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rious in beauty when efflorescent. Nor is it a beauty only at a distance and in the mass. Pluck down a twig, and examine as closely as you will: it will bear the nearest looking. The simplicity and purity of the white expanded flower, the half-open buds slightly blushed, the little pink-tipped buds unopen, crowding up together like rosy children around an elder brother or sister, — can any thing surpass it? Why, here is a cluster more beautiful than any you can make up artificially, even if you select from the whole garden. Wear this family of buds for my sake. It is all the better for being common. I love a flower that all may have, – that belongs to the whole, and not to a select and exclusive few. Common, forsooth! A flower can not be worn out by much looking at as a road is by much travel.
How one exhales, and feels his childhood coming back to him, when, emerging from the hard and hateful city-streets, he sees orchards and gardens in sheeted bloom, — plum, cherry, pear, peach, and apple, waves and billows of blossoms rolling over the hillsides, and down through the levels! My heart runs riot. This is a kingdom of glory. The bees' know it. Are the blossoms singing ? or is all this humming sound the music of bees? The frivolous flies, that never seem to be thinking of any thing, are rather sober and solemn here. Such a sight is equal to a sunset, which is but a blossoming of the clouds.
We love to fancy that a flower is the point of transition at which a material thing touches the immaterial: it is the sentient, vegetable soul. We ascribe dispositions to it; we treat it as we would an innocent child. A stem or root has no suggestion of life. A leaf advances toward it; and some leaves are as fine as flowers, and have, moreover, a grace of motion seldom had by flowers. Flowers have an expression of countenance as much as men or animals. Some seem to smile; some have a sad expression; some are pensive and diffident; others again are plain, honest, and upright, like the broad-faced sunflower and the hollyhock. We find ourselves speaking of them as laughing, as gay and coquettish, as nodding and dancing. No man of sensibility ever spoke of a flower as he would of a fungus, a pebble, or a sponge. Indeed, they are more life-like than many animals. We commune with flowers; we go to them if we are sad or glad : but a toad, a worm, an insect, we repel, as if real life was not half so real as imaginary life. What a pity flowers can utter no sound! A singing rose, a whispering violet, a murmuring honeysuckle, -oh, what a rare and exquisite miracle would these be!
When we hear melodious sounds, — the wind among trees; the noise of a brook falling down into a deep, leaf-covered cavity ; birds' notes, especially at night; children's voices as you ride into a village at dusk, far from your long-absent home, and quite homesick; or a flute heard from out of a forest, — a silver sound rising up among silver-lit leaves into the moon-lighted air; or the low conversations of persons whom you love, that sit at the fire in the room where you are convalescing, — when we think of these things, we are apt to imagine that nothing is perfect that has not the gift of sound. But we change our mind when we dwell lovingly among flowers; for they are always silent. Sound is never associated with them. They speak to you; but it is as the eye speaks, — by vibrations of light, and not of air.
It is with flowers as with friends, — many may be loved, but few much loved. Wild honeysuckles in the wood, laurel-bushes in the very regality of bloom, are very beautiful to you; but they are color and form only. They seem strangers to you. You have no memories reposed in them. They bring back nothing from time. They point to nothing in the future. But a wild-brier starts a genial feeling: it is the country cousin of the rose; and that has always been your pet. You have nursed it and defended it; you have had it for companionship as you wrote; it has stood by your pillow while sick ; it has brought remembrance to you, and conveyed your kindest feelings to others. You remember it as a mother's favorite; it speaks to you of your own childhood, — that white rosebush that showed in the corner by the door; that generous bush that blushed red in the garden with a thousand flowers, whose gorgeousness was among the first things that drew your childish eye, and which always comes up before you when you speak of childhood. You remember, too, that your mother loved roses. As you walked to church, she plucked off a bud and gave you, which you carried because you were proud to do as she did. You remember how, in the listening hour of sermon, ber roses fell neglected on her lap, and how you slyly drew one and another of them; and how, when she came to, she looked for them under her handkerchief and on the floor, until, spying the ill-repressed glee of your face, she smiled such a look of love upon you as made a rose for ever after seem to you as if it smiled a mother's smile. And so a wild rose, a prairie-rose, or a sweet-brier, that at evening fills the air with odor (a floral nightingale, whose song is perfume), greets you as a dear and intimate friend. You almost wish to get out as you travel, and inquire after their health, and ask if they wish to send any messages by you to their town friends.
But no flower can be so strange or so new that a friendliness does not spring up at once between you. You gather them up along your rambles, and sit down to make their acquaintance on some shaded bank, with your feet over the brook, where your shoes feed their vanity as in a mirror. You assort them; you question their graces; you enjoy their odor; you range them on the grass in a row, and look from one to another; you gather them up, and study a fit gradation of colors, and search for new specimens to fill the degrees between too violent extremes. All the while, and it is a long while, if the day be gracious and leisure ample, various suggestions and analogies of life are darting in and out of your mind. This flower is like some friend ; another reminds you of mignonnette, and mignonnette always makes you think of such a garden and mansion where it enacted some memorable part; and that flower conveys some strange and unexpected resemblance to certain events of society; this one is a bold soldier; that one is a sweet lady dear; the white-flowering bloodroot, trooping up by the side of a decaying log, recalls to your fancy. a band of white-bannered knights: and so your pleased attention strays through a thousand vagaries of fancy or memory or vaticinating hope.
Yet these are not home-flowers. You did not plant them. You have not screened them. You have not watched their growth, plucked away voracious worms or nibbling bugs; you have not seen them in the same places year after year, — children of your care and love. Around such there is an artificial life, an associational beauty, a fragrance and grace of the affections, that no wild-flowers can have.
It is a matter of gratitude that this finest gift of Providence is the most profusely given. Flowers can not be monopolized. The poor can have them as much as the rich. It does not require such an education to love and appreciate them as it would to admire a picture of Turner's or a statue of Thorwaldsen's. And as they are messengers of affection, tokens of remembrance, and presents of beauty, of universal acceptance, it is pleasant to think that all men recognize a brief brotherhood in them. It is not impertinent to offer flowers to a stranger. The poorest child can proffer them to the richest. A hundred persons turned together into a meadow full of flowers would be drawn together in a transient brotherhood.
It is affecting to see how serviceable flowers often are to the necessities of the poor. If they bring their little floral gift to you, it can not but touch your heart to think that their grateful affection longed to express itself as much as yours. You have books or gems or services that you can render as you will. The poor can give but little and do but little. Were it not for flowers, they would be shut out from those exquisite pleasures which spring from such gifts. I never take one from a child or from the poor that I do not thank God in their behalf for flowers.
And then, when Death enters a poor man's house! It may be, the child was the only creature that loved the unbefriended father, — really loved him, loved him utterly. Or it may be it is an only son, and his mother a widow, who, in all his sickness, felt the limitation of her poverty for her darling's sake as she never had for her own; and did what she could, but not what she would had there been wealth. The coffin is pine. The undertaker sold it with a jerk of indifference and haste, lest he should lose the selling of a rosewood coffin trimmed with splendid silver screws. The room is small. The attendant neighbors are few. The shroud is coarse. Oh! the darling child was fit for whatever was most excellent; and the heart aches to do for him whatever could be done that should speak love. It takes money for fine linen, money for costly sepulture ; but flowers, thank God, the poorest may have: so put white buds in the hair, and honeydew and mignonnette and half-blown roses on the breast. If it be spring, a few white violets will do (and there is not a month till November that will not give you something): but if it is winter, and you have no single pot of roses, then I fear your darling must be buried without a flower; for flowers cost money in the winter.
And then, if you can not give a stone to mark his burial-place, a rose may stand there; and from it you may every spring pluck a bud for your bosom, as the child was broken off from you. And, if it brings tears for the past, you will not see the flowers fade and come again, and fade and come again, year by year, and not learn a lesson of the resurrection, when that which perished here shall revive again, never more to droop or to die.
STORIES FOR CHILDREN. If a day in a country farmhouse is joyous to town people, not less exhilarating to country friends is a day in a town mansion. Alice, in her silent and gentle way, seemed to absorb happiness from the very air. That sensitive timidity which was like an outer garment to her really courageous and resolute nature suffered no embarrassment in Dr. Wentworth's family. Agate Bissell's plain speech and direct manner never left an unfavorable impression. There was a flow of honesty and undisguised kindness which children instinctively recognized. Her whole conduct was indulgent, though her language seemed monitorial and even magisterial.
Mrs. Wentworth was one whose soul shone through her face, and gave it an almost transparent look. She lived under the influence of her best faculties: therefore her manner and influence
seemed to excite the best faculties of those who met her. Very clear-headed was she, very cheerful, and very kind. Your first glance upon her face would lead you to say, “ Penetration is her ruling trait.” Your second glance would convince you that sympathy was more strongly indicated. If she spoke, you would conclude that no one feeling ruled, but many, and all of them good. At first, you would think, “This woman sees through all films, and can not be deceived;” next you would feel, “There is no need of hiding any thing from her: she is to be trusted.”
As for Dr. Wentworth, nobody saw through him, and everybody trusted him. There was no dormant faculty in him: he was alive all around his soul. There were no arctic and antarctic zones. The whole globe of his nature was tropical, and yet temperate.
His moods ran through the whole scale of faculties. He was various as the separate days. He carried the germs of every thing which bore fruit in other men's characters, and so could put himself into sympathy with every kind of man. A great talker at times; yet, even when most frank, he was more silent than talkative, and left the impression of one who had only blown the foam off from unfathomable thoughts.
What a place was his house for children ! — an old mansion, quaint and voluminous, stored full of curious knick-knacks, more curious books, and most curious engravings. Yet the interior of the house was even less attractive to children than the grounds about it. Such dainty nooks there were, such pet mazes among the evergreens, such sweeps of flowers and tangles of blossoming vines, such rows of fruit-laden trees, such discoveries to be made here and there of new garden-plats of before-unseen beds of flowers, such wildernesses of morning-glories, and tangles of honeysuckles running over rocks, or matted in the grass, that, once out, the children never wanted to go in; and, once in, they could hardly persuade theinselves to go out.
When the afternoon was turning in the west, and the sunlight began to shoot golden beams under the branches of the trees, and the shadows stretched themselves every moment larger and larger along the ground, as if the time were near for them to fall asleep, Dr. Wentworth came in from his patients, and joined the children. Then there was racing and frolicking! Then you might have seen three children indeed!
But, after a time, Rose began to persuade her father to tell some stories. Story-hunger in children is even more urgent than bread-hunger. And so, at length, he suffered himself to be led captive to his favorite tree, where scores of times he had been wont to weave fables and parables for Rose, — fictions that under every form whatsoever still tended in his child's imagination to