So the rose crept to the princess’s feet, and climbed up over her satin gown, and twined about her neck and arms, and about her lovely golden head. And it stole the blush from her cheek, and the crimson from her lips, and the gold from her hair. And the princess grew pale and paler; but the rose blushed red and redder, and its golden heart made the room bright, and its sweetness filled the air. It grew and grew, and now new buds and leaves and blossoms appeared; and when at last it left the velvet chair and climbed out of the casement again, it was a glorious plant, such as had never before been seen. All the passers-by stopped to look at it and admire it. Little children reached up to pluck the glowing blossoms, and sick and weary people gained strength and courage from breathing their delicious perfume. The world was better and happier for the rose, and the rose knew it, and was glad.
But when the princess awoke, she took up her golden mirror again, and looking in it, saw a pale and wrinkled and gray-haired woman looking at her. Then she shrieked, and flung the mirror on the ground, and rushed out of her palace into the wide world. And wherever she went she cried, “I am the beautiful princess! Look at me and see my beauty; for I will show it to you now!” But nobody looked at her, for she was withered and ugly; and nobody cared for her, because she was selfish and vain. So she made no more difference in the world than she had made before. But the rose is blossoming still, and fills the air with its sweetness.
* * * * *
“My Pink,” said Hildegarde, tenderly, as she walked beside her friend’s chair on their homeward way, “you are shut up like the princess; but instead of the rose stealing your sweetness, you have stolen the sweetness of all the roses, and taken it into your prison with you.”
“I ‘shut up,’ Hilda?” cried Pink, opening wide eyes of wonder and reproach. “Do you call this being shut up? See what I have had to-day! Enough pleasure to think about for a year. And even without it,—even before you came, Hilda,—why, I am the happiest girl in the world, and I ought to be.”
Hildegarde stooped and kissed the pale forehead. “Yes, dear, I think you are,” she said; “but I should like you to have all the pleasant and bright and lovely things in the world, my Pink.”
“Well, I have the best of them,” said Pink Chirk, smiling brightly,—“home and love, and friends and flowers. And as for the rest, why, dear Hilda, what is the use in thinking about things one has not?”