A/N: Lackadaisy and its characters, as always, belong to Tracy J. Butler.
June 15th, 1914
"Mm-hmm! Impressive find, wouldn't you say?"
"Uh-huh!" Calvin nods with such enthusiasm that it shakes his sinuses loose. He sneezes. "...What is it?"
All the haughty bearing drops out of Cousin Rocky's shoulders in a dramatic sigh.
"Don't be a dimwit. At least look before you voice your appalling ignorance, why don't you?" Both boys lean closer to the mason jar Rocky is holding. It contains an elm twig, upon which a strange little guest clings. "It's a cocoon, see?"
"Cu-koon." A cold gobs up Calvin's voice. Snot is transferred from nose to fingers, then he bends to wipe his hand on damp grass. "...What is it?"
"Oh, for Pete's – At five years of age, Freckle, there are certain things a man just ought to know." Rocky raises the jar up higher until it is in front of his face. Through the thick, rounded bottle-glass, he appears even more cross-eyed than usual. "This cocoon right here has a caterpillar inside it. But when he comes out, he'll have turned into a butterfly."
Calvin Allen McMurray (Freckle to his cousin, who had once shaved all the fur off baby Calvin's face to discover said freckle) makes a quizzical expression as he studies the cuckoo with a more critical eye.
It is about eight inches long, a grayish brown color with spiky points down one edge. It crooks slightly in the middle like a bent elbow. He wriggles two stubby fingers inside the jar, gives the cuckoo a poke, finds it to possess the same irregular lumpiness of a pea pod.
It looks quite dead and drab and distinctly not-butterflyish.
"...Are you fibbing?"
"Freckle. Freckle. When have I ever fibbed to you?"
Freckle ponders this.
He glances distractedly around Mom's garden. Rainwater still clings everywhere, even though the storm had moved on last night, and Freckles thinks how it would be nice if he could smell the clean blue air. There are the purple angelonia blossoms, nodding like a bunch of gossiping old ladies in Sunday bonnets. Rose-of-Sharon like white trumpets, daises poking up curious faces, then his eyes land on a cluster of plumbagos by the stone footpath.
Their bright color sparks his memory. He sneezes again and rubs away another a glob of mucus with his sleeve.
"...You saided that little blue butterflies were car-ni-vor-ous and liked to chew people's noses off."
Rocky's description had been a touch more vivid than that, mind. The Spring Azure apparently possessed a mouth full of tiny, terrible teeth, which arranged themselves in circles like a nest of pins. You had only to get too close, too careless, when – chomp! No more nose for poor Freckle! This suggestion had confined Freckle to the house for weeks, doing an occasional patrol to be sure there were no open windows through which the innocuous insects might come fluttering.
Rocky strikes an indignant pose.
"I never said that to you at all, Freckle. That's just what I told your mother, about why I had to smash the one that landed on you. " One grubby fist gets clapped over his heart. "Imagine! A noble soul gets punished for taking defensive action against the creature that had proposed to eat his cousin's face. What a world!"
"And your leprechaun trap didn't work when I builded it."
This earns him a flick on the ear.
"Built. Of course it didn't work, you ninny-hammer. Where do you find leprechauns? In Ireland. Are we in Ireland? No. But the principle was sound, and the snare itself worked perfectly...It's not my fault a skunk happened to trigger it."
"And you saided if I took very, very good care of my snowball, it would grow up into a snowma-"
"Freckle, please! Honestly, have you never heard of a rhetorical question?"
But Rocky seems bothered by this sudden onset of doubt, so Freckle decides to nod. Slowly, at first, then with more vigor.
Because really, Freckle always believes his cousin. Why shouldn't he? Rocky is ten to Freckle's five, after all, has lived and experienced twice the things Freckle has.
And whenever Rocky takes out their big map of the country, draws pencil lines to all the places he wants to travel one day, he makes sure to stick a red push-pin over St. Louis: from which all the black lines start out, to which they all eventually return. And you'll write to me, right? Freckle often asks, even though he can't quite read Rocky's letters yet and will often just look at the pictures. And Rocky's answer is inevitably Well, of course. Who else would I write to? Woodrow Wilson?
If Freckle can believe in that sort of thing, then, it's not too much to ask that he go along with this mysterious cuckoo idea.
Another sneeze. A dragging sniffle. "...So, it'll be a butterfly?"
Rocky's vampiric grin returns.
He sets the mason jar down on trimmed grass, next to a mud replica of Mount Vesuvius they've spent the past hour constructing. The beginnings of a leaf-and-twig Pompeii have been set up beside it.
"Yes indeed! I found him just this morning. Thought we could make scientific observations of him while he's in this jar."
Freckle is careful in squatting down. A rip along the side seam of his trousers has been recently mended by Mom's careful stitches, and he doesn't want to mess them up."Where'd you get it?"
"The cocoon? On that elm tree outside the back garden gate. There were still a few caterpillars crawling around, too, but I'm, um...not familiar with this particular species."
Freckle does not notice the fumble. He is staring too intently at the cuckoo, hoping it will move or give him some other sign of life. Yet another sneeze. The right sleeve of his shirt has taken enough abuse for today, so he wipes his nose on the left one instead. "No. I mean, where'd you get the jar?"
"Ah. Does it really matter?" Rocky makes a superfluous wave with his hand. "Some of your mother's preserves have been sacrificed in the good name of science."
Horror descends on Freckle's face. He sputters and turns wide, wide, watery eyes up at his cousin. "...It wasn't the peaches, was it?"
Rocky waves that hand around some more. A Thiarna déan trócaire, Mom has grumbled many a time, wonder the things don't twist right off for all o' the mad flailin' he does.
"No, no, nothing like that. Don't worry, it was that awful fig jam stuff. I fed most of it to Black Donald."
(Black Donald is the neighbor's dog, a Scottish terrier engaged in a perpetual clash against both Nina McMurray's flower beds and Allen McMurray's ankles. So when Ms. Fletcher stops by several days later, claiming that their boys have done something to make her little Donnykins ill, husband and wife exchange knowing looks before saying: no, no, you must be mistaken, certainly not our boys, no, perhaps it was the Gallagher children?)
"Oh..." Freckle feels himself slump with relief. Sniff-sniff-achoo. "...that's good."
Rocky (still some years away from banishment, his expulsion from the protective circle of those words our boys) cocks his head to the side in consideration.
"But now that I think about it, it would be helpful if we could find out what kind of caterpillar this is...That way, we'd know how long the pupal stage is going to last. You wouldn't happen to have any entomology books lying around, would you?"
"Entomology. The study of insects."
It is the cypress vines that aid his memory, this time, with their tiny red flowers that twist up around the birdbath.
"Yes!" Freckle leaps to his feet, hops from one to the other in helpless excitement at his sudden discovery. "Yes! Dad has one! I just need to ask him where it is!"
"Well, then! What – " Rocky's thumbs try to hook underneath his suspenders, in what he hopes will be a strong, commanding sort of pose. But the suspenders are a bit too small for him, and spring right back in place with twin welting snaps. "Ouch – uh, what are you waiting for, man? Go!"
Arms pumping, untied shoelaces whipping, so fast he can hear his heartbeat all through him and though it feels like he is breathing through a wet sock, he runs around to the side the house.
A necessary haste, understand: because he must pass by the bristling holly bushes, which might become a dark, hairy monster (Grendel? Fenrir, maybe?) ready to spring if he takes his eyes off of them. Here is their garden hose, a jungle snake all coiled up. Then there is the front garden gate, its graying fence posts like snaggly teeth biting up through the earth...Calvin bids his legs to go faster.
Man, Cousin Rocky had called him. Man. And when you are a man, of course, you do a job if someone gives it to you. You do it quickly! You do it right! And you do not let silly imaginings about fence posts stop you!
Once he passes through the gate, comes up beside the tool shed, Calvin begins to holler.
"Dad? Dad? Dad?"
The shed doors are propped open with an funny-shaped rock ("Looks like somebody's head, don't you think?" Rocky has asked him before) so Calvin must twist his feet sideways to stop the breakneck advance. Dust kicks up in clouds.
It is the panicked, bawling inflection of this last shout that sends Allen McMurray bolting up from his worktable. And it is the springing quickness of this action that sends Allen McMurray's skull cracking against an overhanging shelf. Nails, rivets, screws, washers and bolts shower down from their appointed tin cans.
"Gah! Dia diabhal é!"
Calvin guesses these are some of Dad's Very Special Words: which he must never, ever repeat under the threat of an Ivory Soap-flavored mouth scrubbing.
Allen McMurray grits his teeth in pain. "Ahhh...What's th' matter?"
So Calvin responds, with that same, desperate urgency, not even pausing to unclog his breath, "I need the bug book."
Dad gingerly pokes at a forming lump on his head, squints the way you do when your ears are ringing.
"...Th' what, Chief?"
Calvin (Chief to his father, who is himself only a Sergeant for the St. Louis police) scoops up a can that once held Snider Pork and Beans, begins plinking scattered bolts back in. He rolls each one between his thumb and index finger for a moment as he does. A big wad of mucus drips out of his nose when he bends down.
"I need the bug book."
Dad shakes his head, clearing it out, before kneeling beside his son to pick up the mess.
"Think I heard ye, Chief, but what's this bug book you're talkin' about?"
Though its floor is cement, its walls bare pitch-pine board, the rest of Dad's tool shed is assiduously organized. Rakes, saw blades, shovels and rope all hang dutifully on pegs. The only other bit of disorder is the worktable itself: where a bottle of Hoppe's No. 9 Cleaning Solvent sits, beside a bore brush and an open .38 Colt Police Positive Special.
The service revolver regards them both with its black, whistling little mouth of a barrel. Royal blued finish makes its steel gleam like the carapace casing on a tiger beetle. Its hammer sits staunch and high, waiting to be dropped.
Chief blinks his eyes shut in a sneeze, replies.
"You know, Dad. With the red cover?" He hooks his thumbs together. His hands make a few demonstrative flaps, which disguise the fact that they are twitching. "And butterflies on its front?"
Dad swings to his feet again, with a Civic Brand Peaches can full of nine-penny nails in hand. Both his knees pop, a crick snaps out somewhere in his neck, but he smiles.
"Right, right. Th' bug book, o' course. Sittin' on a shelf in the living room, last I saw...What do ye want that for?"
"Rocky and I found a cuckoo. If we're going to make scientifikical absurdtions on it, we need to know what spee-sees of butterfly it is."
"A cuckoo. I see." Dad rubs his chin in a properly contemplative manner. "Sounds like quite th' serious matter."
Chief leans behind a rotary-blade lawn mower to retrieve the last of the missing bolts. "Yes. Serious."
The Snider Pork and Beans can is eased out of his hands, and Dad sets it back above the worktable. "That's all, though, right? Roark hasn't asked ye to do anything else, has 'e?"
Chief's eyes fall, again, on the Colt .38.
Its slim, black grip has a funny texture, which might feel like a lizard's skin if you touched it with just your fingers. Though all of the gun's chambers are empty now, he can imagine how the clockwork cylinder will tick smoothly around to slide a bullet in place.
And below everything else, the trigger curls up patiently.
Dad has told him, many times before, how guns are tools and like all tools have their proper uses in the hands of proper users. But as he studies the revolver, Chief finds this idea silly. How can something so purposefully made, so precise and clever-looking be called a tool? An instrument, maybe.
He forms two resolute fists, tight enough that claws dig against his palms.
Not too strange a thing, this twitching habit, because Cousin Rocky has said that his own hands do the same thing. What else could account for all the trouble he gets into? It's just a matter of figuring out what your hands are made to do, is all.
But Chief is still glad when the itching sensation stops.
Sniffle-sniffle. His eyes water. "...What'd you say, Dad?...Oh. No, I'm just supposed to get th' bug book. That's all."
A frown, which has been drawing its gradual way down between Allen McMurray's eyebrows, quickly disappears.
"Ah, good. Good. Glad you're stayin' out o' trouble like I told ye to."
He has to take another moist, dragging breath to reply, "Uh-huh. Definitely."
(Listen, Chief, Dad had told him, last week. It had been after Chief's failed attempts to climb up their chimney using a brick tied to a rope for his grappling hook. Next time Roark asks ye to do somethin', I want ye to tell him 'Oh, no, I'm not so sure. Why don't ye show me how it's done, first?' Ye might make him change his mind after that.)
They regard each other a few seconds longer. Dad reaches for a back pocket.
He glimpses his dirty hand, stops. Wipes solvent off on his blue chambray shirt, at last produces a big handkerchief and shakes it out : laundered cotton gets clamped gently around Chief's chapped, red little nose.
"Enough o' that, or ye'll pull that nasty stuff clear up int' your brain. Take a breath."
Chief obeys, clears everything out in one goopy heave, which makes Dad put on a grimacing smile before he crumples up the handkerchief again.
And Chief can look at his father properly, now, because neither the revolver nor his nose interests him.
Wood shavings give the air a sweet reddish smell. Dust motes drift through yellow wedges of afternoon sunlight, which swim slightly in his watery vision. And there is Dad, in the middle of it, with an oily smudge across his breast pocket and one hand on his belt. The other is splayed flat against his worktable, callused thumb tapping out a rhythm.
Then Allen McMurray (still several years away from the bullet which will find its resting place about where that smudge of ammonium hydrochloride is now) gives the table a resolute slap.
"Alright, Chief. Off ye go!"
"Yes!" He salutes. "Yes, sir!"
He resumes his mad charge, around the house and through the back door.
Calvin makes it halfway across the pristine kitchen tile, reconsiders, races back into the coat room to furiously kick his dirty Elk Upper shoes clean against a wall. Mud flies everywhere: onto Mom's navy pea coat, into Dad's boots, over his own rain slicker which has seen a good deal of use recently. (St. Louis has been under a cloud of rain for almost a week, and now on the seventh day begins a war that will be waged by housewives everywhere against the tracking mud.) Mud, mud, mud, mud.
Satisfied with his show of proper manners, Calvin crosses to their living room doorway. His eyes take a sweep around.
And so he spots the bug book, placed on a mercifully low shelf in their towering cedar bookcase. Though he can recognize its gold letters against the red cover, of course, the alchemy of putting them together into words remains somewhat beyond him.
But here, Calvin hesitates.
The Persian rug does not bother him much, really, although looking at its twisty curlicue patterns can make him dizzy on occasion...It's just the coat rack, keeping watch in a corner. He'd once had a dream where it began to edge its way across the floor, moving like a crab, forward on balled wooden feet while its hat pegs flailed about. And with Mom out running errands, Calvin is reminded that he is alone in the quiet house.
No, Calvin tells himself. He won't think about that. No reason to have such a guard up against everything, is there? Of course not.
Because there is Mom's bulky armchair with the stitched yellow flowers. There are the patches of plaster on the wall, hiding shoe scuffs and nail holes and Roark the Great carved in a penknife. There is the chiding sound of the kitchen clock, clucking its tongue toc-toc-toc-toc. And there is Dad's hat atop the coat rack itself, to give it a more welcoming, salutary appearance.
Calvin tip-toes across the rug, clutches the book to his chest with both arms, and dashes out the back door again: with never a second glance at the coat rack, either. So there!
He is a bit slower now, from his previous Pheidippedean efforts, but still has enough air in his lungs to shout.
Calvin finds Cousin Rocky seated cross-legged in the grass, looking down at a broad leaf with something rested on it.
"Rocky!" he bellows hoarsely. "I gotted it!"
Rocky nearly jolts out of his skin. "Crimony, Freckle, stop your caterwauling! I'm right here!"
(Freckle is not sure if 'crimony' counts as a Very Special Word, so he decides to try it out with Dad later on. Because if it is, Dad is much less likely to bring out the dreaded Ivory Soap: more than likely, he'll just rub his ears and comment on how his hearing is not so good today.)
Freckle's face splits into a beaming grin.
"I gotted it!"
"Excellent work, Freckle. And that's got." Rocky hands the leaf to Freckle, plucks the heavy book from his hands in trade. "Hmmm. 'Familiar Butterflies and Moths', by W. F Kirby. Interesting."
His voice pulls at the syllables of this last word in a way Freckle finds amusing, so he repeats it – "Een-terr-ess-ting" – as he examines the leaf.
It supports a roly-poly little insect: grayish, with glaring red-orange spots all down both sides. Mean black bristles, which look as if they would hurt like needles to touch, poke off of it from every direction. The caterpillar tries to amble several ways across the leaf, goes nowhere, and finally decides to stay put. It is very ugly.
Rocky licks two fingers to unstick some pages. "That? I went over to where I found the cocoon this morning. There were still a few caterpillars hanging around, the lazy louts, so I took it upon myself to bring this one back for a point of reference once you'd fetched the book."
"This?" Freckle cannot help but exclaim, even though Cousin Rocky has just asked him not to cat-a-wall. Whatever that means. "This is what's inside the cuckoo?"
Rocky's head snaps up, irritation stamped firmly across his features.
"Cocoon. Cocoon! Good God, say it properly! I'll not allow any cousin of mine to walk around bungling words like an uneducated fop-doodle!"
Though the words 'bungling' and 'fop-doodle' fly far overheard, Freckle's lip starts quivering anyway. "...You got another cousin besides me?"
"What? That's not what I...hmpf. Just say it properly, please, Freckle."
"But how – "
"Not another word from you until you've said it right. Cocoon!"
"Cocoon!" Freckle gasps. His eyes become more itchy, more watery. Sniff-sniff-achoo.
"Bless you. That's more like it." Rocky thumbs across another few pages. "Ah, here we are. Now come over and take a look at this. See? What'd I tell you? That certainly looks like a butterfly to me."
Freckle takes a few hesitant steps forward, still immensely bothered by the idea that Cousin Rocky could also be Cousin Rocky to somebody else.
But these distractions are forgotten, once Rocky holds a finger against the text and begins to read.
"'Nymphalis antiopa, subfamily Nymphalinae. Commonly known as the Mourning Cloak butterfly. Its scientific name is derived from both Latin and Greek, with 'Nymphalis' being a Latin word meaning 'of or pertaining to a fountain', and 'Antiopa' being the wife of the mythological Greek king Lycus. Its common name is derived from the markings on its wings, which resemble the traditional garment worn when one is'...blah, blah, blah, this Kirby fellow sure likes to woolgather...'The Mourning Cloak is a butterfly native to Europe and North America, with a wingspan of two and a quarter...That's still not what I'm looking...Eureka! 'The caterpillars will pupate and emerge after a fortnight as adults, typically in late June or early July.' Perfect. Oh, look, there's even a color illustration."
The page turns.
Freckle's eyes follow his cousin's pointing finger.
He takes a second look at the caterpillar on the leaf.
And then, disbelieving, back at the watercolor picture in his father's book.
He has seen this butterfly before, a big dusty looking thing, but only from a distance. Its body and wings have been painted deep, deep red, so dark you might have to imagine that rosewood sort of shade coming up from the black before you can really see it. Lines of pale yellow-white hem the wings, like trim on a paper Chinese kite or lace on a girl's dress. And between these, between the red and the yellow, are tiny dots of blue: so vibrant a color that Freckle can almost hear the seeing of it.
"Wow," he says, again. Sniff-sniff, but no sneeze this time.
"...How does he do it?"
"How does who do it?"
"How does the caterpillar in the...in the cocoon," Freckle's mouth puckers forward around the 'o' in a rather fishy way, "turn himself into a butterfly?"
Cousin Rocky blinks down at the words, which are in very small print clustered very close together. Blinks twice. Three times. Coughs.
"I, uh, can't tell you that, now, can I? Our job is to study this specimen here and draw our own conclusions. You can't rely on books and other people telling you what to think, after all...Or the letter of the law, for that matter. Certainly not."
(Ultimately, all attempts at scientific observation prove unsuccessful. Freckle, it turns out, has caught pneumonia, so he is fast asleep when the butterfly tumbles forth thirteen days later. Rocky is downstairs when it happens, has lost all interest with their jar on the windowsill in favor of Aunt Nina's music books. Elsewhere in the world, an Archduke and his wife are shot.)
Freckle squints down at the printed words and wills them to speak. They don't. So, guessing it is.
"...Is it magic?"
"Does the caterpillar escape? Like Houdini?"
"Does somebody switch them?"
Freckle places his arms akimbo, assumes an expression that mimics almost perfectly the arch ones his mother often doles out.
"Well, then, that must mean God does it, right?"
"N..." Rocky pulls a twisted frown. Then he rolls his eyes, collects the book, the jar, and begins squelching his muddy way back towards the house. "...Yes. Alright? Yes. You figured it out. Now hurry up, I'm practically wasting away from hunger here."
"But I want to finish making Voo-sue-vee-us. You s...said we could use some vinegar and baking soda to make it asplode."
"Later, later. Come on. I'll make you a sandwich."
"Jubilation!" Freckle (not so many years away from a night on which he will hear that exact same bribe after killing three men) shouts. It is a word Rocky had taught him, and he is very fond of it.
He is careful to stay one half-step behind his cousin as they walk.
Once inside, the boys place their cocoon jar on the kitchen table and set about making lunch: to show Aunt Nina they are independent young men who most emphatically do not require adult supervision. Roast beef and Jarlsberg cheese are fetched from the family's new Dormier refrigerator, honey and apples from the pantry, loaves of wheat bread from the bread box.
"Freckle!" Rocky shouts. He gives his egg beater an authoritarian wave. "Carve the roast beef!"
"With what?" Freckle asks in response. The knife block has made its mysterious way to the very top of the cabinets.
"Don't ask silly questions. Improvise!"
Improvisation involves settling on butter knives. The roast beef is martyred, hacked into oblivion by blunt, harmless edges. Apples are turned into mealy piles of skin and white flesh, mashed together with the honey to form a kind of paste.
Rocky pauses before artfully arranging each ingredient on the bread: ragged slices of roast beef and cheese for Freckle, apple and honey for himself. Freckle, sniffling and snorting against the sleeve on his upper arm now, watches in fascination.
Then chair legs scrape, as they settle into their seats on opposite sides of the table with the jar in between them.
Twin thunks as elbows are rested down, and the scientifikical absurdtions may begin in earnest.
(And also on that particular day, to whomever it may concern:
An immigrant dock worker bends at the knees to lift another shipping crate, swings it onto a shoulder with his usual solemn, intense silence. A very loud girl is running hell-bent alongside a bicycle, far too large for her, running-leaping-wobbling-flying-falling-crashing only to get back up and try again. Preferring to stay indoors, a student at Boston College is reading financial publications while Chauncy Olcott sings 'I Love the Name of Mary' on his neighbor's phonograph. A young woman, who was born as a Mary but has since changed it something a bit more glamorous and a bit less virginal, is trying to paint her lips in sync with the rhythmic clatter of a train taking her West. A spindly teenager, whose name may be found in the Old Testament rather than the New, is picking up his younger sister's glasses which have been shattered by a well-thrown rock and is telling her to stop, stop crying because that is just what they want you to do. A different brother and sister make their laughing-wheezing-coughing way through a first cigarette, which glows like a firefly as it passes between their nimble fingers. A businessman, who quite literally carries the world on his shoulders, uses thicker ink-stained fingers to open his new pocket-watch: a bow-shaped pin, the empty place where a photograph might go, tiny spider nest gears that turn with their unhurried tick-tick-tick-tick.)
And the clock in Nina's kitchen chides in response, toc-toc-toc-toc.
A few ruminating chews fill the contented quiet until Freckle speaks.
"What do you mean 'now what'?"
"Now what are we s'pposed to do?"
"We wait." Another flourish of the hand. Honey splatters. "And I get to tell your mother that I've atoned for that grappling brick-on-a-rope incident."
"We just wait? That's it?"
Freckle takes one more doubtful look at the cocoon.
He remembers the caterpillar (Mourning Cloak) wrapped up inside: black spines, angry marks of orange-red, the way it had inched along with no place to go. And he remembers the picture of the butterfly: deep red shying out from the dark, pale yellow-white tracing along its wings, flecks of singing blue.
"Promise. You'll see."
And really, Freckle always believes his cousin (because he never knows for certain if Rocky will write, or if Rocky will come home again. But he believes it, and Rocky always does) so he says:
Rocky grins, returns to his sandwich.
Freckle does the same.
End notes: I really wanted to do something with Freckle and Rocky, because they received little to no attention in my last story and because I find the bond between them so amusing and essential to the series as a whole.
Féileacán is simply the Irish word for 'butterfly'. A Thiarna déan trócaire means 'Lord have Mercy', and what Allen McMurray said was indeed a few Very Special Words.
Black Donald is a Scottish colloquialism for the Devil. And figs are actually a pretty safe food for dogs to eat, so we can suppose that it was the quantity that made the little blighter sick.
We've been given no canon information thus far on Freckle's father, so this stuff here - his name, occupation, relationship with Freckle, cause of death - is just my own fan theories to be later Jossed. The .38 Colt Police Positive Special was first manufactured in 1908 and was a popular sidearm among law enforcement agencies because of its light weight, although I don't know if the St. Louis Police used them.
The Mourning Cloak does happen to be a real butterfly, though whether or not it appears in W.F Kirby's book Familiar Butterflies and Moths (published in 1904) I can't say. They are one of the North American and Eurasian species that overwinter as adults before thawing out in March, and have fairly long life spans... You know, as far as butterflies go.
Questions, critiques, ideas, suggestions about characterization or historical anachronisms, ranting and raving are all welcome. Thank you very much for reading!