In the eye of the beholder
A tale of love by Mary Drake –
Some tell of how a single flower once spoke to a Lady’s heart louder than anything else. The story goes like this:
Once, there was a damsel named Flora, a waiting woman to a Duchess. Every day she would sit with the Duchess to embroider fine tapestries, after which they would take a walk in the castle garden.
Flora loved to stop along the garden path and admire whatever flowers were in bloom, but she was particularly fond of the purple iris that bloomed in the late spring. Partly she loved their color, but also she knew that they signaled the beginning of summer.
Now there was also a knight loyal to the Duke who was called Sir Gavin the Proud, for he was the best jouster of all the Duke’s knights and flaunted his accomplishments. He hit his mark more often than any other knight, and he was considered the best horseman as well. One day, Gavin’s eyes fell upon Lady Flora while she was out walking in the garden, and he was smitten with her, thinking what a fine couple they would make.
Serving this knight was a squire of the name of Hugh. He also observed the lovely Flora as she stopped to admire the iris, and he longed to kneel before her as she walked the garden path and spread his cloak on the ground so that her delicate feet would not become damp or muddy. He thought there was nothing he would not do to serve her but knew that his master fancied her and assumed the lady would never look his way. After all, he was only a squire.
That year, as summer began unfolding its promise of long, warm days, the Duke generously decided to host a tournament, and the castle was abuzz with preparations. Sir Gavin gloried in the chance to display his prowess before Lady Flora, and he set Hugh to work polishing all his armor. He also decided to send the Lady his emblem of the Duke’s colors which he wore over his armor. Thus, by sewing it onto her sleeve, she would announce to the assembled crowd her intention to become his. He wrapped the emblem in pure silk and instructed Hugh to deliver it to the lovely Flora, never doubting that she would wear it.
Thrilled by the chance to approach lovely Flora, Hugh was nevertheless troubled to give her Gavin’s token rather than one of his own. But he had not yet been knighted and therefore had no emblem as yet from the Duke. Crossing the courtyard and approaching the castle residence, he spied the Duchess’s garden and remembered Flora’s love of irises, so he furtively picked one and slipped it inside the package with Gavin’s emblem.
When he presented the package and Flora opened it, she asked with surprise how his master had known the iris to be her favorite flower, adding that she had just that morning finished embroidering the beauteous flower onto the sleeves of her dress.
For a few moments, Hugh was flustered and didn’t know how to respond, but gathering his courage he finally admitted the flower was from him. He admitted his humble wish to serve her, even though he knew himself to be unworthy. He told her he had seen her in the garden admiring the irises and their color reminded him of her violet eyes.
She bestowed on him her amazing smile and thanked him for his attentiveness.
The day of the tournament, the Lady Flora accompanied the Duchess into the grandstand, but instead of wearing the knight’s emblem, she wore a purple dress with irises embroidered on each sleeve, and an iris in her hair.
Hugh thought he had never seen anyone more beautiful, and the flower in her hair was a secret message shared. He felt sure that no matter how long it took for him to attain knighthood, she would be waiting.