Madame Chrysanthème, by Pierre Loti

Chapter 31

Butterflies and Beetles

August 23d.

The prolonged sojourn of the Triomphante in the dock, and the distance of our dwelling from the town, have been my excuse these last two or three days for not going up to Diou-djen-dji to see Chrysanthème.

It is dreary work in these docks. At early dawn a legion of little Japanese workmen invade us, bringing their dinners in baskets and gourds like the workingmen in our arsenals, but with a poor, shabby appearance, and a ferreting, hurried manner which reminds one of rats. Silently they slip under the keel, at the bottom of the hold, in all the holes, sawing, nailing, repairing.

The heat is intense in this spot, overshadowed by the rocks and tangled masses of foliage.

At two o’clock, in the broad sunlight, we have a new and far prettier invasion: that of the beetles and butterflies.

There are butterflies as wonderful as those on the fans. Some, all black, giddily dash up against us, so light and airy that they seem merely a pair of quivering wings fastened together without any body.

Yves, astonished, gazes at them, saying, in his boyish manner: “Oh, I saw such a big one just now, such a big one, it quite frightened me; I thought it was a bat attacking me.”

A steersman who has captured a very curious specimen carries it off carefully to press between the leaves of his signal-book, like a flower. Another sailor, passing by, taking his small roast to the oven in a mess-bowl, looks at him quizzically and says:

“You had much better give it to me. I’d cook it!”

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Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 22:36