As yet, no real peace had visited the soul of the mourner: the enemy was restrained, that he should no longer inflict on her the torture of his blasphemous suggestions: but grief, corroding grief, ate into the vital principle. She was desolate, and a widow, moving to and fro : looking for some manifestation of that divine love, of which the first breathings were yet hardly perceptible in her soul; yet without any energy of prayer, any confident hope, or such a measure of faith as might enable her to lay hold on one of those promises, whereof she was very certain that her dear husband was enjoying the glorious fulfilment in heaven.
In this wretched state Theresa returned to the home of her widowed mother; but there she could not remain. She pined for the ministery under which her departed husband had first received a blessing, and gave her mother no rest, until she consented to remove to that place ; where, on the first Sunday after the arrival, we were brought in the house of prayer.
Theresa had taken the infection, while tending the death-bed of her husband. Consumption, lingering but confirmed, had shown itself before I saw her; grief had bowed her once elegant figure, and I cannot look at a snow-drop without recognizing her very aspect,—every lock of her hair concealed beneath the widow's cap, which scarcely surpassed in deadly whiteness the countenance that drooped beneath it.
But let me render thanks to God, that, speedily as the outward form decayed, the growth of spiritual life within was far more rapid. She had found mercy, and I never beheld such intense application of every faculty to the one work of searching the scriptures ; such fervent importuni ty for divine teaching; such watchful discrimination in securing the wheat and rejecting the chaff while listening to the various instructors who proffered their aid to this interesting inquirer. In trembling humility and self-distrust, she no less resembled the snow-drop, which looks as though the lightest zephyr would rend it from its stem : but, strong in the Lord and in the power of his might, rooted and grounded in faith, she still, like the snow-drop, maintained her assigned place,unmoved by storms that carried devastation to loftier plants around. Popery, infidelity, antinomianism, were casting down many wounded in her path ; but God had indeed revealed to her the pure doctrines of gospel truth, and beautifully did her growing conformity to Christ evidence that the clearness of her views was not merely an operation of the mind—it was an illumination of the soul.
Yet though enabled to rejoice in spirit, sometimes with joy unspeakable and full of glory, her earthly sorrow pressed heavily on the heart so early bereft of its idolized treasure. To me alone was the privilege allowed of numbering over with her the little relics of by-gone hours; and of gazing on his miniature; where his beautiful features, that never seemed to have lost the noble simplicity of expression that characterized his childhood, recalled many endearing little incidents to my mind, on the recital of which she dwTelt with sad delight. One occasion I well remember, when the depth of her feelings was displayed in a singular manner; and this I often think upon, when revelling in the contemplation of my flower-garden at the height of its glory.
She came to me one morning, and found me still in my bed, suffering from a sore throat. A basket of flowers had just arrived from a distant friend, which, moistened by a shower of rain, I dared not then unpack. When she entered, I called out, 'Theresa, you are just the person I wanted. I can trust precious flowers in your careful little hands; and you shall arrange them with all the taste that you are mistress of.' She threw a hasty glance on my blooming store, smiled very faintly, then, seating herself beside me, entered into conversation. After a while, I reminded her of the flowers : ' Presently,' was the answer; and she then commenced a long history of her childhood, which was indeed one of extraordinary interest. Hours passed away ; and I, seeing the flowers begin to droop, once more asked her if she intended to let them die ? She rose, with a long sigh; and kneeling down beside a chair, slowly commenced arranging the rich variety before her. I thought she had never looked so touchingly forlorn, as when, with her black garments spreading around, and her pale sorrowful face bent over the glowing heaps of roses, carnations, and every brilliant child of June, she pursued her task, filling several vases with the bouquets thus formed.
She brought me my dinner, and then dressed, and conducted me into my study, where she had placed the flowers with such exquisite state, that I cried out in delight, 'O Theresa, you shall be my florist in ordinary: what a beautiful display you have made ! She seated herself by my side on the sofa, kissed me, and said, ' Now, after this, you are never to doubt that I love you'.
' Doubt it, my dear friend ! I could not if I tried : but you have given me stronger proofs of it than this, much as your taste and ingenuity are now displayed on my behalf'.
' No—I never gave you such a proof before !'
She then burst into tears, and told me that her passion for flowers was as great as even mine: that it was Frederick's daily task, when in India, to go out every morning and cull the most splendid blossoms of that glowing clime, which he always arranged in her boudoir, and upon her beloved piano, with as much care as he bestowed on his military duties. The long voyage had separated her from the world of flowers during his illness: and when, after leaving him in the depths of ocean, she first beheld those smiling remembrances, such a horror took possession of her poor lacerated mind, that, as she solemnly assured me, she would rather have taken the most noisome reptile into her hand than a rose. Voluntarily, she never entered a garden; because of the almost unconquerable desire that she felt to trample every flower into the earth. She had struggled and prayed against this : it was a species of delirium over which time seemed to have no power; and it was to avoid a task so torturing that she had engaged my attention for hours, in the hope of my forgetting it until after her departure. 'When I kneeled down before the chair,' said the sweet mourner, ' I prayed that the sense of all your love toward me might prevail over my dreadful reluctance ; and it did.' Then, after a pause she added, with another burst of tears, ' I don't think I could have done it, if you had not loved Frederick!'
Not long after this, I was surprised by seeing in her own apartment, a single, soft white rose in a glass. She pointed it out to me, saying, ' I am following up my, or rather your conquest; it is too ungrateful, that because God has seen fit to resume' the dearest of all his gifts, I should spurn from me what he yet leaves in my path !' I understood the nature of her struggle; and, trivial as it may appear to those whose minds are differently con stituted, I could appreciate the honesty of her efforts to overcome what too many would have delighted to indulge, as the offspring of feelings that could not perhaps have excited but in a remarkably sensitive and imaginative character. She laboured to bring all into the captivity of willing obedience to Christ: thus yielding strong evidence of a growth in the grace that was preparing her for glory.
I watched, for twelve months, her progress towards heaven ; and greatly did she desire to die, where alone she had truly begun to live; but duty called her elsewhere, to the fulfilment of a painful, though sacred task. She applied, her remaining strength to the wrork, and then lay down in peace. Her death-bed was described by a pious minister as presenting a foretaste of heavenly triumph. Her ashes repose beneath the green shamrocks of her native isle ; her spirit rejoices in the presence of her redeeming God.