TITLE: The Midnight Queen
Gray toiled in the hot afternoon sun, on his knees among the rhododendrons, for what might have been a month. Beautiful though Callender Hall's gardens might be, he was beginning to conceive a passionate hatred of them, and of flowering shrubs in particular. Bewildered and far from all he knew, sweaty and desperately thirsty -- eyes stinging, knees stiff, hands scratched and sore -- he had rarely felt so thoroughly miserable.
He had just begun to think, implausibly, how much pleasanter going home for the Long Vacation might have been -- as though there had been any choice -- when, glancing up, he saw the girl.
She was of middling height, straight and slim; she wore a plain gown, sturdy boots and a man's straw sunhat, battered and overlarge. From a distance, her determined stride reminded Gray forcefully of his sister Jenny -- of late, his only ally in the family.
The girl stopped in front of Gray. After a moment during which he stared blearily at her skirts, she dropped to her knees in the grass, bringing her face level with his. A faint breath of lavender and rosemary briefly displaced the overpowering scent of compost.
"You do look most dreadfully tired," she said, and he blinked at her: was this the manner of Petite-Bretagne, then, for young girls to speak so casually to strangers? Well, and he had often enough heard his tutor call it backward and uncivilized …
"I beg you will come indoors and have a drink," the girl went on; "else you shall certainly collapse into the shrubbery. And the Professor, you know, is most particular about his rhododendrons."