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- A Hive of Busy Bees - 2/13 -
[Illustration: The Sting of the Bee.]
"Cock-a-doodle-doo!" called Don in a shrill voice, dancing into his sister's room.
Joyce opened her eyes and looked about her. The bright morning sunlight was streaming in through the little pink-and-white curtains. "Wh--where am I?" she asked sleepily, seeing Don standing there.
"Where _are_ you?" cried Don merrily. "Why, on the farm, of course! Don't you hear that old rooster telling you to get up? There he is," he added, pulling aside the curtain. "He is stretching himself, and standing on his tiptoes. Grandpa says he's saying, 'Welcome to the farm, Don and Joyce!' Do hurry and get up! We must go out and help Grandpa do the milking."
Half an hour later, Grandma called two hungry children in to breakfast. After that, they were busy and happy all the morning long. Joyce helped Grandma to wash the dishes and tidy the house, and Don followed close at Grandpa's heels as he did his morning's work about the farm. He felt very grown-up indeed when a neighbor came by, and Grandpa told him he had a "new hand."
After dinner, Grandma settled down for her afternoon's nap. Grandpa went to help a neighbor with some work, and so the children were left alone.
They began to run races in the wide grassy space in front of the old farm house.
But they made so much noise that soon Joyce said, "I'm afraid we will wake Grandma, Don. We'd better be quiet."
"Let's go to the orchard," said Don. "We can be as noisy as we like there, and she won't even hear us." So away they scampered, to play in the shade of the old apple trees.
But Grandma's nap was not to last long; for soon she was awakened by a scream from the orchard. Hurrying out, she found Joyce dancing up and down, with her hand pressed tightly over one eye. Don stood watching her with round, frightened eyes. He could not imagine what had happened, to make his sister act like that.
But Grandma knew. Away back in the orchard, Grandpa had several hives of bees. Joyce had gone too near one of the hives; and a bee had done the rest.
Grandma did not say much. Quietly she took the little girl's hand and led her back to the house. Soon Joyce was lying on the couch, and Grandma was wringing cold water out of a cloth, and gently placing it on her eye. Before long the pain was gone; but the eye began to swell, and soon she was not able to see out of it at all.
"It's all my fault that we went to the orchard," said Don, looking sober.
"No, it's mine," said Joyce. "I was afraid we would wake Grandma."
"Well," laughed Grandma, "I guess it was mine, because I forgot to tell you about the bees."
When it was time to get ready for bed that night, Grandma bathed the swollen eye again. "I wish there were no bees, Grandma," said the little girl suddenly.
"Why, you like honey, don't you, dear?" asked Grandma.
"Ye-es, I like honey; but I don't like bees--they sting so!"
"Bees are very interesting and hard-working little creatures," said Grandma; "and if they are let alone, they will not harm anyone."
"I didn't mean to bother them," said Joyce, "but one stung _me_."
"That's so," said Grandma; "but they have certain rules, and you must have broken one of them. A bee's sting is the only thing she can use to protect the hive against intruders--and the bee that stings you always dies. That's the price she has to pay to do her duty."
"Oh!" said Joyce, "I'm sorry I went too near. But please, Grandma, tell me some more about bees."
"There are lots of things to learn about them," said Grandma. "They live in queer little houses called hives. They have a queen; and if she is stolen, or dies, they will not go on working without her. Only one queen can live in each house; when a new queen is about to come out of her cell, the old queen gathers her followers and they swarm.
"The queen bee lays the eggs; and when the eggs hatch, the hive is so full of bees that it cannot hold them all. As soon as they find another queen, some of them must move out.
"When the bees are swarming, they always take good care of their queen. Sometimes they settle on a limb of a tree; and while they are there, they keep their queen covered, so no one can find her. They send out scouts to find a new home; and as soon as it is found, they all move the re.
"Sometimes Grandpa finds the queen, and puts her in the hive. Then she makes a sort of drumming noise, and the other bees follow her inside."
"Was it the queen bee that stung me?" asked Joyce.
"No, the queen never uses her sting except when in battle with another queen bee; but the other bees take care of her, even if they must die for her sake. There are different kinds of bees in the hive. Drone bees cannot sting; and they will not work--they are lazy fellows. In the fall they are all killed, so that during the long winter months they cannot eat the honey which the workers have gathered.
"Bees are busy all the time. On sunny days, they gather honey; and on cloudy days they make little wax cells in which to store the honey."
"That's why they say, 'busy as a bee,'" said Joyce. "It means 'busy all the time.' I didn't know there was so much to learn about bees."
"I have been thinking about another kind of bee," said Grandma.
"Do they sting, like the bees in the orchard?" asked Joyce with a little shiver.
"Their stings are much sharper," answered Grandma, "and the pain lasts much longer. There is a hive full of these bees, and they are always very busy. But it is bedtime now. Wait till tomorrow night, and perhaps I shall tell you about one of them."
Ten minutes later Don fell asleep, wondering what the strange sort of bee was like, and hoping it would never sting him as the cross bee had stung Joyce.
"I have something to show you," said Grandma after breakfast the next morning. "Come with me."
"Oh, a little calf!" exclaimed Don a moment later.
"Isn't he cute?" cried Joyce. "See how wobbly his legs are. What's his name, Grandma?"
"Grandpa says he's not going to bother naming him, when he has two bright grandchildren here on the farm," answered Grandma, smiling.
"Does he mean that _we_ can name him?" asked Joyce.
"Yes," replied Grandma, "he means just that."
"Oh, Don," cried Joyce, "what shall we call him?"
"I think Bruno is a nice name," said Don.
"So do I; we'll call him Bruno," agreed Joyce.
"I wonder if he would let me pet him," said Don, gently touching the calf on his small white nose.
The little fellow tossed his head and wobbled over to the other side of his mother. The children laughed merrily; and they were so interested in watching the little creature that Grandma had to leave them and go back to her work.
The hours passed by very quickly and very happily--there were so many new things to do! Of course Joyce had to write a long letter to Mother, telling her about the sting of the bee, the new little calf, and many other interesting things.
Late in the afternoon the children remembered about the cows, and they thought they would pump the trough full of water ahead of time. It was such fun that they kept on pumping until the trough overflowed, and the ground around it was all muddy.
After supper, they let down the bars for the cows to come through. The cows had just finished drinking, when Don slipped in the mud and fell backward right into the trough. He kicked and splashed about, trying to get out; and Joyce got a good drenching when she tried to help him. Grandpa had to come to the rescue, and fish him out; and then they all had a good laugh--even Don. The children could not watch the milking that night, because they had to go to the house and put on dry clothes.
Later in the evening, they reminded Grandma that she had promised to tell them a story. They drew their chairs close to hers, and she began:
"It was to be a story about a bee, wasn't it? Well, this bee has a sharp sting, and it goes very deep."
"I hope it will never sting me, then," said Joyce.
"I hope not," said Grandma. "The boy and girl in my story were stung severely; but it was all their own fault, as you shall see.
"Anna and her brother lived near a pond, and when the cold weather came it was great fun to skate on the ice. Oftentimes they would slide across it on their way to school. One morning, as their mother buttoned their coats, she said, 'Don't go across the ice this morning, children. It has begun to thaw, and it is dangerous.'
"'No, we won't,' they promised.
"When they reached the pond, Willie said, 'Why, see, Anna, how hard and thick the ice looks. Come on, let's slide across it.'
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