You love the roses - so do I. I wish
The sky would rain down roses, as they rain
From off the shaken bush. Why will it not?
Then all the valley would be pink and white
And soft to tread on. They would fall as light
As feathers, smelling sweet; and it would be
Like sleeping and like waking, all at once!

By the month of Accrion, the roses were in full bloom in the garden Marion had largely planted out herself with rose plants that came from Earth as well as native Gallifreyan species. Only an expert by now could tell which were the imported species and which the Gallifreyan ones. They grew well in the nourished soil and from early spring to the end of summer there were flowers opening and spreading their pleasant scent around the walled garden.

Marion often had luncheons and tea parties in the rose garden. A lawn was cut and trimmed between the beds and a wide table with a canopy over it was set in place. The servants brought out tea, both English and Gallifreyan herbal infusions, and delicately cut sandwiches and cakes on silver trays and the mistress of the house entertained her friends here.

Today’s tea party was not for the Ladies of Gallifreyan society, although Lady Thedera de Máscantaen, Kristoph’s aunt, was present. Her other adult guest was Madam Malcuss, the headmistress of the estate school where she taught. But mostly this tea party was for the children – the youngsters that Marion taught twice a week. They had tables of their own where they enjoyed cakes and sandwiches and strawberry jelly bought in Liverpool and made in the kitchen of Mount Lœng House by bemused kitchen maids.

Rodan was there, too, the youngest of the group, at not quite three years old, but able to hold her own against the seven and eight year olds. Her grandfather was walking in the formal garden with Kristoph. The retired deep space merchant trader had managed to get over the idea that the Lord High President of Gallifrey treated him as a guest in his home, and they seemed to find plenty to talk about while the women sat in the rose garden and the children played on the lawn.

“That’s a very pretty poem,” Madam Malcuss commented about the verse Marion had recited. “It is from Earth, is it?”

“Yes,” she replied. “By George Eliot.”

“A man who takes an interest in garden blooms?” Lady Máscantaen said with a soft laugh. “How unusual. Here the men really don’t take any notice at all. At least not the ones who own them. The gardeners, of course, know about planting and caring for them. But they wouldn’t take any pleasure in them other than a job well done.”

“Well, actually, George Eliot was a woman,” Marion pointed out and then explained how in past centuries it had been unthinkable for women to be writers and many of them had taken male nom-de-plumes in order to be published.

“In some ways, Gallifrey and Earth have much in common,” Lady Máscantaen commented. “It isn’t so very long ago that women were restricted in such ways. Only in the last two or three millennia have we really been able to hold down positions in the High Council or teach in the great Academies.”

“It is true of the Caretaker classes, too,” Madam Malcuss added. “I am the first headmistress of a school on the southern continent. As for authors... all of our great Gallifreyan literature was written by men.”

“Perhaps it wasn’t,” Lady Máscantaen commented. “They might have been women like George Eliot.”

Everyone smiled. Then Marion called to one of her students, young Genessa, who was a poet in her own right.

“Here is a child who will break the mould,” she said. “A girl who will write the next generation of Gallifreyan poetry.”

The little girl smiled shyly in front of her teacher, headmistress and the chief patron of the school she attended.

“Do you have a poem about the roses?” Madam Malcuss asked her kindly. Genessa nodded. She was on familiar ground with poetry.

“In Accrion roses colour the air
With scents of deepest hue
The smell of crimson everywhere
The orange-yellow smells as true.”

“Utterly charming,” Lady Máscantaen said. “How interesting to speak of the scents as colours, as if they can be seen by the naked eye.” They all looked around the garden where crimson and orange-yellow were common colours, and it wasn’t much of a stretch of the imagination to think that the heady rose smell had those colours. Genessa’s poem was easy to understand in these surroundings. The little girl smiled back at her patrons and then skipped away to play with her friends. Marion sighed and sat back in her chair, and thought of poetry about roses. They did seem to occupy the thoughts of Earth poets a lot.

The rose is a rose,
And was always a rose.
But the theory now goes
That the apple's a rose,
And the pear is, and so's
The plum, I suppose.
The dear only know
What will next prove a rose.
You, of course, are a rose--
But were always a rose.

“That one is by an American called Robert Frost,” Marion said. “Definitely a man this time.”

“He seems quite insistent that things should be what they are,” Madam Malcuss commented.

“Yes,” Marion agreed. “It always makes me smile, that one. Especially when I think of the rose gardens of Ilaceo IX. They have a variety there with blooms of a pale green colour that actually does smell like an apple and produces a little fruit a lot like a crab apple after the flowers die away. They produce a very lovely syrup that tastes something between rose hip and apple sauce. I brought some back and it goes very nicely with Gallifreyan cúl nut pastries. Unfortunately they have very strict rules about their indigenous plants remaining on the planet or I would have bought some to plant here.” She laughed softly. “I could probably have taken some to Earth and given them to Mr Robert Frost. I think he would have enjoyed the irony.”

“I never knew that roses grew anywhere other than Gallifrey,” Lady Máscantaen remarked. “Until Marion told me of Earth roses. Of course, I have seen the gardens of the Gallifreyan Ambassador’s residence on Ventura. But all those plants were imported from here.”

“Kristoph told me once that Time Lords had brought roses to Earth many thousands of years ago and that they were not native to the planet at all,” Marion said. “But he was teasing me. I told him that a Time Lord might have come to Earth and brought back roses to here, but he didn’t think any Time Lord who travelled as far as Earth would be interested in gardening.”

“Even if that were true, it doesn’t explain the apple-roses of Ilaceo IX,” Lady Máscantaen pointed out. “The truth is that the universe is a vast and diverse place, but even so, some patterns are found everywhere. Roses and apple trees, and even people. Humans and Gallifreyans, Venturans, Haollstromnians – some of the variations of a pattern to be found throughout the galaxies. Just like roses.”

“I never quite thought of it like that before,” Marion admitted. “But it does seem to be right. Diamonds, too.” She looked at her hands where she had several diamonds, including her engagement ring. “These would be worth a fortune on Earth just as they are here.”

“We’re not so very different after all,” Madam Malcuss suggested. “Though we come from different worlds, we have so much in common.”

Madam Malcuss said that quite boldly, but almost immediately took on a horrified expression as if she had said something quite profane. Marion knew what the problem was. She had forgotten for a very little while that she WAS a Caretaker and not equal to the other two women at the table and her comments might be taken as suggesting equality. Marion sought for a way to reassure her when both Madam Malcuss and Lady Máscantaen rose from their seats. The children stopped their play and stood politely. Marion knew what it meant. Kristoph had stepped into the rose garden, preceded by two or more of the Presidential Guards.

“Oh, no, please,” Kristoph protested as he and Argis Mielles, looking very embarrassed about all of that, stepped towards the tea table. “Children, carry on with your play. Don’t worry. Rodan, dear, don’t you have a hug for your uncle Kristoph?” Rodan broke the formality and ran to him. The Lord High President lifted the Caretaker child in his arms. He looked at Lady Máscantaen and shook his head.

“Thedera, there is absolutely no need for you, of all people, to stand on ceremony. You have known me since I was a newborn. You have pictures of me as a child that would destroy my political reputation in an instant. Everyone, sit down and let us have a cup of tea in my own garden without any pomp and circumstance.”

He sent the guards out of the garden and everyone managed to act normally again. Rodan swapped from the President’s knee to that of her own grandfather and drank cúl nut milk in a ladylike way while the adults had tea. Kristoph commented on the roses and then agreed with Madam Malcuss’s theory about roses and people, much to her surprise.

“Lord Ravenswode and Lord Arpexia, and some other stick in the mud types would have an apoplexy,” he added. “Neither of them have rose gardens in their demesnes, of course. Perhaps that’s why they’ve never realised that universal truth. But I believe we have been having poetry recitals this afternoon. Since I did spend many happy years as a literature professor on planet Earth, might I add a rhyme or two?”

Nobody dared say no. Kristoph cleared his throat theatrically and began to recite a poem by Robert Burns in a near perfect Scottish accent.

A rose-bud by my early walk,
Adown a corn-enclosed bawk,
Sae gently bent its thorny stalk,
All on a dewy morning.

Ere twice the shades o’ dawn are fled,
In a’ its crimson glory spread,
And drooping rich the dewy head,
It scents the early morning.

Within the bush her covert nest
A little linnet fondly prest;
The dew sat chilly on her breast,
Sae early in the morning.

She soon shall see her tender brood,
The pride, the pleasure o’ the wood,
Amang the fresh green leaves bedew’d,
Awake the early morning.

So thou, dear bird, young Jeany fair,
On trembling string or vocal air,
Shall sweetly pay the tender care
That tents thy early morning.

So thou, sweet Rose-bud, young and gay,
Shalt beauteous blaze upon the day,
And bless the parent’s evening ray
That watch’d thy early morning.

“Why do I think that man wasn’t talking about flowers?” Lady Máscantaen said with a wry smile.

“I doubt he was, indeed,” Kristoph answered. “Marion and I saw a musical play about the life of Burns in New York some time ago, and the central character was far more interested in young ladies than horticulture. But comparing women to flowers is something of a tradition among Human poets. Of course, I met my sweetest bloom late at night, not in the early morning. Otherwise I would agree wholeheartedly with the sentiment.”

Marion blushed a little. Even after being married to him for so many years now Kristoph could still manage to do that to her. He smiled and kissed her on the cheek, to the delight of his aunt and the bemusement of Madam Malcuss who wasn’t used to Lord High Presidents who were so demonstrative of their emotions and then sat back as the maid brought a fresh pot of tea that prolonged the pleasure of their leisurely afternoon in the rose garden a little longer.