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Thursday 10 June 2010

The Herbalist - Excerpt from The Seal

“Who are you?”

The man smiled a long straight row of teeth at him. “I am no one, and I am everyone!” he said.

This strangeness seemed less strange to him since he was without pain for the first time in a week. “Where are you from?” he asked.

“I spend my days in forests and valleys.”

“Do you not have a home? A village?” Etienne moved to find a comfortable place.

“God is my home,” the man said, simply.

The emphasis of these last words, made Etienne cautious and he chewed the remnants of the bitter herb in silence, tasting heresy.

“God is in that herb and in this blade of grass,” he said weaving the green things in his deft hands. “My soul creeps into the plants and it sees through them and I become one with them. In them I see how God rejoices. In the heart he is also to be found, but there he does not rejoice he is made sad by sin. When you find God you find the healing power in everything…I have found the healing in those herbs in your wound…God shall work in them and it shall not be the cause of your undoing.”

His eyes stared into Etienne’s a moment and in that stare Etienne observed the spirit of the blade of grass and the spirit of the tree and the spirit of the sky and cloud and river and all of it seemed to speak of wide spaces and heavenly distances, as if his life had only been a dream and only now was he awake and flying up to the heights to see it. All things lay spread out before him: the waves of cloud that gathered around the peaks of the high cliffs of the mountains throwing their long shadows on the world; the river running, foaming and rolling over polished rocks; the meadow covered in the first purple flush of Spring that stretched towards the line of fir trees. Here and there a little snow. Scarcely had he time to think on it than he saw himself a youth full of fresh notions and unspent years. In the old man’s eyes he observed it, therefore; the young man and the old man who looked upon him as he, now and again, observed Jourdain.

“No.” Etienne said to him and dropped a speck of a glance, a fidget of the eye towards the Seal, “The wound shall not be my end after all. I thank you.”

The man got up stiffly as if his bones were hinged and rusty and creaking, “I will go, for nature is old and revelation is young…” he said this and threw the item he had been weaving into Etienne’s lap.

It was a cross.

“The sword will be forgotten one day,” the old man said to him, “but the memory of the cross will live, not as it does now, the black cross of death, but a living cross entwined with roses…” He looked at Etienne, “Someday!” Then he took himself to his mule and went on his way...

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