17 MARCH 1961, Page 14


SIR,---1 have lived for six months with a butterfly. Is this unusual? 1 spotted it last October with its wings folded together adhering to the wall of a Cots- wold cottage. The weather was severe. 1 showed it to all visitors and they declared that it was obviously dead, since butterflies do not live in the winter. Yet some curious faith buoyed me up; partly de- riving from the odd fact of an ostensibly dead thing holding on tight to a vertical wall. (Its legs are extremely slender, but it has four black compara- tively sturdy club-feet.) 'Wait till you see,' I said, 'one fine day that butterfly will slowly conic to life again.'

After an entire winter with this motionless thing a shattering occurrence took place the night before last. I left a paraffin stove and the light on in the bedroom, by chance not design, and on retiring found the butterfly alive, its wings outstretched to reveal a Red Admiral, perambulating the interior of the lampshade. The resurrection! I stared at it like one stricken. It walked tentatively, opening and closing its wings as it' their action had grown stiff, as indeed it might well have done since Octo- ber, 1960. What to do? To plunge a newly risen live companion back into the dark, to certain de- struction? After half an hour's mental pain I switched the light off. Flapping, fluttering and scratching with its club-feet at the paper lamp- shade, it cried out its distress. It beat about the room like a large bat. I buried my head in the pillow, and my conscience. The following morning ----not a sign. I searched the lampshade, the walls and every inch of the floor for the corpse of this beautiful thing. Nowhere. It was very cold. Its ghost perhaps would be heard fluttering tonight. 1 Would rather have been living with the Horla or, even worse, with dc Matipassant.

Last night I took care not to illuminate either the stove or the light-bulb in advance, retired to bed in a cold room, turned on the light—and it was- there again. Still practising its wing action. Still walking gingerly about the interior of the lamp- shade. 'You've done your worst,' it said, 'but I'm still trying.' I switched off the light at I a.m., close to mental collapse, and was again assailed with an agony of sound. 'Give me the sun, mother!'

Thii morning, nothing. Nowhere. But as I was leaving it appeared on the window of the lower room, flapping and fluttering like one possessed. 'I've got it,' it said, 'outside is the place. Can't you sec, you fool?', 'In mid-March!' I cried, 'you must be mad.' But if it stayed indoors it would clearly never go to sleep again, and I was leaving almost nothing to cat or drink in the place. I wrestled with this awful question for ten minutes. My train was leaving. I strode to the window and flung it open, uttering the words--out loud, I confess—'All right, then. Go and try it!' It shot out, brave as ever, faltered---not enough practice- regained height, and vanished over a wall.

Never mind human beings. was any of this nor- mal for butterflies'?—Yours faithfully,

39 Kendal Street, W2