Thus the Ranunculus leads me back to a period now distant, and shewing me the long, the guilty waste of precious days and years, waves not its beautiful head in vain. From a fascinating toy, it has become a serious monitor; but even now I cannot look upon a cluster of those flowers without experiencing somewhat of the buoyancy of spirit that seems to dance within their varigated little world. It is my deliberate opinion that, whether in form or in colour, the full double Ranunculus may challenge any flower that blows ; while the remarkably delicate fragrance, that scarcely breathes, unless invited, from its rose-fashioned petals, is in beautiful keeping with the whole character of the elegant plant.
It may readily be supposed that no person of . ordinary appearance, or of common mind, would bear a comparison with this favourite flower. I believe it was one of the very first that I linked to a living antitype—always excepting my own sweet May-blossom, the fondly-cherished emblem of what, among earthly things, is the most sacredly dear to my heart—but in childhood I have delighted to lead, with careful hand, among my flower-beds, one whose fair head hung languidly down, and whose attenuated form appeared to tremble, if touched by a breeze that would wave the Ranunculus. I remember her well—she was most lovely ; and to gratify her little companion, she would be as playful as she was sweet. The child of a fond father, the image of one in whom all his affection had centered : whom he had watched over, while she slowly pined and withered under the blightening hand of consumption, and in whose grave was buried all that had sweetened his life, save only this fair girl, in whose transparent complexion, and in the glitter of her full blue eye, he read thé pressage of hovering decay. The blight that struck her mother down, had indeed passed upon her ; and my first recollection of her is what I have alluded to—my conducting her, in the cool of a soft summer evening, through the little mazy walks of my especial garden, pointing out to her notice, now the tint of a flower, now the corresponding hues of a glorious western sky ; and anon that exquisite object, Hesperus, sparkling in a flood of liquified gold. I looked up in her sweet face, and the smile that beamed there spoke cheer to me; yet I felt that she was like one of the withering Ranunculus', ready to sink before the next rude breath of air.
At the window of our rural parlour, sat the fond parent of this fading blossom; and as I marked the watchful gaze of an eye suffused in tears, following every step of his child, I felt more than ever that something must be wrong ; and my heart grew sad, to think that a creature, as lovely as my flowers, should be equally transient in her bloom. Our abode was in a very open, yet retired spot; and its air was considered very salubrious for the sinking Lauretta. Frequently did her father drive up to our gate in his pony-chaise ; and being himself too much afflicted, by some rheumatic complaint, to walk, he took his post at that pleasant window, fronting the western sky ; while I led his feeble charge to inhale the breath of flowers, and to bask in the slanting rays of an orb that was soon to set for ever, to her. She went to the tomb before that summer had shed its latest glow; and her father survived her but a short time. Their forms soon melted away in the undefined vagueness of days long since past; but on a sweet evening, when the retiring sun-beams glance on a bed of Ranunculus', I often behold the vision of Lauretta and her father, surrounded by the scenes that memory will then call up, in all the vivid reality that makes the present appear as a dream.
I know not—I have no means of knowing— whether the path of that dying girl was lightened by the beams of a far brighter Sun than I could point out to her; whether the bereavements of her widowed father, even then, in anticipation, childless too, were blessed to his soul's peace, by leading him to seek the Lord, who had both given and taken away. That cloud of doubt hangs over the greater number of those whose images people the haunts of my infancy : the Baal of worldliness appeared to reign supreme; yet surely among them the Lord had reserved to himself a remnant, whose knee had not bowed to the idol, nor their mouth kissed him. In many respects, there are shadows resting on the past, impervious to the anxious eye as those that veil the future; but the present is our own; and as we use it, so we are— flowers to grace the garden of our Lord, imparting to others of the fragrance of his gifts, and adorning the spot wherein he delights to dwell—or weeds, to offend the little ones of his flock; intruders, whose desert is to be rooted out, and whose end is to be burned.