`A few minutes, ma'am,' said Oak, respectfully.

`Are you going in?' said Bathsheba; and there came from within the church as from a prompter--

I loved the garish day, and, spite of fears,

Pride ruled my will: remember not past years.

`I was,' said Gabriel. `I am one of the bass singers, you know. I have sung bass for several months.'

`Indeed: I wasn't aware of that. I'll leave you, then.'

Which I have loved long since, and lost awhile,

sang the children.

`Don't let me drive you away, mistress. I think I won't go in to-night.'

`O no - you don't drive me away.'

Then they stood in a state of some embarrassment, Bathsheba trying to wipe her dreadfully drenched and inflamed face without his noticing her. At length Oak said, `I've not seen you - I mean spoken to you - since ever so long, have I?' But he feared to bring distressing memories back, and interrupted himself with: `Were you going into church?'

`No,' she said. `I came to see the tombstone privately - to see if they had cut the inscription as I wished. Mr Oak, you needn't mind speaking to me, if you wish to, on the matter which is in both our minds at this moment.

`And have they done it as you wished?' said Oak.

`Yes. Come and see it, if you have not already.'

So together they went and read the tomb. `Eight months ago!' Gabriel murmured when he saw the date. `It seems like yesterday to me.'

`And to me as if it were years ago - long years, and I had been dead between. And now I am going home, Mr Oak.'

Oak walked after her. `I wanted to name a small matter to you as soon as I could,' he said with hesitation. `Merely about business, and I think I may just mention it now, if you'll allow me.'

`O yes, certainly.'

`It is that I may soon have to give up the management of your farm, Mrs Troy. The fact is, I am thinking of leaving England - not yet, you know - next spring.'

`Leaving England!' she said, in surprise and genuine disappointment. `Why, Gabriel, what are you going to do that for?'

`Well, I've thought it best,' Oak stammered out. `California is the spot I've had in my mind to try.'

`But it is understood everywhere that you are going to take poor Mr Boldwood's farm on your own account?'

`I've had the refusal o' it 'tis true; but nothing is settled yet, and I have reasons for gieing up. I shall finish out my year there as manager for the trustees, but no more.'

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