Little red flames


Hazel catkins (Corylus avellana) 5 March 2009

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She was a strange figure in the class-room, wearing a large, old cloak of greenish cloth, on which was a raised pattern of dull gold. The high collar, and the inside of the cloak, was lined with dark fur. Beneath she had a dress of fine lavender-coloured cloth, trimmed with fur, and her hat was close-fitting, made of fur and of the dull green-and-gold figured stuff. She was tall and strange, she looked as if she had come out of some new, bizarre picture.

‘Do you know the little red ovary flowers, that produce the nuts? Have you ever noticed them?’ he asked her. And he came close and pointed them out to her, on the sprig she held.

‘No,’ she replied. ‘What are they?’

‘Those are the little seed-producing flowers, and the long catkins, they only produce pollen, to fertilize them.’

‘Do they, do they!’ repeated Hermione, looking closely.

‘From those little red bits, the nuts come; if they receive pollen from the long danglers.’

‘Little red flames, little red flames,’ murmured Hermione to herself. And she remained for some moments looking only at the small buds out of which the red flickers of the stigma issued.

‘Aren’t they beautiful? I think they’re so beautiful,’ she said, moving close to Birkin, and pointing to the red filaments with her long, white finger.

‘Had you never noticed them before?’ he asked.

‘No, never before,’ she replied.

‘And now you will always see them,’ he said.

‘Now I shall always see them,’ she repeated. ‘Thank you so much for showing me. I think they’re so beautiful – little red flames -‘

From ‘Women in Love’ by D.H. Lawrence, 1921