The discovery excited us so that we forgot our miseries. The bear's skin and the state bounty would be worth sixteen dollars. As Willis's gun was useless, we concluded that the thing for us to do was to run home--if we could find the way--and get assistance.
We had scarcely left the barn when we saw two men come out of the woods. One of them had a gun. As they drew nearer, we perceived that the foremost was Willis's older brother, Ben Murch, and the other John's father.
"They're hunting for us! Now don't you tell them we got lost!" said Willis, with the guile so apt to develop in a boy who has older brothers who tease him.
"But we did," said John.
"If you tell them I'll lick you!" exclaimed Willis. "Make them believe we've been guarding this bear!"
John and I did not know what to think of so glaring a deception; but Willis did the talking; and when Ben called out to demand why in the world we had not come home, Willis shouted:
"We've got a big bear under the barn! He's ours, and we are afraid he'll get away!"
Neither Ben nor Mr. Eastman asked us another question, but hastened to see the bear. A plank was pulled up, and then Ben shot the beast at short range. It did not even growl.
They made a rude sled of saplings, of the kind known to hunters as a "scoot," and drew the bear home; and from the vainglorious talk of Willis one might have thought us the three most valiant lads that ever ranged the forest! John and I said little. It was rather fine to be considered heroes, who would not leave a bear even to go home to a Thanksgiving dinner; but I am glad to remember that we did not feel quite right about it; and soon afterward John and I revealed the true state of things to our folks at home.
The Murches claimed the lion's share of the spoils, but gave John and me a dollar apiece; and I recollect that I had a very bad cold for a week. Sam's cut foot healed promptly. It was dressed three times with powder-post, and showed no sign or symptoms of "proud flesh."
THE QUEEN BEE
By Carl Ewald
The farmer opened his hive. "Off with you!" he said to the Bees.
"The sun is shining, and everywhere the flowers are coming out, so that it is a joy to see them. Get to work, and gather a good lot of honey for me to sell to the shopkeeper in the autumn. 'Many a streamlet makes a river,' and you know these are bad times for farmers."
"What does that matter to us?" said the Bees. But all the same they flew out; for they had been sitting all the winter in the hive, and they longed for a breath of fresh air. They hummed and buzzed, they stretched their legs, they tried their wings. They swarmed out in all directions; they crawled up and down the hive; they flew off to the flowers and bushes, or wandered all around on the ground. There were hundreds and hundreds of them.
Last of all came the Queen. She was bigger than the others, and it was she who ruled the hive. "Stop your nonsense, little children,"
she said, "and set to work and do something. A good Bee does not idle, but turns to with a will and makes good use of its time."
So she divided them into parties and set them to work. "You over there, fly out and see if there is any honey in the flowers. The others can collect flower-dust, and when you come home give it in smartly to the old Bees in the hive."
Away they flew at once. But all the very young ones stayed behind.
They made the last party, for they had never been out with the others. "What are _we_ to do?" they asked.
"You! you must perspire," said the Queen. "One, two, three! Then we can begin our work." And they perspired as well as they had learned to, and the prettiest yellow wax came out of their bodies.
"Good!" said the Queen. "Now we will begin to build." The old Bees took the wax, and began to build a number of little six-sided cells, all alike and close up to one another. All the time they were building, the others came flying in with flower-dust and honey, which they laid at the Queen's feet.
"We can now knead the dough," she said. "But first put a little honey in--that makes it taste so much better." They kneaded and kneaded, and before very long they had made some pretty little loaves of Bee bread, which they carried into the cells. "Now let us go on with the building," commanded the Queen Bee, and they perspired wax and built for all they were worth.
"And now _my_ work begins," said the Queen, and she heaved a deep sigh; for her work was the hardest work of all. She sat down in the middle of the hive and began to lay her eggs. She laid great heaps of them, and the Bees were kept very busy running with the little eggs in their mouths and carrying them into the new cells.
Each egg had a little cell to itself; and when they had all been put in their places, the Queen gave orders to fix doors to all the cells and shut them fast.
"Good!" she said, when this was done. "I want you now to build me ten fine big rooms in the out-of-the-way parts of the hive."
The Bees had them ready in no time, and then the Queen laid ten pretty eggs, one in each of the big rooms, and the doors were fixed as before. Every day the Bees flew in and out, gathering great heaps of honey and flower-dust; but in the evening, when their work was done, they would open the doors just a crack and have a peep at the eggs.
"Take care," the Queen said one day. "They are coming!" And all the eggs burst at once, and in every cell lay a pretty little Bee Baby.
"What funny creatures!" said the young Bees. "They have no eyes, and where are their legs and wings?"
"They are Grubs," said the Queen. "You simpletons looked just like that yourselves once upon a time. One must be a Grub before one can become a Bee. Be quick now, and give them something to eat." The Bees bestirred themselves to feed the little ones, but they were not equally kind to them all. The ten, however, that lay in the large cells got as much to eat as ever they wanted, and every day a great quantity of honey was carried in to them.
"They are Princesses," said the Queen, "so you must treat them well. The others you can stint; they are only working people, and they must accustom themselves to be content with what they can get." And every morning the poor little wretches got a little piece of Bee bread and nothing more, and with that they had to be satisfied, though they were ever so hungry.
In one of the little six-sided cells close by the Princesses'
chambers lay a little tiny Grub. She was the youngest of them all, and only just come out of the egg. She could not see, but she could plainly hear the grown-up Bees talking outside, and for a while she lay quite still and kept her thoughts to herself. All at once she said out loud, "I could eat a little more," and she knocked at her door.
"You have had enough for to-day," answered the old Bee who was appointed to be head Bee Nurse, creeping up and down in the passage outside.
"Maybe, but I am hungry!" shouted the little Grub. "I will go into one of the Princesses' chambers; I have not room to stir here."
"Just listen to her!" said the old Bee mockingly. "One would think by the demands she makes that she was a fine little Princess. You are born to toil and drudge, my little friend. You are a mere working Bee, and you will never be anything else all your days."
"But I want to be Queen!" cried the Grub, and thumped on the door.
Of course the old Bee did not answer such nonsense, but went on to the others. From every side they were calling out for more food, and the little Grub could hear it all.
"It is hard, though," she thought, "that we should have to be so hungry." And then she knocked on the Princess' wall and called to her, "Give me a little of your honey. Let me come into your chamber. I am lying here so hungry, and I am just as good as you."
"Are you? Just you wait till I am a reigning Queen," said the Princess. "You may be sure that when that time comes I shall not forget your impertinence." But she had scarcely said this before the other Princesses began to cry out in the most dreadful manner.
"_You_'re not going to be Queen! _I_ shall be Queen!
_I_ shall be Queen!" they shrieked all together, and they began to knock on the walls and make a frightful disturbance.
The head Bee Nurse came running up in an instant and opened the doors. "What are your graces' orders?" she asked, dropping a curtsy and scraping the ground with her feet.
"More honey!" they shouted, all in one voice. "But me first--me first. I am the one who is to be queen."
"In a moment, in a moment, your graces," she answered, and ran off as fast as her six legs could carry her. She soon came back with many other Bees. They were dragging ever so much honey, which they crammed down the cross little Princesses' throats. And then they got them to hold their tongues and lie still and rest.
But the little Grub lay awake, thinking over what had happened. She longed so much for some honey that she began to shake the door again. "Give me some honey! I can't stand it any longer. I am just as good as the others."
The old Bee tried to hush her. "Hold your tongue, little bawler!
The Queen's coming." And at the same moment the Queen Bee came.
"Go your ways," she said to the Bees; "I wish to be alone."
For a long time she stood in silence before the Princesses'
chambers. "Now they are lying there asleep," she said at last.
"From morning till evening they do nothing but eat and sleep, and they grow bigger and fatter every day. In a few days they will be full grown, and will creep out of their cells. Then my turn will be over. I know that too well. I have heard the Bees saying to one another that they would like to have a younger and more beautiful Queen, and they will chase me away in disgrace. But I will not submit to it. To-morrow I will kill them all; then I can remain Queen till I die."
Then she went away. But the little Grub had heard all she said.
"Dear me!" she thought; "it is really a pity about the little Princesses. They are certainly very uppish, and they have not been nice to me, but still it would be sad if the wicked Queen killed them. I think I will tell the old growler outside in the passage all about it."