Towards the end of autumn, a third young man came knocking on the Very Old Man’s door, asking to be let in.
The answer he was given was the same as that given to the first two young men.
“If you wish to enter, you must first bring me the most beautiful flower from the great fields over the mountains.”
“Very well” said this young man “I will do so.” And after a brief stop by his cottage on the edge of town for some supplies, the young man walked out towards the Roaring Mountain.
A day and a night of walking over the cold and windy mountain brought to him the sight of all the flowers that could ever be seen. The sun was just rising, casting golden light over the dew-impearled fields
“How to find the most beautiful one . . . ” pondered the young man. “Beauty is found in many things in many ways. These flowers are all beautiful in their own way, but I wonder which one this young woman whom I have neither seen nor spoken to would want. Surely the old man doesn’t want the flower – or if he does, only for the meaning within it.”
He searched about, trying to think of what the girl might find most pleasing and settled on a pale blue flower.
“Small but not too small and larger than the littlest; a pretty colour that anyone would find pleasing, and besides” – he looked at it closer as it danced in the wind “I’ve never seen one quite like this before, not on our side of the mountains.”
He dug it up by the roots, being careful to break as few as possible, placed it in a little bag he wore on his belt, poured the last of his water – only a little trickle – onto the roots and, turning his back to the sunrise started towards the mountain.
When he came high enough to be bitten by the cold he was reminded of the flower
on his belt. He held the little bag up to his mouth and breathed into it to warm up the flower before putting it under his coat. Towards evening, when he came to a sheltered place, he opened the bag and looked inside. The flower was shriveling up from cold and darkness despite his efforts. So, after melting some snow in his hands and letting it drip into the bag he hurried on, forgetting the food he had with him in his haste and feeling just a little discouraged. He did not stop to rest for the night but traveled on and came to the Very Old Man’s house just as the sun was clambering over the mountain.
With the blood-red sky burning behind him he wearily knocked on the door and waited.
To Be Continued . . .