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Famous Modern Ghost Stories (Various authors) online
"It's due to himself. To your happiness, Marianne"; and I took a hearty draught of the schist. "Now," said I, "tell me where I can find Le Bihan and Max Fortin."
"Monsieur Le Bihan and Monsieur Fortin are above in the broad room. I believe they are examining the Red Admiral's effects."
"To send them to Paris? Oh, I know. May I go up, Marianne?"
"And God go with you," smiled the girl.
When I knocked at the door of the broad room above little Max Fortin opened it. Dust covered his spectacles and nose; his hat, with the tiny velvet ribbons fluttering, was all awry.
"Come in, Monsieur Darrel," he said; "the mayor and I are packing up the effects of the Purple Emperor and of the poor Red Admiral."
"The collections?" I asked, entering the room. "You must be very careful in packing those butterfly cases; the slightest jar might break wings and antennas, you know."
Le Bihan shook hands with me and pointed to the great pile of boxes.
"They're all cork lined," he said, "but Fortin and I are putting felt around each box. The Entomological Society of Paris pays the freight."
The combined collection of the Red Admiral and the Purple Emperor made a magnificent display.
I lifted and inspected case after case set with gorgeous butterflies and moths, each specimen carefully labelled with the name in Latin. There were cases filled with crimson tiger moths all aflame with color; cases devoted to the common yellow butterflies; symphonies in orange and pale yellow; cases of soft gray and dun-colored sphinx moths; and cases of grayish nettle-bed butterflies of the numerous family of Vanessa.
All alone in a great case by itself was pinned the purple emperor, the Apatura Iris, that fatal specimen that had given the Purple Emperor his name and quietus.
I remembered the butterfly, and stood looking at it with bent eyebrows.
Le Bihan glanced up from the floor where he was nailing down the lid of a box full of cases.
"It is settled, then," said he, "that madame, your wife, gives the Purple Emperor's entire Collection to the city of Paris?"
"Without accepting anything for it?"
"It is a gift," I said.
"Including the purple emperor there in the case? That butterfly is worth a great deal of money," persisted Le Bihan.
"You don't suppose that we would wish to sell that specimen, do you?" I answered a trifle sharply.
"If I were you I should destroy it," said the mayor in his high-pitched voice.
"That would be nonsense," said I, "like your burying the brass cylinder and scroll yesterday."
"It was not nonsense," said Le Bihan doggedly, "and I should prefer not to discuss the subject of the scroll."
I looked at Max Portin, who immediately avoided my eyes.
"You are a pair of superstitious old women," said I, digging my hands into my pockets; "you swallow every nursery tale that is invented."
"What of it?" said Le Bihan sulkily; "there's more truth than lies in most of 'em."
"Oh!" I sneered, "does the Mayor of St. Gildas and St. Julien believe in the loup-garou?"
"No, not in the loup-garou."
"In what, then--Jeanne-la-Flamme?"
"That," said Le Bihan with conviction, "is history."
"The devil it is!" said I; "and perhaps, Monsieur the mayor, your faith in giants is unimpaired?"
"There were giants--everybody knows it," growled Max Fortin.
"And you a chemist!" I observed scornfully.
"Listen, Monsieur Darrel," squeaked Le Bihan; "you know yourself that the Purple Emperor was a scientific man. Now suppose I should tell you that he always refused to include in his collection a Death's Messenger?"
"A what?" I exclaimed.
"You know what I mean--that moth that flies by night; some call it the Death's Head, but in St. Gildas we call it 'Death's Messenger.'"