P. G. Wodehouse: Uneasy Money

Chapter 5

The village of Brookport, Long Island, is a summer place. It lives, like the mosquitoes that infest it, entirely on its summer visitors. At the time of the death of Mr Ira Nutcombe, the only all-the-year-round inhabitants were the butcher, the grocer, the chemist, the other customary fauna of villages, and Miss Elizabeth Boyd, who rented the ramshackle farm known locally as Flack's and eked out a precarious livelihood by keeping bees.

If you take down your Encyclopaedia Britannica, Volume III, AUS to BIS, you will find that bees are a 'large and natural family of the zoological order Hymenoptera, characterized by the plumose form of many of their hairs, by the large size of the basal segment of the foot ... and by the development of a "tongue" for sucking liquid food,' the last of which peculiarities, it is interesting to note, they shared with Claude Nutcombe Boyd, Elizabeth's brother, who for quite a long time--till his money ran out--had made liquid food almost his sole means of sustenance. These things, however, are by the way. We are not such snobs as to think better or worse of a bee because it can claim kinship with the Hymenoptera family, nor so ill-bred as to chaff it for having large feet. The really interesting passage in the article occurs later, where it says: 'The bee industry prospers greatly in America.'

This is one of those broad statements that invite challenge. Elizabeth Boyd would have challenged it. She had not prospered greatly. With considerable trouble she contrived to pay her way, and that was all.

Again referring to the 'Encyclopaedia,' we find the words: 'Before undertaking the management of a modern apiary, the beekeeper should possess a certain amount of aptitude for the pursuit.' This was possibly the trouble with Elizabeth's venture, considered from a commercial point of view. She loved bees, but she was not an expert on them. She had started her apiary with a small capital, a book of practical hints, and a second-hand queen, principally because she was in need of some occupation that would enable her to live in the country. It was the unfortunate condition of Claude Nutcombe which made life in the country a necessity. At that time he was spending the remains of the money left him by his aunt, and Elizabeth had hardly settled down at Brookport and got her venture under way when she found herself obliged to provide for Nutty a combination of home and sanatorium. It had been the poor lad's mistaken view that he could drink up all the alcoholic liquor in America.

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