BACK to the field of battle I hastened. "Tell me," 1 cried in distress, for Crip was lying quite still on the floor, "what is the matter?"
"Ah, I fear I am done for at last." Grieved by his words, I rushed up to him, saluting him, pressing my tongue to his lips, praying for his life. I felt him all over, and at last came to a little moist spot on his body, and realized that he had lost his last basket-leg. I wiped his eyes, and came close to him to warm him a bit, for he seemed cold and almost lifeless.
"Go your way," he murmured, dejectedly. "Leave me quite alone. My work is done; I shall pass. Remember me sometimes when you cleave the air and salute the sun and our mysterious Master."
By this time I was overcome with sorrow. My poor dear friend, the very personification of wisdom, seemed passing out of my life.
"No don't please don't talk so mournfully!" I cried. "You will get well. Do! I so want you to stay with me."
At this he seemed to stir a little and, with an effort, raised himself on his remaining legs. "I cannot walk, you see. I cannot be sure of holding my weight on the combs, even if I am not bleeding to death."
I was so shocked that it had not occurred to me to stanch his wound; but instantly I fell to it most vigorously.
"That will help," he said. "Do you think I have done well with my life?" Crip asked. "Do you think I have helped our people?"
I answered that he had been wonderful that he had worked faithfully for two houses, and all for the betterment of our race the Bee.
"You really think me deserving? Then I am happy."
He seemed suddenly to take on new life, and began to flap his wings for joy. After a little pause he again flapped his wings violently. I did not understand.
"I still can fly!" he exclaimed. "I can fly! Go now, finish your work," he commanded. "Perhaps I shall yet be able to labor for a little; but I want to be as much as possible with you. Go now." I went at his word, but when I came to the place of the debris, no scrap remained. My fellow-workers, alarmed at the news of the worms, had fallen upon it and borne it all away.
Almost without thinking, I moved slowly toward the door of the hive, for the afternoon was sultry and there now seemed nothing to do. Indeed, when I reached the outside the bees were heaped on the board, and they clung in great masses to the front of the hive. "What idlers!" thought I. But I quickly realized that there was nothing in the fields to gather, and further, I knew that our hive was well stored with bread and honey against any possible contingency. I made my way through the crowd, and presently I, too, was seized with the fever of sleep, and, taking my place among a group that clung to the uppermost front of the hive, I soon fell asleep.
How long I slept I know not, but when again I roused myself a summer moon was streaming above us, big and gloriously bright. The little dots of stars that glinted through were almost lost in the sea of light. I could hear the night hymn of the hive clearly, just as long ago I heard it for the first time. It was the low, murmured music of a thousand voices. This hymn of the night was like the throbbing of a muffled ^Eolian harp. Mingling with its harmonies rose the dull whirring of many wings set to the task of driving the sweet night air into the heart of the hive, . to render it tolerable for the little ones dreaming in their cells against a day of awakening, and for our precious Queen-Mother, brooding through her watches without end.
Late in the night the air grew chilly, and one by one we drifted inside. I had been one of the first, for I bethought me of Crip, whom I had left disconsolate and battered from his fight with the worm. Returning to our old haunt, he was nowhere to be found. Then I went to the spot of the combat and there he was, more or less chilled and still sore from the loss of his leg.
"I thought you had forgotten me," was his greeting.
"I forget you? Not while I live. I was outside in the night."
"And the south wind blew? And there were stars?" he asked. "I want to look upon them once more. Help me, for I can only crawl now. My body can scarcely be carried by those four little legs, all that I have left. I don't know how soon I shall be done for, and then and then"
He struggled pitifully in order to reach the front. Try as I might, I could be of no assistance to him. But by dintof perseverance he finally gained the threshold and gazed into the night. The moon had drifted far toward the west, and already the morning star shone with transcendent brilliancy. The south wind breathed ever so softly through the chaparral, as it made its way to some hidden goal; and near the borders of the lake a coyote, in staccato treble, gave warning that the dawn was near.
Crip said nothing, nor did I. How useless are words when there is perfect understanding. He came close to me, however, and put his face as near mine as he might, as though he wished to look into the very depths of my eyes.
"It is well," he said. "I know."
Then he turned and dragged himself into the hive. I followed closely. How sad it was to see so great a soul chained in so broken a body. I stayed by him, cheering him and encouraging him, until the bugle of the morning sounded.
"Now you must go," he commanded. "You have your work to do. Mine is nearly finished." I took a turn in the fields, but there was nothing to report, save the discovery that the white brush was ready to bloom, and that the sage-brush and the broomweed promised honey.
Again, for a number of days there was little to do. Toward the noon hour the September sun blazed with midsummer intensity and the winds were stifling. This meant that a deal of water was consumed. I was assigned to help. So, back and forth to the lake I went, ever returning with my sac filled to bursting. The young bees clamored for water, and it was a delight to see them scramble for a drink. Again, the front of the hive was packed with bees idling their day away, if, indeed, it can be said that they were idle when there was nothing to be done.
Another night passed as before and still another day. Then the news resounded over the hive that the white brush was opening and that honey was in the field! There -was only the meagerest supply the first day, but hungry tongues searched out the white tiny bellshaped flowers. The next day the flow was heavier, and the third day we began to carry such quantities that the colony began *to develop a sort of delirium. Every nook and cranny was being filled, when a strange sound echoed over the hive.
"What does this mean?" I queried of Buzz-Buzz.
"I don't know. Let's find Crip. He can tell us."