Wearied by a long day's ride, Vincent stopped his horse, dismounted, and leaving it to wander about on the green field to its heart's content, he lay down in the protecting shade of a tree, and slept.
And he dreamt a strange dream.
He saw a woman emerge from the intricate shadows of his confused fancy, and advance towards him until but a few steps divided them: there she stopped. In wonder he gazed at her, for she was beautiful and majestic beyond words. Like a royal, white lily in the midst of a barren field she stood there, and as he met her gaze he was seized with a great awe, for it spoke to him of things so lofty that no mortal could hope to grasp with his sorry intellect.
And then he heard the sound of many voices, and a multitude rushed forward and surrounded her and knelt down and worshipped her before his astounded eyes.
"Is she, not fair, our Goddess, our Queen?" cried one, and stretched adoring arms towards the woman. But she stood still and moved not, nor spoke; only her eyes flashed and sparkled with unspeakable language.
Then a man rose from the kneeling multitude and approached her.
"She is beautiful beyond doubt," he said, "but where is the royal crown that should adorn her head? Sad were it if it were lacking! But, behold, my adoration prompted me to fashion this for her!"
And he held up a golden crown, set with diamonds and rubies and other precious stones, and placed it upon her head. And the radiance emitted by the crown greatly obscured the radiance of her face.
Then another stood up and approached her.
"I too have an offering for her," he said, and with deft fingers threw a priceless shawl of pearl-embroidered brocade around her shoulders. And her gleaming throat and arms were hidden by the shawl.
"She is beautiful, our Goddess," said another as he drew near, "but her white robe ill complements her beauty: it is too simple. This is surely a more fitting frame for so perfect a picture!"
And he slipped a robe of red and purple over her head.
"Beautiful beyond compare is her mouth!" cried yet another, "an appropriate instrument indeed for the pearls that drop therefrom — but it is pale, far too pale." And coming forward he touched her lips with a brush dipped in carmine, and they became the color of blood. And her lips gleamed like a bleeding, hurt thing in her pale face.
"She has no veil!" exclaimed another, and making his way between the kneeling rows of worshippers he reached her side and draped a magnificently made veil around her head, and over her face. And the glory of her eyes was hidden by the veil.
Then the whole multitude crowded closer around her and kissed the hem of her scarlet-and-purple robe, and chanted exultantly:
"Our Queen! Our Goddess! Our Beloved! How beautiful thou art!"
And Vincent saw her lips move behind the veil, and knew that she spoke; but he could hear nothing of what she uttered because of the cries and the chanting of the crowd. And he turned to one who stood behind him and asked:
"Who is she?"
And he who stood behind him answered:
Then Vincent looked at her again — and wept . . .
And then he awoke.