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The Blue Flower and Other Stories

Spy Rock
I
It must have been near Sutherland's Pond that I lost the way. For there the deserted road
which I had been following through the Highlands ran out upon a meadow all abloom
with purple loose-strife and golden Saint-John's wort. The declining sun cast a glory over
the lonely field, and far in the corner, nigh to the woods, there was a touch of the celestial
colour: blue of the sky seen between white clouds: blue of the sea shimmering through
faint drifts of silver mist. The hope of finding that hue of distance and mystery embodied
in a living form, the old hope of discovering the Blue Flower rose again in my heart. But
it was only for a moment, for when I came nearer I saw that the colour which had caught
my eye came from a multitude of closed gentians--the blossoms which never open into
perfection--growing so closely together that their blended promise had seemed like a
single flower.
So I harked back again, slanting across the meadow, to find the road. But it had vanished.
Wandering among the alders and clumps of gray birches, here and there I found a track
that looked like it; but as I tried each one, it grew more faint and uncertain and at last
came to nothing in a thicket or a marsh. While I was thus beating about the bush the sun
dropped below the western rim of hills. It was necessary to make the most of the
lingering light, if I did not wish to be benighted in the woods. The little village of
Canterbury, which was the goal of my day's march, must lie about to the north just
beyond the edge of the mountain, and in that direction I turned, pushing forward as
rapidly as possible through the undergrowth.
Presently I came into a region where the trees were larger and the travelling was easier. It
was not a primeval forest, but a second growth of chestnuts and poplars and maples.
Through the woods there ran at intervals long lines of broken rock, covered with moss--
the ruins, evidently, of ancient stone fences. The land must have been, in former days, a
farm, inhabited, cultivated, the home of human hopes and desires and labours, but now
relapsed into solitude and wilderness. What could the life have been among these rugged
and inhospitable Highlands, on this niggard and reluctant soil? Where was the house that
once sheltered the tillers of this rude corner of the earth?
Here, perhaps, in the little clearing into which I now emerged. A couple of decrepit
apple-trees grew on the edge of it, and dropped their scanty and gnarled fruit to feast the
squirrels. A little farther on, a straggling clump of ancient lilacs, a bewildered old bush of
sweetbrier, the dark-green leaves of a cluster of tiger-lilies, long past blooming, marked
the grave of the garden. And here, above this square hollow in the earth, with the remains
of a crumbling chimney standing sentinel beside it, here the house must have stood. What
joys, what sorrows once centred around this cold and desolate hearth-stone? What
children went forth like birds from this dismantled nest into the wide world? What guests
found refuge----
 
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