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Chapter 37: The Storm--the Two Together (continued)
"They would have been here if they could," said Oak, in a hesitating way.
"O, I know it all--all," she said, adding slowly: "They are all asleep in the barn, in a drunken sleep, and my husband among them. That's it, is it not? Don't think I am a timid woman and can't endure things."
"I am not certain," said Gabriel. "I will go and see."
He crossed to the barn, leaving her there alone. He looked through the chinks of the door. All was in total darkness, as he had left it, and there still arose, as at the former time, the steady buzz of many snores.
He felt a zephyr curling about his cheek, and turned. It was Bathsheba's breath--she had followed him, and was looking into the same chink.
He endeavoured to put off the immediate and painful subject of their thoughts by remarking gently, "If you'll come back again, miss--ma'am, and hand up a few more; it would save much time."
Then Oak went back again, ascended to the top, stepped off the ladder for greater expedition, and went on thatching. She followed, but without a sheaf.
"Gabriel," she said, in a strange and impressive voice.
Oak looked up at her. She had not spoken since he left the barn. The soft and continual shimmer of the dying lightning showed a marble face high against the black sky of the opposite quarter. Bathsheba was sitting almost on the apex of the stack, her feet gathered up beneath her, and resting on the top round of the ladder.
"Yes, mistress," he said.
"I suppose you thought that when I galloped away to Bath that night it was on purpose to be married?"
"I did at last--not at first," he answered, somewhat surprised at the abruptness with which this new subject was broached.
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