A Retired Merchant


               A London merchant engaged in Mediterranean commerce, had successfully prosecuted his business, and amassed what all merchants desire, an ample fortune.  His indeed was a princely one.  He had purchased a large and beautiful estate in the country, and had built and furnished a splendid mansion in town on the Surry side of the river, and now that he was verging towards sixty, he concluded to retire and enjoy the remnant of his life in peaceful leisure.

     He negotiated for the sale of his abundance-making business, and sold it for another fortune.  He then retired.  He was a bachelor.  He had his halls, his parlors, dining-rooms, and drawing rooms, his library and cabinets of curiosities.  The floors were covered with the most mosaic specimens of Brussels and Turkey carpetings.  The furniture was of the most complete and exquisite selections, the walls were adorned with splendid mirrors and with classic paintings, and fine linen decorated it all.

                 Carriages, horses, grooms, and servants were at his command.  Books pictures and engravings were at hand to interest him.  The daily and the weekly papers, and the periodicals, brought to his table all the news of the great world, and his friends and his acquaintances paid him homage.  How happy must the man be with all that!

           He was not happy.  He had no aim, no motive.  The zest with which he read the papers when he was a merchant, he had lost now he had ceased to be engaged in commerce.  A storm, a fleet, a pestilence along the Mediterranean shores, was full of interest to him before, because he had investments there.  Now, they were of no consequence to him.  The views and aims of government were watched by him before with searching scrutiny, because his destiny was bound up with theirs.  The parliamentary debates were of the greatest consequence before, as indicating British policy, but that to him now ceased to be an object of importance.  His fortune was achieved, his course was run, his destiny fulfilled.

            Soon, every thing and place appeared to him one uniform and universal blank.  His beautiful apartments were unused, his carriage and horses unemployed, his books unread, his papers unopened, his meals un-tasted and his clothes unworn. He had lost all enjoyment of life, and contemplated suicide.

          Saturday night arrived, and he resolved on Sunday morning early, before the busy populace were stirring, he would make his way to Waterloo bridge and jump into the river, or tumble off.

     At three o’clock he set off for his final expedition, and had nearly reached the bridge, the shadow of the night protecting him from observation, when a figure stood before him.  Amazed at being seen by any one, he turned out of the path, when the figure crouching low before him, revealed a tattered, miserable man, baring his head in abjectness.

              “What are you doing here?” inquired the retired merchant.

      “I have a wife and family, whom I can’t help from starving, and I am afraid to go and see them.  Last night I knew they would be turned into the streets,” replied the man.

        “Take that.” Replied the merchant, giving him his purse, with gold and silver in it—thinking to himself, “how much more useful this will be to him, than in my pocket in the water.”

       “God bless you, sir—God bless you, sir,” exclaimed the man several times, kneeling before the astonished merchant.

                     “Stop,” said the merchant, “do not overwhelm me so with your thanksgivings—but tell me where you live.”

         “In Lambeth, sir.”

         “Then why are you here this morning?” said the merchant.

      “I do not like to tell you,” said the man.  I am ashamed to tell a gentleman like you.”

            “Why so?” replied the merchant.

           “Well, sir.” replied the man, “as I had not a single penny, and did not know how to get one.  I came here to drown myself, although I knew ‘twas wicked!”

                 The merchant was astonished and appalled, and after a long silence, said, “sir, I am overwhelmed with wealth, and yet I am so miserable that I came here for the same purpose as yourself.  There’s something more in this than I can understand at present."

    "Let me go with you to see your family.”

             The man made every excuse to hinder the merchant, but he would go.

               “Have you lost your character?” said the merchant.

     “No, sir,” replied the man, but I am so miserably poor and wretched—and, for anything I know, my wife and children may be turned into the street.”

      “Why are you out of work and pay?” resumed the merchant.

              “I used to groom the horses of the stage-coaches,” said the man, “but since the railroads are come up the coaches are put down, and many men like me have no employment.”

            They plodded on their way, two miles of brick and mortar piled on either side.  At last they came to a third rate house, when a rough, common looking woman opened the door and shutter. As soon as she saw the man, she let loose her tongue upon him for all the villainy in the world, but something which passed from his hand to hers hushed her in an instant; and observing the merchant, she courtesied to him civilly.


          The man ran up-stairs, leaving the merchant and the woman together, which gave the former an opportunity to make inquiries.  Having satisfied himself that want was the crime of the family. He told the woman who he was, promised to see her paid, and induced her to set on and cook a breakfast for the family, and supply them with any thing which they needed.

          The man returned, and the merchant went up-stairs to see, for the first time, the wretched family in rags, dirt, and misery.  He comforted them with hope of better days, and bidding the man take a hasty meal below, took him with him, and helped with his own hands to load a cart with bed, bedding, clothes furniture, and food for the family.

         The man was gone, and the merchant for the first moment, reflected on all that had passed.  He was relieved of his misery by doing something for another, and out of mere selfishness he resolved on doing good to others, to prevent the necessity for drowning himself.

        He employed the man in his  stable, removed the family near, and place them in a cottage, sending the children to school.  Soon he sought out misery to relieve, and was led to consider the cause of all misery—sin.  He turned to God and found him, and sought to turn his fellow sinners.

     He aided every good word and work, and was the humble teller of his own humbling story.  He had been a merchant man seeking goodly pearls, and having found the Pearl of Great Price, he went and sold all that he had, and bought it; and the retired earthly merchant became the active heavenly merchant.



Better the valley with peace and love

Than the desolate heights that some attain

Lonely is life on the hills above

The valley lands and the sunny plain

What is fame to love? Can it satisfy

The longing and lonely heart of men

On the heights they must hunger and starve and die

Come back to the valley of peace again!



M. A.  Vroman