The Lights and Shadows of Real Life
Part 7 out of 11
time of the greater number who made it a place of resort, and little
was heard there except language the most obscene and profane. For
his daily task at the wheel, the man was paid seventy-five cents a
day. His boarding and lodging cost him thirty-one and a quarter
cents,--and this had to be paid every night under penalty of being
expelled from the house. He was a degraded drunkard, and not
therefore worthy of confidence nor credit beyond a single day, and
he received none. What remained of the pittance earned, was
invariably spent in drink, or gambled away before he retired from
the grogshop for the night; when, staggering home, he groped his way
to his room, too helpless to remove his clothes, and threw himself
upon a straw pallet, that could scarcely be dignified with the name
of bed. This in outline, was the daily history of the man's life;
and daily the shadows of vice fell more and more darkly upon his
The drinking-house had two rooms on the first floor. In front was a
narrow counter, six or eight feet in length, and behind this stood a
short, bloated, vice-disfigured image of humanity, ready to supply
the wants of customers. Two or three roughly-made pine tables, and
some chairs, stood around the room. The back apartment contained
simply chairs and tables, and was generally occupied by parties
engaged in games of chance, for small sums. Tobacco-smoke, the fumes
of liquor, and the polluted breaths of the inmates, made the
atmosphere of these rooms so offensive, that none but those who had
become accustomed to inhale it, could have endured to remain there
for a minute.
The man, on entering this den of vice, went to the counter and
called for whisky. A decanter was set before him, and from this he
poured into a glass nearly a gill of the vilest kind of stuff and
drank it off, undiluted. About half the quantity of water was sent
down after the burning fluid, to partially subdue its ardent
qualities; and then the man turned slowly from the bar. As he did
so, an individual who had seen him enter, and who had kept his eyes
upon him from the moment he passed through the door, came towards
him with a smile of pleasure upon his countenance, and reaching out
his hand, said, in an animated voice--
"How are you, Martin, my good fellow! How are you?"
And he grasped the poor wretch's hand with a hearty grip and shook
it warmly. Something like a smile lighted up the marred and almost
expressionless face of the miserable creature, as he gave to the
hand that had taken his a responsive pressure, and replied,
"Oh! very well, very well, considering all things."
"Bad night out," said the man, as he sat down near a stove, that was
sending forth a genial heat.
"Yes, bad enough," returned Martin. A thought of the damp and chilly
air without caused him to shiver suddenly, and draw a little nearer
to the stove.
"Which makes us prize a comfortable place like this, where we can
spend a pleasant evening among pleasant friends, so much the more."
"Yes. It's very pleasant," said Martin, spreading himself out before
the stove, with a hand upon each knee, and looking with an
absent-minded air, through the opening in the door, which had once
been closed by a thin plate of mica, and seeing strange forms in the
"Pleasant after a hard day's work," remarked the man, with an
"I don't know what life would be worth, if seasons of recreation and
social intercourse did not come, nightly, to relieve both body and
mind from their wearisomeness and exhaustion."
"Yes--yes. It's tiresome enough to have to sit and turn a wheel all
day," said Martin.
"And a relief to get into a place like this at night," returned the
man, rubbing his hands with animation.
"It's a great deal better than sitting at the wheel," sighed Martin.
"I should think it was! Come! won't you liquor."
"Thank you! I've just taken something."
"No matter. Come along, my good fellow, and try something more." And
he arose, as he spoke, and moved towards the bar.
Martin was not the man to refuse a drink at any time, so he followed
to the counter.
"What'll you take? Whisky, rum, gin, brandy, or spirits? Any thing,
so it's strong enough to drink to old acquaintanceship. Ha! my boy?"
And he leered in Martin's face with a sinister expression, and
slapped him familiarly on the shoulder.
"Brandy," said Martin. "Brandy let it be! Nothing like brandy! Set
out your pure old Cogniac! Toby. A drink for the gods!"
"Prime stuff! that. It warms you to the very soles of your feet!"
added the, man after he had turned off his glass. "Don't you say so,
"Yes! and through your stockings, to your very shoes!"
"Hat ha! ha! He! he!" laughed the man with a forced effort. "Why,
Bill Martin, you're a wit!"
"It ain't Bill, it's the brandy," said the bar-keeper, with more
truth than jest.
"That brandy would put life into a grindstone!"
"It's put life into our friend here, without doubt." And as the very
disinterested companion of Martin said this, he slapped him again
upon the shoulder.
The two men turned from the bar and sat down again by the stove,
both getting more and more familiar and chatty.
"Suppose we try a game of dominoes or chequers?" at length suggested
"No objection," replied Martin. "Any thing to make the time pass
agreeably. Suppose we say chequers?"
"Very well. Here's a board. We'll go into the backroom where it's
The two men retired into the little den in the rear of the bar-room,
where were several parties engaged at cards or dice.
"Here's a cozy little corner," said the pleasant friend of Martin.
"We can be as quiet as kittens."
"What's the stake?" he next inquired, as soon as the board was
opened and the pieces distributed. "Shall we say a bit?"
Martin received, at the close of each day, his earnings. Of his
seventy-five cents, he had already paid out for board thirty-one and
a quarter cents; and for a glass of liquor and some tobacco, six
cents more. So he had but thirty-seven and a half cents. This sum he
drew from his pocket, and counted over with scrupulous accuracy, so
as to be sure of the amount. While he was doing so, his companion's
eyes were fixed eagerly upon the small coins in his hands, in order,
likewise, to ascertain their sum.
"A bit let it be." And the man laid down a twelve-and-a-half-cent
"No! We'll start with a picayune," said Martin, selecting the
smaller coin and placing it on the table.
"That's too trifling. Say a bit," returned the man, but half
concealing the eager impatience he felt to get hold of the poor
"Well, I don't care! Call it a bit, then," said Martin. And the coin
An observer would have been struck with the change that now came
over Martin. His dull eyes brightened; something like light came
flashing into his almost expressionless face, and his lips arched
with the influx of new life and feeling. He moved his pieces on the
board with the promptness and skill of one accustomed to the game,
and, though he played with an opponent whose clearer head gave him
an advantage, he yet held his own with remarkable pertinacity, and
was not beaten until after a long and well-balanced struggle. But
beaten he was; and one-third of all he possessed in the world passed
from his hand.
Another twelve-and-a-half-cent piece was staked, and, in like
"I can't go but a picayune this time," said Martin, when the pieces
were arranged for the third game. "My funds are getting too low."
"Very well, a picayune let it be. Any thing just to give a little
interest to the game. I'm sure you'll win this time."
And win Martin did. This elated him. He played another game and
lost. The next was no more successful. Only a single picayune now
remained. For a short time he hesitated about risking this. He
wanted more liquor; and, if he lost, there would be no means left to
gratify the ever burning thirst that consumed him. Not until the
close of the next day would he receive any money; and, without
money, he could get nothing. There were unpaid scores against him in
a dozen shops.
"Try again. Don't be afraid. You're a better player than I am.
You'll be sure to win. Luck lies in the last sixpence. Don't you
Thus urged, Martin put down the last small remnant of his day's
earnings. The interest taken in the games had nearly counteracted
the effects of the liquor, and he was, therefore, able to play with
a skill nearly equal to that of his companion. Slowly and
thoughtfully he made his moves, and calculated the effect of every
change in the board with as much intelligence as it was possible for
him to summon to his aid. But luck, so called, was against him. His
three last pieces, kings, were swept from the board by a single play
of his adversary, at a moment when he believed himself sure of the
game. A bitter imprecation fell from his lips, as he turned from the
table, and thrusting his hands nearly to his elbows in his pockets,
stalked into the bar-room, leaving the man who had won from him the
remnant of his day's earnings for the twentieth time, to enjoy the
pleasures of success. This man was too much occupied in kind
attentions to others who were to be his victims, to even see Martin
again during the evening.
After having lost his last farthing, the latter, feeling miserable
enough, sat down at a table on which were three or four newspapers,
and tried to find in them something to interest his mind. He was
nearer to being sober than he had been for many weeks. On the night
before, he had gambled away his last penny, and the consequence was,
that he had been obliged to do without liquor all day. The effects
of the two glasses he had taken since nightfall had been almost
entirely obliterated by the excitement of the petty struggle through
which he had passed, and his mind was, therefore, in a more that
usually disturbed state. The day had been one of troubled feelings;
and the night found him less happy than he had been through the day.
As he ran his eye over the newspaper he was trying to read, pausing
now and then at a paragraph, and seeking to find in it something of
interest, the words, "Thanksgiving in Massachusetts," arrested his
attention, He read over the few lines that followed this heading.
They were a simple statement of the fact, that a certain day in
November had been appointed as a thanksgiving day by the Governor of
Massachusetts, followed by these brief remarks by some editor who
had recorded the fact:--"How many look forward to this day as a time
of joyful re-union! And such it is to thousands of happy families.
But, somehow, we always think of the vacant places that death or
absence leaves at many tables; and of the shadows that come over the
feelings of those who gather in the old homestead. Of the absent,
how many are wanderers, like the poor prodigal! And how gladly would
they be received if they would only return, and let all the unhappy
past be forgotten and forgiven! Does, by any chance, such a
wanderer's eye fall upon these few sentences? If so, we do earnestly
and tenderly entreat him, by the love of his mother, that is still
with him, no matter how far he has gone from the right path, to come
back on this blessed day; and thus make the thanksgiving of that
mother's heart complete."
Every word of this appeal, which seemed as if it were addressed
directly to himself, touched a responsive feeling in the bosom of
Martin. One after another, images of other days passed before
him--innocent, happy days. His mother's face, his mother's voice,
her very words were present with unwonted vividness. Then came the
recollection of blessed re-unions on the annual Thanksgiving
festival. The rush of returning memories was too strong for the
poor, weak, depressed wanderer from home and happiness. He felt the
waters of repentance gathering in his eyes; and he drew his hand
suddenly across them, with an instinctive effort to check their
flow. But a fountain, long sealed, had been touched; and, ere he was
more than half aware of the tendency of his feelings, a tear came
forth and rested on his cheek. It was brushed away quickly. Another
followed, and another. The man had lost his self-control. Into one
of the lowest haunts of vice and dissipation the voice of his mother
had come, speaking to him words of hope. Even here had her image
followed him, and he saw her with the old smile of love upon her
face. And he saw the smile give way to looks of sorrow, and heard
the voice saying, in tones of the tenderest entreaty, "William! my
poor wanderer! come home! Come home!"
Oh! with what deep, heart-aching sincerity did the poor wretch wish
that he had never turned aside into the ways of folly. "If I could
but go home and die!" he said, mentally.
"If I could but feel my mother's hand upon my forehead, and hear her
He had remained sitting at the table with the newspaper before his
face, to hide from other eyes all signs of emotion. But, the new
feelings awakened were, in no degree, congenial to the gross,
depraved, and sensual sphere by which he was surrounded; and, as he
had no money left, and, therefore, no means of gratifying his thirst
for liquor, there was no inducement for him longer to breathe the
polluted atmosphere. Rising, therefore, he quietly retired; no one
asking him to stay or expressing surprise at his departure He had no
money to spend at the bar, nor to lose at the gaming. table; and was
not, therefore, an object of the slightest interest to any.
As Martin stepped into the street, the cold rain struck him in the
face, and the chilly air penetrated his thin, tattered garments. The
driving mist of the early evening had changed to a heavy shower, and
the street was covered with water. Through this he plunged as he
crossed over, and entered his boarding-house, dripping from head to
foot. He did not stop to speak with any one, but groped his way, in
the dark to the attic. Removing a portion of his wet clothing, he
threw himself upon his bed. He had not come to sleep, but to be
alone that he might think. But thought grew so painful that he would
fain have found relief in slumber, had that been possible.
"If I had never strayed from the right path!" he murmured, as he
tossed himself uneasily. "Oh! if I had never strayed!"
"Go back?" he said, aloud, after some minutes' silence, answering to
his own thoughts. "No--no! I will not blast them by my presence. Let
them be happy."
But the wish to return, once felt, grew every moment stronger, and
he struggled against it until, at last, after hours of bitter
remorse and repentance, weary nature yielded, and he fell off into a
more quiet sleep than he had known for weeks. In this sleep came
many dreams, all of home, the old pleasant home, around which
clustered every happy memory of his life; and when morning came, it
found him longing to return to that home with an irrepressible
"I will go back," said he, in a firm voice, as he arose at day's
dawn, his mind clear and calm. "I will go home. Home--home!"
This proved no mere effervescence of the mind. The idea, once fully
entertained, kept possession of his thoughts. His first resolution
was to save his earnings until he had enough to procure decent
clothing and pay his passage back. A week he kept to this
resolution, not once tasting a drop of any intoxicating liquor. But
by that time he was so impatient of delay, that he changed his
purpose, and procured a situation as deck-hand on board a steamboat
that was about leaving for Pittsburg. For this service, he was to
receive three dollars for the trip, besides being furnished with his
meals. During his week of sobriety, he had been able to save two
dollars. With this money he got an old pair of boots mended which
his employer at the manufactory had given him, and had his clothes
repaired and washed, all of which materially improved his
appearance, and gave occasion for several of his fellow-workmen to
speak encouragingly, which strengthened him greatly in his good
During the passage up the river, Martin was subjected to many
temptations, and once or twice came near falling into his old ways.
But thoughts of home came stealing into his mind at the right
moment, and saved him.
With three dollars in his pocket, the wages he had received from the
steamboat captain, Martin started for Philadelphia on foot. He was
eight days on the journey. When he arrived, his boots were worn
through, his money all expended, and himself sick with fatigue, sad
and dispirited. Luckily he met an old acquaintance, who was a hand
on board a schooner loading with coal for Boston. The vessel was to
pass through the canal, and then go by the way of Long Island Sound.
Martin told his story to this old crony, who had once been a hard
drinker but was now reformed, and he persuaded the captain to give
him a passage.
Just two weeks from the time of his leaving Cincinnati, Martin saw
the sails expand above him, and felt the onward movement of the
vessel that was to bear him homeward. His heart swelled with sad yet
pleasant emotions. It was a long time since he had heard from home;
and longer still since he had seen the face of any member of his
family. For years he had been a wanderer. Now returning, a mere
wreck, so marred in every feature, and so changed, that even love
would almost fail to recognize him, the eyes of his mind were bent
eagerly forward. And, as the distance grew less and less, and he
attempted to realize more and more perfectly the meeting soon to
take place, his heart would beat heavily in his bosom, and a dimness
come before his mental vision.
Thanksgiving, that day of days in New England, had come round again.
Among the thousands by whom it was celebrated as a festive occasion,
were the Martins, who resided in a village only a few miles from
Boston. Old Mr. and Mrs. Martin had four children, two sons and two
daughters. One of the daughters remained at home. Rachel, the oldest
of the daughters, was in her twenty-third year; and Martha was
nineteen. The former was married and lived in the village. Thomas,
next older than Rachel, was also married. He resided ten miles away.
The oldest of them all, William, was a wanderer; or, for ought they
knew to the contrary, had long since passed to his great account. As
many as five years had gone by since there had come from him any
tidings; and nearly eight years since his place had been vacant at
the Thanksgiving re-unions.
The day rose calm and bright on happy thousands. Perhaps no family
in all New England would have experienced a purer delight on this
occasion, than that of the Martins, had not the vacant place of an
absent member reminded them of the wandering, it might be the lost.
Thomas was there with his gentle wife and three bright children;
Rachel with her husband and babe; and Martha with her sweet young
face, that was hardly ever guiltless of a smile. But William was
away; and the path in which he was treading, if he were yet alive,
was hidden from their view by clouds and darkness.
Dinner, that chiefest event of every Thanksgiving day, was served
immediately after the return of the family from church. It had been
prepared by the hands of Martha, and she was in the act of taking an
enormous turkey from the oven, when a man came to the door, and,
without speaking a word, stood and looked at her attentively. She
noticed him as she turned from the oven. He was a sad looking object
for a New England village on Thanksgiving day. His eyes were sunken,
his face thin and pale, and his old tattered garments hung loosely
on his meager limbs. He looked like one just from a bed of sickness,
and he bent, leaning upon a rough stick, like an old man yielding to
the weight of years. Yet, poor and weak as he seemed, his clothes
were clean, and his face had been recently shaven.
Struck with his appearance, Martha paused and looked at him
"Will you let me rest here for a little while?" said the stranger,
as soon as he had attracted Martha's attention.
"Oh! yes. Sit down," replied Martha, whose sympathies were instantly
awakened by the man's appearance. And she handed him a chair.
Just then, Rachel, who had taken off her things on returning from
church, came into the kitchen to assist Martha with the dinner. She
merely glanced at the man; but he fixed upon her a most earnest
look, and followed her about with his eyes as she moved from one
part of the room to another.
"Martha!" called Mrs. Martin from the adjoining room. Neither of the
sisters saw the start which the man gave, nor observed the quick
flush that went over his face, as he turned his head in the
direction from which the sound came.
Martha ran in to see what her mother wanted. In a little while she
came back, and, as she entered the kitchen, she could not help
remarking the strange earnestness with which the man looked at her.
Presently, Mrs. Martin herself came in. She was surprised at seeing
the miserable looking object who had intruded himself upon them at a
time that seemed so inopportune.
"Who is that, Martha?" she asked in a low voice, aside.
"I don't know," was answered in the same low tone--not so low,
however, as to be inaudible to the quick ears of the stranger.
"What is he doing here?"
"He asked me if I would let him rest for a little while; and I
couldn't say no."
"He looks sick; and he must be very poor."
"Yes, poor, indeed!" returned Mrs. Martin with a sigh; a thought of
her own poor wanderer crossing her mind. This thought caused her to
turn to the man and say to him,
"Have you been sick, my friend?"
The man who had been looking at her intently from the moment that
she entered the room, now turned his face partly away as he
"Yes. I've been sick for a number of days, but I am better now."
"You look very poor."
"I am poor--poor indeed!"
"You do not belong to these parts?"
"I do not deserve to," replied the man, low and evasively.
"Where do your friends live?"
"I don't know that I have any friends," said the man. There was a
slight tremor in his voice, that thrilled, answeringly, a chord in
the heart of his questioner.
"There still live those who were once my friends."
"And why not your friends now?"
The man shook his head, sadly.
"I have proved myself unworthy, and, doubtless, they have long since
cast me forth from their regard."
"Then you have no mother," said Mrs. Martin, quickly. "A mother's
love cannot die."
"I have a mother, and I have sisters," replied the man, after a
pause. "Feel kindly towards me for their sakes. I have wandered
long; but I am repentant; and, now returning to my old home, I
The voice that had been low and unsteady at the beginning, sunk
sobbing into silence, and the stranger's head drooped upon his
bosom. At that moment, Mr. Martin entered, and seeing the man, he
"Who in the world is this?"
"William?" fell half joyfully, half in doubting inquiry, from the
"My mother!" ejaculated the stranger, starting forward, and falling
into her open arms.
"William--William!" said Mr. Martin. "Oh! no! It cannot be!"
"It is! Yes! It is my poor, poor boy!" replied the mother,
disengaging herself from his clasping arms, and pushing him off so
that she could get a full view of his face. "Oh! William! My son! my
son!" And again she hugged him wildly to her bosom.
How freely the tears of joy mingled on that happy Thanksgiving day,
need not be told. There was no longer a vacant place at the board;
and thought turned not away, doubtingly, in a vain search for the
absent and the wandering. The long lost had been found; the straying
member had come home. Theirs was, indeed, a Thanksgiving festival.
Such joy as is felt in heaven over a sinner that repenteth, made
glad the mother's heart that day. And it has been glad ever since,
for, though Thanksgiving days have come again and again, there has
been no absent member since William's return.
JIM BRADDOCK'S PLEDGE.
"YOU'LL sign it, I'm sure," said a persevering Washingtonian, who
had found his way into a little village grogshop, and had there
presented the pledge to some three or four of its half-intoxicated
inmates. The last man whom he addressed, after having urged the
others to no effect, was apparently about thirty years of age, and
had a sparkling eye, and a good-humoured countenance, that attracted
rather than repelled. The marks of the destroyer were, however, upon
him, showing themselves with melancholy distinctness.
"You'll sign, I'm sure, Jim."
"O, of course," replied the individual addressed, winking, as he did
so to the company, as much as to say--"Don't you want to see fun?"
"Yes, but you will, I know?"
"Of course I will. Where's the document?"
"Here it is,"--displaying a sheet of paper with sundry appropriate
devices, upon which was printed in conspicuous letters,
"We whose names--," &c.
"That's very pretty, aint it, Ike?" said Jim, or James Braddock,
with a mock seriousness of tone and manner.
"O, yes--very beautiful."
"Just see here," ran on Jim, pointing to the vignette over the
pledge.--"This spruce chap, swelled out with cold-water until just
ready to burst, and still pouring in more, is our friend Malcom
here, I suppose."
A loud laugh followed this little hit, which seemed to the company
exceedingly humorous. But Malcom took it all in good part, and
retorted by asking Braddock who the wretched looking creature was
with a bottle in his hand, and three ragged children, and a pale,
haggard, distressed woman, following after him.
"Another cold-water man, I suppose, "Jim Braddock replied; but
neither his laugh nor the laugh of his cronies was so hearty as
"O, no. That's a little mistake into which you have fallen, "Malcom
said, smiling. "He is one of your firewater men. Don't you see how
he has been scorched with it, inside and out. Now, did you ever see
such a miserable looking creature? And his poor children--and his
wife! But I will say nothing about them. The picture speaks for
"Here's a barrel, mount him up, and let us have a temperance
speech!" cried the keeper of the grog-shop, coming from behind his
counter, and mingling with the group.
"O, yes.--Give us a temperance speech!" rejoined Jim Braddock, not
at all sorry to get a good excuse for giving up his examination of
the pledge, which had revived in his mind some associations of not
the pleasantest character in the world.
"No objection at all," replied the ready Washingtonian, mounting the
rostrum which the tavern-keeper had indicated, to the no small
amusement of the company, and the great relief of Jim Braddock, who
began to feel that the laugh was getting on the wrong side of his
mouth, as he afterwards expressed it.
"Now for some rare fun!" ejaculated one of the group that gathered
around the whiskey-barrel upon which Malcom stood.
"This is grand sport!" broke in another.
"Take your text, Mr. Preacher!" cried a third.
"O yes, give us a text and a regular-built sermon!" added a fourth,
rubbing his hands with great glee.
"Very well," Malcom replied, with good humour. "Now for the text."
"Yes, give us the text," ran around the circle.
"My text will be found in Harry Arnold's grog-shop, Main street,
three doors from the corner. It is in these
words:--'Whiskey-barrel.' Upon this text I will now, with your
permission, make a few remarks."
Then holding up his pledge and laying his finger upon the wretched
being there represented as the follower after strong drink, he went
"You all see this poor creature here, and his wife and
children--well, as my text and his fall from happiness and
respectability are inseparably united, I will, instead of giving you
a dry discourse on an empty whiskey-barrel, narrate this man's
history, which involves the whiskey-barrel, and describes how it
became empty, and finally how it came here. I will call him James
Bradly--but take notice, that I call him a little out of his true
name, so as not to seem personal.
"Well, this James Bradly was a house-carpenter--I say _was_--for
although still living, he is no longer an industrious
house-carpenter, but a very industrious grog-drinker,--he has
changed his occupation. About five years ago, I went to his house on
some business. It was about dinner-time, and the table was set, and
the dinner on it.
"'Come, take some dinner with me,' Mr. Bradly said, in such a kind
earnest way, that I could not resist, especially as his wife looked
so happy and smiling, and the dinner so neatly served, plentiful and
inviting. So I sat down with Mr. and Mrs. Bradly, and two fat,
chubby-faced children; and I do not think I ever enjoyed so pleasant
a meal in my life.
"After dinner was over, Mr. Bradly took me all through his house,
which was new. He had just built it, and furnished it with every
convenience that a man in mode. rate circumstances could desire. I
was pleased with everything I saw, and praised everything with a
hearty good will. At last he took me down into the cellar, and
showed me a barrel of flour that he had just bought--twenty bushels
of potatoes and turnips laid in for the winter, five large fat hogs,
and I can't remember what all. Beside these, there was a barrel of
something lying upon the cellar floor.
"'What is this?' I asked.
"'O, that is a barrel of whiskey that I have laid in also.'
"'A barrel of whiskey!' I said, in surprise.
"'Yes. I did some work for Harry Arnold, and the best I could do was
to take this barrel of good old 'rye' in payment. But it is just as
well. It will be a saving in the end.'
"'How so?' I asked.
"'Why, because there are more than twice as many drams in this
barrel of whiskey, as I could get for what I paid for it. Of course,
I save more than half.'
"'But have you taken into your calculation the fact, that, in
consequence of having a barrel of whiskey so handy, you will drink
about two glasses to one that you would want if you had to go down
to Harry Arnold's for it every time!'
"'O yes, I have,' Bradly replied. 'But still I calculate on it being
a saving, from the fact that I shall not lose so much time as I
otherwise would do. A great deal of time, you know, is wasted in
"'All true. But have you never considered the danger arising from
the habitual free use of liquor--such a free use as the constant
sight of a whole barrel of whiskey may induce you to make?'
"'Danger!' ejaculated Mr. Bradly in surprise.
"'Yes, danger,' I repeated.
"'Of what?' he asked.
"'Of becoming too fond of liquor,' I replied.
"'I hope you do not wish to insult me in my own house, Mr. Malcom,'
the carpenter said, rather sternly.
"'O no,' I replied. 'Of course I do not. I only took the liberty
that a friend feels entitled to use, to hint at what seemed to me a
danger that you might be running into blindly.'
"Mrs. Bradly, who had gone through the house with us, enjoying my
admiration of all their comfortable arrangements, seemed to dwell
with particular interest on what I said in reference to the
whiskey-barrel. She was now leaning affectionately upon her
husband's arm--her own drawn through his, and her hands clasped
together--looking up into his face with a tender and confiding
regard. I could not help noticing her manner, and the expression of
her countenance. And yet it seemed to me that something of concern
was on her face, but so indistinct as to be scarcely visible. Of
this I was satisfied, when she said,
"'I don't think there is much use in drinking liquor, do you, Mr.
"'I cannot see that there is,' I replied, of course.
"'Nor can I. Of one thing I think I am certain, and that is, that
James would be just as comfortable and happy without it as with it.'
"'You don't know what you are talking about, Sally,' her husband
replied good-humouredly, for he was a man of excellent temper, and a
little given to jesting. 'But I suppose you thought it good for you
last christmas, when you got boozy on egg-nog.'
"'O James, how can you talk so!' his wife exclaimed, her face
reddening. 'You know that you served me a shameful trick then.'
"'What do you think he did, Mr. Malcom?' she added, turning to me,
while her husband laughed heartily at what she said. 'He begged me
to let him make me a little wine egg-nog, seeing that I wouldn't
touch that which had brandy in it, because liquor always flies to my
head. To please him, I consented, though I didn't want it. And then,
the rogue fixed me a glass as strong again with brandy as that which
I had refused to take. I thought while I was drinking it, that it
did not taste like wine, and told him so. But he declared that it
was wine, and that it was so sweet that I could not clearly perceive
its flavour. Of course I had to go to bed, and didn't get fairly
over it for two or three days. Now, wasn't that too bad, Mr.
"'Indeed it was, Mrs. Bradly,' I said in reply.
"'It was a capital joke, though, wasn't it?' rejoined her husband,
"'I'll tell you a good way to retort on him,' I said, jestingly.
"'How is that, Mr. Malcom?'
"Pull the tap out of his whiskey-barrel.'
"'I would, if I dared.'
"'She'd better not try that, I can tell her.'
"'What would you do, if I did?' she asked.
"'Buy two more in its place, and make you drink one of them.'
"'O dear! I must beg to be excused from that. But, indeed, James, I
wish you would let it run. I'm really ashamed to have it said, that
my husband keeps a barrel of whiskey in the house.'
"'Nonsense, Sally! you don't know what you are talking about.'
"'Well, perhaps I don't,' the wife said, and remained silent, for
there was a half-concealed rebuke in her husband's tone of voice.
"I saw that I could say no more about the whiskey-barrel, and so I
dropped the subject, and, in a short time, after having finished my
business with Mr. Bradly, went away.
"'Well, how comes on the whiskey-barrel?' I said to him, about a
month after, as we met on the road.
"'First-rate,' was his reply. 'It contains a prime article of good
old 'rye,' I can tell you. The best I have ever tasted. Come, won't
you go home with me and try some?'
"'No, I believe not.'"
"'Do now--come along,' and he took me by the button, and pulled me
gently. 'You don't know how fine it is. I am sure there is not
another barrel like it in the town.'
"'You must really excuse me, Bradly,' I replied, for I found that he
was in earnest, and what was more, had a watery look about the eyes,
that argued badly for him, I thought.
"'Well, if you won't, you won't,' he said. 'But you always were an
unsocial kind of a fellow.'
"And so we parted. Six months had not passed before it was rumoured
through the neighbourhood, that Bradly had begun to neglect his
business; and that he spent too much of his time at Harry Arnold's.
I met his wife one day, about this time, and, really, her distressed
look gave me the heart ache. Something is wrong, certainly, I said
to myself. It was only a week after, that I met poor Bradly
"'Ah, Malcom--good day--How are you?' he said, reeling up to me and
offering his hand.--'You havn't tried that good old rye of mine yet.
Come along now, it's most gone.'
"'You must excuse me today, Mr. Bradly,' I replied, trying to pass
"But he said I should not get off this time--that home with him I
must go, and take a dram from his whiskey-barrel. Of course, I did
not go. If there had been no other reason, I had no desire, I can
assure you, to meet his wife while her husband was in so sad a
condition. After awhile I got rid of him, and right glad was I to do
"Come, that'll do for one day!" broke in Harry Arnold, the
grog-shop-keeper, at this point, not relishing too well the
allusions to himself, nor, indeed, the drift of the narrative, which
he very well understood.
"No--no--go on! go on!" urged two or three of the group. But Jim
Braddock said nothing, though he looked very thoughtful.
"I'll soon get through," replied the Washingtonian, showing no
inclination to abandon his text. "You see, I did not, of course, go
home with poor Bradly, and he left me with a drunken, half-angry
malediction. That night he went down into his cellar, late, to draw
some whiskey, and forgot his candle, which had been so carelessly
set down, that it set fire to a shelf, and before it was discovered
the fire had burned through the floor above.
"Nearly all their furniture was saved, whiskey-barrel and all, but
the house was burned to the ground. Since that time, Bradly will
tell you that luck has been against him. He has been going down,
down, down, every year, and now does scarcely anything but lounge
about Harry Arnold's grog-shop and drink, while his poor wife and
children are in want and suffering, and have a most wretched look,
as you may see by this picture on the pledge. As for the
whiskey-barrel, that was rolled down here about a month ago, and
sold for half a dollar's worth of liquor, and here I now stand upon
it, and make it the foundation of a temperance speech.
"Now, let me ask you all seriously, if you do not think that James
Bradly owes his rapid downfall, in a great measure, to the fact that
Harry Arnold would not pay him a just debt in anything but whiskey?
And against Harry Arnold really your friend, that you are so willing
to beggar your wives and children to put money in his till? I only
ask the questions. You can answer then at your leisure. So ends my
"You are an insulting fellow, let me tell you!" the grog-shop-keeper
said, as he turned away, angrily, and went behind his counter.
The Washingtonian took no notice of this, but went to Jim Braddock,
who stood in a musing attitude near the door, and said--
"You will sign now, won't you, Jim?"
"No, I will not!" was his gruff response.
"I am not going to sign away my liberty for you or anybody else. So
long as I live, I'll be a free man."
"That's right, Jim! Huzza for liberty!" shouted his companions.
"Yes, huzza for liberty! say I," responded Braddock, in the effort
to rally himself, and shake off the thoughts and feelings that.
Malcom's narrative had conjured up a narrative that proved to be too
true a history of his own downfall.
"It was a shame for you to do what you did down at Harry Arnold's,"
Braddock said to the Washingtonian about half an hour afterwards,
meeting him on the street.
"Do what, Jim!"
"Why, rake up all my past history as you did, and insult Harry in
his own house into the bargain."
"How did I insult Harry Arnold?"
"By telling about that confounded whiskey-barrel that I have wished
a hundred times had been in the bottom of the sea, before it ever
fell into my hands."
"I told the truth, didn't I?"
"O yes--it was all true enough, and a great deal too true."
"He owed you a bill?"
"And you wanted your money?"
"But Harry wouldn't pay you in anything but whiskey?"
"No, he would not."
"And so you took a barrel of whiskey, that you did not want, in
"But would much rather have had the money?"
"Of course, I would."
"And yet, you are so exceedingly tender of Harry Arnold's feelings,
notwithstanding his agency in your ruin, that you would not have him
reminded of his original baseness--or rather his dishonesty in not
paying you in money, according to your understanding with him, for
"I don't see any use in raking up these old things."
"The use is, to enable you to see your folly so clearly as to cause
you to abandon it. I am sure you not only see it now, but feel it
"Well, suppose I do?--what then?"
"Why, sign the pledge, and become a sober man."
"I've made up my mind never to sign a pledge," was the emphatic
"Because, I am determined to live and die a free man. I'll never
sign away my liberty. My father was a free man before me, and I will
live and die a free man!"
"But you're a slave now."
"It is not true! I am free.--Free to drink, or free to et it alone,
as I choose."
"You are mistaken, Jim. You have sold yourself into slavery, and the
marks of the chains that still bind you, are upon your body. You are
the slave of a vile passion that is too strong for your reason."
"I deny it. I can quit drinking if I choose."
"Then why don't you quit?"
"Because I love to drink."
"And love to see your wife's cheek growing paler and paler every
day--and your children ragged and neglected?"
"I only asked the question, Jim."
"But you know that I don't love to see them in the condition they
"And still, you say that you can quit drinking whenever you choose,
but will not do so, because you love the taste, or the effect of the
liquor, I don't know which?"
Braddock's feelings were a good deal touched, as they had been, ever
since Malcom's temperance speech in the grog-shop. He stood silent
for some time, and then said--
"I know it's too bad for me to drink as I do, but I will break off."
"You had better sign the pledge then."
"No, I will not do that. As I have told you, I am resolved never to
sign away my liberty."
"Very well. If you are fixed in your resolution, I suppose it is
useless for me to urge the matter. For the sake, then, of your wife
and children, break away from the fetters that bind you, and be
really free. Now you are not only a slave, but a slave in the most
The two then separated, and Jim Braddock--in former years it was Mr.
Braddock--returned to his house; a very cheerless place, to what it
had once been. Notwithstanding his abandonment of himself to drink
and idleness, Braddock had no ill-nature about him. Though he
neglected his family, he was not quarrelsome at home. she might, and
talked hard to him, he never retorted, but always turned the matter
off with a laugh or a jest. With his children, he was always
cheerful, and frequently joined in their sports, when not too drunk
to do so. All this cool indifference, as it seemed to her,
frequently irritated his wife, and made her scold away at him with
might and main. He had but one reply to make whenever this occurred,
and that was--
"There--there--Keep cool, Sally! It will all go in your lifetime,
As he came into the house after the not very pleasant occurrence
that had taken place at Harry Arnold's, he saw by Sally's excited
face and sparkling eyes that something was wrong.
"What's the matter, Sally?" he asked.
"Don't ask me what's the matter, if you please!" was her tart reply.
"Yes, but I want to know? Something is wrong."
"Something is always wrong, of course," Sally rejoined--"and
something always will be wrong while you act as you do: It's a
burning shame for any man to abuse his family as you are abusing
"There--there. Keep cool, Sally! It will all go in your lifetime,
darling!" Jim responded, in a mild, soothing tone.
"O yes:--It's very easy to say 'keep cool!' But I'm tired of this
everlasting 'keep cool!' Quit drinking and go to work, and then
it'll be time to talk about keeping cool. Here I've been all the
morning scraping up chips to make the fire burn. Not a stick in the
wood-pile, and you lazing it down to Harry Arnold's. I wish to
goodness he was hung! It's too bad! I'm out of all manner of
"There--there. Keep cool, Sally! It'll all go--"
"Hush, will you!" ejaculated Sally, stamping her foot, all patience
having left her over-tried spirit. "Keep away from Harry Arnold's!
Quit drinking, and then it'll be time for you to talk to me about
"I'm going to quit, Sally," Jim replied, altogether unexcited by her
words and manner.
"Nonsense!" rejoined Sally. "You've said that fifty times."
"But I'm going to do it now."
"Have you signed the pledge?"
"No. I'm not going to sign away my liberty, as I have often said.
But I'm going to quit."
"Fiddle-de-de! Sign away your liberty! You've got no liberty to sign
away! A slave, and talk of liberty!"
"Look here, Sally," her husband said, good-humouredly, for nothing
that she could say ever made him get angry with her--"you're a
hard-mouthed animal, and it would take a strong hand to hold you in.
But as I like to see you go at full gallop, darling, I never draw a
tight rein. Aint you most out of breath yet?"
"You're a fool, Jim!"
"There's many a true word spoken in jest, Sally," her husband
responded in a more serious tone; "I have been a most egregious
fool--but I'm going to try and act the wise man, if I havn't
forgotten how. So now, as little Vic. said to her mother--
'Pray, Goody, cease and moderate
The rancour of your tongue.'"
Suddenly his wife felt that he was really in earnest, and all her
angry feelings subsided--
"O James!" she said--"if you would only be as you once were, how
happy we might all again be!"
"I know that, Sally. And I'm going to try hard to be as I once was.
There's a little job to be done over at Jones', and I promised him
that I would do it for him today. but I got down to Harry Arnold's,
and there wasted my time until I was ashamed to begin a day's work.
But to-morrow morning I'll go over, and stick at it until it's done.
It'll be cash down, and you shall have every cent it comes to, my
old girl!" patting his wife on the cheek as he said so.
Mrs. Braddock, of course, felt a rekindling of hope in her bosom.
Many times before had her husband promised amendment, and as often
had he disappointed her fond expectations. But still she suffered
her heart to hope again.
On the next morning, James Braddock found an early breakfast ready
for him when he got up. His hand trembled a good deal as he lifted
his cup of coffee to his lips, which was insipid without the usual
morning-dram to put a taste in his mouth. He did not say much, for
he felt an almost intolerable craving for liquor, and this made him
serious. But his resolution was strong to abandon his former habits.
"You won't forget, James?" his wife said, laying her hand upon his
arm, and looking him earnestly and with moistened eyes in the face,
as he was about leaving the house.
"No, Sally, I won't forget. Take heart, my good girl. Let what's
past go for nothing. It's all in our lifetime."
And so saying, Braddock turned away, and strode off with a resolute
bearing. His wife followed with her eyes the form of her husband
until it was out of sight, and then closed the door with a
The way to Mr. Jones' house was past Arnold's grogshop, and as
Braddock drew nearer and nearer to his accustomed haunt, he felt a
desire, growing stronger and stronger every moment, to enter and
join his old associates over a glass of liquor. To this desire, he
opposed every rational objection that he could find. He brought up
before his mind his suffering wife and neglected children, and
thought of his duty to them. He remembered that it was drink, and
drink alone, that had been the cause of his downfall. But with all
these auxiliaries to aid him in keeping his resolution, it seemed
weak when opposed to desires, which long continued indulgence had
rendered inordinate. Onward he went with a steady pace, fortifying
his mind all the while with arguments against drinking, and yet just
ready at every moment to yield the contest he was waging against
habit and desire. At last the grog-shop was in sight, and in a few
minutes he was almost at the door.
"Hurrah! Here's Jim Braddock, bright and early!" cried one of his
old cronies, from among two or three who were standing in front of
"So the cold-water-men havn't got you yet!" broke in another. "I
thought Jim Braddock was made of better stuff."
"Old birds aint caught with chaff!" added a third.
"Come! Hallo! Where are you off to in such a hurry, with your tools
on your back?" quickly cried the first speaker, seeing that Braddock
was going by without showing any disposition to stop.
"I've got a job to do that's in a hurry," replied Braddock,
pausing--"and have no time to stop. And besides, I've sworn off."
"Sworn off! Ha! ha! Have you taken the pledge?"
"No, I have not. I'm not going to bind myself down not to drink any
thing. I'll be a free man. But I won't touch another drop, see if I
"O yes--we'll see. How long do you expect to keep sober?"
"You'll be drunk by night."
"Why do you say so?"
"I say so--that's all; and I know so."
"But why do you say so? Come, tell me that."
"O, I've seen too many swear off in my time--and I've tried it too
often myself. It's no use. Not over one in a hundred ever sticks to
it; and I'm sure, Jim Braddock's not that exception."
"There are said to be a hundred reformed men in this town now. I am
sure, I know a dozen," Braddock replied.
"O yes. But they've signed the pledge."
"Nonsense! I don't believe a man can keep sober any the better by
signing the pledge, than by resolving never again to drink a drop."
"Facts are stubborn things, you know. But come, Jim, as you havn't
signed the pledge, you might as well come in and take a glass now,
for you'll do it before night, take my word for it."
It was a fact, that Braddock began really to debate the question
with himself, whether he should or not go in and take a single
glass, when he became suddenly conscious of his danger, turned away,
and hurried on, followed by the loud, jeering laugh of his old boon
"Up-hill work," he muttered to himself, as he strode onward.
An hour's brisk walking brought him to the residence of Mr. Jones,
nearly four miles away from the little town in which he lived, where
he entered upon his day's work, resolved that, henceforth, he would
be a reformed man. At first he was nervous, from want of his
accustomed stimulus, and handled his tools awkwardly. But after
awhile, as the blood began to circulate more freely, the tone of his
system came up to a healthier action.
About eleven o'clock Mr. Jones came out to the building upon which
Braddock was at work, and after chatting a little, said--
"This is grog time, aint it, Jim?"
"Yes sir, I believe it is," was the reply.
"Well, knock off then for a little while, and come into the house
and take a dram."
Now Mr. Jones was a very moderate drinker himself, scarcely touching
liquor for weeks at a time, unless in company. But he always kept it
in the house, and always gave it to his workmen, as a matter of
course, at eleven o'clock. Had he been aware of Braddock's effort to
reform himself, he would as soon have thought of offering him poison
to drink as whiskey. But, knowing his habits, he concluded,
naturally, that the grog was indispensable, and tendered it to him
as he had always done before, on like occasions.
"I've signed the pledge," were the words that instantly formed
themselves in the mind of Braddock--but were instantly set aside, as
that reason for not drinking would not have been the true one. Could
he have said that, all difficulty would have vanished in a moment.
"No objection, Mr. Jones," was then uttered, and off he started for
the house, resolutely keeping down every reason that struggled in
his mind to rise and be heard.
The image of Mr. Jones, standing before him, with a smiling
invitation to come and take a glass, backed by his own instantly
aroused inclinations, had been too strong an inducement. He felt,
too, that it would have been rudeness to decline the proffered
"That's not bad to take, Mr. Jones," he said, smacking his lips,
after turning off a stiff glass.
"No, it is not, Jim. That's as fine an article of whiskey as I've
ever seen," Mr. Jones replied, a little flattered at Braddock's
approval of his liquor. "You're a good judge of such matters."
"I ought to be." And as Jim said this, he turned out another glass.
"That's right--help yourself," was Mr. Jones' encouraging remark, as
he saw this.
"I never was backward at that, you know, Mr. Jones." After eating a
cracker and a piece of cheese, and taking a third drink, Braddock
went back and resumed his work, feeling quite happy.
After dinner Mr. Jones handed him the bottle again, and did the same
when he knocked off in the evening. Of course, he was very far from
being sober when he started for home. As he came into town, his way
was past Harry Arnold's, whose shop he entered, and was received
with a round of applause by his old associates, who saw at a glance
that Jim was "a little disguised." Their jokes were all received in
good part, and parried by treating all around.
When her husband left in the morning, Mrs. Braddock's heart was
lightened with a new hope, although a fear was blended with that
hope, causing them both to tremble in alternate preponderance in her
bosom. Still, hope would gain the ascendency, and affected her
spirits with a degree of cheerfulness unfelt for many months. As the
day began to decline towards evening, after putting everything about
the house in order, she took her three children, washed them clean,
and dressed them up as neatly as their worn and faded clothes would
permit. This was in order to make home present the most agreeable
appearance possible to her husband when he returned. Then she killed
a chicken and dressed it, ready to broil for his supper--made up a
nice short-cake, and set the table with a clean, white table-cloth.
About sundown, she commenced baking the cake, and cooking the
chicken, and at dusk had them all ready to put on the table the
moment he came in.
Your father is late," she remarked to one of the children, after
sitting in a musing attitude for about five minutes, after
everything was done that she could do towards getting supper ready.
As she said this, she got up and went to the door and looked long
and intently down the street in the direction that she expected him,
calling each distant, dim figure, obscured by the deepening
twilight, his, until a nearer approach dispelled the illusion. Each
disappointment like this, caused her feelings to grow sadder and
sadder, until at length, as evening subsided into night, with its
veil of thick darkness, she turned into the house with a heavy
oppressive sigh, and rejoined the children who were impatient for
"Wait a little while," was her reply to their importunities. "Father
will soon be here now."
She was still anxious that their father should see their improved
"O no"--urged one. "We want our supper now."
"O yes. Give us our supper now. I'm so sleepy and hungry," whined
And to give force to these, the youngest began to fret and cry. Mrs.
Braddock could delay no longer, and so she set them up to the table
and gave them as much as they could eat. Then she undressed each in
turn, and in a little while, they were fast asleep.
When all was quiet, and the mother sat down to wait for her
husband's return, a feeling of deep despondency came over her mind.
It had been dark for an hour, and yet he had not come home. She
could imagine no reason for this, other than the one that had kept
him out so often before--drinking and company. Thus she continued to
sit, hour after hour, the supper untasted. Usually, her evenings
were spent in some kind of work--in mending her children's clothes,
or knitting them stockings. But now she had no heart to do anything.
The state of gloomy uncertainty that she was in, broke down her
spirits, for the time being.
Bedtime came; and still Braddock was away. She waited an hour later
than usual, and then retired, sinking back upon her pillow as she
did so, in a state of hopeless exhaustion of mind and body.
In the meantime, her husband had spent a merry evening at Harry
Arnold's, drinking with more than his accustomed freedom. He was the
last to go home, the thought of meeting his deceived and injured
wife, causing him to linger. When he did leave, it was past eleven
o'clock. Though more than half-intoxicated on going from the
grog-shop, the cool night air, and the thought of Sally, sobered him
considerably before he got home. Arrived there, he paused with his
hand on the door for some time, reluctant to enter. At last he
opened the door, and went quietly in, in the hope of getting up to
bed without his wife's discovering his condition. The third step
into the room brought his foot in contact with a chair, and over he
went, jarring the whole house with his fall. His wife heard
this--indeed her quick ear had detected the opening of the door--and
it caused her heart to sink like a heavy weight in her bosom.
Gathering himself up, Braddock moved forward again as steadily as he
could, both hands extended before him. A smart blow upon the nose
from an open door, that had insinuated itself between his hands,
brought him up again, and caused him, involuntarily, to dash aside
the door which shut with a heavy slam. Pausing now, to recall his
bewildered senses, he resolved to move forward with more caution,
and so succeeded in gaining the stairs, up which he went, his feet,
softly as he tried to put them down, falling like heavy lumps of
lead, and making the house echo again. He felt strongly inclined to
grumble about all the lights being put out, as he came into the
chamber--but a distinct consciousness that he had no right to
grumble, kept him quiet, and so he undressed himself with as little
noise as possible,--which was no very small portion, for at almost
every moment he stept on something, or ran against something that
seemed endowed for the time with sonorous power of double the
ordinary capacity,--and crept softly into bed.
Mrs. Braddock said nothing, and he said nothing. But long before her
eyelids closed in sleep, he was loudly snoring by her side. When he
awoke in the morning, Sally had arisen and gone down. A burning
thirst caused him to get up immediately and dress himself. There was
no water in the room, and if there had been, he could not have
touched it while there was to be had below a cool draught from the
well. So he descended at once, feeling very badly, and resolving
over again that he would never touch another drop of liquor as long
as he lived. Having quenched his thirst with a large bowl of cool
water drawn right from the bottom of the well, he went up to his
wife where she was stooping at the fire, and said--
"Sally, look here--"
"Go 'way, Jim," was her angry response.
"No, but Sally, look here, I want to talk to you," persisted her
"Go 'way, I say--I don't care if I never see you again!"
"So you've said a hundred times, but I never believed you, or I
might have taken you at your word."
To this his wife made no reply.
"I was drunk last night, Sally," Jim said, after a moment's silence.
"You needn't take the trouble to tell me that."
"Of course not. But an open confession, you know, is good for the
soul. I was drunk last night, then--drunk as a fool, after all I
promised--but I'm not going to get drunk again, so--"
"Don't swear any more false oaths, Jim: you've sworn enough
"Yes, but Sally, I am going to quit now, and I want you to talk to
me like a good wife, and advise with me."
"If you don't go away and let me alone now, I'll throw these tongs
at you!" the wife rejoined, angrily, rising up and brandishing the
article she had named. "You are trying me beyond all manner of
"There--there--keep cool, Sally. It'll all go into your lifetime,
darlin'," Jim replied, good-humouredly, taking hold of her hand, and
extricating the tongs from them, and then drawing his arm around her
waist, and forcing her to sit down in a chair, while he took one
just beside her.
"Now, Sally, I'm in dead earnest, if ever I was in my life," he
began, "and if you'll tell me any way to break off from this
wretched habit into which I have fallen, I'll do it."
"Go and sign the pledge, then;" his wife said promptly, and somewhat
"And give up my liberty?"
"And regain it, rather. You're a slave now."
"I'll do it, then, for your sake."
"Don't trifle with me, any more, James; I can't bear it much longer,
I feel that I can't--" poor Mrs. Braddock said in a plaintive tone,
while the tears came to her eyes.
"I wont deceive you any more, Sally. I'll sign, and I'll keep my
pledge. If I could only have said--'I've signed the pledge,'
yesterday, I would have been safe. But I've got no pledge, and I'm
afraid to go out to hunt up Malcom, for fear I shall see a
"Can't you write a pledge?"
"No. I can't write anything but a bill, or a label for one of your
"Well, give me a pen, some ink, and a piece of paper."
But there was neither pen, ink, nor paper, in the house. Mrs.
Braddock, however, soon mustered them all in the neighbourhood, and
came and put them down upon the table before her husband.
"There, now, write a pledge," she said.
"I will." And Jim took up the pen and wrote--"Blister my feathers
if ever I drink another drop of Alcohol, or anything that will make
drunk come, sick or well, dead or alive!"
"But that's a queer pledge, Jim."
"I don't care if it is. I'll keep it."
"It's just no pledge at all."
"You're an old goose! Now give me a hammer and four nails."
"What do you want with a hammer and four nails?"
"I want to nail my pledge up over the mantelpiece."
"But it will get smoky."
"So will your aunty. Give me the hammer and nails."
Jim's wife brought them as desired, and he nailed his pledge up over
the mantelpiece, and then read it off with a proud, resolute air.
"I can keep that pledge, Sally, my old girl! And what's more, I will
keep it, too!" he said, slapping his wife upon the shoulder. "And
now for some breakfast in double quick time, for I must be at
Jones's early this morning."
Mrs. Braddock's heart was very glad, for she had more faith in this
pledge than she had ever felt in any of his promises. There was
something of confirmation in the act of signing his name, that
strengthened her hopes. It was not long before she had a good warm
breakfast on the table, of which her husband eat with a better
appetite than usual, and then, after reading his pledge over, Jim
As before, he had to go past Harry Arnold's, and early as it was,
there were already two or three of his cronies there for their
morning dram. He saw them about the door while yet at a distance,
but neither the grog-shop nor his old companions had now any
attraction for him. He was conscious of standing on a plain that
lifted him above their influence. As he drew near, they observed
him, and awaited his approach with pleasure, for his fine flow of
spirits made his company always desirable. But as he showed no
inclination to stop, he was hailed, just as he was passing, with,
"Hallo, Jim! Where are you off to in such a hurry?"
"Off to my work like an honest, sober man," Jim replied, pausing to
return his answer. "I've taken the pledge, my hearties, and what's
more, I'm going to keep it. It's all down in black and white, and my
name's to it in the bargain,--so there's an end of the matter, you
see! Good bye, boys!--I'm sorry to leave you,--but you must go my
way if you want my company. Good bye, Harry! You've got the old
whiskey-barrel, and that's the last you'll ever get of mine. I never
had any good luck while it was in my house, and I am most heartily
glad it's out, and in your whiskey-shop, where I hope it will stay.
Good bye, old cronies!"
And so saying, Jim turned away, and walked off with a proud, erect
bearing. His old companions raised a feeble shout, but according to
Jim's account, the laugh was so much on the wrong side of their
mouths, that it didn't seem to him anything like a laugh.
At eleven o'clock, Mr. Jones came out as usual, and said--
"Well, Jim, I suppose you begin to feel a little like it was
"No, sir," Jim replied. "I'm done with grog."
"Done with grog!" ejaculated Mr. Jones, in pleased surprise.
"Why, you didn't seem at all afraid of it, yesterday?"
"I did drink pretty hard, yesterday; but that was all your fault."
"My fault! How do you make that out?"
"Clear enough. Yesterday morning, seeing what a poor miserable
wretch I had got to be, and how much my wife and children were
suffering, I swore of from ever touching another drop. I wouldn't
sign a pledge, though, because that, I thought, would be giving up
my freedom. In coming here, I got past Harry Arnold's grog-shop
pretty well, but when you came out so pleasantly at eleven o'clock,
and asked me to go over to the house and take a drink, I couldn't
refuse for the life of me--especially as I felt as dry as a bone. So
I drank pretty freely, as you' know, and went home, in consequence,
drunk at night, notwithstanding I had promised Sally, solemnly, in
the morning, never to touch another drop again as long as I lived.
Poor soul! Bad enough, and discouraged enough, she felt last night,
"So you see--when I got up this morning, I felt half-determined to
sign the pledge, at all hazards. Still I didn't want to give up my
liberty, and was arguing the points over again, when Sally took me
right aback so strongly that I gave up, wrote a pledge, signed it,
and nailed it up over the mantelpiece, where it has got to stay."
"I am most heartily glad to hear of your good resolution," Mr. Jones
said, grasping warmly the hand of Braddock--"and heartily ashamed of
myself for having tempted you, yesterday. Hereafter, I am resolved
not to offer liquor to any man who works for me. If my money is not
enough for him, he must go somewhere else. Well," he continued--"you
have signed away your liberty, as you called it. Do you feel any
more a slave than you did yesterday?"
"A slave? No, indeed! I'm a free man now! Yesterday I was such a
slave to a debased appetite, that all my good resolutions were like
cobwebs. Now I can act like an honest, rational man. I am in a state
of freedom. You ask me to drink. I say 'no'--yesterday I could not
say no, because I was not a free man. But now I am free to choose
what is right, and to reject what is wrong. I don't care for all the
grog-shops and whiskey-bottles from here to sun-down! I'm not afraid
to go past Harry Arnold's--nor even to go in there and make a
temperance speech, if necessary. Hurrah for freedom!"
It cannot be supposed that Jim's wife, after her many sad
disappointments, could feel altogether assured that he would stand
by his pledge, although she had more confidence in its power over
him than in anything else, and believed that it was the only thing
that would save him, if he could be saved at all. She was far more
cheerful, however, for her hope was stronger than it had ever been;
and went about her house with a far lighter step than usual.
Towards evening, as the time began to approach for his return, she
proceeded, as she had done on the day before, to make arrangements
for his comfortable reception. The little scene of preparation for
supper, and dressing up the children, was all acted over again, and
with a feeling of stronger confidence. Still, her heart would beat
at times oppressively, as a doubt would steal over her mind.
At last, the sun was just sinking behind a distant hill. It was the
hour to expect him. The children were gathered around her in the
door, and her eyes were afar off, eagerly watching to descry his
well-known form in the distance. As minute after minute passed away,
and the sun at length went down below the horizon, her heart began
to tremble. Still, though she strained her eyes, she could see
nothing of him,--and now the twilight began to fall, dimly around,
throwing upon her oppressed heart a deeper shadow than that which
mantled, like a thin veil, the distant hills and valleys. With a
heavy sigh, she was about returning into the house, when a slight
noise within caused her to turn quickly, and with a start.
"Back again, safe and sound, old girl!" greeted her glad ear, as the
form of her husband caught her eye, coming in at the back door.
"O, Jim!" she exclaimed, her heart bounding with a wild, happy
pulsation. "How glad I am to see you!"
And she flung herself into his arms, giving way, as she did so, to a
gush of joyful tears.
"And I'm glad enough to see you, too, Sally! I've thought about you
and the children all day, and of how much I have wronged you. But
it's all over now. That pledge has done it!" pointing up as he spoke
to his pledge nailed over the mantelpiece. "Since I signed that,
I've not had the first wish to touch the accursed thing that has
ruined me. I'm free, now, Sally! Free to do as I please. And that's
what I havn't been for a long time. As I told Mr. Jones, I don't
care now for all the grog-shops, whiskey-bottles, and Harry Arnolds,
from here to sun-down."
"I told you it was all nonsense, Jim, about signing away your
liberty!" Sally said, smiling through her tears of joy.
"Of course it was. I never was free before. But now I feel as free
as air. I can go in and come out and care no more for the sight of a
grog-shop, than for a hay-stack. I can take care of my wife and
children, and be just as kind to them as I please. And that's what I
couldn't do before. Huzza for the pledge, say I!
"Blister my feathers if ever I drink another drop of Alcohol, or
anything that will make drunk come, sick or well, dead or alive!"
That evening Jim Braddock sat down to a good supper with a smiling
wife, and three children, all cleanly dressed, and looking as happy
as they could be. The husband and father had not felt so light a
heart bounding in his bosom for years. He was free,--and felt that
he was free to act as reason dictated,--to work for and care for his
Nearly a year has passed, and Mr. James Braddock has built himself a
neat little frame house, which is comfortably furnished, and has
attached to it a well-cultivated garden. In his parlour, there
hangs, over the mantelpiece, his original pledge, handsomely framed.
Recently in writing to a friend, he says--
"You will ask, where did I get them?" (his new house, furniture,
&c.) "I'll tell you, boy. These are part payment for my _liberty_,
that I signed away. Didn't I sell it at a bargain? But this is not
all. I've got my shop back again, with a good run of custom--am ten
years younger than I was a year ago--have got the happiest wife and
the smartest boy in all creation--and don't care a snap for anybody!
So now, S. come down here; bring your wife, and all the
_responsibilities_, and I'll tell you the whole story--but I can't
write. _Hurrah for slavery!_ Good bye!
THE FAIR TEMPTER
OR, WINE ON THE WEDDING-NIGHT.
"WHAT will you take, Haley?"
"A glass of water."
"Nonsense! Say, what will you take?"
"A glass of water. I don't drink anything stronger."
"Not a teetotaller? Ha! ha! ha!" rejoined the young man's companion,
laughing in mingled mirth and ridicule.
"Yes, a teetotaller, if you please," replied the one called
Haley.--"Or anything else you choose to denominate me."
"You're a member of a temperance society, then? ha! ha!"
"No, I am not."
"Don't belong to the cold-water men?"
"Then come along and drink with me! Here, what will you take?"
"Nothing at all, unless it be a glass of water. As I have just said,
I drink nothing stronger."
"What's the reason?"
"I feel as well--indeed, a great deal better without it."
"That's all nonsense! Come, take a julep, or a brandy-punch with
"No, Loring, I cannot."
"I shall take it as an offence, if you do not."
"I mean no offence, and shall be sorry, if you construe into one an
act not so intended. Drink if you wish to drink, but leave me in
freedom to decline tasting liquor if I choose."
"Well, you are a strange kind of a genius, Haley--, but I believe I
like you too well to get mad with you, although I generally take a
refusal to drink with one as an insult, unless I know the person to
have joined a temperance society,--and then I should deem the insult
on my part, were I to urge him to violate his pledge. But I wonder
you have never joined yourself to some of these ultra
reformers--these teetotallers, as they call themselves."
"I have never done so,--and never intend doing so. It is sufficient
for me to decline drinking, because I do not believe that
stimulating beverages are good for the body or mind. I act from
principle in this matter, and, therefore, want no external
"Then you are determined not to drink with me?"
"O, yes, I will drink with you."
"One julep, and a glass of Adam's-ale," said Loring, turning to the
They were soon presented, glasses touched, heads bobbed, and the
contents of the two tumblers poured down their respective gullets.
"It makes a chill go over me to see you drinking that stuff," Loring
said, with an expression of disgust on his face.
"Every one to his taste, you know," was Haley's half-indifferent
"You'll be over to-night, I suppose?" said a young man, stepping up
to him, as the two emerged from the "Coffee"-house--precious little
coffee was ever seen there.
"O, yes,--of course."
"You'd better not come."
"Clara's got a bottle of champaign that she says she's going to make
you taste this very night."
A slight shade flitted quickly over the face of Haley, as the young
man said this. But it was as quickly gone, and he replied with a
"Tell Clara it's no use. I'm an incorrigible cold-water man."
"She'll be too much for you."
"I'm not afraid."
"You'd be, if you were as well acquainted with her as I am. I never
knew that girl to set her head about anything in my life that she
didn't accomplish it. And she says that she will make you drink a
glass of wine with her, in spite of all your opposition."
"She'll find herself foiled once in her life," was the laughing
reply; "and so you may as well tell her that all her efforts will be
in vain, and thus save further trouble."
"No, I won't, though. I'll tell her to go on, while I stand off and
look at the fun. I'll bet on her, into the bargain, for I know
"So will I, two to one!" broke in Loring--
"Don't be so certain of that."
"We'll see," was the laughing response, and then the young men
Manley, the individual who had met Loring and Haley at the
coffee-house door, was the brother of Clara, and Haley was her
accepted lover. The latter had removed to the city in which all the
parties resided, some two years before, from the east, and had
commenced business for himself. Nothing was known of his previous
life, or connections. But the pure gold of his character soon became
apparent, and guarantied him a reception into good society. All who
came into association with him, were impressed in his favour.
Steadily, however, during that time, had he persisted in not tasting
any kind of stimulating drinks. All kinds of stimulating condiments
at table, were likewise avoided. The circle of acquaintances which
had gradually formed around him, or into which, rather, he had been
introduced, was a wine and brandy-drinking set of young men, and he
was frequently urged to partake with them; but neither persuasion,
ridicule, nor pretended anger, could, in the least, move him from
his fixed resolution. Such scenes as that just presented, were of
frequent occurrence, particularly with recent acquaintances, as was
the case with Loring.
Within a year he had been paying attention to Clara Manley, a
happy-hearted young creature, over whose head scarce eighteen bright
summers had yet passed. Esteem and admiration of her mind and
person, had gradually changed into a pure and permanent affection,
which was tenderly and truly reciprocated.
Wine, in the house of Mr. Manley, was used almost as freely as
water. It was, with brandy, an invariable accompaniment of the
dinner-table, and no evening passed without its being served around.
Haley's refusal to touch it, was at first thought singular by Clara;
but she soon ceased to observe the omission, and the servant soon
learned in no case to present him the decanter. George Manley,
however, could not tolerate Haley's temperate habits, because he
thought his abstinence a mere whim, and bantered him upon it
whenever occasion offered. At last, he aroused Clara's mind into
opposition, and incited her to make an effort to induce her lover to
"What's the use of my doing it, brother?" she asked, when he first
alluded to it. "His not drinking does no harm to any one."
"If it don't, it makes him appear very singular. No matter who is
here--no matter on what occasion, he must adhere to his foolish
resolution. People will begin to think, after awhile, that he's some
reformed drunkard, and is afraid to taste a drop of any kind of
"How can you talk so, George?" Clara said, with a half-offended air.
"So it will appear, Clara; and you can't help it, unless you laugh
him out of his folly."
"I don't wish to say anything to him about it."
"No, I am not, George."
"Yes, you are."
"What am I afraid of?"
"Why, you're afraid that you won't succeed."
"Indeed, then, and I am not. A mere notion like that I could easily
prevail on him to give up. I should be sorry, indeed, if I had not
that much influence over him."
"You'll find it a pretty hard notion to beat out of him, I can tell
you. I've seen half a dozen young men try for an hour by all kinds
of means to induce him to taste wine; but it was no use. He was
"I don't care;--he couldn't refuse me, if I set myself about it."
"He could, and he would, Clara."
"I don't believe a word of it."
"Try him, then."
"I don't see any use in it. Let him enjoy his total-abstinence! if
he wishes to."
"I knew you were afraid."
"Indeed, I am not, then."
"Yes, you are."
"It's no such thing."
"Try him, then."
"I will, then, since it's come to that."
"He'll be too much for you."
"Don't flatter yourself. I'll manage him."
"Why, I'll insist on his taking a glass of that delightful champaign
with me, which you sent home yesterday."
"Suppose he declines?"
"I won't take his refusal. He shall take a glass with me."
"We'll see, little sis'. I'll bet on Haley."--And so saying, the
young man turned away laughing at the success of his scheme.
That evening, towards nine o'clock, as Haley sat conversing with
Clara, a servant entered the room as usual with bottles and glasses.
George Manley was promptly on his feet, to cut the cork and "pop"
the champaign, which he did, while the servant stood just before
Clara and her lover.
"You must take a glass of this fine champaign with me, Mr. Haley,"
the young tempter said, turning upon him a most winning smile.
"Not a word now. I shall take no refusal."
"I must be--"
"Pour him out a glass, George."
And George filled two glasses, one of which Clara lifted, with the
sparkling liquor at the height of its effervescence.
"There's the other; take it quick, before it dies," she said,
holding her own glass near her lips.
"You must excuse me, Clara. I do not drink wine," Mr. Haley said, as
soon as he was permitted to speak, in a tone and with a manner that
settled the question at once.
"Indeed, it is too bad, Mr. Haley!" Clara responded, with a
half-offended air, putting her untasted glass of wine back upon the
waiter,--"to deny me so trifling a request. I must say, that your
refusal is very ungallant. Whoever heard of a gentleman declining to
take wine with a lady?"
"There certainly is an exception to the rule to-night, Clara," the
young man said. "Still, I can assure you, that nothing ungallant was
meant. But that you know to be out of the question. I could not be
rude to any lady, much less to you."
"O, as to that, it's easy to make fine speeches--but acts, you know,
speak louder than words"--Clara said, half-laughing--half-serious.
The servant had, by this time, passed on with the untasted wine;
and, of course, no further effort could be made towards driving the
young man from his position. His positive refusal to drink, however,
under the circumstances, very naturally disappointed Clara. He
observed the sudden revulsion of feeling that took place in her
mind, and it pained him very much.
As for her, she felt herself positively offended. She had set her
heart upon proving to her brother her power over Haley, but had
signally failed in the effort. He had proved to her immovable in his
From that time, for many weeks, there was a coldness between him and
Clara. She did not receive him with her accustomed cordiality; but
seemed both hurt and offended. To take a simple glass of champaign
with her was so small a request, involving, as she reasoned, no
violation of principle, that for him to refuse to do so, under all
the circumstances, was almost unpardonable.
Affection, however, at last triumphed over wounded pride, but not
until he had begun, seriously, to debate the question of proposing
to her a dissolution of the contract existing between them.
Everything again went on smoothly enough, for there was no further
effort on the part of Clara to drive her lover from his resolution.
But she still entertained the idea of doing so--and still resolved
that she would conquer him.
At last the wedding-day was set, and both looked forward to its
approach with feelings of pure delight. Their friends, without an
exception, approved the match; and well they might, for he was a man
of known integrity, fine intellect, and cultivated tastes; and she a
young woman in every way fitted to unite with him in marriage bonds.
Finally came the long anticipated evening. Never before was there
assembled in the old mansion of Mr. Manley a happier company than
that which had gathered to witness the marriage of his daughter,
whose young heart trembled in the fulness of its delight, as she
uttered the sealing words of her union with one who possessed all
"May kind heaven bless you, my child!" murmured the mother, as she
pressed her lips to those of her happy child.
"And make your life glide on as peacefully as a quiet stream," added
the father, kissing her in turn, scarcely refraining, as he did so,
from taking her in his arms and folding her to his bosom.
Then came crowding upon her the sincere congratulations of friends.
O, how happy she felt Joy seemed to have reached a climax. The cup
was so full, that a drop more would have overflowed the brim.
A few minutes sufficed to restore again the order that had reigned
through the rooms, and the servants appeared with the bride's cake.
All eyes were upon the happy couple.
"You won't refuse me _now_, James?" the bride said, in a low tone;
but with an appealing look, as she reached out her hand and lifted a
glass of wine.
There was a hesitation in the manner of Haley, and Clara saw it. She
knew that all eyes were upon them, and she knew that all had
observed her challenge. Her pride was roused, and she could not bear
the thought of being refused her first request after marriage.
"Take it, James, for my sake, even if you only place it to your lips
without tasting it," she said, in a low, hurried whisper.
The young husband could not stand this. He took the glass, while the
heart of Clara bounded with an exulting throb. Of course, having
gone thus far, he had to go through the form of drinking with her.
In doing so, he sipped but a few drops. These thrilled on the nerve
of taste with a sensation of exquisite pleasure. Involuntarily he
placed the glass to his lips again, and took a slight draught.
Then a sudden chill passed through his frame as consciousness
returned, and he would fain have dashed the glass from him as a
poisoning serpent that was preparing to sting him, but for the
company that crowded the rooms. From this state he was aroused by
the sweet voice of his young wife, saying, in happy tones--
"So it has not poisoned you, James."
He smiled an answer, but did not speak. The peculiar expression of
that smile, Clara remembered for many years afterwards.
"Come! you must empty your glass with me," she said, in a moment
after. "See! you have scarcely tasted it yet. Now--"
And she raised her glass, and he did the same. When he withdrew his
own from his lips, it was empty.
"Bravo!"--exclaimed Clara, in a low, triumphant tone.
"Now, isn't that delightful wine?"
"Did you ever taste wine before, James?" the bride laughingly said--
"O, yes, many a time. But none so exquisitely flavoured as this."
"Long abstinence has sweetened it to your taste."
"Clara has been too much for you to-night, Haley," George Manley
said, coming up at this moment, and laughing in great glee.
"He couldn't refuse me on such an occasion"--the bride gaily
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