NEW TEMPERANCE TALES. NO. 1
NEW TEMPERANCE TALES. NO. 1
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No. 1. THE SON OF MY FRIEND.
NEW TEMPERANCE TALES.
BY THE AUTHOR OF "TEN NIGHTS IN A BAR-ROOM."
T. S. ARTHUR & SON.
THE SON OF MY FRIEND.
"_I'VE_ been thinking" said I speaking to my husband who stood
drawing on his gloves.
"Have you?" he answered; "then give me the benefit of your
"That we shall have to give a party. You know we've accepted a
number of invitations this winter and it's but right that we should
contribute our share of social entertainment."
"I have thought as much myself" was his reply. "And so far we stand
agreed. But as I am very busy just now the heaviest part of the
burden will fall on you."
"There is a way of making it light you know" I returned.
"How?" he queried.
"By employing a professional caterer. He will supply everything for
the table and furnish writers. We will have nothing to do but
receive our guests."
My husband shrugged his shoulders and smiled as he said "What will
"Almost anything we please. But the size of the company will have
the most to do with that."
"Say we invite one hundred."
"Then we can make the cost range anywhere between three hundred
dollars and a thousand."
"A large sum to throw away on a single evening's entertainment of
our friends. I am very sure I could put it to a better use."
"Very likely" I answered. "Still we cannot well help ourselves.
Unless we give a party we shall have to decline invitations in
future. But there is no obligation resting on us to make it
sensational. Let the Hardings and the Marygolds emulate extravagance
in this line; we must be content with a fair entertainment; and no
friend worth the name will have any the less respect for us."
"All that is a question of money and good fame" said my husband
his voice falling into a more serious tone. "I can make it three
five or ten hundred dollars and forget all about the cost in a
week. But the wine and the brandy will not set so easily on my
A slight but sudden chill went through my nerves.
"If we could only throw them out?"
"There is no substitute" replied my husband "that people in our
circle would accept. If we served coffee tea and chocolate
instead we would be laughed at."
"Not by the fathers and mothers I think. At least not by those who
have grown-up-sons" I returned. "Only last week I heard Mrs. Gordon
say that cards for a party always gave her a fit of low spirits. She
has three sons you know."
"Rather fast young men as the phrase is. I've noticed them in
supper-rooms this winter several times. A little too free with the
We both stood silent for the space of nearly a minute.
"Well Agnes" said my husband breaking the silence "how are we to
decide this matter?"
"We must give a party or decline invitations in future" I replied.
"Which shall it be?" His eyes looked steadily into mine. I saw that
the thing troubled him.
"Turn it in your thought during the day and we'll talk it over this
evening" said I.
After tea my husband said laying down the newspaper he had been
reading and looking at me across the centre-table "What about the
"We shall have to give it I suppose." We must drop out of the
fashionable circle in which I desired to remain; or do our part in
it. I had thought it all over--looking at the dark side and at the
bright side--and settled the question. I had my weaknesses as well
as others. There was social eclat in a party and I wanted my share.
"Wine and brandy and all?" said my husband.
"We cannot help ourselves. It is the custom of society; and society
is responsible not we."
"There is such a thing as individual responsibility" returned my
husband. "As to social responsibility it is an intangible thing;
very well to talk about but reached by no law either of conscience
or the statute-book. You and I and every other living soul must
answer to God for what we do. No custom or law of society will save
us from the consequences of our own acts. So far we stand alone."
"But if society bind us to a certain line of action what are we to
do? Ignore society?"
"If we must ignore society or conscience what then?"
His calm eyes were on my face. "I'm afraid" said I "that you are
magnifying this thing into an undue importance."
He sighed heavily and dropped his eyes away from mine. I watched
his countenance and saw the shadows of uneasy thought gathering
about his lips and forehead.
"It is always best" he remarked "to consider the probable
consequences of what we intend doing. If we give this party one
thing is certain."
"That boys and young men some of them already in the ways that lead
to drunkenness and ruin will be enticed to drink. We will put
temptation to their lips and smilingly invite them to taste its
dangerous sweets. By our example we will make drinking respectable.
If we serve wine and brandy to our guests young and old male and
female what do we less than any dram-seller in the town? Shall we
condemn him and ourselves be blameless? Do we call his trade a
social evil of the direst character and yet ply our guests with the
same tempting stimulants that his wretched customers crowd his
bar-room to obtain?"
I was borne down by the weight of what my husband said. I saw the
evil that was involved in this social use of wines and liquors which
he so strongly condemned. But alas that I must say it! neither
principle nor conscience were strong enough to overcome my weak
desire to keep in good standing with my fashionable friends. I
wanted to give a party--I felt that I must give a party. Gladly
would I have dispensed with liquor; but I had not the courage to
depart from the regular order of things. So I decided to give the
"Very well Agnes" said my husband when the final decision was
made. "If the thing has to be done let it be well and liberally
I had a very dear friend--a Mrs. Martindale. As school-girls we
were warmly attached to each other and as we grew older our
friendship became closer and tenderer. Marriage that separates so
many did not separate us. Our lots were cast in the same city and
in the same social circle. She had an only son a young man of fine
intellect and much promise in whom her life seemed bound up. He
went into the army at an early period of the war and held the rank
of second lieutenant; conducting himself bravely. A slight but
disabling wound sent him home a short time previous to the surrender
of Lee and before he was well enough to join his regiment it was
mustered out of service.
Albert Martindale left his home as did thousands of other young
men with his blood untouched by the fire of alcohol and returned
from the war as thousands of other young men returned with its
subtle poison in all his veins.
The dread of this very thing had haunted his mother during all the
years of his absence in the army.
"Oh Agnes" she had often said to me with eyes full of tears "it
is not the dread of his death that troubles me most. I have tried to
adjust that sad event between myself and God. In our fearful crisis
he belongs to his country. I could not withhold him though my heart
seemed breaking when I let him go. I live in the daily anticipation
of a telegram announcing death or a terrible wound. Yet that is not
the thing of fear I dread; but something worse--his moral defection.
I would rather he fell in battle than come home to me with manhood
wrecked. What I most dread is intemperance. There is so much
drinking among officers. It is the curse of our army. I pray that he
may escape; yet weep and tremble and fear while I pray. Oh my
friend I think his fall into this terrible vice would kill me."
Alas for my friend! Her son came home to her with tainted breath and
fevered blood. It did not kill her. Love held her above despair and
gave her heart a new vitality. She must be a savior; not a weak
mourner over wrecked hopes.
With what a loving care and wise discretion did she set herself to
work to withdraw her son from the dangerous path in which his feet
were walking! and she would have been successful but for one thing.
The customs of society were against her. She could not keep him away
from the parties and evening entertainments of her friends; and here
all the good resolutions she had led him to make were as flax fibres
in the flame of a candle. He had no strength to resist when wine
sparkled and flashed all around him and bright eyes and ruby lips
invited him to drink. It takes more than ordinary firmness of
principle to abstain in a fashionable company of ladies and
gentlemen where wine and brandy flow as water. In the case of
Albert Martindale two things were against him. He was not strong
enough to set himself against any tide of custom in the first
place; and in the second he had the allurement of appetite.
I knew all this when with my own hand I wrote on one of our cards
of invitation "Mr. and Mrs. Martindale and family;" but did not
think of it until the card was written. As I laid it aside with the
rest the truth flashed on me and sent a thrill of pain along every
nerve. My heart grew sick and my head faint as thoughts of the evil
that might come to the son of my friend in consequence of the
temptation I was about to throw in his way rushed through my mind.
My first idea was to recall the card and I lifted it from the table
with a half-formed resolution to destroy it. But a moment's
reflection changed this purpose. I could not give a large
entertainment and leave out my nearest friend and her family.
The pain and wild agitation of that moment were dreadful. I think
all good spirits and angels that could get near my conscious life
strove with me for the sake of a soul in peril to hold me back
from taking another step in the way I was going; for it was not yet
too late to abandon the party.
When after a long struggle with right convictions I resumed my
work of filling up the cards of invitation I had such a blinding
headache that I could scarcely see the letters my pen was forming;
and when the task was done I went to bed unable to bear up against
the double burden of intense bodily and mental anguish.
The cards went out and the question of the party was settled beyond
recall. But that did not soothe the disquietude of my spirit. I felt
the perpetual burden of a great and troubling responsibility. Do
what I would there was for me no ease of mind. Waking or sleeping
the thought of Albert Martindale and his mother haunted me
At last the evening came and our guests began to arrive in party
dresses and party faces richly attired smiling and gracious. Among
the earliest were Mr. and Mrs. Martindale their son and daughter.
The light in my friend's eyes as we clasped hands and looked into
each other's faces did not conceal the shadows of anxious fear that
rested on them. As I held Albert's hand and gazed at him for a
moment a pang shot through my heart. Would he go out as pure and
manly as he had come in? Alas no! for I had made provision for his
The company was large and fashionable. I shall not attempt a
description of the dresses nor venture an estimate touching the
value of diamonds. I have no heart for this. No doubt the guests
enjoyed themselves to the degree usual on such occasions. I cannot
say as much for at least one of the hosts. In the supper-room stood
a table the sight of which had smitten my eyes with pain. Its image
was perpetually before me. All the evening while my outward eyes
looked into happy faces my inward gaze rested gloomily on decanters
of brandy and bottles of wine crowding the supper-table to which I
was soon to invite the young men--mere boys some of them--and
maidens whose glad voices filled the air of my drawing-rooms.
I tried to console myself by the argument that I was only doing as
the rest did--following a social custom; and that society was
responsible--not the individual. But this did not lift the weight of
concern and self-condemnation that so heavily oppressed me.
At last word came that all was ready in the supper-room. The hour
was eleven. Our guests passed in to where smoking viands rich
confectionery and exhilarating draughts awaited them. We had
prepared a liberal entertainment a costly feast of all available
delicacies. Almost the first sound that greeted my ears after
entering the supper-room was the "pop" of a champagne cork. I looked
in the direction from whence it came and saw a bottle in the hands
of Albert Martindale. A little back from the young man stood his
mother. Our eyes met. Oh the pain and reproach in the glance of my
friend! I could not bear it but turned my face away.
I neither ate nor drank anything. The most tempting dish had no
allurement for my palate and I shivered at the thought of tasting
wine. I was strangely and unnaturally disturbed; yet forced to
commend myself and be affable and smiling to our guests.
"Observe Mrs. Gordon" I heard a lady near me say in a low voice to
"What of her?" was returned.
"Follow the direction of her eyes."
I did so as well as the ladies near me and saw that Mrs. Gordon
was looking anxiously at one of her sons who was filling his glass
for it might be the second or third time.
"It is no place for that young man" one of them remarked. "I pity
his mother. Tom is a fine fellow at heart and has a bright mind;
but he is falling into habits that will I fear destroy him. I
think he has too much self-respect to visit bar-rooms frequently;
but an occasion like this gives him a liberty that is freely used to
his hurt. It is all very respectable; and the best people set an
example he is too ready to follow."
I heard no more but that was quite enough to give my nerves a new
shock and fill my heart with a new disquietude. A few minutes
afterwards I found myself at the side of Mrs. Gordon. To a remark
that I made she answered in an absent kind of way as though the
meaning of what I said did not reach her thought. She looked past
me; I followed her eyes with mine and saw her youngest boy not yet
eighteen with a glass of champagne to his lips. He was drinking
with a too apparent sense of enjoyment. The sigh that passed the
mother's lips smote my ears with accusation. "Mrs. Carleton!" A
frank cheery voice dropped into my ear. It was that of Albert
Martindale the son of my friend. He was handsome and had a free
winning manner. I saw by the flush in his cheeks and the gleam in
his eyes that wine had already quickened the flow of blood in his
"You are enjoying yourself" I said.
"Oh splendidly!" then bending to my ear he added.--"You've given
the finest entertainment of the season."
"Hush!" I whispered raising my finger. Then added in a warning
tone--"Enjoy it in moderation Albert."
His brows knit slightly. The crowd parted us and we did not meet
again during the evening.
By twelve o'clock most of the ladies had withdrawn from the
supper-room; but the enticement of wine held too many of the men
there--young and old. Bursts of coarse laughter loud exclamations
and snatches of song rang out from the company in strange confusion.
It was difficult to realize that the actors in this scene of revelry
were gentlemen and gentlemen's sons so called and not the coarse
frequenters of a corner tavern.
Guests now began to withdraw quietly. It was about half-past twelve
when Mrs. Martindale came down from the dressing-room with her
daughter and joined Mr. Martindale in the hall where he had been
waiting for them.
"Where is Albert?" I heard the mother ask.
"In the supper-room I presume; I've looked for him in the parlors"
Mr. Martindale answered.
"I will call him for you" I said coming forward.
"Oh do if you please" my friend replied. There was a husky tremor
in her voice.
I went to the supper-room. All the ladies had retired and the door
was shut. What a scene for a gentleman's house presented itself!
Cigars had been lighted and the air was thick with smoke. As I
pushed open the door my ear was fairly stunned by the confusion of
sounds. There was a hush of voices and I saw bottles from many
hands set quickly upon the table and glasses removed from lips
already too deeply stained with wine. With three or four exceptions
all of this company were young men and boys. Near the door was the
person I sought.
"Albert!" I called; and the young man came forward. His face was
darkly flushed and his eyes red and glittering.
"Albert your mother is going" I said.
"Give her my compliments" he answered with an air of mock
courtesy "and tell her that she has my gracious permission."
"Come!" I urged; "she is waiting for you."
He shook his head resolutely. "I'm not going for an hour Mrs.
Carleton. Tell mother not to trouble herself. I'll be home in good
I urged him but in vain.
"Tell him that he _must_ come!" Mrs. Martindale turned on her
husband an appealing look of distress when I gave her Albert's
But the father did not care to assert an authority which might not
be heeded and answered "Let him enjoy himself with the rest. Young
blood beats quicker than old."
The flush of excited feeling went out of Mrs. Martindale's face. I
saw it but for an instant after this reply from her husband; but
like a sun-painting its whole expression was transferred to a leaf
of memory where it is as painfully vivid now as on that
never-to-be-forgotten evening. It was pale and convulsed and the
eyes full of despair. A dark presentiment of something terrible had
fallen upon her--the shadow of an approaching woe that was to burden
all her life.
My friend passed out from my door and left me so wretched that I
could with difficulty rally my feelings to give other parting guests
a pleasant word. Mrs. Gordon had to leave in her carriage without
her sons who gave no heed to the repeated messages she sent to
At last all the ladies were gone; but there still remained a dozen
young men in the supper-room from whence came to my ears a
sickening sound of carousal. I sought my chamber and partly
disrobing threw myself on a bed. Here I remained in a state of
wretchedness impossible to describe for over an hour when my
husband came in.
"Are they all gone?" I asked rising.
"All thank God!" he answered with a sigh of relief. Then after a
moment's pause he said--"If I live a thousand years Agnes the
scene of to-night shall never be repeated in my house! I feel not