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Mysteries

I THOUGHT he might have answered my questions, but, without knowing why, I started off on an excursion, and surprised myself at feeling so much stronger. At least I could scamper along without swaying and staggering and clutching at every bee and thing I met. I began to feel brave and big. As I went forward I encountered a stream of workers.

They were humming a home-coming song as they hurried up the combs to deposit their loads of honey. I overheard some of them saying that the dark had dropped on them suddenly out of a cloud and that rain had begun to fall. I could not then understand what terrors were couched in these words rain and darkness else I might better have appreciated the thanksgiving hymn which these late-returning, raindraggled workers were uttering. In days to come I was to learn what danger meant, for more than once I, too, was forced to flee before a storm in the growing blackness, bearing a load almost too much for my wings; and to spend a night in the woods, hiding as best I might under a leaf, and quaking at the nameless fears that beat about me in the gloom. There was no comfort even in the tiny lights that glowed over my head, nor in the small voices that called to me in the night. It was not fear that I should be lost that oppressed me, but that the load I had gathered with so much travail should never reach the storehouse upon which the life of the colony depended, for food was necessary to life. And life? I knew naught of it. But was it consciousness of imperative duty that made me shake in every passing wind? Even to this day my own life has given me no concern. I scarcely know that I have any interest in living, apart from serving, apart from the lives of these, my little brothers. I noticed as I moved onward that the workers brought home no pollen. Their baskets were empty. I thought this strange and inquired about it, learning that the flowers yield pollen more freely in the morning; that the sun, wind, and insects tend to dissipate it, and that, therefore, bread was largely gathered in the early hours. I also learned that as a food it was far less important than honey; and that honey, too, was more abundant when the day was young. I knew that the incoming hordes were now laden with honey, and instinctively where it was carried, for my own sac was still stuffed nearly to bursting. On I went without thinking, at each turn facing laden and singing workers. It never occurred to me that my progress would eventually lead me to the door of the hive, which was the boundary between my home and the wide universe that spread away to the stars. Many things there were that stopped me on the way. The last laden workers had passed, and I found myself still wandering on. The night song of the hive was already submerging the hymn of the late-arriving workers; but the two were strangely commingling, the one flowing into the other, even as the shades of twilight merge with the dark.

A mysterious feeling was creeping over me. I felt as though something imponderable was pressing upon me. Suddenly a whiff of air dashed in my face and I stopped, stricken with an indefinable fear. Then, the reassuring ' note of the guards at the door brought again my courage, and boldly I walked out into the night. Several of the guards ran up to me, smelling me strangely, then let me pass. I must have been wandering as in a trance; all around me the night lay black and the soft wind shook my wings, and the little stars seemed hanging just over my head. I was seized with a wild desire to try my wings, to fly into the beckoning unknown. But my wings could not lift me, and happily one of the guards, seeing me approach too near the edge of the alighting-board, cautioned me and suggested my going back into the hive. As I turned in I cast one long look back into the great black space that lay outside, and wondered and wondered. Overhead the sprinkled lights, like flowers in the gardens of heaven, leaned a little wistfully toward the earth; and near, ever so near it seemed, a wonderfully bright light shone, calling me to fly into its embrace. "What is that?" I asked of the gentle guard. "The Master's lamp," he said.

The Master's lamp! What might that be? But I asked no more questions. There was too much of mystery around me. I clambered over the combs as rapidly as I might, back to my cell; but even there it was a long time before I slept, so spellbound was I, so stirred to the depths. Vast harmonies seemed athrob in the outer world, and one dim undercurrent of tone, the night song of my hive, ebbed and flowed ceaselessly around me. Gradually I seemed to lose my identity and to merge with the spirit of the things about me. In a flash I felt that I was no longer just a helpless little bee, floating about in the maze of life, intent on my own purposes, bound no whither, owning no duties and driven by no destinies. Up to the moment I had given no concern to things beyond dipping into honeycells for food, to exploring the house in which I found myself, to groping about with eyes wide and ears that missed no sound. But now I had been shaken with new desires. I seemed to have climbed out of myself, even as I had crawled out of my cell on that other day, now but a memory so far away it seemed. My thoughts, my activities, my soul were no longer my own they belonged to my little brothers buzzing in the alcoves or busy with endless tasks which I seemed to know without knowing.

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