`Yes, he'll stay, ma'am!' said again the shrill tongue of Laban's lawful wife.

`Well, he can speak for himself, I suppose.'

`O Lord, not he, ma'am! A simple tool. `Well enough, but a poor gawkhammer mortal,' the wife replied.

`Heh-heh-heh!' laughed the married man, with a hideous effort of appreciation, for he was as irrepressibly good-humoured under ghastly snubs as a parliamentary candidate on the hustings.

The names remaining were called in the same manner.

`Now I think I have done with you,' said Bathsheba, closing the book and shaking back a stray twine of hair. `Has William Smallbury returned?'

`No' ma'am.'

`The new shepherd will want a man under him,' suggested Henery Fray, trying to make himself official again by a sideway approach towards her chair.

`Oh - he will. Who can he have?'

`Young Cain Ball is a very good lad,' Henery said, `and Shepherd Oak don't mind his youth?' he added, turning with an apologetic smile to the shepherd, who had just appeared on the scene, and was now leaning against the doorpost with his arms folded.

`No' I don't mind that,' said Gabriel.

`How did Cain come by such a name?' asked Bathsheba.

`Oh you see, mem, his pore mother, not being a Scripture-read woman, made a mistake at his christening, thinking 'twas Abel killed Cain, and called en Cain, meaning Abel all the time. The parson put it right, but 'twas too late, for the name could never be got rid of in the parish. 'Tis very unfortunate for the boy.'

`It is rather unfortunate.'

`Yes. However, we soften it down as much as we can, and call him Cainy. Ah, pore widow-woman! she cried her heart out about it almost. She was brought up by a very heathen father and mother, who never sent her to church or school, and it shows how the sins of the parents are visited upon the children, mem.'

Mr Fray here drew up his features to the mild degree of melancholy required when the persons involved in the given misfortune do not belong to your own family.

`Very well then, Cainy Ball to be under-shepherd. And you quite understand your duties? - you I mean, Gabriel Oak?'

`Quite well, I thank you, Miss Everdene,' said Shepherd Oak from the doorpost. `If I don't, I'll inquire.' Gabriel was rather staggered by the remarkable coolness of her manner. Certainly nobody without previous information would hive dreamt that Oak and the handsome woman before whom he stood had ever been other than strangers. But perhaps her air was the inevitable result of the social rise which had advanced her from a cottage to a large house and fields. The case is not unexampled in high places. When, in the writings of the later poets, Jove and his family are found to have moved from their cramped quarters on the peak of Olympus into the wide sky above it, their words show a proportionate increase of arrogance and reserve.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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