ON the earlier occasion of the loss of the Queen there had been a brief spasm of despair; but it had yielded, for the possibility of rearing another rose uppermost. Now that possibility had vanished. There was absolutely no hope. Death stalked abroad, and one by one, the eldest first, the bees would go to their doom. There were no young bees to take their places, nothing but dust and darkness.
Several days passed, when one morning a great cry rang through the hive that eggs had been found and that queen-cells had been started. It was a strange and pathetic mystery, for we knew that we had no Queen, and yet exulted over the finding of eggs.
Still hoping beyond hope, we tried to create a Queen from the eggs all in vain. The eggs we now found deposited freely one, two, or half-a-dozen in a cell were the eggs of an impostor, a would-be Queen, called a fertile worker.
Strangely enough, too, we began to work in a halfhearted way, gathering honey, feeding the brood of the impostor, and yet we knew or seemed to know that there would emerge but worthless drones. Hope still lingered in our hearts, but daily it grew more faint until despair overcame us.
One morning Crip and I were brooding over our affairs when we saw the Master and his Shadow approaching. They stopped near us.
"Something has happened," said the Master; "something is wrong. We do not need the smoker. Here, son, lend me a hand!"
"A fertile worker an impostor!" he exclaimed, on lifting up a frame from the brood-chamber. "See those eggs dropped haphazard! A Queen never does that." "Why, there are six in one cell!" cried the Shadow. "Run, son, and bring me that Italian Queen in the new cage."
In a few minutes the cry of a Queen rang through the hive. Crip and I flew toward it, and presently paused beside the trap which contained a most beautiful Queen. But she was not our Queen, and now a riot was started. "Kill her kill her!" broke on all sides. While Crip and I took no part, we entered no protest we stood almost alone.
Over the cage, biting and clawing, a mob of bees, incited partly by the impostor, endeavored to reach the royal personage. They meant to kill her; first, because she was not of our tribe ; secondly, because the impostor had come to own an ascendency over the colony. It was a strange fate, as Crip explained, that we should cling to an impostor and die rather than bring an alien to reign over us. But Crip and I were thinking, and so were many of our little brothers. Crip, on occasion, now gave her food through the wire screen; while I found it convenient to hang about the place. In the mean time the impostor spread her vile brood over the hive, and kept up her conspiracy against the Queen the Master had given us.
Several days passed, and the Master, returning, found what he thought a reconciliation. He opened the cage and out walked the most beautiful Queen I had ever seen, except my own Queen-Mother. Instantly, however, a troop of hostile bees, evidently led by the impostor, fell upon her, and in a moment she was in the center of a "ball" and being slowly crushed to death.
The Master was watching, however, and quickly rescued her and restored her to the cage.
"They are not ready to receive her, son," he said.
"In fact, unless we can destroy the fertile worker, that horrid impostor, we may not succeed."
"I've been thinking," said Crip, to me that night as we stood by the cage and listened to the regal call of the Queen, "that I shall fight the first bee that comes near her."
"And so shall I."
Crip had just given her some honey, and was standing near her on the screen when an ugly bee, unusually large, came up and caught hold of one of her legs which had protruded through the meshes of the cage. He laid hold of it and pulled it with all his might, and the Queen began to cry with pain, when Crip rushed to the rescue.
A terrific battle ensued. I tried to help, and did seize the vicious bee by one wing, only to be kicked off- But Crip had grappled him in his vise-like mandibles, and I saw it was a battle to the death. Over and over they whirled, finally to fall to the bottom of the hive still fighting. I followed as fast as I might, and when I reached where they lay they had ceased to struggle both were dead.
A lance wound in his heart had finished my beloved friend.
"Crip Crip!" I cried aloud; but got no answer. One little foot moved a few times, then was still. Almost simultaneously an alarm sounded. The impostor had disappeared.
I shook with an unrestrained emotion. "We are saved," I thought.
"Where is our Queen? The Queen is gone!" they called.
A wild rush of bees set the hive in pandemonium.
Finally one began to cry: "Here she is she is dead."
"Dead dead!" rose loud over the place.
They were wailing over the lifeless body of the impostor, while I stood broken-hearted beside my Crip, who, at the sacrifice of his life, had redeemed that of the colony.