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In this chapter Oak experiences a great deal of suffering. He learns that Bathsheba has departed for Weatherbury, a town twenty miles away. Unfortunately, he dare not ask the aunt for more information about Bathsheba, because she has completely discouraged him from taking any interest in her niece. Oak suffers from the thought of being separated from his love; but the separation only deepens his love for Bathsheba. Oak also suffers a deep personal tragedy. He had two dogs, the older dog named George and his son. Oak is training George's son to keep watch over the sheep, but George's son is a little too energetic. He always seems to make the sheep run across the fields. One night, one of the running sheep breaks through a safety rail and falls into a chalk-pit. In his practicality, Gabriel offers the carcass of the dead ewe to the dog. Oak goes to bed and hopes that George's son would return after finishing the meal of the dead ewe.
The violent ringing of sheep bells interrupts Gabriel's sleep. He jumps out of his bed, runs to the hill, and discovers that his flock of sheep, except for fifty ewes with their lambs, has completely vanished. He calls out to his sheep, but does not receive a single bleat in response. When he finally reaches the summit of the hill, he spies George's son. He then looks over the precipice to discover his sheep lying dead or dying. Gabriel's first reaction is to have pity for the untimely death of his gentle ewes and their unborn lambs. He then remembers that he has not insured his sheep. All his savings are thus lost with the death of the ewes. He must sell off the remaining sheep to pay his debts. He will be left merely with the clothes that he wears. Gabriel is relieved that he has not married Bathsheba, for he would hate to have inflicted this terrible misfortune on her. Before leaving the horrible scene, Gabriel shoots the young dog that has caused all the trouble is shot.
Gabriel Oak's nobility of character is shown in the manner with which he suffers his loss. He is a humane and selfless man. Gabriel Oak's selflessness contrasts to Bathsheba's selfishness shown in the previous chapter.
In this chapter, Gabriel's communion with nature is developed. The sight of his dead and dying sheep first fills him with pity; he mourns for their sad end. He puts himself second and worries about his financial reverses. Finally, he feels immensely relieved that Bathsheba has not been subject to this kind of reversal of fortune. He is truly a kind man who is concerned about the welfare of others.