Lucius Manlius Sargent.

Seed time and harvest : founded on fact online

. (page 1 of 1)
Online LibraryLucius Manlius SargentSeed time and harvest : founded on fact → online text (page 1 of 1)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

Number Ten.





Ninth Edition.



No. 9 Cornhttl.

No. 118 Nassau Street.



IN this last number -of the second volume of our
Temperance Tales, we offer you a short and simple
narrative, which produced a very deep and lasting im
pression upon a group of three or four of us, as it was
related, certainly in the most natural and touching
manner, by the son of a drunken father. We have
added paragraph to paragraph, with a growing convic
tion of our utter inability to imitate the voice of

As the story is a brief one, it shall not be disfigured
by a tedious preface. If, by God's blessing, it shall
be the means of dispelling wretchedness from some
humble dwelling, if it shall cause a single drunkard
to reform, and bless the Lord, who giveth SEED TIME
AND HARVEST, we shall never regret that we have be
stowed our labors in the field.

Entered according to Act of Congress in the year 1835, by

in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of Massachusetts


IT must be nearly midnight, thought 1, as
I walked rapidly along. I had travelled full
fourteen miles. The rain descended in tor
rents; and, finding ready admittance, at a
farmer's barn, I climbed upon a hay-mow,
and threw myself down, thoroughly wet,
weary, and sleepless. What an awful visitor
it is, thought I, at the poor cottager's fire
side ! How forcible and true are the words
of Holy Writ ! If wine be " a mocker," in
the castles of the rich, among the habita
tions of the poor, " strong drink is raging."
There was I, at the age of sixteen, turning my
back upon my birth-place, upon my home,
upon a mother and sister, whom I tenderly
loved. As the recollection of all they had
endured already, and the anticipation of their


future sufferings rushed upon my mind, I
had almost resolved to return: but, alas!
what could I oppose to the ungovernable fury
of an unkind husband and an apostate father !
No, thought I, I will fly from that, which I
can neither prevent nor endure. I will seek
my bread among strangers. By the kind
providence of Him, who hath promised to be
the Father of the fatherless, and such, in real
ity, I am, I may win, by honest industry, the
means of bringing comfort to her, who bore
me, when my father's intemperance and prod
igality shall have made havoc of all that re
mains ; and when the last acre of the home
stead shall have passed into the rum-seller's
hands. My resolution was fixed. Sleep was
gathering over my eyelids. I got upon my
knees to commit myself to God in prayer.
I could scarcely give form to my scattered
thoughts; it seemed, under the condition
of high excitement, in which I then was, that
my father was before me, enraged at my de
parture, and demanding who had taught me
to pray. It was he himself, who first set me


upon my knees, and placed my infant hands
together, and put right words into my mouth,
and bade me ask of God to put right thoughts
into my heart. How often had he led his
little household in morning and evening pray
er! How often, as we walked to God's
house, in company together, had he led the
way ! How constantly, m our daily labors,
had he conducted our thoughts to serious con
templation, by some sensible and devout al
lusion to those employments, in which we
were engaged ! Lost and gone, degraded
and changed he was ; but he had been once
a kind father, a tender husband, a generous
neighbor, a faithful friend, a pious and a pro
fessing Christian.

Rum and ruin, hand in hand, had entered
our dwelling together. The peace of our fire
side was gone. The rurn-seller had laid my
poor, misguided father, under the bonds of
an unrelenting and fatal appetite ; he had won
away the little children's bread ; and convert
ed our once-happy home into an earthly hell,
whose only portal of exit was the silent grave.


it was very evident to me, that we were
going to destruction. My father's interest in
the welfare of us all was at an end. Debts
were accumulating fast. His farm was heav
ily mortgaged. His habits, long before, had
compelled the church to exclude him from
the communion ; and the severest abuse was
the certain consequence, whenever my poor,
old mother went singly to the table of her
Lord. I could have borne my father's harsh
treatment of myself and of my poor sister
Rachel ; but he returned home, at last, con
stantly intoxicated; and, when opposed in any
thing, proceeded to swear, and rave, and
break the furniture, and abuse my old mother,
who bore it all, with the patience of a saint ;
I made up my mind, that I could stand it
no longer.

I waited cautiously, for a favorable oppor
tunity, and asked my father's permission to
go to sea. He flew into a terrible rage.
The next morning he seemed to be in a bet
ter frame of mind, and, as I was chopping
wood before the door, he asked me, of his


own accord, what had induced me to wish to
leave home, and go to sea. I hesitated, for
some time ; but, as he urged me to speak
out, and ; at the same time, appeared to be
much calmer than usual ; " Father," said I.
" it kills me to see you and hear you talk and
act so badly to poor mother." He flew into
a greater rage than before, and bade me nev
er open my mouth upon the subject again.

Thus matters continued to progress from
bad to worse. Love is said not to stand still.
This saying is manifestly true in regard to
the love of strong drink.

Our domestic misery continued to increase,
from week to week. There were intervals,
in which, my father was more like himself,
more like the good, kind parent and husband,
whose outgoings, in the morning, had been a
source of affectionate regret, and whose in
comings, at night, had been a subject of joy
to the wife of his bosom and the children of
his loins. I have seen the faint smile of sat
isfaction brighten upon my poor mother's
pale features, upon such occasions; and I


have marked the sigh, half suppressed, which
told ., the secret of an agonized spirit, and
which seemed to say, How precious, how
brief is this little interval of joy !

It was indeed like the parting sunbeam,
the last, lingering light of a summer day,
which plays upon the cold grave, where the
treasure and the heart are destined to slum
ber together.

In such an example of domestic wretched
ness as ours, the operation of cause and ef
fect was perfectly intelligible. Rum excited
into action all that was contentious, in the
nature of my parent. A keen perception of
his own blameworthiness, notwithstanding the
stupefying tendency of the liquor he had
drunken, increased the irritability of his tem
per. A word, look, or gesture, from any
member of the household, which indicated
the slightest knowledge of his unhappy con
dition, when he returned, at night, under the
influence of strong drink, was surely inter
preted into an intentional affront. He would
often anticipate reproof; and, as it were, re-


pay it beforehand, by the harshness of his

The habit of drinking, which is invariably
the prolific mother of sin and sloth, wretch
edness and rags, is sure to be maintained and
kept alive, by the beggarly progeny, to which
it has given birth. Whenever my unhappy
father was dunned for the interest on his
mortgage, or any other debt, which, at last,
he had no means to pay, he was in the hab
it, almost mechanically, as soon as the cred
itor had departed, of turning to the jug of
rum, for relief and oblivion.

The gloom and ill-nature, which had hith
erto been occasionally interspersed with ex
hibitions of kindlier feelings to us all, ap
peared to have become unvarying and fixed.
There was less and less, from week to week,
of an April sky. All was chill and drear,
like November. One evening, my mother
and sister had been busily engaged, as usual,
in such housewifery, as might best contribute
to keep our poor wreck of a domicil together,
as long as possible. I had learned to write a


fair hand, and was engaged in copying some
papers, for our squire, who paid me, by the
sheet . It had gotten to be nearly ten o'clock,.
My mother put on her spectacles, and, open
ing the Bible, began to read. Rachel and I
sat by the fire, listening to the words of truth
and soberness. My poor mother had fallen
upon a portion of Scripture, which, from its
applicability to her own situation and that of
her children, had affected her feelings, and
the tears were in her eyes, when the loud
tramp upon the door step announced the re
turn of my father. His whole appearance
was unusually ominous of evil. My mother
stirred the fire, and I placed him a chair,
which he kicked over, and threw himself
down upon the bed, and called for supper.
Mother told him, in a gentle manner, that
there was nothing in the house but some
bread. He told her she lied, and swore ter
ribly. She sat silently by the fire ; I look
ed up in her face : She wept, but said noth
ing. " Don't cry so, dear mother," said
Rachel. "Wife," said my father, sitting


upon the edge of the bed, "when will you
leave off crying ? " " Whenever you leave
off drinking, husband/' replied my mother in
the kindest manner. My father sprang up,
in a hurricane of wrath, and with a dreadful
oath, hurled a chair, at my mother's head.
I sprang forward, and received its full force
upon my shoulder. Rachel and my mother
fled to a neighbor's house, and my father
struck me several blows with his feet and
fists ; and, as 1 made my escape, I left him
dashing the furniture to pieces, with the fury
of a madman. I rushed forth to seek shelter
amid the driving storm from the tempest of
a drunken father's wrath. I went, as speedi
ly as possible, to the squire's house, and beg
ged him to take compassion on my poor
mother and sister. Having received his prom
ise, that he would go instantly over to our
cottage, I took the resolution, which I have
already stated.

After I had passed a comfortless night, in
the farmer's barn, I pushed forward to the
city. I had a trifle of change in my pocket ;


I bought a biscuit of a travelling baker, and I
had no relish for any other than the beverage
of God's appointment, which was near at
hand. When I reached the city, I directed
my course to one of the wharves, and found
no difficulty, as I was unusually stout for my
years, in obtaining a voyage, as a green hand,
in a ship bound to China. Three days
passed, before the ship sailed. I wrote to
my mother and sister, bidding them keep up
their spirits, and put their trust, as I did, in
the God of the widow and the fatherless, for
such, and even worse, was our condition. I
asked them to say to father, when he was
sober, that, although I scarcely expected to
see him again in this world, I freely forgave
all his ill-treatment to myself.

I worked hard and strove to please the
captain. I soon found that ploughing the
sea was a very different affair from ploughing
the land. I had a good constitution, and a
cheerful temper. I had been taught, at all
times, by my dear mother, and by my poor,
unhappy father also, till he became intern-


perate, to put the fullest confidence in the
promises of God. When we arrived in Chi
na, though we had shipped out and home,
the voyage was broken up, and the ship sold.
The captain settled with the crew to their
entire satisfaction ; and I shall always be
grateful for his kindness to me. He got me
a voyage to England. I laid out my wages,
by his advice. I could not have followed a
shrewder counsellor. He was born and bred,
so far as regards his land learning, in one of
the most thrifty villages in Connecticut. We
had a most boisterous voyage from Canton to
Liverpool ; but, whenever I pulled a rope, 1
always pulled a little harder for the sake of
my old mother and sister Rachel. I had
< saved every penny of my wages, that I could
lay by, and my little investment in Canton
turned out far beyond my expectations. I
do not think I was avaricious ; but I felt it
to be my duty, under existing circumstances,
to save my earnings for my honored mother.
Nevertheless, I felt myself authorized to in
dulge in one luxury at least ; so, upon my


arrival in Liverpool, I went into the first
bookstore and bought me a pocket Bible.

Five years had now gone by, in which I
had sailed many thousands of miles, and vis
ited various corners of the world. During
this period, I had gotten together a larger
sum of money, than I ever expected to pos
sess at twenty-one; besides having made
several remittances to the squire, for my old
mother's use, to whom I wrote upon every
convenient opportunity. They all came to
hand, as I afterward learned, saving one, in
gold, which went to bottom, with poor Tom
Johnson, who was lost at sea. If I was for
tunate enough to save my hard earnings,
just let me say, for the advantage of every
brother sailor, that there are four things,
which I never did ; I never suffered a drop
of grog to go down my hatches, blow high or
blow low; 1 never rolled a stinking weed,
like a sweet morsel, under my tongue ; I
never crossed hands with a drunken landlord ;
and I never bore away from a poor fellow,
whose hammock was harder than my own.


My five years' absence from home might
have extended to fifty, but for many recol
lections of my mother and sister, which be
came more forcible, from day to day. My
remembrance of my father was of the most
painful character: the very recollection of
his tenderness, in the days of my childhood,
which often brought tears into my eyes,
served only to render the image of a cruel
and degraded parent more frightful and re

I had shipped, about this time, on board
the Swiftsure, from London to Oporto. One
afternoon, two or three of us, a day or two
before the ship sailed, had strolled over to
the south side of the Thames, to look at the
king's dockyards at Deptford. As I was
rambling among the docks, I received a smart
slap on the shoulder, and, turning suddenly
round, whom should I see but old Tom
Johnson, an honest fellow as ever broke bread
or wore a tarpaulin ! He was born in our
village ; had followed the sea for nearly forty
years ; and, once in the course of three or


four, he contrived to find his way to the old
spot, and spend a few days in the valley
where he was born. " Why, Bob," said he,
" Pm heartily glad to see you, my lad ; so
you've taken leg bail of the old folks, and
turned rover, in good earnest, ey ? " I told
him, I hoped he didn't think I'd left my old
mother to shirk for herself, in her old age.
" Not a jot," replied the old sailor ; " Squire
Seely has told me the whole story, and says
he has put the sweat of your brow, more
than once or twice either, into the old lady's
hand, and made her old weather-beaten
heart leap for joy, to hear you was so thought
ful a lad. I saw your mother about a year
ago, and your sister Rachel." I shook old
Tom Johnson, by the hand ; I could not re
strain my feelings, for this was the first news
I had received from home, for more than five
years. " Come, Bob," said the old fellow,
" don't be for opening your scuppers and
making crooked faces ; though it blows hard
enough now, it may get to be calm weather
after all." " How is my father doing now ? "


I inquired. "Why, as to that," answered
Tom Johnson, "it's about a twelvemonth
since I was there. I told the old lady I
might cross your hawse in some part of the
world. She has a rough time of it, my boy.
The old man holds on to mischief, like a
heavy kedge in a clay bottom. The cold-
water folks began, about a year ago, to scat
ter their seed in the village, in the shape of
tracts, and tales, and newspapers. Some of
them were thrown at your father's door, and
at the door of old Deacon Flint, the distiller.
There, as you may suppose, the seed fell in
stony places. Your father was in a great
rage, and swore he'd shoot the first person,
that left another of their rascally publications
before his door. I'm afraid it will be a long
while, my lad, before the temperance folks
get the weather gage of the rum-sellers, and
rum-drinkers in our village. They have had
a miserable seed time, and the Devil and
Deacon Flint, I am afraid, will have the best
of the harvest."
As Tom, Johnson was to sail, in about a


week, for the United States, I sent by him a
few lines of comfort and a small remittance
for my mother. As I have already stated,
they never reached the place of their desti
nation. The Oranoke, of which this poor
fellow was first mate, foundered at sea, and
the whole crew perished.

After our arrival at Oporto, the crew of
the Swiftsure were discharged ; and, finding a
favorable chance, I shipped for Philadelphia,
where we arrived, after an extremely short
and prosperous passage. I directed my
course, once more, towards my native hamlet.
My feelings were of the most painful and
perplexing character. In accumulated years,
and even in the little property, which I had
gathered, I felt conscious of something like a
power and influence; which, by God's grace,
I hoped to exert for the protection of my
mother. Yet, when I recollected the ungov
ernable violence of my father's temper, under
the stimulus of liquor, I almost despaired of
success. At any rate, I could behold the


face of her, who bore me, and receive her
blessing once more before she died.

Having sent my luggage forward, I per
formed a considerable part of my journey on
foot. I had arrived in the village, adjoining
our own. I paused, for an instant, to look at
the barn, in which, five years before, I had
passed a most miserable night. It brought
before me, with a painful precision, the mel
ancholy record of the past. Every mile of
my lessening way abated something of that
confidence, which I had occasionally cher
ished, of being the instrument, under God,
of bringing happiness again into the dwelling
of my wretched parents.

I had arrived within two miles of the little
river, which forms one of the boundary lines
of our village. I was passing a little groce
ry, or tipplery, and, standing at the door, I
recognized the very individual, who formerly
kept the grog-shop in our town, and from
whom my father had purchased his rum, for
many years. Although it was already gray
twilight, I knew him immediately ; and, how-


ever painful to approach a person, in whom
I could not fail to behold the destroyer of
my father, I could not repress my earnest
desire to learn something of my family. 1
accosted him, and he remembered me at
once. His manners were those of a surly
and dissatisfied man. In reply to my inqui
ries, he informed rne, that my parents and
my sister were alive, and added, with a sneer,
that my father had set up for a cold-water
man ; " but," continued he, with a forced and
spiteful laugh, "it will take him all his days,
I guess, to put off the old man : they that
have gotten the relish of rny rum, are not so
very apt to change it for cold water." Upon
further inquiry, I ascertained, that there had
been a temperance movement in our village ;
and that the seed, as poor Tom Johnson said,
had been scattered there, with an unsparing
hand. I also gathered the information from
this rum-seller, that the selectmen had refused
to approbate any applicant for a license to
sell ardent spirit in our village ; and that he,
himself, had therefore been obliged to quit


his old stand, and take the new one, which
he now occupied.

I turned from the dram-seller's door and
proceeded on my way. It was quite dark ;
but the road was familiar to my feet. It
afforded me unspeakable pleasure to learn,
that my mother and sister were alive and
well. But I was exceedingly perplexed, by
the rum-seller's statement in relation to my
father. Can it be possible, thought I, that
he has become a cold-water man ? How true
is the rum-seller's remark, that few, who have
gotten a taste of his rum, are apt to change
it for cold water! For more than twelve
years, my father had been an intemperate
man ; and, even if he had abandoned ardent
spirit, for a time, how little reliance could be
placed upon a drunkard's reformation ! Be
sides Tom Johnson had expressly stated, that
my father had been exceedingly hostile to the
temperance movement, from the beginning.

With these and similar reflections, my
mind continued to be occupied, until I enter
ed our village. It was about half past nine,


when I came within a few rods of the old
cottage. A light was still gleaming forth
from the window. 1 drew slowly and silent
ly near to the door. I thought I heard a
voice. I listened attentively. It was my
father's. My mother appeared not to reply :
sucn was her constant habit, whenever, under
the influence of liquor, he gave a loose rein
to his tongue, and indulged in unkind and
abusive language. I drew still nearer and,
passing softly into the entry, I listened more
attentively, at the inner door. Can it be
possible ! thought I. He was engaged in
prayer ! in fervent and pious prayer ! He
prayed, with a trembling voice, for the res
toration of an absent son! There was a
pause. From the movement within, it was
evident they had risen from their knees. I
gently raised the latch, and opened the door.
The father, the mother, the brother, the
sister, were locked in the arms of one anoth
er ! My regenerated old father fell once more
upon his knees ; we all followed his exam
ple ; and before a word of congratulation had


passed from one to the other, he poured forth
such a touching strain of thanksgiving and
praise to the Giver of every good and perfect
gift, for my safe return, as would have melted
the heart of the most obdurate offender. It
came directly from the heart of a truly peni
tent sinner, and it went straightway to the
God of mercy. I gazed upon my poor old
father. It seemed like the moral resurrec
tion of one, already dead and buried, in his
trespasses and sins. I glanced rapidly about
me : all was peace, all was order ; where all
had been strife and confusion before. The
rum-jug no longer occupied its accustomed
place upon the table : the expanded volume
of eternal life was there in its stead !

I gazed with inexpressible joy, upon the
happy faces about me ; my father, to all
outward appearance, such as he had been in
better days, sitting in silence, and evidently
restraining the emotions of his soul ; poor
Rachel upon my knee, her features bathed
with happy tears ; and my dear, old mother
turning her countenance, full of gratitude and


love, alternately towards Heaven and upon a
long gono child, returned at last.

Six years have now gone by, since a mer-
ciful God softened the stubborn soil in my
father's heart. The seed did not fall alto
gether, as Tom Johnson supposed, upon
stony places. Some of them have sprung
up, as in our own highly-favored heritage,
and borne fruit a hundred fold. Let us
thank God, then, who hath enabled us abun
dantly to gather the HARVEST ; for peace is
once more at our fireside ; the wife has re
gained her husband, and the orphans have
found their father.


Online LibraryLucius Manlius SargentSeed time and harvest : founded on fact → online text (page 1 of 1)