I am reading through Eight Cousins and Rose In Bloom by Louisa May Alcott. In Rose In Bloom, we see our little Rose becoming a woman, and all of the trials and learning experiences that go along with that process. Rose is a woman of great means, and she learns quickly that her truest friends are the ones who care nothing for her wealth and what she can give them. They are the ones that love Rose just for who she is. This is a bitter lesson for her to learn, as we will see below. I don't have any life experience to tie into this passage, but I have always enjoyed watching the lessons Rose learns as she grows.
"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."
She paused a minute, sewing swiftly; then out came the trouble all in one burst of girlish grief and chagrin. "Uncle, half the people who are so kind to me don't care a bit for me, but for what I can give them, and that makes me unhappy, because I was so glad and proud to be liked. I do wish I hadn't a penny in the world, then I should know who my true friends were."
"Poor little lass! She has found out that all that glitters is not gold, and the disillusion has begun," said the doctor to himself, adding aloud, smiling yet pitiful, "And so all the pleasure is gone out of the pretty gifts and Christmas is a failure?"
"Oh, no not for those whom nothing can make me doubt! It is sweeter than ever to make these things, because my heart is in every stitch and I know that, poor as they are, they will be dear to you, Aunty Plen, Aunt Jessie, Phebe, and the boys."She opened a drawer where lay a pile of pretty gifts, wrought with loving care by her own hands, touching them tenderly as she spoke and patting the sailor's knot of blue ribbon on one fat parcel with a smile that told how unshakable her faith in someone was.
"But these," she said, pulling open another drawer and tossing over its gay contents with an air half sad, half scornful, "these I bought and give because they are expected. These people care only for a rich gift, not one bit for the giver, whom they will secretly abuse if she is not as generous as they expect. How can I enjoy that sort of thing, Uncle?"
"You cannot, but perhaps you do some of them injustice, my dear. Don't let the envy or selfishness of a few poison your faith in all. Are you sure that none of these girls care for you?" he asked, reading a name here and there on the parcels scattered about.
"I'm afraid I am. You see I heard several talking together the other evening at Annabel's, only a few words, but it hurt me very much, for nearly everyone was speculating on what I would give them and hoping it would be something fine. 'She's so rich she ought to be generous,' said one. 'I've been perfectly devoted to her for weeks and hope she won't forget it,' said another. 'If she doesn't give me some of her gloves, I shall think she's very mean, for she has heaps, and I tried on a pair in fun so she could see they fitted and take a hint,' added a third. I did take the hint, you see." And Rose opened a handsome box in which lay several pairs of her best gloves, with buttons enough to satisfy the heart of the most covetous.
"Plenty of silver paper and perfume, but not much love went into that bundle, I fancy?" And Dr. Alec could not help smiling at the disdainful little gesture with which Rose pushed away the box.
"Not a particle, nor in most of these. I have given them what they wanted and taken back the confidence and respect they didn't care for. It is wrong, I know, but I can't bear to think all the seeming goodwill and friendliness I've been enjoying was insincere and for a purpose. That's not the way I treat people."
"I am sure of it. Take things for what they are worth, dear, and try to find the wheat among the tares, for there is plenty if one knows how to look..."