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Rue and Roses

100 pages
Library of Alexandria
You will like Anna, the heroine of "Rue and Roses," when you get to know her. But perhaps it will take some time before she becomes familiar to you, partly because she is intensely Teutonic, partly, also, because the little history she gives about herself strikes the ordinary reader as fragmentary. She certainly is very German. You picture her to yourself with her large eyes and her, apparently, placid exterior. Very likely she is wearing a shawl round her shoulders and sits apart from other girls, for ever analyzing herself and her own states of consciousness. That is the characteristic thing about her. She is intensely self-analytic, and from the earliest moment when she began to think at all, she has ceaselessly occupied herself with her own soul-states and traversed one or two heart-crises. Having nothing much external to interest her, she is driven to introspection, and becomes, as a matter of course, a little priggish and pedantic, exaggerating the importance of conditions about which the normal healthy outdoor girl of another race never troubles herself. Yet she is worth knowing for all that. She may be a little tiresome, but she is a good, honest girl, who has not had the best of luck, who, indeed, has come from a home where everything seems opposed to her own instincts and inclinations. Her father's business is perpetually on the down-grade, and his little commercial enterprises invariably fail, and leave him worse off than he was before. The mother, of course, is always on the verge of tears, because it is her painful duty to try and make both ends meet—a feat which she is eternally unable to accomplish. From one place they drift to another, and Anna's few friends of childhood are leftbehind, or if she sees them again they look at her askance, because her father has been in prison. And there is a brother, too, who would be a severe affliction even in the most favourable circumstances. Meanwhile Anna pursues her own way, very humble, very insignificant, but always trying to do her best. She is a governess, and endures the usual fate of governesses, being either bullied or made love to—bullied by the mistress, and on one occasion compromisingly made love to by the master. One solace she has—the writing of poems. A characteristic German trait this! And so she sits and dreams, for she is the most sentimental little person you ever came across—sentimental to the full extent of Teutonic capacity, with her head full of Weltschmerz and Schwärmerei. Of course she sighs for the Prince Charming who is to come and redeem her from her servitude, a being of impossible virtues, noble and distinguished, and excessively handsome, the highborn husband for whom Cinderella dreams while she sweeps out the kitchen and cleans the pots and pans. Nothing very significant so far. Indeed, Anna would seem to be the very best example of the ordinary German maiden, ruthlessly exploring her own limited soul and dreaming of the moon. Then suddenly an event occurs which changes her crude immaturity into something more real. She comes across a man of about thirty, who smokes his cigar, as she herself says, "with elegant ease," and who discourses about many things—about intoxication, about remorse, about books, about art, and about her poems. Gradually the intimacy grows, and Anna's whole life, and even her literary style, becomes eloquent because the love of her life has dawned on her horizon. "By-and-by I began to think of him whether I saw him or not; his face, his figure, rose like a blazing question from the midst of the strange, wistful dreams that I had dreamt all my life, and something that had lain within me, dull and senseless like a trance, woke, wondered, and trembled into joy."