The winter of 1833-4—by courtesy a winter-will long be remembered by florists, as having afforded them an unlooked-for feast. Its approach was heralded by such awful prognostications, founded like those of old, on the flight of birds, and other Omens alike infallible and innumerable, interpreted by the most experienced seers—all tending to establish the interesting fact, that an early, long-continued winter of the keenest severity was about to commence its reign over us—that we began instinctively to examine our coal-cellers, number our blankets, and canvass the merits of rival furriers. Not being accustomed to place implicit confidence in that peculiar gift called weather-wisdom, I was exposed to many rebukes, by my temerity in not removing some tender plants, which were doomed to hopeless annihilation, by the aforesaid prognosticators, if left to brave the coming season, in its unparalleled intensity. December came and went, leaving us many a bright rose-bud, intermixed with our holly-boughs ; January laid no very severe finger on them, though some rough easterly blasts scattered a few of their opening petals ; but gave with the accustomed snow-drop, fair primroses, and fragrant violets, to laugh audacious defiance of the menaced blights. February blazed upon us in a flood of unwonted brightness, showering in our path such blossoms as rarely peep forth till late in Spring. Preparations were in forwardness for sending northward in quest of ice ; but they were suspended, in the anxious hope that such an unnatural state of things would soon give place to weather less portentous, less fraught with disappointment to the gourmand. Alas for the packers of fish, and coolers of wine and congealers of cream ! February went smiling out, and March, blustering March, came laughing in, arrayed in such a chaplet as he had scarcely ever before stolen. My garden is of moderate size, in the articles of sun and shade enjoying no peculiar advantages above its neighbours ; nor enriched by a higher degree of cultivation; yet within a small space of this garden, I counted, on the 6th of March, eighteen varieties of flowers in full beauty, while the fruit-trees put forth their buds in rich profusion, and the birds proclaimed a very different story from that which had emanated from the weather-office, in the prospective wisdom of its sundry clerks. My mignonette, my stocks, and wall-flowers, and vivid marigolds, had never quailed throughout the preceding months ; they continued blowing without intermission, yielding constant bouquets, with scarcely a perceptable diminution of their beautiful abundance ; and never had I been disappointed when looking for the smiling features of my loveliest charge—the small, but magnificent Heart's-ease. Two roots in particular, the one intermixing its gold with purple, the other with pure white, appeared to derive fresh brilliancy from the season, abundantly recompensing my daily visits.
Sweet flower! Tranquillity makes its lowly rest upon its dark green couch; and cheerfulness is legibly written on every clear tint of its glossy petals. As a child, I loved that humble blossom ; and when childhood's happy days had long been flown, I loved it better than before. Yet it was not until within a comparatively short period that I found a human being altogether assimilating to it; and since his transplantation to the garden of glorified spirits, nearly two years ago, I have pondered on the exquisite traits of his singular character, with a growing certainty that to me, and to many, he came as a warning voice to chide our sluggishness in that race wherein he strove, not as uncertainty,—wherein he ran, not as one that beateth the air,—wherein he struggled with all the energies of mind, and body, and spirit, to rend away every weight, to overthrow every obstacle, that could hinder him in pressing on towards the mark, the prize of his high calling in Christ Jesus.
Many will recognize, even in such brief sketch as I can give, the friend who lived in their hearts' deepest recesses. It was his to be understood and appreciated, in an extraordinary degree, by all who surrounded him; and though his death drew tears of poignant grief from every one who had known him, yet such had been his life, that we felt it almost criminal to mourn his entrance into immortality.
" To him that overcometh," the promises are given, and what is it that man chiefly has to overcome ? Self, unquestionably. The world, the flesh, and the devil, are powerful enemies, but only through the medium of self can they assail us.
D-knew this, and his whole conduct was one beautiful, consistent evidence of a successful contest with the selfish principle, so that, in all pertaining to outward things, he lived for others, but always to the glory of God. Engaged in professional occupation, which only gave him the early morning, an hour at mid-day, and the evening, for his own disposal, he invariably devoted the latter to the service of others, yet found no lack of time for abundant reading, meditation, and secret prayer.
On one occasion, when I admired the expertness with which he kindled a fire that had gone out, he said, 'It is practice ; I always light my own fire'.
'Why not employ the woman who attends your chambers ?
'For two reasons ; I want it much earlier than she could conveniently come; and my thoughts flow on more evenly, when unbroken by the sight or the sound of another'.
The time that he thus redeemed from slumber, was exclusively devoted to the nourishment of his own soul. He frequently recommended the practice to others ; enforcing it by the striking remark of Newton, that if the sack be filled at once with wdieat, there will be no room for chaff. ' I fill my sack as early and as full as I can, at the footstool of the Lord,' said D-' or the devil would get in a bushel of chaff before breakfast.' Three hours at least were thus devoted, in the stillness of his chamber; and then, after a frugal repast, he sallied forth—so fresh, so cheerful, so full of bright and energetic life, that it was even as a beam of sunshine when he crossed our early path, with his joyous smile. Yes, he did then resemble the flower, vigorous from its bath of morning dew, spreading its fairest tints to the returning beam and breathing pure fragrance around it.