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In England in the 1870's headstrong Bathsheba Everdene inherits her uncle's farm in Weatherbury and achieves the independence she desires. A short time later she hires a former neighbor, Gabriel Oak, to be her shepherd; a rejected suitor, Gabriel lost his own flock of sheep when one of his dogs drove them over a steep cliff. Ignoring Gabriel's love, Bathsheba impulsively sends a valentine to William Boldwood, a nearby gentleman farmer. When he misinterprets her capriciousness and proposes to her, Bathsheba promises to consider his offer. Instead, however, she becomes enamored of Frank Troy, a dashing cavalry officer. Unaware that Troy has refused to marry young Fanny Robin, a maidservant pregnant with his child, because she embarrassed him by going to the wrong church on their wedding day, Bathsheba foolishly becomes his wife. After Troy has gambled away most of Bathsheba's money and created disharmony among the farmhands, he discovers that Fanny has died in childbirth. Filled with remorse, he swears that he never loved Bathsheba, walks out on her, and disappears into the ocean. Bathsheba then promises to marry Boldwood when Troy is declared legally dead; but Troy appears at their engagement party and the nearly deranged Boldwood kills him. Shortly after Boldwood has been sent to prison, Gabriel tells Bathsheba that he is planning to emigrate to America. Realizing how much she has always needed his quiet strength and unselfish devotion, Bathsheba persuades Gabriel to remain in Weatherbury as her husband.