repose follow,— you watch,— another petal trembles, detaches, springs open, and is still.
Then another, and another, and another.
Each movement is so quiet, yet so emphatic, so living, so human, that the radiant creature seems a Musidora of the water, and you almost blush with a sense of guilt, in gazing on that peerless privacy.
As petal by petal slowly opens, there still stands the central cone of snow, a glacier, an alp, a jungfrau, while each avalanche of whiteness seems the last.
Meanwhile a strange, rich odor fills the air, and Nature seems to concentrate all fascinations and claim all senses for this jubilee of her darling.
So pass the enchanted moments of the evening, till the fair thing pauses at last, and remains for hours unchanged.
In the morning, one by one, those white petals close again, shutting all their beauty in, and you watch through the short sleep for the period of waking.
Can this bright, transfigured creature appear again in the same chaste loveliness?
Your fancy can scarcely trust it, fearing some disastrous change; and your fancy is too true a prophet.
Come again, after the second day's opening, and you start at the transformation which one hour has secretly produced.
Can this be the virgin Victoria
,— this thing of crimson passion, this pile of pink and yellow, relaxed, expanding, voluptuous, lolling languidly upon the water, never to rise again?
In this short time every tint of every petal is transformed; it is gorgeous in beauty, but it is ‘Hebe
turned to Magdalen.’
Such is the Victoria Regia
But our rustic water-lily, our innocent Nymphaea, never claiming such a hot-house glory, never drooping into such a blush, blooms on placidly in the quiet waters, till she modestly folds her leaves for the last time, and bows her head beneath the surface forever.
Next year she lives for us only in her children, fair and pure as herself.
Nay, not alone in them, but also in memory.
The fair vision will not fade from us, though the paddle has dipped its last crystal drop from the waves, and the boat is drawn upon the shore.
We may yet visit many lovely and lonely places,— meadows thick with violet, or the homes of the shy Rhodora, or those sloping forest-haunts where the slight Linnaea
hangs its twin-born heads,— but no scene will linger on our vision like this annual Feast of the Lilies.
On scorching mountains, amid raw prairie-winds, or upon the regal ocean, the white pageant shall come back to memory again, with all the luxury of summer heats, and all the fragrant coolness that can relieve them.
We shall fancy ourselves again among these fleets of anchored lilies,—again, like Urvasi, sporting amid the Lake of Lotuses
For that which is remembered is often more vivid than that which is seen.
The eye paints better in the presence, the heart in the absence, of the object most dear.
‘He who longs after beautiful Nature can best describe ’