It was the second really warm day of May, and I found an aged woman leaning on the parapet of a rustic bridge and gazing at the water beneath, wimpling over the grey stones between its primrose starred banks.
“Isn’t this an exquisite day?” was my greeting as I too put my elbows on the sun-warmed stone.
“Well,” she said without any marked enthusiasm, “isn’t it time? We’ve hed nowt but cold, yit.”
“But a day like this makes up for it, don’t you think?”
“Weeah, I’se nut seeah sure. Nowt but rain an’ storms…
“But never mind about the storms now. Just let’s enjoy this soft, warm, lovely air.”
“An’ hev we hed any summer for two ‘ear?” she went on unheeding; “nivver a bit. There is neeah summers now like as I mind when I was young.”
“Ah,” I agreed sympathetically; “the sun always shone when we were young. But do look at those trees over on that hillock. I am sure they couldn’t be more beautiful when you were young.”
They shimmered, through a soft veil of silver haze, in endless tints of green and lemon and coral pink; one here and there tipped with the deep orange of the opening oak leaves, others gleaming pink and white with the blossom of the wild cherry; the ash trees and most of the oaks still leafless, the dark tracery of their branches clearly pencilled against the wonderful colour of the myriads of young silken leaves of the earlier budding trees. Through a gap in the woodland could be seen a blaze of thorns on fire without being consumed — a clump of gorse in full bloom.
The old eyes followed the direction of my hand and peered from their nest of wrinkles at the miracles of loveliness of a woodland in May: “Ay,” she said grudgingly, “But you’ll see it’ll come frost or storm or wind just like it did last ‘ear, an’tear a’them leaves to bits. Neeah. It’ll nut be lang they’ll be sae nice.”
I tried her on another tack. In my hand I held some sprigs of crab-apple blossom — the pink pearls unfolded — and a few short branches of the bird cherry laden with its white pendulous flowers at that perfect stage when every floret is open with the exception of a few round buds at the tips of the racemes and not a petal has yet fallen.
Unguardedly I held my treasure rather close to her eyes that she might admire it. But she shook her head and cried, “you don’t mean to say you’re going to take that home? I couldn’t a-bear the smell of it.”
Oddly enough, the same remark, in almost the same words was made by a friend whom I met further on and whom I invited to admire the purity and fragrance of the bird-cherry blossom: “It would make me sick,” she said. “I couldn’t bear the smell of it in a room.”
There are all sorts of blossoms — the uncultivated flowers of nature — which it is “unlucky” to bring indoors — because of their scent? No! Because of the fear of an evil spirit inhabiting them.