Far from the Madding Crowd HTML version
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 throughout 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
"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
"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."