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The Bee-man Of Orn

from Boys And Girls Bookshelf - STORIES BY FAVORITE AMERICAN WRITERS





BY FRANK R. STOCKTON


In the ancient country of Orn there lived an old man who was called the
Bee-man, because his whole time was spent in the company of bees. He
lived in a small hut, which was nothing more than an immense bee-hive,
for these little creatures had built their honeycombs in every corner of
the one room it contained--on the shelves, under the little table, all
about the rough bench on which the old man sat, and even about the
head-board and along the sides of his low bed.

All day the air of the room was thick with buzzing insects, but this did
not interfere in any way with the old Bee-man, who walked in among them,
ate his meals, and went to sleep, without the slightest fear of being
stung.

He had lived with the bees so long, they had become so accustomed to
him, and his skin was so tough and hard, that the bees no more thought
of stinging him than they would of stinging a tree or a stone. A swarm
of bees had made their hive in a pocket of his old leathern doublet; and
when he put on this coat to take one of his long walks in the forest in
search of wild bees' nests, he was very glad to have this hive with him,
for, if he did not find any wild honey, he would put his hand in his
pocket and take out a piece of a comb for a luncheon. The bees in his
pocket worked very industriously, and he was always certain of having
something to eat with him wherever he went. He lived principally upon
honey; and when he needed bread or meat, he carried some fine combs to a
village not far away and bartered them for other food. He was ugly,
untidy, shrivelled, and brown. He was poor, and the bees seemed to be
his only friends. But, for all that, he was happy and contented; he had
all the honey he wanted, and his bees, whom he considered the best
company in the world, were as friendly and sociable as they could be,
and seemed to increase in number every day.

One day there stopped at the hut of the Bee-man a Junior Sorcerer. This
young person, who was a student of magic, was much interested in the
Bee-man, whom he had often noticed in his wanderings, and he considered
him an admirable subject for study. He had got a great deal of useful
practice by trying to find out, by the various rules and laws of
sorcery, exactly why the old Bee-man did not happen to be something that
he was not, and why he was what he happened to be. He had studied a long
time at this matter, and had found out something.

"Do you know," he said, when the Bee-man came out of his hut, "that you
have been transformed?"

"What do you mean by that?" said the other, much surprised.

"You have surely heard of animals and human beings who have been
magically transformed into different kinds of creatures?"

"Yes, I have heard of these things," said the Bee-man; "but what have I
been transformed from?"

"That is more than I know," said the Junior Sorcerer. "But one thing is
certain; you ought to be changed back. If you will find out what you
have been transformed from, I will see that you are made all right
again. Nothing would please me better than to attend to such a case."

And, having a great many things to study and investigate, the Junior
Sorcerer went his way.

This information greatly disturbed the mind of the Bee-man. If he had
been changed from something else, he ought to be that other thing,
whatever it was. He ran after the young man, and overtook him.

"If you know, kind sir," he said, "that I have been transformed, you
surely are able to tell me what it is that I was."

"No," said the Junior Sorcerer, "my studies have not proceeded far
enough for that. When I become a Senior I can tell you all about it.
But, in the meantime, it will be well for you to try to find out for
yourself your original form; and when you have done that, I will get
some of the learned masters of my art to restore you to it. It will be
easy enough to do that, but you could not expect them to take the time
and trouble to find out what it was."

And, with these words, he hurried away, and was soon lost to view.

Greatly disturbed, the Bee-man retraced his steps, and went to his hut.
Never before had he heard anything which had so troubled him.

"I wonder what I was transformed from?" he thought, seating himself on
his rough bench. "Could it have been a giant, or a powerful prince, or
some gorgeous being whom the magicians or the fairies wished to punish?
It may be that I was a dog or a horse, or perhaps a fiery dragon or a
horrid snake. I hope it was not one of these. But whatever it was,
everyone has certainly a right to his original form, and I am resolved
to find out mine. I will start early to-morrow morning; and I am sorry
now that I have not more pockets to my old doublet, so that I might
carry more bees and more honey for my journey."

He spent the rest of the day in making a hive of twigs and straw; and,
having transferred to this a number of honeycombs and a colony of bees
which had just swarmed, he rose before sunrise the next day, and having
put on his leathern doublet and having bound his new hive to his back,
he set forth on his quest, the bees who were to accompany him buzzing
around him like a cloud.

As the Bee-man pressed through the little village the people greatly
wondered at his queer appearance, with the hive upon his back. "The
Bee-man is going on a long journey this time," they said; but no one
imagined the strange business on which he was bent.

About noon he sat down under a tree, near a beautiful meadow covered
with blossoms, and ate a little honey. Then he untied his hive and
stretched himself out on the grass to rest. As he gazed upon his bees
hovering about him, some going out to the blossoms in the sunshine, and
some returning laden with the sweet pollen, he said to himself: "They
know just what they have to do, and they do it; but alas for me! I know
not what I may have to do. And yet, whatever it may be, I am determined
to do it. In some way or other I will find out what was my original
form, and then I will have myself changed back to it."

And now the thought came to him that perhaps his original form might
have been something very disagreeable, or even horrid.

"But it does not matter," he said sturdily. "Whatever I was that shall I
be again. It is not right for anyone to keep a form which does not
properly belong to him. I have no doubt I shall discover my original
form in the same way that I find the trees in which the wild bees hive.
When I first catch sight of a bee tree I am drawn toward it, I know not
how. Something says to me: 'That is what you are looking for.' In the
same way I believe that I shall find my original form. When I see it, I
shall be drawn toward it. Something will say to me: 'That is it.'"

When the Bee-man was rested he started off again, and in about an hour
he entered a fair domain. Around him were beautiful lawns, grand trees,
and lovely gardens; while at a little distance stood the stately palace
of the Lord of the Domain. Richly dressed people were walking about or
sitting in the shade of the trees and arbors; splendidly equipped horses
were waiting for their riders; and everywhere were seen signs of wealth
and gayety.

"I think," said the Bee-man to himself, "that I should like to stop here
for a time. If it should happen that I was originally like any of these
happy creatures it would please me much."

He untied his hive, and hid it behind some bushes, and, taking off his
old doublet, laid that beside it. It would not do to have his bees
flying about him if he wished to go among the inhabitants of this fair
domain.

For two days the Bee-man wandered about the palace and its grounds,
avoiding notice as much as possible, but looking at everything. He saw
handsome men and lovely ladies; the finest horses, dogs, and cattle that
were ever known; beautiful birds in cages, and fishes in crystal globes;
and it seemed to him that the best of all living-things were here
collected.

At the close of the second day the Bee-man said to himself: "There is
one being here toward whom I feel very much drawn, and that is the Lord
of the Domain. I cannot feel certain that I was once like him, but it
would be a very fine thing if it were so; and it seems impossible for me
to be drawn toward any other being in the domain when I look upon him,
so handsome, rich, and powerful. But I must observe him more closely,
and feel more sure of the matter, before applying to the sorcerers to
change me back into a lord of a fair domain."

The next morning the Bee-man saw the Lord of the Domain walking in his
gardens. He slipped along the shady paths, and followed him so as to
observe him closely, and find out if he were really drawn toward this
noble and handsome being. The Lord of the Domain walked on for some
time, not noticing that the Bee-man was behind him. But suddenly
turning, he saw the little old man.

"What are you doing here, you vile beggar?" he cried; and he gave him a
kick that sent him into some bushes which grew by the side of the path.

The Bee-man scrambled to his feet, and ran as fast as he could to the
place where he had hidden his hive and his old doublet.

"If I am certain of anything," he thought, "it is that I was never a
person who would kick a poor old man. I will leave this place. I was
transformed from nothing that I see here."

He now traveled for a day or two longer, and then he came to a great
black mountain, near the bottom of which was an opening like the mouth
of a cave.


This mountain he had heard was filled with caverns and underground
passages, which were the abodes of dragons, evil spirits, and horrid
creatures of all kinds.

"Ah me!" said the Bee-man with a sigh, "I suppose I ought to visit this
place. If I am going to do this thing properly, I should look on all
sides of the subject, and I may have been one of those horrid creatures
myself."

Thereupon he went to the mountain, and as he approached the opening of
the passage which led into its inmost recesses, he saw, sitting upon the
ground, and leaning his back against a tree, a Languid Youth.

"Good-day," said this individual when he saw the Bee-man. "Are you going
inside?"

"Yes," said the Bee-man, "that is what I intend to do."

"Then," said the Languid Youth, slowly rising to his feet, "I think I
will go with you. I was told that if I went in there I should get my
energies toned up, and they need it very much; but I did not feel equal
to entering by myself, and I thought I would wait until some one came
along. I am very glad to see you, and we will go in together."

So the two went into the cave, and they had proceeded but a short
distance when they met a very little creature, whom it was easy to
recognize as a Very Imp. He was about two feet high, and resembled in
color a freshly polished pair of boots. He was extremely lively and
active, and came bounding toward them.

"What did you two people come here for?" he asked.

"I came," said the Languid Youth, "to have my energies toned up."

"You have come to the right place," said the Very Imp. "We will tone you
up. And what does that old Bee-man want?"

"He has been transformed from something, and wants to find out what it
is. He thinks he may have been one of the things in here."

"I should not wonder if that were so," said the Very Imp, rolling his
head on one side, and eying the Bee-man with a critical gaze.

"All right," said the Very Imp; "he can go around, and pick out his
previous existence. We have here all sorts of vile creepers, crawlers,
hissers, and snorters. I suppose he thinks anything will be better than
a Bee-man."

"It is not because I want to be better than I am," said the Bee-man,
"that I started out on this search. I have simply an honest desire to
become what I originally was."

"Oh; that is it, is it?" said the other. "There is an idiotic moon-calf
here with a clam head, which must be just what you used to be."

"Nonsense," said the Bee-man. "You have not the least idea what an
honest purpose is. I shall go about and see for myself."

"Go ahead," said the Very Imp, "and I will attend to this fellow who
wants to be toned up." So saying he joined the Languid Youth.

"Look here," said the Youth, "do you black and shine yourself every
morning?"

"No," said the other, "it is water-proof varnish. You want to be
invigorated, don't you? Well, I will tell you a splendid way to begin.
You see that Bee-man has put down his hive and his coat with the bees in
it. Just wait till he gets out of sight, and then catch a lot of those
bees, and squeeze them flat. If you spread them on a sticky rag, and
make a plaster, and put it on the small of your back, it will invigorate
you like everything, especially if some of the bees are not quite dead."

"Yes," said the Languid Youth, looking at him with his mild eyes, "but
if I had energy enough to catch a bee I would be satisfied. Suppose you
catch a lot for me."

"The subject is changed," said the Very Imp. "We are now about to visit
the spacious chamber of the King of the Snap-dragons."

"That is a flower," said the Languid Youth.

"You will find him a gay old blossom," said the other. "When he has
chased you round his room, and has blown sparks at you, and has snorted
and howled, and cracked his tail, and snapped his jaws like a pair of
anvils, your energies will be toned up higher than ever before in your
life."

"No doubt of it," said the Languid Youth; "but I think I will begin with
something a little milder."

"Well, then," said the other, "there is a flat-tailed Demon of the Gorge
in here. He is generally asleep, and, if you say so, you can slip into
the farthest corner of his cave, and I'll solder his tail to the
opposite wall. Then he will rage and roar, but he can't get at you, for
he doesn't reach all the way across his cave; I have measured him. It
will tone you up wonderfully to sit there and watch him."

"Very likely," said the Languid Youth; "but I would rather stay outside
and let you go up in the corner. The performance in that way will be
more interesting to me."

"You are dreadfully hard to please," said the Very Imp. "I have offered
them to you loose, and I offered them fastened to a wall, and now the
best thing I can do is to give you a chance at one of them that can't
move at all. It is the Ghastly Griffin, and is enchanted. He can't stir
so much as the tip of his whiskers for a thousand years. You can go to
his cave and examine him just as if he were stuffed, and then you can
sit on his back and think how it would be if you should live to be a
thousand years old, and he should wake up while you are sitting there.
It would be easy to imagine a lot of horrible things he would do to you
when you look at his open mouth with its awful fangs, his dreadful
claws, and his horrible wings all covered with spikes."

"I think that might suit me," said the Languid Youth. "I would much
rather imagine the exercises of these monsters than to see them really
going on."

"Come on, then," said the Very Imp; and he led the way to the cave of
the Ghastly Griffin.

The Bee-man went by himself through a great part of the mountain, and
looked into many of its gloomy caves and recesses, recoiling in horror
from most of the dreadful monsters who met his eyes. While he was
wandering about, an awful roar was heard resounding through the passages
of the mountain, and soon there came flapping along an enormous dragon,
with body black as night, and wings and tail of fiery red. In his great
fore-claws he bore a little baby.

"Horrible!" exclaimed the Bee-man. "He is taking that little creature to
his cave to devour it."

He saw the dragon enter a cave not far away, and, following, looked in.
The dragon was crouched upon the ground with the little baby lying
before him. It did not seem to be hurt, but was frightened and crying.
The monster was looking upon it with delight, as if he intended to make
a dainty meal of it as soon as his appetite should be a little stronger.

"It is too bad!" thought the Bee-man. "Somebody ought to do something."
And turning around, he ran away as fast as he could.

He ran through various passages until he came to the spot where he had
left his bee-hive. Picking it up, he hurried back, carrying the hive in
his two hands before him. When he reached the cave of the dragon, he
looked in and saw the monster still crouched over the weeping child.
Without a moment's hesitation, the Bee-man rushed into the cave and
threw his hive straight into the face of the dragon. The bees, enraged
by the shock, rushed upon the head, mouth, eyes, and nose of the dragon.

The great monster, astounded by this sudden attack, and driven almost
wild by the numberless stings of the bees, sprang back to the farthest
corner of his cave, still followed by the bees, at whom he flapped
wildly with his great wings and struck with his paws. While the dragon
was thus engaged with the bees, the Bee-man rushed forward, and seizing
the child, he hurried away. He did not stop to pick up his doublet, but
kept on until he saw the Very Imp hopping along on one leg, and rubbing
his back and shoulders with his hands, and stopped to inquire what was
the matter, and what had become of the Languid Youth.

"He is no kind of a fellow," said the Very Imp. "He disappointed me
dreadfully. I took him up to the Ghastly Griffin, and told him the thing
was enchanted, and that he might sit on its back and think about what it
could do if it was awake; and when he came near it the wretched creature
opened its eyes, and raised its head, and then you ought to have seen
how mad that simpleton was. He made a dash at me and seized me by the
ears; he kicked and beat me till I can scarcely move."

"His energies must have been toned up a good deal," said the Bee-man.

"Toned up! I should say so!" cried the other. "I raised a howl, and a
Scissor-jawed Clipper came out of his hole, and got after him; but that
lazy fool ran so fast that he could not be caught."

The Bee-man now ran on and soon overtook the Languid Youth.

"You need not be in a hurry now," said the latter, "for the rules of
this institution don't allow the creatures inside to come out of this
opening, or to hang around it. If they did, they would frighten away
visitors. They go in and out of holes in the upper part of the
mountain."

The two proceeded on their way.

"What are you going to do with that baby?" said the Languid Youth.

"I shall carry it along with me," said the Bee-man, "as I go on with my
search, and perhaps I may find its mother. If I do not, I shall give it
to somebody in that little village yonder. Anything would be better than
leaving it to be devoured by that horrid dragon."

"Let me carry it, I feel quite strong enough now to carry a baby."

"Thank you," said the Bee-man; "but I can take it myself. I like to
carry something, and I have now neither my hive nor my doublet."

"It is very well that you had to leave them behind," said the Youth,
"for the bees would have stung the baby."

"My bees never sting babies," said the other.

"They probably never had a chance," remarked his companion.

They soon entered the village, and after walking a short distance the
Youth exclaimed: "Do you see that woman over there sitting at the door
of her house? She has beautiful hair, and she is tearing it all to
pieces. She should not be allowed to do that."

"No," said the Bee-man. "Her friends should tie her hands."

"Perhaps she is the mother of this child," said the Youth, "and if you
give it to her she will no longer think of tearing her hair."

"But," said the Bee-man, "you don't really think this is her child?"

"Suppose you go over and see," said the other.

The Bee-man hesitated a moment, and then he walked toward the woman.
Hearing him coming, she raised her head, and when she saw the child she
rushed toward it, snatched it into her arms, and screaming with joy she
covered it with kisses. Then with happy tears she begged to know the
story of the rescue of her child, whom she never expected to see again;
and she loaded the Bee-man with thanks and blessings. The friends and
neighbors gathered around, and there was great rejoicing. The mother
urged the Bee-man and the Youth to stay with her, and rest and refresh
themselves, which they were glad to do, as they were tired and hungry.

They remained at the cottage all night, and in the afternoon of the next
day the Bee-man said to the Youth: "It may seem an odd thing to you, but
never in all my life have I felt myself drawn toward any living being as
I am drawn toward this baby. Therefore I believe that I have been
transformed from a baby."

"Good!" cried the Youth. "It is my opinion that you have hit the truth.
And now would you like to be changed back to your original form?"

"Indeed I would!" said the Bee-man. "I have the strongest yearning to be
what I originally was."

The Youth, who had now lost every trace of languid feeling, took a great
interest in the matter, and early the next morning started off to tell
the Junior Sorcerer that the Bee-man had discovered what he had been
transformed from, and desired to be changed back to it.

The Junior Sorcerer and his learned Masters were filled with delight
when they heard this report, and they at once set out for the mother's
cottage. And there by magic arts the Bee-man was changed back into a
baby. The mother was so grateful for what the Bee-man had done for her
that she agreed to take charge of this baby, and to bring it up as her
own.

"It will be a grand thing for him," said the Junior Sorcerer, "and I am
glad that I studied his case. He will now have a fresh start in life,
and will have a chance to become something better than a miserable old
man living in a wretched hut with no friends or companions but buzzing
bees."

The Junior Sorcerer and his Masters then returned to their homes, happy
in the success of their great performance; and the Youth went back to
his home anxious to begin a life of activity and energy.

Years and years afterward, when the Junior Sorcerer had become a Senior
and was very old indeed, he passed through the country of Orn, and
noticed a small hut about which swarms of bees were flying. He
approached it, and looking in at the door he saw an old man in a
leathern doublet, sitting at a table, eating honey. By his magic art he
knew this was the baby which had been transformed from the Bee-man.

"Upon my word!" exclaimed the Sorcerer, "he has grown into the same
thing again!"

[E] From "The Bee-Man of Orn, and Other Fanciful Tales";
copyright, 1887, by Charles Scribner's Sons. Used by permission of the
publishers.





Next: The Pot Of Gold

Previous: Prince Little Boy



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