Just one moment longer, cousin Mary, I want to put this flower in your hair. Now doesn’t it look sweet, sister Aggy?”
“Oh, yes! very sweet. And here is the dearest little bud I ever saw. I took it from the sweet-briar bush in the lane. Put that, too, in cousin Mary’s hair.”
Little Florence, seeing what was going on, was soon, also, at work upon Mary’s hair, that, in a little while, was covered with buds and blossoms.
“Now she is our May Queen,” said the children, as they hung fondly around their cousin, who had come out into the country to enjoy a few weeks of rural quiet, in the season of fruits and flowers. “And our May Queen must sing us a song,” said Agnes, who was sitting at the feet of her cousin. “Sing us something about flowers.”
“Oh, yes!” spoke up Grace, “sing us that beautiful piece by Mrs Howitt, about the use of flowers. You sang it for us, you remember, the last time you were here.”
Cousin Mary sang as desired. After she had concluded, she said–
“Flowers, according to these beautiful verses, are only useful as objects to delight our senses. They are only beautiful forms in nature–their highest use, their beauty and fragrance.”
“I think that is what Mrs Howitt means,” replied Grace. “So I have always understood her. And I cannot see any other use that flowers have. Do you know of any other use, cousin?”
“Oh, yes. Flowers have a more important use than merely giving delight to the senses. Without them, plants could not produce fruit and seed. You notice that the flower always comes before the fruit?”
“Oh, yes. But why is a flower needed? Why does not the fruit push itself directly out from the stem of a plant?” asked Agnes.
“Flowers are the most exquisitely delicate in their texture of all forms in the vegetable kingdom. Look at the petals of this one. Could any thing be softer or finer? The leaf, the bark, and the wood of the plant are all coarse, in comparison to the flower. Now, as nothing is made in vain, there must be some reason for this. The leaves and bark, as well as wood, of plants, all have vessels through which sap flows, and this sap nourishes, sustains, and builds up the plant, as our blood does our bodies. But the whole effort of the plant is to reproduce itself; and to this end it forms seed, which, when cast into the ground, takes root, springs up, and makes a new plant. To form this seed, requires the purest juices of the plant, and these are obtained by means of the flowers, through the exquisitely fine vessels of which these juices are filtered, or strained, and thus separated from all that is gross and impure.”
“I never thought of that before,” said Agnes. “Flowers, then, are useful, as well as beautiful.”
“Nothing is made for mere beauty. All things in nature regard use as an end. To flowers are assigned a high and important use, and exquisite beauty of form and color is at the same time given to them; and with these our senses are delighted. They are, in more respects than one, good gifts from our heavenly Father.”
“Oh! how I do love the flowers,” said Agnes; “and now, when I look upon them, and think of their use as well as their beauty, I will love them still more. Are they so very beautiful because their use is such an important one, cousin Mary?”
“Yes, dear; I believe this is so. In the seeds of plants there is an image of the infinity of our great Creator; for in seeds resides a power, or an effort, to reproduce the plants, that lie concealed as gems within them, to infinity. We might naturally enough suppose that flowers, whose use it is to refine and prepare the juices of plants, so as to free them from all grosser matters, and make them fit for the important office of developing and maturing seeds, would be exceedingly delicate in their structure, and, as a natural consequence, beautiful to look upon. And we will believe, therefore, that their peculiar beauty depends upon their peculiar use.”