That dear little modest flower, the Jessamine, with its milk-white blossoms half hid in the masses of cool refreshing green, used to adorn the most limited spot, in the shape of a garden, that ever I was confined to, as a promenade. It was, in fact, merely a gravelled walk, raised to the height of a couple of steps above the level of the paved court, which formed the rear of some premises where I was an inmate. The further side, and the extremities of this walk, were bounded by an exceedingly high wall ; and nothing could have been more ruefully sombre, or more widely removed from any approach to the picturesque, had not the old wall possessed a mantle of Jessamine, the most luxuriant that I remember ever to have seen. The slender branches had mounted nearly to its summit; then, finding no farther artificial support, through neglect, which shall presently be accounted for, they bent downward, shooting out in unchecked profusion, until the whole space might with strict propriety be called a bower. The upper part of the wall was more gaudily attired, in all the variations of green moss, yellow and blue creepers, and the dark red of the wall-flower. Beyond these, nothing appeared but a strip of sky. At the foot of the rampart some thrifty hand had arranged a narrow plantation of balm, sage, parsley, and thyme, so close that the introduction of any other shrub was impossible : of course, the old wall possessed the sole claim to the designation of a flower-garden; and, circumstanced as I then was, T learnt to be thankful for any medium that led my eye to the brighter world above ; for, in truth, all sublunary things were exceedingly dark around me.
It was impossible, at least to me, to avoid identifying' the Jessamine with her who owned that narrow spot, and who was peacefully journeying on, to take up her last earthly abode in one still narrower. Disease had blanched her cheek to the whiteness of the flower, and bowed her frame like its declining branches; while the nature of her malady forbade the continuance of her once favourite occupation of training and propping the Jessamine. Cancer, in its worst and most excruciating form, had seized upon her; and, at the time whereof I speak, it had spread from the side to the arm, reducing her to a state of suffering not to be conceived but by those who have closely watched the progress of that deadly complaint, devouring its victim-piecemeal.
Often have I gone out from the presence of the dear sufferer, to meditate upon the amazing power of divine grace, which she abundantly possessed; a rich treasure in an earthen vessel so deplorably marred as to make it doubly apparent that all the excellency of that power was of God. I found it hard, in an early stage of my Christian experience, to reconcile the acuteness of her bodily anguish with those promises of holy writ which describe the believer as possessed of all things—godliness as having the promise of this life, as well as that which is to come—and the Lord as withholding no good thing from them that walk uprightly. I could not comprehend how such exquisite patience should be visited with tribulation so severe; for I had still to learn, that the tribulation wrought the patience. Hundreds of times have I paced up and down that confined path, murmuring against the cross that my friend so cheerfully bore ; and questioning the love that so grievously afflicted her. Sometimes the dumb boy, then in the first steps of instruction, would come to me, increasing my perplexity by showing that the same thoughts occupied his mind. In his imperfect phraseology, he would again and again say, ' Poor Mrs. C. much hurt. What? God love Mrs. C? God hurt Mrs. C. What?' The word—what! interrogalively repeated, with an impatient shake of the head, signified a desire for information. In this case, I could only reply, * Yes, God loves Mrs. C. Poor Mrs. C. soon go to heaven.' Jack, who realized heavenly things in a way that few of us attain to, was content with this assurance, under the expectation of her immediate removal to glory: but I knew that she had, probably, many a long month to linger yet; and as weeks passed away, Jack would come out with his embarassing 'What? Mrs. C. very long pain! What—God love Mrs. C. ?
I found her, one day, in her nice parlour, dressed as usual, with exquisite neatness, her poor arm supported in a sling of white muslin, and her pale cheek wearing the sorrowful smile that rarely left it. ' Have you had a tolerable night, dear friend?' I asked. She replied, ' I had no sleep at all; the doctor dared not give me an anodyne, and the pain was so excessive, that I could not help weeping. However, a thought came into my mind that comforted me. It occurred to me that I might have been brought up a Socinian; and oh, dear lady, how dreadful it would have been, to acknowledge Jesus Christ as something less than God! When I thought of the mercy that taught me from my early youth to confess Him as God; and the sovereign grace that has more lately enabled me to see Him as my God, bearing my sins in His own body on the tree, oh, then my tears fell much faster; but they were full of joy; and I learnt the value of the pain that kept me awake to recall this mercy to mind, and to meditate on the great love of my Saviour'.
While she said this, her tears again stole forth; but her countenance wore an aspect so heavenly, that I soon betook myself to the Jessamine walk, to wonder why I had never thanked God for not allowing me to be born among Socinians.
A whole year, I think, this blessed woman lingered in tortures indescribable ; and latterly she would not admit into her room any but those who were obliged to enter it; so great was the delicacy of her feelings for others. She, however, used to speak from her bed to those in an adjoining apartment, the door being placed ajar, and very sweet was her conversation. One day, after a week of dreadful agony, she asked her maid to lift her from her bed, to try if a change of position would bring any relief; she was accordingly, seated on a low chair; and, laying her head on the girl's shoulder, in a very soft, but animated voice, she murmured, 'Mary-Heaven !' and instantly departed thither.