How skilfully it builds its cell,
How neat it spreads the wax,
And labors hard to store it well,
With the sweet food it makes.
Watts’ hymns for children.
The next thing was to ascertain which was the particular tree in which the bees had found a shelter. Collecting his implements, le Bourdon was soon ready, and, with a light elastic tread, he moved off toward the point of the wood, followed by the whole party. The distance was about half a mile, and men so much accustomed to use their limbs made light of it. In a few minutes all were there, and the bee-hunter was busy in looking for his tree. This was the consummation of the whole process, and Ben was not only provided for the necessities of the case, but he was well skilled in all the signs that betokened the abodes of bees.
An uninstructed person might have passed that point of wood a thousand times, without the least consciousness of the presence of a single insect of the sort now searched for. In general, the bees flew too high to be easily perceptible from the ground, though a practised eye can discern them at distances that would almost seem to be marvellous. But Ben had other assistants than his eyes. He knew that the tree he sought must be hollow, and such trees usually give outward signs of the defect that exists within. Then, some species of wood are more frequented by the bees than others, while the instinct of the industrious little creatures generally enables them to select such homes as will not be very likely to destroy all the fruits of their industry by an untimely fall. In all these particulars, both bees and bee-hunter were well versed, and Ben made his search accordingly.
Among the other implements of his calling, le Bourdon had a small spy-glass; one scarcely larger than those that are used in theatres, but which was powerful and every way suited to its purposes. Ben was not long in selecting a tree, a half-decayed elm, as the one likely to contain the hive; and by the aid of his glass he soon saw bees flying among its dying branches, at a height of not less than seventy feet from the ground. A little further search directed his attention to a knot-hole, in and out of which the glass enabled him to see bees passing in streams. This decided the point; and putting aside all his implements but the axe, Buzzing Ben now set about the task of felling the tree.
“STRANger,” said Gershom, when le Bourdon had taken out the first chip, “perhaps you’d better let me do that part of the job. I shall expect to come in for a share of the honey, and I’m willing to ’arn all I take. I was brought up on axes, and jack-knives, and sich sort of food, and can cut or whittle with the best chopper, or the neatest whittler, in or out of New England.”
“You can try your hand, if you wish it,” said Ben, relinquishing the axe. “I can fell a tree as well as yourself, but have no such love for the business as to wish to keep it all to myself.”