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Bees & Other Stories

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The lazy yawning drone.

It is not every day that a man wakes to find Shakespeare scrawled on his inner thigh. This morning I am, as the black ink scratches suggest, lazy. One privilege of retirement is the lie-in. And I sleep more soundly here, in this little cottage on the southern slope of the downs, than I ever did in London. That’s why Watson is able to carve silly epitaphs upon my body with me none the wiser. He is aided by, and alluding to, the fact that last night, I was, indeed, the drone. And he the queen.

The bee is an expert chemist.

I, too, was once, to use the words of the Royal Beekeeper of Charles II, an expert chemist. My interest in chemistry has not waned, though my focus has narrowed. But yesterday it seemed like we were back at Baker Street with test tubes bubbling and foul smoke filling the rooms. The only difference was that in my haste to contain the disaster, I fell and hit my head, resulting in the good doctor placing me under his strict supervision for the remainder of the day and the night. I was not disappointed, however. I decided long ago that Watson’s tender care was worth any loss to science. Such care meant that I slept very well and woke to a message on my forearm.

The fragrant work with diligence proceeds.

It humbles me that I, who relied so heavily on my powers of observation, did not notice the line from Dryden’s Virgil spanning my belly until I set about dressing myself for the day. Beekeepers’ work is as arduous and never-ending as that of their charges. I fell instantly asleep last night, too spent to spare a single thought for the man who must have dressed me in night-clothes and tucked me into bed like a child and left behind these beautiful words to inspire me, like a gift under a pillow.

Die müssen wohl beide / Für einander sein

Goethe is referring to the bee and bell-flower, how they are made for one another: the bee perfectly suited to spread the flower’s pollen, thus, ensuring its propagation and, in turn, the flower perfectly suited to provide the nectar that the bee requires for nourishment, thus, ensuring the bee’s survival. Like flower and bee, Watson and I could not be more suited to each other. We ensure each other’s survival. Last night, I enjoyed playing the bell-flower. Watson must have enjoyed his role as well, to leave such a missive on the plump of my buttock.

Go, then to the bee, poet, consider her ways, and be wise.

I have left Shaw’s words across Watson’s chest, and when he wakes, I shall tell him, again: that I am his, for now and for always, and no insect—no matter how clever or industrious or evolved—need remind of the wisdom of my heart.