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Hiving the Swarm.
175 place,” the gardener remarked, “to stand on, for cutting them down."
What a curious thing that bees will not sting some persons! I know a man who will shake a swarm into a cloth, and then stir the bees about like seed, and pick out their queen; deprived of her, they return to the hive from whence they came out. Let another man but approach them, and they fly at him angrily. But about the bees on the lime-tree. No one would meddle with them in the absence of the coachman, who had gone to the station ; so I volunteered, and was just putting a cloth over my head, and buttoning on my gloves, when the coachman made his appearance, in his shirt sleeves, bare-necked, and with only a little cap above his ears.
. Bees must be very tolerant. It is said they hate noise and dirt. You must be quiet when they swarm, and put them into a clean hive. In our case, the footman made the air hideous with his bill-hook and shovel. The coachman fetched a hive and small table ; then he mixed a yellow basin of beer and sugar, and taking a succession of mouthfuls, squirted it all over the inside of the hive, till there seemed hardly an inch on which a delicate bee would care to step; then setting a ladder against the
176 Whee-u-ugh—whew, whew, whew, whew ! tiles, he went up whistling, in a pointed way, Whee-u-ugh whew, whew, whew, whew, whew, and quietly cut the branch on which the swarm hung to the same stable accompaniment. Then carrying it down, like a great bunch of grapes, still whistling, he shook it into the beery hive, which he set upon the table, and covered with a white cloth and some leaves.
There was, however, a mystery throughout the whole process.
The people in this part of the world are very superstitious about bees. My interest and assistance in this case were received coldly. I am afraid now that I did some unlucky thing. The performance on the shovel was perfectly sincere; so was the nasty squirting into the hive; so was the whistling; and yet I fully believe, on good authority, that they were all far more likely to hinder than to assist the work. It was, though, and will continue to be, done in spite of them. Indeed, I suspect that most of our manipulation, I don't mean only in connection with bees, is mere pedantry.
People don't like to see an important thing done simply.
Wash, and be clean," is generally offensive advice. Is that all? say the million. We love mystery. Don't, pray don't
The Ceremonial of Nature. 177 give us nothing but simple methods and naked truth. Don't insist on cutting down our belongings and appliances to the skeleton of necessity? Is there to be no regard for appearance ? Must everything be obviously useful? Has not ornament a tinge of the divine ? Is not ceremony natural ? Why should the rose propagate its kind, or ripen its seed, through the stages of the bud, the blossom, and the full-blown flower? Why spend colours and sweet perfume in the process? Think of the display through which a chestnut has passed before the pig crunches it at the foot of the tree!
Let us weave our harmless web of mystery, ceremonial, or ornament, about the common things of life, and not always think ourselves bound to strip our work quite bare, when we see Nature loving to adorn and complicate hers.
When the bees were hived, I went back to the greenhouse. At the entrance is an underground tank, with smooth hard sides and a trap-door, which uncovers about one quarter of it, and permits the gardener to dip for water. It was then being replenished. I peeped in, and met what I may call a chorus of appealing looks. A number of frogs had
The Frogs in ye Tank. jumped in, but could not get out. In exploring the garden, they had come to this tank, and seeing water, hopped in. When one had done so, another had less hesitation; but at last, when Mr. Froggy had taken his bath, he found to his dismay that there was no way out. You may be a good swimmer, but it is no joke to swim for a month.
Some of the frogs were very tired; they had swum round and round the tank to find everywhere the same smooth, upright wall. Sometimes, by getting in a corner, and thus touching two sides, a fresh comer, less weary than the rest, could support himself for a few moments; but he soon slipped down, especially as, the instant he succeeded in getting a little purchase, a companion would climb upon his neck, and weigh him down.
When, therefore, I stooped down and peeped in, I was met by an appealing look from the whole party, who swam together under the opening, and begged to be let out. Some pawed at the slippery wall, some let their legs drop, as if worn out, and simply held their chins above water in ungraceful but pathetic attitudes. One had found a little raft of four rooks' feathers placed crosswise, on which he squatted. All were fearless from fatigue. The Raft.
179 Every now and then, the expectant little crowd beneath the trap-door was dispersed by the emptying of a pail of water, for the tank was being replenished, and a boy went incessantly during the whole morning, with a hoop and two pails, to a neighbouring pump for the supply ; but as soon as the disturbance made by the pouring in of each pailful was over, the frogs were there again, buoyant but piteous.
Having found a board a foot and a half long, and six inches wide, I let it down into the tank by four strings, so that I might haul it up steadily in case the frogs really meant what they looked. As soon as my raft touched the water, several of the most tired swimmers made at it, and clambered up slowly, like lame old gentlemen getting back into a bathingmachine. Once on board, they neither hopped nor stirred, but remained squatting at the edge, grateful though distressed. When I pulled up my raft, they sat quite still. Thus I drew six-and-thirty out of the pit. When I set the raft down on the grass-plat-after a moment's hesitation, as if to feel quite sure the thing had grounded—away they all jumped, and in a short time there was not a frog to be seen. I believe that frogs are far from useless in a