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Chapter 8: The Malthouse--the Chat--news (continued)
"We thought we heard a hand pawing about the door for the bobbin, but weren't sure 'twere not a dead leaf blowed across," said another. "Come in, shepherd; sure ye be welcome, though we don't know yer name."
"Gabriel Oak, that's my name, neighbours."
The ancient maltster sitting in the midst turned at this--his turning being as the turning of a rusty crane.
"That's never Gable Oak's grandson over at Norcombe--never!" he said, as a formula expressive of surprise, which nobody was supposed for a moment to take literally.
"My father and my grandfather were old men of the name of Gabriel," said the shepherd, placidly.
"Thought I knowed the man's face as I seed him on the rick!--thought I did! And where be ye trading o't to now, shepherd?"
"I'm thinking of biding here," said Mr. Oak.
"Knowed yer grandfather for years and years!" continued the maltster, the words coming forth of their own accord as if the momentum previously imparted had been sufficient.
"Ah--and did you!"
"Knowed yer grandmother."
"And her too!"
"Likewise knowed yer father when he was a child. Why, my boy Jacob there and your father were sworn brothers--that they were sure--weren't ye, Jacob?"
"Ay, sure," said his son, a young man about sixty-five, with a semi-bald head and one tooth in the left centre of his upper jaw, which made much of itself by standing prominent, like a milestone in a bank. "But 'twas Joe had most to do with him. However, my son William must have knowed the very man afore us--didn't ye, Billy, afore ye left Norcombe?"
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