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Thomas Hardy: Far from the Madding Crowd
Chapter 21: 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--'"
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