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The First Flight

MY sleep was interrupted by I know not what strange dreams or fantasies. I suppose I was shaking my wings or my legs unduly, when a kindly nurse laid her hands on me. "What troubles you?" she asked.

I did not immediately answer, because I was at a loss for a reply and seemed still to be clinging to the edge of things. Such wonderful vistas had been opened to me, I suppose I acted like one entranced.

"I don't know," I answered at last.

" Wake up a bit, then."

Again I seemed quite alone, although all around me hundreds of my brothers were sleeping, or working at their manifold tasks.

It was still very dark, but I began to move about drowsily, giving no heed to the way. From comb to comb I clambered, passing over unexplored regions. Presently I came to what was clearly the outermost comb. I saw a lot of workers tugging and pulling at the cells. I stopped and watched them. Each cell had its bee or bees busily engaged upon it. They would seize the sides of it with their sharp mandibles, and, by dint of biting and drawing, extend it little by little. I could see that it was a laborious process, this building of comb. I was standing quite still, looking on and meditating, when, without ceremony, one of the comb-builders rushed up to me and began to touch my body, then left as suddenly as he had come. Instantly I was inclined to resent this treatment, and called to him as he turned:

"What is all this about?"

He did not stop to answer, and I was left to discover that he had mistaken me for a comb-grower. Just what that meant I was soon brought to understand. Hours passed and still I hung around the combbuilders, until I felt that I had mastered the secret of the art. Then slowly I turned and made my way back to my home cell, tired, but greatly pleased with my experiences.

I suppose I must have slept, for with startling suddenness it dawned on me that the night had passed. The faintest light was coming into our hive, and over the whole colony there was ringing the early summons to the field. The cry caught me and unconsciously I moved forward with the workers, a solid stream of them making way to the entrance. I, too, passed out, and once more now the full dawn upon me stopped upon the alighting-board and flapped my wings, essaying flight, only to find that I could not lift myself. I was distressed and sick at heart. I wanted to go I knew not where; but instead, there I was, an obstruction; and I could not immediately re-enter the hive on account of the outward press of workers. The growing light, and then the sudden burst of the sun, quite fascinated me. Besides this, the flight of a thousand of my brothers, each taking the note of the fieldworker when about to embark, filled me with longing to go into the wide world that spread around and that called me with infinitely tender phrases.

I suppose I was acting strangely, as well as blockading the entrance, when one of the guards mildly remonstrated with me and suggested my re-entering the hive. By this time practically all the veteran honey-gatherers had gone, and indeed those first out were beginning to return, chanting the song that tells of a successful foray into the fields. So, following the mandate of the guard, I seized the opportunity of falling in the wake of a laden bee. Instinctively I followed him. He rushed along like mad, darting into the hive, and then over the bottom-board to a point where a bridge of wax stretched downward within his reach. Up it he scampered, with me at his heels, until he came to the very spot where the workers had been building cells the night before. Finding one to his liking, he buried himself in it, and in a moment had emptied his sac, depositing the honey at the bottom of the cell. Before I could turn around from inspecting what he had done he had gone. He appeared delighted to think he had been one of the first to return with a load, and as he went out I heard him calling aloud to his fellows to follow him, for he had found a new rich harvest field.

I hurried along and reached the alighting-board in time to see him fly, closely pursued by half-a-dozen eager workers. I rambled about on the alighting-board, constantly buzzing my wings for I knew not what reason, when I overheard one say:

"There's that Happy again!"

It made no difference to me, for I was determined to stay to watch the incoming bees, and presently the worker I had followed inside returned and, at the briefest intervals, those that had gone with him. And now a real sensation was astir. These half-a-dozen all began to cry aloud:

"Hurry hurry honey honey."

In the briefest space a multitude was flying over the field to I knew not what rich storehouse. Indeed, every worker, on returning, was told the great news, and from one I gathered that a colony was being robbed, that something tremendous had happened. The Queen had died!

I knew not what robbery meant, nor had I ever heard the word queen.

"What is a queen?" I asked.

One of the guards stared at me impatiently. "You had better go inside."

I refused to comply with the suggestion; on the contrary, I remained where I was, ever and anon flapping my wings, and presently to my overpowering joy I felt my body being lifted off my legs, and without thinking I rose in the air! It was a wonderful sensation. I hardly knew what I was doing, but back and forth I flew about our hive, looking and looking to make sure I should know it when I returned; for now, indeed, I felt my soul bounding within me and that the wide world, upon which I had yearningly gazed, was about to swallow me up. Back and forth I flew, ever widening the distance, taking into view other white-faced hives and trees and houses, until presently, in a long spiral I rose into the heavens. Up and up I went toward the sun, glorying in the power of wings and the infinite grandeur of the world that spread out below me. How far away it seemed and how cool and green and inviting! I could hear around me strange noises, mingled with the whirring of wings. The note of my hive now and again faintly broke on my ears, and I knew that my brothers were traveling the airy spaces, working ever toward a goal far removed from thinking. I did not feel lonely at all, but after a time I decided to return to my house to make sure that I knew the way. You would be surprised to know how straight I came back to it. Down and down I dropped into the bee-yard, and, turning right and left, without further thought I landed on the alighting-board. Immediately a guard fell upon me, but passed me without question. Then, with glee bubbling in my soul, I fled into the hive and set up such a buzzing for joy as I think none ever surpassed.