Un souvenir heureux est peut-être,
Plus vrai que le bonheur.
Emperor watched me in silence. I cast again, spinning out six feet more
of waterproof silk, and, as the line hissed through the air far across
the pool, I saw my three flies fall on the water like drifting thistledown.
The Purple Emperor sneered.
"You see," he said, "I am right.
There is not a trout in Brittany that will rise to a tailed fly."
"They do in America," I replied.
"Zut! for America!" observed
the Purple Emperor.
"And the trout take a tailed
fly in England," I insisted sharply.
"Now do I care what things or
people do in England?" demanded the Purple Emperor.
"You don't care for anything
except yourself and your wriggling caterpillars," I said, more annoyed
than I had yet been.
The Purple Emperor sniffed. His
broad, hairless, sunburnt features bore that obstinate expression which
always irritates me. Perhaps that manner in which he wore his hat intensified
the irritation, for the flapping brim rested on both ears, and the two
little velvet ribbons which hung fromt he silver buckle in front of wiggled
and fluttered with every trivial breeze. His cunning eyes and sharp-pointed
nose were out of all keeping with his fat red face. When he met my eye,
"I know more about insects than
any man in Morbihan-or Finistére either, for that matter," he said.
"The Red Admiral knows as much
as you do, " I retorted.
"He doesn't," replied the Purple
"And his collection of butterflied
is twice as large as yours," I added, moving down the stream to a spot
directly opposite him.
"It is, is it?" sneered the Purple
Emperor. "Well. let me tell you, Monsieur Darrel, in all his collection
he hasn't a specimen, a single specimen, of that magnificent butterfly,
Apature Iris, commonly known as the 'Purple Emperor.'"
"Everybody in Brittany knows
that," I said, casting across the sparkling water; "but just because you
happen to be the only man who ever captured a 'Purple Emperor' in Morbihan,
it doesn't follow that you are an authority on sea-trout flies. Why do
you say that a Breton sea-trout won't touch a tailed fly?"
"It's so," he replied.
"Why? There are plenty of May-flies
about the stream,"
"Let 'em fly!" snarled the Purple
Emperor, "you won't see a trout touch 'em."
My arm was aching, but I grasped
my split bamboo more firmly, and half turning, waded out into the stream
and began to whip the ripples at the head of the pool. A great green dragon-fly
came drifting by on the summer breeze and hung a moment above the pool,
glittering like an emerald.
"There's a chance! Where is your
butterfly net??" I called across the stream.
"What for? That dragon-fly? I've
got dozens--Anax Junius, Drury, characteristic, anal angle of posterior
wings, in male, round; thorax marked with--"
"That will do," I said fiercely.
"Can't I point out an insect in the air without this burst of erudition?
Can you tell me, in simple everyday French, what this little fly is--this
one, flittering across the eel grass here beside me? See, it has fallen
on the water."
"Huh!" sneered the Purple Emperor,
"that's a Linnobia annulus."
"What's that?" I demanded.
Before he could answer there
came a heavy splash in the pool, and the fly disappeared.
"He! he! he!" tittered the Purple
Emperor. "Didn't I tell you the fish knew their business? That was a sea-trout.
I hope you don't get him."
He gathered up his butterfly
net, collecting box, chloroform bottle, and cyanide jar. Then he rose,
swung the box over his shoulder, stuffed the poison bottles into the pockets
of his silver-buttoned velvet coat, and lighted his pipe. This latter operation
was a demoralizing spectacle, for the Purple Emperor, like all Breton peasants,
smoked one of those microscopical Breton pipes which requires ten minutes
to find, ten minutes to fill, ten minutes to light, and ten seconds to
finish. With true Breton stolidity he went though this solemn rite, blew
three puffs of smoke into the air, scratched his pointed nose reflectively,
and waddled away, calling back an ironical "Au revoir, and bad luck to
I watched him out of sight, thinking
sadly of the young girl whose life he made a hell upon earth--Lys Trevec,
his niece. She never admitted it, but we all knew what the black-and-blue
marks meant on her soft, round arm, and it made me sick to see the look
of fear come into her eyes when the Purple Emperor waddled into the café
of the Groix Inn.
It was commonly said that he
half-starved her. This she denied. Marie Joseph and 'Fine Lelocard had
seen him strike her the day after the Pardon of the Birds because she had
liberated three bullfinches which ha had limed the day before. There was
nothing to do about it. If the Purple Emperor had not bee avaricious, I
should never have seen Lys at all, but he could not resist the thirty francs
a week which I offered him; and Lys posed for me all day long, happy as
a linnet in a pink thorn hedge. Nevertheless, the Purple Emperor hated
me, and constantly threatened to send Lys back to her dreary flax-spinning.
He was suspicious, too, and when he had gulped down the single glass of
cider which proves fatal to the sobriety of most Bretons, he would pound
the long, discoloured oaken table and roar curses on me, on Yves Terrec,
and on the Red Admiral. We were the three objects in the world which he
most hated: me, because I was a foreigner, and didn't care a rap for him
and his butterflies; and the Red Admiral, because, because he was a rival
He had other reasons for hating
The Red Admiral, a little wizened
wretch, with a badly adjusted glass eye and a passion for brandy, too his
name from a butterfly which predominated in his collection. This butterfly,
commonly known to amateurs as the "Red Admiral," and to entomologists as
Vanessa Atalanta, had been the occasion of scandal among the entomologists
of France and Brittany. For the Red Admiral had taken one of these common
insects, dyed it a brilliant yellow by the aid of chemicals, and palmed
it off on a credulous collector as a South African species, absolutely
unique. The fifty francs which he gained by this rascality were, however,
absorbed in a suit for damages brought by the outraged amateur a month
later; and when he had sat in the Quimperlé jail for a month, he
reappeared in the little village of St. Gildas soured, thirsty, and burning
for revenge. Of course we named him the Red Admiral, and he accepted the
name with suppressed fury.
The Purple Emperor, on the other
hand, had gained his imperial title legitimately, for it was an undisputed
fact that the only specimen of that beautiful butterfly, Apatura Iris,
or the Purple Emperor, as it is called by amateurs--the only specimen that
had ever been taken in Finistére or in Morbihan--was captured and
brought home alive by Joseph Marie Gloanec, ever afterward to be known
as the Purple Emperor.
When the capture of this rare
butterfly became known the Red Admiral nearly went crazy. Every day for
a week he trotted over to the Groix Inn, where the Purple Emperor lived
with his niece, and brought his microscope to bear on the rare newly captured
butterfly, in hope of detecting a fraud. But this specimen was genuine,
and he leered through his microscope in vain.
"No chemicals there, Admiral,"
grinned the Purple Emperor; and the Red Admiral chattered with rage.
To the scientific world of Brittany
and France the capture of an Apatura Iris in Morbihan was of great importance.
The Museum of Quimper offered to purchase the butterfly, but the Purple
Emperor, though a hoarder of gold, was a monomaniac on butterflies, and
he jeered at the Curator of the Museum. From all parts of Brittany and
France letters of inquiry and congratulation poured in upon him. The French
Academy of Sciences awarded him a prize, and the Paris Entological Society
made him an honorary member. Being a Breton peasant, and a more than commonly
pig-headed one at that, these honours did not disturb his equanimity; but
when the little hamlet of St. Gildas elected him mayor, and, as is the
custom in Brittany under such circumstances, he left his thatched house
to take up an official life in the little Groix Inn, his head became completely
turned. To be mayor in a village of nearly one hundred and fifty people!
It was an empire! So he became unbearable, drinking himself viciously drunk
every night of his life, maltreating his niece, Lys Trevec, like the barbarous
old wretch that he was, and driving the Red Admiral nearly frantic with
his eternal harping on the capture of Apatura Iris. Of course he refused
to tell where he had caught the butterfly. The Red Admiral stalked his
footsteps, but in vain.
"He! he! he!" nagged the Purple
Emperor, cuddling his chin over a glass of cider; "I saw you sneaking about
the St. Gildas spinny yesterday morning. So you think you can find another
Apatura Iris by running after me? It won't do, Admiral, it won't do, d'ye
The Red Admiral turned yellow
with mortification and envy, but the next day he actually took to his bed,
for the Purple Emperor had brought home not a butterfly but a live chrysalis,
which, if successfully hatched, would become a perfect specimen of the
invaluable Apatura Iris. This was the last straw. The Red Admiral shut
himself up in his little stone cottage, and for weeks now he had been invisible
to everybody except 'Fine Lelocard who carried him a loaf of bread and
a mullet or langouste every morning.
The withdrawal of the Red Admiral
from the society of St. Gildas excited first the derision and finally the
suspicion of the Purple Emperor. What deviltry could he be hatching? Was
he experimenting with chemicals again, or was he engaged in some deeper
plot, the object of which was to discredit the Purple Emperor? Roux, the
postman, who carried the mail on foot once a day from Bannalec, a distance
of fifteen miles each way, had brought several suspicious letters, bearing
English stamps, to the Red Admiral, and the next day the Admiral had been
observed at his window grinning up into the sky and rubbing his hands together.
A night or two after this apparition the postman left two packages at the
Groix Inn for a moment while he ran across the way to drink a glass of
cider with me. The Purple Emperor, who was roaming about the café,
snooping into everything that did not concern him, came upon the packages
and examined the postmarks and addresses. One of the packages was square
and heavy, and felt like a book. The other was also square, but very light,
a felt like a pasteboard box. They were both addressed to the Red Admiral,
and they bore English stamps.
When Roux, the postman, came
back, the Purple Emperor tried to pump him, but the poor little postman
knew nothing about the contents of the packages, and after he had taken
them around the corner to the cottage of the Red Admiral the Purple Emperor
ordered a glass of cider, and deliberately fuddled himself until Lys came
in and tearfully supported him to his room. here he became so abusive and
brutal that Lys called to me, and I went and settled the trouble without
wasting any words. This also the Purple Emperor remembered, and waited
his chance to get even with me.
That had happened a week ago,
and until to-day he had not deigned to speak to me.
Lys had posed for me all week,
and to-day being Saturday, and I lazy, we had decided to take a little
relaxation, she to visit and gossip with her little black-eyed friend Yvette
in the neighboring hamlet of St. Julien, and I to try the appetites of
the Breton trout with the contents of my American fly book.
I had thrashed the stream very
conscientiously for three hours, but not a trout had risen to my cast,
and I was piqued. I had begun to believe that there were no trout in the
St. Gildas stream, and would probably have given up had I not seen the
sea trout snap the little fly which the Purple Emperor had named so scientifically/
That set me thinking. Probably the Purple Emperor was right, for he certainly
was an expert in everything that crawled and wriggled in Brittany. So I
matched, from my American fly book, the fly that the sea trout had snapped
up, and withdrawing the cast of three, knotted a new leader to the silk
and slipped a fly on the loop. It was a queer fly. It was one of those
unnameable experiments which fascinate anglers in sporting stores and which
generally prove utterly useless. Moreover, it was a tailed fly, but of
course I easily remedied that with a stroke of my penknife. Then I was
all ready, and I stepped out into the hurrying rapids and cast straight
as an arrow to the spot where the sea trout had risen. Lightly as a plume
the fly settled on the bosom of the pool; then came a startling splash,
a gleam of silver, and the line tightened from the vibrating rod-tip to
the shrieking reel. Almost instantly I checked the fish, and as he floundered
for a moment, making the water boil along his glittering sides, I sprang
to the bank again, for I saw that the fish was a heavy one and I should
probably be in for a long run down the stream. The five-ounce rod swept
in a splendid circle, quivering under the strain. "Oh, for a gaff-hook!"
I cried aloud, for I was now firmly convinced that I had a salmon to deal
with, and no sea trout at all.
Then as I stood, bringing every
ounce to bear on the sulking fish, a lithe, slender girl came hurriedly
along the opposite bank calling out to me by name.
"Why, Lys!" I said, glancing
up for a second, "I thought you were at St. Julien with Yvette."
"Yvette has gone to Bannelec.
I went home and found an awful fight going on at the Groix Inn, and I was
so frightened that I came to tell you."
The fish dashed off at that moment,
carrying all the line my reel held, and I was compelled to follow him at
a jump. Lys, active and graceful as a young deer, in spite of her Pont-Aven
sabots, followed along the opposite bank until the fish settled in a deep
pool, shook the line savagely once or twice, and then relapsed into the
"Fight at the Goix Inn?" I called
across the water. "What fight?"
"Not exactly fight," quavered
Lys, "but the Red Admiral has come out of his house at last, and he and
my uncle are drinking together and disputing about butterflies. I never
saw my uncle so angry, and the Red Admiral is sneering and grinning. Oh,
it is almost wicked to see such a face!"
"But, Lys," I said, scarcely
able to repress a smile, "your uncle and the Red Admiral are always quarrelling
"I know--oh, dear me!--but this
is different, Monsieur Darrel. The Red Admiral has grown old and fierce
since he shut himself up three weeks ago, and--oh, dear! I never saw such
a look in my uncle's eyes before. He seemed insane with fury. His eyes--I
can't speak of it--and then Terrec came in."
"Oh," I said more gravely, "that
was unfortunate. What did the Red Admiral say to his son?"
Lys sat down on a rock among
the ferns, and gave me a mutinous glance from her blue eyes.
Yves Terrec, loafer, poacher,
and son of Louis Jean Terrec, otherwise the Red Admiral, had been kicked
out by his father, and had also been forbidden the village by the Purple
Emperor, in his majestic capacity of mayor. Twice the young ruffian had
returned: once to rifle the bedroom of the Purple Emperor--an unsuccessful
enterprise--and another time to rob his own father. He succeeded in the
latter attempt, but was never caught, although he was frequently seen roving
about the forests and moors with his gun. He openly menaced the Purple
Emperor; vowed that he would marry Lys in spite of all the gendarmes in
Quimperlé; and these same gendarmes he led many a long chase through
brier-filled swamps and over miles of yellow gorse.
What he did to the Purple Emperor--what
he intended to do--disquieted me but little; but I worried over his threat
concerning Lys. During the last three months this had bothered me a great
deal; for when Lys came to St. Gildas from the convent the first thing
she captured was my heart. For a long time I had refused to believe that
any tie of blood linked this dainty creature with the Purple Emperor. Although
she dressed in the velvet-laced bodice and blue petticoat of Finistére,
and wore the bewitching white coiffe of St. Gildas, it seemed like a pretty
masquerade. To me she was as sweet and as gently bred as many a maiden
of the noble Faubourg who danced with her cousins at a Louis XV fête
champêtre. So when Lys said that Yves Terrec had returned openly
to St. Gildas, I felt that I had better be there also.
"What did Terrec say, Lys?" I
asked, watching the line vibrating above the placid pool.
The wild rose colour crept into
her cheeks. "Oh," she answered, with a little toss of her chin, "you know
what he always says."
"That he will carry you away?"
"In spite of the Purple Emperor,
the Red Admiral, and the gendarmes?"
"And what do you say, Lys?"
"I? Oh, nothing."
"Then let me say it for you."
Lys looked at her delicate pointed
sabots, the sabots from Pont-Aven, made to order. They fitted her little
foot. They were her only luxury.
"Will you let me answer for you,
Lys?" I asked.
"You, Monsieur Darrel?"
"Yes. Will you let me give him
"Mon Dieu, why should you concern
yourself, Monsieur Darrel?"
The fish lay very quiet, but
the rod in my hand trembled.
"Because I love you, Lys."
The wild rose colour in her cheeks
deepened; she gave a gentle gasp, then hid her curly head in her hands.
"I love you, Lys."
"Do you know what you say?" she
"Yes, I love you."
She raised her sweet face and
looked at me across the pool.
"I love you," she said, while
the tears stood like stars in her eyes. "Shall I come over the brook to
End of PART ONE..... GO TO PART