‘Come!’ said he, glowing, ’we will toast the Hohenstaufens and the Hohenzollerns to-night, Richie.’
Later, when I was revelling in fancies sweeter than the perfume of the roses, he pressed their stems reflectively, unbound them, and disclosed a slip of crested paper. On it was written:
‘Violets are over.’
Plain words; but a princess had written them, and never did so golden a halo enclose any piece of human handiwork.
THE TIME OF ROSES
I sat and thrilled from head to foot with a deeper emotion than joy. Not I, but a detached self allied to the careering universe and having life in it.
‘Violets are over.’
The first strenuous effort of my mind was to grasp the meaning, subtle as odour, in these words. Innumerable meanings wreathed away unattainable to thought. The finer senses could just perceive them ere they vanished. Then as I grew material, two camps were pitched and two armies prepared to fight to establish one distinct meaning. ’Violets are over, so I send you roses’; she writes you simple fact. Nay, ’Our time of violets is over, now for us the roses’; she gives you heavenly symbolism.
‘From violets to roses, so run the seasons.’
Or is it,
‘From violets to roses, thus far have we two travelled?’
But would she merely say, ’I have not this kind of flower, and I send you another?’
True, but would she dare to say, ’The violets no longer express my heart; take the roses?’
’Maidenly, and a Princess, yet sweet and grateful, she gives you the gracefullest good speed.
’Noble above all human distinctions, she binds you to herself, if you will it.’
The two armies came into collision, the luck of the day going to the one I sided with.
But it was curiously observable that the opposing force recovered energy from defeat, while mine languished in victory. I headed them alternately, and—it invariably happened so.
‘She cannot mean so much as this.’
‘She must mean more than that.’
Thus the Absolute and the Symbolical factions struggled on. A princess drew them as the moon the tides.
By degrees they subsided and united, each reserving its view; a point at which I imagined myself to have regained my proper humility. ’The princess has sent you these flowers out of her homely friendliness; not seeing you to speak her farewell, she, for the very reason that she can do it innocent of any meaning whatsoever, bids you be sure you carry her esteem with you. Is the sun of blue heavens guilty of the shadow it casts? Clear your mind. She means nothing. Warmth and beauty come from her, and are on you for the moment. But full surely she is a thing to be won: she is human: did not her hand like a gentle snake seek yours, and detain it, and bear it away into the heart of her sleep?—Be moderate. Let not a thought or a dream spring from her condescension, lest you do outrage to her noble simplicity. Look on that high Hohenzollern hill-top: she also is of the line of those who help to found illustrious Houses: what are you?’