Chapter 4: Thorns Among The Roses

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For a time everything went smoothly, and Rose was a happy girl. The world seemed a beautiful and friendly place, and fulfillment of her brightest dreams appeared to be a possibility. Of course this could not last, and disappointment was inevitable, because young eyes look for a Paradise and weep when they find a workaday world which seems full of care and trouble till one learns to gladden and glorify it with high thoughts and holy living.

Those who loved her waited anxiously for the disillusion which must come in spite of all their cherishing, for till now Rose had been so busy with her studies, travels, and home duties that she knew very little of the triumphs, trials, and temptations of fashionable life. Birth and fortune placed her where she could not well escape some of them, and Dr. Alec, knowing that experience is the best teacher, wisely left her to learn this lesson as she must many another, devoutly hoping that it would not be a hard one.

October and November passed rapidly, and Christmas was at hand, with all its merry mysteries, home gatherings, and good wishes.

Rose sat in her own little sanctum, opening from the parlor, busily preparing gifts for the dear five hundred friends who seemed to grow fonder and fonder as the holidays drew near. The drawers of her commode stood open, giving glimpses of dainty trifles, which she was tying up with bright ribbons.

A young girl’s face at such moments is apt to be a happy one, but Rose’s was very grave as she worked, and now and then she threw a parcel into the drawer with a careless toss, as if no love made the gift precious. So unusual was this expression that it struck Dr. Alec as he came in and brought an anxious look to his eyes, for any cloud on that other countenance dropped its shadow over his.

“Can you spare a minute from your pretty work to take a stitch in my old glove?” he asked, coming up to the table strewn with ribbon, lace, and colored papers.

“Yes, Uncle, as many as you please.”

The face brightened with sudden sunshine; both hands were put out to receive the shabby driving glove, and the voice was full of that affectionate alacrity which makes the smallest service sweet.

“My Lady Bountiful is hard at work, I see. Can I help in any way?” he asked, glancing at the display before him.

“No, thank you, unless you can make me as full of interest and pleasure in these things as I used to be. Don’t you think preparing presents a great bore, except for those you love and who love you?” she added in a tone which had a slight tremor in it as she uttered the last words.

“I don’t give to people whom I care nothing for. Can’t do it, especially at Christmas, when goodwill should go into everything one does. If all these ‘pretties’ are for dear friends, you must have a great many.”

“I thought they were friends, but I find many of them are not, and that’s the trouble, sir.”

“Tell me all about it, dear, and let the old glove go,” he said, sitting down beside her with his most sympathetic air.

But she held the glove fast, saying eagerly, “No, no, I love to do this! I don’t feel as if I could look at you while I tell what a bad, suspicious girl I am,” she added, keeping her eyes on her work.

“Very well, I’m ready for confessions of any iniquity and glad to get them, for sometimes lately I’ve seen a cloud in my girl’s eyes and caught a worried tone in her voice. Is there a bitter drop in the cup that promised to be so sweet, Rose?”

“Yes, Uncle. I’ve tried to think there was not, but it is there, and I don’t like it. I’m ashamed to tell, and yet I want to, because you will show me how to make it sweet or assure me that I shall be the better for it, as you used to do when I took medicine.”

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