Mr. Mershenson continued, “You see these fields of wheat? My tea plantation is ten times this size”. The senior de Montaigne was again impressed and as happy as a baby. He suddenly sighed. Mr. Mershenson, thinking his friend was annoyed by his remarks, tactfully changed the subject. The senior de Montaigne had sighed because he thought of his wife. She hid not live to see this richness. She saw only hard work and poverty. A teardrop escaped from the corner of his eyelid. He hastily wiped it away as if to clean away a dust particle.
Vincent, meanwhile, wandering on his own had encountered an old gardener, carefully tending flowers. He seemed happy and serious in his doing. He diligently bent to pull out every weed. The flowers seemed to respond as if by magic. There were so many shapes, sizes and colors, all unfamiliar to Vincent, facing the sun as if in admiration.
The gardener moved from one to the other as if he knew every one of them. His lips moved as if he were talking to them. The azure sky, the waving fields of wheat and now these flowers were in perfect harmony. The wrinkled old gardener seemed to blend right in. All seemed to talk to Vincent and give him a sense of balance and peace. He felt one with nature. Suddenly, without warning, large drops of rain began to patter down. Vincent had not noticed the dark clouds gather. The rainwater felt warm and was momentary. The sun shone through as if to say, “Don't worry, I am still here.” The gardener did not stop in his passionate occupation.
Vincent started to laugh, he did not know why. He felt the rain and sun were both coming from heaven. He then thought of his dad. When he was a boy, on their way to school, his dad would say to him, “Quick, it may rain”. Now, Vincent did not bother to run from this heavenly shower. He stood up straight, his face turned up, feeling the large drops of rain coming down in a deluge. He wanted to be soaked through to the skin. He enjoyed every drop falling on his nose. Vincent was now at least over his fear of rain, in view of so wonderful a manifestation of the powerful heavens.
The gardener did not notice Vincent's presence. He was absorbed in his flowers like a lover who sees everything through the eyes of his beloved. Vincent, too, saw the gardener amid the various natural colors and stood in admiration. He took care of his flowers conscientiously, not disturbed by the rain.
The downpour lasted a few minutes, then the strong sunrays burst through the clouds. Vincent was soon self-possessed. His clothes were soon dry. He continued walking. There was no sign of Mr. Mershenson and his father. Then he saw someone walking towards him from the distance. He thought at first that it was his dad, concerned the rain, coming back to see him. Slowly, he realized the man was dressed in different clothes than his dad.
The man walked fast, stirring Vincent's imagination. He stopped for a while to give an Indian a chance to exchange a few words with him. Vincent had not spoken a word since morning. He was now eager to say a few words. His throat was dry. The gardener had not spoken a word. Vincent assumed that he could at least talk to the flowers.
This thought led to others. He, too, could talk to the sky or to the field. These are certainly not dead objects. They carry a sacred life, maybe they speak a sacred language that we have yet to discover. He now remembered, when his dad used to take him to school, which was a few miles from his farm, Vincent would flirt with the trees and with the birds. His father was very patient with him. He never complained, except when he expected it to rain. Many a time, while admiring the bright blue sky, Vincent tripped and fell flat on his nose. His dad would pick him up, without a word, dust him, and they would continue on their way as if nothing had happened.
Now it was Vincent's turn to be tolerant with his dad when he spoke about business with his friend Mershenson. After all he had worked all his life to fulfill Vincent's needs.
When the senior de Montaigne was a young married man, he too used to admire the plants on his farm. Vincent now realized that although his father never showed him his sensitivity, he was a softhearted and good human being. He never displayed his feelings to anyone. He spoke only about the Bible and his business.
The Indian man had now approached quite close to Vincent. Vincent was wondering why he was so attracted by this strange man and he did not remember what has happened to him. He felt a sudden stream pass through his entire body. He felt limp and weak as after an accident. His whole being felt shaken and he felt confused for a while.
He thought he must have been hit by a bolt of lightning, but the sky was clear and the sun shone in the sky. In fact the sun's rays appeared more intense than before. They seemed like a thousand threads of silver from which the earth was suspended.
The old man was now passing him and said a few words which Vincent did not understand. He was not even sure if it was an Indian language. Surely it was not English. And those miraculous threads now penetrated Vincent's entire body. The old man laid his hand on Vincent's shoulder as though to appease him. Vincent felt the warmth and delicious sensation pass through his entire being. His body quivered from joy and happiness. While he was still under the spell of this new sensation, the old man was gone.
Vincent was sorry that he could not exchange a few words with the old man. He now realized that the old man wanted to convey a message to him. His words were like sweet music. Vincent sensed a feeling of total peace and silence. He had the distinct impression that he had seen the old man before but he did not know where. Vincent continued his walk but wished he would not meet anyone now. He wanted to stay alone to relish the happy sensations as long as he could. The words the old man had said began to come back to Vincent's ears. He finished memorizing them. He tried to repeat them. He felt again the sensation of a wonderful stream on his lips and in his face. The sensation seemed to please him. He did not under¬stand the reason and did not want to know.
He knew that the words were for his ears only and that he could repeat them as often as he wanted but only when he was alone. He felt alive in every atom of his being, a sensation that he had never known before. Something new had happened in Vincent's life. He knew now what had pulled him all the way from Europe. Vincent now had his own secret which he would have to keep to himself.
These new sensations, new feelings, new world made him different. In his mind's eye he could see his mother sitting on the threshold, at the farm door, sewing his torn shirt. He recalled the well close to the house from which his mother used to draw water. All the beautiful days that he had spent on the farm in his childhood came back to life….Vincent tried to push away these visions without knowing why.
The sun's rays started to change color. They became gold mixed with silver. He thought he could remember another world. He pushed away these thoughts thinking he must be dreaming. He felt the old Indian man was closer to him than any person in the whole world.
He hurried along to join his dad. Again, the butler was there, waiting by the coach to take them back to the house. He realized that since morning he had not seen a single tree. He decided that he did not miss them and could live without them. He wondered if he had ever seen any trees before or if they were a figment of his imagination. He reached the coach. His dad and Mr. Mershenson were waiting for him. He recalled the bad memories on his trip on that coach between his dad and Mr. Mershenson.
Copyright Emile M. Tubiana 2009 all rights reserved