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The Awakening

MY name is "Happy" at least that is what the bees have always called me; and well I remember the first time I heard the word. I suppose I was joyfully flapping my wings at having emerged, white and feeble, but a living being, from the darkness of my cell, when I heard a queer, thin voice saying: "He [1] isn't a minute old, and yet what a fuss he's making with his wings ! Let's call him ' Happy ' !"

All around I could hear little noises of approval; any number of strange faces came hurrying to look me over; two or three actually jostled me, and one even drew his tongue across my face and for the first time I tasted honey. I found out afterward that this was the customary salutation to all newly-born bees. Of course I was too young to appreciate all they said and did, and I soon forgot the jubilation, for I happened, in my wanderings, upon a cell brimming with honey, and, without asking permission, I ate and ate until I could not hold another mouthful. Then a strange drowsiness seized me, and I scarcely knew which way to turn. But I fell in with what I afterward learned were nurse bees, and they took me in charge. Presently, hanging fast to the comb with my half-a-dozen legs, I fell asleep.

Wonderful things had happened in a very few minutes. It seemed to me, as I began to drowse and the light to fade, that once more I was falling asleep in my cell, whence I had so shortly emerged. The something that had awakened within me, that had caused me to turn round and round in my cell, and that had cried gently in my ear, "See the light cut your way through the door and live," sang me to sleep. When I awoke, for a moment I imagined I was still in my cell. I thought I could hear my neighbors, on all sides of me, biting at the wax doors that closed them in, and that I could see the thin, transparent shutters giving way before the eager heads which appeared in the doorways tiny, whitish-black heads, with huge eyes that slowly issued from the dungeonlike cells. I, too, unconsciously trying my mandibles, must have been biting on the combs about me, for presently I was stopped by an important-looking bee that cried, sharply, "What are you about, youngster?" He was rough to me, but I had learned that one must not bite the combs just for the pleasure of biting; it began to dawn on me that it cost infinite labor to build the thousands of little six-sided houses which, laid side by side, made up the combs of our hive. And almost before I knew it, I came to have vast respect for all the things I could see about me, for the things I felt lay out there in the unexplored depths of our home, and for the things which existed only in the consciousness of the colony.

I was still so young I walked but feebly; but everywhere I was greeted as a brother. Some of the little fellows climbed over me in their hurry; some of them, hustling about me, almost knocked me from the combs ; and one actually stopped me, mumbling something I could not understand; but his meaning was soon made clear. I suppose he said: " I see you are a novice; you have on your swaddlingclothes. This will never do. I must clean you up. " Whereat he proceeded, in spite of my protest, to lick me all over and to rub my legs and body, saying, "This white powder must come off; you can't stand here looking like that; you must get busy and be a real bee!"

When he had finished with me I found that I was no longer so wobbly, that my wings moved more freely, and, to my astonishment, a smart little bee came up to me and said: "I note that you are changed; you are no longer grayish-white, but look like everybody else; your eyes are gray-black, a little delicate fuzz is in the middle of your back, and beautiful alternating black and gold bands make up the rest of your body. You look like a real somebody."

Then he hurried on, and I heard him make the same speech to another bee. Still heeding the small voice, I had gone but a little way on my round of exploration when I plumped into the biggest bee! He was in such a hurry he nearly ran me down. As he passed I saw on his two rearmost legs great balls of yellow-looking stuff. "Out of the way!" he called. "The bread-man! The bread-man!"

Every one seemed to have understood except me, and even I, a moment later, heard the cry and gave way to a newly-arrived bread-man. Just what character of bee he was I had yet to learn, and little did I then dream that I, too, should one day be a bread-man, carrying great baskets of bread on my legs. By this time I was again hungry, and presently, as I traversed a white strip of comb, I came upon a great store cell after cell, like a thousand open pots, full to overflowing with honey. I was on the point of helping myself when I was turned away.

"This is not to be eaten," a worker said. "We are ripening it and soon it will be sealed for the winter. On over there you will find some." He was busy and gave no further heed to me, but as I turned away I noticed fully a hundred bees standing ever so still fanning, fanning with their wings the open cells to hasten the ripening processes. He left unanswered my wish to know what the ripening of honey meant and the winter.

As indicated by the worker, I soon found plenty of honey and quite gorged myself. This time I took away with me a supply in my honey-sac. Again I felt sleepy, and started back to my cell. Finally I reached it. I was dumfounded to find that it had been overhauled and that the bread-men had filled it with shining yellow loaves. Wondering, I fell asleep hanging between the combs. The last sound that I heard had been a long, low murmur, which afterward I came to know to be the. voice of my hive singing an immemorial hymn, a hymn, I have been told, the bees have sung for a hundred times a thousand years.

Notes Edit

  1. It is well known that all worker bees are females. But I have changed Happy to the other sex. Here I have taken a liberty, warranted, I think, under the circumstances. THE AUTHOR.

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