Monday, August 24, 2015

MATILD's ROSES, by Cola L. Fountain, July 1926

Once upon a time, in the fast-dimming long ago, a woman, called Matild' Waters, lived "by the side of the road" in a low ramshackle house. She had poverty to deal with, and drunkenness and shame to endure from her husband and his people, who came and caroused within her lowly door.
July 1926 Cover
Matild' had children and they did not all "turn out well." The example of their father and the legacy of his unstable character told on them and they were not strong enough to conquer their inheritance. Matild' lived to know the bitterness of the hand of the law against her sons and to see her daughters sicken in poverty and die for lack of medical aid.

Matild' was a woman with a soul starved for beauty. No matter how hard her burdens pressed upon her, she would stand in the cottage door for a brief moment just to contemplate the spring green stealing over the mountains, to catch the flicker of a bluebird's wing or to glimpse the flames of the western sun reflected on the lofty ledge of rock behind the house.

There was no material beauty inside her home. Matild' had braided a rug one winter from odds and ends of woolen cloth, with red flannel worked in here and there. She had made it in the long midnight hours while waiting for the man of the house to come home. When finished she had placed it on the floor in the "other room" and used to go in now and then just to feast her eyes upon it. One day it disappeared and she never found it. The saloonkeeper's wife over at Hooker Mountain had one just like it shortly after but Matild' never knew.

A stranger driving by the cottage one afternoon, with his carriage full of rosebush slips and plants which he was delivering far up in the mountains, stopped for a drink of water. Moved by the heart-hungry look in the eyes of Matild' he handed her a little bush and drove away.

She planted the slip behind the house but when people were about paid no attention to it. It grew and throve. She mentioned it in her husband's presence only as a "pesky nuisance," so he left it alone.

Years passed. The house became more tumbledown, the family more reduced. The roses alone flourished. Today Matild' and her husband sleep in the sandy little cemetery in the shadow of the mountain. Their children are scattered and gone, some dead, some far away. The house has fallen into decay. The ramshackle barn burned down

years ago. As you walk along the road in June a fragrance sweet and lovely envelops you and the wind wafts away. You turn the bend of the road and a marvel of pink and glowing beauty meets your eye. The yard of the old cottage is full of roses. They have spilled over the broken fence, they have crossed the road and are marching down the ravine like an army with banners. Though the woman who planted the first little bush has long been dust and few who live in that section even remember her face, yet these flowers are known everywhere by the name of "Matild's Roses."

They are gathered by the whole neighborhood for weddings and for funerals; children carry them up the dusty country road for the "last day" at school; lovers wear them in their buttonholes; tourists passing through this as yet uncharted road on their way to a better highway stop to gather and bear away Matild's roses to far-distant points.

To some it is given to live long enough to receive the applause of the throng for their deeds done on earth. Others suffer depths of shame and humiliation and never know the extent of their influence or the joy of work successfully accomplished. How many of us can leave behind such real beauty and sweetness that ever growing will blot out the remembrance of our suffering and failure, fill the hands of strangers with fragrance and loveliness and teach once more the old, old lesson that however narrow and shadowed our pathway may be, however small may seem our opportunity to brighten it, if we but do our best with what we have, there is no end nor limit to its influence and power and so, verily, our "works do follow us."