Excerpt from “Far from the Madding Crowd” by Thomas Hardy ~~Fire~~

picture-FarFromTheMaddingCrowd-Hardy-FireRound the corner of the largest stack, out of the direct rays of the fire, stood a pony, bearing a young woman on its back. By her side was another woman, on foot. These two seemed to keep at a distance from the fire, that the horse might not become restive.
“He’s a shepherd.” said the woman on foot. “Yes — he is. See how his crook shines as he beats the rick with it. And his smock-frock is burnt in two holes, I declare! A fine young shepherd he is too, ma’am.”
“Whose shepherd is he?” said the equestrian in a clear voice.
“Don’t know, ma’am.”
“Don’t any of the others know?”
“Nobody at all — I’ve asked ’em. Quite a stranger, they say.”
The young woman on the pony rode out from the shade and looked anxiously around.
“Do you think the barn is safe?” she said.
“D’ye think the barn is safe, Jan Coggan?” said the second woman, passing on the question to the nearest man in that direction.
“Safe -now — leastwise I think so. If this rick had gone the barn would have followed. ‘Tis- that bold shepherd up there that have done the most good — he sitting on the top o’ rick, whizzing his great long-arms about like a windmill.”
“He does work hard.” said the young woman on horseback, looking up at Gabriel through her thick woollen veil. “I wish he was shepherd here. Don’t any of you know his name.”
“Never heard the man’s name in my life, or seed his form afore.”
The fire began to get worsted, and Gabriel’s elevated position being no longer required of him, he made as if to descend.
“Maryann.” said the girl on horseback, “go to him as he comes down, and say that the farmer wishes to thank him for the great service he has done.”
Maryann stalked off towards the rick and met Oak at the foot of the ladder. She delivered her message.
“Where is your master the farmer?” asked Gabriel, kindling with the idea of getting employment that seemed to strike him now.
“‘Tisn’t a master; ’tis a mistress, shepherd.”
“A woman farmer?”
“Ay, ‘a b’lieve, and a rich one too!” said a by-stander. “Lately ‘a came here from a distance. Took on her uncle’s farm, who died suddenly. Used to measure his money in half-pint cups. They say now that she’ve business in every bank in Casterbridge, and thinks no more of playing pitch-and-toss sovereign than you and I, do pitch-halfpenny — not a bit in the world, shepherd.”
“That’s she, back there upon the pony.” said Mary- ann. “wi’ her face a-covered up in that black cloth with holes in it.”
Oak, his features smudged, grimy, and undiscoverable from the smoke and heat, his smock-frock burnt-into holes and dripping with water, the ash stem of his sheep- crook charred six inches shorter, advanced with the humility stern adversity had thrust upon him up to the slight female form in the saddle. He lifted his hat with respect, and not without gallantry: stepping close to her hanging feet he said in a hesitating voice, —
“Do you happen to want a shepherd, ma’am?”
She lifted the wool veil tied round her face, and looked all astonishment. Gabriel and his cold-hearted darling, Bathsheba Everdene, were face to face.
Bathsheba did not speak, and he mechanically repeated in an abashed and sad voice, —
“Do you want a shepherd, ma’am?”


1 Comment

Filed under Fiction, Literature

One response to “Excerpt from “Far from the Madding Crowd” by Thomas Hardy ~~Fire~~

  1. Thomas Hardy was born in Stinsford, Dorchester, Dorset, England on 2 June 1840, and died in Dorchester on 11 January 1928, aged 87 years. ‘Far from the Madding Crowd’ was published in 1874.

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