All know the histories of the girl trapped in a house by her father seeking a suitable suitor. The man must do something of a great honour, or bring great wealth or lands, or stop neighbouring feuds by uniting families. They often forget the stories of hard work and toil. My favourite is the story of Rose.
Rose was not what one would have called a pretty child, but she had a pleasant sweetheart shaped face and small pink pursed lips. Her beauty was found in her eyes. Every emotion she displayed was shown strongly in those eyes, whether they sparkled with laughter or focussed with steely determination, one couldn’t help but watch them. Her initial lack of beauty gained rose great freedom and she was allowed to run and play with the other servant children of the household of whom she was fond. She was a kind and sharing child from an early age. The staff admired her willingness to help a servant child with their tasks to allow them to finish early and join her in her play. Her favourite place had always been to help in the garden.
As she grew older and older the household watched as a womanly figure and an endearing person blossomed from the child with the beautiful eyes. Her father also began to take notice and soon Rose’s freedom was much reduced, and her world was more and more filled with appropriate tutors teaching her the ways to be a lady. Worse, they had soon banned her from the gardening tasks she had enjoyed so much. Although the household servants missed the kind humour of the young girl at play, they knew it was not their place to comment and besides she did not seem unhappy.
Her father spoke of her beauty everywhere that he went, mostly with pride but occasionally a shimmer of greed would shine in his eyes when he pictured the generous sums men would provide. One day he sat his daughter down and told her of his great news, she was to be wed.
“But father, I have no need to be wed. I do not need a husband I am happy on my own.”
“Rose, you are no longer a child you are a young woman and a young woman needs a husband. I will not be around forever. It is high time you had a husband and started a family of your own.”
He smiled at her.
“Besides, I have thought of the most wonderful plan. Many men across the kingdom desire to meet you and become your husband. So we will have a great ball and you can meet them and see if anyone of them will be suitable to you. What do you think?” He asked, not listening to her answer or her pleas as he was already picturing the sums of wealth and land that would be coming his way.
So, the day of the great ball came. Rose had been given a new dress and her once childhood friends that were now employed as her servants wove beautiful flowers into her hair.
Rose turned to Elise a girl only a few months older than herself.
“Oh Elise, what is to happen to me?”
“You will meet a special husband and move into his lovely home and have lots of children?” Elise answered happily.
“And what of you Elise, and the others, will you come with me?” Rose asked. Elise thought for a moment before answering.
“I expect not, your husband will have his own helpers and his own ways besides your father will still need help around the home.”
“Oh, Elise what am I to do, you are all I know? How will I know which man is right to be my husband?”
“That is simple” laughed Elise. “You pick a husband that is as kind and caring as you are.”
“And how will I know that?” Rose asked. Elise avoided the question she stepped back and admired her handiwork in the mirror.
“Rose, you are perfect. Whichever man you chose will be the luckiest man in the kingdom.”
At that moment Rose’s father appeared ready to escort her to the ball.
All night long Rose smiled and chatted and danced until her feet hurt and she was ready for home. Her father was more than pleased with how the crowd had responded to his perfect daughter and could not wait until the offers for her hand started to arrive.
“How was the ball my darling? Was there anyone that particularly caught your eye?”
“No father, there was not.” Her father stared at her astonished, he had assumed she had had a great night.
“But those men where all perfectly acceptable husbands. They were handsome, from good families with plenty of money and lands. What more do you want in a husband?”
“Father I do not want a husband that is perfect. I wish to choose a husband that is perfect for me. I do not really know those men so how can I truly know they are right for me?” She sighed and then looked out the carriage window knowing her father would never understand. Indeed, they both sat in silence the rest of the way home. Her father was not unkind, he did want his daughter to be happy, but he knew his business years were behind him and he needs this money to see out his final years.
All night Rose tossed and turned. She did not want to upset her father and she was not against marrying a man, but how could she ensure she found the right one? As morning dawn broke she got up from her bed and watched the servants going about their chores, her eye drifted to the gardener about to start gathering from the vegetable plot for the cook. How she missed being able to help. Suddenly an answer formed in her mind. At speed she got dressed and made her way to her father’s bedroom, waking him.
“Father, I have decided I will marry. I will meet as many men as you please, but I will expect them to pass my challenges in an acceptable manner. Will you agree?” Her father nodded eagerly in agreement, at last, his daughter was willing to be married.
“But what are these challenges, my dear?”
“The first is very simple, the men have to spend 3 days performing each of the tasks of our household servants without complaint. A day in the role of cook, gardener and housemaid.”
“No man will ever agree that, Rose. It is indeed beneath them…” Her father’s voice but Rose was soon to cut him off.
“Well, then they are not the husband for me. I want a husband that will help others and turn his hand to any task during times of strife. If he cannot do that simple thing, then he cannot be my husband.” Rose spoke firmly and confidently, and her father saw the determination in her beautiful eyes. He nodded in agreement.
“What about the second challenge?”
“The second challenge shall be a secret between myself and our gardener only. I assure you it will be fair and will be passible but only by the correct husband for me.” Her father’s brows furrowed ‘the gardener’ how could he possibly help.
“Very well. When is this challenge to start?”
The month passed quickly with Rose making preparations. Her father had sent the challenge to all the men who attended the ball and was disheartened to find out that of the fifty he had initially invited only fifteen accepted her challenge. On the day of the challenge, Rose wore her best Sunday dress and had bathed in a bath of rose petals. To all those who saw her, she was stunning. The men one by one fell to their knees, kissed her hand, their eagerness to start obvious. Rose watched them all, some she could see so fiercely the competitiveness in their eyes, and it frightened her a little, as she knew she was the prize. Still, she had set her mind, and this was to be her solution.
Within the first day as housemaid four of the men had given up. Angrily declaring the challenge as stupid. Rose and her servants couldn’t help but giggle, this was things they had done every day and Rose had happily helped with as a child.
The second day despite an early morning frost to start the day turned out to be one of the hottest of the year. Certainly, more difficult for those eleven remaining in the challenge than Rose had intended. Still, she expected them to work as her gardener directed. Mid-morning, she appeared with refreshing lemonade and already three had dropped out. By the end of the day one other had dropped out and one had been sent away with heat stroke.
The third day Rose had arranged a dinner party with all the staff of both Rose’s household and the six gentlemen who remained households were to attend as guests to attend as cook three more left the challenge. Gutting and skinning animals, peeling hundreds of veg and staying in the hot steamy environment providing for the servants proved to be too much for three of the men. Yet the evening continued with three challengers remaining. At the meal, Rose watched as the remaining men’s households cheered them on and enjoyed feasting with them for the first time. Yes, she thought, any of these 3 would make for fine husbands. Her father glanced across at his smiling daughter, none of the challengers remaining was overly wealthy or had the best lands, but he believed them to be adequate enough to support both him and his daughter. Still, one challenge remained.
The next morning Rose had arisen early. She once again pruned and preened herself until she was a joy to behold. When the weary men arrived, she greeted each of them warmly and the joy on her fathers’ face was obvious. She led them out to a family barn that was framed by the most beautiful Rose and thorn bushes anyone had seen.
“For the remaining challenge, I am going to take myself to the second storey of the barn. I have enough provisions to last a month. Each of the 3 men can take two household items that they have used in their days as household servants, but they cannot use a rope or a ladder to reach me. I also ask these men as potential future husbands to ensure they do not kill my roses.” With that Rose spun around and entered the barn and closed the barn door behind her. She immediately went to the second floor and opened all 3 upper windows to watch each of the men make an attempt. Her father watched with despair.
The first stomped over the rose bush but returned with his hands and legs were torn and shredded with thorns. Furious he gave up and called the carriage.
The second spoke to her gardener and requested sheers and post wood. He began cutting away the roses which angered Rose and with no tools to join his wood together he soon threw it down in rage and called his carriage also.
The third circled the premises. Wood and nails would be an option, but he would also need a hammer. Rose’s rules stated only two objects. Leaving Rose and her father watching he walked back to the household. He returned to the maid and watched her go about her day, helping where he could and taking notes of each of the tools he used.
Then in the afternoon, he returned to the kitchen to assist the cook in preparing tea. Making careful mental note of the buckets and the knives and the tools she used.
That evening he dined with Rose’s father who upon sharing a few ports revealed that it was his fault this had all come about he had allowed Rose to spend far too much time with the servants in the house and even worse in her favourite place the gardens. The young man quickly interjected, “I think she is one of the most splendid young ladies I have ever met.”
The next morning the young man arose early and headed to the garden. He spent all day there and was more than grateful when the housemaid came out with some lemonade for him and the elderly gardener. As they sipped the old gardener turned to him.
“Have you yet figured out the perfect way to get to our beautiful Rose.”
“No, I haven’t, Sir”, the young man admitted. The gardener sat shocked. He was unused to gentlemen of the young man’s stature addressing him as sir, and at that moment he had gained the man’s approval.
“Well, young man. In my experience, Rose’s are best when they are nurtured. They take time and patience, although they can be a little wild and difficult at times, the beauty and the joy they bring are beyond words. Why don’t you take a walk to my greenhouse and see if any of my tools will help you on your way?”
The young man nodded and eagerly jumped to his feet, heading off in the direction of the greenhouse as he approached he could see outside that several of the rose bushes there had grown very large also. He stared at them for a long time. Eventually, it clicked, he opened the greenhouse door and took a ball of twine and fertiliser. He made his way back to the barn and began working steadily on each of the rose bushes being careful as he worked not to cut himself on the thorns. He bent and twisted each branch up the wooden window shutters, weaving them carefully in and out then occasionally securing with a bit of twine. Up and up he went until at last he met the small buds of new branches. Once no more could be done, he spread the ground with fertiliser.
Over the next week with little else to do, he woke and returned to the housekeeper helping her with her chores. Then returned to the kitchen to help the cook. Lastly returning to the garden, to help the old gardener with the vegetable plot. The staff began to grow and him and he them as he learned each of their names and the names of their families. They began to share with him glorious stories of Rose as a child until his heart burned with a yearning to meet the woman behind the challenge. Late each afternoon he took the old gardeners twine and fertiliser and he worked carefully at each rose branch.
Within a week he had secured enough branches that he was able to make her window. The old gardener had passed the word around and all the staff made their way to the grounds to watch the winsome young man make his way up to their Rose. The young man took a deep breathe then slowly carefully put his foot on the branches, using the window pains to hold most of his weight he slowly began to climb. Just as he reached the open window the small crowd began to cheer but missed the sound of the rose branch snapping, as his hand placed on the windowsill his other slipped off and he began to fall. The crowd gasped as they watched the young man swing from the ledge with one hand. A second later Rose had reached out grabbed him by the breeches and pulled him inside. They both at once collapsed on the floor gasping with shock.
“I am so sorry,” he whispered in between broken breath.
“What?” Rose asked.
“I failed your challenge. I killed the rose.”
“Sir, in completing my challenge you have proven all I have wanted. You have met the family that others do not see. You have been kind and helped those that others wouldn’t. You have taken the time and the patience to nurture my roses and in doing so not only are there those that I had started with but you helped me to bloom many, many, more. You Sir, are the man I would like to call my husband.” He looked into her beautiful eyes and saw the steely determination that others spoke of from her childhood tales.
“Well, my lady. I think that would about make me the luckiest man alive. But I have one request that we should discuss with your father?” Rose paused, the negotiation for lands was about to begin and she would once again find herself the token prize.
When they had quite composed themselves, they made their way to the front door and upon stepping out hand in hand.
“Sir, I have something to discuss.” Jarred said assuredly to Rose’s father.
“What would that be sir?”
“That when we combine our lands we set up our home here, for I have grown to love these lands as much as your daughter.”
My response to Sue’s wonderful photo prompt combined with Daily Posts winsome challenge. If you want to give Sue’s prompt a go too, head over to Sue’s Page Thursday Photo Prompt – Window – and join in the prompt. KL ❤