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The aftermath

I FLEW with all my speed, and I was almost overcome with joy when I saw my house. I noticed, too, as I approached, the Master bending over a neighboring hive, and I wondered what was the matter. But on alighting I was too happy to inquire about anything. I rushed inside and sang a song of thanksgiving at my deliverance. Then I bolted straight for my cell to find my beloved Crip. He welcomed me with joy.

"Well," said he, "I feared you were lost. You ought to have come home before the storm broke. But I'm happy you escaped. The next time you see great piles of cloud, make haste homeward. Your life is too precious to lose through stupidity."

He came close and gave me a kiss, drawing his tongue across my mouth. The taste of honey excited me, and immediately I dropped into a cell and helped myself. I still felt stiff and cold from my experiences, and complained to Crip.

"It might have been worse," he said, when I had told him all that had befallen me. "If you live long enough you will have some real adventures," he concluded. I was inclined to resent his comment, for I felt that I should never again pass through such a storm and survive.

"Do you know what a real storm is, Crip?" I asked, with offended pride. But he ignored my query. "Listen," he said, suddenly. "Do you hear that alarm?"

A note I had heard before suddenly ran through the hive. I could not at first remember the occasion, but instantly both Crip and I were off. By the time we were out I remembered what the sound meant. It was the robber-call. There was honey at hand pure honey for the taking, and off we went.

It was just where the Master stood. He had righted a hive which had blown down in the storm, and was endeavoring to place a net over it, but already thousands of bees were swarming about.

"It is too late," Crip said to me, as we lit on the bottom-board and hurried into the hive. "They are dead. I see it all. The rains undermined the foundations and the hive toppled over into the ditch. The storm waters crept up and up, submerging it."

A little honey remained in the old combs, and we were soon busy with its salvage. We helped ourselves to one load only, for when we returned the Master had covered over the hive with his net. We flew about the place for a while, hoping to find some tiny hole through which we might creep ; but none could be found. The net was covered with scrambling bees.

"Did all the bees drown?" I asked.

"Probably," he answered.

"Here's one on the ground that seems to be alive."

We both lit beside the little fellow struggling to dry himself. We approached and licked him all over, and when he could fly Crip begged him to come home with us, since his own colony had ceased to exist. Right gladly he followed us; but when we had reached the entrance he seemed to realize the seriousness of daring to enter a strange hive. He drew back, but we urged him, standing one on either side. Almost immediately, however, a guard scented him and flew at him. Crip headed him off, but another quickly attacked from the same quarter. He caught the stranger, and it was all I could do to save him. When we finally freed him of the advance guards, we said to the stranger, "Run for your life!"

We three rushed like mad into the hive and escaped further interference, and never again was he questioned as to his identity.

He marched with us straight up to our cell, and thenceforward he claimed it for his own.

"What shall we call him?" I asked of Crip, when we had left him to recover and were once more on our way to the fields.

"Let's see. Suppose we call him Buzz-Buzz."

"Excellent!" I cried.

So, Buzz-Buzz it was, then and ever after. Crip and I reached the entrance and looked about us. Mountainous black clouds still frowned, and in the distance thunder rumbled. It was much brighter, but still the sun was hid and a haze of mist hung about the world as far as eye could see.

"We cannot safely go yet," cried Crip. "The storm might break again. Besides, there is no honey in the fields; it has been washed away by the rains. It will be several hours before a trace can be found; even a day or two will pass ere some of the flowers fill their cups. The rain destroys the flow of honey for a time, and too much rain will cut off the crop entirely."

While we were talking Buzz-Buzz approached.

"Well," he said, "you ran away and left me, but I warn you that when there are things to do you will find me close to you."

Presently we all rose on our wings, for the rain seemed to have spent itself and the wind in the catclaw tree had fallen to a whisper. The three of us flew, for a while keeping closely in touch, but I was determined to guide, and had set my mind on seeing my sunflower-field. I feared, and, as it proved, rightly, that the floods had swept them away. On reaching the spot where the beautiful flowers had grown, we found it a quagmire full of broken stalks. Nothing was there to remind of the fragrant and glorious garden which only this day had displayed its choicest blossoms to gladden the earth. And now all had vanished.

I said not a word, but Crip seemed to divine the reason which inspired my flying round and roun about the spot where I had gathered my first load of honey and where I had heard the fascinating speech of the flowers of the sun. He circled about with me, while Buzz-Buzz, puzzled at our actions, sailed in wider curves. He did not lose sight of us, however, and presently joined us again.

"What's all this about?" he queried.

"Why, only to-day this spot was wonderful with flowers. Look at it now!" I had spoken.

"That is nothing extraordinary," observed Crip.

"It is only a chapter out of any life you choose. They had achieved all the things for which they were sent into the world. They were ready to go."

It was hard for me to think that the tender little blossom which had given me honey had filled its full scope of existence. It seemed fit for days of service. What a pity that it was not permitted to radiate its beauty in a world all too barren!

We said very little more, but made for home. This must have been instinctive, for suddenly we found the darkness descending upon us like a flood.