A short story by Anonymous
The Rose's Breakfast
Title: The Rose's Breakfast
Author: Anonymous [More Titles by Anonymous]
The shrubs and flowers, having heard of the Peacock At Home, the Butterfly's Ball, and Grasshopper's Feast, Elephant's Ball, and many others of equal celebrity, and having been themselves of late much introduced into the assemblies of Ton, grew so vain as to wish to have a gala of their own. They were aware of their want of the organs of speech, but knowing they had plenty of Ladies' Tongue among them, and that crowded parties neither afforded gratification to the mind, or allowed opportunity for conversation, and as they could shake their leaves at each other, as well as fine ladies could their heads, they were perfectly satisfied with their powers to entertain.
As all their refreshments were composed from air, earth, and water it was determined that a fine summer's day after a reviving shower, would afford ample regale for a breakfast, which was to begin, like all fashionable ones, late in the afternoon, that the genteel flowers might be awake. Mrs. Honeysuckle first proposed giving one, but her husband was a Dutchman, and would not agree to the bustle and expense, and not choosing the risk of separation she for once yielded, and Mrs. Rose, being in high beauty, determined to send out her fragrance to invite the company, provided she could procure the consent of Mr. Pluto Rose; indeed, he never interfered with the pursuits of his wife; he only declared he should not appear, and as he was a very dark-looking rose without any sweet she was delighted at this declaration, but, though much admired in her own little circle, she was unknown in the great World, and she was sensible that unless some of the leaders of the Ton were present her breakfast would be regarded with contempt; she therefore consulted two of her friends, Lady Acacia and Mrs. Larch, and got Mr. Plane from the east to secure the attendance of his party.
Lady Acacia had just got her niece Robina from America, whom she was very solicitous to have properly introduced, having kept very indifferent company in her own country, and being handsome, she aspired to settling her well. She, of course, aided all in her power to promote Mrs. Rose's scheme, and, by being in a higher circle, offered to get all the Forest Trees to attend except Lord Oak; but she knew he never condescended to go to such meetings. Mrs. Larch, from her connections, promised her influence with all the Cedars and Firs, though she was sure her cousin from Lebanon would not come, but all the rest yielded easily to her entreaties. Mrs. Rose was delighted with the success of Lady Acacia and Mrs. Larch in their solicitations with the Forest and Fir Trees, whose majestic appearance and respectable characters she imagined would dignify her fete, never considering her own littleness might appear to them despicable; but from them she had nothing to fear, as they were too well bred to attend any meeting to ridicule it. 'Tis true when they did grace a public entertainment they kept chiefly together, and never so far forgot their consequence as to oppress a humble flower, or stoop to notice a forward insignificant one even in the gayest attire.
There was an elegant lightness of drapery in Mrs. Birch's dress, but poor Lady Aspen had certainly a very trifling way with her in shaking continually her leaves, which sounded as if she was tittering at everything around. Old Lord Elm was hurt at it, and often hinted to her ladyship how improper such behaviour would have been deemed in former times. It was, poor thing, in her a natural weakness which she could not amend, and it had been copied by some inferior plants who had ignorantly supposed it the height of good breeding.
Mrs. Rose, with all her charms, could not aspire to become one of the Forest set, though she had hopes she might be reckoned a descendant from the famous Roses so well known in the reigns of some of our Henrys, Edwards, and Richard III., though she assuredly was of a very different extraction; indeed, it was said that she was bred up in a cottage garden, but had passed one winter in the hothouse, by which she was greatly elated, and now thought from that circumstance she was secure in having a large party from thence, not knowing the prejudice it was to memory and sight to be constantly for any length of time in such artificial air. Had it not been for this breakfast bringing Mrs. Rose into notice she would have been totally forgotten by them, but her invitation made them soon recollect the dear little creature, and as every offer of accommodation was made to entice them to attend, even to the promise of being placed near the Burning Bush: for that whatever is difficult to obtain is always peculiarly desirable to possess was not unknown in the hothouse. Notwithstanding that most of its inhabitants, except Lady Sensitive and a few others (who were really too delicate to venture out), all anxiously wished to be at Mrs. Rose's, yet they seemed to make the waiting on her a very great favour, and their terms vexed her greatly--namely, the excluding of many of the common plants or natives as they termed them which prevented her from asking some of her old acquaintance and near connections, with whom till now she had lived in habits of intimacy; besides she had wished to have shown her taste and consequence to them, having thorns enough on her stem to have pleasure in exciting a little envy; but being afraid these connections should be known she excluded every friend she was requested to do, and thus the Sweet Briar and many of that rank were left out, yet several weeds had the effrontery to get in.
As the hothouse plants always keep together when they do come out, they, as usual, did so at Mrs. Rose's, following their constant plan of apparent dissatisfaction at everything they met with, and quizzing most shamefully all the company. The greenhouse plants in winter follow the example of the hothouse in living in their own circle, but at this season mix more generally, though, alas! they were nearly as much inclined as the hothouse party to quizzing. Mrs. Myrtle and Lady Orange-tree promised to chaperon the Misses Heath and the Misses Geranium--that is, such as were properly accomplished by having had a greenhouse education; but the poor relations of these two families, which I am forced to confess were many, were not asked. Lord Heliotropium and Mr. Monkeyplant were their welcome attendants.
The Evergreens of rank were invited, the females of whom are charged with being fond of showing themselves, and are usually to be seen in the front of plantations. Hitherto they had despised the fickleness of fashion, and had never modernized their dress enough to seem thinly clad even in the winter, and now they could not reconcile themselves to such a change, which, in fact, did them honour, though a few of the weakest and vainest among them rather lamented it, but the wiser valued their foliage as a great addition to beauty and elegance, and justly reprobated the prevailing Ton of transparent clothing as very pernicious to health. Mrs. Arbutus was particularly unlucky in having sent all her jewels away for the summer, but Lady Portugal Laurel and a few others ornamented their usual green dresses very prettily with white, and her ladyship was allowed to make a sweet figure, whilst the correctness of her appearance gained her respect and admiration.
Many Laurels were invited, but in this country they are so numerous, and of such rapid growth, and such flourishing plants, that it was absolutely impossible to collect as many of them as could be desired, and some old veterans declined attending. The Cypresses in general sent excuses, being confined by the loss of a friend, which was thought rather an uncommon reason for confinement. Mr. Stock was also prevented by a pre-engagement in the alley; he was a remarkably rich, showy flower, or he would not have been invited, yet he was known to possess more intrinsic merit before he had acquired so many petals. Dr. Yew would not leave his church, nor Dr. Palma Christi his patients; indeed, their absence was not at all regretted, it being owing to a mistake that they were asked. The Ladies Weeping Willow stayed away with the Misses Weeping Ash to mourn over the vanities of the world, which greatly alarmed and distressed them.
Mrs. Passion-Flower sent her excuses, being enraged she was not consulted on the occasion, as she would have deferred the meeting until she had regained her bloom. Most of the Shrubs that were invited attended, and the Duchess of Syringa and the Ladies Lilac looked beautiful. It was a disputed point whether Lady White Lilac or her sister was the handsomer, yet some of the party were so ill-humoured as to hint they were fading. Lord Laburnum came with them. Some bulbous roots were admitted, and Mrs. Lily made as engaging a figure as anyone; her headdress was simply elegant, the petals white with yellow stamens forming a very rich coral. The sweet Misses Lily of the Valley could not be tempted from their retreat.
Lord Tulip was particularly noticed, his coral being diversified in a most superb manner, and as dress among Ton beaux now is neglected he made a very surprising appearance, though by it he gained great respect; perhaps he carried it too far, as marked singularity is never advisable, yet a certain attention to dress, consistent with station, is requisite, and had it not been for his coral Lord Tulip would have been passed by in the crowd, or turned out as a weed. He came with the Duchess of Hyacinth, which was rather particular, but it was little regarded, and the Duke was blamed for not properly estimating her Grace's charms.
There were some perennials asked, but Mrs. Rose was obliged to forget many of them, yet Miss Scabious was there, though not yet come out, flirting shamefully with young Lychnis, who was waiting for his ensigncy to get out his scarlet coat. Mrs. Rose made a point of inviting Mr. Monkshood because she would not appear to have any prejudices, though it is well known to be a poisonous plant, but its evil properties were to her and her friends of no consequence as they had never reflected on serious subjects. She also pressed the attendance of several annuals of showy appearance. Intrinsic merit had no value with her, who had no guide but fashion, and was ambitious only of becoming a leader in dissipation or a patroness of talent, which would be the means of making her ridiculous, and the dupe of presuming ignorance.
The annuals, though they flourished but for a short time, were often during that period greatly caressed, yet never lamented when they disappeared; in short, they were made subservient to the powers of others, which Mr. Coxcomb, the painted Lady Pea, and some more were too vain to discover, and whilst they were frequently amused in quizzing all around never suspected they were deservedly greater objects of ridicule themselves. Very few of the Creepers were invited except those that belonged to the hothouse or greenhouse, and the sharpness of Lady Cereus made Mrs. Rose wish even to have avoided her company, but she would not be put off. Mrs. Bramble was very sharp at not being invited, thinking she had as good a right as Mrs. Ivy, whom she accused as being one of those sycophants that push themselves into high life by clinging to greatness, and thus getting into the first circle without being respected in or out of it; indeed, there was amongst many of the party a good deal of satire. Mrs. Rose herself was a little formed of it, but her sweetness was allowed to blunt the force of her thorn, and made it even regarded as pleasing, whilst Mrs. Holly was disliked for her general sharpness.
[Illustration: The sweet Misses Lilies of the Valley could not be tempted from their retreat.--Page 119.]
All the Auriculas that had been applauded on the stage were wonderfully sought after by Mrs. Rose as being now generally in all Ton assemblies, and they were always ready to accept these invitations, but their season of exhibition was now over, and they were gone strolling about for the remainder of the year. The Ladies Carnation were all asked, and some of their cousins, the Misses Pink, were particularly named (not having accommodations for all the family), and such of the Misses Pink as came were chaperoned by their near relations, Mr. and Mrs. Sweet-William; but the Ladies Carnation were obliged to refuse--they were afraid they should not be come out in time, and if they were must attend a county meeting with their guardian.
There were no invitations sent into the kitchen garden or orchard, notwithstanding the elegant simplicity of many of the inhabitants, and the general propriety of their conduct, but they were all voted quizzes for their usefulness in society and their attention to domestic concerns. They were vain of this neglect, regarding it as a proof of their merit, and as they lived comfortably together were happy and contented, and far more easy and cheerful than the more dissipated societies. Mrs. Onion, it must be allowed, took it as a slight, but she was the only one that did, and she, presuming upon the having been much at great dinners, imagined she must be qualified for any breakfast, not considering she generally was obliged to go to them disguised or hid by a veil, but she was a proof of the errors of self knowledge, as she thought her scent far preferable to Mrs. Rose's.
The rest of the kitchen garden really wished to avoid mixing with the Ton, among whom they justly allowed were many very valuable plants; every class and order in this country may boast of them. The natural soil is good, and much pains is bestowed on proper culture, yet in the circles of dissipation there was reason to fear their health and good habits might be injured, particularly as attempts had been made to disseminate baneful seeds, though hitherto they had been kept down by care and attention. Mrs. Apple-Tree, Mr. Cherry, Miss Currant, Miss Gooseberry, the Beans, Peas, Potatoes, and Cabbages well knew their own value, and despised the weak ambition of those who force themselves into company they were not designed for.
Mrs. Rose would have liked to have got at the Mint, but it was so well guarded by the Sages that she dared not make the attempt, knowing it would be useless, and she could not presume to ask the Sages, or would have been delighted to have had them--that is, all the family but Common Sage, well imagining how much consequence she might acquire by even the appearance of such an acquaintance, yet it was an absurd idea, as she had not the smallest relish for their taste or anything Sage-like about her, and the wish to be thought to possess talents she did not would, as it always does, have made her contemptible to those who really have them. True knowledge is highly valuable and respectable, but the ignorant pretenders to it only make themselves objects of ridicule. Mrs. Rose was fortunate enough to get some of the Bays brought to her, and she thus trusted to have her breakfast properly celebrated in a poem dedicated to the Rose Unique.
The bog plants had all contrived to be in the Ton, and the Misses Rhododendron and the Misses Kalmia were greatly admired.
The breakfast was given on a beautiful green lawn, tastefully decorated, in the middle of which was a fine piece of water, with a fountain continually playing. Around were heaps of various sorts of soils, many procured at great distances at an enormous expense. The Buttercups and Dandelions waited on the lawn in full yellow liveries, and the Daisies, dressed neatly in a uniform of white with yellow ornaments, were as female servants to give the refreshments to the waiters, and the Foxgloves in red uniforms presided over the whole. The Trumpet Flowers were numerous; indeed, there was no other music, and there was no regular dancing, though many pretty groups dispersed about.
The crowd was very great, and the company did not leave the lawn till late, many of them exceedingly fatigued, and drooping with their exertions, and poor Mrs. Poppy was so much inclined to sleep as to distress the Misses Larkspur and Lupin that came with her, and Sir Laurus Tinus got much squeezed in getting the Marchioness Magnolia, a most charming creature, and the Miss Phillyreas away, and Lady Cistus left all her petals behind her.
Admiral Flag and Lady Peony were detained much longer than they wished in settling a dispute that had nearly ended in a challenge between Captain Waterdock and Colonel Jasmine about the antiquities of their families, which had so seriously terrified Lady Azorian Jasmine that she would have fainted but for the tender attention of Mrs. Lavender. The Colonel was certainly wrong, as the Water-docks are well known to be a very ancient family in Great Britain. It is much to be regretted that there is so often such a mistaken idea of courage even amongst the most respectable orders, abounding with the truest honour, and noblest spirit, as to cause duels on the most trifling subjects, thus involving their families in distress and themselves in the greatest misery.
There was waiting on the outside of the lawn at Mrs. Rose's many of the Umbellate tribe, that in case sun or rain should be too powerful their Umbels might be useful, and, indeed, many other plants were mixed among them. Mrs. Mignonette, the milliner, a sweet little creature, was there to learn fashions; she had brought with her one of her favourites, Venus's Looking-glass, whom she found of great service in her shop. The Nettles, Thistles, and Furze were very troublesome. The Thrifts were also on the outside, as Mrs. Rose and they were totally unacquainted, but she had given great offence to many whom she had neglected that she very well knew, some even intimately, and the Misses Crocus, Violet, Jonquil, and Mrs. Almond she did not ask, because their beauty was gone by. She had also her disappointments in receiving excuses from many whose presence she wished for. Amongst these was Mr. and Mrs. Heartsease, most valuable plants; indeed, she had thought herself sure of their company, and they had intended waiting on her. At all entertainments of every kind they are expected, and they generally accept the invitations they receive, but before the day of engagement arrives they are obliged to send their excuses, owing to indisposition, which keeps them confined to a small circle of friends.
Some of the party at Mrs. Rose's were delighted; others only aimed to be thought pleased, but alas! too many were inclined to quiz the breakfast, Mrs. Rose, and everything they saw or met with, yet even these to her pretended the greatest felicity at what they partook of, and the sincerest regard and esteem for her, and were absurdly lavish in the admiration of her taste, and after all poor Mrs. Rose was so fatigued that she was attended for a considerable time by Doctor Gardener, and could associate with no other plant but her maid Valerian, having so completely lost her bloom by her dissipation that she came out no more this season, though she had sufficient foliage to ensure her life, and much more than suited her ideas of Tonish appearance, for, notwithstanding the slights she received in her confinement, when she could be of no use to the gay world, and her own sufferings, she still possessed so much vanity and lightness of manner that it was with the greatest difficulty the doctor could keep her properly clothed, though he explained to her its necessity, as did Mr. Pluto Rose its propriety, but she was a slave to fashion, and nearly became one of its martyrs.
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