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A Busy Year at the Old Squire's by C. A. Stephens

The basswood was fully three feet in diameter


In

that manner we went on for at least a mile, until at last we came to Swift Brook, a turbulent little stream in a deep, rocky gully. Our course led across the ravine, and while we were hunting for an easy place to descend I espied bees flying in and out of a woodpecker's hole far up toward the broken top of a partly decayed basswood tree.

"Here they are!" I shouted, much elated.

Old Hughy couldn't see them even with his glasses on, they were so high and looked so small. He knocked on the trunk of the tree, and when I told him that I could see bees pouring out and distinctly hear the hum of those in the tree he was satisfied that I had made no mistake.

When bee hunters trace a swarm to a high tree they usually fell the tree; to that task the old man and I now set ourselves. The basswood was fully three feet in diameter, and leaned slightly toward the brook. In spite of the slant, old Hughy thought that by proper cutting the tree could be made to fall on our side of the gully instead of across it. He threw off his old coat and set to work, but soon stopped short and began rubbing his shoulder and groaning, "Oh, my rheumatiz, my rheumatiz! O-o-oh, how it pains me!"

That may have been partly pretense, intended to make me take the axe; for he was a wily old fellow. However that may be, I took it and did a borrowed boy's best to cut the scarfs as

he directed, but hardly succeeded. I toiled a long time and blistered my palms.

Basswood is not a hard wood, however, and at last the tree started to fall; but instead of coming down on our side of the gully it fell diagonally across it and crashed into the top of a great hemlock that stood near the stream below. The impact was so tremendous that many of the brittle branches of both trees were broken off. At first we thought that the basswood was going to break clear, but it finally hung precariously against the hemlock at a height of thirty feet or more above the bed of the brook. From the stump the long trunk extended out across the brook in a gentle, upward slant to the hemlock. The bees came out in force. Though in felling the tree I had disturbed them considerably, none of them had come down to sting us, but now they filled the air. Apparently the swarm was a large one.

Old Hughy was a good deal disappointed. "I snum, that 'ere's a bad mess," he grumbled.

At last he concluded that we should have to fell the hemlock. Judging from the ticklish way the basswood hung on it, the task looked dangerous. We climbed down into the gully, however, and, with many an apprehensive glance aloft where the top of the basswood hung threateningly over our heads, approached the foot of the hemlock and began to chop it. The bees immediately descended about our heads. Soon one of them stung old Hughy on the ear. We had to beat a retreat down the gully and wait for the enraged insects to go back into their nest.


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