“I used to laugh at it a good deal more than I do now,” he said. “I’ve been through it all. Sometimes when I go to town I say to myself, ’I will not turn at that corner,’ but when I come to the corner, I do turn. Then I say ‘I will not go into that bar,’ but I do go in. ’I will not order anything to drink,’ I say to myself, and then I hear myself talking aloud to the barkeeper just as though I were some other person. ‘Give me a glass of rye,’ I say, and I stand off looking at myself, very angry and sorrowful. But gradually I seem to grow weaker and weaker—or rather stronger and stronger—for my brain begins to become clear, and I see things and feel things I never saw or felt before. I want to sing.”
“And you do sing,” I said.
“I do, indeed,” he responded, laughing, “and it seems to me the most beautiful music in the world.”
“Sometimes,” I said, “when I’m on my kind of spree, I try not so much to empty my mind of the thoughts which bother me, but rather to fill my mind with other, stronger thoughts——”
Before I could finish he had interrupted:
“Haven’t I tried that, too? Don’t I think of other things? I think of bees—and that leads me to honey, doesn’t it? And that makes me think of putting the honey in the wagon and taking it to town. Then, of course, I think how it will sell. Instantly, stronger than you can imagine, I see a dime in my hand. Then it appears on the wet bar. I smell the smell of the liquor. And there you are!”
We did not talk much more that day. We got up and shook hands and looked each other in the eye. The bee-man turned away, but came back hesitatingly.
“I am glad of this talk, Mr. Grayson. It makes me feel like taking hold again. I have been in hell for years——”
“Of course,” I said. “You needed a friend. You and I will come up together.”
As I walked toward home that evening I felt a curious warmth of satisfaction in my soul—and I marvelled at the many strange things that are to be found upon this miraculous earth.
* * * * *
I suppose, if I were writing a story, I should stop at this point; but I am dealing in life. And life does not always respond to our impatience with satisfactory moral conclusions. Life is inconclusive: quite open at the end. I had a vision of a new life for my neighbour, the bee-man—and have it yet, for I have not done with him—but——
Last evening, and that is why I have been prompted to write the whole story, my bee-man came again along the road by my farm; my exuberant bee-man. I heard him singing afar off.
He did not see me as he went by, but as I stood looking out at him, it came over me with a sudden sense of largeness and quietude that the sun shone on him as genially as it did on me, and that the leaves did not turn aside from him, nor the birds stop singing when he passed.