Gabriel Oak is an up-and-coming shepherd in the prime of life at twenty-eight years of age. With the savings of a frugal life, he has leased and stocked a sheep-farm. He falls in love with a newcomer eight years his junior, Bathsheba Everdene, a proud and somewhat vain young beauty who arrives to live with her aunt, Mrs. Hurst. She comes to like him well enough, and even saves his life once, but when he makes her an unadorned offer of marriage, she refuses; she values her independence too much and him too little. Gabriel's blunt protestations only serve to drive her to haughtiness. After a few months, she moves to Weatherbury, a village some miles off.