The story “The Shadow in the Rose Garden” throws light on the emotional tension of a woman. She loves one man but marries another one out of necessity. In the end, both the husband and the wife are disillusioned but continue living together with a sense of actuality. They accept their new situation in the light of reality associated with their past, for unnecessary suspicions are removed from their minds. It is a story of husband and wife who have feelings of estrangement from each other due to psychological reasons. Both have reservations in their minds which develop distrust It is with such background that the couple comes to a seasside resort to enjoy a pleasure trip for a few days.
The young married couple is putting up in a cottage at the seaside. The choice of this place is made by the woman for she lived there for two years before marriage. She feels more at home at this place, though her husband desired to have gone to new place.
Mr. Frank, the hero of the story, is a young mine engineer who is seen sitting near the window reading newspaper inattentively. He looks about in the room that appears dull and uninteresting to him. So, he feels the lack of company from his wife. He looks at his reflection in the mirror and feels satisfied because his figure appears quite healthy and vigorous. Except for being short of height, there is not any other glaring defect in his personality. He has mixed feelings of appreciation and self-pity.
At breakfast, the woman tells her husband to go out by himself as she has to write letters, wash her clothes, and plenty of little works to do. The husband realizes that she is trying to get rid of him hence it is no use to insist on her company. He goes out alone to the cliffs.
Soon after the departure of her husband, the woman also sets out for her own destination. She stops near a house for a while and then enters the rose garden nearby the house that used to be inhabited by her lover now looks quite deserted. She looks at the house and a shadow seemed to go over her Her face begins to shine with pain and pleasure. At last, she sits down on a little seat among the white roses. Soon she is lost in the sweet memories of her lover. She feels herself a flower that could not bloom and remains blossomed. In her thoughts, she remembers several meetings with her lover at this place. She remembers how before maturing their marriage her lover was suddenly recalled in the army and sent on the war front in Africa. Soon she got the news of his sunstroke and consequent death.
When she awakes from her love dreams, as a result of a butterfly falling on her dress, she sees that a man bearing a military outlook is standing close to her. He is wearing slippers and has come with unheard steps. He salutes and sits beside her. She observes the ring on his finger that was given by her as a love token. He is Archie, the rector’s son-the man of her dreams. As a result of sunstroke, he did not die but went mad. He is stout and sturdy but there is something rambling in his gait that marks him as a lost man. She is awfully shocked to see her lover in this condition. She looks upon the hands she had kissed so many times and then towards the deep and black eyes that remained ecstatic in her love. But gone were those days.
It is not the same man but a different man altogether He asks her permission to smoke and then begins talking inharmoniously. Meanwhile, his keeper comes. The young man tells him that the lady is his friend and he has invited her to stay for lunch.
Listening to this, the lady smells the danger of the revival of her past. She hurries back to her cottage where she has been awfully disturbed and agitated. Her past and present are at crossroads and the conflict in her love and reality has mentally unsettled her. Soon her husband also returns. He is now in a pleasant mood but is awfully puzzled to see his wife, sad, silent, and impassive. He enquired the reason but his wife remains unaffected. After taking the lunch, the woman locks herself in the bedroom. Her husband follows her there and insists to know the cause of her depression, but the woman does not reveal the reason. Instead, she objects and says he has no right to dig out her private matters. The man is infuriated but suppresses his anger.
Frank’s anger mounts and he seems determined to face his wife like a man today. The woman also realizes it and yields at last to his constant insistence on knowing the reality. She tells him that during her two years stay at that place she had fallen in love with the rector’s son, Archie. They love each other and promised to marry. After one year, he was suddenly recalled to the army and sent to fight in Africa. She was told by Miss Birch that he had sunstroke and consequently died. Meanwhile, she met and married her present husband. (The Shadow in the Rose Garden)
The man once again gets infuriated and taunts her. He remarks brutally to hurt her, “So he chuckled you”. After your shameless romances, you came to me for marriage. However, the woman tells everything in a straightforward manner. She also wants to get rid of the tension and mental burden that she has been experiencing as a result of hiding her love secret from her husband. The man seems to have gone small. Swallowing unbearable bitterness he says, you never thought to tell me all that before the marriage. Many thoughts revolve in his mind and his heart is mad with anger and anguish. At last, she suddenly completes her story and tells that she has seen her lover in the garden. He is not dead. He has only turned lunatic as a result of sunstroke.
Thus the husband learns the cause of real estrangement between them. The woman also feels relieved from the pinching tension and sense of guilt that keeps her away from her husband. Their pent-up emotions are released by talking freely. Thus husband and wife reconcile themselves to the actual situation of life after the revelation of truth. (The Shadow in the Rose Garden)