The Rose Child
Category: Children
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The Rose Child is a novel by Swiss author Johann Luise Spyri most well known for the book Heidi. Spyri often wrote children's books, such as The Rose Child, published in 1882. The story focuses on a young girl who loves roses that helps the poor Sorrow Woman during a difficult time. Read this uplifting story of the girl who sells roses used to make perfume.

The Rose Child

Johanna Spyri

The Rose Child

Chapter First
The Time of Roses

Dietrich, the sheriff of Wildbach, who had once owned considerable property, had for several years been falling into bad ways and by this means had lost his position and his salary. His only occupation was cutting a few tufts of grass from his uncultivated fields, and carrying it home to feed his poor little goat; for himself and his foster-child there were only a few potatoes and a little milk.

After dinner Dietrich would vanish and not appear again until toward night to milk the goat. Then he was seen no more at home; but everyone knew that he sat in the tavern until late at night, and that soon house and land and goat would be taken from him to pay his debts.

As long as his wife had lived things had gone better. They had had more land and a cow, and the wife had worked industriously early and late.

They had never had any children of their own, but an orphan niece of Dietrich’s had been living with them for three years. He had lost his wife the year before, and since then things had gone so rapidly from bad to worse that everyone wondered at the child’s fresh, blooming appearance. She was now eight years old and was everywhere called Rose-Resli, for she was never seen without a rose in her hand or in her mouth. Resli — her real name was Theresa — had such a love for roses, that she gazed with her merry blue eyes so longingly into every garden where roses grew, that the owners inside would call out kindly: “Would you like one?” And Rose-Resli, beaming with delight, would stretch her little hand through the fence and receive her prize gratefully.

So the child was always seen surrounded with roses as soon as they began to bloom, and every one knew the blooming Rose-Resli and were fond of her.

She did not see much of her uncle. In the morning she went to school and at noon he usually said:

“I shall not be home to-night, but you will find something to eat.”

But the cupboard was always empty. It was well that here and there a child at school gave Rose-Resli apples or pears, or even a slice of bread, and often when she had to go hungry, she could run freely to the gardens round about where the roses grew, and gather a few, and in this pleasure she would forget everything else.

To-day again the child had found no supper, but for all that she skipped happily across the meadows. It was a bright Summer evening. The butterflies were fluttering up and down in the blue air and high above the swallows flew round in a circle, twittering, summer-like, and all about in the meadows the crickets were chirping merrily, so that Rose-Resli became more and more gladsome and jumped higher and higher as if she would fly away with the butterflies. Thus in a short time she came to a garden, which lay at a distance, on a wooded hill, and always had the most beautiful roses. The garden was surrounded by a wooden fence, and Rose-Resli quickly climbed up on the lower rail and looked longingly into the garden.

“Come right in,” called a voice from behind the trees; “I know very well what you are looking for; to-day you shall have some more roses.”

Rose-Resli didn’t wait to be asked a second time. She stepped quickly inside, went straight to the fragrant rose-bed and looked in wonderment at the multitude of red and white, light and dark blossoms, glowing and giving forth their perfume together. Then the President’s wife, the owner of the garden, came up to her. She had many times before given roses to Resli, and had just now called her to come in.

“You have come at just the right time to-day, Resli,” she said. “You shall have a big bunch, but many of the roses are ready to fall, you see, so you must be a little quiet and not jump so high, as you usually do, or all the petals will fall off the flowers before you reach home.”

Then the President’s wife carefully cut a rose here and another there, and then two together, light and dark red and white ones, until she made a big, large, wonderful bouquet. Rose-Resli’s eyes grew bigger and bigger, for she had never held anything so wonderfully beautiful in her hand before. But here and there the fragrant petals were falling to the ground and the bare stems looked so sad among the other flowers, that Rose-Resli seemed quite alarmed.

“See! see!” said the lady warningly, “you will have to walk very slowly to your house, or you will not have three left with their petals on when you get there.”

Rose-Resli thanked her politely and started on her way back. This led her past a miserable little hut where lived the “Sorrow-mother,” a quiet woman with a sorrowful face. Rose-Resli had never heard her called anything else, and supposed that she had no other name.

“Sorrow-mother,” called Resli, when she saw the old woman at the window, “see! see! Have you ever seen such roses?”

“No, Resli, not for a long time,” replied the woman, and the child went on her way, quite absorbed in the sweetness and beauty of her flowers.

As Resli was passing the last house on the road, the woman of the house, called the Peasant Woman of the Cross-way, because she lived where two roads crossed, came out and, with both of her strong arms on her hips, looked at the child.

“Well, well, you are really a Rose-Resli to-day,” she called to her; “come, show me your treasures close to.”

Rose-Resli turned quickly round, and joyfully held her bouquet out to her. But with her quick movement the petals dropped from three or four of the roses and fluttered to the ground. Resli looked at them sadly.

“Too bad,” said the woman, “but they would be just right for me. Child, give me your roses and you shall have a good piece of bread for them. You can’t carry them any farther. By the time you get home you will have nothing but stems in your hand. Come, give them to me.”

“All my roses, and not have any to keep?” asked Resli, quite taken aback.

“You can keep one of them; see, this one, the others will fall right away. Come lay them in here, they mustn’t be lost,” and the peasant woman held out her apron. Resli laid her roses in it, all except one which she placed in the front of her little dress, where she almost always wore a rose-bud. Then the peasant woman went into the house, and soon came back again with a big slice of bread in her hand, at sight of which, the child suddenly realized that she was very hungry.

“Listen, Resli, I will give you some good advice,” said the peasant woman, as she gave the bread to the child; “take a little basket, go, every evening, where there are roses growing, and ask for the ones that are ready to fall. Then put them right into the basket, so that you will not lose the leaves; for I need them, and every evening, if you will bring me a nice little pile of petals, you shall have a good big piece of bread. Will you do it?”

“Yes, surely,” said Rose-Resli, and started on her way home, eating her bread, with great satisfaction.

When the child passed by the Sorrow-mother’s cottage again, she was coming along home, carrying on her back the bundle of fagots she had gathered.

“What has become of your beautiful roses?” she asked, when the child came up to her. Resli told her the whole story, and how she was going to bring rose-leaves every day to the cross-road woman.

The Sorrow-mother listened thoughtfully; then she said timidly:

“Resli, won’t you come to me to-morrow, before you take the roses to the peasant woman? I should like to ask you something then.”

“Yes, I will do that, so sleep well, Sorrow-mother!”

Whereupon Resli went on her way. When she reached her uncle’s distant cottage, she went into the silent, lonely room. She closed no door, made no light. Like a little bird she sought her nest in the gloaming and soon was sleeping peacefully. She dreamed of her roses until the bright sun wakened her again.

Chapter Second
A Little Helper and Great Help

The woman whom the people had given the name of Sorrow-mother was a very poor widow. She had seen better days, and was not accustomed to beg; she starved and suffered in silence, told her trouble only to the dear Lord, and sought in Him alone to find the consolation she needed. Her husband, who had been a tailor, died young and left her only one son. Like his father he was to be a tailor. This the boy’s guardian had resolved upon, and he was the one to decide the matter. But Joseph did not like this; when he ought to be working at his trade, he ran away, and came home late at night or not at all. So he fell into bad company, and his guardian, who was also overseer of the parish, threatened, if he would not work and do well, to send him on the next transport to Australia.

Joseph was very much broken up by this and said that he could work, if they would let him do what he wanted, and if he could go away from home without being sent.

Then he disappeared and never came back. His mother mourned for him greatly, but she gave her child up to the dear Lord, and when the people in the village said scornfully:

“What good has it been for you to pray so much? You are living in poverty with your sorrow, and Joseph will die in poverty far away.” Then she would answer:

“If I have to remain a sorrowing mother to the end and have to die in poverty, I will not lose my faith that Joseph will return to the right way, for I have from the beginning and always, again and again, given him into the dear Lord’s keeping and have prayed for him so much, that it cannot be in vain.”

The next day, as soon as school was over, Rose-Resli started off. The child did not own a basket, but she could pile the roses in her apron. Skipping merrily along, she came to the large garden, where the President’s wife was wandering about among her flowers.

“Would you like some more roses, Resli?” she asked the child. “Come in, there are one or two more left to give you.”

“Only the ones that are ready to fall,” said Resli, holding out her little apron so that to-day she might not let a single leaf fall to the ground.

“Yes, if you like them so, you can have your whole apron full! Come over here.”

And the President’s wife led the child to a large bed full of roses which were wide open or had already dropped half their leaves. Here she cut off so many that Rose-Resli had her apron quite full.

“May I come again to-morrow?” asked Resli expectantly.

“Certainly you may,” replied the lady; “you shall have all these that are wide open, if you take pleasure in them.”

Rose-Resli thanked her and ran along much delighted. When she reached the tumble-down cottage where the Sorrow-mother lived, the child remembered her promise to stop there. She stepped into the low, little room where the Sorrow-mother sat at the spinning-wheel. She greeted Resli with great friendliness. Then she went to her window, cut off two red roses from the little rose-bush growing there, and held them out to the child.

“See, Resli,” she said hesitatingly, “I want to ask you if you will take these two rosebuds also with you; perhaps the peasant woman will give you a little more bread for them, even if it is a very small piece. Will you do this, Resli?”

“Yes, yes,” replied the child quickly, “and then I will bring the bread right to you. I will be back again soon.”

The Cross-way woman was standing in front of her house, by the wall of her vegetable garden, and looking first into one and then into another of the baskets standing on the wall, and in which the beautiful, fragrant rose-leaves were spread out to dry in the sun. Every year the peasant woman made a sweet-smelling rose-water and for this she used a great many rose-leaves, which were not very easy to get.

“That’s right,” she said with satisfaction as Rose-Resli came and opened her apron, “to-day you shall have a fine piece of bread.”

“I have two more,” said Resli, holding up high the Sorrow-mother’s rose-buds.

“Throw them on the others; they are very small indeed, but perhaps they will have a couple of leaves.”

“But I should very much like to have a separate piece of bread for them,” said Resli, still holding them fast in her hand.

“I know very well,” said the peasant woman, stepping into the house, “we were all like that once; now and then at school we swapped a piece of bread for a pear or a couple of prunes; it’s so, I know, Resli. There, take the big piece in exchange for the roses in your apron, and here is a little one for the other two. Are you satisfied with this?”

“Yes, yes, really,” Resli assured her, thanked her many times, and started to return. She laid the small piece of bread in her apron for the Sorrow-mother, and immediately bit eagerly into the larger piece, for she had had very little to eat at noon, and at night there was nothing at all. So the whole piece of bread had come to an end before Resli reached the little old house. Now she was there and stepped inside and exclaimed: “Here, Sorrow-mother, here is your bread!”

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