From the time he was a child, Arthur Laurence loved the outdoors. He spent countless hours roaming the countryside, from swamp to pasture, just to see what hidden secrets and unexpected beauty he could find. It came as a tragic blow when his favorite stand of trees was bulldozed to make room for a gas station. Tears in his eyes, he vowed to protect the nature he loved from asphalt and concrete.
Throughout his adolescence, he nursed the dream of becoming a park ranger, a solitary protector of his warded forest. A trip to New York City changed all that. Carried along on a business trip by a father who thought the break from school would be a welcome reward for his son, Arthur found himself growing more and more withdrawn as the trip went on. When his father noticed and asked him what was wrong, Arthur replied that he missed the trees, and wanted to go home. The next day, his father took him to Central Park.
That such a green place could exist in the heart of a city never occurred to Arthur. He marveled at the stately old trees, and the obvious pleasure New Yorkers took in this slice of nature. His dream changed; he wanted to make growing things available to city dwellers. When he expressed this to his father, he was rewarded with a collection of picture books on famous parks and gardens. He took summer jobs with nurseries and landscapers, and found that working with his hands, in direct contact with his beloved nature, pleased him immensely.
Such work became the focus of his life. He graduated from college with degrees in horticulture and ecology and returned to Savannah, where he opened Florist Primaeval. Starting with little, his hard work and dedication to bringing nature to the cities gradually won him a steady supply of costumers. He was an up and coming young florist when he met Una Jenkins. Finally, a woman who shared his passion. Better yet, she unconsciously possessed a vision that complemented his work. The more time he spent with Una, the more enthralled and fascinated he became. To his good fortune, she seemed to return these feelings. Their May wedding took place in the private garden of a grateful costumer, and their happiness seemed assured.
As a testament to his adoration, Arthur built a house for his wife that reflected what he had learned about her vision. Her silent awe filled him with pride. He promised himself that he would always try to add to her obvious pleasure, and began making plans to surround her with the garden of her dreams. At first, both his marriage and his business flourished. He worked slowly, gradually transforming their home. However, a dark mood seemed to overtake his wife. Any attempt to get Una to talk was answered with protests that she was fine. Arthur was lost; all he could think was that she didn’t approve of the work he was doing, but was afraid to tell him. Determined to please her, he resolved to work harder; however, every time he thought he succeeded, her silences became worse. He began to neglect his business to such an extent that Una hired help for him, but that merely strengthened his resolve. Douglas proved to be a great help, and a quick study. With his aid, the garden began to change more rapidly. Unfortunately, the cycle only accelerated; the more Arthur worked to please Una, the more distant she grew.
He became more and more obsessed, accepting whatever help was there without question. Like a man possessed, he worked whenever sleep or food didn’t make demands on him. Finally, one night, in his exhaustion, the truth became clear: it wasn’t his work that was making Una unhappy. Thinking it could only be him, he wandered the garden, the symbol of his failure. Even a talk with one of the workers, out admiring the night, didn’t help. His despair was inconsolable. Arthur found himself at the entrance to the orchid house, the one place on his property he had never seen. Having reached his lowest ebb, he decided to hang himself there. His action was significant, for it contrasted what Una used to love with what had come to replace him in her heart.
An indeterminate time of confusion followed, and Arthur could barely remember who he was, or where. All he knew was that he could not leave, that there was something he must do. Over time, things became clearer; eventually even memory returned. His home, and all within, seemed terribly changed. Arthur couldn’t believe he had killed himself, that he had abandoned all that he cared for. His love for Una was in no way diminished by his death, nor was his dedication to complete the garden. Unfortunately, he wasn’t in a position to do much about either. He saw Una, and longed to ease her pain. To his great surprise, she began to respond to his verbal comfort. Encouraged, he began to realize what he could do about getting the garden finished. Arthur began following Douglas about, and one night found himself transported into his dreams. Recovering quickly, he attempted to convey his need to the sleeping giant. Though he had some success, Douglas at this time appears to be reluctant and furtive in his task.
When visible, Arthur appears as a translucent, indistinct version of his living form: a slim, haggard, middle-aged man dressed in simple work clothes. His once open expression is now clouded with sadness.
Arthur still loves Una deeply; it’s as if death has cleared his head, and he can’t help wondering how things went so terribly wrong. She has begun to respond to his spectral voice, and the two are having conversations again, though it seems Una believes he is a figment of her imagination. He also watches Douglas work, valuing his friendship more now than ever before, and takes pride in the skills he taught the giant. He visits Douglas in his dreams, showing him images of his plans for the hedge maze. Everything, and everyone, looks quite different to him now, but Arthur assumes that this is just part of being dead. He recently discovered that he can make himself visible, but the look of terror on that strange young girl’s face has made him cautious about doing so.