to death. On the mainland, across twenty miles of discoloured muddy water, there stands a city whose name, let us say, is Horta.*

But the most interesting characteristic of this island (which seems like a sort of penal settlement for condemned cattle) consists in its being the only known habitat of an extremely rare and gorgeous butterfly. The species is even more rare than it is beautiful, which is not saying little. I have already alluded to my travels. I travelled at that time, but strictly for myself and with a moderation unknown in our days of round-the-world tickets. I even travelled with a purpose. As a matter of fact, I am—‘Ha, ha, ha!—a desperate butterflyslayer. Ha, ha, ha!’

This was the tone in which Harry Gee, the manager of the cattle station, alluded to my pursuits. He seemed to consider me the greatest absurdity in the world. On the other hand, the B.O.S. Co., Ltd, represented to him the acme of the nineteenth century’s achievement. I believe he slept in his leggings and spurs. His days he spent in the saddle flying over the plains, followed by a train of half-wild horsemen, who called him Don Enrique, and who had no definite idea of the B.O.S. Co., Ltd, which paid their wages. He was an excellent manager, but I don’t see why, when we met at meals, he should have thumped me on the back, with loud, derisive inquiries: ‘How’s the deadly sport to-day? Butterflies going strong? Ha, ha, ha!’—especially as he charged me two dollars per day for the hospitality of the B.O.S. Co., Ltd (capital £2,000,000, fully paid up), in whose balance-sheet for that year those moneys are no doubt included. ‘I don’t think I can make it anything less in justice to my company,’ he had remarked, with extreme gravity, when I was arranging with him the terms of my stay on the island.

His chaff would have been harmless enough if intimacy of intercourse in the absence of all friendship were not a thing detestable in itself. Moreover, his facetiousness was not very amusing. It consisted in the wearisome repetition of descriptive phrases applied to people with a burst of laughter. ‘Desperate butterfly-slayer. Ha, ha, ha!’ was one sample of his peculiar wit which he himself enjoyed so much. And in the same vein of exquisite humour he called my attention to the engineer of the steam-launch, one day, as we strolled on the path by the side of the creek.

The man’s head and shoulders emerged above the deck, over which were scattered various tools of his trade and a few pieces of machinery. He was doing some repairs to the engines. At the sound of our footsteps he raised anxiously a grimy face with a pointed chin and a tiny fair mustache. What could be seen of his delicate features under the black smudges appeared to me wasted and livid in the greenish shade of the enormous tree spreading its foliage over the launch moored close to the bank.

To my great surprise, Harry Gee addressed him as ‘Crocodile,’ in that half-jeering, half-bullying tone which is characteristic of self-satisfaction in his delectable kind:

‘How does the work get on, Crocodile?’

I should have said before that the amiable Harry had picked up French of a sort somewhere—in some colony or other,—and that he pronounced it with a disagreeable, forced precision as though he meant to guy the language. The man in the launch answered him quickly in a pleasant voice. His eyes had a liquid softness and his teeth flashed dazzlingly white between this thin drooping lips. The manager turned to me, very cheerful and loud, explaining:

‘I call him Crocodile because he lives half in, half out of the creek. Amphibious—see? There’s nothing else amphibious living on the island except crocodiles; so he must belong to the species—eh? But in reality he’s nothing less than un citoyen anarchiste de Barcelone.’

‘A citizen anarchist from Barcelona?’* I repeated, stupidly, looking down at the man. He had turned to his work in the engine-well of the launch and presented his bowed back to us. In that attitude I heard him protest, very audibly,

‘I do not even know Spanish.’

  By PanEris using Melati.

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