‘Them little fellers hev got a good compass,’ said Uncle Eb, as we followed the line of the bees. ‘It p’ints home ev’ry time, an’ never makes a mistake.’
We went further this time before releasing another. He showed us that we had borne out of our course a little and as we turned to follow there were half a dozen bees flying around the box, as if begging for admission.
‘Here they are back agin,’ said Uncle Eb, ‘an’ they’ve told a lot o’ their cronies ‘bout the man an’ the boy with honey.’
At length one of them flew over our heads and back in the direction we had come from.
‘Ah, ha,’ said Uncle Eb, ‘it’s a bee tree an’ we’ve passed it, but I’m goin’ t’ keep lettin’ ’em in an’ out. Never heard uv a swarm o’ bees goin’ fur away an’ so we mus’ be near the clearin’.’
In a little while we let one go that took a road of its own. The others had gone back over our heads; this one bore off to the right in front of us, and we followed. I was riding in the basket and was first to see the light of the open through the tree-tops. But I didn’t know what it meant until I heard the hearty ‘hurrah’ of Uncle Eb.
We had come to smooth footing in a grove of maples and the clean trunks of the trees stood up as straight as a granite column. Presently we came out upon wide fields of corn and clover, and as we looked back upon the grove it had a rounded front and I think of it now as the vestibule of the great forest.
‘It’s a reg’lar big tomb,’ said Uncle Eb, looking back over his shoulder into the gloomy cavern of the woods.
We could see a log house in the clearing, and we made for it as fast as our legs would carry us. We had a mighty thirst and when we came to a little brook in the meadow we laid down and drank and drank until we were fairly grunting with fullness. Then we filled our teapot and went on. Men were reaping with their cradles in a field of grain and, as we neared the log house, a woman came out in the dooryard and, lifting a shell to her lips, blew a blast that rushed over the clearing and rang in the woods beyond it A loud halloo came back from the men.
A small dog rushed out at Fred, barking, and, I suppose, with some lack of respect, for the old dog laid hold of him in a violent temper and sent him away yelping. We must have presented an evil aspect, for our clothes were torn and we were both limping with fatigue. The woman had a kindly face and, after looking at us a moment, came and stooped before me and held my small face in her hands turning it so she could look into my eyes.
‘You poor little critter,’ said she, ‘where you goin’?’
Uncle Eb told her something about my father and mother being dead and our going west Then she hugged and kissed me and made me very miserable, I remember, wetting my face with her tears, that were quite beyond my comprehension.
‘Jethro,’ said she, as the men came into the yard, ‘I want ye t’ look at this boy. Did ye ever see such a cunnin’ little critter? Jes’ look at them bright eyes!’ and then she held me to her breast and nearly smothered me and began to hum a bit of an old song.