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MonkeyNotes-Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
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Chapter 6

Two months later, in the month of February, Gabriel Oak visits the hiring-fair in the country-town of Casterbridge. Since he has lost his sheep, Oak is seeking work as a bailiff . Men like craters, wagoners, or thatchers wear some special sign to show that they are seeking work and to announce what their specialty is. Carters and wagoners have a piece of whip cord twisted round their hats; thatchers wear a piece of woven straw; shepherds hold their sheep- crooks in their hands. When Gabriel realizes that shepherds are in demand, he trades his overcoat for a shepherd's smock and gets a shepherd's crook. Luck is not on his side, and Gabriel does not manage to get hired.

As dusk settles, Gabriel notices some merry men whistling and singing; he gets out his flute and plays it gaily. His flute playing earns him a few pennies from the passers-by. Oak soon learns that there will be another hiring fair at Shottsford, a village ten miles beyond Weatherbury. The mention of Weatherbury reminds him of Bathsheba. On inquiring how far it is from Casterbridge, Oak is told that it is five to six miles away. He decides to go to Shottsford after sleeping at Weatherbury for the night. He learns from the people that the Weatherbury folk are quite a merry sort.

Oak walks for three to four miles until it gets very dark. He soon finds a deserted wagon on the side of the road. It strikes him that he could save lodging money by sleeping in the wagon. He eats his remaining meal of bread and ham, drinks his cider, and soon falls asleep comfortably on the hay piled up in the wagon. He suddenly wakes up to the feeling that he is moving. He looks at the stars and guesses the time to be nine o'clock. In the front of the wagon, Oak sees two figures that seem to have come from the Casterbridge Fair. One is the wagoner; he discusses the proud mistress of his farm with his passenger. Oak wonders whether they are perhaps talking about Bathsheba. He, however, dismisses it as a wild guess.


Deciding to sleep in a field, Oak slips off the wagon. He sees an unusually bright light about half a mile away and realizes that it is a fire. He makes his way across a field towards the fire and finds a straw stack burning. Oak notices that a wheat rick and a whole series of hay stacks nearby are in danger of being destroyed by the fire. As he draws nearer, Oak sees that the men who are fighting the fire appear to be confused about doing their job. He decides to organize the workers and personally does much of the work to put out the huge fire. The mistress of the farm observes his skillful action. She sends a messenger to thank him after having made vain inquiries to know whose shepherd he is and what his name is. Gabriel, in turn, asks the workers about the mistress of the farm. He is told that the woman has inherited the farm after her uncle's death. Although wet and dirty, Gabriel hurries over to the woman and asks her if she needs a shepherd. On hearing his voice, the woman lifts her veil in astonishment, and Gabriel sees his beloved Bathsheba. He then repeats his question softly and shyly to her.

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MonkeyNotes-Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy

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