It was noon before Ben and Gershom dared to commence the process of cutting and splitting the tree, in order to obtain the honey. Until then, the bees lingered around their fallen hive, and it would have been dangerous to venture beyond the smoke and heat, in order to accomplish the task. It is true, le Bourdon possessed several secrets, of more or less virtue, to drive off the bees when disposed to assault him, but no one that was as certain as a good fire, backed by a dense column of vapor. Various plants are thought to be so offensive to the insects, that they avoid even their odor; and the bee-hunter had faith in one or two of them; but none of the right sort happened now to be near, and he was obliged to trust, first to a powerful heat, and next to the vapor of damp wood.
As there were axes, and wedges, and a beetle in the canoe, and Gershom was as expert with these implements as a master of fencing is with his foil, to say nothing of the skill of le Bourdon, the tree was soon laid open, and its ample stores of sweets exposed. In the course of the afternoon the honey was deposited in kegs, the kegs were transferred to the canoe, and the whole deposited in the chiente. The day had been one of toil, and when our two bordermen sat down near the spring, to take their evening meal, each felt glad that his work was done.
“I believe this must be the last hive I line, this summer,” said le Bourdon, while eating his supper. “My luck has been good so far, but in troublesome times one had better not be too far from home. I am surprised, Waring, that you have ventured so far from your family, while the tidings are so gloomy.”
“That’s partly because you don’t know me, and partly because you don’t know Dolly. As for leaving hum, with anybody to kear for it, I should like to know who is more to the purpose than Dolly Waring? I haven’t no idee that even bees would dare get upon her! If they did, they’d soon get the worst on’t Her tongue is all-powerful, to say nawthin’ of her arms; and if the so’gers can only handle their muskets as she can handle a broom, there is no need of new regiments to carry on this war.”
Now, nothing could be more false than this character; but a drunkard has little regard to what he says.
“I am glad your garrison is so strong,” answered the beehunter, thoughtfully; “but mine is too weak to stay any longer, out here in the openings. Whiskey Centre, I intend to break up, and return to the settlement, before the red-skins break loose in earnest. If you will stay and lend me a hand to embark the honey and stores, and help to carry the canoe down the river, you shall be well paid for your trouble.”