Far from the madding crowd  远离尘嚣

‘Jan,go and help Joseph with the horses,’she ordered. ‘I'll help you,Gabriel. I want to talk to you. ’


The shears were sharpened on a stone which was turned by a wheel,which was itself turned by a handle. Bathsheba could not manage the handle,so she held the shears while Gabriel turned the handle. ‘You aren't holding them right,miss,’he told her. ‘Let me show you how He let go of the handle,and put his large hands round hers,to hold the shears. ‘Like that,’he said,continuing to hold her hands for a peculiarly long time.


‘That's enough,’said Bathsheba. ‘I don't want my hands held!Turn the handle!’They went on sharpening the shears. ‘Gabriel,what do the men think about me and Mr Bold-wood?’


‘They say you'll marry him before the end of the year,miss. ’


‘What a foolish thing to say!I want you to contradict it,Gabriel. ’


‘Well,Bathsheba!’said Gabriel,staring at her in surprise.


‘Miss Everdene,you mean,’she said.


‘Well,if Mr Boldwood really asked you to marry him,I'm not going to contradict that,just to please you. ’


‘I said I wanted you just to say it wasn't true that I was going to marry him,’she said,less confidently.


‘I can say that,if you wish,Miss Everdene. I could also give my opinion of the way you've behaved. ’


He continued with his work. Bathsheba knew that he would always give his honest opinion,even if she asked him whether she should marry another man,and there was nobody else she could trust. ‘Well,what is your opinion of my behaviour?’she asked.


‘No good,respectable woman would behave like that,’he replied. ‘You should never have sent him that valentine. ’


Bathsheba blushed angrily. ‘Luckily I don't care about your opinion!Why do you think I'm not good or respectable,I wonder?Because I didn't agree to marry you,perhaps!’


‘Not at all. ’said Gabriel quietly. ‘I've long ago stopped thinking about that. ’


‘Or wishing it,I suppose,’she said,expecting him to protest that he still loved her.


‘Or wishing It,’repeated Gabriel calmly.


Bathsheba would not have minded being spoken to angrily by Gabriel for her thoughtlessness,if only he had told her he loved her. But his cold words of blame annoyed her greatly.


‘I cannot allow any man to accuse me of bad behaviour!’ she cried. ‘So you will leave the farm at the end of the week!’


‘All right,I will,’said Gabriel calmly. ‘In fact I would rather go at once. ’


‘Go at once then!’she replied angrily. ‘Don't let me see your face any more. ’


‘Very well,Miss Everdene. ’And so be took his shears and walked quietly away.


It was only twenty-four hours after Gabriel had left the farm that three men came running to report a disaster to Bathsheba.


‘Sixty of your sheep—’said Joseph Poorgrass,breathless.


‘Have broken through throgh the gate said Billy,also breathless.


‘And got into a field of young clover!’said Laban Tall.


‘They're eating the clover,and they're all swollen up!’


‘They'll all die if someone doesn't do something!’


‘Oh you fools!’cried Bathsheba. ‘Go straight to the field and get them out!’ She rushed towards the clover field,followed by the men. Her sheep were all lying down,their stomachs badly swollen. Joseph,Billy and Laban carried the sheep back into their own field,where the poor creatures lay helplessly without moving.


‘Oh,what can I do,what can I do?’cried Bathsheba.


‘There's only one way of saving them,’said Laban.


‘Soemeone must make a hole in the sheep's side,’explained Billy,‘with a special tool. Then the air comes out,and the sheep will survive. ’


‘Can you do it?Can I do it?’she asked wildly. ‘No,ma'am If it isn't done very carefully,the sheep will die Most shepherds can't even do it. ’ ‘Only one man in the area can do it,’said Joseph.


‘Who is he?Let's get him!’said his mistress.


‘It's Gabriel Oak. Ah,he's a clever man!’replied Joseph. ‘That's right,he certainly is,’agreed the other two. ‘How dare you say his name to me!’she said angrily.


‘What about Farmer Boldwood?Perhaps he can do it?’


‘No,ma‘am,’answered Laban. ‘When his sheep ate some clover the other day,and were swollen just like these,he sent for Cabriel at once,and Gabriel saved their lives. ’


‘I don't care!Don't just stand there!Go and find someone!’cried Bathsheba. The men ran off,without any clear idea where they were going,and Bathsheba was left alone with her dying sheep. ‘Never will I send for him,never!’she promised herself.


One of the sheep jumped high in the air,fell heavily and did not move. It was dead. Bathsheba knew she must swallow her pride,and called to Laban,who was waiting at the gate.


‘Take a horse,and go and find Gabriel,’she ordered. ‘Give him a message from me,that he must return at once. ’


Bathsheba and her men waited miserably in the field. Several more sheep jumped wildly into the air,their stomachs horribly swollen and their muscles stiff,then died. At last a rider could be seen across the fields. But it was not Gabriel,it was Laban.


‘He says he won't come unless you ask him politely,’Laban reported to Bathsheba.


‘What!’said the young woman,opening her eyes wide. Joseph Poorgrass hid behind a tree in case she became violent. ‘How dare he answer me like that!’Another sheep fell dead. The men looked very serious,and did not offer their opinion. Bathsheba's eyes filled with tears,and she did not try to hide her anger and her injured pride.


‘Don't cry about it,miss,’suggested Billy sympathetically.


‘Why not ask Gabriel in a gentler way?I'm sure he'll come then. ’ ‘Oh,he's cruel to me!’said Bathsheba,drying her eyes. ‘But I'll beg him,yes,I'll have to!’She wrote a few words quickly on a piece of paper,and at the last moment added at the bottom:


Gabriel,do not desert me!


She blushed a little as she wrote this,and gave the letter to Laban,who rode off again to find Gabriel.


When Gabriel arrived,Bathsheba knew from his expression which words in her note had made him come. He went straight to work on the swollen sheep,and managed to save almost all of them When he had finished,Bathsheba came to speak to him.


‘Gabriel,will you stay on with me?’she asked,smiling.


‘I will,’said Gabriel. And she smiled at him again.


A few days later the sheep-shearing began. The sheep were shorn every year at the beginning of June,and their wool was sold. The shearing was always done in the great barn,which had stood on the farm for four centuries. Today the sunshine poured in on the shearers. Bathsheba was watching them care- fully to make sure that the sheep were not injured,and that all the wool was cut off Gabriel was the most experienced shearer. He loved being watched by Bathsheba,and felt warm with pride when she congratulated him on his speed.


But he was not happy for long Farmer Boldwood arrived at the door of the barn,and spoke to Bathsheba. They stepped outside into the bright sunlight to carry on their conversation. Gabriel could not hear what they were saying,but noticed that Bathsheba was blushing. He continued shearing,feeling sud- denly very sad. Bathsheba went back to the house,and returned a short while later in her new green riding dress. She and Boldwood were obviously going for a ride together. As Gabriel's concentration was broken for a moment,his shears cut the sheep's skin. Bathsheba,at the door of the barn,noticed the animal jump,and saw the blood.


‘Oh Gabriel!’she said. ‘Be more careful!’Gabriel knew she was aware that she herself had indirectly caused the poor sheep's wound. But he bravely hid his hurt feelings,and watched Boldwood and Bathsheba ride away,feeling as sure as the other workers that the couple would soon be married.