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Which Was the Happiest?

Hans Christian Andersen


"Such lovely roses!" said the Sunshine. "And each bud will soon burst in bloom and be equally beautiful. hese are my children. !t is ! who have "issed them to life." " hey are my children#" said the $ew. "!t is ! who have nourished them with my tears." "! should thin" ! am their mother#" the %ose &ush said. "'ou and Sunshine are only their (odmothers# who have made them presents in "eepin( with your means and your (ood will." ")y lovely %ose children!" they e*claimed# all three. hey wished each flower to have the (reatest happiness. &ut only one could be the happiest# and one must be the least happy. &ut which of them? "!+ll find out#" said the Wind. "! roam far and wide. ! find my way into the tiniest crevices. ! "now everythin(# inside and out." ,ach rose in bloom heard his words# and each (rowin( bud understood them. -ust then a sad devoted mother# in deep mournin(# wal"ed throu(h the (arden. She pic"ed one of the roses. it was only half/blown but fresh and full. o her it seemed the loveliest of them all# and she too" it to her quiet# silent room# where only a few days past her cheerful and lively youn( dau(hter had merrily tripped to and fro. 0ow she lay in the blac" coffin# as lifeless as a sleepin( marble fi(ure. he mother "issed her departed dau(hter. hen she "issed the half/blown rose# and laid it on the youn( (irl+s breast# as if by its freshness# and by the fond "iss of a mother# her beloved child+s heart mi(ht a(ain be(in to beat. he rose seemed to e*pand. ,very petal trembled with 1oy. "What a lovely way has been set for me to (o#" it said. "2i"e a human child# ! am (iven a mother+s "iss and her blessin( as ! (o to the blessed land un"nown# dreamin( upon the breast of $eath+s pale an(el. "Surely ! am the happiest of all my sisters." !n the (arden where the %ose &ush (rew# wal"ed an old woman whose business it was to weed the flower beds. She also loo"ed at the beautiful bush# with especial interest in the lar(est full/blown rose. 3ne more fall of dew# one more warm day# and its petals would shatter. When the old woman saw this she said that the rose had lived lon( enou(h for beauty# and that now she intended to put it to practical use. hen she pic"ed it# wrapped it in old newspaper# and too" it home# where she put it with other faded roses and those blue boys they call lavender# in a potpouri# embalmed in salt. )ind you# embalmed / an honor (ranted only to roses and "in(s. "! will be the most hi(hly honored#" the rose declared# as the old weed puller too" her. "! am the happiest one# for ! am to be embalmed." hen two youn( men came strollin( throu(h the (arden. 3ne was a painter. the other was a poet. ,ach pluc"ed a rose most fair to see. he painter put upon canvas a li"eness of the rose in bloom# a picture so perfect and so lovely that the rose itself supposed it must be loo"in( into a mirror. "!n this way#" said the painter# "it shall live on# for (enerations upon (enerations# while countless other roses fade and die." "Ah!" said the rose# "after all# it is ! who have been most hi(hly favored. ! had the best luc" of all."

&ut the poet loo"ed at his rose# and wrote a poem about it to e*press the mystery of love. 'es# his boo" was a complete picture of love. !t was a piece of immortal verse. " his boo" has made me immortal#" the rose said. "! am the most fortunate one." !n the midst of these splendid roses was one whom the others hid almost completely. &y accident# and perhaps by (ood fortune# it had a sli(ht defect. !t sat sli(htly as"ew on its stem# and the leaves on one side of it did not match those on the other. )oreover# in the very heart of the flower (rew a crippled leaf# small and (reen. Such thin(s happen# even to roses. "4oor child#" said the Wind# and "issed its chee". he rose too" this "iss for one of welcome and tribute. !t had a feelin( that it was made differently from the other roses# and that the (reen leaf (rowin( in the heart of it was a mar" of distinction. A butterfly fluttered down and "issed its petals. !t was a suitor# but the rose let him fly away. hen a tremendously bi( (rasshopper came# seated himself on a rose near/by# and rubbed his shins. Stran(ely enou(h# amon( (rasshoppers this is a to"en of affection. he rose on which he perched did not understand it that way# but the one with the (reen crippled leaf did# for the bi( (rasshopper loo"ed at her with eyes that clearly meant# "! love you so much ! could eat you." Surely this is as far as love can (o# when one becomes part of another. &ut the rose was not ta"en in# and flatly refused to become one with this 1umpin( fop. hen# in the starlit ni(ht a ni(htin(ale san(. "He is sin(in( 1ust for me#" said the rose with the blemish# or with the mar" of distinction as she considered it. "Why am ! so honored# above all my sisters? Why was ! (iven this peculiarity / which ma"es me the luc"iest one?" 0e*t to appear in the (arden were two (entlemen# smo"in( their ci(ars. hey spo"e about roses and about tobacco. %oses# they say# are not supposed to stand tobacco smo"e. it fades them and turns them (reen. his was to be tested# but the (entlemen would not ta"e it upon themselves to try it out on the more perfect roses. hey tried it on the one with the defect. "Ah ha! a new honor#" the rose said. "! am luc"y indeed / the luc"iest of all." And she turned (reen with conceit and tobacco smo"e. 3ne rose# little more than a bud but perhaps the loveliest one on the bush# was chosen by the (ardener for the place of honor in an artistically tied bouquet. !t was ta"en to the proud youn( heir of the household# and rode beside him in his coach. Amon( other fra(rant flowers and beautiful (reen leaves it sat in all its (lory# sharin( in the splendor of the festivities. 5entlemen and ladies# superbly dressed# sat there in the li(ht of a thousand lamps as the music played. he theater was so brilliantly illuminated that it seemed a sea of li(ht. hrou(h it swept a storm of applause as a youn( dancer came upon the sta(e. 3ne bouquet after another showered down# in a rain of flowers at her feet. here fell the bouquet in which the lovely rose was set li"e a precious stone. he happiness it felt was complete# beyond any description. !t felt all the honor and splendor around it# and as it touched the floor it fell to dancin( too. he rose 1umped for 1oy. !t bounded across the sta(e at such a rate that it bro"e from its stem. he flower never came into the hands of the dancer. !t rolled rapidly into the win(s# where a sta(e hand pic"ed it up. He saw how lovely and fra(rant the rose was# but it had no stem. He poc"eted it# and when he (ot home he put it in a wine (lass filled with water. here the flower lay throu(hout the ni(ht# and early ne*t mornin( it was placed beside his (randmother. 6eeble and old# she sat in her easy chair and (a7ed at the lovely stemless rose that deli(hted her with its fra(rance. "'ou did not come to the fine table of a lady of fashion#" she said.

"'ou came to a poor old woman. &ut to me you are li"e a whole rosebush. How lovely you are." Happy as a child# she (a7ed at the flower# and perhaps recalled the days of her own bloomin( youth that now had faded away. " he window pane was crac"ed#" said the Wind. "! (ot in without any trouble. ! saw the old woman+s eyes as bri(ht as youth itself# and ! saw the stemless but beautiful rose in the wine (lass. 3h# it was the happiest of them all! ! "new it! ! could tell!" ,very rose on that bush in the (arden had its own story. ,ach rose was convinced that it was the happiest one# and it is faith that ma"es us happy. &ut the last rose "new indeed that it was the happiest. "! have outlasted them all#" it said. "! am the last rose# the only one left# my mother+s most cherished child!" "And ! am the mother of them all#" the %ose &ush said. "0o# I am#" said the Sunshine. "And I," said the $ew. ",ach had a share in it#" the Wind at last decided# "and each shall have a part of it." And then the Wind swept its leaves out over the hed(e where the dew had fallen# and where the sun was shinin(. "! have my share too#" said the Wind. "! have the story of all the roses# and ! shall spread it throu(hout the wide world. ell me then# which was the happiest of them all? 'es# that you must tell# for ! have said enou(h."