I can make you happy，’he said to the back of her head ‘You shall have a piano，and I'll practise the flute to play with you in the evenings. ’
‘Yes，I'd like that. ’
‘And at home by the fire，whenever you look up，there I'll be，and whenever I look up， there you'll be. ’
‘Wait，let me think！’She was silent for a while，and then turned to him. ‘No，’she said，‘I don't want to marry you. It'd be nice to have a wedding，but having a husband——well，he'd always be there. As you say，whenever I looked up，there he'd be. ’
‘Of course he would——it would be me. ’
‘that's the problem. I wouldn't mind being a bride，if I could be one without having a husband. But as a woman can't be a bride alone，I won't marry，at least not yet. ’
‘What a silly thing for a girl to say！’ cried Gabriel. And then he said softly，‘But darling，think again！’He moved round the tree to reach her. ‘Why won't you have me？’
‘Because I don't love you，’she replied， moving away.
‘But I love you——and I'm happy to be liked，if that's all you feel for me. ’He spoke more seriously than he had ever spoken before. ‘Only one thing is certain in this life——I shall love you，and want you，and keep on wanting you until I die. ’His feelings were plain to see in his honest face，and his large brown hands were trembling.
‘It seems wrong not to accept you when you feel so strongly，’she replied unhappily. ‘I wish I hadn't run after you！But we wouldn't be happy together，Mr Oak. I'm too independent. I need a husband who can keep me in order， and I'm sure you wouldn't be able to do that. ’
Gabriel looked hopelessly away and did not reply.
‘And，Mr Oak，’she continued in a clear voice，‘I'm so poor that my aunt has to provide a home for me. You're just starting your farming business. It would be much more sensi-ble for you to marry a woman with money. Then you could buy more sheep and improve your farm. ’
‘That's just what I'd been thinking！’ answered Gabriel in surprise.
What common sense she had，he thought admiringly.
‘Well then，why did you ask to marry me？’she said angrily.
‘I can't do what I think would be——sensible. I must do what my heart tells me. ’He did not see the trap she had set for him.
‘Now you've confessed that marrying me wouldn't be sen－sible， Mr Oak. Do you think I'll marry you after that？’
‘Don't mistake my meaning like that，’he cried，‘just because I'm honest enough to tell you the truth！I know you'd be a good wife for me. You speak like a lady，everyone says so，and your uncle at Weatherbury has a large farm，I've heard. May I visit you in the evenings，or will you come for a walk with me on Sundays？You don't have to decide at once. ’
‘No，no，I cannot. Don't insist，don't. I don't love you，so it would be foolish, ’she said with a laugh.
No man likes to see his feelings laughed at，so Gabriel Oak said，turning away，‘Very well，then I won't ask you again. ’
Gabriel did not see Bathsheba again and two days later he heard that she had left the area， and was now in Weatherbury，a village twenty miles away. Her departure did not stop Gabriel from loving her. In fact he loved her even more deeply now that they were apart.
The next night，before going to bed，Gabriel called his two dogs to come into the house for the night. His old dog，George，obeyed the call，but the younger one was missing. Gabriel was having difficulty training this young dog，which，although enthusiastic，still did not understand a sheep dog's duties. He did not worry about the dog's absence，but went to bed.
Very early in the morning he was woken by the sound of sheep bells，ringing violently. Shepherds know every sound that sheep bells make，and Gabriel immediately realized that his sheep were running fast. He jumped out of bed，threw on his clothes and ran up Norcombe Hill，to his fields near the chalk-pit.
There were his fifty sheep with their lambs，all safe，in one field. But in the other field，the two hundred pregnant sheep had completely disappeared. He noticed a broken gate，and felt sure the sheep had gone through it. There was no sign of them in the next field，but ahead of him at the top of the hill he saw the young dog，looking black against the morning sky. It was standing quite still，staring down into the chalk-pit.
Gabriel felt sick as he realized the horrible truth. He hurried up the hill to the edge of the chalk-pit，and looked down into it. In the deep pit lay his dead and dying sheep，two hundred of them，which would have produced two hundred more in the next few weeks. The young，untrained dog must have chased them up to the edge of the pit，where they fell to their death.
His first feeling was pity for those gentle sheep and their unborn lambs. Then he thought of himself. All his savings，which he had worked so hard for in the last ten years，had been spent on renting the farm. Now his hopes of being an independent farmer were destroyed. He covered his face with his hands.
After a while he looked up. ‘Thank God I'm not married to Bathsheba，’he thought. ‘What would she have done，mar－ried to a husband as poor as I shall be！’
The young dog was shot the next day. Gabriel sold all his farm tools to pay what he owed for the sheep. He was no longer a farmer，just an ordinary man who owned the clothes he was wearing and nothing more. Now he had to find work where he could，on other men's farms.