'And so ad infinitum' (The Life of the Insects)/Prologue


The Tramp is discovered, stretched out in sleep; a bottle at his side. Butterflies flutter across the scene.
Enter a Lepitopterist with a net.

Lepidopterist. There they go, there they go! Fine specimens! Apatura Iris—Apatura Clythia—light-blue butterflies and the Painted Lady. Wait a minute—I’ll get you! That ’s just it—they won’t wait, the silly creatures. Off again . . . Hullo—somebody here. They’re settling on him. Now! Carefully. Slowly. Tiptoe! One, two, three!

[A butterfly settles on the tip of the Tramp’s nose. The Lepidopterist makes a dab with his net.
Tramp. ’Ulo! What yer doin’? Ketchin’ butterflies?

Lepidopterist. Don’t move! Careful now! They’re settling again. Funny creatures—they’ll settle on mud, on any sort of garbage, and now they’re settling on you.

Tramp. Let ’em go. They’re ’appy.

Lepidopterist. Idiot! I’ve lost them, confound you! There they go, there they go!

Tramp. It ’s a shime—it is, reely.

[The Lepidopterist rushes out, r. The Tramp stretches his arms, takes a pull at the emptied bottle, yawns, staggers to his feet and drops down again.
(Speaking to the audience) All right—all right! Don’t you worry. I ’aven’t ’urt myself! I know what you think—you think I’m screwed—some of you! Rotten observation—low visibility—that ’s what you’re suffering from. You didn’t catch me staggering, did you? I fell like a tree—like a hero! I was rehearsing, that ’s what I was doing—the fall of man! The fall of man! There ’s a picture for yer . Ah, you little flowers—you didn’t think I was drunk, did you? You’ve too much respect for me! I’m a man, that ’s what I am—a lord of creation! A great thing to be, I tell yer ‘Now then, pass along there, my man!’ That ’s what they say to me. It ’s wonderful! ‘Clear up that rubbish heap, my man, and I’ll give you a tanner, my man.’ It ’s a fine thing to be a man. (He succeeds in getting his balance.)

Enter the Lepidopterist, r.

Lepidopterist. Two,—splendid Nymphalidae!

Tramp. No offence, mister, but why’jer catch them when they’re all so ’appy playing?

Lepidopterist. Playing, you call it. I’m afraid you haven’t the scientific mind, my friend. It ’s the overture to the natural system by which Nature keeps up the balance of the population—that ’s what you call ‘playing’. The male pursues the female; the female allures, avoids—selects—the eternal round of sex!

Tramp. What will you do with them when you catch them?

Lepidopterist. What shall I do? Well, each insect must be identified, recorded and assigned a place in my collection. The butterfly must be carefully killed, and then carefully pinned, and properly dried, and care must be taken that the powder is not rubbed off. And it must be protected against dust and draught. A little cyanide of potassium.

Tramp. And what ’s it all for?

Lepidopterist. Love of nature—if you loved nature as much as I did, my man—Careful—didn’t I tell you—they’re off again. Never mind, I’ll get you, see if I don’t.[Exit.

Tramp. ’E’s clever, that there bloke. And as for me,

P’raps I am screwed; but if I am, ’oo cares?
That ain't the only reason why I see
Everythink double, everythink in pairs.

Them little birds up there . . . I see yer plain!
Tweet-weety-weet . . . Lord! ’ow they bill and coo,
As yer might say. Them butterflies again,
What sport they ’ave—’ow prettily they woo!

Love ’s what they want. Some day they’ll get it, p’raps:
Everythink does—or mostways everythink . . .
(S’pose you’d a girl who loved all kinds of chaps—
Wouldn’t you damn yerself, and take to drink?)

Well, ’ere ’s the world, and though I’m down and out,
It ’s worth while learnin’ what it ’s all about.