Troubles in the Fold - A Message

Gabriel Oak had ceased to feed the Weatherbury flock for about four-and-twenty hours, when on Sunday afternoon the elderly gentlemen Joseph Poorgrass, Matthew Moon, Fray, and half-a-dozen others, came running up to the house of the mistress of the Upper Farm.

`Whatever is the matter, men?' she said, meeting them at the door just as she was coming out on her way to church, and ceasing in a moment from the close compression of her two red lips, with which she had accompanied the exertion of pulling on a tight glove.

`Sixty!' said Joseph Poorgrass.

`Seventy!' said Moon.

`Fifty-nine!' said Susan Tall's husband.

` - Sheep have broke fence,' said Fray.

` - And got into a field of young clover,' said Tall.

` - Young clover!' said Moon.

` - Clover!' said Joseph Poorgrass.

`And they be getting blasted,' said Henery Fray.

`That they be,' said Joseph.

`And will all die as dead as nits, if they bain't got out and cured!' said Tall.

Joseph's countenance was drawn into lines and puckers by his concern. Fray's forehead was wrinkled both perpendicularly and crosswise, after the pattern of a portcullis, expressive of a double despair. Laban Tall's lips were thin, and his face was rigid. Matthew's jaws sank, and his eyes turned whichever way the strongest muscle happened to pull them.

`Yes,' said Joseph, `and I was sitting at home looking for Ephesians, and says I to myself, "'Tis nothing but Corinthians and Thessalonians in this danged Testament," when who should come in but Henery there: "Joseph," he said, "the sheep have blasted theirselves - "'

With Bathsheba it was a moment when thought was speech and speech exclamation. Moreover, she had hardly recovered her equanimity since the disturbance which she had suffered from Oak's remarks.

`That's enough - that's enough - O you fools!' she cried, throwing the parasol and Prayer-book into the passage, and running out of doors in the direction signified. 'to come to me, and not go and get them out directly! O, the stupid numskulls!'

Her eyes were at their darkest and brightest now. Bathsheba's beauty belonging rather to the demonian than to the angelic school, she never looked so well as when she was angry - and particularly when the effect was heightened by a rather dashing velvet dress carefully put on before a glass.

All the ancient men ran in a jumbled throng after her to the cloverfield, Joseph sinking down in the midst when about halfway, like an individual withering in a world which was more and more insupportable. Having once received the stimulus that her presence always gave them they went round among the sheep with a will. The majority of the afflicted animals were lying down, and could not be stirred. These were bodily lifted out, and the others driven into the adjoining field. Here, after the lapse of a few minutes, several more fell down, and lay helpless and livid as the rest.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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