An advertisement to the following effect appeared in a daily paper, some time ago:—"To be sold, in consequence of the death of the proprietor, that excellent villa, My Repose, etc." Some particulars concerning the former owner of this property are deserving of notice.
A— T—was the son of poor parents, and, at an early age, began a life of industry as a gardener's boy. He was shrewd, sober, and obedient, as well as industrious; and, by degrees, attained the station, first of under-gardener, and then of head-gardener, at the seat of his first employer. He held this situation until past thirty years of age, when an accident which in some degree disabled his right arm, together with the death of his patron, compelled him to relinquish it, and to seek some other means of support.
At this time he was far from being destitute. His habits had been frugal; and a legacy, added to his savings, enabled him to open a shop, in a considerable town, for the sale of seeds, plants, and flowers.
T—carried with him into his new employment his old habits of industry and frugality. At the end of the first year, the small capital with which he commenced business was increased; and before many years had passed, he was able to purchase, with his surplus savings, the house in which he carried on his trade.
During this time, also, he had married. But this change in his circumstances and position wrought no change in his character. He still plodded and toiled, and planned and executed his plans himself; and as his wife was equally industrious, his expenses were but little increased, while his means of meeting them also increased.
Years passed away, and T—was approaching the age of sixty. Providence had greatly prospered him; he was a rich man. His son, his only child had grown up to manhood, and the father determined to relinquish business in favour of the young man, and to pass the remainder of his life in easy retirement. With this end in view, he purchased a few acres of ground, on one side of which he built a substantial dwelling, while he laid out the remainder of his purchase with the skill and taste of a landscape gardener. In a short time, his arrangements were completed, and his house furnished. His sixty-first birthday was observed with unusual gaiety in the new abode.
"You must give your house a name," said one of T—'s guests, on that occasion. "What do you mean to call it?"
"I have thought about it," replied Mr. T—; "and as we have been working hard all our lives till now, my wife and I have decided that 'My Repose' would be a good name. For now, you know, we mean to rest, and enjoy ourselves in our old age."
So the house of the retired tradesman thenceforth went by the name he himself had chosen; and "My Repose," was carved on the free-stone slab which surmounted the upper range of front windows. Let us see how this title agreed with the facts.
For some months all went on as pleasantly as could be desired. Every- day found full employment for A— T— in superintending his gardener, and perfecting his out-of-door plans; while the busy housewife was as fully occupied in arranging and re-arranging the newly acquired property within. True, this was not exactly the repose they had promised themselves; perhaps in the whole course of their lives the retired couple had never worked more incessantly or harder than during these few months. But this was a trifling drawback, which a little time would remove. Often at the close of a day, when wearied with their exertions, they would encourage each other with the reflection that, when everything was brought into good order, they would have plenty of time on their hands for rest; and that then the house would deserve its name.
And this time came. Winter drew on apace. Short days succeeded to long ones; and long evenings to short ones. The season put a stop to gardening improvements; and every room in the house was in the most perfect order. Plenty of repose now! Yes, so much of it, that time began to hang heavily upon the hands of the retired seedsman and his wife. This was a new feeling. For a little while, they tried to exult in it, and to speak of it as the repose for which they had so long yearned. But dissatisfaction followed. It was soon found that one thing in the world is as bad as constant labour; and of that one thing T—, at least, had now his full. He was constantly idle.
"With Mrs. T—, it was somewhat different. She could knit all day long if she chose. At intervals, too, her repose was broken in upon by the care of her household. "Talk about rest," said she one day, when her patience and temper had been put to the test; "I am sure I had more of it when I did all my work with my own hands. Those servants are enough to worry me out of my life. 'My Repose,' indeed! a pretty name to give to such a house as this!"
Spring came round at length, and released A—T— from his forced inaction by the fireside. But it brought with it to "My Repose" fresh causes of discomfort. When T— was in business, there was no want of society for himself or his wife. Neighbours looked in almost every day, and enlivened the seedsman's parlour with their gossip. If it were but for five minutes, it was a relief from the monotony of labour. But now the case was different. Their old neighbours were neighbours no longer; and the new ones made no advances towards acquaintanceship. It was a source of great trouble to Mrs. T—, that though she lived within sight of many country villas of less pretension to grandeur than her own, not one of the owners, or rather tenants, of these inferior habitations had given her even a morning call. Mortified ambition is a sad disturber of repose.
Year after year thus passed away. The proud and enviable title remained. "My Repose" stared every passer-by in the face; and the really pretty tasteful grounds excited the admiration of many who little guessed how slight an index is outward appearance to internal satisfaction. Often did T—balance in his mind whether he had gained or lost, in real enjoyment of life, by the exchange of a close house in town and constant work, for a pleasant villa with repose. It was a knotty point which he could not solve.
With an increase of years came infirmities; and infirmities are powerful enemies to repose. To infirmities was suddenly added serious illness, and illness was the forerunner of death. Mrs. T—was first snatched away from her place of earthly repose, such as it had been. It was a striking comment upon the vanity of human wishes and human schemes, to see the mournful preparations for a burial in progress within a view of the high-sounding designation—"My Repose."
Sad and solitary, the widower sought relief in travel. "My Repose" was no longer a place of repose to him. At best it had been an uneasy gratification; it was now a scene of torture. Time, at length, softened, though it did not remove his grief; and he returned to his deserted home. Alas! other sorrows were in store for him, which made his "Repose" an uneasy residence. His son, reversing the order of his own course, and beginning as himself had left off, had become embarrassed in business and deeply involved in debt. Too high-minded, as well as too kind to his only son, to suffer him to sink for want of immediate aid, T—at once interposed. But the sacrifice was large; and fears for the future stability of the young man destroyed his remaining quiet. Oh, how did he then accuse himself for seeking to relieve himself by throwing off the trammels of trade!" My Folly," he bitterly exclaimed, "would have been a better name for the house on which I was mad enough to spend a fortune, than "My Repose."
For a few months longer, T—might occasionally be seen wandering with downcast looks and faltering steps around his deserted mansion. But soon the mournful scene was closed. The bustle of a second funeral disturbed its quiet; the funeral procession was again formed, and wound through the well laid-out shrubberies which surrounded the pretty villa. Ere sunset, the grave was covered which had received that day the body of A— T—.
And then, some few weeks after, appeared the advertisement above-mentioned; "To be sold, in consequence of the death of the proprietor, that excellent villa, "My Repose."
There are some histories which, however indifferently told, convey with them their own instruction; and surely the history of "My Repose" is one such. But lest there be one reader who should ask, "To what does all this tend?"—a few words shall be added to show.
Men desire repose. A— T—was but one of a numerous class who seek it in a way that ensures certain disappointment. They think that a cessation from labour, and the possession of luxuries which wealth can procure, are the great things in life to be desired; and, enjoying which, true satisfaction must follow in their train. Thousands press forward in this path, and, undeterred by the experience of those who have preceded them, think they are treading the high road to happiness and repose.
Reader, are you among these misguided ones? Be assured that the repose you set before your imagination, and strive so hard to attain, is, in reality, a delusion and a snare. In the world is no pure and perfect repose. Every condition has its peculiar sources of disquiet; and every condition may be enriched with peaceful satisfaction. How foolish then is he who loses the present blessing, in vain aspirations and struggles after that "which is not."
"He builds too low, who builds beneath the skies."
Understand us, reader. "We do not mean to censure those upon whom the providence of God has shed the blessing of worldly plenty, and who seek, by retirement from the busier scenes of life, to enjoy those blessings with more zest, and to improve them with greater effect. Happy may that man be, and favourable is his position, whose heart, sanctified by Divine grace, dedicates to the service of his God and Saviour, the time, the talents, and the property of which he deems himself but the steward; and who, acting upon the sound dictates of reason, disengages himself from the cares of business that the dedication may be more complete. Nevertheless, let not such an one think of repose. The voice of providence and revelation equally forbid, and will soon assuredly dispel the fond illusion, and arouse the dreamer from his momentary trance. "For ye are not as yet come to the rest and to the inheritance, which the Lord your God giveth you." Deut. xii. 9.
Reader, are you setting before you some far distant object, the attainment of which you fondly hope is all that you need for repose? Know you not that the best, the sweetest, calmest, purest, the only enduring rest that earth can know, repose of soul, is offered even now for your acceptance; that you are invited, without any delay, to secure it? Hear the words of Him who never deceives; "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."
"The Tract magazine; or, Christian miscellany," London, of May 1848. Author unknown