All were under the command of Joe the Indefatigable, who formed a kind of body-guard of gun-carriers out of the porters that carried the lightest packs. Mr. Dawson assisted me in collecting; Paul prepared to shoulder a bed, and the boatswain was ordered to catch butterflies. I was still able to dispense with the hammock.
Several flights of strange yellow butterflies with semi-transparent wings crossed the river that morning, and many alighted on the monitor and were killed by the men. It was towards afternoon that they came upon the derelict cuberta.
The long days carried her messages, which in our language would have read something like this: My Dear Helpers, Sunbeams, and Raindrops: You are needed down here on earth. It is time to dress my plant children, and give them work to do. The birds must be called back from the South, and the cocooons must be opened so that my butterflies can come out.
Yet under ordinary conditions those very islands are blue studs set in the rim of the ocean. What magic is it that uplifts them to-day between the ocean and the sky? This was a day of gushing sunshine and myriads of butterflies. They flew from the mainland, not as spies but in battalions a never-ending procession miles broad.
The elms and horse-chestnuts that ordinarily grew now leaped leaped upwards to the sun; while all flying things birds, insects, bees, and butterflies passed in and out like darting threads of colour, pinning the beauty into a patterned tapestry for all to see. The entire day was charged with the natural delight of endless, sheer existence. It was visible.
"Now," said Miss Katy-did, drawing an azalea-leaf towards her, "let us see, whom shall we have? The Fireflies, of course; everybody wants them, they are so brilliant; a little unsteady, to be sure, but quite in the higher circles." "Yes, we must have the Fireflies," echoed the Colonel. "Well, then, and the Butterflies and the Moths. Now, there's a trouble.
The twittering they made resembled the whisperings of a multitude. The majority of them kept near the roof, and as they flew to and fro through the shafts of light they presented a most curious effect and looked like swarms of gnats; lower down they resembled silvery butterflies.
You may come across some of them botanizing, collecting insects, moths and butterflies in the fields on Sundays; others you will find reading works on astronomy, geometry, physics, or electricity: they have not gone through the early training, and so they often make blunders; but yet they are real students.
Deserts are the most exacting of all known environments, and they compel their inhabitants with profound imperiousness to knuckle under to their prejudices and preconceptions in ten thousand particulars. To begin with, all the smaller denizens of the desert whether butterflies, beetles, birds, or lizards must be quite uniformly isabelline or sand-coloured.
Likewise, Lubotshka was continually at loggerheads with Mimi because the latter wanted her to have her stays so tight that she could not breathe or eat or drink in comfort, while Katenka, on the contrary, would often insert her finger into her waistband to show how loose it was, and always ate very little. Lubotshka liked to draw heads; Katenka only flowers and butterflies.