In the Beginning


By Laura Riding, 1935


In the beginning there was only a large rock, apparently good for nothing important, and a little girl who could not think of anything important to do. "I will turn the rock into a cave," she said, "and go to sleep in it for a little while." While she was asleep in the cave things began to grow on the outside of the rock: silken moss and furry ferns and vines spangled with berries—and, in the very middle, a garden with an absurd variety of flowers, tended by an absurdly large but faithful bee. The smell of the flowers woke the little girl up and she came out of the cave—as it happened, not to go back again, except for a frivolous reason, as we shall see. She was rather irritated by what she saw, and said, "It is all very beautiful, but is it important?" And the beauty became a tangle round the inner triviality of the garden. To the bee she said, "You are much too large." So instead of one large bee there were many small ones, which came and went purely in their own selfish interests. She tended the garden herself now—more from a feeling that there was nothing more important to do than from any real love of flowers—and the bees concerned themselves exclusively with honey, which they made and stored in the abandoned cave. Their love of flowers was, from her point of view, a madness, centred as it was in an unimportant by-product of flowers. Nevertheless, by-products were fascinating. Often, while the bees were at work in the garden, she would go into the cave and steal some of the honey; but if they caught her they stung her.