Dream Tales and Prose Poems/Poems in Prose/The Rose

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The last days of August. . . . Autumn was already at hand.

The sun was setting. A sudden downpour of rain, without thunder or lightning, had just passed rapidly over our wide plain.

The garden in front of the house glowed and steamed, all filled with the fire of the sunset and the deluge of rain.

She was sitting at a table in the drawing-room, and, with persistent dreaminess, gazing through the half-open door into the garden. I knew what was passing at that moment in her soul; I knew that, after a brief but agonising struggle, she was at that instant giving herself up to a feeling she could no longer master.

All at once she got up, went quickly out into the garden, and disappeared.

An hour passed . . . a second; she had not returned.

Then I got up, and, getting out of the house, I turned along the walk by which—of that I had no doubt—she had gone.

All was darkness about me; the night had already fallen. But on the damp sand of the path a roundish object could be discerned—bright red even through the mist.

I stooped down. It was a fresh, new-blown rose. Two hours before I had seen this very rose on her bosom.

I carefully picked up the flower that had fallen in the mud, and, going back to the drawing-room, laid it on the table before her chair.

And now at last she came back, and with light footsteps, crossing the whole room, sat down at the table.

Her face was both paler and more vivid; her downcast eyes, that looked somehow smaller, strayed rapidly in happy confusion from side to side.

She saw the rose, snatched it up, glanced at its crushed, muddy petals, glanced at me, and her eyes, brought suddenly to a standstill, were bright with tears.

'What are you crying for?' I asked.

'Why, see this rose. Look what has happened to it.'

Then I thought fit to utter a profound remark.

'Your tears will wash away the mud,' I pronounced with a significant expression.

'Tears do not wash, they burn,' she answered. And turning to the hearth she flung the rose into the dying flame.

'Fire burns even better than tears,' she cried with spirit; and her lovely eyes, still bright with tears, laughed boldly and happily.

I saw that she too had been in the fire.

April 1878.