The Trinity Flower by Juliana Horatio
"Break forth, my lips, in praise, and own
The wiser love severely kind:
Since, richer for its chastening grown,
I see, whereas I once was blind."
The Clear Vision, J. G. Whittler
In days of yore there was once a certain hermit, who dwelt in a cell,
which he had fashioned for himself from a natural cave in the side of a
Now this hermit had a great love for flowers, and was moreover learned
in the virtues of herbs, and in that great mystery of healing which lies
hidden among the green things of God. And so it came to pass that the
country people from all parts came to him for the simples which grew in
the little garden which he had made before his cell. And as his fame
spread, and more people came to him, he added more and more to the plat
which he had reclaimed from the waste land around.
But after many years there came a spring when the colors of the flowers
seemed paler to the hermit than they used to be; and as summer drew on
their shapes became indistinct, and he mistook one plant for another;
and when autumn came, he told them by their various scents, and by their
form, rather than by sight; and when the flowers were gone, and winter
had come, the hermit was quite blind.
Now in the hamlet below there lived a boy who had become known to the
hermit on this manner. On the edge of the hermit's garden there grew two
crab trees, from the fruit of which he made every year a certain
confection which was very grateful to the sick. One year many of these
crab-apples were stolen, and the sick folk of the hamlet had very little
conserve. So the following year, as the fruit was ripening, the hermit
spoke every day to those who came to his cell, saying:--
"I pray you, good people, to make it known that he who robs these crab
trees, robs not me alone, which is dishonest, but the sick, which is
And yet once more the crab-apples were taken.
The following evening, as the hermit sat on the side of the hill, he
overheard two boys disputing about the theft.
"It must either have been a very big man, or a small boy to do it," said
one. "So I say, and I have my reason."
"And what is thy reason, Master Wiseacre?" asked the other.
"The fruit is too high to be plucked except by a very big man," said the
first boy. "And the branches are not strong enough for any but a child
"Canst thou think of no other way to rob an apple-tree but by standing
a-tip-toe, or climbing up to the apples, when they should come down to
thee?" said the second boy. "Truly thy head will never save thy heels;
but here's a riddle for thee:
"Riddle me riddle me re,
Four big brothers are we;
We gather the fruit, but climb never a tree.
"Who are they?"
"Four tall robbers, I suppose," said the other.
"Tush!" cried his comrade. "They are the four winds; and when they
whistle, down falls the ripest. But others can shake besides the winds,
as I will show thee if thou hast any doubts in the matter."
And as he spoke he sprang to catch the other boy, who ran from him; and
they chased each other down the hill, and the hermit heard no more.
But as he turned to go home he said, "The thief was not far away when
thou stoodst near. Nevertheless, I will have patience. It needs not that
I should go to seek thee, for what saith the Scripture? Thy sin
will find thee out." And he made conserve of such apples as were left,
and said nothing.
Now after a certain time a plague broke out in the hamlet; and it was so
sore, and there were so few to nurse the many who were sick, that,
though it was not the wont of the hermit ever to leave his place, yet in
their need he came down and ministered to the people in the village. And
one day, as he passed a certain house, he heard moans from within, and
entering, he saw lying upon a bed a boy who tossed and moaned in fever,
and cried out most miserably that his throat was parched and burning.
And when the hermit looked upon his face, behold it was the boy who had
given the riddle of the four winds upon the side of the hill.
Then the hermit fed him with some of the confection which he had with
him, and it was so grateful to the boy's parched palate, that he thanked
and blessed the hermit aloud, and prayed him to leave a morsel of it
behind, to soothe his torments in the night.
Then said the hermit, "My Son, I would that I had more of this
confection, for the sake of others as well as for thee. But indeed I
have only two trees which bear the fruit whereof this is made; and in
two successive years have the apples been stolen by some thief, thereby
robbing not only me, which is dishonest, but the poor, which is
Then the boy's theft came back to his mind, and he burst into tears, and
cried, "My Father, I took the crab-apples!"
And after awhile he recovered his health; the plague also abated in the
hamlet, and the hermit went back to his cell. But the boy would
thenceforth never leave him, always wishing to show his penitence and
gratitude. And though the hermit sent him away, he ever returned,
"Of what avail is it to drive me from thee, since I am resolved to serve
thee, even as Samuel served Eli, and Timothy ministered unto St. Paul?"
But the hermit said, "My rule is to live alone, and without companions;
And when the boy still came, he drove him from the garden.
Then the boy wandered far and wide, over moor and bog, and gathered rare
plants and herbs, and laid them down near the hermit's cell. And when
the hermit was inside, the boy came into the garden, and gathered the
stones and swept the paths, and tied up such plants as were drooping,
and did all neatly and well, for he was a quick and skilful lad. And
when the hermit said,
"Thou hast done well, and I thank thee; but now begone," he only
"What avails it, when I am resolved to serve thee?"
So at last there came a day when the hermit said, "It may be that it is
ordained; wherefore abide, my Son."
And the boy answered, "Even so, for I am resolved to serve thee."
Thus he remained. And thenceforward the hermit's garden throve as it had
never thriven before. For, though he had skill, the hermit was old and
feeble; but the boy was young and active, and he worked hard, and it was
to him a labor of love. And being a clever boy, he quickly knew the
names and properties of the plants as well as the hermit himself. And
when he was not working, he would go far afield to seek for new herbs.
And he always returned to the village at night.
Now when the hermit's sight began to fail, the boy put him right if he
mistook one plant for another; and when the hermit became quite blind,
he relied completely upon the boy to gather for him the herbs that he
wanted. And when anything new was planted, the boy led the old man to
the spot, that he might know that it was so many paces in such a
direction from the cell, and might feel the shape and texture of the
leaves, and learn its scent. And through the skill and knowledge of the
boy, the hermit was in no wise hindered from preparing his accustomed
remedies, for he knew the names and virtues of the herbs, and where
every plant grew. And when the sun shone, the boy would guide his
master's steps into the garden, and would lead him up to certain
flowers; but to those which had a perfume of their own the old man could
go without help, being guided by the scent. And as he fingered their
leaves and breathed their fragrance, he would say, "Blessed be GOD for
every herb of the field, but thrice blessed for those that smell."
And at the end of the garden was a set bush of rosemary. "For," said the
hermit, "to this we must all come." Because rosemary is the herb they
scatter over the dead. And he knew where almost everything grew, and
what he did not know the boy told him.
Yet for all this, and though he had embraced poverty and solitude with
joy, in the service of GOD and man, yet so bitter was blindness to him,
that he bewailed the loss of his sight, with a grief that never
"For," said he, "if it had pleased our Lord to send me any other
affliction, such as a continual pain or a consuming sickness, I would
have borne it gladly, seeing it would have left me free to see these
herbs, which I use for the benefit of the poor. But now the sick suffer
through my blindness, and to this boy also I am a continual burden."
And when the boy called him at the hours of prayer, saying, "My Father,
it is now time for the Nones office, for the marygold is closing," or
"The Vespers bell will soon sound from the valley, for the bindweed
bells are folded," and the hermit recited the appointed prayers, he
"I beseech Thee take away my blindness, as Thou didst heal Thy servant
the son of Timaeus."
And as the boy and he sorted herbs, he cried,
"Is there no balm in Gilead?"
And the boy answered, "The balm of Gilead grows six full paces from the
gate, my Father."
But the hermit said, "I spoke in a figure, my son I meant not that herb.
But, alas! Is there no remedy to heal the physician? No cure for the
And the boy's heart grew heavier day by day, because of the hermit's
grief. For he loved him.
Now one morning as the boy came up from the village, the hermit met him,
groping painfully with his hands, but with joy in his countenance, and
he said, "Is that thy step, my son? Come in, for I have somewhat to tell
And he said, "A vision has been vouchsafed to me, even a dream.
Moreover, I believe that there shall be a cure for my blindness." Then
the boy was glad, and begged of the hermit to relate his dream, which he
did as follows:--
"I dreamed, and behold I stood in the garden--thou also with me--and
many people were gathered at the gate, to whom, with thy help, I gave
herbs of healing in such fashion as I have been able since this
blindness came upon me. And when they were gone, I smote upon my
forehead, and said, 'Where is the herb that shall heal my affliction?'
And a voice beside me said, 'Here, my son,' And I cried to thee, 'Who
spoke?' And thou saidst, 'It is a man in pilgrim's weeds, and lo, he
hath a strange flower in his hand.' Then said the Pilgrim, 'It is a
Trinity Flower. Moreover, I suppose that when thou hast it, thou wilt
see clearly.' Then I thought that thou didst take the flower from the
Pilgrim and put it in my hand. And lo, my eyes were opened, and I saw
clearly. And I knew the Pilgrim's face, though where I have seen him I
cannot yet recall. But I believed him to be Raphael the Archangel--he
who led Tobias, and gave sight to his father. And even as it came to me
to know him, he vanished; and I saw him no more."
"And what was the Trinity Flower like, my Father?" asked the boy.
"It was about the size of Herb Paris, my son," replied the hermit. "But
instead of being fourfold every way, it numbered the mystic Three. Every
part was threefold. The leaves were three, the petals three, the sepals
three. The flower was snow-white, but on each of the three parts it was
stained with crimson stripes, like white garments dyed in blood."
9. Trillium erythrocarpum. North America.
Then the boy started up, saying, "If there be such a plant on the earth
I will find it for thee."
But the hermit laid his hand on him, and said, "Nay, my son, leave me
not, for I have need of thee. And the flower will come yet, and then I
And all day long the old man murmured to himself, "Then I shall see."
"And didst thou see me, and the garden, in thy dream, my Father?" asked
"Ay, that I did, my son. And I meant to say to thee that it much
pleaseth me that thou art grown so well, and of such a strangely fair
countenance. Also the garden is such as I have never before beheld it,
which must needs be due to thy care. But wherefore didst thou not tell
me of those fair palms that have grown where the thorn hedge was wont to
be? I was but just stretching out my hand for some, when I awoke."
"There are no palms there, my Father," said the boy.
"Now, indeed it is thy youth that makes thee so little observant," said
the hermit. "However, I pardon thee, if it were only for that good
thought which moved thee to plant a yew beyond the rosemary bush; seeing
that the yew is the emblem of eternal life, which lies beyond the
But the boy said, "There is no yew there, my Father."
"Have I not seen it, even in a vision?" cried the hermit. "Thou wilt say
next that all the borders are not set with heart's-ease, which indeed
must be through thy industry; and whence they come I know not, but they
are most rare and beautiful, and my eyes long sore to see them again."
"Alas, my Father!" cried the boy, "the borders are set with rue, and
there are but a few clumps of heart's-ease here and there."
"Could I forget what I saw in an hour?" asked the old man, angrily. "And
did not the holy Raphael himself point to them, saying, 'Blessed are the
eyes that behold this garden, where the borders are set with
heart's-ease, and the hedges crowned with palm!' But thou wouldst know
better than an archangel, forsooth."
Then the boy wept; and when the hermit heard him weeping, he put his arm
round him and said,
"Weep not, my dear son. And I pray thee, pardon me that I spoke harshly
to thee. For indeed I am ill-tempered by reason of my infirmities; and
as for thee, GOD will reward thee for thy goodness to me, as I never
can. Moreover, I believe it is thy modesty, which is as great as thy
goodness, that hath hindered thee from telling me of all that thou hast
done for my garden, even to those fair and sweet everlasting flowers,
the like of which I never saw before, which thou hast set in the east
border, and where even now I hear the bees humming in the sun."
Then the boy looked sadly out into the garden, and answered, "I cannot
lie to thee. There are no everlasting flowers. It is the flowers of the
thyme in which the bees are rioting. And in the hedge bottom there
creepeth the bitter-sweet."
But the hermit heard him not. He had groped his way out into the
sunshine, and wandered up and down the walks, murmuring to himself,
"Then I shall see."
Now when the Summer was past, one autumn morning there came to the
garden gate a man in pilgrim's weeds; and when he saw the boy he
beckoned to him, and giving him a small tuber root, he said,
"Give this to thy master. It is the root of the Trinity Flower."
And he passed on down towards the valley.
Then the boy ran hastily to the hermit; and when he had told him, and
given him the root, he said,
"The face of the pilgrim is known to me also, O my Father! For I
remember when I lay sick of the plague, that ever it seemed to me as if
a shadowy figure passed in and out, and went up and down the streets,
and his face was as the face of this pilgrim. But--I cannot deceive
thee--methought it was the Angel of Death."
Then the hermit mused; and after a little space he answered,
"It was then also that I saw him. I remember now. Nevertheless, let us
plant the root, and abide what GOD shall send."
And thus they did.
And as the Autumn and Winter went by, the hermit became very feeble, but
the boy constantly cheered him, saying, "Patience, my Father. Thou shalt
But the hermit replied, "My son, I repent me that I have not been
patient under affliction. Moreover, I have set thee an ill example, in
that I have murmured at that which GOD--Who knowest best--ordained for
And when the boy ofttimes repeated, "Thou shalt yet see," the hermit
answered, "If GOD will. When GOD will. As GOD will."
And when he said the prayers for the Hours, he no longer added what he
had added beforetime, but evermore repeated, "If THOU wilt. When THOU
wilt. As THOU wilt!"
And so the Winter passed; and when the snow lay on the ground the boy
and the hermit talked of the garden; and the boy no longer contradicted
the old man, though he spoke continually of the heart's-ease, and the
everlasting flowers, and the palm. For he said, "When Spring comes I may
be able to get these plants, and fit the garden to his vision."
And at length the Spring came. And with it rose the Trinity Flower. And
when the leaves unfolded, they were three, as the hermit had said. Then
the boy was wild with joy and with impatience.
And when the sun shone for two days together, he would kneel by the
flower, and say, "I pray thee, Lord, send showers, that it may wax
apace." And when it rained, he said, "I pray Thee, send sunshine, that
it may blossom speedily." For he knew not what to ask. And he danced
about the hermit, and cried, "Soon shalt them see."
But the hermit trembled, and said, "Not as I will, but as THOU wilt!"
And so the bud formed. And at length one evening before he went down to
the hamlet, the boy came to the hermit and said, "The bud is almost
breaking, my Father. To-morrow thou shalt see."
Then the hermit moved his hands till he laid them on the boy's head, and
"The Lord repay thee sevenfold for all thou hast done for me, dear
child. And now I pray thee, my son, give me thy pardon for all in which
I have sinned against thee by word or deed, for indeed my thoughts of
thee have ever been tender." And when the boy wept, the hermit still
pressed him, till he said that he forgave him. And as they unwillingly
parted, the hermit said, "I pray thee, dear son, to remember that,
though late, I conformed myself to the will of GOD."
Saying which, the hermit went into his cell, and the boy returned to the
But so great was his anxiety, that he could not rest; and he returned to
the garden ere it was light, and sat by the flower till the dawn.
And with the first dim light he saw that the Trinity Flower was in
bloom. And as the hermit had said, it was white, and stained with
crimson as with blood.
Then the boy shed tears of joy, and he plucked the flower and ran into
the hermit's cell, where the hermit lay very still upon his couch. And
the boy said, "I will not disturb him. When he wakes he will find the
flower." And he went out and sat down outside the cell and waited. And
being weary as he waited, he fell asleep.
Now before sunrise, whilst it was yet early, he was awakened by the
voice of the hermit crying, "My son, my dear son!" and he jumped up,
saying, "My Father!"
But as he spoke the hermit passed him. And as he passed he turned, and
the boy saw that his eyes were open. And the hermit fixed them long and
tenderly on him.
Then the boy cried, "Ah, tell me, my Father, dost thou see?"
And he answered, "I see now!" and so passed on down the walk.
And as he went through the garden, in the still dawn, the boy trembled,
for the hermit's footsteps gave no sound. And he passed beyond the
rosemary bush, and came not again.
And when the day wore on, and the hermit did not return, the boy went
into his cell.
Without, the sunshine dried the dew from paths on which the hermit's
feet had left no prints, and cherished the spring flowers bursting into
bloom. But within, the hermit's dead body lay stretched upon his pallet,
and the Trinity Flower was in his hand.