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Crip

SCARCELY were we risen in the air when I discovered the Master walking near my home. I seemed to know instinctively that he was our Master. Towering into the air and walking with such majestic tread, he filled me with wonder and admiration. Nor was I less interested in the Little One that ran at his heels. Stories there were of these two, eddying about the hive of their kindness and also their malevolence. How mighty they appeared! I had seen them but once before. That picture was still vivid.

We were not long in reaching home. Without ceremony I lit on the board and instantly my friend was beside me. At the same moment a guard accosted him and seized him, recognizing him as an intruder. I interfered, but almost unavailingly, for the guard was about to sting him. The two of us escaped this guard only to be attacked by another, which we beat off, and hurriedly entered the hive. I was almost certain that yet others would question the stranger, and sure enough, we had barely got inside before another guard summarily attacked him. Poor fellow, with only five legs and tired from the combats of the day, he could make but a poor fight. Again I rescued him, and again we raced into the interior. And now, happily, our troubles were over. Without thinking, I made straight for my cell, with "Crip," as I began to call him, at my heels.

He seemed to realize that he was a stranger and that he owed his life to me, for he clung to me as closely as possible. He seemed to know, too, that the ground whereon I stood was sacred to me. He did not speak for a time, nor did I. We simply hung limp on the comb, and rested. He broke the silence:

"You have a wonderful colony, I can see. I hope I shall grow into it as though it were my own. Indeed, in a sense it is my own, for all bees are sprung from the same source, and the life of the bee is kept alive by us, each in his own cell. I know now that I shall grow into it. Listen to that voice! How long it is since I heard a Queen-Mother sing!"

I roused myself, somewhat confused. "Queen- Mother!" I stammered.

"Yes. Won't you take me to her?"

I hardly knew how to answer; I had never seen her myself, although I knew from Crip's story and from some unknown source that there was somewhere a reigning spirit. But my life had been so brief and I had already learned so many things, I said, as lightly as I might, "Let us go."

He seemed to know the way to her. He hobbled along as best he might on his five legs. He was now no longer suspected as an intruder, and we marched without interruption. Presently we climbed through a hole in a comb and came face to face with our Queen-Mother. I stopped, dazed, overcome by her serenity. The grace and magnificent proportions of her body and the fire of her eyes held me entranced. I shall not live long enough fitly to describe my emotions. There she was, queenly and wonderful, and yet simple as any one of us. She approached us and appeared to nod, as if to say, "I salute you, my children." Then she went on with her labors.

I turned to Crip. He was speechless. Immediately we started back to our cell, for it was henceforth to be his also.

"It is strange," he said. "I do not understand it. Life and death are in her keeping, and yet she knows it not. You and I don't count for much. We pass like the leaves, but life everlasting lingers in her body the very spirit of things ranges through her. But I am content with my insignificant place, to live my life, doing my duty from day to day."

I did not answer him. We fell silent as we made our way across the combs.

"Suppose we take a turn in the woods," he suddenly suggested, wheeling about and heading for the door.

"I have new bearings to get and you have new lands to explore."

"I supposed you knew this country," I ventured.

"I do, but the way to this new home of mine must be learned."

Out into the air we hurried, but he flew back and forth many times before our door. He wanted to make sure that he knew it; then, flying round and round in ever wider circles, we mounted with ecstasy into the higher reaches. Lake Espantoso, with its border of great oaks, lay below us like a bar of silver; and the Master's house stood like a sentinel beside the white hives which, row on row, spread beneath us in the sun. "That prominent knoll," said Crip, "is a thing to remember, if you are returning late and flying low. And remember, too, that in that window of the Master's house a lantern burns. This may sometimes be a guide. But, mark you, never fly into it, though you may be tempted. Better still, get in before it is too dark. Just there by that row of hives is a tree to remember. It is a glory in the spring with its yellow flowers, until the cutting ants get it. They clip off the leaves and blossoms. But it is an excellent landmark, nevertheless. And there's the Master," went on Crip, "and the Little One, and that horrid dog. That little boy sits by for hours while the great one labors with some of us. The horrid dog sleeps I'd like to sting him. Things will go wrong the Master sets them to rights. He seems to know everything ; and yet, when he took away some of our honey, in spite of our having vast stores of it, we fought him. The little he took harmed us not at all, and I suppose we fight him because our brothers have done so for centuries. But I talk too much."

After a rather long flight, and much interesting converse, we reached our door again. Crip's experience with the guard was still fresh in his mind, for he clung closely to me for protection. But the guard this time passed him without a word. He had acquired the scent and the note of the hive, and henceforth his life and all the energies of his body would be merged with that of the colony.

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