“I suppose that’s the polite for punching you in the wind,” said he, just as gravely. “And I didn’t think you’d ever monkeyed with a vault; why, you couldn’t, not if you was to try till Gabriel did his little turn in the morning—not unless you’d been caught when you were softer and put wise. Man, it’s a bigger job than you think, and you’ve got to have the know-how and the nerve before you can put it over. But there—I’ll keep it dark, seeing you want me to.” He stretched out his hands, regarding them speculatively. “They are classy mitts,” he remarked impersonally. “Yep, seemed like they were just naturally made to—do what they did. They were built for fine work.” At that his jaw snapped; a spasm twitched his face; it darkened.
“The work little Miss Eustis suggested for you,” I insinuated hastily, “is what very many people consider very fine work indeed. About one in a thousand can do it properly.”
“Lead me to it,” said he wearily, and without enthusiasm, “and turn me loose. I’ll do what I can, to please her. At least, until I can make a getaway for keeps.”
When I was first seen prowling along the roads and about the fields stalking butterflies and diurnal moths with the caution of a red Indian on the warpath and the stealth of a tiger in the jungle; when mystified folk met me at night, a lantern suspended from my neck, a haversack across my shoulders, a bottle-belt about my waist, and armed with a butterfly net, the consensus of opinion was that poor Father De Rance was stark staring mad. Appleboro hadn’t heretofore witnessed the proceedings of the Brethren of the Net, and I had to do much patient explaining; even then I am sure I must have left many firmly convinced that I was not, in their own phrase, “all there.”
“Hey, you! Mister! Them worms is pizen! Them’s fever-worms!” was shrieked at me frenziedly by the country-folks, black and white, when I was caught scooping up the hairy caterpillars of the tiger moths. Even when it was understood that I wished caterpillars, cocoons, and chrysalids, for the butterflies and moths they would later make, looks of pitying contempt were cast upon me. That a grown man—particularly a minister of the gospel, with not only his own but other people’s souls to save—should spend time hunting for worms, with which he couldn’t even bait a hook, awakened amazement.
“What any man in his right mind wants with a thing that ain’t nothin’ but wriggles an’ hair on the outside an’ sqush on the inside, beats me!” was said more than once.
“But all of them are interesting, some are valuable, and many grow into very beautiful moths and butterflies,” I ventured to defend myself.
“S’posin’ they do? You can’t eat ’em or wear ’em or plant ’em, can you?” And really, you understand, I couldn’t!