I was very anxious, but I respected the intense, almost passionate, absorption with which he looked at a butterfly, as though on the bronze sheen of these frail wings, in the white tracings, in the gorgeous markings, he could see other things, an image of something as perishable and defying destruction as these delicate and lifeless tissues displaying a splendour unmarred by death.
“‘Marvellous!’ he repeated, looking up at me. ‘Look! The beauty- but that is nothing- look at the accuracy, the harmony. And so fragile! And so strong! And so exact! This is Nature- the balance of colossal forces. Every star is so- and every blade of grass stands so- and the mighty Kosmos in perfect equilibrium produces- this. This wonder; this masterpiece of Nature- the great artist.’
“‘Never heard an entomologist go on like this,’ I observed, cheerfully. ‘Masterpiece! And what of man?’
“‘Man is amazing, but he is not a masterpiece,’ he said, keeping his eyes fixed on the glass case. ‘Perhaps the artist was a little mad. Eh? What do you think? Sometimes it seems to me that man is come where he is not wanted, where there is no place for him; for if not, why should he want all the place? Why should he run about here and there making a great noise about himself, talking about the stars, disturbing the blades of grass?…’
“‘Catching butterflies,’ I chimed in.