Bouissou, Madame Michael - The Lady with the Iris
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
The Life of a Sensitive – Madame Michael Bouissou
It was brought to the house by one of those curious pedlars, half smuggler, half hawker, who pull out from a grey, carefully knotted piece of canvas gleaming silks, Spanish shawls, Moorish gold, embroidered velvet, spices, perfumes and ivories from China or Japan. It seduced the sick child to whom this multi-coloured and perfumed display of wares was shown. She saw the statuette, smiled and held out her hands to receive the little ivory lady. The patient sculptor had chiselled her kimono, decked her obi with flowers, carved sensitive little hands, one of which, reposing on her shoulder, held a tall, slender iris stalk.
Three light lines had sufficed to bring to life the slanting eyes and a small, rather sulky mouth, but a great deal of work had been put into the complicated coils of her rather heavy tresses in which was stuck an enormous, full-blown iris. The pedlar folded up his bag, carried away his flamboyant rubbish and the child, clutching its new toy, was taken back to its room. . . .
It was a slightly enchanted domain which had been lovingly created for the child who, at the age when children dance and jump about, no longer knew the joys of movement. Japanese fish, draped in their veils or brilliant and shining, glided past in the gleaming aquarium; bright tropical birds flew in a cage tinged gold by the sun; a small, imperious, smoke-blue Persian cat was the queen of this small world, never disturbing the ivories on a little silk-draped table when a sudden caprice made her jump among them. The statuette stood in this rather sombre temple. It reigned there supreme during the leaden years when the child, helped by all our love, strove to escape the clutches of the disease. One day the struggle ceased and she was draped in white velvet- the most beautiful but also the most ephemeral of the statues. The room was closed, the enchantments dispersed and the ivories put away carefully in a box.
Many years later I woke them from their long sleep and placed them in a circle in a bright showcase with the rest of the things that had also been retrieved from this room of chimeras. The little Lady with the Iris was enthroned in the centre of the ivories and she now gleamed in the gay Montmartre sunlight. Facing me in my study, I often glanced at her during a somewhat unrewarding seance. Charmed by the stiff grace of the little idol, some of my visitors commented upon her.
One day I thought she had moved slightly as I could only see her in profile. Perhaps some vibration had displaced the little lady, and I turned her round again to face my desk and those who sat at it. Then one morning I was very surprised to see the statuette facing the wall completely, offering only an anonymous silhouette without a face. I replaced her once more and this time was content to observe the way in which she turned away.
I never surprised any movement on her part, and yet in the course of three days the obstinate little creature had turned round completely and once more had her back to the room.
This identical experience was repeated several times.
Turning her back, with only the knot of her obi and the coils of her hair visible, she obstinately refused to show her face and kept her hands in the shadow. None of the ivories around her-even the lightest-ever made the slightest motion. If some vibration was the cause of this regular gyration, it must be of astonishing precision. One day I opened the showcase and placed the statuette gently in a box; in its place, carefully marked out by a red silk thread, I substituted another smaller and lighter ivory. Every day I looked at it curiously, but it did not move any more than did its small companions, and the red silk thread remained quite motionless. After a certain time I replaced the Lady with the Iris in her original place, and three days later her back was turned on me. I finally tired of her obstinacy and let my pretty little Japanese girl remain with her face averted.
I related this story one Sunday at the house of Mme de Ch-L-: it was a great success with the few friends she had invited, and in particular with her nephews who were also very enthusiastic about occultism. At the end of the day I asked Mme de Ch-L- if I could bring her my rebellious little lady. I had often admired her understanding of objects and plants, which she seemed to prefer to animals and even to human beings. She agreed, and a few days later I brought her the statuette which was still standing sadly facing the wall. That evening she telephoned me and asked this curious question:
"Did you never notice that she has two left hands ?" No, I had not noticed this detail. Mme de Ch-L- explained to me that a careful scrutiny had shown that in the course of one of her journeys the little Lady with the Iris had lost her right hand, the one that rested in a rather studied manner on her obi. An accident had broken it off at the wrist. A skilful but obviously absent-minded repairer had fitted her with another left hand. "Moreover," the quiet voice on the telephone went on, "the work is far coarser and it's not ivory but carefully polished bone."
When I had time to examine what I myself had never discovered, I could see the join at the wrist, skilfully disguised by careful polishing, where the new hand had been fixed. The pretty Lady with the Iris was mutilated. She was ashamed of it and wanted to hide her deformity in the darkness. Now she seemed to radiate a calm happiness which I had never been able to give her. I asked my friend who had discovered the source of her pain to keep the little lady and bestow her affection upon her. She understood, as she always understood everything, particularly the things that words cannot express.
On my next visit she showed me the statuette, precious souvenir of the years when youth and hope mingled in a life we knew hung by a thread. The little lady was smiling in the shadow of a big piece of furniture where she queened it over the other bibelots.
Possibly those who read this story will shrug their shoulders scornfully; yet all of us know so little about our universe, as little as we know about our soul! Every day scholars, amazed by their discoveries, reject what yesterday represented truth in favour of their new findings.
Why, then, should we not admit that in suffering or joy man can visit a world to which he has not yet found the door-a door which will open one day onto a world in which the little Lady with the Iris lived, the one who was ashamed. . . .