his nose in at the hole, doubtless hoping to plunge
it at once into the midst of a mass of the sweets.
A growl, a start backward, and a flourishing of the
fore-paws, with sundry bites in the air, at once announced
that he had met with greater resistance than he had
anticipated. In a minute, all the bears were on
their hind-legs, beating the air with their fore-paws,
and nipping right and left with their jaws, in vigorous
combat with their almost invisible foes. Instinct
supplied the place of science, and spite of the hides
and the long hair that covered them, the bees found
the means of darting their stings into unprotected
places, until the quadrupeds were fairly driven to
rolling about on the grass in order to crush their
assailants. This last process had some effect,
a great many bees being destroyed by the energetic
rollings and tumblings of the bears; but, as in the
tide of battle, the places of those who fell were
immediately supplied by fresh assailants, until numbers
seemed likely to prevail over power, if not over discipline.
At this critical instant, when the bears seemed fatigued
with their nearly frantic saltations, and violent
blows upon nothing, le Bourdon deemed it wise to bring
his forces into the combat. Gershom having been
apprised of the plan, both fired at the same instant.
Each ball took effect; one killing the largest of all
the bears, dead on the spot, while the other inflicted
a grievous wound on a second. This success was
immediately followed by a second discharge, wounding
two more of the enemy, while Ben held the second barrel
of his “shot-gun” in reserve. While
the hurt animals were hobbling off, the men reloaded
their pieces; and by the time the last were ready
to advance on the enemy, the ground was cleared of
bears and bees alike, only two of the former remaining,
of which one was already dead and the other dying.
As for the bees, they followed their retreating enemies
in a body, making a mistake that sometimes happens
to still more intelligent beings; that of attributing
to themselves, and their own prowess, a success that
had been gained by others.
The bee-hunter and his friend now set themselves at
work to provide a reception for the insects, the return
of which might shortly be expected. The former
lighted a fire, being always provided with the means,
while Gershom brought dry wood. In less than five
minutes a bright blaze was gleaming upward, and when
the bees returned, as most of them soon did, they
found this new enemy intrenched, as it might be, behind
walls of flame. Thousands of the little creatures
perished by means of this new invention of man, and
the rest soon after were led away by their chiefs
to seek some new deposit for the fruits of their industry.
Waving his lackered wings, darts quickly on,
And, by his free flight, counsels us to speed
For better lodgings, and a scene more sweet,
Than these dear borders offer us to-night.