After a long struggle against the prevailing inclination, I have resolved to gratify it, even at the hazard of being brought in guilty of a flagrant departure from the verity of my title. Fruit does not legitimately come under the head of flowers ;— true, but flowers that herald not some species of fruit are comparatively of little worth. In short, I would rather, for once, plead guilty to the charge of inconsistency, than deprive myself of the delight with which I constantly dwell on an image so nationally precious, that the reader who falls out with me for bringing it before her, must seek her place beyond the circle of, at least, English Christian ladies.
The Vine, the fruitful vine, that spreads its luxuriant foliage, and throws out its wiry tendrils, and hangs forth its clusters to the mellowing sunbeams, will not be passed by, at this season of sweet recollections. It brings before me in the most vivid portraiture, a scene never to be forgotten; nor ever to be recalled without a glow of heart, which, to be sure, I cannot hope to communicate to my readers ; though most of them will be able to conceive how little peril I am in of overstating the matter, when they have the particulars, which I will faithfully relate.
It was on a very bright and gladsome morning that I set out, accompanied by my own, my precious brother, and his little girl, and my dumb boy, on an excursion fraught with very delightful anticipations. We reached thei end of our journey, and were ushered into a room well furnished with books, adorned with tasteful prints, and wearing the aspect, yea, breathing the very soul of elegant retirement, hallowed into something far beyond the reach of this world's elegancies. At the further end of the apartment wras a recess, almost of sufficient size to be called an additional room, thrown boldly forward beyond the line of the building, and forming in four compartments, one large semicircular window, scarcely a pane of which was unadorned by some stray leaf or tendril of the vine that rested its swelling bunches in profusion against the glass. Beyond, the eye might find much of sylvan beauty whereon to rest: but to me, no attraction lay beyond it; for, in the light and cheerful little sanctuary, there sat a lady, whose snow-white locks—" a crown of glory"—shaded, or rather brightened, a countenance so beaming with love, that the sentiment of reverential humility was at once absorbed in that of endeared fellowship with one who evidently sought no homage, nor claimed superiority over the lowliest of her Saviour's followers That lady was Hannah More.
My heart often melts within me, at the recollection of the tenderness that marked her first greeting. There was that in my own circumstances, which could not fail to engage her sympathizing compassion ; there was that, in the case of my companions, which powerfully awakened her most serious interests. I had long shared the benevolence of her love, long reaped the benefit of her devout prayers, and received many a message of affectionate solicitude, during a preceding period of no common tribulation. She saw me then, rejoicing in the presence of a long-lost friend, yet filled with keenest anxiety for his spiritual welfare. I can readily believe that the occasion called forth into conspicuous display the loveliest features of her beautiful character; and, assuredly, I never have beheld a countenance so expressive of all that can sweeten mortality.
How quick, how perfect is the communion of spirit between those who, having often met at the throne of grace, while yet far absent in body, are at length brought eye to eye, beholding one another's face in the flesh, which heretofore had been but dimly pourtrayed by uncertain imaginations! Our converse was unavoidably restrained, by the presence of those whose absence neither of us could have desired : but every time that her sweet, quiet, yet animated eye met mine, it told me that she read my thoughts, that her soul ascended in prayer for the attainment of* that which mine so fervently longed after : and it spoke, in the smiling encouragement of her cheerful aspect, "fear not: only believe, and thou shalt see the glory of God".
It was, to me, a clear token for good, that her very heart seemed drawn out towards my brother, who having long sojourned in a land of gross darkness—such as might be felt—had recently returned, not only ignorant of the truth as it is in Jesus, but impressed with the most absurd prejudices against those whose spiritual earnestness he had been taught to consider as paroxysms of fanatical derangement. He had never been brought into contact with an open professor of serious religion, and very terrible to his joyous spirit was the phantom of melancholy moroseness conjured up by the enemy of his soul, to deter him from entering into such society. His love for me, the delight that he had .ever found in promoting my gratification, impelled him to venture into what he expected to find the counterpart of La Trappe. This he had expressed to me on the road, remarking that he had no great fancy for visiting " the queen of the Methodists ;" and a lurking expression of suspicious dislike clouded his bright countenance, until he had taken a deliberate view of his new acquaintance; who, being on her part fully aware of his prejudices, was peculiarly solicitous to remove them.
It was no difficult task ; for the Lord had willed it; and oh how sweet it was to me, who could read every turn of those expressive features, to see the mist rolling away, and the brightest sunshine of delight overspreading them, as he listened to her interesting converse, and repaid her judicious inquiries with a mass of valuable information, on the topics most engaging to a soldier just returned from the scene of his victories. The usual period allowed to visitors passed too fleetly, and he appeared no less gratified than I was, when she told us that after taking s"ome refreshment, and strolling through the grounds, we must again return to her alcove, and renew our conversation.