The Parents' Review

A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture

Edited by Charlotte Mason.

"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
The Two Roses.

Translated from the German with the kind permission of the Author, Ernst von Wildenbruch,
By Emiline Steinthal.
Volume 1, 1890/91, pgs. 362

In the meantime the white rose was carried by the poor shoemaker towards the city, and the vehemence of her grief was drowned in dumb, blunt despair.

Resistance was useless she knew full well, so she resigned herself to her sad fate, and her beautiful head hung exhausted and sad.

The road was very long, the shoemaker had no money for driving, so he was forced to go on foot. The father went before, and the two little children tripped hand in hand after him.

They went further into the city, where the streets grew hotter and closer, and when they saw the rose hanging her head, the little brother said to his sister, "Ah! look at the poor rose; how tired she looks; she must be too hot." And the sister answered, "She must be thirsty, and as soon as we get home we will give her something to drink."

The little children held their hands under the rose's head, so that the blood should not flow into her face as when it hung so lo; and they changed with one another, so that now the brother held her and then the sister, and the latter said constantly, "Oh, you poor lovely dear rose; only wait till we get home."

The white rose submitted to this, as she now did to everything; but she shut her eyes, and would not look at the children, and wouldn't thank them -- she felt the greatest enmity towards them, they were the cause of all her unhappiness.

At last! at last! just as it was growing dark, they came to the poor shoemaker's house. Then the white rose opened her eyes and looked round. The street was very nice, and the house they entered was very stately; but-- but-- when they came into the open hall, and the door had closed behind them, the children opened a glass door to the left, and from this door they descended many steps, and the poor rose suddenly learned that she was henceforth to live in a cellar. And so it was--the poor shoemaker was a porter in the stately mansion.

A cellar dwelling! And that was the fulfilment of her castle in the air!

The heart of the white rose was once more filled with despair, and she only had one thought and one wish--that she might soon die.

The children ran quickly down the steps, and their voices were heard crying, "Mother! mother! See what we have brought you!"

On a poor sofa that stood in the room lay a pale weak woman, and while the children sprang to her and encircled her in their arms, the poor shoemaker stepped before her and raised the white rose in both hands without a word.

Two tears came into the large astonished eyes of his sick wife, and she folded her hands and looked first at the rose and then at her husband, so that no one could tell if she was looking with delight at the beautiful flower, or if she was thanking God silently that she had such a good husband.

At last she said anxiously, "Oh! what a beauty! But the magnificent rose is much too beautiful for us; do be careful, children, that we take great care of it."

The children did not require telling twice. They ran out, and soon returned with a big flower pot that was filled with nice soft black earth, and in it they planted the white rose. Then they placed the flower-pot on the table, and got a little watering can, and watered the earth very well.

Then the white rose stood on the table, in the middle of the dark room of the poor people, and when she hung her head on her stalk she looked like the pale child of a king, who has been captured and taken into exile.

Soon the children ate their evening meal. Each had a piece of bread with very little butter, that was all; but they seemed quite contented, and sat on a cupboard near the table on which the rose stood, letting their legs hang down, and ate their bread and butter, looking and nodding at her. They then went to bed; and soon the other watchers retired to rest, and the light was extinguished, and silent night drew on. Everybody slept--only the white rose could not sleep; her bitter, sad thoughts kept her awake.

Suddenly it was light; and see, that must be the moon looking through the window. She sent a broad, silver, white streak into the room on to her dear white rose, with whom she had so often had a chat; and the rose was pleased, for she felt she was not quite forgotten, and bathed herself in the soft, white light. It may have been the magical light of the moon; she often induces wonderful thoughts and dreams. The rose imagined she dreamt a strange dream. It seemed to her that two angels came into the room, two dear little angels, who stepped with their bare feet on the floor, with long fair hair, and their white little bodies only covered each with a little shirt. They drew two chairs to the table and stepped on them, and putting their faces close to the rose, kissed her gently, first on her leaves, then on the sweet-scented chalice.

The rose shuddered and trembled, and drank the breath from the young lips with intense pleasure, and yet could not account for such a strange wonder.

Then the little angels sprang from the chairs, drew them on one side, and laughingly vanished--where? Why, where the children went when they were sent to bed. The two she had taken for angels, and thought so pretty, could they be the two children? The discovery destroyed all her pleasure in the imagined dream; she wished only to feel angry with them. In spite of that she could not lose the remembrance of how sweet it was to be kissed by the little lips; and when the daylight came, and the shoemaker's family came into the room, the rose looked at the children for the first time. She had hitherto kept her eyes closed. Then she saw that they really were two pretty, nice children, with fair curls and large eyes, and loving friendly faces; and she could not doubt that these were the angels who had crept out of bed to secretly kiss and pet her.

As soon as breakfast was over, the father said to his children, "To-day is such a lovely day, we must put our rose in the garden."

The children took the flower pot in which the rose stood, and carried it up the stairs, out of the house door into the little garden before the house, that was shut off from the street by an iron gate, and placed her there in the midst of the warm morning sunshine. Now the rose could look into the street, and she saw the carriages and the passers by, who went up and down, and everything was so new and beautiful to her that, in spite of herself, she began to feel quite comfortable.

Just behind her, on the ground-floor, was the shoemaker's window, which stood open, and behind that sat the shoemaker on a high stool, making shoes and boots.

The rose looked up and saw into the room behind him, and there the morning sun was playfully disporting himself, and the room did not look so sad as on the previous night, but very nice and clean.

The children came again out of the house with school maps and slates to go to school, and just as they were going out of the gate they nodded to the rose, and said "We'll see you again," and although the rose would not even acknowledge it to herself, it was very pretty to see them. While thinking about them, she heard a voice behind her say, "Good morning, Madam Rose."

When she turned her head she saw a canary in a cage, which was hanging at the open window. He had two sharp black eyes, and a little whit beak, which went on to say--

"Good morning, Madam Rose. I had no opportunity yesterday to speak to you. Will you allow me to introduce myself? My name is Piping."

The simple manner of the canary pleased the white rose, and she gave him a friendly bow and entered into conversation, and asked him how old he was, and how long he had been at the shoemaker's. Mr. Piping sighed, and said he was no longer young, he was already a year and twelve days old, he had just celebrated his birthday, but he had only three months at the shoemaker's, and he hoped to spend the rest of his life with them. When the rose further asked him why he liked the shoemaker so much, he rolled his eyes round and said--

"They are angelic people--especially the children," and was then so affected that he was obliged to take a little sip of water, because he felt his tears were coming.

The sun rose higher, and the rose began to feel very warm; but the children soon came back from school, and took the flower pot up and carried her into the room, where it was cooler. They did this every day, always considering what could be done for the pleasure and benefit of the rose.

So much care and thought was bestowed on her that the rose one day felt a little bud was peeping forth. Just before it burst out, and the eyes of the whole family were anxiously turned on it, the bitter anger once more rose in her heart. She did not wish to give them this pleasure, and would not give the bud any nourishment, and, only imagine! the shoot was blighted, the bud did not open, and the hopes of the poor family were dashed to the ground.

They were very sad indeed, and at this moment the master of the house came in--a very rich man--who saw how precious the rose was, and said:

"That is only what I expected. How could you expect the rose to flourish down here? I'll tell you what. Let me buy it, and plant it in my garden."

He then named a sum much higher than that which the shoemaker had given.

But, all the same, he only answered:

"Yes, sir; what you say is quite true; but, see, we love the rose so much, and when we look at it, we imagine we also possess a garden, and, if you won't take it amiss, I would much like to keep the flower for another two days, to see if it won't get another bud. If it does not, then I will sell it to you."

The master left the room, but any one could see he was much vexed.

The rose, who had heard everything, felt a ray of happiness in her soul; she now had a slight hope of deliverance from the hated home. She only wished to find a beautiful fate in a rich man's garden. She was quite decided how she would act.

When night drew near, and everything was silent and asleep, the children again crept lightly into the hushed room, with naked feet, in their little shirts, just as they sprang out of bed, like two little angels. But this time they did not laugh, and when the moonbeam fell upon their faces, they looked very pale and sad.

When they again fetched their two chairs, and climbed on them, and kissed the rose, they cried, and their tears flowed into her chalice.

"Now we have nothing left," they whispered. "We have no rose, and no garden any more; we have nothing." Then they went back to their beds.

When left alone, the rose shut her eyes, and tried to sleep; but she could not. Something burnt her heart. It was the tears of the children, that had fallen on it. The next morning, when it was quite early, and nobody was up, something knocked at the window, and in came the morning-wind.

The rose had not seen him since she had left the garden, so she was delighted to see her visitor. The morning-wind went up and down the room, blowing the dust from the furniture and ornaments. Any one could see he was much excited.

"I've just come from your sister," he said, "from the yellow rose."

The white rose was very curious to know how she was going on, but the morning-wind, who was formerly so lively, had become quite serious.

"Ah," said he, "it's a sad tale; she is not getting on very well. The tea-roses, among whom she is so lost that I could scarcely find her, are very cross and ill-natured to her; but soon all their glory will be at an end."

"What do you mean?" asked the white rose.

"Well," said the morning-wind, "do you know what whims are?"

"No," answered the rose.

"Well," continued the morning-wind, "they are little beetles, so costly that only rich people can afford to possess them."

"What do they want them for?" asked the rose.

"Oh, to play with, to while away the time," he said. "They let them fly about the room, and then catch one, and put it on their heads."

"How wonderful!" said the rose.

"Yes; but it is now the fashion," said the morning-wind. "The bankers wife, in order to show that she is very rich, possesses a crowd of these beetles. She plays with one, sometimes two, and even three, every day. She puts them on her head, and lets them sit there, until they squeeze and pinch her--for the beetles, you must know, have sharp little nippers; and then she cries and screams until her husband comes to her. He takes the beetles from her head, and throws them out of the window; and so they pass the time away. Now, you must also know that when people have these beetles on their heads they always have many ideas, and imagine a great deal. So the banker's wife has suddenly found out that she is tired of roses, and would prefer camellias. When the autumn comes, the tea-roses will, therefore, be torn out of the earth."

"What will then happen to them?" asked the rose, anxiously.

"They will be thrown away," answered the morning-wind, "and our poor yellow rose, your sister, among them. Are you surprised, now, that I am so sad? Yes, yes," he continued, seeing the white rose was stunned by the news, "you have done much better. You are tended and cared for; and here are no black beetles to be afraid of." And then he sighed, and taking up his coat tails, flew out of the window.

The white rose was completely stupefied, and long after the morning-wind had disappeared she thought she heard his voice again, "You have done better for yourself." And suddenly her heart began to whisper and repent. Yes, the rose felt ashamed of herself; and when she looked deeply into her heart, the shame said to her, "You ungrateful creature!" And when the shoemaker's family came in, and she saw the children's sad faces, she saw again before her eyes the dreadful words, "you are ungrateful!"

The rose felt a sudden stab in her innermost soul, as though she had slept and had suddenly awakened; and when the children put her in the garden, she drank up the pure cool water they gave her, and ate of the soft black earth, so that Mr. Piping called out, "your good health, Madam Rose."

The rose felt as though she were changed--her blood and sap flowed here and there like a spring, and scarcely had two days gone by, when a little bud appeared, and one eye peeped out. And when the children--who had anxiously watched for this--ran and called their parents to see the new wonder, the rose laughed so much to herself that a second bud jumped out, and, as though there were no end to her joy and delight, there came a third. When the shoemaker stood on the threshold one morning with is pale wife and two pretty children, they stood spell-bound before the beautiful picture, for there on the table stood the loved head of their dear white rose, looking with motherly pride on two young little snow-white roses who had sprung out of the stem in the night.

The roses bowed and waved, and from their lips came a sweet scent that made a paradise of the dwelling of the poor people, and if they could have understood what the roses were saying, they would have heard the words, "Our love to you for all yours to us; our thanks for all your goodness."

The whole house rang with the happy cries of the two children. Everybody living in it came down to see the beautiful flowers, and when the rose-family was taken into the garden, the passers-by remained standing in the street, and the white rose felt that her beauty was enjoying a triumph.

Everybody was pleased, with the exception of the master of the house, who was very angry, and the thought gnawed and ate into his heart that the poor shoemaker would not grant his request, and would not sell him his rose. Now, as anger is a dangerous inmate, that, if not quickly got rid of, gets the upper hand, he felt every day more angry and vexed with the poor man; and when the autumn came the poor shoemaker's family sat one day with sad faces and weeping eyes. The master had discharged the father, and they must leave the house. A deep cutting pain ran through the soul of the rose, for who was the cause of the unhappiness of the poor people but herself?

Again night came, and with it a new dream. This time it was not a pleasant one, but very terrible and sad. Instead of the two children, a dreadful old man, all out of breath, silently dragged himself into the chamber when the children lay asleep. The rose had never seen anything so gruesome as this figure; never heard anything so awful as the hoarse whisper that came from his hideous, toothless mouth, and when she saw him enter the bedchamber her blood ran cold.

A curious yellow light played round the figure, and by it the rose could see how the dreadful man bent over the children, stretching out his lean hand over their heads, and how the sweet little faces grew pale, and they began to cry bitterly. The rose felt so very sad, she lifted up her head to the sky, and her lips murmured, "Save them, save my little innocent friends."

From her trembling lips there came a scent that filled the room. When the old man noticed it he came out and said to her, "Do not smell so sweet; you have no right to remain here. I am Hunger! Hunger! And I am now the master of this place."

But the rose lifted up her voice once more to heaven, and prayed more intensely than before, saying: "Oh, let me repay these poor people for all the love they have shown me. Let me give to them what they cherish and love more than anything else--their children!"

Her delicious scent became more intoxicating than before. The looks with which the demon tried to transfix her became more and more furious; but all of no avail, he could not master the scent. Could not return into the bedchamber, because it filled the space between him and the door like a cloud. So that in the end he turned away quite dazed, and stumbled out of the room.

A few days later the poor shoemaker, who had sought work day after day, returned. His sad face was full of delight, for he had found a situation. "In the richest suburb," he said, "is a new house belonging to a banker, who is the richest man in the town."

The white rose listened, it sounded so familiar to her, she could not tell why, and her heart felt light when she knew that the sacrifice of her scent had been accepted.

It was, indeed, the splendid house of a wealthy man which the family came to live in.

"Only think," the father said one day as he entered the room, "how rich our master is! His wife has suddenly torn up all her beautiful rose trees to plant camellias in their place; and the gardener has given me this pretty rose, because it is not healthy, and would not sell."

It was, indeed, the yellow rose, grown pale and sickly, come to die in the arms of her happier sister.

"Alas! the yellow rose is dead," said the sister, as she took her brother by the hand the next morning; "how sad our rose looks! she has been crying:" and so it was; in her chalice lay a teardrop.

Then a strange thing happened. Suddenly the boy's eyes grew larger and brighter than they had ever looked before, and he stared at the white rose, as though he saw it now for the first time. Without a word, he took a slate and began to draw. The little sister watched him but did not speak, and the two sat, and sat, and forgot breakfast and everything else, and only stood up when they had to go to school.

He put his slate into his school-bag that no one should see what he had done, as though he had a big secret to keep.

Two days later the shoemaker sat down by his wife and said: "Marie, Anton's teacher has been speaking to me, and says we must take great pains with him, for he has seen a rose the boy has drawn, and thinks Anton may some day become a great artist. What do you say?"

But the wife did not answer, only her eyes grew larger and looked far away.

The shoemaker spoke low, that none should hear him, as it was a secret. But the white rose heard, and shared the joy of the parents.

Would you like to know what happened afterwards to little Anton? Perhaps I will tell you another time.

Typed by Jennifer Talsma, Nov 2015