Summary and Analysis
"Bathsheba. . . . scarcely knew whether most to be amused at the singularity of the meeting, or to be concerned at its awkwardness." The other firefighters enthusiastically endorsed Gabriel, and so she sent him to her bailiff. All the helpers were to be rewarded with refreshments at Warren's Malthouse. The bailiff, an unfriendly individual, hired Gabriel but could not, or would not, suggest lodgings. He referred Oak to the malthouse, where someone might know where he could stay.
As Gabriel plodded along the road, he came upon a young woman standing by a tree. She furnished him with directions to Warren's. But when in turn she asked the way to Buck's Head, Gabriel could not tell her. She realized he was a stranger and said awkwardly, "Only a shepherd — and you seem almost a farmer by your ways." She asked that he not tell of meeting her. Gabriel perceived her agitation, saw her shiver with the cold, and hesitatingly offered her a shilling, saying, "It is all I have to spare." She accepted it gratefully. He sensed that she was actually trembling. As he went on his way, "he fancied that he had felt himself in the penumbra of a very deep sadness."
Hardy is fond of contrasts and antitheses in his phrases and uses these principles in presenting opposing situations and people. Gabriel's generosity and humility are repeatedly contrasted with Bathsheba's selfishness and vanity. Bathsheba's newly aggrandized position is contrasted with Gabriel's recent fall to poverty. The nasty bailiff, "moving past Oak as a Christian edges past an offertory-plate when he does not mean to contribute," is the direct antithesis to the warm and generous Gabriel who gives his last coins to the trembling girl.