was puzzled very much by a strange murmuring noise, which followed them all the way. So much puzzled, that at last he took courage to ask the keeper what it was.
He spoke very civilly, and called him Sir, for he was horribly afraid of him, which pleased the keeper, and he told him that they were the bees about the lime flowers.
“What are bees?” asked Tom.
“What make honey.”
“What is honey?” asked Tom.
“Thou hold thy noise,” said Grimes.
“Let the boy be,” said the keeper. “He’s a civil young chap now, and that’s more than he’ll be long if he bides with thee.”
Grimes laughed, for he took that for a compliment.
“I wish I were a keeper,” said Tom, “to live in such a beautiful place, and wear green velveteens, and have a real dog-whistle at my button, like you.”
The keeper laughed; he was a kind-hearted fellow enough.
“Let well alone, lad, and ill too at times. Thy life’s safer than mine at all events, eh, Mr. Grimes?”
And Grimes laughed again, and then the two men began talking, quite low. Tom could hear, though, that it was about some poaching fight; and at last Grimes said surlily, “Hast thou anything against me?”
“Then don’t ask me any questions till thou hast, for I am a man of honour.”
And at that they both laughed again, and thought it a very good joke.
And by this time they were come up to the great iron gates in front of the house; and Tom stared through them at the rhododendrons and azaleas, which were all in flower; and then at the house itself, and wondered how many chimneys there were in it, and how long ago it was built, and what was the man’s name that built it, and whether he got much money for his job?
These last were very difficult questions to answer. For Harthover had been built at ninety different times, and in nineteen different styles, and looked as if somebody had built a whole street of houses of every imaginable shape, and then stirred them together with a spoon.