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The Blue Flower and Other Stories

Preface
Sometimes short stories are brought together like parcels in a basket. Sometimes they
grow together like blossoms on a bush. Then, of course, they really belong to one
another, because they have the same life in them.
The stories in this book have been growing together for a long time. It is at least ten years
since the first of them, the story of The Other Wise Man, came to me; and all the others I
knew quite well by heart a good while before I could find the time, in a hard-worked life,
to write them down and try to make them clear and true to others. It has been a slow task,
because the right word has not always been easy to find, and I wanted to keep free from
conventionality in the thought and close to nature in the picture. It is enough to cause a
man no little shame to see how small is the fruit of so long labour.
And yet, after all, when one wishes to write about life, especially about that part of it
which is inward, the inwrought experience of living may be of value. And that is a thing
which one cannot get in haste, neither can it be made to order. Patient waiting belongs to
it; and rainy days belong to it; and the best of it sometimes comes in the doing of tasks
that seem not to amount to much. So in the long run, I suppose, while delay and failure
and interruption may keep a piece of work very small, yet in the end they enter into the
quality of it and bring it a little nearer to the real thing, which is always more or less of a
secret.
But the strangest part of it all is the way in which a single thought, an idea, will live with
a man while he works, and take new forms from year to year, and light up the things that
he sees and hears, and lead his imagination by the hand into many wonderful and diverse
regions. It seems to me that there am two ways in which you may give unity to a book of
stories. You may stay in one place and write about different themes, preserving always
the colour of the same locality. Or you may go into different places and use as many of
the colours and shapes of life as you can really see in the light of the same thought.
There is such a thought in this book. It is the idea of the search for inward happiness,
which all men who are really alive are following, along what various paths, and with
what different fortunes! Glimpses of this idea, traces of this search, I thought that I could
see in certain tales that were in my mind,--tales of times old and new, of lands near and
far away. So I tried to tell them, as best as I could, hoping that other men, being also
seekers, might find some meaning in them.
There are only little, broken chapters from the long story of life. None of them is taken
from other books. Only one of them--the story of Winifried and the Thunder-Oak--has
the slightest wisp of a foundation in fact or legend. Yet I think they are all true.
But how to find a name for such a book,--a name that will tell enough to show the
thought and yet not too much to leave it free? I have borrowed a symbol from the old
 
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