The Allen House, or Twenty Years Ago and Now by T.S. Arthur
Two years have passed since these disastrous events; and twenty years since the opening of our story. The causes at work in the beginning, have wrought out their legitimate effects--the tree has ripened its fruits--the harvest has been gathered. The quiet of old times has fallen upon S----. It was only a week ago that steps were taken to set the long silent mills in motion. A company, formed in Boston, has purchased the lower mill, and rented from Mr. Wallingford the upper one, which was built on the Allen estate. Squire Floyd, I learn, is to be the manager here for the company. I am glad of this. Poor man! He was stripped of everything, and has been, for the past two years, in destitute circumstances. How he has contrived to live, is almost a mystery. The elegant house which he had built for himself was taken and sold by creditors, with the furniture, plate, and all things pertaining thereto, and, broken-spirited, he retired to a small tenement on the outskirts of the town, where he has since lived. His unhappy daughter, with her two children, are with him. Her son, old enough to be put to some business, she has placed in a store, where he is earning enough to pay his board; while she and her daughter take in what sewing they can obtain, in order to lessen, as far as possible, the burden of their maintenance. Alas for her that the father of those children should be a convicted felon!
I move about through S----on my round of duties, and daily there comes to me some reminder of the events and changes of twenty years. I see, here and there, a stranded wreck, and think how proudly the vessel spread her white sails in the wind a few short years gone by, freighted with golden hopes. But where are those treasures now? Lost, lost forever in the fathomless sea!
Twenty years ago, and now! As a man soweth, even so shall he reap. Spring time loses itself in luxuriant summer, and autumn follows with the sure result. If the seed has been good, the fruit will be good; but if a man have sown only tares in his fields, he must reap in sorrow and not in joy. There is no exception to the rule. A bramble bush can no more bear grapes, than a selfish and evil life can produce happiness. The one is a natural, and the other a spiritual, impossibility.
A few days ago, as I was riding along on a visit to one of my patients, I met Mr. and Mrs. Wallingford, with two of their children, driving out in their carriage. They stopped, and we were passing a few pleasant words, when there came by two persons, plainly, almost coarsely dressed--a mother and her daughter. Both had bundles in their hands. Over the mother's face a veil was drawn, and as she passed, with evidently quickening steps, she turned herself partly away. The daughter looked at us steadily from her calm blue eyes, in which you saw a shade of sadness, as though already many hopes had failed. Her face was pale and placid, but touched you with its expression of half-concealed suffering, as if, young as she was, some lessons of pain and endurance had already been learned.
"Who are they?" asked Mrs. Wallingford.
"Delia Floyd and her daughter," said I.
No remark was made. If my ears did not deceive me, I heard a faint sigh pass the lips of Mr. Wallingford.
I spoke to my horse, and, bowing mutually, we passed on our ways.
"Twenty years ago, and now!" said I to myself, falling into a sober mood, as thought went back to the sweet, fragrant morning of Delia's life, and I saw it in contrast with this dreary autumn. "If the young would only take a lesson like this to heart!"
In the evening, Mr. Wallingford called to see me.
"I have not been able, all day," said he, "to get the image of that poor woman and her daughter out of my mind. What are their circumstances, Doctor?"
"They live with Squire Floyd," I answered, "and he is very poor. I think Delia and her daughter support themselves by their needles."
"What a fall!" he said, with pity in his tones.
"Yes, it was a sad fall--sad, but salutary, I trust."
"How was she after her separation from Mr. Dewey?"
"Very bitter and rebellious, for a time. His marriage seemed to arouse every evil passion of her nature. I almost shuddered to hear the maledictions she called down upon the head of his wife one day, when she rode by in the elegant equipage of which she had once been the proud owner. She fairly trembled with rage. Since then, the discipline of the inevitable in life has done its better work. She has grown subdued and patient, and is doing all a mother in such narrow circumstances can do for her children."
"What of Dewey's second wife?" asked Mr. Wallingford.
"She has applied for a divorce from him, on the ground that he is a convicted felon; and will get a decree in her favor, without doubt."
"What a history!" he exclaimed. Then, after a pause, he asked--
"Cannot something be done for Mr. Floyd?"
"I have understood," said I, "that the company about to start the mills again have engaged him as manager."
"Is that so? Just what I was thinking," he replied, with animation. "I must look after that matter, and see that it does not fall through."
And he was in this, as in all things, as good as his word. It needed only a favorable intimation from him to decide the company to place their works in the hands of Squire Floyd, who was a man of skill and experience in manufacturing, and one in whose integrity the fullest confidence might be reposed.
A month has passed; and Squire Floyd, engaged at a salary of two thousand dollars a year, is again at the mills, busy in superintending repairs, improvements, and additions. A few more weeks, and the rattle of industry will commence, and the old aspect of things show itself in S----. May the new mill owners be wiser than their predecessors!
Squire Floyd has removed from the poor tenement lately the home of his depressed family, and is back in the pleasant homestead he abandoned years ago, when pride and ambition impelled him to put on a grander exterior. It is understood that the company have bought the house, and rent it to him at a very moderate price. My own impression is, that Mr. Wallingford has more to do in the matter than people imagine. I am strengthened in this view, from the fact of having seen Mrs. Wallingford call at the Squire's twice during the past week. They are in good hands, and I see a better future in store for them.
And now, reader, you have the story I wished to tell. It is full of suggestion to all who are starting forth upon life's perilous journey. Let truth, honor, integrity, and humanity, govern all your actions. Do not make haste to be rich, lest you fall into divers temptations. Keep always close to the right; and always bear in mind that no wrong is ever done that does not, sooner or later, return upon the wrong-doer.
And above all, gentle maiden, be not dazzled by the condition or prospect of any who seek your hand.
Look away, down, deeply into the character, disposition, and quality; and if these are not of good seeming, shun the proffered alliance as you would death. Better, a thousand times, pass through life alone than wed yourself to inevitable misery. So heeding the moralist, you will not, in the harvest time which comes to all, look in despair over your barren fields, but find them golden with Autumn's treasures, that shall fill your granaries and crown your latter days with blessing.