Fifteen Years in Hell
Luther Benson

Part 1 out of 3

Produced by Ted Garvin, Christopher Lund and PG Distributed Proofreaders







Early shadows--An unmerciful enemy--The miseries of the curse--Sorrow
and gloom--What alcohol robs man of--What it does--What it does not
do--Surrounding evils--Blighted homes--A Titan devil--The utterness of the
destroyer--A truthful narrative--"It stingeth like an adder."


Birth, parentage and early education--Early childhood--Early events--Memory
of them vivid--Bitter desolation--An active but uneasy life--Breaking colts
for amusement--Amount of sleep--Temperament has much to do in the matter of
drink--The author to blame for his misspent life--Inheritances--The
excellences of my father and mother--The road to ruin not wilfully
trodden--The people's indifference to a great danger--My associates--What
became of them--The customs of twenty years ago--What might have been.


The old log school house--My studies and discontent--My first drink of
liquor--The companion of my first debauch--One drink always fatal--A
horrible slavery--A horseback ride on Sunday--Raleigh--Return home--"Dead
drunk"--My parents' shame and sorrow--My own remorse--An unhappy and
silent breakfast--The anguish of my mother--Gradual recovery--Resolves
and promises--No pleasure in drinking--The system's final craving for
liquor--The hopelessness of the drunkard's condition--The resistless power
of appetite--Possible escape--The courage required--The three laws--Their
violation and man's atonement.


School days at Fairview--My first public outbreak--A schoolmate--Drive
to Falmouth--First drink at Falmouth--Disappointment--Drive to Smelser's
Mills--Hostetter's Bitters--The author's opinion of patent medicines,
bitters especially--Boasting--More liquor--Difficulty in lighting
a cigar--A hound that got in bad company--Oysters at Falmouth, and
what befell us while waiting for them--Drunken slumber--A hound in
a crib--Getting awake--The owner of the hound--Sobriety--The Vienna
jug--Another debauch--The exhibition--The end of the school term--Starting
to college at Cincinnati--My companions--The destruction wrought
by alcohol--Dr. Johnson's declaration concerning the indulgence of
this vice--A warning--A dangerous fallacy--Byron's inspiration--Lord
Brougham--Sheridan--Sue--Swinburne--Dr. Carpenter's opinion--An erroneous
idea--Temperance the best aid to thought.


Quit college--Shattered nerves--Summer and autumn days--Improvement--Picnic
parties--A fall--An untimely storm--Crawford's beer and ale--Beer
brawls--County fairs and their influence on my life--My yoke of white
oxen--The "red ribbon"--"One McPhillipps"--How I got home and how I found
myself in the morning--My mother's agony--A day of teaching under
difficulties--Quiet again--Law studies at Connersville--"Out on a
spree"--What a spree means.


Law practice at Rushville--Bright prospects--The blight--From bad
to worse--My mother's death--My solemn promise to her--"Broken, oh,
God!"--Reflection--My remorse--The memory of my mother--A young man's
duty--Blessed are the pure in heart--The grave--Young man, murder not your
mother--Rum--A knife which is never red with blood, but which has severed
souls and stabbed thousands to death--The desolation and death which are in


Blank, black night--Afloat--From place to place--No rest--Struggles--Giving
way--One gallon of whisky in twenty-four hours--Plowing corn--Husking
corn--My object--All in vain--Old before my time--A wild, oblivious
journey--Delirium tremens--The horrors of hell--The pains of the
damned--Heavenly hosts--My release--New tortures--Insane wanderings--In the
woods--At Mr. Hinchman's--Frozen feet--Drive to town in a buggy surrounded
by devils--Fears and sorrows--No rest.


Wretchedness and degradation--Clothes, credit, and reputation all lost--The
prodigal's return to his father's house--Familiar scenes--The beauty of
nature--My lack of feeling--A wild horse--I ride him to Raleigh and get
drunk--A mixture of vile poison--My ride and fall--The broken stirrups--My
father's search--I get home once more--Depart the same day on the wild
horse--A week at Lewisville--Sick--Yearnings for sympathy.


The ever-recurring spell--Writing in the sand--Hartford City--In the
Ditch--Extricated--Fairly started--A telegram--My brother's death--Sober--A
long night--Ride home--Palpitation of the heart--Bluffton--The
inevitable--Delirium again--No friends, money, nor clothes--One hundred
miles from home--I take a walk--Clinton county--Engage to teach a
school--The lobbies of hell--Arrested--Flight to the country--Open
school--A failure--Return home--The beginning of a terrible experience--Two
months of uninterrupted drinking--Coatless, hatless, and, bootless--The
"Blue Goose"--The tremens--Inflammatory rheumatism--The torments of the
damned--Walking on crutches--Drive to Rushville--Another drunk--Pawn
my clothes--At Indianapolis--A cold bath--The consequence--Teaching
school--Satisfaction given--The kindness of Daniel Baker and his wife--A
paying practice at law.


The "Baxter Law"--Its injustice--Appetite is not controlled by
legislation--Indictments--What they amount to--"Not guilty"--The
Indianapolis police--The Rushville grand jury--Start home afoot--Fear--The
coming head-light--A desire to end my miserable existence--"Now is the
time"--A struggle in which life wins--Flight across the fields--Bathing in
dew--Hiding from the officers--My condition--Prayer--My unimaginable
sufferings--Advised to lecture--The time I began to lecture.


My first lecture--A cold and disagreeable evening--A fair audience--My
success--Lecture at Fairview--The people turn out en masse--At
Rushville--Dread of appearing before the audience--Hesitation--I go on the
stage and am greeted with applause--My fright--I throw off my father's old
coat and stand forth--Begin to speak, and soon warm to my subject--I make
a lecture tour--Four hundred and seventy lectures in Indiana--Attitude
of the press--The aid of the good--Opposition and falsehood--Unkind
criticism--Tattle mongers--Ten months of sobriety--My fall--Attempt to
commit suicide--Inflict an ugly but not dangerous wound on myself--Ask
the sheriff to lock me in the jail--Renewed effort--The campaign of
'74--"Local option."


Struggle for life--A cry of warning--"Why don't you quit?"--Solitude,
separation, banishment--No quarter asked--The rumseller--A risk no man
should incur--The woman's temperance convention at Indianapolis--At
Richmond--The bloated druggist--"Death and damnation"--At the
Galt House--The three distinct properties of alcohol--Ten days in
Cincinnati--The delirium tremens--My horrible sufferings--The stick
that turned to a serpent--A world of devils--Flying in dread--I go to
Connersville, Indiana--My condition grows worse--Hell, horrors, and
torments--The horrid sights of a drunkard's madness.


Recovery--Trip to Maine--Lecturing in that State--Dr. Reynolds, the
"Dare to do right" reformer--Return to Indianapolis--Lecturing--Newspaper
extracts--The criticisms of the press--Private letters of encouragement--
Friends dear to memory--Sacred names.


At home again--Overwork--Shattered nerves--Downward to hell--Conceive the
idea of traveling with some one--Leave Indianapolis on a third tour east in
company with Gen. Macauley--Separate from him at Buffalo--I go on to New
York alone--Trading clothes for whisky--Delirious wanderings--Jersey
City--In the calaboose--Deathly sick--An insane neighbor--Another--In
court--"John Dalton"--"Here! your honor"--Discharged--Boston--Drunk--At
the residence of Junius Brutus Booth--Lecturing again--Home--Converted--Go
to Boston--Attend the Moody and Sankey meetings--Get drunk--Home once
more--Committed to the asylum--Reflections--The shadow which whispered
"Go away!"


A sleepless night--Try to write on the following day but fail--My friends
consult with the officers of the institution--I am discharged--Go to
Indianapolis and get drunk--My wanderings and horrible sufferings--
Alcohol--The tyrant whom all should slay--What is lost by the drunkard--Is
anything gained by the use of liquor?--Never touch it in any form--It
leads to ruin and death--Better blow your brains out--My condition at
present--The end.


The days of long prefaces are past. It is also too near the end of the
century to indulge in fulsome dedications. I shall, therefore, trouble the
reader with only a brief introduction to this imperfect history of an
imperfect life. The conditions under which I write necessarily make it
lacking in much that would ordinarily have added to its interest. I write
within the Indiana Asylum for the Insane; I have not the means of
information at hand which I should have to make the work what it should be,
and notes which I had taken from time to time, with a view of using them,
have unfortunately been lost. Much of my life is a complete blank to me, as
I have often, very often, alas! gone for days oblivious to every act and
thing, as dead to all about me as the stones of the pavement are dumb. Nor
can I connect a succession of incidents one after the other as they
occurred in the regular course of my life. The reader is asked to be
merciful in his judgment and pardon the imperfections which I fear abound
in the book. The title, "FIFTEEN YEARS IN HELL," may, to some, seem
irreverent or profane, but let me assure any such that it is the mildest I
can find which conveys an idea of the facts. Expect nothing ornate or
romantic. The path along which you who walk with me will go is not a
flowery one. Its shadows are those of the cypress and yew; its skies are
curtained with funereal clouds; its beginning is a gloom and its end is a
mad house. But go with me, for you can suffer no harm, and a knowledge of
what you will see may lead you to warn others who are in danger of doing as
I have done. Unless help comes to me from on high, I feel that I am near
the end of my weary and sorrow-laden pilgrimage on earth. You who are in
the light, I speak to you from the shadow; you who suffer, I speak to you
from the depths; you who are dying, perhaps I may speak to you from the
world of the dead; in any case the words herein written are the truth.


Early shadows--An unmerciful enemy--The miseries of the curse--Sorrow
and gloom--What alcohol robs man of--What it does--What it does not
do--Surrounding evils--Blighted homes--A Titan devil--The utterness of the
destroyer--A truthful narrative--"It stingeth like an adder."

Truth, said Lord Byron, is stranger than fiction. He was right, for so it
is. Another has declared that if any man should write a faithful history of
his own career, the work would be an interesting one. The question now
arises, does any man dare to be sufficiently candid to write such a work?
Is there no secret baseness he would hide?--no act which, proper to be
told, he would swerve from the truth to tell in his own favor? Undoubtedly,
many. Doubtless it is well that few have the resolution or inclination to
chronicle their faults and failings. How many, too, would shrink from
making a public display of their miserable experiences for fear of being
accused of glorying in their past shame, or of parading a pride that apes
humility. I pretend to no talent, but if a too true story of suffering may
interest, and at the same time alarm, I can promise matter enough, and
unembellished, too, for no embellishment is needed, as all my sketches are
from the life. The incidents will not be found to be consecutive, but set
down as certain scenes occur to my recollection--heedless of order, style,
or system. Each is a record of shame, suffering, destitution and disgrace.
I have all my life stood without and gazed longingly through gateways which
relentlessly barred me from the light and warmth and glory, which, though
never for me, was shining beyond. From the day that consciousness came to
me in this world I have been miserable. In early childhood I swam, as it
were, in a dark sea of sorrow whose sad waves forever beat over me with a
prophetic wail of desolations and storms to come. During the years of
boyhood, when others were thoughtless and full of joy, the sun's rays were
hidden from my sight and I groped hopelessly forward, praying in vain for
an end of misery. Out of such a boyhood there came--as what else could
come?--a manhood all imperfect, clothed with gloom, haunted by horror, and
familiar with undefinable terrors which have weighed upon my heart until I
have cried to myself that it would break--until I have almost prayed that
it would break and thereby free me from the bondage of my pitiless master,
Woe! To-day walled within a prison for madmen, looking from a window whose
grating is iron, the sole occupant of a room as blank as the leaf of
happiness is to me, I abandon every hope. On this side the silence which we
call death--that silence which inhabits the dismal grave, there is for me
only sorrow and agony keener than has ever before made gray and old before
its time the heart of man. Thirty years! and what are they?--what have they
been? Patience, and as best I can, I will unfold their record. Thirty
years! and I feel that the weight of a world's wretchedness has lain upon
me for thrice their number of terrible days! Every effort of my life has
been a failure. Surely and steadily the hand of misfortune has crushed me
until I have looked forward to my bier as a blessed bed of repose--rest
from weariness--forgetfulness of remorse--escape from misery. At the dawn
of life, ay, in its very beginning, there came to me a bitter, deadly,
unmerciful enemy, accompanied in those days by song and laughter--an enemy
that was swift in getting me in his power, and who, when I was once
securely his victim, turned all laughter into wailing, and all songs into
sobbing, and pressed to my bloated lips his poisonous chalice which I have
ever found full of the stinging adders of hell and death. Too well do I
know what it is to feel the burning and jagged links of the devil's chain
cutting through my quivering flesh to the shrinking bone--to feel my nerves
tremble with agony, and my brain burn as if bathed in liquids of fire--too
well, I say, do I know what these things are, for I have felt them
intensified again and again, ten thousand times. The infinite God alone
knows the deep abyss of my sorrow, and help, if help be possible, can come
from him alone.

I shall not attempt in these pages any learned disquisition upon the nature
of alcohol--its hideous effects on the system--how it disarranges all the
functions of the body--how it impairs health--blots out memory, dethrones
reason, and destroys the very soul itself--how it gives to the whole body
an unnatural and unhealthy action, crucifying the flesh, blood, bones and
marrow--how it paints hell in the mind and torture on the heart, and
strangles hope with despair.

Nor shall I discuss the terrible and overshadowing evils, financial and
social, inflicted by it on every class of society. Like the trail of the
serpent it is over all. Look where you will, turn where you may, you can
not be blind to its evils. It despoils manhood of all that makes manhood
desirable; it plucks hope from the breast of the weeping wife with a hand
of ice; it robs the orphan of his bread crumb, and says to the gates of
penitentiaries, "Open wide and often to the criminals who became my slaves
before they committed crime." The evils of which I speak are not unknown to
you, but have you considered them as things real? Have you fought them as
present and near dangers? You have heard the wild sounds of drunken revelry
mingling with the night winds; you have heard the shrieks and sobs, and
seen the streaming, sunken eyes of dying women; you have heard the
unprotected and unfriended orphans' cry echoed from a thousand blighted
homes and squalid tenements; you have seen the outcast family of the
inebriate wandering houseless upon the highways, or shivering on the
streets; you have shuddered at the sound of the maniac's scream upon the
burdened air; you have beheld the human form divine despoiled of every
humanizing attribute, transformed from an angel into a devil; you have seen
virtue crushed by vice; the bright eye lose its lustre, the lips their
power of articulation; you have seen what was clean become foul, what was
upright become crooked, what was high become low--man, first in the order
of created things, sunken to a level with brute beasts; and after all these
you have or may have said to yourself, "All this is the work of the
terrible demon, alcohol."

I shall not attempt to paint any of the countless scenes of degradation,
and horror, and misery, which this demon has caused to be enacted. I shall
leave without comment the endless train of crimes and vices, the beggary
and devastation following the course of this foul Titan devil of ruin and
damnation. I shall only endeavor to give a plain, truthful history of one
who has felt every pang, every sorrow, every agony, every shame, every
remorse, that the demon of drunkenness can inflict. I have nothing to thank
this demon for, beyond a few fleeting--oh, how fleeting--hours of false
delight. He has wrought only woe and loss to me. Even now, as I sit here in
the stillness of desperation, afraid of I know not what, trembling with a
strange dread of some impending doom, gazing in fright backward along the
shores of the years whereon I see the wrecks of a thousand hopes, the
destruction of every noble aspiration, the ruin of every noble resolve, I
cry aloud against the utterness of the destroyer. My life has indeed been a
sad one; so sad, so lonely, that no language in my power of utterance can
give to the reader a full conception of its moonless darkness. Would that
the magic pen of a De Quincey were mine that my miseries might stand out
until strong-hearted men and true-hearted women would weep, and every young
man and maiden also would tremble and turn from everything intoxicating as
from the oblivion of eternal death.

To many, certain events which I shall relate in this history may seem
incredible; some of the escapes may seem improbable; but again let me
assure you that there shall not be one word of exaggeration. The incidents
took place just as I shall state them. I have passed through not only all
that you will find recorded in these pages, but ten thousand times more. As
I lift the dark veil and look back through the black, unlighted past, I
shudder and hold my breath as scene after scene, each more appalling than
the one just before it, rises like the phantom line of Banquo's issue,
defining itself with pitiless distinctness upon my seared eyeballs, until
the last and most awful of all stands tall and black by my side, and
whispers, hisses, shrieks Madness in my ears. I bow my head and find a
moment's relief from the anguish of soul in the hot scalding tears which
stream down my fevered cheeks. O God of sure mercy, save other young men
from the dark and desolate tortures which gnaw at my heart, and press down
upon my weary soul! They are all, all, all the work of alcohol. Oh, how
true it is--how true few can understand until their lives are a burden of
distress and agony to them--that the cup which inebriates stingeth like an
adder. When you see it, turn from it as from a viper. Say to yourself as
you turn to fly, "It stingeth like an adder!"


Birth, parentage, and early education--Early childhood--Early
events--Memory of them vivid--Bitter desolation--An active but uneasy
life--Breaking colts for amusement--Amount of sleep--Temperament has much
to do in the matter of drink--The author to blame for his misspent
life--Inheritances--The excellences of my father and mother--The road to
ruin not wilfully trodden--The people's indifference to a great danger--My
associates--What became of them--The customs of twenty years ago--What
might have been.

As to my birth, parentage and education, I am the last but one of a family
of nine children, seven of whom were boys, and all of whom, excepting one
brother, are now living. Both brothers and sisters are, without an
exception, sober, industrious and honest. I was born in Rush county,
Indiana, on the 9th day of September, 1847.

If there is one spot in all the black waste of desolation about which I
cling with fond memory it is in my early childhood, and there is no part of
my life that is so fresh and vivid as that embraced in those first early
years. I can remember distinctly events which transpired when I was but two
years old, while I have forgotten thousands of incidents which have
occurred within the past two years. While it is true that in early
childhood a dark shadow fell athwart my pathway, making everything sombre
and painful with an impression of desolation, yet was my condition happy in
comparison with the rayless and pitchy blackness which subsequently folded
its curtains close about my very being, seeming to make respiration
impossible at times and life a nightmare of mockery. Seeming, do I say?
Nay, it did, for nothing can be more real than our feelings, no matter how
falsely they may be created. The agony of a dream is as keen while it lasts
as any other--more so, because there is a helplessness about it which makes
it harder to resist.

Many times, lying in my bed after a disgraceful debauch of days' or weeks'
duration, has my memory winged its way through the realms of darkness in
the mournful and lonesome past, back through years of horror and suffering
to the green and holy morning of life, as it at this moment seems to me,
and rested for an instant on some quiet hour in that dawn which broke
tempestuously, heralding the storms which would later gather and break
about me. At such times I could distinctly remember the names and features
of all the persons who dwelt in the vicinity of my father's house, although
many of them died long ago or passed away from the neighborhood. I could at
this time repeat word for word conversations which took place twenty-five
years ago. I do not so much attribute this to a retentive memory as to the
habit I have had of thinking, when my mind was in a condition to think, of
all that was a part of my early life. Again and again, as the years gather
up around me, and the valley of life deepens its shadows toward the tomb,
do I go back in memory to the days that were. Again and again do I awaken
to the beauty, the love, the faces and friends of those days. They are all
dear and sacred to me now, though I know they can come no more, and that
the hollow spaces of time between the Here and There--the Now and
Then--will reverberate forever with the echoes of many-voiced sorrows.
Could those who meet me look down into the depths of my ghastly and bitter
desolation, they would behold more appalling pictures of human agony than
ever mortal eye gazed upon since the opening of the day of time--since the
roses of Eden first bloomed and knew not the blight so soon to darken the
earthly paradise by the rivers of the east. But I wander from my subject.

I lived and worked on my father's farm until I was eighteen years of age.
As I have already said, even when a child I found myself sad and much
depressed at times. I could not bear the society of my companions, and at
such times would wander away alone to meditate and brood over my misery. At
the very threshold of life I was dissatisfied and discontented with my
surroundings. I was ever anxious and uneasy, ever longing for some
undefinable, unnamable something--I knew not what, but, O God, I knew the
desolation of feeling which was then mine. The sorrow of the grave is
lighter than that. My life has always been an active one--restless, uneasy,
and full of action, I naturally wanted to be doing something or going
somewhere. From the time I was seven years old up to the time I was fifteen
there was not a calf or colt on the farm that was not thoroughly broken to
work or to be ridden. In this work or pastime of breaking in calves and
colts I received sundry kicks, wounds, and bruises quite often, and still
upon my person are some of the marks imprinted by untamed animals. I only
speak of these things that the reader may know the character of my
temperament, and thus be enabled to judge more correctly of it when
influenced and excited by stimulants which will arouse to rash actions the
dullest organizations. I was invariably the last one to go to bed when
night came, but not the last to rise, for I always bounded out of bed ahead
of the others; and in this connection I can assert with truth that for over
twenty years I have not averaged over five hours of sleep out of every
twenty-four during that time. I have never found in all nature one object
or occupation that gave me more than a swiftly passing gleam of contentment
or pleasure. That the reader may clearly comprehend my present condition
and impartially judge as to my culpability in certain of my acts, I desire
that he may know the circumstances and surroundings of my childhood, for I
do solemnly aver that my sorrows and miseries were not of my own planting
in those days. While I believe that some men will be drunkards in spite of
almost everything that can be done for their relief, others there are, no
matter how surrounded, who never will be drunkards, but solely because they
abstain from ever tasting the insidious poison. Temperament has much to do
with the matter of drink, and could it be known and properly guarded
against, I believe that a majority of those having the strongest
predisposition to drink, if steps were taken in time, could be saved from
its inevitable end, which is madness and death. I would here say to parents
that it is their solemn duty to study well the disposition and temperament
of their children from the hour of their birth. By proper training and
restraint, all wrong impulses might be corrected and the child saved from a
life of shameful misery, while they would themselves escape the sorrow
which would come to them because of the wrong-doing of the child. While no
person is particularly to blame for my misspent life, yet I can clearly see
to-day how its worse than wasted years might have been years of use and
honor. Its every step might have been planted with actions the memory of
which would have been a blessing instead of a remorse.

I have no recollection of a time when I had not an appetite for liquor. My
parents and friends of course knew that if it was taken in excess it would
lead to destruction, but in our quiet neighborhood, where little was known
of its excesses, no one dreamed of the fearful curse which slumbered in it
for me to awake. Had they had the least dread, fear, or anticipation of it
they would have left nothing undone that being done might have saved me. My
appetite for it was born with me, and was as much a part of myself as the
air I breathed. There are three kinds of inheritances, some of money and
lands, some of superior or great talents, and others of misfortunes. For
myself this misfortune was my inheritance. It came not to me directly from
my father or mother, but from my mother's father, and seemed to lie waiting
for me for three or four generations, and the mistakes and passion of long
dead great grandparents reappeared in me, thus fulfilling, with terrible
truth, the words of the divine book. It has been gathering strength until
when it broke forth its force has become wide-sweeping, irresistible and
rushing--a consuming power, devouring and sweeping away whatever dares to
arrest its onward progress. Never, never, in those long gone and innocent
years of my childhood did my father or mother dream that I, their
much-loved child, would ever become a drunkard. If there is anything good,
manly, noble or true, that is a part of me, I am indebted to them for it.
They loved me, and I worshiped them. The consciousness that I have caused
them to suffer so much has been the keenest sorrow of my life. My mother
(blessed be the name!) is now in heaven. When she died the light went out
from my soul. A pang more poignant than any known before pierced me through
and through. My father is living still, and I verily believe there is not a
son on earth who more truly and devotedly honors and loves his father than
I mine. But I desire to show that I am not wholly responsible for my
present unhappy condition. It is natural for every man to wish to excuse,
or at least try to soften the lines of his mistakes with palliating
reasons, and this I think right so long as the truth is adhered to, and
injustice is not done any one. I hope no one will think that I have
willfully trod the road to ruin, or sunk myself so low when I have desired
the opposite with my whole heart. I was a victim of the fell spirit of
alcohol before I realized it. I was raised in a place where opportunities
to drink were numerous, as everybody in those days kept liquor, and to
drink was not the dangerous and disgraceful thing it's now considered to
be. For a radius often miles from our house more people kept whisky in
their cupboards or cellars than were without it. I never heard a temperance
lecturer until I was twenty years of age, and but seldom heard of one. The
people were asleep while a great danger was gathering in the land--a danger
which is now known and seen, and which is so vast in its magnitude that the
combined strength of all who love peace, order, sobriety and happiness, is
scarcely sufficient to meet it in victorious combat.

What associates I had in those days were among men rather than boys, and
the men I went with drank. They gave whisky to me and I drank it, and
whether they gave it or not, I wanted it. Some of those who gave me drinks
are no longer among the living, but neither of them nor of the living would
I speak unkindly, nor call up in the memory of one who may read this book a
thought that might excite a pang; but I would ask any such just to go back
ten, fifteen, and twenty years, and tell me where, are some of the wealthy,
influential men of that time? In the silence of the winding-sheet! How many
of them have hastened to death through the agency of whisky? And how few
suspected that slowly but surely they were poisoning the wellsprings of
life? How many are bankrupts now that might yet be in possession of
unincumbered farms, the possessors of peaceful homes, but for that thief
accursed--Liquor! Look, too, at some of the sons of these men, and say what
you see, for you behold lives wrecked and wretched. Need I tell you what
has wrought all this ruin? Need I say that intemperance is at the bottom of

The country where I lived in youth and boyhood was equal, if not superior,
to any surrounding it. My father's neighbors were all kind-hearted,
generous people, and some of them--many of them, indeed--were good
Christians, and yet I repeat that twenty years ago there was not a place of
a mile in extent but presented the opportunity for drinking. In every
little town and village whisky was kept in public and private houses. There
was, and yet is, near my father's farm two very small but ancient towns,
containing each some twenty or thirty houses, and both of these places have
been cursed with saloons in which liquor has been sold for the last thirty
years. Both of these towns were favorite resorts with me, especially the
one called Raleigh. I have been drunk oftener and longer at a time in
Raleigh than in any one place in Indiana. I have written thus of my
birthplace and surroundings, that the reader may know the temptations that
encompassed me about, and not to speak against any place or people. The
country in my father's neighborhood is peopled at this time with noble men
and women--prosperous, noted for kindness, generosity, and unpretending
virtue. I think if I had been raised where liquor was unknown, and had been
taught in early childhood the ruin which follows drinking--if I had had
this impressed on my mind, I would have grown up a sober and happy man,
notwithstanding my inherited appetite. I would have been a sober man,
instead of traversing step by step the downward road of dissipation. I am
easily impressed, and in early life might have been taught such lessons as
would forever have turned my feet from the wrong and desolation in which
they have stumbled so often--in which they have walked so swiftly. Instead
of dwelling with shadows of realities the most terrible, and brooding in
the cell of a maniac, I might have now communed with the pure and noble of


The old log school house--My studies and discontent--My first drink of
liquor--The companion of my first debauch--One drink always fatal--A
horrible slavery--A horseback ride on Sunday--Raleigh--Return home--"Dead
drunk"--My parents' shame and sorrow--My own remorse--An unhappy and silent
breakfast--The anguish of my mother--Gradual recovery--Resolves and
promises--No pleasure in drinking--The system's final craving for
liquor--The hopelessness of the drunkard's condition--The resistless power
of appetite--Possible escape--The courage required--The three laws--Their
violation and man's atonement.

When I first started to school, log school houses were not yet things of
the past, and well do I remember the one which stood near the little stream
known as Hood's creek, and Sam Munger, from whom I first received
instruction. The next school I attended was in a log house near where
Ammon's mill now stands. I attended one or two summer terms at each of
these places. There is nothing remarkable connected with my early
school-days. They glided onward rapidly enough, but I saw and felt
differently, it seemed to me, from those around me; but this may be the
experience of others, only I think the melancholy, the fear, the
unhappiness which hung over me were not as marked in any one else. I
studied but little, because of my discontented and uneasy feeling, but I
kept up with my lessons, and have yet one or two prizes bestowed on me
twenty years ago for being at the head of my class the greater number of

I recollect with painful clearness the first drink of liquor that ever
passed my lips. It has been more than twenty-four years since then, but my
memory calls it up as if it were only yesterday, with all the circumstances
under which I took it. It was in the time of threshing wheat, and then, as
in harvesting, log-rolling, and everything that required the cooperation of
neighbors, whisky was always more or less used. I was little more than six
years of age. A bottle containing liquor was set in the shadow of some
sheaves of wheat which stood near a wagon, and taking it I crawled under
the wagon with a neighbor now living in Raleigh. We began drinking from
this bottle and did not stop until we were both pitiably drunk. The boy who
took that first drink with me has since had some experience with the
effects of alcohol, but at this time he is bravely fighting the good battle
of sobriety and may God always give him the victory. I never could taste
liquor without getting drunk. When one drop passed my lips I became wild
for another, and another, until my sole thought was how to get enough to
satisfy the unquenchable thirst. To-day if I were to dip the point of a
needle into whisky and then touch my tongue with that needle, I would be
unable to resist the burning desire to drink which that infinitesimal atom
would awaken. I would get drunk if hell burst up out of the earth around
me--yes, if I could look down into the flames and see men whose eye-brows
were burnt off, and whose every hair was a burning, blazing, coiling,
hissing snake from their having used the deadly liquid. And if each of
these countless fiery snakes had a tongue of forked fire and could be heard
to scream for miles, and I knew that another drop would cause them to lick
my quivering flesh, yet would I take it. O horror of horrors! I would
plunge into the flames forever and ever. After I once taste I am powerless
to resist. When I was ten years of age I went one Sunday with a neighbor
boy several years older than I, riding on horseback. The course we took was
a favorite one with me for it led toward Raleigh, just north of which place
I contrived to get a pint or more of the poison called whisky. The doctor
from whom I got it had, of course, no idea that I was going to drink it,
especially all of it, but drink it I did, getting so completely under its
horrible influence that when I arrived at home I fell senseless against the
door. My father and mother heard me fall and came out and took me into the
house, and just as soon as the heat of the fire began to affect me, I sank
into a dead stupor; all consciousness was gone; all feeling was destroyed;
all intelligence was obliterated. I lay upon my bed that night wholly
oblivious to everything, knowing not, indeed, that such a creature as
myself ever existed. The morning came at last, and with it I opened my
eyes. Describe who can the thoughts which rushed through my distracted
brain. For a little while I knew not where I was or what I had done. My
head was throbbing, aching, bursting. I glanced about me and on either side
of my bed my father and mother knelt in prayer! Then did I remember what
had befallen me, and so keen was my remorse that I thought I would surely
die, and, in fact, I wanted to die. O, much loved parents--father on earth
and mother in heaven--how often since then have I felt anew the shame of
that terrible hour--how often have I seen your sacred faces, wet with the
tears of that trial, come before me, looking imploringly heavenward as if
beseeching for me the mercy of the infinite God!

That morning the family gathered about the breakfast table, but what a
shadow rested over all. A solemnity of silent sorrow was upon us. The peace
of yesterday had flown with my return home, and the dark misery of my soul
tinged with the shade of the grave's desolation the clouds which were
gathering in our sky. O, how often have I prayed that the time might be
given back, and that it might be in my power to resist the curse; but the
past is implacable as death, and I must bear the tortures that belong to
the memory of that most unhappy day. That day, and for many succeeding
ones, I read an anguish in the saintly face of my mother that I had never
seen there before. My father also bore about with him a look of deep
suffering which haunted me for years. For one day I suffered intensely both
mentally and physically, but being of a strong, vigorous, and healthy
constitution, I was almost completely restored by the following morning. Of
course I resolved and promised my father and mother that I would never
again taste liquor. For some time I faithfully kept my promise, and for
weeks the very thought of liquor was revolting to me. No one becomes a
drunkard in a day or week. Alcohol is a subtle poison, and it takes a long
time for it to so undermine man's system that he finds life almost
intolerable unless stimulated by the hell-broth which must surely destroy
him in the end, unless he closes his lips like a vise against it. But for
me, I never could drink, from my childhood, without coming under the
influence of the accursed poison. I never drank because I liked the taste
of liquor, but because I liked the first effects of it. I was never able to
tell good liquor or rather pure alcohol--for such a thing as good liquor
has never been made--from the worst, the meanest, manufactured from drugs.
The latter may be more speedy than pure alcohol, but either will destroy
with fatal certainty and rapidity. I drank, as I have said, for the
effects, and in the first years of my drinking my first emotions were
pleasurable. It sent the blood rushing to the brain, and induced a
succession of vivid and pleasing thoughts. But invariably the depression
that followed was in the same ratio down as the former was up, and after a
time I lost that first pleasant, unnatural feeling, and drank only to
satisfy an indescribable passion or craving. At first the wine glass may
sparkle and foam, but let it never be forgotten that within that sparkle
and foam is concealed the glittering eye of the uncoiled adder. It is the
sparkle of a serpent's skin, the foam of the froth of death. Here I must
confess that for the past five or six years I have not been able to attain
one moment's pleasure from drinking. Every glass that I have touched has
proven to be the Dead Sea's fruit of ashes to my lips. I drank wildly,
insanely, and became oblivious for days and weeks together to all which was
about me, and finally awoke to the horrors which I had sought to drown, but
now intensified a thousand fold. No man ever buried sorrow in drunkenness.
He can not bury it that way any more than Eugene Aram could bury the body
of his victim with the weeds of the morass. Whoever seeks solace in whisky
will curse the hour which saw him commit a mistake so fatal. Woe to him who
looks for comfort in the intoxicating glass. He will see instead the
ghastly face of murdered hope, the distorted vision of a wasted life, his
own bloated corpse. The habit of drink after a time becomes more than a
mere habit; the system comes to demand and crave liquor, it permeates and
affects every part of the body until every function refuses to perform its
part until it has been aroused to action by its accustomed stimulant.

The most hopeless and wretched slave on earth is he who has bound himself
with the fetters of alcohol, and it is a sad and lamentable truth
that among thousands very few ever escape from the soul-destroying,
health-ruining bondage of an appetite for intoxicating drink. There is only
one here and there of all the hosts that are enchained and cursed who
succeeds in breaking the bonds which bind body, soul and spirit. So far as
the prospect of success is concerned in winning men from evil, I would say,
let me go to the brazen-faced and foul-mouthed blasphemer of the holy
Master's name; let me go to the forger, who for long years has been using
satanic cunning to defraud his fellow-men; let me go to the murderer, who
lies in the shadow of the gallows, with red hands dripping with the blood
of innocence; but send me not to the lost human shape whose spirit is on
fire, and whose flesh is steaming and burning with the flames of hell. And
why? Because his will is enthralled in the direst bondage conceivable--his
manhood is in the dust, and a demon sits in the chariot of his soul,
lashing the fiery steeds of passion to maniacal madness. No possible motive
or combination of motives can be urged upon him which will stand a moment
before the infernal clamorings of his appetite. Wife, children, home,
relatives, reputation, honor, and the hope and prospect of heaven itself,
all flee before this fell destroyer. The sufferings and agonies untold of
one human soul securely bound by the chains forged by rum are enough to
make angels weep and devils laugh. I have no desire to discourage those who
have this habit fastened on them. I would not say to them: You can not
break away from it. I would do all in my power to aid and strengthen every
such person in any attempt he might make to be free. There is escape, but
courage is required to make it, and greater courage than has ever been
exhibited on the field of battle, amid the thunders of cannon, the roar of
deadly conflict, the gleam of sabre and glitter of bayonet. But rather than
die the drunkard's death, and go to the drunkard's eternal doom, every
drunkard can afford to make this fight. It were better, ten thousand times,
that every such one should do as I have done--voluntarily go to an asylum
and be restrained until he so far recovers that he can of his own will
resist temptation. And there is another aid--a strength stronger than our
own--God! He will help every unfortunate one that goes to him in sincerity
and humbly implores the divine aid.

I desire here to make a statement in justice to myself. There are three
laws, the human, the natural and the divine. You may violate a human law,
and the judge, if he sees fit, may pardon your offense. If you violate the
divine law, God has prepared a way of escape, and promises pardon on
conditions within the reach of all, but for a violation of that which I
call natural law, there is no forgiveness. The penalty for every such
violation must be, and is, fully paid every time, and while natural laws
are as much a part of God's creation as the divine, he would no more set
aside a penalty for a violation of one of nature's laws than he would blot
out a part of his written word. Yet there are recuperative powers and
forces in nature that are wonderful, and there is a spiritual strength that
helps us to bear, and overcome, and endure every affliction. I was made a
new creature in Christ Jesus at Jeffersonville, Indiana, on the 21st of
last January, and had I then gone to work to recuperate and restore by all
natural means, my broken body, I am most certain that I never again would
have tasted liquor; but instead of using the means God had placed about me,
in the supreme ecstacy which comes to a redeemed, a new-born soul, I went
to work ten times more laboriously than ever, and soon completely exhausted
my bodily strength. My system was drained of every particle of its power to
resist the slightest attack of any kind whatsoever, much less to make a
successful struggle against my great enemy, and so, physically and mentally
exhausted when I was assailed by the black, foul fiend of alcohol, I fell,
and fell a second time. I resolved, yea, took an oath the most solemn, that
rather than again be overtaken by a disaster so dire, I would have myself
entombed within an asylum for the insane. Here at last, I was placed, and
here I intend to remain until nature shall restore to my body sufficient
strength to resist, with God's help, the next and every attack of my enemy.
As God is my witness, I had rather remain within these walls and listen to
the cries of the worst maniac here, from day to day, until the last hour of
my life--yes, and die and be buried here in the pauper's graveyard, than
ever again go out and drink. And now as I close this chapter with a full
heart, I go down on my knees in supplication to God for strength and grace
to keep me from that which has wrecked all my life and made it a continued
round of sorrow and shame. I ask every one who reads this chapter, to pray
to God for me with all your heart and soul. Oh! men and women, pray for
wretched, miserable, sorrowing, suffering, lonely me.


School days at Fairview--My first public outbreak--A schoolmate--Drive
to Falmouth--First drink at Falmouth--Disappointment--Drive to Smelser's
Mills--Hostetter's Bitters--The author's opinion of patent medicines,
bitters especially--Boasting--More liquor--Difficulty in lighting
a cigar--A hound that got in bad company--Oysters at Falmouth, and
what befell us while waiting for them--Drunken slumber--A hound in
a crib--Getting awake--The owner of the hound--Sobriety--The Vienna
jug--Another debauch--The exhibition--The end of the school term--Starting
to college at Cincinnati--My companions--The destruction wrought by
alcohol--Dr. Johnson's declaration concerning the indulgence of this
vice--A warning--A dangerous fallacy--Byron's inspiration--Lord
Brougham--Sheridan--Sue--Swinburne--Dr. Carpenter's opinion--An erroneous
idea--Temperance the best aid to thought.

At the age of sixteen I started to school at Fairview, then as now, an
insignificant but pretty village, some four miles from where my father
lived. William M. Thrasher, at this time Professor of Mathematics in the
Butler University, at Irvington, near Indianapolis, was the teacher in
charge of that school, and it is to him that I am under obligations for
about all the "book learning" that I possess. True, I went to college after
that, but I merely skimmed over the studies there assigned me. While at
school at Fairview I improved every opportunity to drink. A fatal instinct
guided me to the rum shop. It was during the first winter of my attendance
at the Fairview school that I was guilty of my first debauch. A young man
from Connersville came over to attend school, and I would remark in passing
that his father was chiefly interested in sending him to Fairview because
he thought that his boy would here be out of temptation. He arrived at noon
one day, and we were immediately made acquainted with each other, an
acquaintance which ripened into friendship on the spot. The roads were in
good condition for sleighing, and the next morning I proposed a ride. He
gladly accepted my invitation, and together we drove to Falmouth. At
Falmouth we each took a drink, and this fired us with a desire for more. We
drove to a house not far away where liquor was kept by the barrel, and
tried to get some, but failed--for we waited and waited to be invited in
vain--for no invitation was extended to us. Disappointed and half crazy for
whisky, we left the house and started on further in pursuit of the curse.
After driving about eight miles we halted at a place called Smelser's
Mills, where we were supplied with a bottle of Hostetter's Bitters, which
we drank without delay, and which was strong enough to make us reasonably
drunk, but which, nevertheless, did not come up to our ideas of what liquor
should be. My experience has been that about the worst and cheapest whisky
ever sold is that sold under the name of "bitters," and it costs more than
the best in the market. Excuse the word "best," but certain parts of
Dante's hell are good by comparison. I say to all and every one, shun every
drink that intoxicates, and shun nothing quicker than the patent medicines
which contain liquor, and while you are about it, shun patent medicines
which do not contain liquor. The chances are that they contain a deadlier
poison called opium. At any rate they seldom cure and often kill.

After drinking our bottle of poisonous slop--that is, Hostetter's
Bitters--my friend and I began to boast, and each labored hard to impress
the other with his greatness. In order to make the proper impression, we
agreed that it was highly important that we should demonstrate the large
quantity we could drink and still be reasonably sober. I knew of a place a
few miles further on--a place called Hittle's--where I felt sure I could
get whisky without an immediate outlay of cash, a consideration of
importance since neither I nor my friend had a penny. We went to Hittle's,
and there I was successful in an attempt to get a quart of whisky, which we
at once proceeded to mix with the Hostetter article already burning up the
lining of our stomachs. The effect was not long in appearing, for in a
little while we were both very drunk, and I in particular was in the
condition best described as howling, crazy drunk. We stopped at a house to
light our cigars--for of course we both smoked and chewed tobacco--and as
my friend did not feel like getting out, I reeled into the kitchen and
picked up a shovelful of coals, which I lifted so near my mouth that I
scorched my hair and burnt my face, and, worse than all, singed the faint
suggestion of a mustache that was visible by the aid of a microscope, on my
upper lip. While I was engaged in lighting my cigar, a large dog--a tall,
lean, much-ribbed, lank and hungry-looking hound--went out to the sleigh,
and my friend induced him to accept passage with us; so when I got back to
my seat it was proposed that the hound should accompany us. I have often
wondered since if he was not heartily ashamed of being seen in our company
that day; but we made a martyr of him all the same.

We drove off with a succession of whoops and yells, and carried the hound
in front. Our first halt was at Falmouth, where we ordered oysters. The
room in which we sat at table was quite small, and a large stove whose
sides were red with heat made it uncomfortably hot--especially for us who
were already in a sultry state. I had not sat at the table a minute when I
fell from my chair against the stove. My leg struck a hinge of the door,
and as my friend was too much overcome to realize my condition, I lay there
until the hinge burnt a hole through the leg of my pantaloons and then into
the flesh. I carry a scar to-day in memory of that time, and the scar is
about three inches long. The burn was over half an inch in depth. God only
knows what might have been the final result had not assistance soon come in
the person of the owner of the house. He called for help, and as soon as it
arrived we were placed in our sleigh, and by a kind of instinct drove to
Fairview. It was dark by the time we got into Fairview, but we contrived
to get our horse within the stable and that unfortunate hound into a
corn-crib, in which durance he howled so vigorously that the wild winds
which whistled and shrieked around the barn could not be heard for him. His
complaining lasted all night, and I do not think any one within a mile
of the crib slept that night, my friend and myself excepted. Ay, we
slept--slept as I have so often slept since--a slumber as deep and
oblivious as death--a drunken sleep, from which we awoke to suffer hell's
tortures so justly merited by our conduct. I awoke with a throbbing, aching
heart, but by slow degrees did I become conscious that I had been somewhere
in a sleigh and done something either very desperate or very foolish, or
both. At first my mind was so muddled, so beclouded with the fumes of
the infernal "bitters" and whisky that I thought I had burned a city.
While I was trying to solve the mystery of my course, I was aided by a
revelation so sudden that it startled me, for the owner of the hound came
galloping up and fiercely demanded to know where his dog was. He rated us
severely--accused us of stealing the animal, and threatened to prosecute us
then and there. I knew what we had done. In the meantime some one opened
the door of the crib and turned out the hound. He must have recognized the
voice of his master, for he joined the latter in his howling, and between
them they gave us good reason to wish that our ambition to keep that dog's
company had been in vain. The dog was more easily pacified than the man,
but finally on our offering to give him three plugs of tobacco to hush up
the affair, he became quiet and smoothed the ragged front of his anger. On
adding a cigar or two to the plugs, he brightened up and said we might have
the "darned houn'" any how, if we wanted him. But we had had enough of his
society and were willing to part from him without further expense.

I don't think, seriously speaking, that I ever suffered more keenly from
the stings of remorse and fear than I did for one week after this debauch.
The remarkable part of it to me was our determination to take the dog. All
my life I have disliked dogs--dogs in general and hounds in particular. I
resolved never to drink again, and for some time kept the resolution.

A few weeks following this "spree" there was an exhibition at the school
house, and several of the larger boys--myself among the number--assembled
themselves together, and, after a consultation, decided that, in order to
make the exhibition a success, there should be a limited amount of whisky
secured for our special use. We took up a collection, each contributing a
few cents, and two of the largest, tallest, and stoutest boys were
dispatched to Vienna, a small village three miles distant, to get it. A
vision of hounds passed before me, but the desire to get a drink drove them
yelping out of memory. The boys, on reaching Vienna, bargained for three
gallons of liquor, and brought it to our general headquarters. It was
wretched stuff--the vilest, meanest, rottenest poison that ever went under
the name of whisky. The boys who got it had carried it the three miles by
passing a stick through the handle of the jug. They got drunk on the way
back with it, and one of them fell into a branch, dragging the jug and the
other boy after him. Unfortunately the jug was not broken, and fortunately
the boys were not seriously hurt. It was a little after dark when they
stumbled across the meeting house yard to where we awaited them. The
following day we attacked the contents of the jug, and before midnight we
were all drunk--some rather moderately drunk, some very drunk, and some
dead drunk, as the phrase is. I myself was of the number that were dead
drunk. Some of the boys kept sober enough to fight, but I never would
fight, drunk or sober. I do not think I am a coward as regards personal
courage, and I really think the fear of hurting others restrained me from
ever mixing in brawls in those days.

As the night wore away two or three of the boys became sober enough to hide
the jug, which they concealed in a corn-shock. These dragged the rest of us
to bed, although one of the party woke up in the wood-box with his head
downward and his feet dangling over the top of the box. Only those who have
been so unfortunate as to be in a similar condition can realize our state
of mental and physical feeling. Parched lips, scalded tongues, cracked
throats, throbbing temples, and burning shame were indisputably ours. So we
awoke on the morning of the day set apart for the exhibition, an exhibition
in which we were to appear before our respected teacher, friends and
relatives, besides all the people of the surrounding country. Early in the
day we commenced to get ready for the afternoon's work by resorting to the
same jug that so recently had bereft us temporarily of reason, and laid us
in the mud and snow. I only got one big drink of the poison and so
contrived to get through passably well with my part of the performance;
some of the boys got too much, and failed to remember anything, so that
they failed utterly and hid behind the curtains, and, taken all in all, we
did little or nothing toward the success of the exhibition or to making
those interested gratified with our parts. Some of the boys who figured on
the stage that day are dead; but others are alive and of those I am not the
only one writhing in the coils of the serpent of alcohol, though not one of
them has fallen so low as I. If at that time I might have been permitted to
lift the curtain and looked down future-ward through the unlighted years of
shame, and weariness, and suffering, I think the dreadful vision would have
stayed me forever in a career which has only grown darker and more
unendurable with every step. I kept on much in the same way, increasing in
length and frequency my ever recurring debauches, until the end of the
school term.

I was well nigh twenty years of age, and from this place went to Cincinnati
to attend college. Here the opportunities to gratify my hereditary
appetite, made keen and sharp, and ever keener and sharper by indulgence,
were all about me. My companions were older and further advanced on the
road to ruin than I. My steps were more swift than ever before to tread the
path which leads surely to the everlasting bonfire. I could not fail to
notice while at college that the most brilliant and intellectual--those
whose future prospects were the most pleasing and bright--were the very
ones who most frequently drowned their hopes, and sapped their strength and
energy in alcoholic stimulants. O, vividly do I recall to mind examples of
heaven-bestowed genius, talent, health, and abilities, sacrificed on the
worse than bloody teocalli of this hideous and slimy devil, Intemperance!
How many master minds, instead of progressing sublimely through the broad,
deep, and august channels of thought, became impeded by the meshes and
clogs of intoxication, and were thus worse than prevented from exploring
the regions of immortal truth! How many dallied with the sirens of the wine
cup, until all power to grapple with great subjects was lost irrevocably!
How many are the instances in the world's history of great minds debased
and ruined by alcohol! Look back and around you at the lives of the
brightest literary geniuses and see how many are under the spell of this
Circe's baleful power! Think of the rich intelligences whose brightness has
prematurely faded and died away in the darkness of alcoholic night! What
hopes has alcohol destroyed! What resolves it has broken! What promises it
has blighted! Think of any or of all these things, and hasten to say with
Dr. Johnson that this vice of drink, if long indulged, will render
knowledge useless, wit ridiculous, and genius contemptible. Oh! how many
lost sons of earth, whose lamps of genius blazed only to light their
pathway to the tomb, might have achieved an inheritance of immortal fame
but for this vice, or disease as it may be.

I write this with a hope that it may be a heeded warning to the
intellectual of earth, not less than the illiterate. The educated man is
more liable to suffer from strong stimulants than the man who is not
educated. Never was there a greater or more dangerous fallacy than that so
often urged, that the thinking functions are assisted by the use of
stimulating liquors or drugs. O, say some, Byron owed a great portion of
his inspiration to gin and water, and that was his Hippocrene. Nonsense!
His highest inspiration came from the beauty of the world and from God.
Lord Brougham, it has been declared, made his most brilliant speeches of
old port. Sheridan, it has been told, delivered some of his most sparkling
speeches when "half seas over." Eugene Sue found his genius in a bottle of
claret; Swinburne in absinthe, and so on. But who shall say what these
great, men lost and will lose in the end by this forcing process? Dr. W.B.
Carpenter, in referring to the supposed uses of alcohol in sustaining the
vital powers, says emphatically that the use of alcoholic stimulants is
dangerous and detrimental to the human mind, but admits that its use in
most persons is attended with a temporary excitation of mental activity,
lighting up the scintillations of genius into a brilliant flame, or
assisting in the prolongation of mental effort when the powers of the
nervous system would be otherwise exhausted. Concede this, and then answer
if it is not on such evidence that the common idea is based that alcohol is
a cause of inspiration, or that it supports the system to the endurance of
unusual mental labor. The idea is as erroneous as the no less prevalent
fallacy that alcoholic stimulants increase the power of physical exertion.
Physiologically the fact is established that the depression of the mental
energy consequent upon the undue excitement of alcoholic stimulants is no
less than the depression of the physical energy following its use. In
either case the added strength and exhilaration are of short duration, and
the depression and loss exceed the increased energy and the gain. The
influence of alcoholic stimulants seems to be chiefly exerted in exciting
to activity the creating and combining powers, such as give rise to the
high imaginations of the poet and the painter. It is not to be wondered at
that men possessing such splendid powers should have recourse to alcoholic
stimulants as a means of procuring often temporary exaltation of these
powers and of escaping from the seasons of depression to which they and
others of less high organizations are subject. Nor is it to be denied that
many of these mental productions which are most strongly marked by the
inspiration of genius, have been thrown off under the inspiration of the
stimulating influences of liquor. But it can not, on the other hand, be
doubted that the depression consequent upon the high degree of mental
excitement is, as already observed, as great as the first in its way--a
depression so great that it sometimes destroys temporarily the power of
effort. Hence it does not follow that the authors of the productions in
question have really been benefited by the use of these stimulants.

It is the testimony of general experience that where men of genius have
habitually had recourse to alcoholic stimulants for the excitement of their
powers they have died at an early age, as if in consequence of the
premature exhaustion of their nervous energy. Mozart, Burns, Byron, Poe and
Chatterton may be cited as remarkable examples of this result. Hence,
although their light may have burned with a brighter glow, like a
combustible substance in an atmosphere of oxygen, the consumption of
material was more rapid, and though it may have shone with a more sober
lustre without such aid, we can not but believe that it would have been
steadier and less premature without it. We may also doubt that the finest
poems and the finest pictures have been written and painted even by those
in the habit of drinking while they were under the influence of liquor. We
do not usually find that the men most distinguished for a combination of
powers called talent or genius, are disposed to make such use of alcoholic
stimulants for the purpose of augmenting their mental powers, for that
spontaneous activity of mind itself which alcohol has a tendency to excite
is not favorable to the exercise of the observing faculties, which are so
important to the imagination, nor to those of reason, nor to steady
concentration on any given subject, where profound investigation or clear
sight is desirable.

Of this we have an illustration in the habit of practical gamblers who,
when about to engage in contests requiring the keenest observation and the
most sagacious calculation, and involving an important stake, always keep
themselves cool either by total abstinence from fermented liquors, or by
the use of those of the weakest kind, in very small quantities. We find
that the greatest part of that intellectual labor which has most extended
the domain of thought and human knowledge has been performed by men of
sobriety, many of them having been drinkers of water only. Under this last
category may be ranked Demosthenes, Johnson, Haller, Bacon, Milton, Dante,
etc. Johnson, it is true, was a great tea drinker. Voltaire drank coffee at
times to excess, and occasionally a small quantity of light wine. So, also,
did Fontenelle. Newton solaced himself with the fumes of tobacco. Of Locke,
whose long life was devoted to constant intellectual labor, who appears
independently of his eminence in his special objects of pursuit one of the
best informed men of his time, the following explicit testimony is found by
one who knew him well: His diet was the same as that of other people,
except he usually drank nothing but water, and he thought that his
abstinence in this respect had preserved his life so long, although
naturally his constitution was so weak. In addition to these examples,
which I have quoted at length, I might also mention the case of Cornaro,
the old Italian philosopher, who at the age of thirty-five found himself on
a bed of misery and imminent death through intemperance. He amended his way
of life, and for upwards of four score years after, by a temperate course
of living, lived happily and did all the important work which has placed
his name among the men of great intellectual powers.


Quit college--Shattered nerves--Summer and autumn days--Improvement--Picnic
parties--A fall--An untimely storm--Crawford's beer and ale--Beer
brawls--County fairs and their influence on my life--My yoke of white
oxen--The "red ribbon"--"One McPhillipps"--How I got home and how I
found myself in the morning--My mother's agony--A day of teaching
under difficulties--Quiet again--Law studies at Connersville--"Out on
a spree"--What a spree means.

I left college in the spring of 1866, and returned home to the farm where I
spent the summer and autumn months in a very nervous and discontented
manner. For over four months my mental condition bordered on that of a
maniac, so completely had the use of liquor shattered my nervous system. I
became alarmed at my state, and for a time was deterred from drinking, or,
if I drank at all, the quantity was small. But fresh air and the little
work which I did on the farm, soon restored me. As the summer wore away I
attended pleasure parties, and found, not happiness, but a moment's
forgetfulness among the merry picnic parties in the woods. I had also the
distinguished honor of actually superintending and presiding over two of
these festivities, both of which were held in Horace Elwell's woods, on the
unsung, but classically rustic banks of Tom. Hall's mill-dam, near the
village which bears the historic and great name of Raleigh. I succeeded in
tiding myself through the first picnic without getting drunk. I mean more
particularly that I remained sober during the day--that is, sober enough to
keep it from being known that I had drank more than once or twice; but that
night at the ball at Louisville, I bit the dust, or, to get at the truth
more literally and unrhetorically, I fell down stairs and came within a
point of breaking my neck. Had I been sober the fall would have put an end
then and there to my miserable and worthless existence; but lest any one
should argue from this that after all whisky sometimes saves life, I would
have them bear in mind that if I had been sober the chances are I would not
have fallen.

The next picnic was sadly interfered with by a violent storm of wind and
rain, which came up the day before the one set apart for it. The water
washed the sawdust which had been sprinkled on the ground for the dancers'
benefit into Hall's fretful mill-race, and thence down into the turbulent
and swollen Flat Rock. This, as well as other creeks, became so high that
it was out of the question to ford them. The boys could get to the grounds
very well, and many of them did get there, but the girls were not of a
mind to risk their lives for a day's doubtful amusement, and so the
picnic failed in the beginning. The young men--myself, of course, in the
lot--determined to have what was called "fun" at any rate, and to this end
they congregated during the day at Raleigh. Mr. Sam Crawford had an
abundant supply of beer and ale, and I wish to say that if there are any
persons so innocent as to doubt that beer and ale intoxicate they would
change from doubt to faith in the power of these slops to make men drunk,
could they experience or see what took place at Raleigh on that day. They
would be willing to testify in any court that beer will not only
intoxicate, but, taken in sufficient quantities, it will make men beastly
drunk and fill them with a spirit of fiendish cruelty. There were on that
day as many as four fights, with enough miscellaneous howling, cursing and
billingsgate to fill out the natural make-up of a hundred more. I was
drunk--so drunk that I did not know at the last whether my name was Benson
or Bennington. I suppose I would have sworn to the latter, had the question
been raised, but it was not. I did not fight, for, as I have said, I seemed
to have an instinctive dread of doing something terrible in the event of my
getting engaged in combat with another. Like Falstaff, it may be, I was a
coward on instinct. I have always thought, moreover, that the Hudibrastic
aphorism is worthy of practice, because nothing can be more evident than
the fact that

"----He who runs away
May live to fight another day."

From that time to the commencement of the season for county fairs, five or
six weeks later, I kept in a condition of sobriety. County fairs, I wish to
say, and especially the Rush county fairs, did more toward bringing on the
disastrous career which has been mine--a career which has befouled the
record of my life and marked almost every page of its history--witness this
biography--with blots of shame, discord and unholy suffering than any other
cause of an external character. I was very young when I first commenced to
take stock to the fair to exhibit for premiums. I always went on the first
day, and always remained until the fair came to a close, staying on the
grounds night and day. There was a vagabond element in my nature which
harmonized perfectly with this sort of life. The men with whom I associated
were, in general, of that class who like liquor alone or in company, and
each had his jug of favorite whisky, which was supposed to be a sure
preventive against cold and colds in cold weather, and against heat and
fever in hot weather. If invited to drink the rule was to accept
immediately and return the courtesy as soon as convenient.

In those days I was the proud possessor of a yoke of white oxen, and I made
it a point to exhibit them at every fair within my reach, for they
invariably won the Red Ribbon, then a mark of the first prize. Alas, that
it did not mean to me what it now does! It meant anything rather than total
abstinence; it was an unfailing sign of drunkenness; it told of shameful
revels, of days of debauchery and nights of misery when not passed in
beastly slumber. That ribbon is now a symbol of holy temperance--it was
then a souvenir of days of disorder and evil-doing.

During the winter I was engaged to teach a district school, and for three
months managed to keep tolerably sober--that is, I did not get drunk more
than three or four times, and then on Saturday nights and Sundays. One
Sunday--it was the coldest day that winter--I went to Falmouth and visited
a drinking place kept by one McPhillipps. While there I drank eleven
glasses of whisky. At nine o'clock in the evening, I can indistinctly
remember, I mounted my horse and started home, and from that moment until
the next day I knew nothing whatever that took place. From the way I was
bruised and battered I judge that I must have struck almost every fence
corner between McPhillipps' place and home. My legs were in a woful plight,
and having turned black and blue, they were frightful to see. On arriving
at the gate which led into the front yard at home, I fell off my horse and
tumbled to the ground, a wretched heap of helpless clay. I remained on the
ground, lying in the snow, until I froze my hands, feet, and ears. It was
about three o'clock in the morning when I got to the house. So they told
me, for I have no knowledge of going, and, indeed, I remembered nothing
that took place.

When I came to consciousness I found myself wrapped up in a blanket, lying
in bed, with hot bricks at my feet. I was in the room occupied by father
and mother, and the first object that met my wandering sight was the face
of my mother. The look with which she regarded me will never fade from my
memory. There was in it the sorrow and anguish of death. She rose from her
bed at sight of me, and with streaming eyes and screaming voice called the
family up to bid them good-by; she said she was dying--that I had killed
her. I sprang from my bed in such a horror of terrible suffering, mental
and physical, as never swept over the body and soul of mortal man. I felt
my heart thumping and beating as though it would burst forth from my bosom;
the hot, hissing blood rushed to my aching, fevered brain, and a torrent of
sweat burst forth on my icy forehead. I could not have suffered more
physical agony had a thousand swords been driven through my quivering body,
nor would my miserable soul have been in more insufferable pain had it been
confined in the regions of the damned. It was some time before anything
like quiet was restored, but as soon as it was, some of the family went to
the gate and found my hat and took charge of the horse which I had ridden.
That morning I dragged myself to school with a sad, heavy heart. As my
scholars came in, they seemed to understand that something was the matter
with me, and often during the day their wondering looks were directed
toward me as if they sought some explanation of my appearance. The day was
a long and weary one to me--a day, like many another since then, of most
intense wretchedness. About noon one of my feet became so swollen that it
was necessary for me to take off my boot, and by the time I dismissed
school it had got so bad that I could not draw on my boot, so that I had to
walk home, a distance of one mile, over the frozen ground with nothing to
protect my foot but a woolen sock. On entering the house, my mother burst
into tears at sight of me. I must have been a pitiable object, and yet how
little did I deserve the wealth of priceless sympathy lavished upon me.
That night, and many nights succeeding it, the only way I could get into
bed was to put an old-fashioned chair with rounds in the back, beside the
bed and crawl up round by round until I got on a level with the bed, and
then let go and fall over into the bed.

It is needless for me to say that I firmly resolved and honestly felt that
I would never again taste the liquor which leads to madness, misery, and
death. For some time I kept my resolution; and would to God that I could
here conclude by saying that I never again allowed a drop of it to pass my
lips. But I am writing an autobiography, and I have told you that I would
not shrink from telling the truth. So it will happen that other and still
more desperate and disgraceful episodes of drunkenness will have to be

In the spring of 1867 I went to Connersville, and began the study of law
with the Hon. John S. Reid. Unfortunately, and I fear designedly, I made my
acquaintances among, and selected my companions from, the most dissolute,
idle, and intemperate class of young men in the town. Connersville then had
and still has among its citizens some very wealthy men, who suffered their
boys to grow up without much care, mostly in idleness. As might be expected
the indifference of the fathers, joined to the natural inclinations of the
sons, has proved the ruin of the latter. I now call to mind several of
those young men who are hopeless and complete wrecks. Idleness and
dissipation have done their terrible work in every case which I call to

I read a little law, and drank a great deal of whisky, and as a natural
consequence the time then passing was for the most part worse than lost. Up
to this period the duration of my sprees was not longer than a day and
night. They now were not confined to one day, for when I went out on what
is called a "regular spree," it was liable to be two or three days, as it
has since been two or three weeks, before I got back. Got back! Where from?
The reader knows too well.

Out on a spree! These are melancholy and heart-breaking words. Out on a
spree! Oh, how much of misery is implied! Out on a spree! Readers, every
one, I hope you will never have it said that you are out on a spree. To go
out on a spree is to throw away strength, without which the battle of life
can not be fought; it is to squander money which you may need badly for the
necessaries of life, which had better be thrown into the fire and burnt up
than spent in such a way; it is to quench the light of ambition, to crush
hope, entomb joy, lay waste the powers of the mind, neglect duty, desert
the family, and commit in the end suicide. Arson may have walked by your
side while out on a spree, red murder may have grinned, dagger in hand,
upon you, and death stalked within your shadow, ready in a thousand ways to
strike you down. Don't go out on sprees. Think of the pity of them, the
wrong, the disgrace, the remorse, the misery. Going on an occasional spree
only will not do. Some men will keep sober for weeks, and even months, but
a birthday, or a wedding, or a national holiday, or a fit of the blues, or
a streak of good luck, starts them off, and habit, like a smouldering
flame, breaks out, and for a time all is over. Such men scotch, but they do
not kill the cobra of intemperance, and soon or late the other result will
follow, the snake will kill them. The reptile is tenacious of life, and so
long as the life remains there is danger from the deadly venom of its
tooth. Those who have never formed the habit of drinking had better die at
once than live to form it. Those who have formed the habit should subdue it
and never enter into a compromise with it. The good effects of months of
abstinence may be swept away in an hour. Open the flood-gates of indulgence
never so little and the torrent will force its way through and drown every
worthy resolution. Its tide is next to resistless. Days of drunkenness
succeed, months of self-denial are lost, and deplorable results follow
everywhere. Wives are driven to desperation, mothers to despair, children
to want. Demoralization, starvation, damnation follow. Friends are
separated, homes are desolated, and souls are driven to hell itself, and
yet people will talk lightly, and even jokingly of the very thing which
leads to these terrible losses and sufferings--out on a spree.

Debauches not only destroy all capacity for usefulness while they last, but
they demand the vital strength which has wisely been gathered in the system
for days of possible need, when sickness and natural infirmities will lay
hands on the mind or body. The debauch of to-day will borrow from to-morrow
or from next week, or month, or year, that which can not be restored. The
bloated face, the dull, glassy eye, the furtive glance of fear and shame,
the trembling gait, all speak of ravages produced by other causes than
those of time. Indeed, the flight of years can produce no such effects, for
inexorable and wearing as fleeting days and months are, their natural
results differ very widely from those which are caused by an abuse of the
powers of nature. Besides this, many men who are shattered wrecks are still
young in years, and the dew of youth but for dissipation might yet have
glistened on their foreheads.

It was at this period that the appetite burst forth in a fearful flame
which scorched life itself, and burnt every energy of my being. It was fast
getting to be a consuming, craving, devouring passion, subjecting my very
soul to its dreadful tyranny. My spells increased in frequency, and their
duration was more and more prolonged. I would remain drunk from eight to
ten days, until I got so nervous that I could not sleep, and night after
night I would be counting the hours and longing for morning, which, when it
came with its blessed light, gradually revealing the pattern of the paper
on the walls, caused me to hide my face in the bedclothes and wish for
black and never-ending night to come and hide me from the world and my
misery. From such vigils, feverish and unrefreshed, it may easily be
supposed that I sought the open window in anguish, and bathed my aching,
throbbing forehead in the cool, pure air. At last my condition became so
deplorable that my friends sent my father word to come and take me home,
which he did. While at Connersville, in all my dark and desolate trials,
William Beck was my friend and helper. He never then forsook me, and he
never since has forsaken me, but still remains my faithful and sympathizing
friend--a friend whose valuation is beyond gold, and for whom I entertain
the deepest feelings of gratitude. I returned home with my father and
remained several months, keeping sober all the while. During most of the
time I applied myself vigorously to the study of the law, making rapid

I believe I have as yet not stated that, in the intervals long or short
between my sprees, I abstained totally from the use of ardent spirits. I
never could and never did drink in moderation. One drink would always
kindle such a fire in my blood that it was out of my power to prevent its
spreading into a conflagration. I have very many times been accused of
"drinking on the sly," as they say, but every such accusation is false. I
have also been accused of using opium. I know the pitiable wretch that
started that lie--for it is a lie--and the poor dupe that repeated it. For
five years my appetite has been so fierce at times, that, I repeat, had I
touched the point of the finest needle in alcohol and placed it to my
tongue, I would have got drunk had I known that that drunk would have
plunged my soul into hell and eternal torments. O appetite, cold, cruel,
heartless, accursed, consuming, devouring appetite! No other malady like
thee ever afflicted man. Would that I could paint thee, in all thy accursed
hideousness, in letters of unfading fire, and write them in the vaulted
firmament to flame forth to all generations to come their eternal warning.


Law Practice at Rushville--Bright prospects--The blight--From bad to
worse--My mother's death--My solemn promise to her--"Broken, oh,
God!"--Reflection--My remorse--The memory of my mother--A young man's
duty--Blessed are the pure in heart--The grave--Young man, murder not your
mother--Rum--A knife which is never red with blood, but which has severed
souls and stabbed thousands to death--The desolation and death which are in

My next move was to Rushville, where I opened an office and commenced
practicing law. For a time I kept sober, and was so successful in my
profession that from the very beginning I more than made my expenses. In
fact my prospects for a brilliant career as a lawyer seemed most
flattering. The predictions were many that an uncommon future lay before
me, but, alas, I could stand prosperity no better than adversity. My
appetite grew to such a craving for stimulants that it tortured me. It had
slumbered for weeks, as it has since, only to make itself manifest in the
end with the force of a hurricane. While it had appeared to sleep it was
gathering strength. At the time it dragged me down I was boarding with some
others at the house of an elderly widow. So completely was I transformed
from a man into something debased that I went to her house and fell through
the front door on the floor dead drunk. The landlady had me carried back to
my office, where I lay like a water-sodden log, wholly unconscious, until
the next morning. When I awoke I had no knowledge of anything that had
happened. My friends informed me of my fall at the house, and of their
bearing me back to the office. I upbraided myself bitterly, but it was days
before I had the courage to show my face on the streets, so keen were my
shame and sense of disgrace. Time softens the wildest remorse, and in a few
weeks I regained a state of quiet feeling. But unfortunately most of my
associates were among the class of young men who are never averse to taking
a drink, and it was not long before I found myself again visiting the
saloons, although I did not give up right away to take a drink with them.
But I got to staying in the saloons more than in my office, and began to go
down steadily. Good people who felt sorry for me, and who wanted to aid me,
would do nothing for me unless I would do something for myself, and this I
could not, or did not do.

I moved from office to office, always descending in respectability, because
always violating my promises not to drink. Occasionally I would make a
desperate effort to reform, gathering about me every element of strength
which I could possibly command, and for a while I would be successful, but
just as hope would begin to light up my darkened path and my friends begin
to feel a new-born confidence in me, an infernal and terrible desire would
take possession of me, and in a moment all that I had gained would be swept
away by my yielding to the demon that tempted me. A debauch longer and more
utterly sickening and vile than the last followed, after which I would
settle down into a condition of hopelessness which would appal the bravest
and strongest. So deplorable, indeed, was my feeling regarding the matter
that then, as since, I kept on drinking for days after the appetite had
left me or had been satiated, in order to deaden the horrible agony that I
knew would crush me when my reason returned.

I now come to an event in my life which affected me at the time beyond the
power of words, and which I can not without tears of choking sorrow even
now dwell upon. I refer to the death of my mother, which occurred during
the winter after my going to Rushville in 1867. She had been sick a long
time, and had suffered very intense pain, but for days before her death I
think she forgot her own physical torments in anxiety and solicitude about
me. I went home a few days before she died, and remained with her until the
last. She talked to me much and often, always begging and pleading with me
as only a dying mother can plead, to save myself from the life of a
drunkard. I promised her solemnly and honestly that I would never again
taste liquor. As I gazed upon her wasted face and read death in every
lineament, and heard the dread angel's approach in every breath of pain she
drew, and saw above all in her fast dimming eye that the horrors of her
approaching dissolution were almost unthought of in her care for me, I
resolved deep down in my heart never to taste liquor again, and kneeling by
her dying form, I called heaven to witness that no more, oh, never, never
more, would I go in the way of the drunkard, or touch, in any form, the
unpitying and soul-destroying curse. I looked on her face, which was
growing strangely calm and white. She was dead, and it came upon me that
she who had loved and suffered most for me, and without a reproach, was
never more to look upon me again or speak words of comfort and aid to my
ears, so often unheeding. At that moment, looking through scalding tears at
her holy face, and afterwards when I heard the grave clods falling with
their terrible sound upon her coffin lid, I swore that I would keep my
promise, no matter what the temptation to break it might be. She would not
be here to see my triumph, but I would conquer for her memory's sake, and
all would be well. I swore by earth, sea, and sky, never, never to break
the promise made to her in the moment of her dying. That promise I broke
within two months from the day it was solemnized by my mother's death. I
shudder still, remembering the agony of that fall. Broken, oh God!--the
promise has been broken, is what first entered my mind. Never before had I
suffered as I then suffered.

My wild revel was protracted for days out of dread of the awful sorrow and
remorse that I knew must surely come on my getting sober. My mother
appeared to me in my troubled dreams, and talked to me as in life. Many
times in my slumber, and in my waking fancies did I see her pale, troubled
face, with her pitying eyes looking on me as from that bed of pain and
death, and at such times I reached out my hands toward her in mute pleading
for forgiveness, forgetting or not knowing that she was dead. But the
moment soon came when the truth was flashed through the blackness of night
upon me, and then my misery was more than I could bear. For years before
her death I had lain in my bed and listened to her moaning in her troubled
sleep, to the sighs which escaped from her heart and that of my father, and
I promised the God of my hoped-for salvation that if he would only let me
live I would no more give them pain. Cold, clammy sweat broke out over my
face, and my heart beat so low, and slow, and weak, that in very terror I
felt that my eyeballs were bursting from my head. Again and again I begged,
and plead, and prayed that God would spare me and let me live until I could
convince my father and mother that I never would drink again. But my
prayers were not answered. My mother went out from me in fear, and dread,
and doubt. My father lives, but for me he has little or no hope. If ever a
mortal longed and yearned for one thing more than another in this uncertain
existence, I long for a peaceful and quiet evening of life for my beloved
father. I implore the Father of all of us to give me grace and strength
enough to keep sober until my remaining parent is fully persuaded that I am
truly and beyond question saved from the curse which has driven me to an
asylum, and well nigh sent him, a broken-hearted man, to his grave. O for
a strength which will forever enable me to resist the hell-born and
hell-supported power of the fiend Alcohol! Could I do this and have my
father know it his dying hour would be full of sweet peace, and a joy so
shining that its light would drive afar off the shadows of his death agony.
In that knowledge death would be vanquished and heaven would stoop to earth
and cover his grave with glory. Oh, God! Grant me this one boon! Give me
this one request! In every step of my life I have disappointed him. In the
future let all other hopes, and joys, and aspirations die, if needs be, all
but this--this one--that I may never in any way touch liquor again. May
every man and woman who sees this allow their hearts to go out in an
earnest prayer that I may succeed in this one thing. It is now too late for
me to reach the bright promises of other years. It is now too late for me
to regain all that has been lost, but this I would do, and it will make me
feel at the last that I have not lived altogether to be a remorse and shame
to those who are bound to me by ties which can not be broken. God may
answer your prayers if not mine, so that from the throne of heavenly grace
may come the peace and rest for which my weary soul has sought so long in

When I drank after my mother's death, many persons took occasion, on
learning of it, to censure me in unsparing terms. It was even said that I
did not love my mother in life, that I had no respect for her memory in
death, and that I was a heartless wretch. These persons had no knowledge of
the power of my appetite. They did not know that the passion for liquor,
once developed or firmly established, is stronger in its unholy energy than
the love of the heart--of my heart, at least--for mother, father, brother,
or sister. But let me beg that I may not be charged with indifference to my
mother's memory. She comes before me now; she who was a true wife, a
faithful friend, a loving and gentle mother, and I kneel to her and pray
her blessing and pardon--I would clasp her to my heart, but alas! when I
would touch her, the bitter memory comes that she is gone. But I would not
repine, for I know she is with her God. Her life was pure and blameless,
and her soul, on leaving its weary earthly tabernacle, passed to its
inheritance--a mansion incorruptible, and one that will not fade away. She
bore her cross without a murmer of complaint, and she has been crowned
where the spirit of the just are made perfect. Blessed are the pure in
heart, we read, and I know that I am not misquoting the spirit of the holy
book when I say for the same reason, blessed is my mother, for she was pure
of heart, and passed from tribulation to peace, from night to day, from
sorrow to joy, from weariness to rest--rest in the bosom of God.

It may be that some young man will read these pages whose mother is still
among the living. I do not think that such a one will be without love for
his mother--a dear, compassionate, doating, gentle mother, who loved him
before he knew the name of love; who sang him to sleep in the years that
were, and awoke him with kisses on the bright mornings long ago; who bathed
his head with a soft hand when it throbbed with pain, and smiled when the
glow of health was on his cheek. She wept holy tears when he suffered, and
when he was delighted her heart beat with pleasure. It was she who taught
him that august prayer which is sacred in its simplicity to childhood. She
is aged now; her wealth of brown hair is white with age's winter, her step
is no longer quick, her eye has lost its lustre, and her hand is shaken
with the palsy of lost vigor. There are wrinkles in her brow and hollows in
the cheeks which were once so lovely that his father would have bartered a
kingdom for them. She is sitting by the side of the tomb waiting for the
mysterious summons which must soon come. Oh, young man, you for whom this
mother has suffered, you for whom she cherishes a love which is priceless
and deathless, you will not hasten her into eternity by an act, or word, or
look, will you? It would kill her to know that you had fallen under sin's
destroying stroke. Sometimes she goes to the portrait of your boyish face
and looks at it; at other times she takes down some worn and faded garment,
that you were wont to wear in those beautiful days of the past, and recalls
how you looked when you wore it; then she goes to the room where you used
to sleep and looks at the cradle in which she so often rocked you to sleep,
and, after all is seen, she returns to her chair--the old easy chair--and
waits to hear tidings of you. What would you have her know?

What news of yourself can you send her? Think of it well. Will you put your
wayward foot on her tender and feeble heart? Is her breathing so easy that
you would impede it with a brutal stab? Oh, if you know no pity for
yourself, have some for her. You will not murder her, will you? Yes, you
reply, and the laughter of mocking devils floats up from the caves of
hell--"Yes! give me more rum!" Now, hear the truth: The time will come when
the grass will seem to wither from your feet, pain will stifle your breath,
remorse will gnaw your heart and fill all your days and nights with misery
unspeakable; your dreams will torture you in sleep, and your waking
thoughts will be torments; your path will lie in gloom, and your bed will
be a pillow of thorns. You will cry in vain for that departed mother. You
will beg heaven to give her back, but the grave will be silent. The grasses
are creeping over her tomb, and the white hands have crumbled upon her
faithful breast. But no, you will not kill her. You will not call for rum.
I have wronged you, thank God! You will be a man. You are a man. You will
lay this book down, and swear that you will never touch the accursed,
ruinous drink, and you will keep your oath. By sobriety and good habits you
will lengthen your mother's days in the land, and smooth her troubled brow,
and give strength to her failing limbs.

Rum is a dreadful knife whose edge is never red with blood, but which yet
severs throats from ear to ear. It assassinates the peace of families, it
cuts away honor from the family name, it lets out the vital spark of life,
and is followed by inconsolable death. It pierces hearts, and enters the
bosom of trust, goring it with gashes which God alone can heal. Rum is a
robber who is deaf to hungry children's cries and famished wives'
pleadings. He is a fell destroyer from whom peace and comfort and content
fly. No one can afford to be his subject, and it is the duty of every one
to rise in arms against him. Let him be cursed everywhere. Let anathemas be
hurled against him by the young and old of both sexes. Death is an angel of
mercy sometimes--this destroyer never. Death may open the gates of heaven
to every victim, but this destroyer can unbar alone the gates of hell. He
takes away concord and love and joy, and in their stead leaves the horror
and misery of pandemonium!


Blank, black night--Afloat--From place to place--No rest--Struggles--Giving
way--One gallon of whisky in twenty-four hours--Plowing corn--Husking
corn--My object--All in vain--Old before my time--A wild, oblivious
journey--Delirium tremens--The horrors of hell--The pains of the
damned--Heavenly hosts--My release--New tortures--Insane wanderings--In the
woods--At Mr. Hinchman's--Frozen feet--Drive to town in a buggy surrounded
by devils--Fears and sorrows--No rest.

From this time until I tried to break the terrible chain that bound me by
lecturing on the miseries and evils of intemperance, my life was one long,
hopeless, blank, black night. More than one half of the time for five years
I was dead to everything but my own despairing, helpless, pitiable and
despicable condition. I was afloat without provision, sail, or compass, on
an ocean of darkness, and from one period of deeper gloom to another I
expected to go down in the sightless oblivion and so end my accursed
existence. I could see no prospect of a rift in the curtain of pitchy cloud
which hung over me. I was myself an ever-shifting, restless, uneasy
tempest. My unrest and nervous dread of some swift approaching doom too
awful to be conceived became so intense and real that I fled from place to
place. Not unfrequently I came to myself during these epochs of madness
and found that I was a hundred or more miles from home, without friends,
respectable or even sufficient clothing, or money--a bloated and beastly
wreck. I know not how I ever found my way back, or why I prolonged
my life under such circumstances; but it seems the instinct called
self-preservation was yet stronger than the ills which assailed me. Days
were like weeks to me, and weeks as months, and mouths as years, and in all
and through all I managed to crawl forward toward the grave which is still
out yonder in the future, finding no pleasure in myself and no delight in
anything beautiful and holy. As I lift the dread curtain and glance
tremblingly along the path which stretches through the funereal shadows of
the past, I feel that it was a thousand years ago when I was a child in my
mother's dear protecting arms. Sin may have moments of pleasure, but the
pleasure is but a hollow semblance in advance of seemingly never-ending
hours of remorse and suffering.

More than once I made desperate efforts to escape from my humiliating
thraldom, and, as I was sober during the days of struggle, I sought and
found business, and thus managed to secure a little money, although most of
my clients were poor and anything but influential. I always did my best for
them, however, and seldom lost a case. But at the end of a few days a
strange, undefinable, uneasy feeling began to crawl over me and crept into
my heart; I became more and more restless, anxious and nervous. I was soon
too uneasy to sit still or lie down. Horrible sufferings, agonies untold,
woe unspeakable, deprived me of reason, and when I had the inclination I
had not the will to guide myself aright. Then all of a sudden, my fierce
and unrelenting appetite would sweep, vulture like, down upon me, and I
would feel myself on the point of giving way. After this I would rally
for a brief season, but only to sink into still deeper misery and
desperation. There were days without food, and nights without sleep,
but--God pity me!--not without liquor. I lived on the hellish liquid
alone, and such a life! The devils of the lower world could see nothing to
envy in it. It was worse than their own torture. The quantity of liquor
which I now required was enormous. I have drank, on the closing days of a
spree, one gallon of whisky within the duration of twenty-four hours, and
when I could not get whisky, I would drink alcohol, vinegar, camphor,
liniment, pepper-sauce--in short, anything that would have a tendency to
heat my stomach. I would have drank fire could I have done so knowing that
it would satisfy the thirst that was consuming me. I left untried no means
that would enable me to break away from my appetite. For two or three
summers after I began practicing law, I went into the country and engaged
myself to plow corn at seventy-five cents per day, in order to keep myself
as long as possible from the dangers of the town. In the autumn season,
after a debauch of weeks, I have hired out and shucked or husked corn in
order to get money with which to buy myself boots and winter clothing. I
occasionally taught school in the country, but not for money, for I have
made more at my profession, when in a condition to practice it, in a single
day than I got for teaching a whole month. My object was to free myself, to
break my manacles, to open the door of my prison cell and walk forth in the
upright posture of a man. Sadly I write, "in vain!" If I fled, the demon
outran me; if I broke a link, the demon moulded another; if I prayed, he
put the curse into my mouth. As I look back over my horror-haunted, broken,
misspent, and false existence, I realize how worthless I am, and I see that
my life is a failure. I am in my thirty-second year, and am prematurely
old, without the wisdom, or gray hairs, or goodness, or truth, or respect
which should accompany age. My heart is frosty but not my hair.

I will now endeavor to recite some of the scenes through which I passed,
that the reader may form for himself an opinion regarding my sufferings. I
left Rushville on one of my periodical sprees (I do not remember the exact
time, but no matter about that, the fact is burning in my memory), and
after three or four weeks of blind, insane, drunken, unpremeditated
travel--heaven only knows where--I found myself again in Rushville, but
more dead than alive. I experienced a not unfamiliar but most strange
foreboding that some terrible calamity was impending. I was more nervous
than ever before, so much so in fact that I became alarmed seriously, and
called on Dr. Moffitt for medical advice. He diagnosed my case, and
informed me that my condition was dangerous, unnatural and wild. He gave me
some medicine and kindly advised me to go into his house and lie down, I
remained there two days and nights, and in spite of his able treatment and
constant care I grew worse. Do you know what is meant by delirium tremens,
reader? If not, I pray God you may never know more than you may learn from
these pages. I pray God that you may never experience in any form any of
the disease's horrors. It was this, the most terrible malady that ever
tortured man, that was laying its ghastly, livid, serpentine hands upon me.
All at once, and without further warning, my reason forsook me altogether,
and I started from Dr. Moffitt's house to go to my boarding place. The
sidewalks were to me one mass of living, moving, howling, and ferocious
animals. Bears, lions, tigers, wolves, jaguars, leopards, pumas--all wild
beasts of all climes--were frothing at the mouth around me and striving to
get to me. Recollect that while all this was hallucination, it was just as
real as if it had been an undeniable and awful reality. Above and all
around me I heard screams and threatening voices. At every step I fell over
or against some furious animal. When I finally reached the door leading to
my room and just as I was about to enter, a human corpse sprang into the
doorway. It had motion, but I knew that it was a tenant of that dark and
windowless abode, the grave. It opened full upon me its dull, glassy,
lustreless eyes; stark, cold, and hideous it stood before me. It lifted a
stiffened arm and struck me a blow in the face with its icy and almost
fleshless hand from which reptiles fell and writhed at my feet. I turned to
rush into another room, but the door was bolted. I then thought for a
second that I was dreaming, and I awoke and laughed a wild laugh, which
ended in a shriek, for I knew that I was awake. I turned again toward my
own door, and the form had vanished. I jumped into my room and tore off my
clothes, but as I threw aside my garments, each separate piece turned into
something miscreated and horrible, with fiendish and burning eyes, that
caused my own to start from their sockets. My room was filled with menacing
voices, and just then a mighty wind rushed past my window, and out of the
wind came cries, and lamentations, and curses, which took shapes unearthly,
and ranged about the bed on which I lay shuddering. Die! die! die! they
shrieked. I was commanded to hold my breath, and they threatened horrors
unimaginable if I did not obey.

I now believed that my time had come to render up the life which had been
so much abused. I asked what would become of my soul when my body gave it
up, and they told me it would descend to the tortures of an everlasting
hell, and that once there, my present sufferings would be as bliss compared
with what was in store for me for an endless age. As my eyes wandered about
the room--I was afraid to close them--I saw that innumerable devils were
crowding into it. They were henceforth to be my companions, and if the
Prince of all of them ever allowed me to leave for a brief time the regions
of infernal woe, it would be in their company and on missions such as they
were now fulfilling. I called aloud for my mother, and a voice more
diabolical than any I had yet heard, hissed into my ears that she was
chained in hell, but immediately a million devils screamed, "Liar! she is
in heaven!" I refused then to hold my breath, and told them to kill me and
do their worst. In an instant the spirit of my mother, like a benediction,
rested beside me. As she begged for me I knew that it was her voice,
natural as in her life on earth. While she was yet imploring for me the
room became radiant, and I saw that it was full of angels. I felt a strange
joy. My sins were pardoned, and I was told that I should go forth and
preach and save souls. I was commanded to get out of bed, put on my
clothes, and go down stairs, where I would be told what to do. I obeyed,
and on opening the door that led to the street, a man came to me and he bid
me follow him. The spirits whispered to me that the man was Christ, and his
looks, acts and steps even were such as I had conceived were his when he
was once a meek and lowly sufferer on earth. I followed him about sixty
rods, when he told me to stop. I did so, and just then the heavens opened
with a great blaze of glory, and millions of angels came down. Such music
as then broke upon my senses I never heard before, and have never since
heard. The angels would approach near me and tell me they were going to
take me to heaven with them; then they would disappear for an instant and
devils gathered about me. I could hear music and see the heavenly hosts
returning. They came and went many times thus, and after they went away the
last time, I was again surrounded by fiends who inflicted every torture on
me. Christ commanded me to stand in that place, I thought, and there I
remained. It was very cold, and I froze my feet and hands. I then felt that
the devils were burning off my feet, and I shrieked for liquor. I looked
down and saw a bottle at my feet, but when I reached down to get it a lion
threw his claws over it, and warned me with a fierce growl not to touch it.
The snow melted, the season changed, and I was standing in mud and mire up
to my neck. Ropes were tied around me, and horses were hitched to them to
drag me from the deeps, but in trying to draw me out the ropes would snap
asunder and I was left imbedded in the clay. They could not move me,
because Christ had commanded me to stand there. A little while before the
break of day the Savior appeared and told me to go. I started to run, but
when I got alongside the old depot there burst from it the combined screams
of millions of incarnate devils. I can hear in fancy still the avalanche of
voices which rolled from those lost myriads. I ran into the first house to
which I came. Its saw at a glance what was the nature of my terrible
trouble, but he had no power to help me. I beheld the face of a black fiend
grinning on me through a window. In the center of his forehead was an
enormous and fiery eye, and about his sinister mouth the grin which I at
first saw became demoniacal. He called the fiends, and I heard them come as
a rushing tornado, and surround the house. Everything I attempted to do was
anticipated by them. If I thought of moving my hand I heard them say,
"Look! he is going to lift his hand." No matter what I did or thought of
doing, they cursed me.

When daylight at last came--and oh, what an age of dying agony lay behind
it in the vast hollow darkness of the night!--the horrid objects
disappeared, but the voices remained and talked with me all day. You who
read, imagine yourselves alone in a room, or walking deserted streets, with
voices articulating words to you with as clear distinctness as words were
ever spoken to you. Many of the voices were those of friends and
acquaintances whom I knew to be in their graves, and yet they--their
voices--were conversing with, or talking to me, during the whole of that
long, long, terrible day. I was tortured with fears and a dread of
something infinitely horrible. I went to my office--the voices were there!
I stepped to the window, and on the street were men congregating in front
of the building. I could hear their voices, and they were all talking of
hanging me. I had committed an appalling crime, they said. I knew not where
to go or whither to fly. Now and then I could hear strains of music. The
dreaded night came on, and with it the fiends returned. In the excitement
of breaking from my office, I forgot to put on my overcoat. The moment I
got on the street the freezing wind drove me back, but hundreds of voices
gathered around me and threatened me with death if I entered the door
again. I went away followed by them, and wandered in a thin coat up and
down the streets, and through the woods all night. The wonder was that I
did not freeze to death. I could hear crowds of excited people at the court
house discussing me, I thought. When I started to go there, every door and
window of the building flew open and fiery devils darted out and cursed me
away. All the time I was dying for whisky, but the saloon keepers would not
give me a drop. They saw and understood what was the matter with me, and
refused to finish the work begun in their dens. I started at last in the
direction of home. Just outside of the town a man by my side showed me a
bottle of whisky. I was dying for it, and begged him for at least one
swallow. He opened the bottle and held it to my lips, and I saw that the
bottle was full of blood. Again and again did he deceive me. Exhausted at
last, I sank down in the snow and begged for death to come and end my life,
but instead, a company of citizens of Rushville, whom I knew, gathered
around me and a glass of whisky was handed to me. I saw that everyone
present held a similar glass in his hand, which, at a given word, was
raised to the mouth. I hastened to drink, but while they drained their
glasses, I could not get a drop from mine. I looked more closely at the
glass and discovered that there were two thicknesses to it, and that the
liquor was contained between them. I studied how I could break the glass
and not spill the whisky, and begged and plead with the men to have mercy
on me. I got out into the woods four or five miles from Rushville, and
wandered about in the snow, but all around and above me were the universal
and eternal voices threatening me. A thousand visions came and went; a
thousand tortures consumed me; a thousand hopes sustained me.

I quit the woods pursued by winged and cloven-footed fiends, and ran to the
house of Andy Hinchman. He received and gave me shelter until morning, when
he carried me back home in his buggy. I had no more than got into his house
when it was surrounded by my tormentors. They raised the windows and
commenced throwing lassos at me, in order, as they said, to catch me and
drag me out that they might kill me. I sat up in my chair until daylight,
fighting them off with both hands. All these terrible torments were, I
repeat, realities, intensified over the ordinary realities of life a
hundred fold. I had wandered to and fro, as I have described, but the
people, the angels and the devils were alike the phantasmagoria of my
diseased mind. For one week after the night last mentioned, I had no use of
either arm. I had so frozen my feet that I could not put on my boots. Mr.
Hinchman kindly loaned me a pair that I succeeded, although with great
pain, in drawing on, for they were three sizes larger than I was in the
habit of wearing. The devils were still with me, but I had moments of
reason when I could banish them from my mind. On our way to town they rode
on top of the buggy and clung to the spokes of the wheels, and whirled over
and over with dizzy revolutions. How they fought, and cursed, and shrieked!
When I got to my room it was the same, and for days I was surrounded the
greater part of the time with demons as numberless as those seen in the
fancy of the mighty poet of a Lost Paradise marshaled under the infernal
ensign of Lucifer on the fiery and blazing plains of hell! For more than
one month after the madness left me I was afraid to sleep in a room alone,
and the least sound would fill me with fear. I ran when none pursued, and
hid when no one was in search of me. My sleep was fitful and full of
terrible dreams, and my days were days of unrest and anguish unspeakable.


Wretchedness and degradation--Clothes, credit, and reputation all lost--The
prodigal's return to his father's house--Familiar scenes--The beauty of
nature--My lack of feeling--A wild horse--I ride him to Raleigh and get
drunk--A mixture of vile poison--My ride and fall--The broken stirrups--My
father's search--I get home once more--Depart the same day on the wild
horse--A week at Lewisville--Sick--Yearnings for sympathy.

My condition now grew worse from day to day. I descended step by step
to the lowest depths of wretchedness and degradation. Often my only
sleeping-place was the pavement, or a stairway, or a hall leading to some
office. I lost my clothes, pawning most of them to the rum-sellers, until I
was unfit to be seen, so few and dirty and ragged were the garments which I
could still call my own. In ten years I have lost, given away, and pawned
over fifty suits of clothes. Within the three years just past I have had
six overcoats that went the way of my reputation and peace of mind.

I left Rushville at the time of which I am writing, but not until it was
out of my power to either buy or beg a drop of liquor--not until my
reputation was destroyed and everything else that a true man would
prize--and then, like the prodigal who had wallowed with swine, I returned
to my father's house--the home of my childhood, around which lay the scenes
which were imprinted on my mind with ineffaceable colors. But I had
destroyed the sense which should have made them comforting to me. I have no
doubt that nature is beautiful--that there are fine souls to whom she is a
glorious book, on whose divine pages they learn wisdom and find the highest
and most exalting charms. But I, alas, am dead to her subtle and sacred
influences. However, I might have been benefited by my stay at home, had it
been difficult for me to find that which my appetite still craved; but it
was not so. Falmouth and Raleigh and Lewisville were still within easy
reach, and not only at these, but at many other places could liquor be
procured, and I got it. The curse was on me. My condition became such that
it was unsafe to send me from home on any business. I can recall times when
I left horses hitched to the plow or wagon and went on a spree, forgetting
all about them, for weeks. I had left home firm in the resolve to not touch
a drop of liquor under any circumstances, and so thoroughly did I believe
that I would not, that I would have staked my soul on a wager that I would
keep sober. But the sight of a saloon, or of some person with whom I had
been on a drunk, or even an empty beer keg, would rouse my appetite to such
an extent that I gave up all thoughts of sobriety and wanted to get drunk.
I always allowed myself to be deceived with the idea that I would only get
on a moderate drunk this time, and then quit forever. But the first drink
was sure to be followed by a hundred or a thousand more.

Once while in a state of beastly intoxication at Rushville, my father came
for me and took me home in a wagon, and for two weeks I scarcely stirred
outside of the house. But the house which should have been a paradise to me
was made a prison by reason of my desires for the hell-created liberty of
entering saloons and associating with men as reckless as myself. I became
morose, nervous, and uneasy. I took a horseback ride one morning and would
not admit to myself that I cared less for the ride than to feel that I
could go where I could get liquor. I did not want to drink, but like the
moth which returns by some fatal charm again and again to the flames which
eventually consume it, I could not resist the temptation to go where I
could lay my hands on the curse. There was on the farm, among the horses,
one that was unusually wild, which had hitherto thrown every person that
mounted it. The only way it could be managed at all was with a rough
curb-bitted bridle, and even then each rein had to be drawn hard. If there
was any one thing on which I prided myself at that time it was my
proficiency in riding horses. I determined on mastering this horse, and
early one morning I mounted his back. I got along without a great amount of
difficulty in keeping my seat until I got to Raleigh. Here I dismounted and
sat in the corner groceries for an hour or more, talking to acquaintances.
Finally, like the dog returning to his vomit, I crossed the street and went
into a saloon. Had the door opened into the vermilion lake of fire I would
have passed through it if I had been sure of getting a drink, so sudden and
uncontrollable was the appetite awakened. Only a few minutes before I had
with religious solemnity assured two young men who were keeping a dry goods
store there that I had quit drinking forever. To test me, I suppose, one of
them had said to me that he had some excellent old whisky, and wanted me to
try a little of it, and offered me the jug. I carried it to my mouth, and
took a swallow. It was a villainous compound of whisky, alcohol and drugs
of various kinds, which he sold in quart bottles under the name of some
sort of bitters which were warranted to cure every disease: and I will add
that I believe to this day that they would do what he said they would, for
I do not think any human being, bird, or beast, unless there is another
Quilp living, could drink two bottles of it in that number of days and not
be beyond the need of further attention than that required to prepare him
for burial. It was the sight of the jug and the taste of the poison slop
which it contained that aroused my appetite and scattered my resolves to
the tempest. Once in the saloon I drank without regard to consequences, and
without caring whether the horse I rode was as jaded and tame as Don
Quixote's ill-favored but famous steed, or as wild and unmanageable as the
steed to which the ill-starred Mazeppa was lashed. I did not stop to
consider that a clear head and steady hand were necessary to guide that
horse and protect my life, which would be endangered the moment I again
mounted my horse. Ordinarily I would have gone away and left the horse to
care for itself, but I remembered the character of the horse, and with a
drunken maniac's perversity of feeling I would not abandon it. I designed
getting only so drunk, and then I would show the folks what a young man
could really do. On leaving the saloon I returned to the jug, which
contained the mixture described, and which would have called up apparitions
on the blasted heath that would have not only startled the ambitious thane,
but frightened the witches themselves out of their senses.

I took one full drink--what is called in the vernacular of the bar room a
"square" drink--from the jug, and that, uniting with the saloon slop, made
me a howling maniac. I have forgotten to mention that I got a quart of as
raw and mean whisky in the saloon as was ever sold for the sum which I gave
for it--fifty cents. It was about nine o'clock at night when I bethought me
of the horse which I had sworn to ride home that evening. I untied the
beast with some difficulty, and led him to a mounting block. I got on the
block, and, after putting my foot securely in the stirrup, fell into the
saddle, I was too drunk to think further, and so permitted the horse to
take whatever course suited it best. It took the road toward home, but not
as quietly as a butterfly would have started. He flew with furious speed,
onward through the night, bearing me as if I had only been a feather. I did
not, for I could not, attempt to control him. It was a race with death, and
the chances were in death's favor long before we reached the home stretch.
Possibly I might have ridden safely home had the road been a straight one,
but it was not, and, on making a short turn, I was thrown from the saddle,
but my feet were securely fastened in the stirrups, and so I was dragged
onward by the animal, which did not pause in its mad career, but rather
sped forward more wildly than ever. I was dragged thus over a quarter of a
mile, and would undoubtedly have been killed had not one and then the other
stirrup broken. I lay with my feet in the detached stirrups until near
morning, wholly unconscious and dead, I presume, to all appearances. It was
quite a while after I came to my senses before I could realize what had
happened, who, and what, and where I was, and then my knowledge was too
vague to enable me to determine anything definitely. I crawled to a house
which was near by, fortunately, and remained there during the morning. I
was badly, but not dangerously, injured. The skin was torn from one side of
my face, and three of my fingers were disjointed. I was bruised all over,
and cut slightly in several places. How I escaped death is a miracle, but
escape it I did. The horse went on home and was found early in the morning,
with the stirrup leathers dangling from the saddle. When the family saw the
horse they at once were of the opinion that I had been killed, and my
father took the road to Raleigh immediately, thinking to find my dead body
on the way. Fearing that they would discover the horse and be frightened
about me, I started home, and had not gone far when I met my father. As
soon as he saw me walking in the road, he burst into tears. I did not dare
look as he rode up to me, but continued walking, and he rode slowly past
me. I could hear his sobs, but was too much overcome with shame to speak. I
walked on toward home as fast as I could, and my heart-broken but happy
father followed slowly in my rear. When I got within sight of the house my
sister saw me and ran to meet me, crying: "Oh, we thought you were killed
this time--I was sure you were killed. It is so dreadful to think of!" etc.
She was crying and laughing in a breath. My feelings were such as words can
not describe. I wanted the earth to open and swallow me up. I suffered a
thousand deaths. This is only one of a hundred similar debauches, each more
deplorable and humiliating in its consequences than the last.

At times, as the waters of the awful sea called the Past dash over me, I
almost die of strangulation. I pant and gasp for breath, and shudder and
tremble in my terror. My spree on this occasion was not yet over; my
appetite was burning and raging, and notwithstanding my almost miraculous
escape from a drunken death, I watched my opportunity, like a man bent on
self-destruction, and again mounted the same horse and started for Raleigh.
But my father had preceded me, and given orders at the saloon and elsewhere
that I should not be allowed more liquor. I was determined to satisfy my
appetite, and with this purpose subjugating every other, I went on to
Lewisville, where I remained for more than a week, drinking day and night.
Finally one of my brothers, hearing of my whereabouts, came after me and
took me home. I was so completely exhausted the moment that the liquor
began to die out that I had to go to bed, and there I remained for some
time. After such debauches the physical suffering is intense and great; but
it is little in comparison with the tortures of the mind. After such a
spree as the one just mentioned, it has generally been out of my power to
sleep for a week or longer after getting sober. I have tossed for hours and
nights upon a bed of remorse, and had hell with all its flames burning in
my heart and brain. Often have I prayed for death, and as often, when I
thought the final hour had come, have I shrunk back from the mysterious
shadow in which flesh has no more motion. Often have I felt that I would
lose my reason forever, but after a period of madness, nature would be
merciful and restore me my lost senses. Often have I pressed my hands
tightly over my mouth, fearing that I would scream, and as often would a
low groan sound in my blistered throat, the pent up echo of a long maniacal
wail. Often have I contemplated suicide, but as often has some benign power
held back my desperate hand; once, indeed, I tried to force the gates of
death by an attempt to take my own life, but, heaven be forever praised! I
did not succeed, for the knife refused to cut as deep as I would have had
it. I thought I would be justifiable in throwing off by any means such a
load of horror and pain as I was weighed down with. Who would not escape
from misery if he could? I argued. If the grave, self-sought, would hide
every error, blot out every pang, and shield from every storm, why not seek

They have in certain lands of the tropics a game which the people are said
to watch with absorbing interest. It is this: A scorpion is caught. With
cruel eagerness the boys and girls of the street assemble and place the
reptile on a board, surrounded with a rim of tow saturated with some
inflammable spirit. This ignited, the torture of the scorpion begins.
Maddened by the heat, the detested thing approaches the fiery barrier and
attempts to find some passage of escape, but vain the endeavor! It retreats
toward the center of the ring, and as the heat increases and it begins to
writhe under it, the children cry out with pleasure--a cry in which, I
fancy, there is a cadence of the sound which sends a thrill of delight
through hell--the sound of exultation which rises from the tongues of
bigots when the martyr's soul mounts upward from the flames in which his
body is consumed. Again the scorpion attempts to escape, and again it is
turned back by that impassable barrier of fire. The shouts of the children


Back to Full Books