TWO days later the Master came and opened the door of the cage, and the new Queen he had brought walked boldly out on the combs, to be wildly acclaimed, " Mother!"
The hostility which had been displayed toward her had totally disappeared, and in its place had come affection. The death of the impostor had wrought a profound revolution, and everywhere my poor Crip was proclaimed a hero. Within the space of an hour every egg and every young bee which the impostor had left was dragged out and cast to the ants; and almost at once the new Queen began to deposit eggs of her kind, and the hymn of rejoicing that welled up in that hive of many calamities cannot well be imagined. I think that I more than any other was moved to the bottom of my being. It is not possible for me to express the loneliness which came over me at thought of Crip's death. We had been such dear companions, and he had been so kind and wise.
When another day had dawned and the sun had sufficiently warmed the air, I went into the fields with the rest, but I seemed to wander as in a dream. All the while the desire possessed me to fly farther and farther away. Had I, too, lived out my period of usefulness? But Crip said that I had not, and I acted in this faith. On my next excursion into the fields I felt a tremor in the air such as I remembered from another time, when the storm had broken. Black clouds, too, loomed on the horizon and little snake-like flames crawled in and out among them. This time I was not so eager to secure a load, and made off with all possible speed. Scarcely had I reached home when the rain began to fall in sheets and the thunder rattled frightfully. In a little while it was over; the sky was clear, but a dreadful wind from the north blew like a hurricane and it grew cold. By the next day it was so cold that we formed a cluster about the brood in order to keep it warm. We, too, were cold, and not a bee ventured from the hive.
Three days passed ere it was warm enough for us to look outside; and when I saw the world again, truly I was shocked. Everything was black and bare. "The frost has fallen, not a flower remains alive," mournfully exclaimed one of the nurses.
This was surely the winter of which I had heard so much. Happily, the Master came to our assistance by closing the door of our house, leaving but the smallest hole for our passage. This helped greatly in the matter of our keeping warm when the northers swooped upon us. The season now alternated between moderately warm days and biting weeks of cold. On all days fit for flight, we sailed into the air for exercise and for the care of our bodies.
Close, close to one another we packed during the cold days and nights, and in this way generated enough heat to keep the hive warm and habitable. Life was monotonous. We were limited in our activities to caring for the brood and to policing the hive. There was little enough to do on the latter score, save on warm days. Then we searched out every nook and corner to see that the moth had not entered, for she was the mother of the web-worms, and I, for one, had the utmost respect for them. Sometimes harmless beetles were found, and, much as we hated to send them into the cold, we felt it must be done. Sometimes they went peacefully, but often enough we were compelled to drag them bodily forth and occasionally we were forced to destroy them.
And so the days ran on. As for me, I employed them in meditation. What could be more conducive to reflection than the long, dark hours of quiet that reign in a winter-bound hive? Slowly, ever so slowly, I neared the end of my task.
And now I have come to the end. There remains only to tell what these last days held for me. Already the winter has gone and I am ready. Even as poor Buzz-Buzz, I feel that my labors are done. I am old and worn and need to make way for the young life which is already singing about me. The Queen- Mother, aware of conditions, has been scattering her brood over wide spaces, and already young bees, flapping their wings frantically, are stumbling over the combs, and hundreds more of them soon will be waiting for the signal to go into the fields. Eagerly will they try their first wings and eagerly will they gather from the flowers the pollen and honey that unfailingly come with the spring.
Even as I even as a hundred thousand generations before me will they marvel at the mysteries that surround them, but, undaunted and undismayed, they will fly into the face of the sun or struggle in the teeth of the hurricane! It is youth that knows no danger, that brooks no defeat, that pursues, that conquers. It is youth that constructs, that hopes, that achieves youth that charges the heavens with glory! Crip was right. Now age has torn my wings and rendered my body nearly useless. While I am still alive, I am among the dying but, dying, I shall live again.
February has come and already the grass is green and the yellow catclaw-buds are bursting. The great tree that stands hard by is a-bloom. The alarm has been sounded, and out into the world the bees fly by tens and hundreds. I, too, cannot resist the call and rise into the air, driving toward a place I well remember. Sheltered from the north wind and exposed to the sun, a little slope lies dotted with daisies. In its midst a catclaw-tree sways like a golden ball in the breeze, and about it hum a score of bees. I, too, gather my load and wend my way homeward, but at heart I am weary. I had imagined that I alone knew of this particular spot. Alas! there are no secrets. Flying out again, I took another course one which led me over the Master's cottage. There he was in his garden, pondering his roses. Round him I circled twice, thrice, until, perceiving me, he followed me with his eyes until I passed from his vision.
Then on I went to the place of the sunflowers, but where once had been beautiful blossoms the green grass waved in triumph.
It seemed to me that a never-ending night followed this excursion. I rested little or none ; back and forth I raced from end to end of the hive, and from the entrance to my cell, which I had not forgotten. I passed and re-passed the Queen-Mother at her tasks, touching her reverently as one might touch the garment of a saint. At length the gray light broke along the horizon and gleams of color pierced the low-lying clouds. My time had come. I felt the call, and there was no denying the command.
For a moment I seemed in a maze. Round and round I turned, like a child lost in the wilderness, then made straight for the entrance, where already a few of the hardier and younger workers were assembled, waiting for the light. How restless they seemed ; how they longed to be off in the world; how alluring the unattained; how fascinating the great adventure of life ! As best I might, I have told my story, and here it must end. I have striven; I have dreamed; and as far as ever it comes to God's creatures, I have been HAPPY. Farewell !