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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.