The Perpetual Pea - the story of a geneticist - an excerpt.
Gregor Mendel was like his father, of stocky frame with a handsome face and dark hair thinning a little over the temples. He wore glasses and they gave him an additional air of intelligence. He could be considered to be ‘attractive’ … especially to a woman who might see him first as a man carrying a handful of flowers and walking slowly through the monastery gardens. However, no woman had stirred in him anything more than casual interest.
One day he was introduced to a visitor … Count von Zinzendorf, a sponsor of the monastery, and his wife, Magdalena Zinzendorf. The day after Gregor couldn’t remember the Count. He couldn’t remember whether he was short or tall, whether he had a beard or not, whether he had said anything or not. It was as if the Count had never appeared.
But Gregor remembered every detail of Magdalena … the curve of her smile, the twinkle of her eyes, the small wisp of hair that had escaped down the side of her face, her tiny fingers in his handshake, and her lips … a rosy curve like a delicate Cupid’s bow.
She had said, “Father Gregor, I know that you enjoy the garden and spend time investigating the growth of plants. I enjoy the garden too and especially love how plants grow from tiny shoots to full-grown blooms.”
Gregor bowed his head in embarrassment and stammered agreement.
She went on, “You must come to the manor and speak to me about your work and tell me what you have discovered. I will show you my garden and perhaps you can help me with some difficult plants. Would you do that?”
“Of course, Countess,” was all he could manage.
It was two weeks before he could summon up the courage to visit her … with the blessing of Abbot Napp because the Count was a generous contributor to monastic funds. He took with him a bouquet of flowers that he gathered that morning, making sure that the gathering contained some of his peas in flower.
He was shown into a drawing room and he sat stiffly on a high-back brocade chair drawing his black skirts about his knees. He was conscious that his shoes showed signs of the garden mud so he shook his skirts free to cover them. He held the bouquet awkwardly in front of him.
The door opened and the Countess entered. She was dressed in a flowing blue morning dress and her welcoming smile lit up the room.
“Dear Father Gregor, I am so pleased to see you. Why have you taken so long to appear?”
He had expected to be awed by her presence, as he knew he would have been by the Archbishop but despite her finery she looked and behaved like one of his younger sisters.
She took his flowers with a gentle “Thank you,” and placed them in a vase, which had been standing on the table half full of water.
She knew that I would bring her flowers, he realized.
She said, “Let’s visit my garden while it is warm in the sun,” and taking him by the hand she led him out through the French windows.
As they walked through beautifully cared-for gardens, Gregor was in his element and he quite forgot that Magdalena was a countess. They walked and talked easily and when they came to a wall of sweet peas he showed her the differences that existed in the plants and talked about his research. She listened easily, asked intelligent questions, and the differences in their stations fell away.
After that he visited the manor regularly, each time taking flowers or sometimes a small plant that he knew was not in the manor gardens. Magdalena turned out to be astute and knowledgeable and asked critical questions about his work with the peas that helped his research. He enjoyed having someone other than Matthaeus to speak to about his work.
Nevertheless, it wasn’t only just a meeting of the minds. When occasionally their hands accidentally touched or he brushed her shoulder in reaching for a flower in the garden it was like an electric shock and on those times Gregor regretted being a man of the cloth. He instinctively felt like touching her again.
She lightened his days.
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