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The Old Village Church
by [?]

TWENTY years! Yes, twenty years had intervened since I left the pleasant village of Brookdale, and not once during all this period had I visited the dear old spot that was held more and more sacred by memory. hundred times had I purposed to do so, yet not until the lapse of twenty years was this purpose fulfilled. Then, sobered. by disappointments, I went back on a pilgrimage, to the home of early days.

I was just twenty years old when I left Brookdale. My father’s family removed at the same time, and this was the reason why I had not returned. The heart’s strongest attractions were in another place. But the desire to go back revived, after a season of affliction and some painful defeats in the great battle of life. The memory of dear childhood grew so palpable, and produced such an earnest longing to revisit old scenes, that I was constrained to turn my face towards my early home.

It was late in the evening of a calm autumnal day, at the close of the week, when I arrived at Brookdale. The village inn where I stopped, and at which I engaged lodgings for a few days, was not the old village inn. That had passed away, and a newer and larger building stood in its place. Nor was the old landlord there. Why had I expected to see him? Twenty years before, he was bent with age. His eyes were dim and his step faltered when last I saw him. It was but natural that he should pass away. Still, I felt a shade of disappointment when the truth came. He who filled his place was unknown to me; and, in all his household, not a familiar countenance was presented.

But I solaced myself for this with thoughts of the morrow, when my eyes would look upon long-remembered scenes and faces. The old homestead, with its garden and clambering vines–a picture which had grown more vivid in my thoughts every year–how earnest was my desire to look upon it again! There was the deep, pure spring, in which, as I bent to drink, I had so often looked upon my mirrored face; and the broad flat stone near by, where I had sat so many times. I would sit there again, after tasting the sweet water, and think of the olden time! The dear old mill, too, with its murmuring wheel glistening in the bright sunshine, and the race, on whose bank I had gathered wild flowers and raspberries?

I could sleep but little for thinking of these things, and when morning broke, and the sun shone out, I went I forth impatient to see the real objects which had been so long pictured in my memory.

“Am I in Brookdale? No–it cannot be. There is some strange error. Yes–yes–it is Brookdale, for here is the old church. I cannot mistake that. Hark! Yes–yes–it is the early bell! I would know its sound amid a thousand!”

On I moved, passing the ancient building whose architect had long since been called to sleep with his fathers, and over whose walls and spire time had cast a duller hue. I was eager to reach the old homestead. The mill lay between–or, once it did. Only a shapeless ruin now remained. The broken wheel, the crumbling walls, and empty forebay were all that my eyes rested upon, and I paused sadly to mark the wreck which time had made. The race was dry, and overgrown with elder and rank weeds. A quarter of a mile distant stood out sharply, against the clear sky, a large factory, newly built and thither the stream in which I had once sailed my tiny boat, or dropped my line, had been turned, and the old mill left to silence and decay. Ah me! I cannot make words obedient to my thoughts in giving utterance to the disappointment I then felt. A brief space I stood, mourning over the ruins, and then moved on again, a painful presentiment fast arising in my heart that all would not be, as I had left, it in the white cottage I was seeking. The two great elms that stood bending together, as if instinct with a sense of protection, above that dear home–where were they? My eyes searched for them in vain.