Nightingale and the Rose

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A student wishes to ask his beloved to dance, but she refuses, saying she would only accept if he brought her a red rose. It so happened that in the place where the student lived, all the roses were yellow or white.
The nightingale heard the conversation. Seeing his sorrow, she decided to help the poor boy. First, she thought of singing something beautiful, but soon concluded that it would be much worse-in addition to being alone, he would be melancholy.
A passing butterfly asked what was going on.
“He is suffering for love. He needs to find a red rose.”
   “How ridiculous to suffer for love,” said the butterfly.
But the nightingale was determined to help him. In the middle of a huge garden there was a rosebush full of roses.
“Give me a red rose, please.” But the rosebush said it was impossible, and for him to find another-its roses were once red, but now they had become white. The nightingale did as she was told. She flew far away and found the old rosebush.
“I need a red flower,” she asked.
“I’m too old for that” was the answer.
The winter has chilled my veins, the sun faded my petals.”
“Just one,”
begged the nightingale.
 “There must be a way!” Yes, there was a way. But it was so terrible that she did not want to tell.
“I’m not afraid. Tell me what I can do to get a red rose. A single red rose.”
“Come back at night and sing the most beautiful melody that nightingales know while pressing your breast against one of my thorns. The blood will rise through my sap and color the rose.”

And the nightingale did that that night, convinced it was worth sacrificing her life in the name of Love. As soon as the moon appeared she pressed her breast against the thorn and began to sing. Firs she sang of man and a woman who fall in love. Then how love justifies any sacrifice. And so, as the moon crossed the sky, the nightingale sang and the most beautiful rose of the rosebush was being crimsoned by her blood.
“Faster,” said the rosebush at one point.
 “The sun will rise soon.”

The nightingale pressed her breast closer still and at that moment the thorn reached her heart. Still, she continued to sing until the word was complete. Exhausted, and knowing she was about to die, she took the most beautiful of all the red roses and went to give it to the student. She arrived at his window, stet down the flower, and died.
The student heard the noise, opened the window, and there was the thing he had dreamed of most in the world. The sun was rising; he took the rose and raced off to the house of his beloved.
“Here’s what you asked of me,” he said, sweating and happy at the same time.
“It is not exactly what I wanted,” answered the girl. “It is too big and will overshadow my dress. Besides, I have received another proposal for the ball tonight.”
Distraught, the boy left and threw the rose into the gutter, where it was immediately crushed by a passing carriage, and he returned to his books, which had never asked him for anything he could not provide.

That was my life; I am the nightingale who gave everything and died while doing so.

Sincerely,
Mata Hari

—Manuscript from The Spy by Paulo Coelho

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