Sweet Day by Ada Cambridge
Lord Thomas De Bohun had been married twice—and more. In fact, he
was sick and tired of womenkind. And that is why he came out to
Australia. He thought a year or two of travel in a savage country, free
of all the trammels of civilization, would give him a rest. Besides,
the second Lady Thomas had been rather nice to him, and she had died
pathetically, and he missed her. Wherefore he loathed the British
matchmaker for the present, and was glad to get as far away from her as
possible. He was not a roué and a reprobate, such as this introduction
might imply. Nothing of the sort. A better-natured or more charming
young man—he was on the right side of forty still—was not to be found
in London. But he was the son of a duke, poor fellow, with a great deal
of money, and no work to do—misfortunes for which the fair-minded
reader will make a large allowance.
In the beginning, Australia did not quite answer his expectations.
Whereas he had imagined a dress-suit to be a thing unknown, he found
himself obliged to wear one nightly, and he was just as ducal in our
city clubs and drawing-rooms as he would have been at home—indeed, a
great deal more so. But as soon as he escaped into the country he was
all right. Clad in moleskins and a Crimean shirt, with a soft felt hat
on his head, and big spurs on his heels, he galloped about at kangaroo
hunts and cattle musters, a simple bushman of the bush (while his
servant played the gentleman in Melbourne), enjoying health and
happiness and the unrivalled charm of novelty to a degree unknown
before. Anybody could get him who had no right to get him. The great
country houses, flattering themselves that they alone could entertain
him suitably, found it a most difficult matter to drop salt on his
He was at a bush hotel one evening, spending a convivial hour with
perfect strangers, who did not know he was Lord Thomas. Having heard
his name was De Bohun, they called him Mr. Bone, and were quite
satisfied with that. So was he. The talk turned upon agricultural
machinery, as used by English and Australian farmers respectively; and
a member of the latter class, as Lord Thomas supposed, was most anxious
to show him a five-furrow plough and various modern
implements—American "notions" of the labour-saving kind.
"You come home with me," said the jolly old man, "and you shall see
'em working. Now do, Mr. Bone. Pot-luck, you know, but a hearty
Lord Thomas jumped at the chance, for, amongst other delightfully
novel pursuits, he had set himself to the improvement of his mind in
these matters, as a responsible landlord and potential duke.
"But your family?" he objected. "Would it not inconvenience them to
receive a stranger without warning, and at so late an hour?"
"Not a bit of it, Mr. Bone. There's always a bed ready for anybody
that may turn up. Mrs. Kemp will be charmed to see you."
"In that case," said Lord Thomas, "I accept with pleasure."
A pair of rough horses, in a ramshackle American wagon, were
brought round, and they set forth on a ten-mile voyage through the
bush, with neither lamps nor moon to steer by. At a long, swinging
trot, never hastening and never loitering, the shabby animals did it in
an hour without making a false step, and were as fresh at the end as at
the beginning. The mysterious, illimitable gloom and the romantic
solitude were very refreshing to the London man, and so was his host,
who was full of merry tales and valuable information. Lord Thomas, in
short, enjoyed his adventure thoroughly.
But he was taken aback by the sight of Mr. Kemp's house. Instead of
the shanty of his anticipations, he beheld a tall and imposing
structure, cutting a great block out of the starry midnight sky. A
sweet place by daylight—ivied, virginia-creepered, grape-vined all
over its mellow brick walls and decaying verandahs, with a great garden
and magnificent trees around it.
"Built by my father in the early days," said Mr. Kemp. "The first
big house in this district, and the only one for nigh twenty years.
We've been rich folks in our time, Mr. Bone, but the ups and downs, you
know,—things ain't what they used to be, especially since the Boom.
However, we've still got a roof over us, thank God, and a crust to
share with a friend."
The family had retired, and the guest, having been warmed with
whisky, was escorted to his bedroom by the host. It was a kind of
bedroom to make him feel slightly nervous about meeting the hostess
next morning. The bed creaked with age, and so did the carpetless floor
beneath it; but the linen was fine and the pillows soft, the handsome
old rosewood furniture shone like glass, and there was an impalpable
air about everything that bespoke the house of a lady.
"I don't know whether you like the windows shut?" said Mr. Kemp,
hospitably bustling about. "We always keep them open, and the blinds
up. Nobody to overlook us here, you know." He tried to pull down a sash
which stuck in the frame, but at Lord Thomas's request desisted.
"Leave it as it is," said the guest. "I like them open. It's so
And he presently lay down on his lavender-perfumed couch,
feeling—after his experience of bush inns—that it was the nicest bed
he had ever occupied. And that scent of the earth and of the night,
coming in through open windows, how exquisite it was! He blew out his
candle—a home-made candle in an old chased silver candlestick—and
slept like a baby.
Not for long, however. Voices called him through those open
windows, and before six o'clock he was leaning out of one of them,
awake and alive as he had rarely been at such an hour.
What an Arcadian world was this, in which he felt like a man new
born! Air as clear as crystal, and dew shining on shrubs and trees;
giant acacias and native white cedars, and pink and white oleanders
that could have swallowed an ordinary bush house; the morning moon
still gleaming like a jewel over the saffron sunrise and the intensely
dark-blue hills. He had heard curlews in the night and frogs at the
break of dawn; now the magpies were fluting all over the place,
cheerful fowls were crowing, laughing jackasses shouting "Ha-ha-ha!"
and "Hoo-hoo-hoo!" to one another. Delicious sounds! But none so
acutely audible as the immense silence at the back of them.
"This," said he to himself, "is the real bush, that we have heard
so much about, at last."
He looked down from his window, and saw the sparrows at the ripe
grapes now loading the eaves of the verandah; saw a hare limping along
the gravelled paths, where no hare should be. He looked over the garden
hedges to the peaceful fields outside, where cows were feeding quietly,
throwing shadows on the wet grass; flocks of cockatoos were screaming
amongst them, and sprinkling themselves like white flowers over the
fresh-ploughed land; and an army of dusky jays held the vineyard on the
hill, whence their joyous gabble rose continuously. It was not his
property they were destroying, and he saw and heard them with
delight—those denizens of the wild bush—that was healing him, body
and soul, of the ills of excessive civilization.
The pink dawn spread and glowed, quenching the horned moon and
dimming the sapphire hues of the distant ranges. Then some white bee
boxes gleamed conspicuously to the right of the flower garden—an
orderly encampment, like tents on a field of battle—and he could see
the busy swarms going forth to their day's labour. He could even hear
them humming, they were in such myriads. And another thing he heard—a
faint, muffled clatter—which he traced to a little building near the
gate of the bees' enclosure; a shed made of reeds, with two windows and
a door in it—doubtless the honey-house, in which some one was early at
work. As he listened to the noise within, he watched the door, which
faced his view, and presently he saw a girl come out of it. She wore a
pink cotton sun-bonnet, veiled with a bushman's fly net, and an
all-embracing tight apron, which made her look like the toy figures of
a Noah's ark. In each hand she carried a long tin box, one heavier than
the other, by rough loops of fencing wire; and she marched with them
down an alley between the bee hives. Mr. Kemp had casually mentioned
his daughter, who, at the time, Lord Thomas had not regarded as
affecting him in any way. Evidently this was she, and the circumstances
of the house disposed him to take another view of her.
He saw her put the boxes on the grass and set the lids open, then
lift the roof from one of the wooden hives. A cloud of angry insects
rose to her stooping face and buzzed about her; it made him tingle to
see them, but she heeded them no more than if they had been motes in
the sun-rays that now lighted up her figure so effectively. She puffed
something that smoked into the open hive from a sort of little bellows
arrangement, and then lifted out the frames of comb, held them dangling
in the air while she brushed black masses of bees off them, and placed
them edgewise in one of the boxes on the grass until she had quite
filled it. Out of the other she took similar frames, which she dropped
into the emptied chamber, and shut down there. Then he saw her
labouring towards the honey house with the weighted box, and was
exasperated to note how it dragged her down. She passed it from hand to
hand to ease the strain, but could not carry it without a twist of her
supple body, a staggering gait, and pantings that he seemed to hear,
though of course he could not.
"What a shame!" he inwardly ejaculated. And he withdrew into his
room, emptied a can of water into a battered old bath, and dressed in
haste. The clatter in the honey-house, which had ceased while she was
amongst the bees, showing that she worked single-handed, began again.
"I wonder," quoth Lord Thomas, "what she's doing in there?"
He thought he would go down to see, and went, stepping softly, so
as not to disturb the rest of the family, who did not seem to rise so
early as she. As usual in the bush, no locks or bolts impeded him; he
turned the handle of the hall door, and noiselessly slipped out.
What a morning indeed! Freshly autumnal—for it was the end of
March—though the day would be all summer until the sun was low again;
cool almost to coldness, with an air that washed the lungs and
invigorated the heart in a manner to make mere living an ecstasy, even
to a lord—the air of the spacious, untainted bush, and of nowhere else
in the wide world. He stood a moment on the steps of the verandah to
drink it in—to sniff the wholesome odour of gum trees and the richer
scent of the perennial orange flower starring the thick green walls of
the orchard paths. Then he strolled down one of those perfumed
lanes—the one that divided the back garden from the front—and
presented himself at the gate of the bee enclosure just as Miss Kemp,
with one of her tin boxes, dashed out of the honey-house and slammed
the door behind her, disappointing the expectations of a cloud of
She saw him and stopped short, evidently taken aback, and conscious
of her coarse apron and limp sun-bonnet, not worn for company. He
hesitated for a moment in sympathetic confusion, but, being immediately
aware that the form thus plainly outlined was a charming one, as also
the pink face in the frame of pink calico, stood his ground and
modestly accosted her. He lifted his cap gracefully, and a bee got
"Good morning—you brute!" was what he said.
"Don't come," she cried in answer, waving him back. Then she pulled
off a sticky glove and held a bare hand over the gate, regardless of
bees, expressing a polite astonishment at his being up so soon.
"I heard of your arrival, Mr. Bone," said she. "I hope you slept
well. I hope you like Australia, as far as you have seen it."
They chatted conventionally for some minutes. He apologised for his
presence, and she reassured him, on behalf of the family, with an easy
frankness that seemed to say he was but one of dozens of Mr. Bones
flowing in a continuous stream through the house, like tramps through a
casual ward. And then he begged to be allowed to help her in her work.
"I am sure," said he, "you must want somebody to carry that heavy
box—oh, conf—! They knew I am a stranger, evidently."
"Go away," she laughed. "You have no business here. I don't want
help—I am quite used to doing it all—and you'd better go and sit on
the verandah, where you can be at peace. Or wouldn't you like a stroll
round? With a pipe, perhaps?"
"Will you show me round?"
"I'm sorry I can't; I must be busy here. The honey is coming in so
fast this weather—which may break at any moment—that I can't gather
it quickly enough. I get on an average nearly a quarter of a ton per
She looked at him with an air of professional pride, forgetting her
costume; and he looked at her. The closer view showed freckles and a
retroussé nose, without at all detracting from her charm. He could gaze
full into her face without being rude, because her eyes were
continually following the movements of the bees that buzzed about him.
Every now and then her fingers skirmished round his head like a flight
Five minutes more, and she was tying a large apron round his waist,
over a very old coat that did not fit him, and he was planting on his
aristocratic head an aged straw hat, flounced with mosquito netting. In
this costume, finished off with a pair of good gloves of his own,
cheerfully sacrificed, he was allowed to pass through the gate and take
up the box by its handles of fencing-wire. The sun was well above the
ranges now, and every dewy leaf and blade of grass glittering.
"What a heavenly morning!" he sighed ecstatically.
"Isn't it?" she assented, and then fell to work again with an
energy interesting to contemplate in a person of her sex and years. She
walked between the rows of hives till she came to the one to be
operated on; he walked after her, inwardly nervous, but with an air of
"Now be careful," said she, as she seized her little bellows. "Tuck
that net into your waistcoat in front, and then lift the lid off for
He did as she bade him, and gasped at the spectacle presented. How
all those bees managed to breathe and move, let alone work, in the
space they occupied, was more than he could understand. She had no time
to explain just now. While he stood rigid, and imagined bees under the
hems of his trousers—for they were thick in the grass he stood on—she
rapidly smoked the hive and drew out the frames of comb, heavy with
honey, brushed thousands of stinging things off them, and placed them
in the empty tin. From the full one she took the frames, filled only
with hollow cells, which she had brought from the honey house; and
these she dropped into the hive amid the masses of bees, leaving less
than an inch between one wall of comb and another.
"And you make the same wax do again?" he inquired, thirsting for
"Many times," she replied, pleased to inform his ignorance. "That
comb will be refilled in about ten days. Put the lid on again, please.
Gently—don't crush more than you can help. Now—"
She straightened her back and looked at him.
"Now what?" he inquired eagerly.
"Well, if you would, you might be filling the other box while I
But this was rather more than his courage was equal to. He said he
was afraid he did not know enough about it yet.
"Very well; we will go and extract the lot we have."
They went to the honey-house together, and she quickly shut the
door as soon as both were in. He smiled to himself as he saw her do it.
The situation to him was—well, noticeable; to her it was absolutely
without sentimental suggestions. The honey-house was the place for
work, not for play.
It was a stuffy and a sticky place, for its little windows, as well
as the door, had to be closed to keep the bees out. Ventilation
depended on the loosely-woven canvas lining the reed-thatched walls.
Half of the floor was raised above the other half, so that the honey
from the extractor, pouring from the spout upon a fine sieve, could
flow downwards to the great tank, and from that into the tins which
conveyed it to market. Five tons' weight of these tins were stacked on
the lower floor, all filled and soldered up; and many more, Miss Kemp
stated, were stored in the house.
"I used to get sixpence a pound for it," she informed him, with an
anxious, business look in her pretty grey eyes; "but now the stores
won't give more than threepence. It really doesn't seem worth while, at
that price, taking railway charges and all do you think it does?"
Lord Thomas did not, emphatically.
"So I am going to try exporting. I have the regulation boxes and
tins—fifty-six pounds in a tin, and two tins in a case—and, as soon
as I can get my hands free here, I shall prepare a consignment for the
London market. I do hope that will pay! You are an Englishman, Mr.
Bone—what is your opinion of the chances of a trade in Australian
With the confidence of utter ignorance, Lord Thomas assured her
that there was a splendid opening. He knew people—heaps of people—who
would snap it up gladly; and proposed to himself to be her purveyor to
those people, comprising all the De Bohuns and his numerous lady
"Oh, I am so thankful to hear you say that!" Miss Kemp ejaculated,
with a heave of the chest. "You see wool is down, and cattle selling
for nothing and the value of places like this dropped to less than what
they are mortgaged for; therefore something must be done. I've begun
with honey, so I want to go on with it. I can increase to any extent,
if I can only get a regular and paying market."
He was oddly touched, and more interested and amused than he had
ever been in his life, to see a pretty girl regarding her destiny from
such a point of view. It was something quite out of his experience. She
really wanted to work, and not to flirt—to do something for men,
instead of being done for by them. And yet there was nothing of the new
woman about her. She was sweetly old-fashioned.
For instance, it gave her a visible shock to learn, in the course
of miscellaneous conversation, that he had a baby ten months old and
had left it behind in England.
"What!" she exclaimed tragically, "without either father or mother
to look after it?"
"Oh," said he, "there are plenty of people to look after it."
"Who will—who could—like its own parents?"
"Well, you wouldn't have a fellow travel about the world with a
nursery in his train—now would you?"
"I don't know how you can travel, under such circumstances."
He thought this very funny. And yet he liked it. Lady Thomas the
first had detested children; Lady Thomas the second, a mother for a
day, had shown no feeling for them. This girl's evident concern for his
virtual orphan—who, as she said, might die of croup or convulsions
without his knowing it, while he idly gadded about like an
irresponsible bachelor—struck him as very interesting. She asked
questions about it in an earnest way, and made him feel quite fatherly
and serious. He wondered if the poor little brat was really being cared
for properly, and determined to make strict inquiries by the next mail.
Conversation was not allowed to hinder business. While she talked
in this friendly, human fashion, Miss Kemp worked as he had never seen
a lady work before, as he had never worked himself since he was born.
With a frame of comb in one hand, and in the other a big knife, kept
hot in a tin of water standing on an oil-fed flame, she sheared off the
capsules from the cells that had been filled and closed, leaving those
that had bees in them, with the rapidity and dexterity of a performing
conjuror. Then she dropped the frames into the wheel arrangement inside
the extractor, and turned the handle violently—no, he turned it for
her while she prepared more frames, full ones for the machine and empty
ones for the tin box, and cleared up the shreds of wax, and so on. She
had no regard for attitudes, nor for the state of her complexion, and
it was clearly evident that she valued Lord Thomas for his services and
not for himself. He had never been in such a position since he was a
fag at school; in relation to a woman, never. It chagrined him a
little, but pleased him much. He determined to remain Mr. Bone for the
Called to breakfast, he made the acquaintance of just such a
hostess as he had expected—a faded woman, with a refined face and
voice, English born, and homesick for her own country. He exercised
upon her that art of pleasing, of which he was a master, and she was so
charmed with him that she begged him to stay a little, not to run away
immediately, unless bored by the dulness of the place. Her husband
abetted her, with the unquestioning hospitality of the bush, which asks
no more of a guest than that he shall know how to behave himself.
"And I'll show you all my improvements," said Mr. Kemp. "A good
deal more than you could run through in an hour or two, or even in a
"Thanks, thanks," Lord Thomas murmured. "Just at present I am more
interested in the honey industry than in anything else. I intend to
keep bees myself when I get back, and it is a great chance for me to
see all the working of the thing as it is done here. Er—er—how clear
and beautiful that is!" He looked at a dish containing a square block
of honey in the comb, neatly removed from the wooden frame it was made
in. Letty hastened to pass it to him.
"Isn't it?" she crooned, surveying it with a maternal air. "And
this is what I get only threepence for in the local market! I can't but
think there must be ways of exporting it in sections, with careful
packing. Don't you think if it could be brought on English breakfast
tables in the comb like this there would be a great demand for it? I am
sure they haven't honey to surpass our honey."
Lord Thomas was equally sure of it—convinced, indeed, that
benighted England never tasted anything like it in its life. Mrs. Kemp
smiled a superior British smile. Mr. Kemp pooh-poohed the fuss his
daughter made over comparative trifles. What was honey, as a topic of
interest for an Englishman anxious to improve his mind, compared with
ensilage, and irrigation, and six-furrow ploughs?
For two precious hours Lord Thomas found himself obliged to attend
to these latter subjects with what interest he could muster, and he
only got away from them so soon by force of misleading insinuations to
the effect that bees were his natural hobby and bee-keeping his
proposed profession. At eleven o'clock he resumed his sticky apron and
gloves, his old coat and his veiled old hat, with more delight than he
had ever taken in clothes before—ridiculous as it seemed, even to
himself—and rushed to the heated and messy honey-house as he had never
rushed to a royal garden party.
Letty's hot face lighted up at sight of him. Beads of perspiration
lay like dew under her clear eyes and over her pretty lips, but she
cared not, neither did he. This sort of thing did not spoil the effect,
"Oh, how good of you!" she exclaimed. And at once she set him to
work. He buckled to with might and main, as if his life and hers
depended on the amount of honey they could extract in a given time.
They had two hours together, talking while they worked, growing better
friends every minute.
"Labour-saving machines," said she, still harping on the one
string, "are splendid, I know; but they run away with money when there
isn't any money. My plan is just the opposite of father's. It mightn't
be such good economy in other circumstances, but as things are it is my
idea of economy. I don't know what you think."
He told her what he thought, and she told him it was beside the
point. So it was. So he wanted it to be. Hard as he worked at the
handle of the extractor, he worked still harder at trying to change the
subject. But, though she might be led aside a step or two, she could
not be wholly drawn from it.
It was worse after lunch. She said to him, with the firm air of a
general directing military manoeuvres, "Now you know all that is to be
done in the house, so you can attend to that while I am changing the
frames in the hives. Oh, never mind the box; I can carry it quite
easily. And we shall get on twice as fast."
He found he had to do it—the uncapping with the hot knife, and all
the rest of it—while she went back and forth outside. It was a long
afternoon, and the little shed was stifling. The perspiration poured
from his brow and trickled down his neck as he strained every nerve to
be ready for her each time she brought the full box in. And his wages
were next to nothing.
But at last the sun went down, and his long struggle to get the
better of his rivals seemed over. They came straggling home in the
golden twilight to their well-earned rest, and Letty Kemp prepared to
follow their example when it was too dark to work any more.
"There," said she, with a sigh of utter weariness and satisfaction,
"we have done well, haven't we? I can't tell you how much obliged to
you I am, Mr. Bone."
Suddenly he felt tired of being Mr. Bone and a casual labourer, so
he said awkwardly, "Er—er—I think you haven't got my name quite
correctly. It is De Bohun—Thomas de Bohun."
"Oh, I beg pardon," she returned, in an airy manner; and he
perceived that she was not enlightened. "You know, Mr. de Bohun, there
is a little talk and movement about eucalyptus honey just now. Some
chemist people at home have been praising its medicinal properties. And
it is everything in these cases to strike while the iron is hot."
"Ye—es," drawled Lord Thomas absent-mindedly. Actually she had
been so absorbed in those blessed bees as not to have heard of him in
his proper character.
They took off their sticky overalls and returned to the house to
prepare for the evening meal. And when Miss Kemp came downstairs,
washed and brushed, in a pale-blue frock, a white muslin fichu, and a
rose, Lord Thomas thought her beautiful. Yes, in spite of freckles and
a turned-up nose. Never had he seen in woman's shape such pure health
and such an absence of self-consciousness. Of all the charming
novelties surrounding him, these were the most charming.
"I suppose she's too busy to notice what a sweet creature she is,"
he thought, as he sat down to the juicy slice of mutton for which he
had earned so keen an appetite. And he anticipated with joy the leisure
hours he now expected to spend with her, undisturbed by bees, in the
somewhat threadbare drawing-room.
All went thither together at the conclusion of the meal—the
comfortable tea-dinner of the bush. Mr. Kemp, desiring to talk ploughs
and ensilage, proposed a smoke. His guest, yearning for tobacco, aching
in every limb, declined. Mrs. Kemp sent her daughter to the piano, and
Letty played—admirably Lord Thomas thought—the intermezzo from
Cavalleria, and a few things of that sort; and while he tried to
listen, and to feed his sense of the girl's many-sided excellence, his
hostess babbled about London as she remembered it, and wanted a
thousand and one details of the dear city as it was now. During a
laborious description of the Thames Embankment, Letty rose from the
music-stool, and softly moved about the room. Her admirer flattered
himself that she was listening to him, but was shortly undeceived. She
vanished at a moment when his face was turned from the door, and never
"Does she actually leave me!" he dumbly groaned. "Is she so lost to
all the feelings of her sex as to imagine that I won't miss her while I
have this old woman to talk to?" It was enough to drive any titled
gentleman to extremities.
Soon he was hunting the dim verandahs round and round, in search of
the fugitive. He explored the passages of the house; he walked about
the garden, smelling so strongly of orange blossom, in the pure night
air; and he used bad language under his breath. At last he was drawn to
a light shining like a thread of incandescent wire through a certain
outhouse door. He lifted the latch and looked in.
There she was. Kneeling on a piece of sacking in the middle of the
floor, with her blue skirt pinned up round her waist under a large
apron, and with all the mess of a station workshop and lumber-shed
around her, she was busily engaged in painting her brand on honey tins.
A kerosene lamp shed effective rays on her dainty figure, her fair,
clear skin, her shining chestnut hair. In short, Lord Thomas stood and
looked at her, fascinated. Of the thousands of pretty women that he had
admired in his time, not one had ever appeared to such advantage in the
matter of background and grouping. Yet he protested at the sight.
"Oh, I say! Haven't you done enough work for one day, Miss Kemp?
Are you trying to kill yourself?"
She looked up at him with a laugh; and her eyes, focussing the
light, were like stars in the grubby gloom.
"Oh, I beg your pardon, Mr. de Bohun! I thought as you were talking
to mother, you would not notice if I slipped away for half an hour."
"Did you?" said Lord Thomas, entering and shutting the door behind
"I want so badly to get my consignment away next week. And I
thought if I painted the tins to-night, they would be dry for packing
in the morning."
She continued to dab her black brush upon a slip of perforated
zinc, but her quick hand became slightly unsteady, and she blushed
visibly, even in that bad light. The fact was that Lord Thomas—not as
Lord Thomas, but as a man—was a delightful fellow, and it was not in
nature that a healthy, heart-whole girl could spend a long and intimate
day with him without being more or less affected in the usual way. As
yet her bees were of more consequence than lovers—he was resentfully
aware of it—but that did not prevent her feeling hourly more conscious
that toil was sweetened by his participation therein. She was pleased
that he had found her. She was more pleased when he took the black
brush from her, asked leave to remove his coat, turned up his cuffs,
and began to paint honey tins himself.
"I am not a very practised hand at this sort of thing," he
confessed. "You must tell me if I don't do it right."
"You are quite as practised at that as I am at looking on while
others do my work," she replied.
"So I suppose," he rejoined thoughtfully.
They had a happy hour, unmolested by the parents, who never
supposed that their practical Letty could lend herself to foolishness.
Lord Thomas painted all the tins successfully. He could not well go
wrong while she held the lettered label straight. Their two heads were
within an inch of touching as they bent over their job; a handkerchief
might have covered their four hands while the branding was in process.
They looked at each other's fingers continually.
"Mine," said Letty, "are quite rough compared with yours. I don't
think I ever saw such beautiful nails. It's my belief you never did a
stroke of work in your life until you came here."
"Well," said Lord Thomas, colouring a little, "I am afraid I
haven't done much. You make me awfully ashamed of myself, Miss Kemp."
They fell into serious talk at this stage—the first serious talk
Lord Thomas had ever had with a young lady, all his experiences
"I wish," he abruptly remarked, "you'd teach me to be as useful as
you are." There was much feeling in his voice.
She seemed to think the matter over. Then she asked him when he
intended to return home. He said he was not sure.
"Soon, I suppose?"
"Oh, I suppose so."
"You must go soon," she urged. "You must, for the sake of that poor
baby, left to the tender mercies of hired people."
"Well," he said, "I will."
"Then you will have an opportunity to be very, very useful. You can
look after my honey for me in London—oh!"
He flung the paint-brush into the pot.
"I suppose it is useless," he exclaimed, through grinding teeth,
"to expect you to care a straw for anything except honey and bees!"
There were but two courses open to a self-respecting man, titled or
otherwise—to make her do it, or die in the attempt.
She is Her Grace the Duchess now. And an excellent duchess into the
bargain. The smart folks laugh at her for not "knowing her way about,"
but the duke does not. He thoroughly realizes that she knows it better
than they do. When, as a surprise present to her, he established a
magnificent apiary in the castle grounds, and then found she did not
care for it, he was a little disappointed; but he soon woke to the fact
that bees had been merely the make-shift of circumstance until worthier
objects for the exercise of her splendid abilities were provided. With
great households to administer and young dukes to rear—not to speak of
a thousand matters of more public moment—she advisedly transferred her
interest in honey to the wives of her husband's tenants.
"But they will never make honey like mine," she says, shaking her
coroneted head. "It wants the taste of the eucalyptus in it."