Box of Wonders
Box of Wonders
Painting by Jacques Roux
Story by GC Sinclaire
It was late night, and I was wandering through the dimly lit gallery. We had just hung some new paintings this very morning. I wanted to see what these would look like in the bright light of the full moon shining through the glass dome of the building. The gallery was closed and I had the place entirely to myself.
Times like these were special to me. Gazing at the paintings in the soft lunar glow allowed my imagination to take flight and to see these magnificent works of art in a different way. It gave me an entirely new perspective. In the past, I had often discovered things hidden by day.
As I moved around the rooms, I stopped in front of each new picture. I spent a few moments in silent contemplation before moving on to the next. Then, I reached a work which seemed to draw me. Mesmerized, I sat down on the bench before it and let my eyes roam over the canvas.
Suddenly, movement drew my eyes. I took note of something I was certain had not been there a moment before. A little plastic mouse! It was waving to me! Intrigued, I rose and stepped closer. “Greetings, lady,” the little figure addressed me with its low, squeaky voice. It finished its words with a very deep bow.
For a moment, I was taken aback. Had I lost my senses or was I dreaming? Just to make sue, I pinched myself. Ouch, that hurt! I was sure now that I was awake and something mysterious was going on. The little being was looking at me in eager anticipation. I pulled myself together, it would not do to be rude!
“Greetings, little mouse,” I replied politely. I gave it a little curtsy. From past experience, I knew that magical creatures could be very sensitive and easily perturbed. I had discovered that it was always best to return a hailing in kind. That way, the other would not take offense.
“Do you have a moment?” the high-pitched voice inquired. I could only nod. “Let me tell you a story then,” the small being began. “Once, not too long ago, there were three wise women who were longing for love in their lives. It was not that they were particularly lonely, but they felt it would be nice to have someone to share their lives with.
The ladies were picky, however, and a bit on the judgmental side. They did not just want any man, they wanted one who was special. Handsome, charming, well off with good social standing. Oh, and he had to be smart, insightful, kind, and eager to please, perfect in every way. They had suiters a plenty, just not one they deemed worthy enough.
After some lengthy discussions, they finally hit on a plan which might help them to find these gems among men. Each naturally wanted their own companion, sharing was not on their agenda. The women decided that they would set up an altar in a cove not far from the town. They suspended the ‘Book of Love’ right above it so that it was plainly visible to anyone entering the glade.
Soon, all was in readiness. To bring eligible men to their clearing, the ladies started a rumor. Soon the news spread through the town and countryside. It was passed from one man to the next that this sacred altar and the tome would show any man who so desired the face of his future lover. All he had to do is come with an open heart and pray there at midnight.
Night after night, the ladies kept vigil. Men started appearing. First, one every few nights but then, more and more often. The first few successes really helped to move things along. The tale of lonely men finding their loves at this magical place spread through the realm like wildfire. Soon men were drawing lots on who got to enter the clearing.
For a while, all who arrived were ordinary men. None were special enough to interest the women. Then, one full moon night, a handsome nobleman arrived on his magnificent steed. He strode up to the altar with all the arrogance and assurance of his station. Now he was more to the prophetesses’ liking! They would proceed with caution, however, since good looks were not everything they were searching for. It was time to begin with the testing.
Soon, the man was in deep slumber. He began to dream. He was attending a grand ball. His wife was at his side. She was a hard working woman, smart and capable. She took excellent care of their home and their children. And, anything else he pushed her way. She was always ready to support him and he could completely rely on her.
Over the years, she had taken on more and more of their shipping business. In his opinion, she was much better at running it than he was anyhow. Having his wife taking care of things for him freed him up to truly lead a nobleman’s life. It was wonderful not having to work!
He could go hunting or visit with his friends, do whatever came in his mind. He never even noticed what carrying all the responsibilities was doing to her. His lady had once been beautiful and vibrant, now she just looked tired and worn. Her stunning gown hung on her haggard frame and her hair was dull and lifeless.
He had once loved and admired her. She had been fun and had enjoyed sharing his bed. Now, she was so tired she mostly slept in her own room. He resented not having her at his beck and call. Of late, his eyes had started to wander. Oh how he envied his friends! Their pampered, pretty ladies never seemed tired. He was sure that his peers’ nights were much more satisfying than his! Why could he not have someone like that?
The scene switched. The earl’s wish had been granted. He was dancing with his attractive new wife. She was gazing up at him with eyes full of love and adoration. Everything she did was to please him. His needs came before everything else. Her hair was shiny, her skin rosy and healthy, and she filled out the exquisite gown to perfection. She was everything he had dreamed of.
Why then had she started to get on his nerves? She tried to help with the business, but did not really have a head for numbers and such. At times, she did more damage than good. This left most of the work for him. The children were primarily cared for by their governess. When she did spend time with them, she spoiled them rotten but overall, his pretty little wife had little interest in them.
Gone were the days when he had the freedom to go off and play. The long hours required to keep things running smoothly were getting to him. He had come to realize that his precious spouse was much better at making herself look beautiful than anything else.
He had so longed for a partner to share his bed on more frequent occasions but now found himself overwhelmed. Since she did little all day, she was never too tired at night, oh no, just the opposite. Most of the time she was waiting for him when he finally drug himself off to his bed. If she did not get her way, she would pout and then she was of no use at all the next day. She was wearing him out!
The man had begun to feel like a slave to the family. Nobody appreciated his hard labor, not the beautiful wife nor the neglected children. Finally, the tired earl could no longer contain his frustration. He had taken to berating her. No matter how mean he talked to her, she never stood up for herself and always forgave him. She was everything he had thought that he wanted, but still, he was not happy.
The wise women were greatly disturbed. This gent was failing their tests! But, he was so handsome with his face relaxed and peaceful in slumber. Should they give up and turn him away? No, they decided, they would try to find one wife who would please him. There had to be one type of woman who would meet his expectations. Then, one of the ladies could slip in that role.
The nobleman’s next spouse was beautiful like Venus, the one after that proud and warlike like Mars, the next wise as Jupiter. One even combined all the traits he had cherished but he still found her lacking. You get the idea!” The mouse said to me. I could only nod, dumbfounded. “Nine wives they presented him with. The fickle lord found fault with them all.
The ladies were saddened but had to admit that here was a lost cause. No woman could please this so handsome man until he found acceptance, peace, and love within himself. Gently, they woke him and sent him on his way. They packed up the altar. This night had shown them their own hearts and they had not liked what they discovered. To their great horror, they realized that they were not much different themselves. Plenty a good man had been turned away in search of the ONE, the special one.
What a night it had been! The women now recognized that before they should try finding love again, they needed to do some work on themselves. They had become aware that they had been projecting their dissatisfaction with their own selves onto their possible partners,” the mouse concluded. With those last words and a bow, it faded away.
I stood there in silence, stunned. My head was spinning. This story had hit home. Not only those wise women were in need of this lesson. I myself had been guilty of finding fault with my man of late. I now understood that it was time to take a look within, accept my own flaws, and make peace with myself and my life. I had allowed the echoes of the past to color my present. It was time to examine the filters clouding my view!
For a moment longer I stayed there looking at the painting with great amazement. It was as if I had awoken out of a bad dream. I saw things clearly for the first time in ages. Life from this moment forward would never again be the same. This picture had been well named, it truly was a -
‘Box of Wonders’!