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CHAPTER XXVII



HIVING THE BEES


THE Weatherbury bees were late in their swarming this
year. It was in the latter part of June, and the day after
the interview with Troy in the hayfield, that Bathsheba
was standing in her garden, watching a swarm in the
air and guessing their probable settling place. Not only
were they late this year, but unruly. Sometimes through-
out a whole season all the swarms would alight on the
lowest attainable bough -- such as part of a currant-bush
or espalier apple-tree; next year they would, with just
the same unanimity, make straight off to the uppermost
member of some tall, gaunt costard, or quarrenden,
and there defy all invaders who did not come armed
with ladders and staves to take them.
This was the case at present. Bathsheba's eyes,
shaded by one hand, were following the ascending
multitude against the unexplorable stretch of blue till
they ultimately halted by one of the unwieldy trees
spoken of. A process somewhat analogous to that of
alleged formations of the universe, time and times ago,
was observable. The bustling swarm had swept the sky
in a scattered and uniform haze, which now thickened to
a nebulous centre: this glided on to a bough and grew
still denser, till it formed a solid black spot upon the
light.
The men and women being all busily engaged in
saving the hay -- even Liddy had left the house for the
purpose of lending a hand -- Bathsheba resolved to hive
the bees herself, if possible. She had dressed the hive
with herbs and honey, fetched a ladder, brush, and
crook, made herself impregnable with armour of leather
gloves, straw hat, and large gauze veil -- once green but
now faded to snuff colour -- and ascended a dozen rungs
of the ladder. At once she heard, not ten yards off,
a voice that was beginning to have a strange power in
agitating her.
"Miss Everdene, let me assist you; you should not
attempt such a thing alone."
Troy was just opening the garden gate.
Bathsheba flung down the brush, crook, and empty
hive, pulled the skirt of her dress tightly round her
ankles in a tremendous flurry, and as well as she could
slid down the ladder. By the time she reached the
bottom Troy was there also, and he stooped to pick
up the hive.
"How fortunate I am to have dropped in at this
moment!" exclaimed the sergeant.
She found her voice in a minute. "What! and will
you shake them in for me?" she asked, in what, for a
defiant girl, was a faltering way; though, for a timid
girl, it would have seemed a brave way enough.
"Will I!" said Troy. "Why, of course I will. How
blooming you are to-day!" Troy flung down his cane
and put his foot on the ladder to ascend.
"But you must have on the veil and gloves, or you'll
be stung fearfully!"
"Ah, yes. I must put on the veil and gloves. Will
you kindly show me how to fix them properly?"
"And you must have the broad-brimmed hat, too, for
your cap has no brim to keep the veil off, and they'd
reach your face."
"The broad-brimmed hat, too, by all means."
So a whimsical fate ordered that her hat should be
taken off -- veil and all attached -- and placed upon his
head, Troy tossing his own into a gooseberry bush.
Then the veil had to be tied at its lower edge round
his collar and the gloves put on him.
He looked such an extraordinary object in this guise
that, flurried as she was, she could not avoid laughing
outright. It was the removal of yet another stake from
the palisade of cold manners which had kept him off
Bathsheba looked on from the ground whilst he was
busy sweeping and shaking the bees from the tree,
holding up the hive with the other hand for them to
fall into. She made use of an unobserved minute
whilst his attention was absorbed in the operation to
arrange her plumes a little. He came down holding
the hive at arm's length, behind which trailed a cloud
of bees.
"Upon my life." said Troy, through the veil," holding
up this hive makes one's arm ache worse than a week
of sword-exercise." When the manoeuvre was complete
he approached her. "Would you be good enough to
untie me and let me out? I am nearly stifled inside
this silk cage."
To hide her embarrassment during the unwonted
process of untying the string about his neck, she said: --
"I have never seen that you spoke of."
"What?"
"The sword-exercise."
"Ah! would you like to?" said Troy.
Bathsheba hesitated. She had heard wondrous
reports from time to time by dwellers in Weatherbury,
who had by chance sojourned awhile in Casterbridge,
near the barracks, of this strange and glorious perform-
ance, *tlie sword-exercise. Men and boys who had
peeped through chinks or over walls into the barrack-
yard returned with accounts of its being the most
flashing affair conceivable; accoutrements and weapons
glistening like stars-here,there,around-yet all by rule
and compass. So she said mildly what she felt strongly.
"Yes; I should like to see it very much."
"And so you shall; you shall see me go through it."
"No! How?"
"Let me consider."
"Not with a walking-stick -- I don't care to see that.
lt must be a real sword."
"Yes, I know; and I have no sword here; but I
think I could get one by the evening. Now, will you
do this?"
"O no, indeed!" said Bathsheba, blushing." Thank
you very much, but I couldn't on any account.
"Surely you might? Nobody would know."
She shook her head, but with a weakened negation.
"If I were to." she said, "I must bring Liddy too. Might
I not?"
Troy looked far away. "I don't see why you want
to bring her." he said coldly.
An unconscious look of assent in Bathsheba's eyes
betrayed that something more than his coldness had
made her also feel that Liddy Would be superfluous in
the suggested scene. She had felt it, even whilst making
the proposal.
"Well, I won't bring Liddy -- and I'll come. But
only for a very short time." she added; "a very short
time."
"It will not take five minutes." said Troy.





Far From The Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
Category:
English Literature
 
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