The Red Flower by Madame De Gasparin
What it was, where it grew, I should find it difficult to tell
you. I had seen it once, when a little child, in a stony
road, among the thorns of a hedge; and I had gathered it. Ah!
that was certain! It waved at the end of a long stalk; its petals
were of a flame-like red; its form was unlike anything known,
resembling somewhat a censer, from which issued golden stamens.
Since those earliest days, I had often sought it, often asked for
it. When I mentioned it, people laughed at me. I spoke of the
flower no more, but I sought for it still.
"Impossible!" Experience writes the word in the dictionary
of the man. In the child's vocabulary, it has no existence. The
marvellous to him is perfectly natural. Things which he sees
to be beautiful arrange themselves along his path; why should he
have a doubt of this or of that? By and by, exact bounds will
limit his domain. A faint line, then a barrier, then a wall: erelong
the wall will rise and surround the man,—a dungeon from
which he must have wings to escape.
Around the child are neither walls nor boundary lines, but a
limitless expanse, everywhere glowing with beautiful colors. In
the far-off depths, reality mingles with revery. It is like an ocean
whose blue waves glimmer and sparkle on the horizon, where they
kiss the shores of enchanted isles.
I sought the red flower. Have you never searched for it too?
This morning, in the spring atmosphere, its memory came back
to my heart. It seemed to me that I should find it; and I walked
on at random.
I went through solitary footpaths. The laborers had gone to
their noonday repose. The meadows were all in bloom. Weeds,
growing in spite of wind and tide spread a golden carpet beside
the rose-colored meadow-grass. In the wet places were tangles of
pale blue forget-me-nots; beyond them, tufts of the azure veronica,
and over the stream hung the straw-colored lotus. Under the
grain, yet green, corn-poppies were waving. With every breeze a
scarlet wave arose, swelled, and vanished.
Blue butterflies danced before me, mingling and dispersing like
floating flower-petals in the air. Under the umbelled plants was
a pavement of beetles, of black and purple mosaic. On the tufts
of the verbena gathered insects with shells blazoned like the
escutcheons of the knights of the Middle Ages. The quail was
calling in the thickets; three notes here, and three there. I found
myself on the skirt of a pine forest, and I seated myself on the grass.
The red flower! I thought of it no longer. The butterflies
had carried it away. I thought how beautiful life is on a spring
morning; what happiness it is to open the lips and inhale the
fresh air; what joy to open the eyes and behold the earth in her
bridal robes; what delight to open the hands and gather the sweet-smelling
blossoms. Then I thought of the God of the heavens,
that, arching above me, spoke of his power. I thought of the
Lord of the little ones,—of the insects that, flitting about me,
spoke of his goodness. All these accents awoke a chord in harmony
with that which burst forth from the blossoming meadows.
I arose, and came to a recess in the shadowy edge of the forest.
As I walked, something glowed in the grass; something dazzled
me; something made my heart throb. It was the red flower!
I seized it. I held it tightly in my hand. It was the flower;
yes, it was the same, but with a strange, new splendor. I possessed
it, yet I dared not look upon it.
Suddenly I felt the blossom tremble in my fingers. They loosened
their grasp. The flower dilated. It expanded its carnation
petals, slightly tinged with green; it spread out a purple calyx;
two stamens, two antennŠ, vibrated a moment. The blossom quivered;
some breath had made it shudder; its wings unfolded. As I
gazed, it fluttered a little, then rose in a golden sunbeam; its colors
played in the different strata of the air, the roseate, the azure, the
ether; it disappeared.
O my flower! I know whither thou goest and whence thou
comest! I know the hidden sources of thine eternal bloom. I know
the Word that created thee; I know the Eden where thou growest!
Winged flower! he who falters in his search for thee will never
find thee. He who seeks thee on earth may grasp thee, but will
surely lose thee again. Flower of Paradise, thou belongest only
to him who searches for thee where thou hast been planted by the
hand of the Lord.