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The Flowers Personified

Section 4

II. Where we show that the language of flowers may cause a man to lose the tip of his nose.

[1] [2] [3] [4] [5]


 “Your father had returned from Paris, and my guardian was keeping me in close confinement. I was impatient, however, to know the issue of his journey. I bribed one of my keepers, and contrived to send the following letter to Jacobus: --

          “’ Full of socotrine aloe and touch-me-not, I must have, cost what it may, an Indian cane. My guardian assures me that you have given me over to the wind-flower. But I have hawthorn that his is a shameful bugloss. Ah! How much have I endured since our Virginian jessamine! Your presence will restore my buck-bean. No clematis shall again disturb our large broom-tape,. I shall expect you in the ruins of the old castle, at yellow goats-beard precisely.’

          “What I meant was this: --

“’I am full of grief and impatience. I must have an interview with you, cost what it may. My guardian assures me that you have deserted me. I hope that this is an infamous falsehood. How much have I suffered since we were separated! But your presence will restore my tranquility. No artifice shall hereafter disturb our union. I shall expect you in the ruins of the old castle, at precisely two o’clock.’

          “I shall remember this all my life. It was a cypress of black hellebore, -- or on a Friday in the month of January.

          “I set out for the old ruined castle, and reached it just before yellow goats-beard, that is, before two had struck on the steeple-clock. I waited one hour – two hours, -- three hours, -- but no one came. I called Jacobus, and echo alone answered by call. Seeing that night was at hand, I returned to my guardian, believing myself deserted, and resolved not to survive it. I accused your father of being unfaithful, Jacobus, when, in fact, the only one guilty was myself, or rather, the language of flowers.

          “As I had not by me a poison sufficiently active, I put off my suicide till the morrow. Fortunate thought! The next day I was informed, that, at early dawn, the shepherds of the valley had found a man frozen, in the ruins of the old castle. This man was your father.

          “Instead of writing to him, -- ‘I shall expect you at mouse-ear hawkweed,’ which means two o’clock in the afternoon, I had appointed the meeting at ‘yellow goats-beard,’ which means two o’clock in the morning.

          “The flower-language had nearly caused the death of your father and your mother. You see to what the study of the languages may lead us. You see, too, how it was that your father bore all his life the mark of a frostbitten nose. And yet this did not prevent us from being happy, or from having a son.”

          Jacobus the son threw himself, weeping, into his mother’s arms.

          “And now, as I have shown you that I know more than she does,” said the good dame, with a threatening look at the Pansy, “let me get my broom, that I may drive this poor wretch out of doors.”

          But the Pansy did not await the old woman’s return. She had already departed in consternation, at having learned that her origin was merely the Panosée.

          Instead of representing the most exalted of human faculties, the poor flower was but the symbol of a vain and worthless beauty. It was enough to make one even less refined than the Pansy, disgusted with the world.

          Jacobus had an attack of jaundice in consequence of the hoax which had thus been put upon him. He is yet in pursuit of that brilliant idea which is to make him cabinet-minister, or first valet de chamber to the king. France, which has so long been expecting an epic poem, must still rest satisfied with the Henriade.

          The reader will find in the course of this work, the elements of that flower-language which is spoken at the present day by men of fancy, like Jacobus.