One day, a young man knocked on the door of the Very Old Man’s house, and asked to be let in. He was not in fact let in, but told “If you wish to enter, you must first bring me the most beautiful flower from the great fields over the mountain.”
The young man decided to do just that (“A fool’s errand” he thought).
After a cold walk of two days and spending one dark night camping over the pass of the Roaring Mountain, he came to the fields which spread forever, past the range of sight. They were covered in wildflowers of all kinds, too many to count.
“How am I to find the most beautiful flower?” he asked himself.
“Ah well, one seems to be as good as any other I suppose. They’re all beautiful, and none any better.”
And with that he broke the stem of the first – and most eye-catching – red flower within reach, put it into his pocket and began the journey back to the Very Old Man’s house. He gave little thought to the flower except to look at it for a moment once, keeping only himself warm, watered and fed. When he pulled it out of his pocket to show it to the Very Old Man it was lifeless, crumpled, petals missing and discoloured, the green leaves had turned a dull gray and were as dry as paper.
“You gave this flower no love!” cried the Very Old Man, “Look at it! You tore the stem away from its roots, let it be crushed in your pocket, gave it no water or light – you treated it very badly and not only has it lost its beauty, it is dead! You have brought about nothing good. Begone, young man, and may you not rest until you have learned to love even a flower!”
The young man went away confused and ashamed, though the latter feeling did not last long. He ended up a wandering poet, singing songs about love and war – two things he knew nothing about – romancing the heart of first one girl foolish enough to listen to him and then another for a day, always finding in the next the same beauty as in the former. I do not know if he ever married or gained a woman’s love, nor do I know what finally became of him. Perhaps he is still trying to find a flower that will bear his touch.
To Be Continued . . .