The Liar and the Bees
By Valerie L. Egar
Once upon a time, a very long time ago, a kind farmer and his wife lived with their two children on a small farm near a winding river. Though they were not rich, they had a gentle brown cow for milk, a flock of red hens for eggs and a fertile field to grow wheat. They maintained a hive of bees at the back of the garden and the wife planted extra flowers for the bees around the cottage. An apple tree provided sweet apples for pies and cider and shaded the family on hot summer days.
The family was content. “Surely, we are very fortunate,” thought the farmer. His wife listened to the bees in the apple blossoms and smiled, thankful for all they had. The children, a handsome boy and winsome girl, threw feed to the chickens and milked the cow, without a care in the world.
Their neighbor, a cheerless man with a run down farm, envied the family’s happiness. “Oh, it’s easy to be content when you have a fat cow, chickens, a fine field and flowers blooming,” said the sour old man. “I’d like to see how well they’d do if they had nothing!”
Not two weeks later, the old man travelled to the nearby village to buy a pig. Stopping by an inn for lunch, he noticed a man in workman’s clothes sitting quietly by the fire. The King often disguised himself and mingled with the people to hear what they thought of him. The old man recognized the King and saw an opportunity to meddle with the family’s happiness. In a voice loud enough for the King to hear, the old man declared, “ I am so ashamed! I live next to people who curse our worthy King and call him names. They have a fine farm and should be grateful, but they are not. Surely there is no place for people like that in this Kingdom.”
The King took notice and not a week later, soldiers arrived at the farm with a proclamation banishing the family from the Kingdom. They stripped the apples from the tree and dug all the potatoes and carrots from the garden. They loaded bags of harvested wheat onto a cart. One soldier loaded the chickens into a cage and another led the cow away. They lifted the beehive from the back of the garden and tied it onto the cart.
The family was left with nothing and they sat down and cried. The wife packed the last loaf of bread and a rind of cheese into a basket. Holding hands, they began to walk to a new Kingdom, hoping they would find people kind enough to give them what food they could spare as they journeyed.
Meanwhile, the bees in the hive grew agitated. If there is anything a bee cannot stand, it’s a lie. They left the hive one by one as the cart jiggled down the road. They gathered in a swarm and flew to the old man’s house, waiting on a gnarled tree for him to come outside.
When he did, a bee stung him on the nose.
“Ow!” he yelled. Another stung his shoulder. Then, his knee. “Ow! Ow! Ow!”
The Queen bee buzzed near his ear and the old man was surprised to find he could understand her buzzing. “Truth! Truth! Truth!” Each time the Queen spoke, a bee stung him. With the bees pursuing him, he jumped on his horse and galloped toward the castle.
The King was furious when he learned the old man lied about the family. He ripped up his proclamation and ordered their property restored. Soldiers found them camped near the river, sharing their last piece of bread, grateful that although they’d lost everything, they still had each other.
The King banished the liar from the Kingdom and to make amends, he gave the family the old man’s disheveled farm. The farmer made the old farm beautiful by planting an orchard of apple trees and building more hives for his faithful, truth loving bees.
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Copyright 2017 by Valerie L. Egar. May not be copied or reproduced without permission.
Published February 26, 2017 Journal Tribune Sunday (Biddeford, ME) online edition.