Close To The Madding Crowd-Happy Version of Far From the Madding Crowd

This is the version of Thomas Hardy's book "Far From The Madding Crowd". It is the happy version, where everything goes well. No copyright infringement intended. I just cried so much after reading it I had to make a happy version. I have also put it into more modern language. Enjoy!


2. CHAPTER II: Night-The Flock-An Interior-Another Interior

IT was nearly midnight on the eve of St. Thomas's, the shortest day in the year. A desolating wind wandered from the north over the hill where  Oak had watched the yellow waggon and its occupant in the sunshine of a few days earlier. Norcombe Hill, not far from lonely Toller-Down, was a featureless combination of chalk and soil, covered on its northern side by an ancient and decaying plantation of beeches, whose upper verge formed a line over the crest, fringing its arched curve against the sky, like a mane. Tonight these trees sheltered the southern slope from the worst blasts of wind, which struck the wood and floundered through it with a sound as of grumbling, or gushed over its topmost boughs in a weakened moan. The dry leaves in the ditch simmered and boiled in the same breezes, a tongue of air occasionally ferreting out a few, and sending them spinning across the grass.


Between this half-wooded, half empty hill, and the vague, still horizon that its summit indistinctly commanded, was a mysterious space of bottomless shade the sounds from which suggested that what it concealed bore some small resemblance to features of the rest of the hill. The thin grasses, more or less coating the Norcombe Hill, were touched by the wind in breezes of differing force, and almost of differing natures-one rubbing the blades heavily, another raking them piercingly, another brushing them like a soft broom. The instinctive act of humankind was to stand and listen, and learn how the trees sang each with other in the regular harmonies of a cathedral choir; how hedges and other shapes near to them caught the note, lowering it to the tenderest sob; and how the hurrying gust then plunged into the south, to be heard no more.


Suddenly an unexpected series of sounds began to be heard in this place up against the sky. They had a clearness which was to be found nowhere in the wind, and a sequence which was to be found nowhere in nature. They were the notes of Farmer Oak's flute. The tune was not floating unhindered into the open air: it seemed muffled in some way, and was too weak in power to spread high or wide. It came from the direction of a small dark object, a shepherd's hut. The hut stood on little wheels, which raised its floor about a foot from the ground. Such shepherds' huts are dragged into the fields when the lambing season comes on, to shelter the shepherd in his nightly attendance to the sheep. It was only recently that people had begun to call Gabriel "Farmer" Oak. During the twelve months preceding this time he had been enabled by sustained efforts of industry and chronic good spirits to lease the small sheep farm of which Norcombe Hill was a portion, and stock it with two hundred sheep. Previously he had been a bailiff for a short time, and earlier still a shepherd, having from his childhood assisted his father in tending the flocks of large proprietors, till the old Gabriel sank to rest. This venture, unaided and alone, into the paths of farming as master and not as man, with an advance of sheep not yet paid for, was a critical time with Gabriel Oak, and he recognised his position clearly.


The first movement in his new progress was the lambing of his ewes, and sheep having been his speciality from his childhood, he wisely refrained from leaving the task of tending them at this season to a hireling or a novice. The wind continued to beat about the corners of the hut, but the flute-playing ceased. A rectangular space of light appeared in the side of the hut, and in the opening the outline of Farmer Oak's figure. He carried a lantern in his hand, and closing the door behind him, came forward and busied himself about a of the field for nearly twenty minutes, the lantern light appearing and disappearing here and there, and brightening him or darkening him as he stood before or behind it.


Detached hurdles thatched with straw were stuck into the ground at various scattered points, amid and under which the whitish forms of his meek ewes moved and rustled. The ring of the sheep-bell, which had been silent during his absence, recommenced, in tones that had more mellowness than clearness, owing to an increasing growth of surrounding wool. This continued till Oak withdrew again from the flock. He returned to the hut, bringing in his arms a newborn lamb, consisting of four legs large enough for a full grown sheep, united by a seemingly inconsiderable body about half the size of the legs collectively.The little speck of life he placed on a wisp of hay before the small stove, where a can of milk was simmering. Oak extinguished the lantern by blowing into it and then pinching the snuff, the single room being lighted by a candle suspended by a twisted wire. A rather hard couch, formed of a few corn sacks thrown carelessly down, covered half the floor of this little habitation, and here the young man stretched himself along, loosened his woollen cravat, and closed his eyes.


In about the time a person unaccustomed to bodily labour would have decided upon which side to lie, Farmer Oak was asleep. The inside of the hut, as it now presented itself, was cosy and alluring, and the bright fire reflected its own genial colour upon whatever it could reach. In the corner stood the sheep-crook, and along a shelf at one side were ranged bottles and canisters; spirits of wine, turpentine, tar, magnesia, ginger, and castor-oil being the main items. On a triangular shelf across the corner stood bread, bacon, cheese, and a cup for ale or cider, which was supplied from a flagon beneath. Beside the provisions lay the flute.The house was ventilated by two round holes, like the lights of a ship's cabin, with wood slides.


The lamb, revived by the warmth began to bleat, with instant meaning, as expected sounds will. Passing from the profoundest sleep to the most alert wakefulness with the same ease that had accompanied the reverse operation, Oak looked at his watch, found that the hour-hand had shifted again, put on his hat, took the lamb in his arms, and carried it into the darkness. After placing the little creature with its mother, he stood and carefully examined the sky, to ascertain the time of night from the altitudes of the stars. The Dog-star and Aldebaran, pointing to the restless Pleiades, were half-way up the Southern sky, and between them hung Orion, which gorgeous constellation never burnt more vividly than now, as it soared forth above the rim of the landscape. Castor and Pollux will the north-west; far away through the plantation Vega and Cassiopeia's chair stood daintily poised on the uppermost boughs.


"One o'clock," said Gabriel.


With eyes stretched afar, Oak gradually perceived that what he had previously taken to be a star low down behind the outskirts of the plantation was in reality no such thing. It was an artificial light, almost close at hand. To find themselves utterly alone at night where company is desirable and expected makes some people fearful; but a case more trying by far to the nerves is to discover some mysterious companionship when every kind of evidence in the logician's list — have united to persuade consciousness that it is quite in isolation.


Farmer Oak went towards the plantation and pushed through its lower boughs to the windy side. A dim mass under the slope reminded him that a shed occupied a place here, the site being a cutting into the slope of the hill, so that at its back part the roof was almost level with the ground. In front it was formed of board nailed to posts and covered with tar as a preservative. Through crevices in the roof and side spread streaks and spots of light, a combination of which made the radiance that had attracted him. Oak stepped up behind, where,leaning down upon the roof and putting his eye close to a hole, he could see into the interior clearly. The place contained two women and two cows. By the side of the latter a steaming bran-mash stood in a bucket. One of the women was past middle age. Her companion was apparently young and graceful; he could form no decided opinion upon her looks, her position being almost beneath his eye, so that he saw her in a bird's-eye view. She wore no bonnet or hat, but had enveloped herself in a large cloak, which was carelessly flung over her head as a covering.


"There, now we'll go home," said the elder of the two, resting her knuckles upon her hips, and looking at their goings-on as a whole. "I do hope Daisy will fetch round again now. I have never been more frightened in my life, but I don't mind breaking my rest if she recovers."

The young woman, whose eyelids were apparently inclined to fall together on the smallest section of silence,yawned in sympathy. "I wish we were rich enough to pay a man to do these things," she said.


"As we are not, we must do them ourselves," said the other; "for you must help me if you stay."


"Well, my hat is gone," continued the younger. "It went over the hedge, I think, because we were out in this wind!”


The cow standing  was of the Devon breed, and was encased in a tight warm hide of rich  red, as absolutely uniform from eyes to tail as if the animal had been dipped in a dye of that colour, her long back being mathematically level. The other was spotted,grey and white. Beside her Oak now noticed a little calf about a day old, looking idiotically at the two women, which showed that it had not long been accustomed to the phenomenon of eyesight, and often turning to the lantern, which it apparently mistook for the moon.


"I think we had better send for some oatmeal," said the older.


"Yes, aunt; and I'll ride over for it as soon as it is light.”


"But there's no side-saddle."


“I can ride on the other: trust me."


Oak, upon hearing these remarks, became more curious to observe her features, but this prospect being denied him by the hood of the cloak, and by his aerial position, he felt himself drawing upon his imagination for their details. Gabriel had been unable to get a distinct view of her face so he estimated it as very pretty. Having for some time known the want of a satisfactory feeling to fill an increasing void within him, he painted her a beauty. By one of those whimsical coincidences in which Nature, like a busy mother, seems to spare a moment from her labours to turn and make her children smile, the girl now dropped the cloak, and forth tumbled ropes of black hair over a red jacket. Oak knew her instantly as the heroine of the yellow waggon, and looking-glass: as the woman who owed him twopence. They placed the calf beside its mother again, took up the lantern, and went out, the light sinking down the hill till it was no more than a dot. Gabriel Oak returned to his flock.


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