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It is the first of June, and the farm laborers gather in the great barn, which is similar to a church or a castle. It is time to shear the sheep, and the method that is used has remained untouched with the passage of time. Bathsheba supervises the various tasks done by her farm hands, but it is actually Gabriel who is the manager of the whole operation. Bathsheba observes Gabriel as he does the shearing. He is very happy to gain her attention and listen to her excited talk. Cainy marks the sheep that have been shorn with Bathsheba's initials, and the fleece is saved.
During the shearing, Boldwood appears and talks with Bathsheba in low tones. Gabriel understands that their conversation is not related to sheep. Bathsheba leaves the barn and returns in a new riding dress. Gabriel becomes quite upset as Bathsheba prepares to go out with Boldwood. In fact, he is so upset that he shears one of the sheep in a careless and painful way. When his scissors hurt the sheep, Bathsheba scolds him for his carelessness. She then informs Gabriel that she is going to see Boldwood's horses and tells him to take charge of the whole shearing operation.
The rustics comment on Boldwood's visit. Henery cannot understand why an independent woman like his mistress would want a husband. Since he is still unhappy about not being appointed the bailiff, he utters mean-minded things about Bathsheba. Once again Oak springs to defend Bathsheba, but Henery snubs Gabriel and tells him that he is as clever as Gabriel himself. Maryann, by talking lightly in a comic manner, restores the atmosphere to calmness.
Gabriel works quietly, thinking about Bathsheba's hint that he would be made the bailiff. He is eager for the job, for it would mean he would work more closely with her. He is worried, however, that Boldwood's influence on Bathsheba could change everything. It is obvious that Gabriel is still deeply in love with Bathsheba and anxious to help her. Cainy interrupts Gabriel's thoughts to bring his attention back to the work and the feast that is to follow.
This chapter again provides a picture of the placid country life. Even though much is happening in the inner lives of the main characters, Hardy gives us the pastoral picture of the sheep- shearing operation and the light-hearted talk of the rustics as they are engaged in it. The sheep shearing and the feast following it are an important community ritual that Hardy presents faithfully.
The sheep shearing operation becomes a means for Hardy to reveal more about Bathsheba's relationship with Oak. Gabriel does enjoy a brief moment of happiness as his boss watches him intensely and hints that someday he may be her bailiff. The arrival of Boldwood brings about a change of mood in Gabriel. He is jealous that Bathsheba is going out with him, so jealous that he carelessly nicks one of the sheep. The other rustics are also negatively influenced by Boldwood's presence. He seems to cast a gloomy shadow over everything. Through Boldwood, Hardy shows the relationship between character and atmosphere.