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XLIX. WHICH WAS THE HAPPIEST?
1. “What beautiful roses !” said the Sunshine. “And each bud will soon shoot forth, and become just as handsome. They are my children! I have kissed them into life!”
2. Every blown rose heard these words; every swelling bud perceived them.
3. Just then a sorrowful, affectionate mother, clad in mourning, chanced to walk through the garden. She plucked one of the roses which was only half blown, yet fresh and full. This seemed to her to be the loveliest of them all. She took the rose to her quiet, silent chamber, where a few days ago her young, bright, and joyous daughter had been moving nimbly and merrily up and down; but now, alas ! lay like a sleeping marble image. The mother kissed her departed child; then she kissed the halfblown rose, and laid it on the bosom of the young girl, half hoping that by its freshness, and by the kiss of a loving mother, the heart of her dear child might perhaps again begin to beat.
4. The Rose seemed to swell; each leaf quivered with joy. “What a road of love," it said, “has been granted unto me to walk! I am become like the child of a human being; I receive a mother's kiss; I hear the words of blessing, and enter into the un
known realm of bliss, dreaming at the bosom of the pale angel! In truth, I am become the happiest of all of us sisters !”
5. In the garden where the Rosebush stood, an old woman was walking, who had been employed to weed the garden. She also gazed upon the splendid bush, and kept her eyes upon the largest fully developed rose. Only a dewdrop, and one hot day more, and the leaves would come off. This the old woman saw, and she said that the rose had lived long enough for beauty; now it should also, she meant, be of some practical use. So she plucked it, wrapped it up in an old newspaper, and took it home to the other pale and faded roses, to be pickled, to be potpourri, to go into company with the little blue boys named lavenders, and to be embalmed with salt. Understand, to be embalmed — that is an honor only granted to roses and royal persons.
6. “I am the most honored !” said the Rose, when the weeding woman took it home. “I am the happiest; I am going to be embalmed.”
7. Now two young men were promenading in the garden. One was a Painter, the other was a Poet. Each of them plucked a rose, beautiful to behold. The Painter represented on the canvas an image of the blooming Rose, an image so perfectly
beautiful that the Rose itself supposed that it was looking in the glass.
8. “ Thus,” said the Painter, “this Rose shall live through many succeeding generations, in which millions on millions of roses wither and die.”
9. “Ah! I became, after all, the most favored!” said this Rose; “ I had the best fortune!”
10. Now the Poet looked at his rose — wrote a poem on it in loving, mysterious terms. Indeed, it was a whole pictorial book of love which he wrote; it was an immortal piece of poetry.
II. “By this book I have become immortal,” said the Rose. “I am the most fortunate!"
12. However, in the very midst of all this splendor of roses, there was one almost hidden by the others. Accidentally, perhaps fortunately, it had a little deformity, sat a little obliquely on the stock, and on one side the leaves did not correspond to those on the opposite side; indeed, in the midst of the blossom itself even, a little green, crippled leaf was about to grow up. Such things happen now and then, even to roses.
13. “Poor child !” said the Wind, kissing its cheek. The Rose believed this kissing to be a greeting and homage. It had an idea of being formed somewhat differently from the other roses, and that a green leaf was about to grow up in its very center, and this it considered an ornament. A butterfly flew down and kissed its leaves. Now the butterfly was a wooer, but the Rose discarded him. Then came an immensely big grasshopper. However, he seated himself on another rose, and rubbed his shin bone, which, strange to say, is a token of love amongst grasshoppers. The Rose on which he was seated did not understand it, but that with the green, crippled leaf did; for upon her the big grasshopper looked with eyes that plainly said: “I could eat thee from mere love!” And this is indeed the highest point which love can reach, when one is absorbed in the other! But the Rose resisted, and would by no means be absorbed in the jumping dandy. Now a nightingale began to sing in the moonlight night.
14. “ This singing is only in honor of me; I am serenaded !” said the Rose with the deformity, or with the ornament, as she believed it to be. “Why am I thus to be distinguished in preference to all my sisters ? Why did I receive this deformity, I mean this ornament, which makes me the most lucky?”
15. Now two cigar-smoking gentlemen appeared in the garden. They spoke of roses and of tobacco. Roses are said not to be able to endure tobacco smoke; they fade, become greenish. It was to be tested. But the modest gentlemen could not persuade themselves to take one of the very finest roses; they took that with the deformity.
16. “ Indeed, one more honor !” said the Rose. “ I am fortunate in the extreme! Much more so than any of my sisters !”.
17. But in the midst of this self-conceit and tobacco smoke, she became greenish yellow.
18. One rose, still half bud, but perhaps the most beautiful on the bush, was given a place of honor in the gardener's elegant bouquet. It was brought to the young, haughty lord of the house, and rode with him in his fine cabriolet. . It paraded in all its beauty amongst other fragrant flowers; it shared the splendid festivities of the house. Men and women sat gorgeously dressed, lighted by a thousand lamps; the music sounded; the theater was brilliantly illuminated, as if it were an ocean of brightness ; and when the young danseuse, in the midst of stormy applause, appeared on the stage, bouquet after bouquet flew like a rain of flowers before her feet. There the bouquet fell in which the beautiful rose paraded like a diamond star. It felt its whole indescribable happiness; it felt the honor and splendor by which it was surrounded, and when touching the floor it also danced; it leaped for joy, it rushed over the stage. so that its stem broke off. The young danseuse did not get it, for it rolled swiftly behind