فصل 13

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فصل 13

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CHAPTER THIRTEEN

‘Marry Me!’

Gabriel Oak came to Little Weatherbury farmhouse about five minutes after Boldwood walked out. He went straight to Bathsheba, who was sitting on the floor beside Troy’s body. She was holding Troy’s head in her arms.

‘Gabriel,’ she said. ‘Go to Casterbridge and bring a doctor. I’m afraid that it’s too late, but go. Mr Boldwood has killed my husband.’

Gabriel hurried outside and got onto his horse. As he rode along the road to Casterbridge, he thought about Troy. Where had the man come from? Had Troy not drowned? Was he not dead at the bottom of the sea?

Oak rode fast. About three miles from the town, he saw a man walking along the road. It was Boldwood. He was also going to Casterbridge. He was going to tell the police what he had done.

Bathsheba ordered her farm workers to take her husband’s body to her house. She washed Troy’s body and dressed him in clean clothes. Gabriel and the doctor found her there when they arrived. Bathsheba was now weak and tired. Liddy put her into her bed and stayed with her.

Late in the night, Liddy heard Bathsheba whispering the same words over and over again. ‘Oh, I am to blame! How can I live? Dear God, how can I live?’

In March, Boldwood was tried for murder.

Everyone in Weatherbury waited for news. But as they waited, they learnt more about the man who had shot Frank Troy.

After the Greenhill Sheep Fair, William Boldwood had begun to behave strangely. He had bought women’s coats and dresses, then put them carefully into boxes. On the outside of each box, he had written the words ‘Bathsheba Boldwood’ and a date six years in the future.

As time passed, Boldwood had become more and more excited. But he became less and less interested in his farm.

‘His love for Mrs Troy drove him a little mad,’ said the people of Weatherbury.

The judge at the trial also believed that Boldwood had become a little mad.

At last, Gabriel brought the news back to Weatherbury. ‘The court has said that Boldwood did murder Mr Troy,’ he told everyone. ‘But he will not die. He’ll go to prison for the rest of his life.’

As spring turned into summer, Bathsheba began to go into the fields again. Once more, she watched her farm workers working.

During the months since Christmas, Bathsheba had stayed in the house and had only spoken to Liddy. Now she began to be interested in the farm again.

One evening in August, Bathsheba walked to the village. As she entered Weatherbury, she heard singing in the church. She entered the churchyard, walked to Fanny Robin’s grave and looked at the gravestone.

First she read Troy’s words: This stone was put here by Francis Troy in loving memory of Fanny Robin, who died October 9, 18-, aged 20 years. Then she read the new words that were written below: In this same grave lies the body of Francis Troy, who died December 24, 18-, aged 26 years.

Bathsheba went to stand outside the door of the church. As she listened to the sweet singing, she began to cry. She put her face in her hands, and did not see Gabriel Oak walk towards her. He watched her silently for a few moments, then she turned and saw him.

‘Mr Oak,’ she said. ‘How long have you been there?’

‘Only a minute or two, ma’am,’ Gabriel said. ‘I wanted to speak to you. I’m thinking about leaving England next spring.’

Bathsheba was surprised and disappointed. ‘Where will you go?’

‘I’ll probably go to America,’ said Gabriel.

‘But everyone knows that Mr Boldwood made you a partner in his business,’ she said. ‘Everyone knows that you own the farm now. They expect you to stay at Little Weatherbury Farm. And what shall I do without you? Oh, Gabriel, we’re old friends! You’ve been with me through the good times and the bad times.’

‘I know,’ Gabriel said. ‘And I’m sorry. But I think that it’s best for both of us if I leave.’ Then he turned quickly and walked away.

In the months that followed this conversation, Gabriel only came to the house when Bathsheba was out. He sent reports to her about the farm, but he never met her. The day after Christmas, she received a letter from him. In his letter, Gabriel told her that he was going to leave the farm at the end of March.

Bathsheba sat and cried. She had expected Oak to love her and help her forever. What could she do now? How could she manage the farm alone?

That evening, she went to Gabriel Oak’s house. She knocked on the door and waited until he opened it.

‘Mrs Troy!’ said Gabriel. ‘Please come in and sit down.’

‘You’ll think that it’s strange for me to come here,’ Bathsheba said. ‘But I’ve been worried. Have I said something to make you angry, Gabriel? Something has made you want to go away. What have I said?’

‘No!’ said Oak. ‘You couldn’t make me angry, Bathsheba.’

‘Then why are you going?’

‘I’m not going to America,’ said Gabriel. ‘I’ve decided to keep Boldwood’s farm and manage it. But I can’t work for you, Bathsheba. People are talking about us.’

‘What are they saying?’ asked Bathsheba, surprised.

‘People are saying that I have hopes to marry you one day,’ said Gabriel.

‘Marry me!’ said Bathsheba. ‘But it’s too foolish… it’s too soon to think about that!’

‘Yes, ma’am,’ said Oak. ‘It is foolish. I’m surprised that people can’t understand this.’

‘“Too soon” were my words,’ said Bathsheba.

‘I’m sorry, but you also said, “too foolish”,’ he replied.

‘I’m sorry, too,’ said Bathsheba. She began to cry. ‘I only meant to say “too soon”. Please, believe me!’

Gabriel Oak stared at Bathsheba, then moved closer to her. ‘Bathsheba,’ he said. ‘If I only knew one thing -‘ he stopped and then began again. ‘If I only knew one thing. Will you let me love you and marry you? If I only knew that!’

‘But you’ll never know it,’ she said.

‘Why?’ he said.

‘Because you never ask,’ she replied.

Gabriel smiled happily and put his hands on Bathsheba’s face. ‘Oh, my dearest Bathsheba!’ he said. ‘My love, I -‘

‘Why did you send me that letter this morning?’ she said quickly. ‘It was cruel! It showed that you didn’t care about me, and that you were going to desert me!’

Oak laughed. ‘Oh, Bathsheba, you can be so annoying! You know that I had to be careful,’ he said. ‘People don’t say very nice things about an unmarried man who works for a beautiful young woman. That’s the reason that I was going to leave you and the farm.’

‘Then I’m so pleased that I came to see you!’ Bathsheba cried. ‘I think about you all the time. I believed that you didn’t want to see me again. Now, I must go.’ Suddenly, she laughed. ‘But, oh dear! Now I’m courting you, Gabriel!’

‘Well, that’s a good thing,’ said Gabriel. He laughed. ‘I’ve courted you, my beautiful Bathsheba, for a very long time!’

He walked back to her house with her, but they spoke very little. They did not have to say anything. Gabriel and Bathsheba were old friends, and they understood each other well. Now that they had both spoken about their love for each other, nothing could destroy that love. And a few weeks later, they were married.

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