by degrees in a leaden lump somewhere between the eyebrows and the crown. Bathsheba felt the unpleasant symptoms after two or three dozen turns.

`Will you turn, Gabriel, and let me hold the shears?' she said. `My head is in a whirl, and I can't talk.'

Gabriel turned. Bathsheba then began, with some awkwardness, allowing her thoughts to stray occasionally from her story to attend to the shears, which required a little nicety in sharpening.

`I wanted to ask you if the men made any observations on my going behind the sedge with Mr Boldwood yesterday?'

`Yes, they did,' said Gabriel. `You don't hold the shears right, miss - I knew you wouldn't know the way - hold like this.'

He relinquished the winch, and enclosing her two hands completely in his own (taking each as we sometimes clasp a child's hand in teaching him to write), grasped the shears with her. `Incline the edge so' he said.

Hands and shears were inclined to suit the words, and held thus for a peculiarly long time by the instructor as he spoke.

`That will do,' exclaimed Bathsheba. `Loose my hands. I won't have them held! Turn the winch.'

Gabriel freed her hands quietly, retired to his handle, and the grinding went on.

`Did the men think it odd?' she said again.

`Odd was not the idea, miss.'

`What did they say?'

`That Farmer Boldwood's name and your own were likely to be flung over pulpit together before the year was out.'

`I thought so by the look of them! Why, there's nothing in it. A more foolish remark was never made, and I want you to contradict it: that's what I came for.'

Gabriel looked incredulous and sad, but between his moments of incredulity, relieved.

`They must have heard our conversation,' she continued.

`Well, then, Bathsheba!' said Oak, stopping the handle, and gazing into her face with astonishment.

`Miss Everdene, you mean,' she said with dignity.

`I mean this, that if Mr Boldwood really spoke of marriage, I bain't going to tell a story and say he didn't to please you. I have already tried to please you too much for my own good!'

Bathsheba regarded him with round-eyed perplexity. She did not know whether to pity him for disappointed love of her, or to be angry with him for having got over it - his tone being ambiguous.

`I said I wanted you just to mention that it was not true I was going to be married to him,' she murmured, with a slight decline in her assurance.

`I can say that to them if you wish, Miss Everdene. And I could likewise give an opinion to 'ee on what you have done.'

`I daresay. But I don't want your opinion.'

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