The Golden Rose, the final story in Tea with Mr. Rochester, is about Emily’s Aunt Essie. Emily is quite fond of her aunt, but ever since the arrival of Julia, Emily’s stepmother, Essie has been hardly invited to the Manor. Julia “a parrot-tulip, an elegant but gaudy creature with a variety of selves” don’t think much of Essie – certainly not well enough to invite Essie to the same parties she throws for her friends in London and Emily’s father, Essie’s brother, seems to be taking cues from his new wife. Emily is frustrated with her father because of this, but she also realizes her father’s refusal to stand up to Julia and invite Essie over to their Manor stems from his memory of Essie’s relationship with his late wife, Emily’s mother – Essie and Emily’s mother had been close friends and now Essie’s presence is a reminder to him of what he lost.
But even if Emily’s father and stepmother don’t keep the company of Essie much now, Emily is not ready to dismiss her Aunt who has had her own adventures!
Aunt Essie’s friends, I thought, were different from other people. They had a queerness and a vitality that were transmitted to the presents they gave her. I have never met them, but, like beloved characters in a book, they were more real to me than the people I knew. Only Aunt Essie herself had the same quality of reality, of having a dyed-in-the-wool personality, of being herself right through to her bones. Who but Aunt Essie would have carried back from some rocky holiday a lump of quartz, or planted osiers for the sake of their red and gold wands?
Essie, for her part, is the one who assures the scared sixteen-year-old Emily that love is not hateful by telling Emily her own secret – a secret that makes Emily wonder for a moment if her father and Julia are right about Essie’s “divine poetical silliness.” And before long Emily will accidentally come to know more about Essie’s secret!
The Golden Rose is a gem of a story, and I had a jolly good time reading it. I loved the story’s apt ending and Essie – I was attracted to her personality like a moth to a flame. I’ll definitely be rereading this in the future! 🙂