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Changed by a Flowerby Georgina Cecilia Ball-Acton, nee Annesley
THE name Hyacinthus, the Latin name of the bluebell, was originally given to a species of lily, into which, as an ancient legend tells, the youth Hyacinthus was changed by Apollo. On its petals were strange dark spots set in the form of the Greek work A.L. Alas !
The wild and careless youth of my story was not changed by an Apollo, but by means of a bluebell, by a flower of God's beautiful creation. And he was not changed into a lily, but into a nobler and better being.
The dark sin spots on his heart were covered, and although at sixteen, " Alas !" was said over him, at sixty men cried rejoice and angels echoed back the word.
Half a century ago, on the edge of a Highland forest, a boy and girl were sitting hand in hand. A merry burn sparkled at their feet, and the grass round them was thick with bluebells. The boy was tall and strong, and his face wore a bright open expression not yet smirched with the evil of the world. He stood where boyhood ends and manhood is just touched. His parents had been dead some years, whisky had killed them in their prime, and their son had not had a very good upbringing.
But he revered the old minister, whose sermon delivered last Sabbath in the humble kirk had made a great impression on him. The text, " Can a leopard change his spots ? " had attracted him by its strangeness, and had made him listen to the earnest word which followed. The lad had since been wondering how his sin spots could be got rid of.
And it was of this the boy and girl were speaking as they sat together under the trees.
Elsie, the minister's daughter, a yellow-haired gentle-faced lassie, was explaining her father's words, and telling how all sin-stains can be washed away. Duncan listened reverently, for Elsie was the one being he loved, and they talked long together, for he was to leave her and his country that night.
But before they parted he had given her one shy kiss, and had said eagerly," Elsie, if I make a fortune I will come back to you and be worthy of you, perhaps I am not so black as the folks say." And the girl had put some of the sweet bluebells in his hand, and had said quietly, " Always I will wait for you, Duncan."
Before the sun had ushered in the dawn to the other hemisphere, where Duncan's life was to be now passed, he was on his journey.
* * * * * * * *
Duncan worked bravely and honestly in Australia, and laid by quite a little fortune in Melbourne Bank, but afterwards he was tempted by bad companions to a different kind of life. He took to drink, went to the diamond fields, and got very low.
After that he turned his hand to various trades, and then returned to the mines. He did not tell his friends, or rather enemies, of his nest-egg in the bank, which at his lowest gasp he had not touched.
A great scheme was on hand among the rough fellows his companions. A plan had been long hatching to rob a rich man's house and steal his diamonds, of which he had great store. If it was necessary to their success, the man was to be done to death, and to Duncan was assigned the most difficult part of the business.
* * * * * * * *
The evening before the robbery was to take place, Duncan, with an uneasy feeling in his heart, had wandered far from his companions. As the sun sank he found himself by a woodland stream, along which bluebells were growing in profusion. The sight held his eyes, and brought back to remembrance other bluebells that had blossomed years ago. With rough bands that trembled he drew from his pocket an old case, wherein was a yellow paper from which fell a faded hyacinth.
Elsie's prayers had been heard. A sudden yet earnest resolve shot across the old Scotchman's heart. " God help me wash away my black spots," he prayed. His resolve was taken. The faded flower replaced. He never saw the gang of thieves again, and in a short time had left the country.
* * * * * * * * *
Duncan and Elsie sat once more by their Highland burn ; but he was an old man, his fine figure bent and worn, and she a calm, grave woman. In his hair were streaks of white, but they, as has been beautifully said, are but the first signs of the dawning of another life. The woman's wrinkled hand held a faded hyacinth, and the man looked down at her with loving eyes.
The morning sun had not long risen over the hills, and everything mantled with light and gladness. As Elsie looked at the flower, and then at the man beside her, she said with a happy voice, " the present species of hyacinth has no dark spots on its petals ; the word 'Alas ! ' has disappeared." And standing among the bluebells her lips were touched with a no less fervent touch than of old, though Duncan's youth had gone. And it seemed as if all nature rejoiced with them as they walked to their cottage home.
1898 G.C. Ball-Acton Wild Flower Magazine August-September 1898
Edited by Edith Vere Annesley (OBE) now Mrs Dent of Flass. (Hand written note)