"IT is very strange," whispered one reed to another, "that the queen bee never guides her swarm to the aspen-tree."
"Indeed, it is strange," said the other. "The oak and the willow often have swarms, but I never saw one on the aspen. What can be the reason?"
"The queen bee cannot bear the aspen," said the first. "Very likely she has some good reason for despising it. I do not think that an insect as wise as she would despise a tree without any reason. Many wicked things happen that no one knows."
The reeds did not think that any one could hear what they said, but both the willow and the aspen heard every word. The aspen was so angry that it trembled from root to tip. "I'll soon see why that proud queen bee despises me," it said. "She shall guide a swarm to my branches or"—
"Oh, I would not care for what those reeds say," the willow-tree broke in. "They are the greatest chatterers in the world. They are always whispering together, and they always have something unkind to say."
The aspen-tree was too angry to be still, and it called out to the reeds, "You are only lazy whisperers. I do not care what you say. I despise both you and your queen bee. The honey that those bees make is not good to eat. I would not have it anywhere near me."
"Hush, hush," whispered the willow timidly. "The reeds will repeat every word that you say."
"I do not care if they do," said the aspen. "I despise both them and the bees."
The reeds did whisper the angry words of the aspen to the queen bee, and she said, "I was going to guide my swarm to the aspen, but now I will drive the tree out of the forest. Come, my bees, come."
Then the bees flew by hundreds upon the aspen. They stung every leaf and every twig through and through. The tree was driven from the forest, over the prairie, over the river, over the fields; and still the angry bees flew after it and stung it again and again. When they had come to the rocky places, they left it and flew back to the land of flowers. The aspen never came back. Its bright green leaves had grown white through fear, and from that day to this they have trembled as they did when the bees were stinging them and driving the tree from the forest.