As this was only gibberish to the listeners, no answer was made, but all prepared to follow Ben, who was soon ready to change his ground. The bee-hunter took his way across the open ground to a point fully a hundred rods distant from his first position, where he found another stump of a fallen tree, which he converted into a stand. The same process was gone through with as before, and le Bourdon was soon watching two bees that had plunged their heads down into the cells of the comb. Nothing could exceed the gravity and attention of the Indians, all this time. They had fully comprehended the business of “lining” the insects toward their hives, but they could not understand the virtue of the “angle.” The first bore so strong an affinity to their own pursuit of game, as to be very obvious to their senses; but the last included a species of information to which they were total strangers. Nor were they much the wiser after le Bourdon had taken his “angle”; it requiring a sort of induction to which they were not accustomed, in order to put the several parts of his proceedings together, and to draw the inference. As for Gershom, he affected to be familiar with all that was going on, though he was just as ignorant as the Indians themselves. This little bit of hypocrisy was the homage he paid to his white blood: it being very unseemly, according to his view of the matter, for a pale-face not to know more than a redskin.
The bees were some little time in filling themselves. At length one of them came out of his cell, and was evidently getting ready for his flight. Ben beckoned to the spectators to stand farther back, in order to give him a fair chance, and, just as he had done so, the bee rose. After humming around the stump for an instant, away the insect flew, taking a course almost at right angles to that in which le Bourdon had expected to see it fly. It required half a minute for him to recollect that this little creature had gone off in a line nearly parallel to that which had been taken by the second of the bees, which he had seen quit his original position. The line led across the neighboring prairie, and any attempt to follow these bees was hopeless.
But the second creature was also soon ready, and when it darted away, le Bourdon, to his manifest delight, saw that it held its flight toward the point of the swamp into, or over which two of his first captives had gone. This settled the doubtful matter. Had the hive of these bees been beyond that wood, the angle of intersection would not have been there, but at the hive across the prairie. The reader will understand that creatures which obey an instinct, or such a reason as bees possess, would never make a curvature in their flights without some strong motive for it. Thus, two bees taken from flowers that stood half a mile apart would be certain not to cross each other’s tracks, in returning home, until they met at the common hive: and wherever the intersecting angle in their respective flights may be, there would that hive be also. As this repository of sweets was the game le Bourdon had in view, it is easy to see how much he was pleased when the direction taken by the last of his bees gave him the necessary assurance that its home would certainly be found in that very point of dense wood.