Page images

no attack, and sought no revenge; they seemed stupified by the catastrophe, and unsuspicious of its cause, and remained crawling and buzzing about the ruins, without offering us any molestation. Every one of the party now fell to, with spoon and hunting-knife, to scoop out the flakes of honey.comb, with which the hollow trunk was stored. Some of them were of old date, and a deep brown color; others were beautifully white, and the honey in their cells was almost limpid. Such of the combs as were entire were placed in camp-kettles, to be conveyed to the encampment; those which had been shivered in the fall were devoured upon the spot. Every stark bee hunter was to be seen with a rich morsel in his hand, dripping about his fingers, and disappearing as rapidly as a cream tart before the holiday appetite of a schoolboy.

Nor was it the bee-hunters alone that profited by the downfall of this industrious community. As if the bees would carry through the similitude of their habits with those of laborious and gainful man, I beheld numbers from rival hives, arriving on eager wing to enrich themselves with the ruin of their neighbours. These busied themselves as eagerly and cheerfully as so many wreckers on an Indiaman that has been driven on shore; plunging into the cells of the broken honey-combs, banqueting greedily on the spoil, and then winging their way full freighted to their homes. As to the poor proprietors of the ruin, they seemed to have no heart to do anything, not even to taste the nectar that flowed around them; but crawled backward and forward in vacant desolation, as I have seen a poor fellow with his hands in his breeches' pocket, whistling vacantly and despondingly about the ruins of his house that had been burnt.

It is difficult to describe the bewilderment and confusion of the bees of the bankrupt hive, who had been absent at the time of the catastrophe, and who arrived from time to time with full cargoes from abroad. At first they wheeled about in the air, in the place where their fallen tree had once reared its head, astonished at finding it all a vacuum. At length, as if comprehending their disaster, they settled down in clusters on a dry branch of a neighbouring tree, from whence they seemed to contemplate the prostrate ruin, and to buzz forth doleful lamentations, over the downfall of their republic. It was a scene on which the “ melancholy Jaques” might have moralised by the hour.

We now abandoned the place, leaving much honey in the hollow of the tree. “It will all be cleared off by varmint,” said one of the rangers. “What vermin ?" asked I. “Oh, bears, and skunks, and raccoons, and 'possums," said he ; "the bears is the knowingist varmint for finding out a bee-tree in the world. They'll gnaw for days together at the trunk, till they make a hole big enough to get in their paws, and then they'll haul out honey, bees and all."

W. Irving.

PETER THE GREAT. The Russians were little better than a nation of ignorant barbarians, when Peter the First, their young czar, was inspired with a passion for civilising himself and them.

While looking about one day among some old stores and other neglected effects, he chanced to cast his eye on the hulk of a small English sloop, with its sailing tackle, lying among the rest of the lumber, and fast going to decay. This vessel had been imported many years before by his father, also a prince of distinguished talents, who had nourished many schemes for the improvement of his country. But the vessel had long been forgotten by everybody, as well as the object which the prince had in view when he imported it.

Peter made eager inquiries of some foreigners who were about him, as to the use of the mast and small sails, for he did not even know their general purposes; by which we may see how intense was Russian ignorance. The explanations he received made Peter work on the old hulk with extraordinary interest. He could take no rest until he had had it repaired, and set afloat. His father, he found, had not only imported the vessel, but also with it a Dutch pilot, to teach the Russians how to manage it. The man had been forgotten. Peter now had him found, and set him to work and refit the sloop.

With a gratification that one can but poorly conceive, Peter at length beheld this novel creation, with its mast replaced, and its sails in order, moving on the water. In his delight he went on board, and the pilot soon made him an expert sailor. This incident first determined his mind toward maritime affairs.

Peter had set himself a mighty task. To carry it out he put off all the state of a czar, and travelled in the suite of his own ambassador, literally in pursuit of knowledge. He went to Holland, where his embassy received all honor, but he refused to be recognised except as a private individual. This was not a mere eccentric freak, as at first sight it may appear; for encumbered with the state of an emperor, he could not so freely have pursued his inquiries and made observations. Peter had no time to receive empty honors; he had no inclination for them; he had work to do; such work as tasked every energy he possessed, and demanded every moment of his time that was not employed in necessary repose or refreshment.

Totally uninstructed, yet gifted with the grandest capacities, everything that he beheld was to him fraught with wonder and instruction. In Amsterdam, he walked through the streets, attentively regarding the various objects, and especially examining into the different arts and trades which he saw exercised around him. He visited, among other places, the great East India dock-yard at Saardam, a few miles from Amsterdam. This was the principal establishment of the kind in Holland, and bad surpassing interest for Peter, whose mind was gradually working out plans for the formation of a Russian navy. He resolved to become a workman in this dockyard, in order to learn the art of building ships, as he had already learned how to manage them.

Accordingly, he presented himself before the superintendent of the dockyard, as a working carpenter, and gave in his name simply as Peter Mechaelof, and took his place among the common workmen ; wearing their usual dress, eating of the food they ate, and lodging as they lodged. The hut in which he lived is still shown in Saardam. Nobody about him had the remotest idea of nis being other than a poor laboring man. And when, after some time, his rank was discovered, he was greatly displeased if any one attempted to pay him regal honors. After several months of hard labor, he saw the vessel completed on which he had been working. It was named the St. Peter, and he purchased it. All this time he did not neglect a single duty that belonged to his


When the labors of the day were over, he spent his evenings in writing despatches, or consulting with his ambassadors, or forming plans for his own further improvement, and the advancement of his people. The best proof of the value of those plans, and of the true greatness of his conduct, which few of his people were capable of appreciating, is the fact that what he accomplished for the Russian people remains to this day, and is likely to remain permanent as the country itself. The foundations he laid, remain firm and entire; and all that is valuable in the Russian empire is built upon them.

WILLIE, THE “POOR LOST LAD.” It is now well-nigh thirty years since Willie Watson returned, after an absence of nearly a quarter of a century, to the neighbouring town. He had been employed as a ladies' shoemaker in some of the districts of the south; but no one at home had heard of Willie in the interval, and there was little known regarding him at his return, except that when he had quitted town so many years before, he was a neat-handed industrious workman, and what the elderly people called a quiet, decent lad.

And he was now, though somewhat in the wane of life, even a more thorough master of his trade than before. He was quiet and unobtrusive, too, as ever, and a great reader of serious books. And so the better sort of the people were beginning to draw to Willie by a kind of natural sympathy; some of them had learned to saunter into his workshop in the long evenings, and some had grown bold enough to engage him in serious conversation when they met with him in his solitary walks. At last, out came the astounding fact—and important as it may seem, the simpleminded mechanic had taken no pains to conceal it--that, during his residence in the south country, he had laid down presbyterianism and become a member of a baptist church.

There was a sudden revulsion of feeling towards him, and all the people of the town began to speak of Willie Watson as "a

[ocr errors]

The “poor lost lad,” however, was unquestionably a very excellent workman; and as he made neater shoes than anybody

else, the ladies of the place could see no great barm in wearing them.

He was singularly industrious too, and indulged in no extraordinary expense, except when he now and then bought a good book, or a few flower seeds for his garden. He was withal a single man, with only himself, and an elderly sister, who lived with him, to provide for; and, what between the regularity of his gains on the one hand, and the moderation of his desires on the other, Willie, for a person of his condition, was in easy circumstances.

It was found that all the children in the neighbourhood had taken a wonderful fancy to his shop. Willie was fond of telling them good little stories out of the Bible, and of explaining to them the prints which he had pasted on the walls.

Above all, he was anxiously bent on teaching them to read.

Some of the parents were poor, and some of them were careless ; and he saw that, unless they learned their letters from him, there was little chance of their ever learning them at all. Willie, in a small way, and to a very small congregation, was a kind of missionary; and what between his stories and his pictures, and his flowers and his apples, his labors were wonderfully successful. Never yet was school or church half so delightful to the little men and women of the place as the workshop of Willie Watson, “ the poor lost lad.”

Years of scarcity came on; taxes were high, and crops not abundant; and the soldiery abroad, whom the country had employed to fight against Bonaparte, had got an appetite at their work, and were consuming a good deal of meat and corn. The price of food rose tremendously; and many of the townspeople, who were working for a very little, were not in every case secure for that little when the work was done. Willie's small congregation began to find that the times were exceedingly bad; there was no more morning pieces among them, and the porridge was less than enough. It was observed, however, that in the midst of their distresses Willie got in a large stock of meal, and that his sister began to bake as if she were making ready for a wedding. The children were wonderfully interested in the work, and watched it to the end; when, lo! to their great and joyous surprise, Willie divided the whole baking among them.

« PreviousContinue »