Ziphen Central – Seeking Wisdom and Sublimity
From Ailenroc’s Book, by Cornelia Alexander
A wheat field stretching in billowy greenness as far as the eye could reach, with a promise of grain in its swaying tops, and countless wild flowers crowding and pushing among its growing stems for a glimpse at the sun.
“Do not crowd me so,” said a wheat stalk, swelling with a sense of importance and rejoicing in an incipient head. “Do not crowd me; make way for your betters.”
The little purple flower drooped its head timidly at the rough tone, but, on second thought, raised its dewy face, and made answer: “I am not crowding you, but I must have room to grow as well as you.”
“Why must you have room to grow?” said the wheat stalk, querulously. “Of what use are you in the world, anyway?”
“I adorn it; I help to beautify it; I add my humble flowers to celebrate the coming of spring.”
“Fiddlesticks!” said the wheat stalk, contemptuously. “You are of no use whatsoever. Now, as far as I am concerned, I am of use. I grow up with grains hidden in my bristling head; I furnish the wheaten loaf, the snowy cake, and many, many good things too numerous to mention. I am salable; I put money in the farmer’s pocket; even my straw furnishes beds whereon to rest the weary limbs, and food for lowing kine through the long winters. I am surprised at your impudence.”
“I am here,” answered the flower, humbly. “I do the best I can. I cannot make food for the body, but I can delight the eye. Children love me.”
“Children!” repeated the wheat stalk—“children! I think I’d hush now. Nobody asked you to grow; you came unbidden. The farmer broke his land, sowed his seed, and laid his plans for a wheat crop, and—lo!—here I am because I’m wanted; here also are my brothers, thousands of them. But who sowed you? Nobody. You came up yourself, and I would be ashamed of it.”
“I am not,” said the modest flower, lifting its head bravely, “for God made me. I am part of his plan. He is so great, so wise, so good, that he not only furnishes food for the body, but he sows with a lavish hand on hill and in vale, by sunny streams and on mountain tops, flowers of every hue and shape to delight the hearts of his creatures. Therefore, I fill my place and am content.”
The wheat stalk had no answer to make to that, and remained silent, tossing in the breeze, for a short time. Directly it caught sight of a man standing at the fence and surveying the field.
“Look!” it cried, in a tone of triumph. “Look! There is Squire Tillman, the owner of this dirt. I guess there is a good deal of difference in his notions concerning us. When he looks at me he sees well-filled barns, sleek cattle, money in his pocket and out on interest, and last, but not least, snowy biscuit for breakfast. When he looks at you—but I very much doubt whether he sees you or not, you are so insignificant.”
Just then the Squire began climbing over the fence, and, safely landed on the inside of the field, he stood in deep thought for some time.
It is very like that dreams of money, full barns, etc., did fill his mind for awhile as he stood there with deep lines upon his face—lines which rough contact with a rough world had planted—and tracks upon his brow left by worry and fret; but presently his eye lighted up, a softer expression came over his hard face, for he had caught a gleam of color in the green sea before him, a glimpse of blue that brought a tremulous smile about the stern mouth.
Looking about his like one half ashamed, and then kneeling like one engaged in something holy, he plucked a handful of the modest blue flowers and turned homeward.
As he went down the lane, carrying the flowers carefully in his hand, he met a crowd of girls, who gave him curious looks and then passed on, wondering to see Squire Tillman with flowers, and agreeing that he was not so hard-hearted as they had thought.
It was a sick room that the Squire entered, a room that had but one occupant—a faded, feeble woman, propped up with pillows on a low couch; a woman who gave a quick cry of delight as he entered, stretching out her thin, white hands.
Perhaps it was the surprise on her face, perhaps it was the smiles and tears chasing each other, that went to Squire Tillman’s heart as he crossed the room and dropped playfully on his knees by her side, presenting the purple blooms.
“O, the little beauties!” said his wife, lifting them to her face. “O, John, you don’t know how I love the wildwood flowers—the little children of the wood which God planted! Thank you, so much!”
“I found them in the wheat, Mary,” said her husband; “and can you guess what they reminded me of?”
“Did you think of it?” said his wife, eagerly. “My dear, I was afraid you had forgotten old times.”
“I’ll tell you what I thought of,” said Squire Tillman; and somehow the words came awkwardly, for—why is it?—men sometimes get ashamed of their better feelings. “I saw those little beauties in the wheat, and I remembered that I gathered a handful for you the day that I asked you to marry me. You had them in your hand. Do you remember?”
His wife was weeping softly, but they were happy tears, and when she looked up at the dear face so near, time and his footprints faded away, sickness and troubles were all forgotten, and again her young, ardent lover stood before her.
“I have never forgotten,” she answered, tremulously. “I have gone back to that scene and that hour a thousand times. Somehow it always comforts my heart.”
A swift pang stirred Squire Tillman’s heart, a dim fear that his love had been lacking in expression of late years. Had he neglected the one pearl intrusted to his keeping? Had the cares of the world hardened his heart till his afflicted wife must go back to the scene of their betrothal for comfort? Was not the wife dearer than the sweetheart? Yes, a thousand times; but had he let her know it?
As his mind went over the past he pillowed his wife’s head upon his shoulder and passed his hands caressingly over the thin locks, noting how the silver threads crept through the shining strands, how hollow were the temples, how transparent the skin.
“I can tell you something else I remember,” he said, with a smile in the eyes bent on hers. “I told you that day that your eyes were like those purple flowers, that I would never see the flowers without thinking of you.”
“But you have,” she said; “you have forgotten it for long years. I wonder what made you think of it to-day.”
Her thin arm was around his neck, and the purple-blue eyes dewy with happy tears.
“No,” he said, “I have never forgotten. Every spring, when I saw them in the wheat, I remembered that I vowed unchanging love to you.”
“And I never knew it! O, John, why do you keep your heart locked to me when such a little thing would make me happy? I have feared—”
“What have you feared, Mary?” said her husband, kindly. “Unlock your heart to me.”
“I have feared that time and change and my afflictions had alienated your heart from me. John, if you love me, do let me know it. I feel sometimes like my heart was starving. For pity’s sake, do not save your love till I am gone, and lavish it over my dead body.”
Tears sprang to Squire Tillman’s eyes—hard eyes not used to the melting mood, cold eyes that held but little softness in their depths. Better thoughts, nobler resolves, awoke in his bosom. The love of the boy sprang up again in the heart of the man as he folded the frail form in his arms and whispered caressing words in her ears.
“And the flowers did it—bless them!” said the invalid, after a long and happy talk with her husband. “Pack them in damp sand, John; I want to keep them as long as possible. Perhaps I shall be able to get down to the field myself before they are all gone—the little beauties!”
And the field flowers nodded in the China vase on the mantel, and tossed their flowery heads when the breeze came in at the window, and whispered in happy voices to each other: “We are of use in the world. God made us, and he makes nothing in vain. We proclaim the coming of spring, we beautify the fruitful land, we perfume the passing breezes, we gladden the child’s heart, we whisper of love to the young, we bring tender memories to the old, we cheer the sick room; the dying love us, and we cling to the dead. God made us; we are the work of his hands.”