A Will of her Own

by Unknown

Rosa was a Swedish girl. She had so often heard people say, 'Rosa has a will of her own,' that she began to think it rather a fine thing, and when people think it is rather a fine thing to be naughty, trouble is sure to follow.

One beautiful summer day Rosa's mother said to her: 'Put on your Sunday frock, Rosa, and take these eggs to your grandmother. You may stay to tea, and play a little; but you must be back by seven o'clock.'

This pleased Rosa, for she was not often sent alone to her grandmother's, although she lived quite near. Soon she was ready. She looked very smart in her scarlet petticoat, bright apron, and white blouse, and started off proudly with her little basket of eggs.

Her grandmother was a beautiful old lady with gold spectacles and enormous white cap. She thanked Rosa for the eggs, gave her delicious tea with strawberries, cream, and cakes, and then said, 'You can play in the garden until the bell rings. Only do not go near the river.'

'Thank you,' said Rosa, meekly, and walked away.

When she had shut, the door, she gave her head a little toss and her shoulders a little shake, and said: 'I only said "Thank you," not "Yes, thank you," for I mean to go near the river. There is nowhere else to play. Mother always lets me go by the river, so why should Grandmother forbid it?'

Now, the stream where Rosa generally played was only a tributary, and was not nearly so deep and wide as the main river where she now was. Rosa stood on the bank watching the great pine-trunks, which, in Sweden, are always floating down by the rivers to the sea. The woodmen cut the trees down, mark them, and let them float where they will, and the owners claim the logs when they reach the Baltic. Rosa and her brother Rolf used to jump on these trees sometimes when they struck near the shore, float down the stream a little way, and then jump off again. It was always a dangerous game for children to play, but much more dangerous on the large river than on the little tributary.

After a few minutes Rosa saw three large trunks, firmly bound together, coming close up to her.

'What a lovely boat!' she cried. 'Oh, but I have on my best clothes!'

Rosa loved her clothes—but she loved floating on the river more; with a skip and a little jump, there she was, perched like a bird on the tree-trunks, floating away in the middle of the stream, with her scarlet petticoat held out for a sail.

'Oh! how lovely,' she said to herself. 'I am going ever so much faster than in our stream, and how far away the banks seem. I am like a big steamer in the middle of the sea itself.'

For some time Rosa thoroughly enjoyed it. Then she became a little bit afraid, though she was too proud to admit it, even to herself. There was nothing on either side of the river, but deep pine forests that she did not know. There was no sound but the rush of the river; and she wished her little boat would go near the bank. Perhaps it would catch on that bit of rock sticking out. No, the river gave it a wicked tug and swept it round the point with a triumphant gurgle. Could Rosa catch an overhanging tree? She tried to, but the effort nearly jerked her into the water, and left nothing but a few crumpled leaves in her hand.

The thought of falling into that dark, cold water thoroughly frightened her, and she now quite forgot even to pretend to enjoy herself. She firmly stood on the logs, shutting her eyes tight, so as to try to forget her fears.

Then a distant roar suddenly made Rosa scream with terror. 'The waterfall! oh, the waterfall!'

Her father had told her of the great waterfall somewhere on the river. She must be getting nearer and nearer to it every second. She looked desperately to the banks; they seemed ever so far away, and the current was swifter than ever, and looked dreadfully hungry and cruel.

'It will go quicker and quicker,' she thought, 'and the noise will be louder and louder and louder, and there will be the edge, and then—— '

But Rosa never got any further; there was a jerk and a jar; the logs ran into something with a bump and Rosa felt herself thrown off them on to some hard, firm surface. She lay quite still for some time, for the noise of the waterfall thundered in her ears, and she felt she must hold on for dear life.

When at last she looked up, to her surprise she found herself on a tiny beach, lying half in the water. She jumped to her feet, meaning to run home as fast as she could; but she found that was impossible, for she was on a little island just a few yards from the edge of the waterfall.

At first she could not think of anything but how glad she was to be on dry land; but that feeling did not last long. She was soaking wet, and very hungry; the weather had changed too—it was raining a little, and the wind sighed through the great forest trees, making them creak and groan.

All that Rosa could do was to make a poor little supper of a few wild strawberries and beech-nuts, which grew on her island, rest against a tree, and try to sleep. She woke early the next morning (for Swedish summer nights are very short), and after eating some more strawberries and beech-nuts, ran about in the sunshine to try to get warm.

Suddenly she spied a pair of little black eyes looking at her through the leaves. It was a squirrel, very surprised to see a little girl in a scarlet frock running about his island. He began to chatter to her, and Rosa felt happier now she had a companion. She was so taken up with watching him running up and down the trees, hunting for breakfast, that she jumped when she suddenly heard a cry of 'Rosa, Rosa!' being shouted behind her. It was her father on the mainland. She was so pleased to see him that she nearly cried for joy. She could not get to him, however, and it was some time before a boat could breast the current and rescue her from her island.

Rosa was so pleased to be at home that she almost forgot how naughty she had been, until her mother told her what a terribly anxious night she and her father had had, and that they had not been to bed at all. That made Rosa more sorry than her own unpleasant experiences had done; and one result of her adventure was that she gave up thinking what a fine thing it was to have a 'will of her own.'