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AUGUSTA. This is a sad requital for all their labour and ingenuity.
MRS. HARCOURT. Many ingenious persons have applied their talents to the invention of schemes to prevent this cruelty. The most elegant and successful that I have seen, is effected by placing a flat, round board, perforated with holes sufficiently large for the bees to pass easily through, over the hive: upon this board stands a glass, formed a little like a flower-pot, smallest at bottom and expanding at top: this may be covered by another board, to serve as a foundation for a second glass; additional stories, in like manner, diminishing in size till they form a pyramid, may likewise be raised to what height the owner pleases. When the bees have filled their hives, they continue to work upwards, filling not only the glass hives rising one above another, but also small bell-glasses, placed over holes made on the edges of the boards, till they are all stored with wax and honey; which is obtained by removing these glasses when full, and placing empty ones in their stead: the bees, finding room and
employment for the young swarms, remain in their habitation, without attempting to colonize. This apparatus is expensive, and for that reason can be adopted only by persons of fortune; but wooden hives, constructed upon a similar principle, will, probably, in time, come into general use, as they will be found to unite profit with convenience.
SOPHIA. I read a wonderful account, a little while ago, in the Philosophical Transactions, of a bird, found in the interior parts of Africa, called the indicator or honey-guide, which directs travellers to the spot where honey is to be found. It is a species of the cuckoo, but much smaller than that which frequents Europe. Honey being its favourite food, it is prompted by self-interest to point out the place where the booty is concealed, as it is generally repaid for its intelligence by a part of the spoil. The morning and the evening are the times in which it searches for food, and it is then heard calling, in a shrill tone, cheer, cheer; a note which immediately draws the attention of the honey-hunters, as they consider it a signal for the chase. From
time to time they answer with a soft whistle, which the bird hearing, continues its note. As soon as it perceives the men, it flutters gradually to the place where the bees are situated, continually repeating its former call of cheer, cheer: nay, if it should happen to have advanced considerably before the hunters, (who are very liable to be impeded by bushes, rivers, &c.) it returns to them again, and redoubles its note, as if to stimulate them to more activity. At last the bird is observed to hover for a few moments over a particular spot, and then to retire silently to a neighbouring bush, or resting-place, and the hunters are sure of finding the bees' nest in that identical spot; whether it be in a tree or in the crevice of a rock, or, as is most commonly the case, in the earth. Whilst the hunters are busy in taking the honey, the bird is seen looking on attentively to what is going forward, and waiting for its share of the spoil. The bee-hunters never fail to leave a small portion for their conductor, but commonly take care not to give him sufficient to
satisfy his hunger, but only a taste, that may incite him to seek for another nest.
MR. HARCOURT. The instinct of this cuckoo is admirable, and properly introduced. Wax and honey are the productions which invite man to plunder the stores of the bees. Wax forms a very considerable article of commerce, the quantity of it consumed in the different parts of Europe being almost incredible. There are two kinds of it, used for different purposes, white and yellow: the first is bleached by art; the last is as it comes from the hive. After the honey is taken out of the comb, the remaining matter is put into a kettle with a sufficient quantity of water; then it is melted over a moderate fire, and strained through a linen cloth, by means of a press: the scum is taken off before it is cold, and it is poured into moulds made of wood, earthenware, or metal. The bleaching of wax, or rendering it white, is performed by spreading it into very thin cakes, and exposing them on linen cloths to the air, both night and day; for the dew is as effectual in whitening it as the sun. When they are perfectly blanched
by this exposure, they are melted for the last time, and cast, with a ladle, upon a table covered over with little round dents, or cavities, of the size and form of the cakes of white wax sold in the apothecaries' shops. This wax is used for candles, torches, tapers, flambeaux, figures, and other wax-works. It is also an ingredient necessary in encaustic paintings. Plasters, cerates, and salves, acquire a consistency by being mixed with it; and, in some cases, it is administered internally.
MRS. HARCOURT. The basket of wax fruit, which stands upon the top of my cabinet, has deceived and disappointed many. As Sophia composed it, she will please to inform us what means she used to imitate nature so closely.
SOPHIA. I buried the fruit I designed to copy half way in clay, and oiled its edges, as well as the half that remained uncovered. Then I threw plaster of Paris over it as quickly as I could, making a thick coat: when this hardens, half the mould is formed; the other half may be obtained in the same manner. After I had finished my moulds, I joined them