Samuel has made up his mind. At long last, he would succeed at winning the heart of the Princess.
He’s been fond of Christabella for a long time, but has never dared to approach her, as she was the fairest beauty in town. The most enviable suitors sought her hand in marriage, but it looked like either Christabella was too finicky, or marriage wasn’t her intention at all. Samuel knew her from school-days, and she certainly didn’t keep company with his likes. Hers was a different clique. While Samuel took keen interest in studies and was a quiet one, Christobella-the-sharp-dresser, Christabella-the-Princess – for everybody knew her under this sobriquet – was busy but only at flying about with friends.
At last, Samuel has found the courage and made up his mind. He dared to make an appointment, came to his beloved and proposed. The svelte blonde girl was eager to answer.
“I will only marry a man, who will fulfil my wish. All my life I’ve dreamt of a gown of orchids. Those flowers are my favourite. Grow a garden of orchids for me and make them into a gown, which I shall wear to walk down the aisle.”
Samuel left the Princess’s house, puzzled. He knew nothing of growing flowers, especially of orchids, except for their being capricious. Perhaps, that was what Christabella loved them for: the likeness of the nature.
In two days Samuel put hand to the task in earnest. He got surrounded by books on flower-growing, bought all the materials, built a greenhouse and started making the dream come true.
First seeds that he planted never came to life – there hadn’t been enough moisture. Samuel planted the next set of seeds in better conditions, and in ten days first sprouts appeared.
He narrowed his choice to white, cream and delicate rosy flowers that were as if touched by a brush of watercolour paint. Then, he found out that colourful orchids could be obtained by adding ink in pot water, and so Samuel decided to experiment to grow flowers of original hues. So immersed was he in the process that didn’t care to notice how years flew by: one, two, then three…
The greenhouse was getting larger, and yet two and a half thousand orchids were needed at the same time to create a proper gown, and this seemed pure extravagancy. Nevertheless, Samuel personified perseverance – and that was why achieving something impossible meant for him a particular pleasure.
All that time that Samuel put into the greenhouse made for his brilliant knowledge of flower-growing and allowed him to become an expert who understood the finest subtleties of nurturing orchids. Various people regularly visited the greenhouse, those who heard of the townsman who decided to set a record by growing two and a half thousand flowers simultaneously. Samuel didn’t pay attention to reporters crowding around his house. Instead, he fitted sturdier locks, sheltered behind the high fence, which didn’t drive off the importunate weasels, who grew even more resourceful at the methods of spying.
Staying under the close stare of the cameras, Samuel worked for seven years and finally succeeded.
He woke up in the morning, cheerful and satisfied. He was up to assembling together the long-expected gown. The florist spent all day on making a framework of wire, on which the flowers were fastened. The whole thing took all day and night, and a fairly large crowd gathered during the time, all the eyes fixed on what was going on. Occasionally, Samuel made mistakes, and then he would disassemble the gown partially and put it together again. Finally, at daybreak, in the sight of the all-nighters who were leaning over the fence and of journalists who were commenting each action live on television, there bloomed the gown of orchids. It had a heart-shaped corset and a puffy skirt redolent of a bell. The gentle opalescence of the colours was like that of a cloud at dawn. The gown exhaled fragrance and seemed as though it had fallen from the pages of a children’s fairy-tale book. Nearly impossible was it for everybody to tear their eyes off the astonishing masterpiece! The white mannequin, upon which the entire construction was assembled, remained dispassionate and cold to the sum of efforts of the great artist. The only thing left to do was deliver the piece of work to the bride.
Samuel used help from some of the onlookers to deliver the gown to Christabella. It were several years already as she lived in a neat six-story house painted in pleasant green and peach colours. She was quite surprised by the visit of the old acquaintance. Two little children appeared and ran towards Samuel, the younger child tried to catch the older one to take away the toy car.
Samuel wasn’t paying them much attention, but what he did notice is that Christabella looked different. The hair drawn back into a ponytail hastily, the simply-looking clothes and the weariness in the eyes – still, the lovely face of his sweetheart, there it was too.
“I’ve finished it!” He smiled to Christabella, while she raised her eyebrows and asked with genuine interest:
“What have you finished?”
“The gown of orchids. Have you not been watching news recently?”
“Well, I have little time. Children, husband, chores, you name it. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting guests.”
“Are those your children?”
Sore with his brother, the younger son rushed to his mummy, pressed himself against her knees, and gazed with large eyes at the strange mister. Gently, Christabella lowered her palm to touch the curly head of the boy.
“Do you remember how once you said to me that you would only marry a man who would fulfil your dream?” With each moment passing Samuel’s hope fainted and already he was speaking less confidently, but still he struggled against his realization, against what was obvious. “The gown of orchids. I’ve cultivated a whole greenhouse of flowers. With you in mind. I’ve spent seven years on that. On growing two and a half thousand orchids. I made the gown today, in the night-time, and I was hurrying to see you in the morning. There it stands downstairs, the gown. And there are people there, too. Everybody’s waiting for us…”
Christabella watched the guest with eyes wide open, in which a great astonishment could be read.
“You’re such a fool!” The exclamation broke from her. “I invented my wish to not say no to men openly. Anyone would’ve understood that a girl in love couldn’t make conditions like this. Why indulge in fantasies, if you can stay with the one you love? To cultivate an entire garden to make one bridal gown – if that isn’t ridiculous! And to think you have spent almost half a life on it! All this time, was you really thinking that somebody would want to wait for you?”
Downtrodden, Samuel walked straight into the rain. The bright summer sky was overcast with clouds. All the people broke up, and there wasn’t anybody left around the bald-headed mannequin that stood in solitude, wearing the gown of orchids. Under heavy strokes of rain-drops, the gown slowly turned into a bunch of withered, slovenly hanging shreds, as if a dress of fabric was cut by a scissors-armed hand.
At the moment, that was the very image of Samuel’s heart. The heart foolish, but most devoted.
(Translate by Pavel Zamachowski)