Under the Greenwood Tree
PART IV: 2. Honey-Taking, And Afterwards
Saturday evening saw Dick Dewy journeying on foot to Yalbury Wood, according to the
arrangement with Fancy.
The landscape being concave, at the going down of the sun everything suddenly assumed
a uniform robe of shade. The evening advanced from sunset to dusk long before Dick's
arrival, and his progress during the latter portion of his walk through the trees was
indicated by the flutter of terrified birds that had been roosting over the path. And in
crossing the glades, masses of hot dry air, that had been formed on the hills during the
day, greeted his cheeks alternately with clouds of damp night air from the valleys. He
reached the keeper-steward's house, where the grass-plot and the garden in front appeared
light and pale against the unbroken darkness of the grove from which he had emerged,
and paused at the garden gate.
He had scarcely been there a minute when he beheld a sort of procession advancing from
the door in his front. It consisted first of Enoch the trapper, carrying a spade on his
shoulder and a lantern dangling in his hand; then came Mrs. Day, the light of the lantern
revealing that she bore in her arms curious objects about a foot long, in the form of Latin
crosses (made of lath and brown paper dipped in brimstone--called matches by bee-
masters); next came Miss Day, with a shawl thrown over her head; and behind all, in the
gloom, Mr. Frederic Shiner.
Dick, in his consternation at finding Shiner present, was at a loss how to proceed, and
retired under a tree to collect his thoughts.
"Here I be, Enoch," said a voice; and the procession advancing farther, the lantern's rays
illuminated the figure of Geoffrey, awaiting their arrival beside a row of bee-hives, in
front of the path. Taking the spade from Enoch, he proceeded to dig two holes in the
earth beside the hives, the others standing round in a circle, except Mrs. Day, who
deposited her matches in the fork of an apple- tree and returned to the house. The party
remaining were now lit up in front by the lantern in their midst, their shadows radiating
each way upon the garden-plot like the spokes of a wheel. An apparent embarrassment of
Fancy at the presence of Shiner caused a silence in the assembly, during which the
preliminaries of execution were arranged, the matches fixed, the stake kindled, the two
hives placed over the two holes, and the earth stopped round the edges. Geoffrey then
stood erect, and rather more, to straighten his backbone after the digging.
"They were a peculiar family," said Mr. Shiner, regarding the hives reflectively.