The New Year’s Rose
by E. E. R.
NOTE: This entry is in draft form; it is currently undergoing the VSFP editorial process.
Introductory Note: “The New Year’s Rose” was published in the Young Ladies’ Journal, a journal for young middle-class women. In this romantic tale, Dora waits faithfully for John’s return after he is forced to go abroad to gain enough wealth to appease Dora’s father. The story denounces the view that wealth is more important than love.
JOHN CARTHEW stopped before the florist’s window, for a rose was blossoming there, unlike any he had ever seen before. It was white as a lily on the edges of its petals, and golden at its heart. It looked like a rose of Paradise.
“I will buy that for Dora,” he said.
“It is unique,” the florist said. “I have never seen any other like it. I raised it myself, and have tried to grow others from it, but without success.”
Half an hour later, a girl with a beautiful face was bending over the rose, with a soft smile on her lips; and John Carthew was standing by her.
“I couldn’t think of anything else to bring you to remember me by,” he said.
“I don’t want anything to make me remember you,” she answered, softly.
“I did not believe you would forget me,” he answered. “But this rose made me think of you, because it was so different from other roses. What is it Tennyson says? Something about some one’s being ‘queen rose of the rosebud garden of girls?’1This quotation is from “Maud (Part 1),” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. I’m not good at quoting poetry, you know. Every time there is a new blossom you must believe that I am thinking of you.”
“I wonder if your thoughts of me will be as sweet as these blossoms are?” she asked, holding one against her pink cheek.
“You can always believe that,” he answered, breaking off one creamy bud, and fastening it in her hair. “When I come back from over sea, I know where there is a rose I shall try to win. I wonder if I shall find enough over there to buy it with.”
“Oh, John!” she said, earnestly, “the rose you want would be yours for the asking, if the rose could have its own way in the matter.2For “yours” the original reads “your’s.” If father could only see that wealth isn’t what is wanted to make us happy, perhaps he would give up his opposition to our marriage.”
“It is no use to press the matter with him further,” John Carthew answered. “I am going away to try and get the wealth I must have before I can win you. It will be a long waiting for both of us, perhaps, and to me it will be a weary, lonesome one, since I may not write to you in all that time.”
“I shall be as true to you as if I were bound by a thousand promises, or wrote every day,” she said. “I am willing to wait.”
Three years came and went. To Dora Grayle they brought changes that she had never dreamed of. She had waited hopefully for the time to come when her lover should return to claim her as his own. She heard from him now and then; he was always working and slowly he was winning. But the years were very long to her.
The end of the third year brought death into her home. One day her father complained of feeling ill; the next day he was dead, and she was alone in the world.
After the funeral, a fact came to light, of which few had dreamed. The old man had speculated heavily: his estate was bankrupt.3In the Victorian era, “speculation” was buying and selling products in order to benefit from changes in price, usually done at a high risk. Some Victorians considered speculation an evil pastime, like gambling.
So, at the beginning of the fourth year, Dora Grayle went out into the world with only her hands to depend on. But she had a stout heart, and she knew John would come back when he heard of what had happened.
She took a room in a poor little lodging-house; and almost the only thing she brought from her old home was the rose her lover had given her. That she would take with her, she said, wherever she went. Everything else she was willing to give up to pay her father’s debts. But that was hers, and nothing could buy it from her.
She had thought that she had many friends, before her father’s death; but she found out now that those who had been glad to visit her in the elegant home she had lost, quite forgot that they knew the lonely girl who lived up two pair of stairs, in a poor, little house, in a very plain, unfashionable street.
She waited and watched, and the days grew into weeks, and the weeks into months, and the months to years even. When her father died, she considered herself free from any obligation he had imposed, and had written to John Carthew, telling him of what had taken place. She thought he would come to her. But he did not, and was silent. Maybe he was dead. She did not once think that he might have forgotten her.
It was New Year’s-eve, and she was unutterably lonely. Suddenly she remembered that she had heard that a child was ill in a lodging-house down the street, and that its mother was alone, and wanted some one to come and sit with her. She put on her bonnet and shawl, and went out. All at once she thought of her rose. A new blossom had opened that morning: a really beautiful flower; and she said to herself she would carry it to the poor sick boy.
She returned to her room, therefore, and broke off the blossom and one half-opened bud growing beside it. A tear or two fell into the rose’s golden heart, as she did this. She had learned to think that rose her friend. Every time it had blossomed she had told herself that her lover was thinking a sweet thought of her.
When she reached the room where the child was, she found that death had crossed the threshold before her, and was standing at the cradle by which the weeping mother knelt.
“He is almost gone!” the poor woman sobbed. “Poor Bennie! What will mother do?”
Dora put the rose in the child’s hand. He opened his eyes, and saw the flower; and a smile came over his poor little face.
“Pretty posy,” he whispered, and held it against his cheek, lovingly. And holding it there, he fell asleep for ever.
Dora dressed the child for its burial, and laid the rose upon its breast, between the little folded hands. And all night long she sat there, with the dead baby and its mother, while outside the snow fell soft and white, making the world beautiful for the New Year.
Some friends came, at daybreak, to stay in her place; and Dora went home. She looked at the dead child before she left, and she saw that what had been a bud yesterday, had opened into a beautiful golden-hearted rose to-day. It lay there on the babe’s breast, pure as the snow out of doors, the snow that made the world seem like a bride in white garments.
It was growing dusky in the streets, on New Year’s afternoon, when she heard swift, impatient steps on her stairs. Her heart beat fast, she hardly knew why. The footsteps stopped before her door. There was a knock.
“Come in,” she said, breathing quick.
The door opened, and a man, entering, stood there in the shadows.
“Dora,” he said, hopefully, softly, questioningly. “Have I found my rose at last?”
“Oh, John, John!” she cried; and then strong arms were round her, and her happy tears were hidden on the breast of the man she had been waiting for so long.
By-and-by he told her his story. He had received her letter, and started at once for home, bringing the money he had earned in the years of his absence. The ship he sailed in was wrecked, and for months five of the crew and himself had lived upon a little mid-ocean island, from which they were rescued at last and brought, that very week, to England.
“But I am a poor man,” he said; “my money went to the bottom of the sea.”
“And I am a poor woman,” she made reply. “But I am not poor, after all. I have you, John.”
“And I am rich, too, for I have you,” he said tenderly; “and you were what I was working to win. I have hunted for you for days, up and down this great city, but you had slipped out of sight, and I could not find any trace of you. This afternoon, not an hour ago, I went with a minister, a friend of mine, to a house where a child lay dead, and on the dead baby’s bosom I saw a rose; and I knew then that I had found you, or some trace of you. They told me where to come: and I am here to wish you a Happy New Year, Dora, and to claim my New Year’s rose, the rose I have wanted to blossom in my heart so long.”
And the rose-bush in the window whispered softly among its leaves, that it had done a beautiful deed in bringing two true hearts together, and was glad.
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20 March 2020
5 September 2020
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Notes [ + ]
|1.||↑||This quotation is from “Maud (Part 1),” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson.|
|2.||↑||For “yours” the original reads “your’s.”|
|3.||↑||In the Victorian era, “speculation” was buying and selling products in order to benefit from changes in price, usually done at a high risk. Some Victorians considered speculation an evil pastime, like gambling.|