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The Cell House

HOW long I slept I cannot say, but I was awakened by a sharp blow which nearly knocked me from the combs. So nearly was I toppled over that I seized the first thing my feet fell upon. I felt immediately, by the way I was being dragged about, that I had grappled something dangerous; and imagine my consternation when I succeeded in opening my eyes ! I was holding fast to the biggest bee that ever lived. Many of the same kind I have seen since that awakening, but none ever looked so terrible. When I had managed to loose my hold on this monster and stood fairly on the combs, I asked the nearest bee:

"Who is that?"

"Nobody; he is just a drone."

"Please, then, what are drones?" for I had developed a wholesome respect for one of them.

"A drone is a great, worthless bee that won't work. They stand around the hive until the time comes for them to die. He is nearly the last. For almost a month we have been driving them away, and when they won't go sometimes we sting them. You see, they never work and are useless. Of an afternoon they fly up into the sky with a deal of buzzing. Sometimes they follow the Queen into the deep of heaven. If they would stop there! But worse than that, they bluster about over the hive and eat a lot of honey. Besides, they get in the way and are just a nuisance.'* I was listening very intently to this speech, when the very same drone that had collided with me came tearing past me with two mad workers clinging to his wings.

" Poor fellow," I cried, "are they driving you away?" He headed straight for me, as though a friend had come to his rescue, and the next thing I knew I began to fall and fall, until I landed plump on the bottomboard of the hive.

In all my life I never fell quite so far again, although once I was high in the air with a great load of honey when a whirlwind caught me and hurled me to the earth. You see, I then knew nothing of distance. I got up on my legs as quickly as I could and staggered about a bit, trying to get my bearings. Now, indeed, I had gone a long way from the tiny cell-house where I was born; but strangely enough, I knew the way back to it without even thinking. I had, up to that time, moved but a few inches away from it, but suddenly the world seemed to have yawned and swallowed me up. However, I quickly regained my composure, for around me bees were running, humming strange words as they went ; and over me I could hear the croon of the nurse bees and other sounds which were still foreign and mysterious.

Without even thinking of the direction I took, I started on the way back to my cell. Crawling along the bottom-board until I reached the side of the hive, I climbed up it until I came to a bridge of comb stretching to a frame, and a moment later I was crossing from comb to comb, and, ere long, to my great joy, stood on the spot whence I had started. In my passage I had met hundreds and hundreds of my brothers, none of whom seemed glad to see me, although I thought a few stopped to watch me stumbling along on my way. However, I now know that not one actually paused from his work. The world they live in is too full of duties and the dark days of winter are always too close at hand, while eternally is sounding in their ears the refrain, "Work, work, for the frost is coming. " I went round and round the cell which had been my house. I couldn't make out why I did this, because I was absolutely sure of my location. Still, to make doubly sure, I even thrust my head into the doorway and scented the bread with which it had been filled. There still remained about it a curious odor, which I never forgot, and at this late day, with my eyes closed, I could find my cell perhaps not by the smell, but through the same divining sense that has led me across ten thousand fields and streams and hills to my home again. I found, however, that I had been a little bruised by my fall. The foremost leg on my right side was hurting me. It had probably been sprained when I struck the bottom-board. I began to claw at it, when a bee interrupted who seemed to understand what troubled me. Forthwith he laid hold of the lame leg and pulled and pushed it unceremoniously, and presently, without a word, went on his way. I found immediately that it gave me no further pain, and I was engaged in licking my other legs when I seemed suddenly to grow sleepy and in a trice I planted myself on a comb and prepared to sleep.

If I really slumbered, it could not have been long, for when I began to drowse a bread-man was busy taking the yellow pollen from the baskets on his hindmost legs, and when I wakened he was just drawing himself out of the cell where he had stored it away. In fact, I saw him at the moment packing it down.

"What are you doing?" I asked, sleepily.

"Can't you see?" he answered.

Then it all dawned on me. It was interesting to watch him draw himself out and thrust himself in, head-on, battering down the loaves of bread.

"Why does he do that?" I ventured, of a bee that seemed to be loitering.

"In order that he may store a great deal in the cell, so that it will keep through the cold, wet months when there are no flowers. Bread comes from flowers, you know."

"Flowers! What are flowers?" I cried. "And bread?"

"You shall learn for yourself," he answered, patiently, turning away.