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´╗┐Title: Danger; Or, Wounded in the House of a Friend
Author: Arthur, T. S. (Timothy Shay), 1809-1885
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Danger; Or, Wounded in the House of a Friend" ***

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DANGER;

OR, WOUNDED IN THE HOUSE OF A FRIEND.


BY

T. S. ARTHUR,


  AUTHOR OF "THREE YEARS IN A MAN-TRAP," "CAST ADRIFT,"
  "TEN NIGHTS IN A BAR-ROOM," ETC., ETC.



  PHILADELPHIA, CINCINNATI, CHICAGO,
  ST. LOUIS AND SAN FRANCISCO.

1875



PREFACE.


ALL efforts at eradicating evil must, to be successful, begin as near
the beginning as possible. It is easier to destroy a weed when but an
inch above the ground than after it has attained a rank growth and set
its hundred rootlets in the soil. Better if the evil seed were not sown
at all; better if the ground received only good seed into its fertile
bosom. How much richer and sweeter the harvest!

Bars and drinking-saloons are, in reality, not so much the causes as
the effects of intemperance. The chief causes lie back of these, and
are to be found in our homes. Bars and drinking-saloons minister to,
stimulate and increase the appetite already formed, and give
accelerated speed to those whose feet have begun to move along the road
to ruin.

In "THREE YEARS IN A MAN-TRAP" the author of this volume uncovered the
terrible evils of the liquor traffic; in this, he goes deeper, and
unveils the more hidden sources of that widespread ruin which is
cursing our land. From the public licensed saloon, where liquor is sold
to men--not to boys, except in violation of law--he turns to the
private home saloon, where it is given away in unstinted measure to
guests of both sexes and of all ages, and seeks to show in a series of
swiftly-moving panoramic scenes the dreadful consequences that flow
therefrom.

This book is meant by the author to be a startling cry of "DANGER!"
Different from "THE MAN-TRAP," as dealing with another aspect of the
temperance question, its pictures are wholly unlike those presented in
that book, but none the less vivid or intense. It is given as an
argument against what is called the temperate use of liquor, and as an
exhibition of the fearful disasters that flow from our social drinking
customs. In making this argument and exhibition the author has given
his best effort to the work.



WOUNDED IN THE HOUSE OF A FRIEND.



CHAPTER I.


SNOW had been falling for more than three hours, the large flakes
dropping silently through the still air until the earth was covered
with an even carpet many inches in depth.

It was past midnight. The air, which had been so still, was growing
restless and beginning to whirl the snow into eddies and drive it about
in an angry kind of way, whistling around sharp corners and rattling
every loose sign and shutter upon which it could lay its invisible
hands.

In front of an elegant residence stood half a dozen carriages. The
glare of light from hall and windows and the sound of music and dancing
told of a festival within. The door opened, and a group of young girls,
wrapped in shawls and waterproofs, came out and ran, merrily laughing,
across the snow-covered pavement, and crowding into one of the
carriages, were driven off at a rapid speed. Following them came a
young man on whose lip and cheeks the downy beard had scarcely thrown a
shadow. The strong light of the vestibule lamp fell upon a handsome
face, but it wore an unnatural flush.

There was an unsteadiness about his movements as he descended the
marble steps, and he grasped the iron railing like one in danger of
falling. A waiter who had followed him to the door stood looking at him
with a half-pitying, half-amused expression on his face as he went off,
staggering through the blinding drift.

The storm was one of the fiercest of the season, and the air since
midnight had become intensely cold. The snow fell no longer in soft and
filmy flakes, but in small hard pellets that cut like sand and sifted
in through every crack and crevice against which the wild winds drove
it.

The young man--boy, we might better say, for, he was only
nineteen--moved off in the very teeth of this storm, the small granules
of ice smiting him in the face and taking his breath. The wind set
itself against him with wide obstructing arms, and he reeled, staggered
and plunged forward or from side to side, in a sort of blind
desperation.

"Ugh!" he ejaculated, catching his breath and standing still as a
fierce blast struck him. Then, shaking himself like one trying to cast
aside an impediment, he moved forward with quicker steps, and kept
onward, for a distance of two or three blocks. Here, in crossing a
street, his foot struck against some obstruction which the snow had
concealed, and he fell with his face downward. It took some time for
him to struggle to his feet again, and then he seemed to be in a state
of complete bewilderment, for he started along one street, going for a
short distance, and then crossing back and going in an opposite
direction. He was in no condition to get right after once going wrong.
With every few steps he would stop and look up and down the street and
at the houses on each side vainly trying to make out his locality.

"Police!" he cried two or three times; but the faint, alarmed call
reached no ear of nightly guardian. Then, with a shiver as the storm
swept down upon him more angrily, he started forward again, going he
knew not whither.

The cold benumbed him; the snow choked and blinded him; fear and
anxiety, so far as he was capable of feeling them, bewildered and
oppressed him. A helmless ship in storm and darkness was in no more
pitiable condition than this poor lad.

On, on he went, falling sometimes, but struggling to his feet again and
blindly moving forward. All at once he came out from the narrow rows of
houses and stood on the edge of what seemed a great white field that
stretched away level as a floor. Onward a few paces, and then--Alas for
the waiting mother at home! She did not hear the cry of terror that cut
the stormy air and lost itself in the louder shriek of the tempest as
her son went over the treacherous line of snow and dropped, with a
quick plunge, into the river, sinking instantly out of sight, for the
tide was up and the ice broken and drifting close to the water's edge.



CHAPTER II.


"COME, Fanny," said Mr. Wilmer Voss, speaking to his wife, "you must
get to bed. It is past twelve o'clock, and you cannot bear this loss of
rest and sleep. It may throw you all back again."

The woman addressed was sitting in a large easychair with a shawl drawn
closely about her person. She had the pale, shrunken face and large,
bright eyes of a confirmed invalid. Once very beautiful, she yet
retained a sweetness of expression which gave a tenderness and charm to
every wasted feature. You saw at a glance the cultured woman and the
patient sufferer.

As her husband spoke a fierce blast of wind drove the fine sand-like
snow against the windows, and then went shrieking and roaring away over
housetops, gables and chimneys.

"Oh what a dreadful night!" said the lady, leaning forward in her chair
and listening to the wild wail of the storm, while a look of anxiety,
mingled with dread, swept across her face. "If Archie were only at
home!"

"Don't trouble yourself about Archie. He'll be here soon. You are not
yourself to-night, Fanny."

"Perhaps not; but I can't help it. I feel such an awful weight here;"
and Mrs. Voss drew her hands against her bosom.

"All nervous," said her husband. "Come! You must go to bed."

"It will be of no use, Wilmer," returned the lady. "I will be worse in
bed than sitting up. You don't know what a strange feeling has come
over me. Oh, Archie, if you were only at home! Hark! What was that?"

The pale face grew paler as Mrs. Voss bent forward in a listening
attitude.

"Only the wind," answered her husband, betraying some impatience. "A
thousand strange sounds are on the air in a night like this. You must
compose yourself, Fanny, or the worst consequences may follow."

"It's impossible, husband. I cannot rest until I have my son safe and
sound at home again. Dear, dear boy!"

Mr. Voss urged no further. The shadow of fear which had come down upon
his wife began to creep over his heart and fill it with a vague
concern. And now a thought flashed into his mind that he would not have
uttered for the world; but from that moment peace fled, and anxiety for
his son grew into alarm as the time wore on and the boy did not come
home.

"Oh, my husband," cried Mrs. Voss, starting from her chair, and
clasping her hands as she threw them upward, "I cannot bear this much
longer. Hark! That was his voice! _'Mother!' 'Mother!'_ Don't you hear
it?"

Her face was white as the snow without, her eyes wild and eager, her
lips apart, her head bent forward.

A shuddering chill crept along the nerves of Mr. Voss.

"Go, go quickly! Run! He may have fallen at the door!"

Ere the last sentence was finished Mr. Voss was halfway down stairs. A
blinding dash of snow came swirling into his face as he opened the
street door. It was some moments before he could see with any
distinctness. No human form was visible, and the lamp just in front of
his house shone down upon a trackless bed of snow many inches in depth.
No, Archie was not there. The cry had come to the mother's inward ear
in the moment when her boy went plunging down into the engulfing river
and heart and thought turned in his mortal agony to the one nearest and
dearest in all the earth.

When Mr. Voss came back into the house after his fruitless errand, he
found his wife standing in the hall, only a few feet back from the
vestibule, her face whiter, if that were possible, and her eyes wilder
than before. Catching her in his arms, he ran with her up stairs, but
before he had reached their chamber her light form lay nerveless and
unconscious against his breast.

Doctor Hillhouse, the old family physician, called up in the middle of
that stormy night, hesitated to obey the summons, and sent his
assistant with word that he would be round early in the morning if
needed. Doctor Angier, the assistant, was a young physician of fine
ability and great promise. Handsome in person, agreeable in manner and
thoroughly in love with his profession, he was rapidly coming into
favor with many of the old doctor's patients, the larger portion of
whom belonged to wealthy and fashionable circles. Himself a member of
one of the older families, and connected, both on his father's and
mother's side, with eminent personages as well in his native city as in
the State, Doctor Angier was naturally drawn into social life, which,
spite of his increasing professional duties, he found time to enjoy.

It was past two o'clock when Doctor Angier made his appearance, his
garments white with snow and his dark beard crusted with tiny icicles.
He found Mrs. Voss lying in swoon so deep that, but for the faintest
perceptible heart-beat, he would have thought her dead. Watching the
young physician closely as he stood by the bedside of his wife, Mr.
Voss was quick to perceive something unusual in his manner. The
professional poise and coolness for which he was noted were gone, and
he showed a degree of excitement and uncertainty that alarmed the
anxious husband. What was its meaning? Did it indicate apprehension for
the condition of his patient, or--something else? A closer look into
the young physician's face sent a flash of suspicion through the mind
of Mr. Voss, which was more than confirmed a moment afterward as the
stale odor of wine floated to his nostrils.

"Were you at Mr. Birtwell's to-night?" There was a thrill of anxious
suspense in the tones of Mr. Voss as he grasped the physician's arm and
looked keenly at him.

"I was," replied Doctor Angier.

"Did you see my son there?"

"Yes, sir."

"At what time did you leave?"

"Less than an hour ago. I had not retired when your summons came."

"Was Archie there when you left?"

"No, I think not."

"Are you sure about it?"

"Yes, very sure. I remember now, quite distinctly, seeing him come down
from the dressing-room with his hat in his hand and go through the hall
toward the street door."

"How long ago was that?"

"About an hour and a half; perhaps longer."

A groan that could not be repressed broke from the father's lips.

"Isn't he at home?" asked the young physician, turning round quickly
from the bed and betraying a sudden concern.

"No; and I am exceedingly anxious about him." The eyes of Mr. Voss were
fixed intently on Doctor Angler, and he was reading every varying
expression of his countenance.

"Doctor," he said, laying his hand on the physician's arm and speaking
huskily, "I want you to answer me truly. Had he taken much wine?"

It was some moments before Doctor Angier replied:

"On such occasions most people take wine freely. It flows like water,
you know. I don't think your son indulged more than any one else;
indeed, not half so much as some young men I saw there."

Mr. Voss felt that there was evasion in the answer.

"Archie is young, and not used to wine. A single glass would be more to
him than half a dozen to older men who drink habitually. Did you see
him take wine often?"

"He was in the supper-room for a considerable time. When I left it, I
saw him in the midst of a group of young men and girls, all with
glasses of champagne in their hands."

"How long was this before you saw him go away?"

"Half an hour, perhaps," replied the doctor.

"Did he go out alone?"

"I believe so."

Mr. Voss questioned no further, and Doctor Angler, who now understood
better the meaning of his patient's condition, set himself to the work
of restoring her to consciousness. He did not find the task easy. It
was many hours before the almost stilled pulses began beating again
with a perceptible stroke, and the quiet chest to give signs of normal
respiration. Happily for the poor mother, thought and feeling were yet
bound.

Long before this the police had been aroused and every effort made to
discover a trace of the young man after he left the house of Mr.
Birtwell, but without effect. The snow had continued falling until
after five o'clock, when the storm ceased and the sky cleared, the wind
blowing from the north and the temperature falling to within a few
degrees of zero.

A faint hope lingered with Mr. Voss--the hope that Archie had gone home
with some friend. But as the morning wore on and he did not make his
appearance this hope began to fade away, and died before many hours.
Nearly every male guest at Mrs. Birtwell's party was seen and
questioned during the day, but not one of them had seen Archie after he
left the house. A waiter who was questioned said that he remembered
seeing him:

"I watched him go down the steps and go off alone, and the wind seemed
as if it would blow him away. He wasn't just himself, sir, I'm afraid."

If a knife had cut down into the father's quivering flesh, the pain
would have been as nothing to that inflicted by this last sentence. It
only confirmed his worst fears.

The afternoon papers contained a notice of the fact that a young
gentleman who had gone away from a fashionable party at a late hour on
the night before had not been heard of by his friends, who were anxious
and distressed about him. Foul play was hinted at, as the young man
wore a valuable diamond pin and had a costly gold watch in his pocket.
On the morning afterward advertisements appeared offering a large
reward for any information that would lead to the discovery of the
young man, living or dead. They were accompanied by minute descriptions
of his person and dress. But there came no response. Days and weeks
passed; and though the advertisements were repeated and newspapers
called public attention to the matter, not a single clue was found.

A young man, with the kisses of his mother sweet on his pure lips, had
left her for an evening's social enjoyment at the house of one of her
closest and dearest friends, and she never looked upon his face again.
He had entered the house of that friend with a clear head and steady
nerves, and he had gone out at midnight bewildered with the wine that
had been poured without stint to her hundred guests, young and old. How
it had fared with him the reader knows too well.



CHAPTER III.


"HEAVENS and earth! Why doesn't some one go to the door?" exclaimed Mr.
Spencer Birtwell, rousing himself from a heavy sleep as the bell was
rung for the third time, and now with four or five vigorous and rapid
jerks, each of which caused the handle of the bell to strike with the
noise of a hammer.

The gray dawn was just breaking.

"There it is again! Good heavens! What does it mean?" and Mr. Birtwell,
now fairly awake, started up in bed and sat listening. Scarcely a
moment intervened before the bell was pulled again, and this time
continuously for a dozen times. Springing from the bed, Mr. Birtwell
threw open a window, and looking out, saw two policemen at the door.

"What's wanted?" he called down to them.

"Was there a young man here last night named Voss?" inquired one of the
men.

"What about him?" asked Mr. Birtwell.

"He hasn't been home, and his friends are alarmed. Do you know where he
is?"

"Wait, returned Mr. Birtwell; and shutting down the window, he dressed
himself hurriedly.

"What is it?" asked his wife, who had been awakened from a heavy
slumber by the noise at the window.

"Archie Voss didn't get home last night."

"What?" and Mrs. Birtwell started out of bed.

"There are two policemen at the door."

"Policemen!"

"Yes; making a grand row for nothing, as if young men never stayed away
from home. I must go down and see them. Go back into bed again,
Margaret. You'll take your death o' cold. There's nothing to be alarmed
about. He'll come up all right."

But Mrs. Birtwell did not return to her bed. With warm wrapper thrown
about her person, she stood at the head of the stairway while her
husband went down to admit the policemen. All that could be learned
from them was that Archie Voss had not come home from the party, and
that his friends were greatly alarmed about him. Mr. Birtwell had no
information to give. The young man had been at his house, and had gone
away some time during the night, but precisely at what hour he could
not tell.

"You noticed him through the evening?" said one of the policemen.

"Oh yes, certainly. We know Archie very well. He's always been intimate
at our house."

"Did he take wine freely?"

An indignant denial leaped to Mr. Birtwell's tongue, but the words died
unspoken, for the image of Archie, with flushed face and eyes too
bright for sober health, holding in his hand a glass of sparkling
champagne, came vividly before him.

"Not more freely than other young men," he replied. "Why do you ask?"

"There are two theories of his absence," said the policeman. "One is
that he has been set upon in the street, robbed and murdered, and the
other that, stupefied and bewildered by drink, he lost himself in the
storm, and lies somewhere frozen to death and hidden under the snow."

A cry of pain broke from the lips of Mrs. Birtwell, and she came
hurrying down stairs. Too well did she remember the condition of Archie
when she last saw him--Archie, the only son of her oldest and dearest
friend, the friend she had known and loved since girlhood. He was not
fit to go out alone in that cold and stormy night; and a guilty sense
of responsibility smote upon her heart and set aside all excuses.

"What about his mother?" she asked, anxiously. "How is she bearing this
dreadful suspense?"

"I can't just say, ma'am," was answered, "but I think they've had the
doctor with her all night--that is, all the last part of the night.
She's lying in a faint, I believe."

"Oh, it will kill her! Poor Frances! Poor Frances!" wailed out Mrs.
Birtwell, wringing her hands and beginning to cry bitterly.

"The police have been on the lookout for the last two or three hours,
but can't find any trace of him," said the officer.

"Oh, he'll turn up all right," broke in Mr. Birtwell, with a confident
tone. "It's only a scare. Gone home with some young friend, as like as
not. Young fellows in their teens don't get lost in the snow,
particularly in the streets of a great city, and footpads generally
know their game before bringing it down. I'm sorry for poor Mrs. Voss;
she isn't strong enough to bear such a shock. But it will all come
right; I don't feel a bit concerned."

But for all that he did feel deeply concerned. The policemen went away,
and Mr. and Mrs. Birtwell sat down by an open grate in which the fire
still burned.

"Don't let it distress you so, Margaret," said the former, trying to
comfort his wife. "There's nothing to fear for Archie. Nobody ever
heard of a man getting lost in a city snow-storm. If he'd been out on a
prairie, the case would have been different, but in the streets of the
city! The thing's preposterous, Margaret."

"Oh, if he'd only gone away as he came, I wouldn't feel so awfully
about it," returned Mrs. Birtwell. "That's what cuts me to the heart.
To think that he came to my house sober and went away--"

She caught back from her tongue the word she would have spoken, and
shivered.

"Nothing of the kind, Margaret, nothing of the kind," said her husband,
quickly. "A little gay--that was all. Just what is seen at parties
every night. Archie hasn't much head, and a single glass of champagne
is enough to set it buzzing. But it's soon over. The effervescence goes
off in a little while, and the head comes clear again."

Mrs. Birtwell did not reply. Her eyes were cast down and her face
deeply distressed.

"If anything has happened to Archie," she said, after a long silence,
"I shall never have a moment's peace as long as I live."

"Nonsense, Margaret! Suppose something has happened to him? We are not
responsible. It's his own fault if he took away more wine than he was
able to carry." Mr. Birtwell spoke with slight irritation.

"If he hadn't found the wine here, he could not have carried it away,"
replied his wife.

"How wildly you talk, Margaret!" exclaimed Mr. Birtwell, with increased
irritation.

"We won't discuss the matter," said his wife. "It would be useless,
agreement being, I fear, out of the question; but it is very certain
that we cannot escape responsibility in this or anything else we may
do, and so long as these words of Holy Writ stand, _'Woe unto him that
giveth his neighbor drink, that putteth the bottle to him and maketh
him drunken'_, we may well have serious doubts in regard to the right
and wrong of these fashionable entertainments, at which wine and
spirits are made free to all of both sexes, young and old."

Mr. Birtwell started to his feet and walked the floor with considerable
excitement.

"If _we_ had a son just coming to manhood--and I sometimes thank God
that we have not--would you feel wholly at ease about him, wholly
satisfied that he was in no danger in the houses of your friends? May
not a young man as readily acquire a taste for liquors in a gentleman's
dining-room as in a drinking-saloon--nay, more readily, if in the
former the wine is free and bright eyes and laughing lips press him
with invitations?"

Mrs. Birtwell's voice had gained a steadiness and force that made it
very impressive. Her husband continued to walk the floor but with
slower steps.

"I saw things last night that troubled me," she went on. "There is no
disguising the fact that most of the young men who come to these large
parties spend a great deal too much time in the supper-room, and drink
a great deal more than is good for them. Archie Voss was not the only
one who did this last evening. I watched another young man very
closely, and am sorry to say that he left our house in a condition in
which no mother waiting at home could receive her son without sorrow
and shame."

"Who was that?" asked Mr. Birtwell, turning quickly upon his wife. He
had detected more than a common concern in her voice.

"Ellis," she replied. Her manner was very grave.

"You must be mistaken about that," said Mr. Birtwell, evidently
disturbed at this communication.

"I wish to Heaven that I were! But the fact was too apparent. Blanche
saw it, and tried to get him out of the supper-room. He acted in the
silliest kind of a way, and mortified her dreadfully, poor child!"

"Such things will happen sometimes," said Mr. Birtwell. "Young men like
Ellis don't always know how much they can bear." His voice was in a
lower key and a little husky.

"It happens too often with Ellis," replied his wife, "and I'm beginning
to feel greatly troubled about it."

"Has it happened before?"

"Yes; at Mrs. Gleason's, only last week. He was loud and boisterous in
the supper-room--so much so that I heard a lady speak of his conduct as
disgraceful."

"That will never do," exclaimed Mr. Birtwell, betraying much
excitement. "He will have to change all this or give up Blanche. I
don't care what his family is if he isn't all right himself."

"It is easier to get into trouble than out of it," was replied. "Things
have gone too far between them."

"I don't believe it. Blanche will never throw herself away on a man of
bad habits."

"No; I do not think she will. But there may be, in her view, a very
great distance between an occasional glass of wine too much at an
evening party and confirmed bad habits. We must not hope to make her
see with our eyes, nor to take our judgment of a case in which her
heart is concerned. Love is full of excuses and full of faith. If Ellis
Whitford should, unhappily, be overcome by this accursed appetite for
drink which is destroying so many of our most promising young men,
there is trouble ahead for her and for us."

"Something must be done about it. We cannot let this thing go on," said
Mr. Birtwell, in a kind of helpless passion. "A drunkard is a beast.
Our Blanche tied to a beast! Ugh! Ellis must be talked to. I shall see
him myself. If he gets offended, I cannot help it. There's too much at
stake--too much, too much!"

"Talking never does much in these cases," returned Mrs. Birtwell,
gloomily. "Ellis would be hurt and offended."

"So far so good. He'd be on guard at the next party."

"Perhaps so. But what hope is there for a young man in any danger of
acquiring a love of liquor as things now are in our best society? He
cannot always be on guard. Wine is poured for him everywhere. He may go
unharmed in his daily walks through the city though thousands of
drinking-saloons crowd its busy streets. They may hold out their
enticements for him in vain. But he is too weak to refuse the tempting
glass when a fair hostess offers it, or when, in the midst of a gay
company wine is in every hand and at every lip. One glass taken, and
caution and restraint are too often forgotten. He drinks with this one
and that one, until his clear head is gone and appetite, like a
watchful spider, throws another cord of its fatal web around him."

"I don't see what we are to do about it," said Mr. Birtwell. "If men
can't control themselves--" He did not finish the sentence.

"We can at least refrain from putting temptation in their way,"
answered his wife.

"How?"

"We can refuse to turn our houses into drinking-saloons," replied Mrs.
Birtwell, voice and manner becoming excited and intense.

"Margaret, Margaret, you are losing yourself," said the astonished
husband.

"No; I speak the words of truth and soberness," she answered, her face
rising in color and her eyes brightening. "What great difference is
there between a drinking-saloon, where liquor is sold, and a
gentleman's dining-room, where it is given away? The harm is great in
both--greatest, I fear, in the latter, where the weak and unguarded are
allured and their tastes corrupted. There is a ban on the
drinking-saloon. Society warns young men not to enter its tempting
doors. It is called the way of death and hell. What makes it accursed
and our home saloon harmless? It is all wrong, Mr. Birtwell--all wrong,
wrong, wrong! and to-day we are tasting some of the fruit, the
bitterness of which, I fear, will be in our mouths so long as we both
shall live."

Mrs. Birtwell broke down, and sinking back in her chair, covered her
face with her hands.

"I must go to Frances," she said, rising after a few moments.

"Not now, Margaret," interposed her husband. "Wait for a while. Archie
is neither murdered nor frozen to death; you may take my word for that.
Wait until the morning advances, and he has time to put in an
appearance, as they say. Henry can go round after breakfast and make
inquiry about him. If he is still absent, then you might call and see
Mrs. Voss. At present the snow lies inches deep and unbroken on the
street, and you cannot possibly go out."

Mrs. Birtwell sat down again, her countenance more distressed.

"Oh, if it hadn't happened in our house!" she said. "If this awful
thing didn't lie at our door!"

"Good Heavens, Margaret! why will you take on so? Any one hearing you
talk might think us guilty of murder, or some other dreadful crime.
Even if the worst fears are realized, no blame can lie with us. Parties
are given every night, and young men, and old men too, go home from
them with lighter heads than when they came. No one is compelled to
drink more than is good for him. If he takes too much, the sin lies at
his own door."

"If you talked for ever, Mr. Birtwell," was answered "nothing you might
say could possibly change my feelings or sentiments. I know we are
responsible both to God and to society for the stumbling-blocks we set
in the way of others. For a long time, as you know, I have felt this in
regard to our social wine-drinking customs; and if I could have had my
way, there would have been one large party of the season at which
neither man nor woman could taste wine."

"I know," replied Mr. Birtwell. "But I didn't choose to make myself a
laughing-stock. If we are in society, we must do as society does.
Individuals are not responsible for social usages. They take things as
they find them, going with the current, and leaving society to settle
for itself its code of laws and customs. If we don't like these laws
and customs, we are free to drift out of the current. But to set
ourselves against them is a weakness and a folly."

Mr. Birtwell's voice and manner grew more confident as he spoke. He
felt that he had closed the argument.

"If society," answered his wife, "gets wrong, how is it to get right?"

Mr. Birtwell was silent.

"Is it not made up of individuals?"

"Of course."

"And is not each of the individuals responsible, in his degree, for the
conduct of society?"

"In a certain sense, yes."

"Society, as a whole, cannot determine a question of right and wrong.
Only individuals can do this. Certain of these, more independent than
the rest, pass now and then from the beaten track of custom, and the
great mass follow them. Because they do this or that, it is right or in
good taste and becomes fashionable. The many are always led by the few.
It is through the personal influence of the leaders in social life that
society is now cursed by its drinking customs. Personal influence alone
can change these customs, and therefore every individual becomes
responsible, because he might if he would set his face against them,
and any one brave enough to do this would find many weaker ones quick
to come to his side and help him to form a better social sentiment and
a better custom."

"All very nicely said," replied Mr. Birtwell, "but I'd like to see the
man brave enough to give a large fashionable party and exclude wine."

"So would I. Though every lip but mine kept silence, there would be one
to do him honor."

"You would be alone, I fear," said the husband.

"When a man does a right and brave thing, all true men honor him in
their hearts. All may not be brave enough to stand by his side, but a
noble few will imitate the good example. Give the leader in any cause,
right or wrong, and you will always find adherents of the cause. No, my
husband, I would not be alone in doing that man honor. His praise would
be on many lips and many hearts would bless him. I only wish you were
that man! Spencer, if you will consent to take this lead, I will walk
among our guests the queenliest woman, in heart at least, to be found
in any drawing-room this season. I shall not be without my
maids-of-honor, you may be sure, and they will come from the best
families known in our city. Come! say yes, and I will be prouder of my
husband than if he were the victorious general of a great army."

"No, thank you, my dear," replied Mr. Birtwell, not in the least moved
by his wife's enthusiasm. "I am not a social reformer, nor in the least
inclined that way. As I find things I take them. It is no fault of mine
that some people have no control of their appetites and passions. Men
will abuse almost anything to their own hurt. I saw as many of our
guests over-eat last night as over-drink, and there will be quite as
many headaches to-day from excess of terrapin and oysters as from
excess of wine. It's no use, Margaret. Intemperance is not to be cured
in this way. Men who have a taste for wine will get it, if not in one
place then in another; if not in a gentleman's dining-room, then in a
drinking-saloon, or somewhere else."

The glow faded from Mrs. Birtwell's face and the light went out of her
eyes. Her voice was husky and choking as she replied:

"One fact does not invalidate another. Because men who have acquired a
taste for wine will have it whether we provide it for them or not, it
is no reason why we should set it before the young whose appetites are
yet unvitiated and lure them to excesses. It does not make a free
indulgence in wine and brandy any the more excusable because men
overeat themselves."

"But," broke in Mr. Birtwell, with the manner of one who gave an
unanswerable reason, "if we exclude wine that men may not hurt
themselves by over-indulgence, why not exclude the oysters and
terrapin? If we set up for reformers and philanthropists, why not cover
the whole ground?"

"Oysters and terrapin," replied Mrs. Birtwell, in a voice out of which
she could hardly keep the contempt she felt for her husband's weak
rejoinder, "don't confuse the head, dethrone the reason, brutalize,
debase and ruin men in soul and body as do wine and brandy. The
difference lies there, and all men see and feel it, make what excuses
they will for self-indulgence and deference to custom. The curse of
drink is too widely felt. There is scarcely a family in the land on
which its blight does not lie. The best, the noblest, the purest, the
bravest, have fallen. It is breaking hopes and hearts and fortunes
every day. The warning cross that marks the grave of some poor victim
hurts your eyes at every turn of life. We are left without excuse."

Mrs. Birtwell rose as she finished speaking, and returned to her
chamber.



CHAPTER IV.


"MR. VOSS," said the waiter as he opened the door of the breakfast-room.

Mr. and Mrs. Birtwell left the table hurriedly and went to the parlor.
Their visitor was standing in the middle of the floor as they entered.

"Oh, Mr. Voss, have you heard anything of Archie?" exclaimed Mrs.
Birtwell.

"Nothing yet," he replied.

"Dreadful, dreadful! What can it mean?"

"Don't be alarmed about it," said Mr. Birtwell, trying to speak in an
assuring voice. "He must have gone home with a friend. It will be all
right, I am confident."

"I trust so," replied Mr. Voss. "But I cannot help feeling very
anxious. He has never been away all night before. Something is wrong.
Do you know precisely at what time he left here?"

"I do not," replied Mr. Birtwell. "We had a large company, and I did
not note particularly the coming or going of any one."

"Doctor Angier thinks it was soon after twelve o'clock. He saw him come
out of the dressing-room and go down stairs about that time."

"How is Frances?" asked Mrs. Birtwell. "It must be a dreadful shock to
her in her weak state."

"Yes, it is dreadful, and I feel very anxious about her. If anything
has happened to Archie, it will kill her."

Tears fell over Mrs. Birtwell's face and she wrung her hands in
distress.

"She is calmer than she was," said Mr. Voss. "The first alarm and
suspense broke her right down, and she was insensible for some hours.
But she is bearing it better now--much better than I had hoped for."

"I will go to see her at once. Oh, if I knew how to comfort her!"

To this Mr. Voss made no response, but Mrs. Birtwell, who was looking
into his, face, saw an expression that she did not understand.

"She will see me, of course?"

"I do not know. Perhaps you'd better not go round yet. It might disturb
her too much, and the doctor says she must be kept as quiet as
possible."

Something in the manner of Mr. Voss sent a chill to the heart of Mrs.
Birtwell. She felt an evasion in his reply. Then a suspicion of the
truth flashed upon her mind, overwhelming her with a flood of
bitterness in which shame, self-reproach, sorrow and distress were
mingled. It was from her hand, so to speak, that the son of her friend
had taken the wine which had bewildered his senses, and from her house
that he had gone forth with unsteady step and confused brain to face a
storm the heaviest and wildest that had been known for years. If he
were dead, would not the stain of his blood be on her garments?

No marvel that Mr. Voss had said, "Not yet; it might disturb her too
much." Disturb the friend with whose heart her own had beaten in
closest sympathy and tenderest love for years--the friend who had flown
to her in the deepest sorrow she had ever known and held her to her
heart until she was comforted by the sweet influences of love. Oh, this
was hard to bear! She bowed her head and stood silent.

"I wish," said Mr. Voss, speaking to Mr. Birtwell, "to get the names of
a few of the guests who were here last night. Some of them may have
seen Archie go out, or may have gone away at the time he did. I must
find some clue to the mystery of his absence."

Mr. Birtwell named over many of his guests, and Mr. Voss made a note of
their addresses. The chill went deeper down into the heart of Mrs.
Birtwell; and when Mr. Voss, who seemed to grow colder and more
constrained every moment, without looking at her, turned to go away,
the pang that cut her bosom was sharp and terrible.

"If I can do anything, Mr. Voss, command--" Mr. Birtwell had gone to
the door with his visitor, who passed out hastily, not waiting to hear
the conclusion of his sentence.

"A little strange in his manner, I should say," remarked Mr. Birtwell
as he came back. "One might infer that he thought us to blame for his
son's absence."

"I can't bear this suspense. I must see Frances." It was an hour after
Mr. Voss had been there. Mrs. Birtwell rang a bell, and ordering the
carriage, made herself ready to go out.

"Mrs. Voss says you must excuse her," said the servant who had taken up
Mrs. Birtwell's card. "She is not seeing any but the family," added the
man, who saw in the visitor's face the pain of a great disappointment.

Slowly retiring, her head bent forward and her body stooping a little
like one pressed down by a burden, Mrs. Birtwell left the house of her
oldest and dearest friend with an aching sense of rejection at her
heart. In the darkest and saddest hour of her life that friend had
turned from the friend who had been to her more than a sister, refusing
the sympathy and tears she had come to offer. There was a bitter cup at
the lips of both; which was the bitterest it would be hard to tell.

"Not now," Mrs. Voss had said, speaking to her husband; "I cannot meet
her now."

"Perhaps you had better see her," returned the latter.

"No, no, no!" Mrs. Voss put up her hands and shivered as she spoke. "I
cannot, I cannot! Oh, my boy! my son! my poor Archie! Where are you?
Why do you not come home? Hark!"

The bell had rung loudly. They listened, and heard men's voices in the
hall below. With face flushing and paling in quick alternations, Mrs.
Voss started up in bed and leaned forward, hearkening eagerly. Mr. Voss
opened the chamber door and went out. Two policemen had come to report
that so far all efforts to find a trace of the young man had been
utterly fruitless. Mrs. Voss heard in silence. Slowly the dark lashes
fell upon her cheeks, that were white as marble. Her lips were rigid
and closely shut, her hands clenched tightly. So she struggled with the
fear and agony that were assaulting her life.



CHAPTER V.


A HANDSOME man of forty-five stood lingering by the bedside of his
wife, whose large tender eyes looked up at him almost wistfully. A
baby's head, dark with beautiful hair that curled in scores of silken
ringlets, lay close against her bosom. The chamber was not large nor
richly furnished, though everything was in good taste and comfortable.
A few articles were out of harmony with the rest and hinted at better
days. One of these was a large secretary of curious workmanship, inlaid
with costly woods and pearl and rich with carvings. Another was a small
mantel clock of exquisite beauty. Two or three small but rare pictures
hung on the walls.

Looking closely into the man's strong intellectual face, you would have
seen something that marred the harmony of its fine features and dimmed
its clear expression--something to stir a doubt or awaken a feeling of
concern. The eyes, that were deep and intense, had a shadow in them,
and the curves of the mouth had suffering and passion and evidences of
stern mental conflict in every line. This was no common man, no social
drone, but one who in his contact with men was used to making himself
felt.

"Come home early, Ralph, won't you?" said his wife.

The man bent down and kissed her, and then pressed his lips to the
baby's head.

"Yes, dear; I don't mean to stay late. If it wasn't for the expectation
of meeting General Logan and one or two others that I particularly wish
to see, I wouldn't go at all. I have to make good, you know, all the
opportunities that come in my way."

"Oh yes, I know. You must go, of course." She had taken her husband's
hand, and was holding it with a close pressure. He had to draw it away
almost by force.

"Good-night, dear, and God bless you." His voice trembled a little. He
stooped and kissed her again. A moment after and she was alone. Then
all the light went out of her face and a deep shadow fell quickly over
it. She shut her eyes, but not tightly enough to hold back the tears
that soon carne creeping slowly out from beneath the closed lashes.

Ralph Ridley was a lawyer of marked ability. A few years before, he had
given up a good practice at the bar for an office under the State
government. Afterward he was sent to Congress and passed four years in
Washington. Like too many of our ablest public men, the temptations of
that city were too much for him. It was the old sad story that repeats
itself every year. He fell a victim to the drinking customs of our
national capital. Everywhere and on all social occasions invitations to
wine met him. He drank with a friend on his way to the House, and with
another in the Capitol buildings before taking his seat for business.
He drank at lunch and at dinner, and he drank more freely at party or
levee in the evening. Only in the early morning was he free from the
bewildering effects of liquor.

Four years of such a life broke down his manhood. Hard as he sometimes
struggled to rise above the debasing appetite that had enslaved him,
resolution snapped like thread in a flame with every new temptation. He
stood erect and hopeful to-day, and to-morrow lay prone and despairing
under the heel of his enemy.

At the end of his second term in Congress the people of his district
rejected him. They could tolerate a certain degree of drunkenness and
demoralization in their representative, but Ridley had fallen too low.
They would have him no longer, and so he was left out in the party
nomination and sent back into private life hurt, humiliated and in
debt. No clients awaited his return. His law-office had been closed for
years, and there was little encouragement to open it again in the old
place. For some weeks after his failure to get the nomination Ridley
drank more desperately than ever, and was in a state of intoxication
nearly all the while. His poor wife, who clung to him through all with
an unwavering fidelity, was nearly broken-hearted. In vain had
relatives and friends interposed. No argument nor persuasion could
induce her to abandon him. "He is my husband," was her only reply, "and
I will not leave him."

One night he was brought home insensible. He had fallen in the street
where some repairs were being made, and had received serious injuries
which confined him to the house for two or three weeks. This gave time
for reflection and repentance. The shame and remorse that filled his
soul as he looked at his sad, pale wife and neglected children, and
thought of his tarnished name and lost opportunities, spurred him to
new and firmer resolves than ever before made. He could go forward no
longer without utter ruin. No hope was left but in turning back. He
must set his face in a new direction, and he vowed to do so, promising
God on his knees in tears and agony to hold, by his vow sacredly.

A new day had dawned. As soon as Mr. Ridley was well enough to be out
again he took counsel of friends, and after careful deliberation
resolved to leave his native town and remove to the city. A lawyer of
fine ability, and known to the public as a clear thinker and an able
debater, he had made quite an impression on the country during his
first term in Congress; neither he nor his friends had any doubt as to
his early success, provided he was able to keep himself free from the
thraldom of old habits.

A few old friends and political associates made up a purse to enable
him to remove to the city with his family. An office was taken and
three rooms rented in a small house, where, with his wife and two
children, one daughter in her fourteenth year, life was started anew.
There was no room for a servant in this small establishment even if he
had been able to pay the hire of one.

So the new beginning was made. A man of Mr. Ridley's talents and
reputation could not long remain unemployed. In the very first week he
had a client and a retaining fee of twenty-five dollars. The case was
an important one, involving some nice questions of mercantile law. It
came up for argument in the course of a few weeks, and gave the
opportunity he wanted. His management of the case was so superior to
that of the opposing counsel, and his citations of law and precedent so
cumulative and explicit, that he gained not only an easy victory, but
made for himself a very favorable impression.

After that business began gradually to flow in upon him, and he was
able to gather in sufficient to keep his family, though for some time
only in a very humble way. Having no old acquaintances in the city, Mr.
Ridley was comparatively free from temptation. He was promptly at his
office in the morning, never leaving it, except to go into court or
some of the public offices on business, until the hour arrived for
returning home.

A new life had become dominant, a new ambition was ruling him. Hope
revived in the heart of his almost despairing wife, and the future
looked bright again. His eyes had grown clear and confident once more
and his stooping shoulders square and erect. In his bearing you saw the
old stateliness and conscious sense of power. Men treated him with
deference and respect.

In less than a year Mr. Ridley was able to remove his family into a
better house and to afford the expense of a servant. So far they had
kept out of the city's social life. Among strangers and living humbly,
almost meanly, they neither made nor received calls nor had invitations
to evening entertainments; and herein lay Mr. Ridley's safety. It was
on his social side that he was weakest. He could hold himself above
appetite and deny its cravings if left to the contest alone. The
drinking-saloons whose hundred doors he had to pass daily did not tempt
him, did not cause his firm steps to pause nor linger. His sorrow and
shame for the past and his solemn promises and hopes for the future
were potent enough to save him from all such allurements. For him their
doors stood open in vain. The path of danger lay in another direction.
He would have to be taken unawares. If betrayed at all, it must be, so
to speak, in the house of a friend. The Delilah of "good society" must
put caution and conscience to sleep and then rob him of his strength.

The rising man at the bar of a great city who had already served two
terms in Congress could not long remain in social obscurity; and as it
gradually became known in the "best society" that Mrs. Ridley stood
connected with some of the "best families" in the State, one and
another began to call upon her and to court her acquaintance, even
though she was living in comparative obscurity and in a humble way.

At first regrets were returned to all invitations to evening
entertainments, large or small. Mr. Ridley very well understood why his
wife, who was social and naturally fond of company, was so prompt to
decline. He knew that the excuse, "We are not able to give parties in
return," was not really the true one. He knew that she feared the
temptation that would come to him, and he was by no means insensible to
the perils that would beset him whenever he found himself in the midst
of a convivial company, with the odor of wine heavy on the air and
invitations to drink meeting him at every turn.

But this could not always be. Mr. and Mrs. Ridley could not for ever
hold themselves away from the social life of a large city among the
people of which their acquaintance was gradually extending. Mrs. Ridley
would have continued to stand aloof because of the danger she had too
good reason to fear, but her husband was growing, she could see, both
sensitive and restless. He wanted the professional advantages society
would give him, and he wanted, moreover, to prove his manhood and take
away the reproach under which he felt himself lying.

Sooner or later he must walk this way of peril, and he felt that he was
becoming strong enough and brave enough to meet the old enemy that had
vanquished him so many times.

"We will go," he said, on receiving cards of invitation to a party
given by a prominent and influential citizen. "People will be there
whom I should meet, and people whom I want you to meet."

He saw a shadow creep into his wife's face; Mrs. Ridley saw the shadow
reflected almost as a frown from his. She knew what was in her
husband's thoughts, knew that he felt hurt and restless under her
continued reluctance to have him go into any company where wine and
spirits were served to the guests, and feeling that a longer opposition
might do more harm than good, answered, with as much heartiness and
assent as she could get into her voice:

"Very well, but it will cost you the price of a new dress, for I have
nothing fit to appear in."

The shadow swept off Mr. Ridley's face.

"All right," he returned. "I received a fee of fifty dollars to-day,
and you shall have every cent; of it."

In the week that intervened Mrs. Ridley made herself ready for the
party; but had she been preparing for a funeral, her heart could
scarcely have been heavier. Fearful dreams haunted her sleep, and
through the day imagination would often draw pictures the sight of
which made her cry out in sudden pain and fear. All this she concealed
from her husband, and affected to take a pleased interest in the coming
entertainment.

Mrs. Ridley was still a handsome woman, and her husband felt the old
pride warming his bosom when he saw her again among brilliant and
attractive women and noted the impression she made. He watched her with
something of the proud interest a mother feels for a beautiful daughter
who makes her appearance in society for the first time, and his heart
beat with liveliest pleasure as he noticed the many instances in which
she attracted and held people by the grace of her manner and the charm
of her conversation.

"God bless her!" he said in his heart fervently as the love he bore her
warmed into fresher life and moved him with a deeper tenderness, and
then he made for her sake a new vow of abstinence and set anew the
watch and ward upon his appetite. And he had need of watch and ward.
The wine-merchant's bill for that evening's entertainment was over
eight hundred dollars, and men and women, girls and boys, all drank in
unrestrained freedom.

Mrs. Ridley, without seeming to do so, kept close to her husband while
he was in the supper-room, and he, as if feeling the power of her
protecting influence, was pleased to have her near. The smell of wine,
its sparkle in the glasses, the freedom and apparent safety with which
every one drank, the frequent invitations received, and the little
banter and half-surprised lifting of the eyebrows that came now and
then upon refusal were no light draught on Mr. Ridley's strength.

"Have you tried this sherry, Mr. Ridley?" said the gentlemanly host,
taking a bottle from the supper-table and filling two glasses. "It is
very choice." He lifted one of the glasses as he spoke and handed it to
his guest. There was a flattering cordiality in his manner that made
the invitation almost irresistible, and moreover he was a prominent and
influential citizen whose favorable consideration Mr. Ridley wished to
gain. If his wife had not been standing by his side, he would have
accepted the glass, and for what seemed good breeding's sake have
sipped a little, just tasting its flavor, so that he could compliment
his host upon its rare quality.

"Thank you," Mr. Ridley was able to say, "but I do not take wine." His
voice was not clear and manly, but unsteady and weak.

"Oh, excuse me," said the gentleman, setting down the glass quickly. "I
was not aware of that." He stood as if slightly embarrassed for a
moment, and then, turning to a clergyman who stood close by, said:

"Will you take a glass of wine with me, Mr. Elliott?"

An assenting smile broke into Mr. Elliott's face, and he reached for
the glass which Mr. Ridley had just refused.

"Something very choice," said the host.

The clergyman tasted and sipped with the air of a connoisseur.

"Very choice indeed, sir," he replied. "But you always have good wine."

Mrs. Ridley drew her hand in her husband's arm and leaned upon it.

"If it is to be had," returned the host, a little, proudly; "and I
generally know where to get it. A good glass of wine I count among the
blessings for which one may give thanks--wine, I mean, not drugs."

"Exactly; wine that is pure hurts no one, unless, indeed, his appetite
has been vitiated through alcoholic indulgence, and even then I have
sometimes thought that the moderate use of strictly pure wine would
restore the normal taste and free a man from the tyranny of an
enslaving vice."

That sentence took quick hold upon the thought of Mr. Ridley. It gave
him a new idea, and he listened with keen interest to what followed.

"You strike the keynote of a true temperance reformation, Mr. Elliott,"
returned the host. "Give men pure wine instead of the vile stuff that
bears its name, and you will soon get rid of drunkenness. I have always
preached that doctrine."

"And I imagine you are about right," answered Mr. Elliott. "Wine is one
of God's gifts, and must be good. If men abuse it sometimes, it is
nothing more than they do with almost every blessing the Father of all
mercies bestows upon his children. The abuse of a thing is no argument
against its use."

Mrs. Ridley drew upon the arm of her husband. She did not like the
tenor of this conversation, and wanted to get him away. But he was
interested in what the clergyman was saying, and wished to hear what
further he might adduce in favor of the health influence of pure wine.

"I have always used wine, and a little good brandy too, and am as free
from any inordinate appetite as your most confirmed abstainer; but then
I take especial care to have my liquor pure."

"A thing not easily done," said the clergyman, replying to their host.

"Not easy for every one, but yet possible. I have never found much
difficulty."

"There will be less difficulty, I presume," returned Mr. Elliott, "when
this country becomes, as it soon will, a large wine producing region.
When cheap wines take the place of whisky, we will have a return to
temperate habits among the lower classes, and not, I am satisfied,
before. There is, and always has been, a craving in the human system
for some kind of stimulus. After prolonged effort there is exhaustion
and nervous languor that cannot always wait upon the restorative work
of nutrition; indeed, the nutritive organs themselves often need
stimulation before they can act with due vigor. Isn't that so, Dr.
Hillhouse?"

And the clergyman addressed a handsome old man with hair almost as
white as snow who stood listening to the conversation. He held a glass
of wine in his hand.

"You speak with the precision of a trained pathologist," replied the
person addressed, bowing gracefully and with considerable manner as he
spoke. "I could not have said it better, Mr. Elliott."

The clergyman received the compliment with a pleased smile and bowed
his acknowledgments, then remarked:

"You think as I do about the good effects that must follow a large
product of American wines?"

Dr. Hillhouse gave a little shrug.

"Oh, then you don't agree with me?"

"Pure wine is one thing and too much of what is called American wine
quite another thing," replied the doctor. "Cheap wine for the people,
as matters now stand, is only another name for diluted alcohol. It is
better than pure whisky, maybe, though the larger quantity that will
naturally be taken must give the common dose of that article and work
about the same effect in the end."

"Then you are not in favor of giving the people cheap wines?" said the
clergyman.

The doctor shrugged his shoulders again.

"I have been twice to Europe," he replied, "and while there looked a
little into the condition of the poorer classes in wine countries. I
had been told that there was scarcely any intemperance among them, but
I did not find it so. There, as here, the use of alcohol in any form,
whether as beer, wine or whisky, produces the same result, varied in
its effect upon the individual only by the peculiarity of temperament
and national character of the people. I'll take another glass of that
sherry; it's the best I've tasted for a year."

And Dr. Hillhouse held out his glass to be filled by the flattered
host, Mr. Elliott doing the same, and physician and clergyman touched
their brimming glasses and smiled and bowed "a good health." Before the
hour for going home arrived both were freer of tongue and a little
wilder in manner than when they came.

"The doctor is unusually brilliant to-night," said one, with just a
slight lifting of the eyebrow.

"And so is Mr. Elliott," returned the person addressed, glancing at the
clergyman, who, standing in the midst of a group of young men, glass in
hand, was telling a story and laughing at his own witticisms.

"Nothing strait-laced about Mr. Elliott," remarked the other. "I like
him for that. He doesn't think because he's a clergyman that he must
always wear a solemn face and act as if he were conducting a funeral
service. Just hear him laugh! It makes you feel good. You can get near
to such a man. All the young people in his congregation like him
because he doesn't expect them to come up to his official level, but is
ever ready to come down to them and enter into their feelings and
tastes."

"He likes a good glass of wine," said the first speaker.

"Of course he does. Have you any objection?"

"Shall I tell you what came into my thought just now?"

"Yes."

"What St. Paul said about eating meat."

"Oh!"

"'If meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the
world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.' And again: 'Take
heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumbling-block
to them that are weak.'"

"How does that apply to Mr. Elliott?"

"There are more than one or two young men in the group that surrounds
him who need a better example than he is now setting. They need
repression in the matter of wine-drinking, not encouragement--a good
example of abstinence in their minister, and not enticement to drink
through his exhibition of liberty. Do you think that I, church member
though I am not, could stand as Mr. Elliott is now standing, glass in
hand, gayly talking to young Ellis Whitford, who rarely goes to a party
without--poor weak young man!--drinking too much, and so leading him on
in the way of destruction instead of seeking in eager haste to draw him
back? No sir! It is no light thing, as I regard it, to put a
stumbling-block in another's way or to lead the weak or unwary into
temptation."

"Perhaps you are right about it," was the answer, "and I must confess
that, though not a temperance man myself, I never feel quite
comfortable about it when I see clergymen taking wine freely at public
dinners and private parties. It is not a good example, to say the least
of it; and if there is a class of men in the community to whom we have
some right to look for a good example, it is the class chosen and set
apart to the work of saving human souls."



CHAPTER VI.


MR. RIDLEY went home from that first party with his head as clear and
his pulse as cool as when he came. The wine had not tempted him very
strongly, though its odor had been fragrant to his nostrils, and the
sparkle in the glasses pleasant to his sight. Appetite had not aroused
itself nor put on its strength, but lay half asleep, waiting for some
better opportunity, when the sentinels should be weaker or off their
guard.

It had been much harder for him to refuse the invitation of his host
than to deny the solicitations of the old desire. He had been in
greater danger from pride than from appetite; and there remained with
him a sense of being looked down upon and despised by the wealthy and
eminent citizen who had honored him with an invitation, and who
doubtless regarded his refusal to take wine with him as little less
than a discourtesy. There were moments when he almost regretted that
refusal. The wine which had been offered was of the purest quality, and
he remembered but too well the theory advanced by Mr. Elliott, that the
moderate use of pure wine would restore the normal taste and free a man
whose appetite had been vitiated from its enslaving influence. His mind
recurred to that thought very often, and the more he dwelt upon it, the
more inclined he was to accept it as true. If it were indeed so, then
he might be a man among men again.

Mr. Ridley did not feel as comfortable in his mind after as before this
party, nor was he as strong as before. The enemy had found a door
unguarded, had come in stealthily, and was lying on the alert, waiting
for an opportunity.

A few weeks afterward came another invitation. It was accepted. Mrs.
Ridley was not really well enough, to go out, but for her husband's
sake she went with him, and by her presence and the quiet power she had
over him held him back from the peril he might, standing alone, have
tempted.

A month later, and cards of invitation were received from Mr. and Mrs.
Spencer Birtwell. This was to be among the notable entertainments of
the season. Mr. Birtwell was a wealthy banker who, like other men, had
his weaknesses, one of which was a love of notoriety and display. He
had a showy house and attractive equipages, and managed to get his name
frequently chronicled in the newspapers, now as the leader in some
public enterprise or charity, now as the possessor of some rare work of
art, and now as the princely capitalists whose ability and sagacity had
lifted him from obscurity to the proud position he occupied. He built
himself a palace for a residence, and when it was completed and
furnished issued tickets of admission, that the public might see in
what splendor he was going to live. Of course the newspapers described
everything with a minuteness of detail and a freedom of remark that
made some modest and sensitive people fancy that Mr. Birtwell must be
exceedingly annoyed. But he experienced no such feeling. Praise of any
kind was pleasant to his ears; you could not give him too much, nor was
he over-nice as to the quality. He lived in the eyes of his
fellow-citizens, and in all his walk and conversation, he looked to
their good opinion.

Such was Mr. Birtwell, at whose house a grand entertainment was to be
given. Among the large number of invited guests were included Mr. and
Mrs. Ridley. But it so happened that Mrs. Ridley could not go. A few
days before the evening on which this party was to be given a new-born
babe had been laid on her bosom.

"Good-night, dear, and God bless you!" Mr. Ridley had said, in a voice
that was very tender, as he stooped over and kissed his wife. No wonder
that all the light went out of her face the moment she was alone, nor
that a shadow fell quickly over it, nor that from beneath the fringes
of her shut eyelids tears crept slowly and rested upon her cheeks. If
her husband had left her for the battlefield, she could not have felt a
more dreadful impression of danger, nor have been oppressed by a more
terrible fear for his safety. No wonder that her nurse, coming into the
chamber a few minutes after Mr. Ridley went out, found her in a nervous
chill.

The spacious and elegant drawing-rooms of Mr. and Mrs. Birtwell were
crowded with the elite of the city, and the heart of the former swelled
with pride as he received his guests and thought of their social,
professional or political distinction, the lustre of which he felt to
be, for the time, reflected upon himself. It was good to be in such
company, and to feel that he was equal with the best. He had not always
been the peer of such men. There had been an era of obscurity out of
which he had slowly emerged, and therefore he had the larger pride and
self-satisfaction in the position he now held.

Mrs. Birtwell was a woman of another order. All her life she had been
used to the elegancy that a wealthy parentage gave, and to which her
husband had been, until within a few years, an entire stranger. She was
"to the manner born," he a parvenu with a restless ambition to
outshine. Familiarity with things luxurious and costly had lessened
their value in her eyes, and true culture had lifted her above the
weakness of resting in or caring much about them, while their newness
and novelty to Mr. Birtwell made enjoyment keen, and led him on to
extravagant and showy exhibitions of wealth that caused most people to
smile at his weakness, and a good many to ask who he was and from
whence he came that he carried himself so loftily. Mrs. Birtwell did
not like the advanced position to which her husband carried her, but
she yielded to his weak love of notoriety and social eclat as
gracefully as possible, and did her best to cover his too glaring
violations of good taste and conventional refinement. In this she was
not always successful.

Of course the best of liquors in lavish abundance were provided by Mr.
Birtwell for his guests. Besides the dozen different kinds of wine that
were on the supper-table, there was a sideboard for gentlemen, in a
room out of common observation, well stocked with brandy, gin and
whisky, and it was a little curious to see how quickly this was
discovered by certain of the guests, who scented it as truly as a bee
scents honey in a clover-field, and extracted its sweets as eagerly.

Of the guests who were present we have now to deal chiefly with Mr.
Ridley, and only incidentally with the rest. Dr. Hillhouse was there
during the first part of the evening, but went away early--that, is,
before twelve o'clock. He remained long enough, however, to do full
justice to the supper and wines. His handsome and agreeable young
associate, Dr. Angler, a slight acquaintance with whom the reader has
already, prolonged his stay to a later hour.

The Rev. Dr. Elliott was also, among the guests, displaying his fine
social qualities and attracting about him the young and the old.
Everybody liked Dr. Elliott, he was so frank, so cordial, free and
sympathetic, and, withal, so intelligent. He did not bring the
clergyman with him into a gay drawing-room, nor the ascetic to a feast.
He could talk with the banker about finance, with the merchant about
trade, with the student or editor about science, literature and the
current events of the day, and with young men and maidens about music
and the lighter matters in which they happened to be interested. And,
moreover, he could enjoy a good supper and knew the flavor of good
wine. A man of such rare accomplishments came to be a general favorite,
and so you encountered Mr. Elliott at nearly all the fashionable
parties.

Mr. Ridley had met the reverend doctor twice, and had been much pleased
with him. What he had heard him say about the healthy or rather saving
influences of pure wine had taken a strong hold of his thoughts, and he
had often wished for an opportunity to talk with him about it. On this
evening he found that opportunity. Soon after his arrival at the house
of Mr. Birtwell he saw Mr. Elliott in one of the parlors, and made his
way into the little group which had already gathered around the affable
clergyman. Joining in the conversation, which was upon some topic of
the day, Mr. Ridley, who talked well, was not long in awakening that
interest in the mind of Mr. Elliott which one cultivated and
intelligent person naturally feels for another; and in a little while,
they had the conversation pretty much to themselves. It touched this
theme and that, and finally drifted in a direction which enabled Mr.
Ridley to refer to what he had heard Mr. Elliott say about the healthy
effect of pure wine on the taste of men whose appetites had become
morbid, and to ask him if he had any good ground for his belief.

"I do not know that I can bring any proof of my theory," returned Mr.
Elliott, "but I hold to it on the ground of an eternal fitness of
things. Wine is good, and was given by God to make glad the hearts of
men, and is to be used temperately, as are all other gifts. It may be
abused, and is abused daily. Men hurt themselves by excess of wine as
by excess of food. But the abuse of a thing is no argument against its
use. If a man through epicurism or gormandizing has brought on disease,
what do you do with him? Deny him all food, or give him of the best in
such quantities as his nutritive system can appropriate and change into
healthy muscle, nerve and bone? You do the latter, of course, and so
would I treat the case of a man who bad hurt himself by excess of wine.
I would see that he had only the purest and in diminished quantity, so
that his deranged system might not only have time but help in regaining
its normal condition."

"And you think this could be safely done?" said Mr. Ridley.

"That is my view of the case."

"Then you do not hold to the entire abstinence theory?"

"No, sir; on that subject our temperance people have run into what we
might call fanaticism, and greatly weakened their influence. Men should
be taught self-control and moderation in the use of things. If the
appetite becomes vitiated through over-indulgence, you do not change
its condition by complete denial. What you want for radical cure is the
restoration of the old ability to use without abusing. In other words,
you want a man made right again as to his rational power of
self-control, by which he becomes master of himself in all the degrees
of his life, from the highest to the lowest."

"All very well," remarked Dr. Hillhouse, who had joined them while Mr.
Elliott was speaking. "But, in my experience, the rational self-control
of which you speak is one of the rarest things to be met with in common
life, and it may be fair to conclude that the man who cannot exercise
it before a dangerous habit has been formed will not be very likely to
exercise it afterward when anything is done to favor that habit.
Habits, Mr. Elliott, are dreadful hard things to manage, and I do not
know a harder one to deal with than the habit of over-indulgence in
wine or spirits. I should be seriously afraid of your prescription. The
temperate use of wine I hold to be good; but for those who have once
lost the power of controlling their appetites I am clear in my opinion
there is only one way of safety, and that is the way of entire
abstinence from any drink in which there is alcohol, call it by what
name you will; and this is the view now held by the most experienced
and intelligent men, in our profession."

A movement in the company being observed, Mr. Elliott, instead of
replying, stepped toward a lady, and asked the pleasure of escorting
her to the supper-room. Dr. Hillhouse was equally courteous, and Mr.
Ridley, seeing the wife of General Logan, whom he had often met in
Washington, standing a little way off, passed to her side and offered
his arm, which was accepted.

There was a crowd and crush upon the stairs, fine gentlemen and ladies
seeming to forget their courtesy and good breeding in their haste to be
among the earliest who should reach the banqueting-hall. This was long
and spacious, having been planned by Mr. Birtwell with a view to grand
entertainments like the one he was now giving. In an almost incredibly
short space of time it was filled to suffocation. Those who thought
themselves among the first to move were surprised to find the tables
already surrounded by young men and women, who had been more interested
in the status of the supper-room than in the social enjoyments of the
parlors, and who had improved their advanced state of observation by
securing precedence of the rest, and stood waiting for the signal to
begin.

Mr. Birtwell had a high respect for the Church, and on an occasion like
this could do no less than honor one of its dignitaries by requesting
him to ask a blessing on the sumptuous repast he had provided--on the
rich food and the good wine and brandy he was about dispensing with
such a liberal hand. So, in the waiting pause that ensued after the
room was well filled, Mr. Elliott was called upon to bless this feast,
which he did in a raised, impressive and finely modulated voice. Then
came the rattle of plates and the clink of glasses, followed by the
popping of champagne and the multitudinous and distracting Babel of
tongues.

Mr. Ridley, who felt much inclined to favor the superficial and
ill-advised utterances of Mr. Elliott, took scarcely any heed of what
Dr. Hillhouse had replied. In fact, knowing that the doctor was free
with wine himself, he did not give much weight to what he said, feeling
that he was talking more for argument's sake than to express his real
sentiments.

A feeling of repression came over Mr. Ridley as he entered the
supper-room and his eyes ran down the table. Half of this sumptuous
feast was forbidden enjoyment. He must not taste the wine. All were
free but him. He could fill a glass for the elegant lady whose hand was
still upon his arm, but must not pledge her back except in water. A
sense of shame and humiliation crept into his heart. So he felt when,
in the stillness that fell upon the company, the voice of Mr. Elliott
rose in blessing on the good things now spread for them in such lavish
profusion. Only one sentence took hold on, Mr. Ridley's mind. It was
this: "Giver of all natural as well as spiritual good things, of the
corn and the wine equally with the bread and the water of life,
sanctify these bounties that come from thy beneficent hand, and keep us
from any inordinate or hurtful use thereof."

Mr. Ridley drew a deeper breath. A load seemed taken from his bosom. He
felt a sense of freedom and safety. If the wine were pure, it was a
good gift of God, and could not really do him harm. A priest, claiming
to stand as God's representative among men, had invoked a blessing on
this juice of the grape, and given it by this act a healthier potency.
All this crowded upon him, stifling reason and experience and hushing
the voice of prudence.

And now, alas! he was as a feather on the surface of a wind-struck
lake, and given up to the spirit and pressure of the hour. The
dangerous fallacy to which Mr. Elliott had given utterance held his
thoughts to the exclusion of all other considerations. A clear path out
of the dreary wilderness in which he had been, straying seemed to open
before him, and he resolved to walk therein. Fatal delusion!

As soon as Mr. Ridley had supplied Mrs. General Locran with terrapin
and oysters and filled a plate for himself, he poured out two glasses
of wine and handed one of them to the lady, then, lifting the other, he
bowed a compliment and placed it to his lips. The lady smiled on him
graciously, sipping the wine and praising its flavor.

"Pure as nectar," was the mental response of Mr. Ridley as the
long-denied palate felt the first thrill of sweet satisfaction. He had
taken a single mouthful, but another hand seemed to grasp the one that
held the cup of wine and press it back to his lips, from which it was
not removed until empty.

The prescription of Mr. Elliott failed. Either the wine was not pure or
his theory was at fault. It was but little over an hour from the fatal
moment when Mr. Ridley put a glass of wine to his lips ere he went out
alone into the storm of a long-to-be-remembered night in a state of
almost helpless intoxication, and staggered off in the blinding snow
that soon covered his garments like a winding sheet.



CHAPTER VII.


THE nurse of Mrs. Ridley had found her in a nervous chill, at which she
was greatly troubled. More clothing was laid upon the bed, and bottles
of hot water placed to her feet. To all this Mrs. Ridley made no
objection--remained, in fact, entirely passive and irresponsive, like
one in a partial stupor, from which she did not, to all appearance,
rally even after the chill had subsided.

She lay with her eyes shut, her lips pressed together and her forehead
drawn into lines, and an expression of pain on her face, answering only
in dull monosyllables to the inquiries made every now and then by her
nurse, who hovered about the bed and watched over her with anxious
solicitude.

As she feared, fever symptoms began to show themselves. The evening had
worn away, and it was past ten o'clock. It would not do to wait until
morning in a case like this, and so a servant was sent to the office of
Dr. Hillhouse, with a request that he would come immediately. She
returned saying that the doctor was not at home.

Mrs. Ridley lay with her eyes shut, but the nurse knew by the
expression of her face that she was not asleep. The paleness of her
countenance had given way to a fever hue, and she noticed occasional
restless movements of the hands, twitches of the eyelids and nervous
starts. To her questions the patient gave no satisfactory answers.

An hour elapsed, and still the doctor did not make his appearance. The
servant was called and questioned. She was positive about having left
word for the doctor to come immediately on returning home.

"Is that snow?" inquired Mrs. Ridley, starting up in bed and listening.
The wind had risen suddenly and swept in a gusty dash against the
windows, rattling on the glass the fine hard grains which had been
falling for some time.

She remained leaning on her arm and listening for some moments, while
an almost frightened look came into her face.

"What time is it?" she asked.

"After eleven o'clock," replied the nurse.

All at once the storm seemed to have awakened into a wild fury. More
loudly it rushed and roared and dashed its sand-like snow against the
windows of Mrs. Ridley's chamber. The sick woman shivered and the
fever-flush died out of her face.

"You must lie down!" said the nurse, speaking with decision and putting
her hands on Mrs. Ridley to press her back. But the latter resisted.

"Indeed, indeed, ma'am," urged the nurse, showing great anxiety, "you
must lie down and keep covered up in bed. It might be the death of you."

"Oh, that's awful!" exclaimed Mrs. Ridley as the wind went howling by
and the snow came in heavier gusts against the windows. "Past eleven,
did you say?"

"Yes, ma'am, and the doctor ought to have been here long ago. I wonder
why he doesn't come?"

"Hark! wasn't that our bell?" cried Mrs. Ridley, bending forward in a
listening attitude.

The nurse opened the chamber door and stood hearkening for a moment or
two. Not hearing the servant stir, she ran quickly down stairs to the
street door and drew it open, but found no one.

There was a look of suspense and fear in Mrs. Ridley's face when the
nurse came back:

"Who was it?"

"No one," replied the nurse. "The wind deceived you."

A groan came from Mrs. Ridley's lips as she sank down upon the bed,
where, with her face hidden, she lay as still as if sleeping. She did
not move nor speak for the space of more than half an hour, and all the
while her nurse waited and listened through the weird, incessant noises
of the storm for the coming of Dr. Hillhouse, but waited and listened
in vain.

All at once, as if transferred to within a few hundred rods of these
anxious watchers, the great clock of the city, which in the still hours
of a calm night could be heard ringing out clear but afar off, threw a
resonant clang upon the air, pealing the first stroke of the hour of
twelve. Mrs. Ridley started up in bed with a scared look on her face.
Away the sound rolled, borne by the impetuous wind-wave that had caught
it up as the old bell shivered it off, and carried it away so swiftly
that it seemed to die almost in the moment it was born. The listeners
waited, holding their breaths. Then, swept from the course this first
peal had taken, the second came to their ears after a long interval
muffled and from a distance, followed almost instantly by the third,
which went booming past them louder than the first. And so, with
strange intervals and variations of time and sound as the wind dashed
wildly onward or broke and swerved from its course, the noon of night
was struck, and the silence that for a brief time succeeded left a
feeling of awe upon the hearts of these lonely women.

To the ears of another had come these strange and solemn tones, struck
out at midnight away up in the clear rush of the tempest, and swept
away in a kind of mad sport, and tossed about in the murky sky. To the
ears of another, who, struggling and battling with the storm, had made
his way with something of a blind instinct to within a short distance
of his home, every stroke of the clock seemed to come from a different
quarter; and when the last peal rang out, it left him in helpless
bewilderment. When he staggered on again, it was in a direction
opposite to that in which he had been going. For ten minutes he wrought
with the blinding and suffocating snow, which, turn as he would, the
wind kept dashing into his face, and then his failing limbs gave out
and he sunk benumbed with cold upon the pavement. Half buried in the
snow, he was discovered soon afterward and carried to a police station,
where he found himself next morning in one of the cells, a wretched,
humiliated, despairing man.

"Why, Mr. Ridley! It can't be possible!" It was the exclamation of the
police magistrate when this man was brought, soon after daylight,
before him.

Ridley stood dumb in presence of the officer, who was touched by the
helpless misery of his face.

"You were at Mr. Birtwell's?"

Ridley answered by a silent inclination of his head.

"I do not wonder," said the magistrate, his voice softening, "that, you
lost your way in the storm last night. You are not the only one who
found himself astray and at fault. Our men had to take care of quite a
number of Mr. Birtwell's guests. But I will not detain you, Mr. Ridley.
I am sorry this has happened. You must be more careful in future."

With slow steps and bowed head Mr. Ridley left the station-house and
took his way homeward. How could he meet his wife? What of her? How had
she passed the night? Vividly came up the parting scene as she lay with
her babe, only a few days old, close against her bosom, her tender
eyes, in which he saw shadows of fear, fixed lovingly upon his face.

He had promised to be home soon, and had said a fervent "God bless
you!" as he left a kiss warm upon her lips.

And now! He stood still, a groan breaking on the air. Go home! How
could he look into the face of his wife again? She had walked with him
through the valley of humiliation in sorrow and suffering and shame for
years, and now, after going up from this valley and bearing her to a
pleasant land of hope and happiness, he had plunged down madly. Then a
sudden fear smote his heart. She was in no condition to bear a shock
such as his absence all night must have caused. The consequences might
be fatal. He started forward at a rapid pace, hurrying along until he
came in sight of his house. A carriage stood at the door. What could
this mean?

Entering, he was halfway up stairs when, the nurse met him.

"Oh, Mr. Ridley," she exclaimed, "why did you stay away all night? Mrs.
Ridley has been so ill, and I couldn't get the doctor. Oh, sir, I don't
know what will come of it. She's in a dreadful way--out of her head. I
sent for Dr. Hillhouse last night, but he didn't come."

She spoke in a rapid manner, showing much alarm and agitation.

"Is Dr. Hillhouse here now?" asked Mr. Ridley, trying to repress his
feelings.

"No, sir. He sent Dr. Angier, but I don't trust much in him. Dr.
Hillhouse ought to see her right away. But you do look awful, sir!"

The nurse fixed her eyes upon him in a half-wondering stare.

Mr. Ridley broke from her, and passing up the stairs in two or three
long strides, made his way to the bath-room, where in a few moments he
changed as best he could his disordered appearance, and then hurried to
his wife's chamber.

A wild cry of joy broke from her lips as she saw him enter; but when he
came near, she put up her hands and shrunk away from him, saying in a
voice that fairly wailed, it was so full of disappointment:

"I thought it was Ralph--my dear, good Ralph! Why don't he come home?"

Her cheeks were red with fever and her eyes bright and shining. She had
started up in bed on hearing her husband's step, but now shrunk down
under the clothing and turned her face away.

"Blanche! Blanche!" Mr. Ridley called the name of his wife tenderly as
he stood leaning over her.

Moving her head slowly, like one in doubt, she looked at him in a
curious, questioning way. Then, closing her eyes, she turned her face
from him again.

"Blanche! Blanche!" For all the response that came, Mr. Ridley might as
well have spoken to deaf ears. Dr. Angier laid his hand on his arm and
drew him away:

"She must have as little to disturb her as possible, Mr. Ridley. The
case is serious."

"Where is Dr. Hillhouse? Why did not he come?" demanded Mr. Ridley.

"He will be here after a while. It is too early for him," replied Dr.
Angier.

"He must come now. Go for him at once, doctor."

"If you say so," returned Doctor Angier, with some coldness of manner;
"but I cannot tell how soon he will be here. He does not go out until
after eight or nine o'clock, and there are two or three pressing cases
besides this."

"I will go," said Mr. Ridley. "Don't think me rude or uncourteous, Dr.
Angier. I am like one distracted. Stay here until I get back. I will
bring Dr. Hillhouse."

"Take my carriage--it is at the door; and say to Dr. Hillhouse from me
that I would like him to come immediately," Dr. Angier replied to this.

Mr. Ridley ran down stairs, and springing into the carriage, ordered
the driver to return with all possible speed to the office. Dr.
Hillhouse was in bed, but rose on getting the summons from Dr. Angier
and accompanied Mr. Ridley. He did not feel in a pleasant humor. The
night's indulgence in wine and other allurements of the table had not
left his head clear nor his nerves steady for the morning. A sense of
physical discomfort made him impatient and irritable. At first all the
conditions of this case were not clear to him; but as his thought went
back to the incidents of the night, and he remembered not only seeing
Mr. Ridley in considerable excitement from drink, but hearing it
remarked upon by one or two persons who were familiar with his life at
Washington, the truth dawned upon his mind, and he said abruptly, with
considerable sternness of manner and in a quick voice:

"At what time did you get home last night?"

Ridley made no reply.

"Or this morning? It was nearly midnight when _I_ left, and you were
still there, and, I am sorry to say, not in the best condition for
meeting a sick wife at home. If there is anything seriously wrong in
this case, the responsibility lies, I am afraid, at your door, sir."

They were in the carriage, moving rapidly. Mr. Ridley sat-with his head
drawn down and bent a little forward; not answering, Dr. Hillhouse said
no more. On arriving at Mr. Ridley's residence, he met Dr. Angier, with
whom he held a brief conference before seeing his patient. He found her
in no favorable condition. The fever was not so intense as Dr. Angier
had found it on his arrival, but its effect on the brain was more
marked.

"Too much time has been lost." Dr. Hillhouse spoke aside to his
assistant a's they sat together watching carefully every symptom of
their patient.

"I sent for you before ten o'clock last night," said the nurse, who
overheard the remark and wished to screen herself from any blame.

Dr. Hillhouse did not reply.

"I knew there was danger," pursued the nurse. "Oh, doctor, if you had
only come when I sent for you! I waited and waited until after
midnight."

The doctor growled an impatient response, but so muttered and mumbled
the words that the nurse could not make them out. Mr. Ridley was in the
room, standing with folded arms a little way from the bed, stern and
haggard, with wild, congested eyes and closely shut mouth, a picture of
anguish, fear and remorse.

The two physicians remained with Mrs. Ridley for over twenty minutes
before deciding on their line of treatment. A prescription was then
made, and careful instructions given to the nurse.

"I will call again in the course of two or three hours," said Dr.
Hillhouse, on going away. "Should any thing unfavorable occur, send to
the office immediately."

"Doctor!" Mr. Ridley laid his hand on the arm of Dr. Hillhouse. "What
of my wife?" There was a frightened look in his pale, agitated face.
His voice shook.

"She is in danger," replied the doctor.

"But you know what to do? You can control the disease? You have had
such cases before?"

"I will do my best," answered the doctor, trying to move on; but Mr.
Ridley clutched his arm tightly and held him fast:

"Is it--is it--puer-p-p--" His voice shook so that he could not
articulate the word that was on his tongue.

"I am afraid so," returned the doctor.

A deep groan broke from the lips of Mr. Ridley. His hand dropped from
the arm of Dr. Hillhouse and he stood trembling from head to foot, then
cried out in a voice of unutterable despair:

"From heaven down to hell in one wild leap! God help me!"

Dr. Hillhouse was deeply moved at this. He had felt stern and angry,
ready each moment to accuse and condemn, but the intense emotion
displayed by the husband shocked, subdued and changed his tone of
feeling.

"You must calm, yourself, my dear sir," he said. "The case looks bad,
but I have seen recovery in worse cases than this. We will do our best.
But remember that you have duties and responsibilities that must not
fail."

"Whatsoever in me lies, doctor," answered Mr. Ridley, with a sudden
calmness that seemed supernatural, "you may count on my doing. If she
dies, I am lost." There was a deep solemnity in his tones as he uttered
this last sentence. "You see, sir," he added, "what I have at stake."

"Just for the present little more can be done than to follow the
prescriptions we have given and watch their effect on the patient,"
returned Dr. Hillhouse. "If any change occurs, favorable or
unfavorable, let us know. If your presence in her room should excite or
disturb her in any way, you must prudently abstain from going near her."

The two physicians went away with but little hope in their hearts for
the sick woman. Whatever the exciting cause or causes might have been,
the disease which had taken hold of her with unusual violence presented
already so fatal a type that the issue was very doubtful.



CHAPTER VIII.


"IT is too late, I am afraid," said Dr. Hillhouse as the two physicians
rode away, "The case ought to have been seen last night. I noticed the
call when I came home from Mr. Birtwell's, but the storm was frightful,
and I did not feel like going out again. In fact, if the truth must be
told, I hardly gave the matter a thought. I saw the call, but its
importance did not occur to me. Late hours, suppers and wine do not
always leave the head as clear as it should be."

"I do not like the looks of things," returned Dr. Angier. "All the
symptoms are bad."

"Yes, very bad. I saw Mrs. Ridley yesterday morning, and found her
doing well. No sign of fever or any functional disturbance. She must
have had some shock or exposure to cold."

"Her husband was out all night. I learned that much from the nurse,"
replied Dr. Angier. "When the storm became violent, which was soon
after ten o'clock, she grew restless and disturbed, starting up and
listening as the snow dashed on the windowpanes and the wind roared
angrily. 'I could not keep her down,' said the nurse. 'She would spring
up in bed, throw off the clothes and sit listening, with a look of
anxiety and dread on her face. The wind came in through every chink and
crevice, chilling the room in spite of all I could do to keep it warm.
I soon saw, from the color that began coming into her face and from the
brightness in her eyes, that fever had set in. I was alarmed, and sent
for the doctor.'"

"And did this go on all night?" asked Dr. Hillhouse.

"Yes. She never closed her eyes except in intervals of feverish stupor,
from which she would start up and cry out for her husband, who was, she
imagined, in some dreadful peril."

"Bad! bad!" muttered Dr. Hillhouse. "There'll be a death, I fear, laid
at Mr. Birtwell's door."

"I don't understand you," said his companion, in a tone of surprise.

"Mr. Ridley, as I have been informed," returned Dr. Hillhouse, "has
been an intemperate man. After falling very low, he made an earnest
effort to reform, and so far got the mastery of his appetite as to hold
it in subjection. Such men are always in danger, as you and I very well
know. In nine cases out of ten--or, I might say, in ninety-nine cases
in a hundred--to taste again is to fall. It is like cutting the chain
that holds a wild beast. The bound but not dead appetite springs into
full vigor again, and surprised resolution is beaten down and
conquered. To invite such a man to, an entertainment where wines and
liquors are freely dispensed is to put a human soul in peril."

"Mr. Birtwell may not have known anything about him," replied Dr.
Angier.

"All very true. But there is one thing he did know."

"What?"

"That he could not invite a company of three hundred men and women to
his house, though he selected them from the most refined and
intelligent circles in our city, and give them intoxicating drinks as
freely as he did last night, without serious harm. In such accompany
there will be some, like Mr. Ridley, to whom the cup of wine offered in
hospitality will be a cup of cursing. Good resolutions will be snapped
like thread in a candle-flame, and men who came sober will go away, as
from any other drinking-saloon, drunk, as he went out last night."

"Drinking-saloon! You surprise me, doctor."

"I feel bitter this morning; and when the bitterness prevails, I am apt
to call things by strong names. Yes, I say drinking-saloon, Doctor
Angier. What matters it in the dispensation whether you give away or
sell the liquor, whether it be done over a bar or set out free to every
guest in a merchant's elegant banqueting-room? The one is as much a
liquor-saloon as the other. Men go away from one, as from the other,
with heads confused and steps unsteady and good resolutions wrecked by
indulgence. Knowing that such things must follow; that from every
fashionable entertainment some men, and women too, go away weaker and
in more danger than when they came; that boys and young men are tempted
to drink and the feet of some set in the ways of ruin; that health is
injured and latent diseases quickened into force; that evil rather than
good flows from them,--knowing all this, I say, can any man who so
turns his house, for a single evening, into a drinking-saloon--I harp
on the words, you see, for I am feeling bitter--escape responsibility?
No man goes blindly in this way."

"Taking your view of the case," replied Dr. Angier, "there may be
another death laid at the door of Mr. Birtwell."

"Whose?" Dr. Hillhouse turned quickly to his assistant. They had
reached home, and were standing in their office.

"Nothing has been heard of Archie Voss since he left Mr. Birtwell's
last night, and his poor mother is lying insensible, broken down by her
fears."

"Oh, what of her? I was called for in the night, and you went in my
place."

"I found Mrs. Voss in a state of coma, from which she had only
partially recovered when I left at daylight. Mr. Voss is in great
anxiety about his son, who has never stayed away all night before,
except with the knowledge of his parents."

"Oh, that will all come right," said Dr. Hillhouse. "The young man went
home, probably, with some friend. Had too much to drink, it may be, and
wanted to sleep it off before coming into his mother's pressence."

"There is no doubt about his having drank too much," returned Dr.
Angier. "I saw him going along the hall toward the street door in
rather a bad way. He had his overcoat on and his hat in his hand."

"Was any one with him?"

"I believe not. I think he went out alone."

"Into that dreadful storm?"

"Yes."

The countenance of Dr. Hillhouse became very grave:

"And has not been heard of since?"

"No."

"Have the police been informed about it?"

"Yes. The police have had the matter in hand for several hours, but at
the time I left not the smallest clue had been found."

"Rather a bad look," said Dr. Hillhouse. "What does Mr. Voss say about
it?"

"His mind seems to dwell on two theories--one that Archie, who had a
valuable diamond pin and a gold watch, may have wandered into some evil
neighborhood, bewildered by the storm, and there been set upon and
robbed--murdered perhaps. The other is that he has fallen in some
out-of-the-way place, overcome by the cold, and lies buried in the
snow. The fact that no police-officer reports having seen him or any
one answering to his description during the night awakens the gravest
fears."

"Still," replied Dr. Hillhouse, "it may all come out right. He may have
gone to a hotel. There are a dozen theories to set against those of his
friends."

After remaining silent for several moments, he said:

"The boy had been drinking too much?"

"Yes; and I judge from, his manner, when I saw him on his way to the
street, that he was conscious of his condition and ashamed of it. He
went quietly along, evidently trying not to excite observation, but his
steps were unsteady and his sight not true, for in trying to thread his
way along the hall he ran against one and another, and drew the
attention he was seeking to avoid."

"Poor fellow!" said Dr. Hillhouse, with genuine pity. "He was always a
nice boy. If anything has happened to him, I wouldn't give a dime for
the life of his mother."

"Nor I. And even as it is, the shock already received may prove greater
than her exhausted system can bear. I think you had better see her,
doctor, as early as possible."

"There were no especially bad symptoms when you left, beyond the state
of partial coma?"

"No. Her respiration had become easy, and she presented the appearance
of one in a quiet sleep."

"Nature is doing all for her that can be done," returned Dr. Hillhouse.
"I will see her as early as practicable. It's unfortunate that we have
these two cases on our hands just at this time, and most unfortunate of
all that I should have been compelled to go out so early this morning.
That doesn't look right."

And the doctor held up his hand, which showed a nervous unsteadiness.

"It will pass off after you have taken breakfast."

"I hope so. Confound these parties! I should not have gone last night,
and if I'd given the matter due consideration would have remained at
home."

"Why so?"

"You know what that means as well as I do;" and Dr. Hillhouse held up
his tremulous hand again. "We can't take wine freely late at night and
have our nerves in good order next morning. A life may depend on a
steady hand to-day."

"It will all pass off at breakfast-time. Your good cup of coffee will
make everything all right."

"Perhaps yea, perhaps nay," was answered. "I forgot myself last night,
and accepted too many wine compliments. It was first this one and then
that one, until, strong as my head is, I got more into it than should
have gone there. We are apt to forget ourselves on these occasions. If
I had only taken a glass or two, it would have made little difference.
But my system was stimulated beyond its wont, and, I fear, will not be
in the right tone to-day."

"You will have to bring it up, then, doctor," said the assistant. "To
touch that work with an unsteady hand might be death."

"A glass or two of wine will do it; but when I operate, I always prefer
to have my head clear. Stimulated nerves are not to be depended upon,
and the brain that has wine in it is never a sure guide. A surgeon must
see at the point of his instrument; and if there be a mote or any
obscurity in his mental vision, his hand, instead of working a cure,
may bring disaster."

"You operate at twelve?"

"Yes."

"You will be all right enough by that time; but it will not do to visit
many patients. I am sorry about this case of child-bed fever; but I
will see it again immediately after breakfast, and report."

While they were still talking the bell rang violently, and in a few
moments Mr. Ridley came dashing into the office. His face wore a look
of the deepest distress.

"Oh, doctor, he exclaimed can't you do something for my wife? She'll
die if you don't. Oh, do go to her again!"

"Has any change taken place since we left?" asked Dr. Hillhouse, with a
professional calmness it required some effort to assume.

"She is in great distress, moaning and sobbing and crying out as if in
dreadful pain, and she doesn't know anything you say to her."

The two physicians looked at each other with sober faces.

"You'd better see her again," said Dr. Hillhouse, speaking to his
assistant.

"No, no, no, Dr. Hillhouse! You must see her yourself. It is a case of
life and death!" cried out the distracted husband. "The responsibility
is yours, and I must and will hold you to that responsibility. I placed
my wife in your charge, not in that of this or any other man."

Mr. Ridley was beside himself with fear. At first Dr. Hillhouse felt
like resenting this assault, but he controlled himself.

"You forget yourself, Mr. Ridley," he answered in a repressed voice.
"We do not help things by passion or intemperance of language. I saw
your wife less than half an hour ago, and after giving the utmost care
to the examination of her case made the best prescription in my power.
There has not been time for the medicines to act yet. I know how
troubled you must feel, and can pardon your not very courteous bearing;
but there are some things that can and some things that cannot be done.
There are good reasons why it will not be right for me to return to
your house now--reasons affecting the safety, it may be the life, of
another, while my not going back with you can make no difference to
Mrs. Ridley. Dr. Angier is fully competent to report on her condition,
and I can decide on any change of treatment that may be required as
certainly as if I saw her myself. Should he find any change for the
worse, I will consider it my duty to see her without delay."

"Don't neglect her, for God's sake, doctor!" answered Mr. Ridley, in a
pleading voice. His manner had grown subdued. "Forgive my seeming
discourtesy. I am wellnigh distracted. If I lose her, I lose my hold on
everything. Oh, doctor, you cannot know how much is at stake. God help
me if she dies!"

"My dear sir, nothing in our power to do shall be neglected. Dr. Angier
will go back with you; and if, on his return, I am satisfied that there
is a change for the worse, I will see your wife without a moment's
delay. And in the mean time, if you wish to call in another physician,
I shall be glad to have you do so. Fix the time for consultation at any
hour before half-past ten o'clock, and I will meet him. After that I
shall be engaged professionally for two or three hours."

Dr. Angier returned with Mr. Ridley, and Dr. Hillhouse went to his
chamber to make ready for breakfast. His hands were so unsteady as he
made his toilette for the day that, in the face of what he had said to
his assistant only a little while before, he poured himself a glass of
wine and drank it off, remarking aloud as he did so, as if apologizing
for the act to some one invisibly present:

"I can't let this go on any longer."

The breakfast-bell rang, and the doctor sat down to get the better
nerve-sustainer of a good meal. But even as he reached his hand for the
fragrant coffee that his wife had poured for him, he felt a single dull
throb in one of his temples, and knew too well its meaning. He did not
lift the coffee to his mouth, but sat with a grave face and an
unusually quiet manner. He had made a serious mistake, and he knew it.
That glass of wine had stimulated the relaxed nerves of his stomach too
suddenly, and sent a shock to the exhausted brain. A slight feeling of
nausea was perceived and then came another throb stronger than the
first, and with a faint suggestion of pain. This was followed by a
sense of physical depression and discomfort.

"What's the matter, doctor?" asked his wife, who saw something unusual
in his manner.

"A feeling here that I don't just like," he replied, touching his
temple with a finger.

"Not going to have a headache?"

"I trust not. It would be a bad thing for me today."

He slowly lifted his cup of coffee and sipped a part of it.

"Late suppers and late hours may do for younger people," said Mrs.
Hillhouse. "_I_ feel wretched this morning, and am not surprised that
your nerves are out of order, nor that you should be threatened with
headache."

The doctor did not reply. He sipped his coffee again, but without
apparent relish, and, instead of eating anything, sat in an unusually
quiet manner and with a very sober aspect of countenance.

"I don't want a mouthful of breakfast," said Mrs. Hillhouse, pushing
away her plate.

"Nor I," replied the doctor; "but I can't begin to-day on an empty
stomach."

And he tried to force himself to take food, but made little progress in
the effort.

"It's dreadful about Archie Voss," said Mrs. Hillhouse.

"Oh he'll come up all right," returned her husband, with some
impatience in his voice.

"I hope so. But if he were my son, I'd rather see him in his grave than
as I saw him last night."

"It's very easy to talk in that way; but if Archie were your son, you'd
not be very long in choosing between death and a glass or two of wine
more than he had strength to carry."

"If he were my son," replied the doctor's wife, "I would do all in my
power to keep him away from entertainments where liquor is served in
such profusion. The danger is too great."

"He would have to take his chances with the rest," replied the doctor.
"All that we could possibly do would be to teach him moderation and
self-denial."

"If there is little moderation and self-denial among the full-grown men
and women who are met on these occasions, what can be expected from
lads and young men?"

The doctor shrugged his shoulders, but made no reply.

"We cannot shut our eyes to the fact," continued his wife, "that this
free dispensation of wine to old and young is an evil of great
magnitude, and that it is doing a vast amount of harm."

The doctor still kept silent. He was not in a mood for discussing this
or any other social question. His mind was going in another direction,
and his thoughts were troubling him. Dr. Hillhouse was a surgeon of
great experience, and known throughout the country for his successful
operations in some of the most difficult and dangerous cases with which
the profession has to deal. On this particular day, at twelve o'clock,
he had to perform an operation of the most delicate nature, involving
the life or death of a patient.

He might well feel troubled, for he knew, from signs too well
understood, that when twelve o'clock came, and his patient lay helpless
and unconscious before him, his hand would not be steady nor his brain,
clear. Healthy food would not restore the natural vigor which
stimulation had weakened, for he had no appetite for food. His stomach
turned away from it with loathing.

By this time the throb in his temple had become a stroke of pain. While
still sitting at the breakfast-table Dr. Angier returned from his visit
to Mrs. Ridley. Dr. Hillhouse saw by the expression of his face that he
did not bring a good report.

"How is she?" he asked.

"In a very bad way," replied Dr. Angier.

"New symptoms?"

"Yes."

"What?"

"Intense pain, rigors, hurried respiration and pulse up to a hundred
and twenty. It looks like a case of puerperal peritonitis."

Dr. Hillhouse started from the table; the trouble on his face grew
deeper.

"You had better see her with as little delay as possible," said Dr.
Angier.

"Did you make any new prescription?"

"No."

Dr. Hillhouse shut his lips tightly and knit his brows. He stood
irresolute for several moments.

"Most unfortunate!" he ejaculated. Then, going into his office, he rang
the bell and ordered his carriage brought round immediately.

Dr. Angier had made no exaggerated report of Mrs. Ridley's condition.
Dr. Hillhouse found that serious complications were rapidly taking
place, and that all the symptoms indicated inflammation of the
peritoneum. The patient was in great pain, though with less cerebral
disturbance than when he had seen her last. There was danger, and he
knew it. The disease had taken on a form that usually baffles the skill
of our most eminent physicians, and Dr. Hillhouse saw little chance of
anything but a fatal termination. He could do nothing except to
palliate as far as possible the patient's intense suffering and
endeavor to check farther complications. But he saw little to give
encouragement.

Mr. Ridley, with pale, anxious face, and eyes in which, were pictured
the unutterable anguish of his soul, watched Dr. Hillhouse as he sat by
his wife's bedside with an eager interest and suspense that was painful
to see. He followed him when he left the room, and his hand closed on
his arm with a spasm as the door shut behind them.

"How is she, doctor?" he asked, in a hoarse, panting whisper.

"She is very sick, Mr. Ridley," replied Dr. Hillhouse. "It would be
wrong to deceive you."

The pale, haggard face of Mr. Ridley grew whiter.

"Oh, doctor," he gasped, "can nothing be done?"

"I think we had better call in another physician," replied the doctor.
"In the multitude of counselors there is wisdom. Have you any choice?"

But Mr. Ridley had none.

"Shall it be Dr. Ainsworth? He has large experience in this class of
diseases."

"I leave it entirely with you, Dr. Hillhouse. Get the best advice and
help the city affords, and for God's sake save my wife."

The doctor went away, and Mr. Ridley, shaking with nervous tremors,
dropped weak and helpless into a chair and bending forward until his
head rested on his knees, sat crouching down, an image of suffering and
despair.



CHAPTER IX.


"ELLIS, my son."

There was a little break and tremor in the voice. The young man
addressed was passing the door of his mother's room, and paused on
hearing his name.

"What is it?" he asked, stepping inside and looking curiously into his
mother's face, where he saw a more than usually serious expression.

"Sit down, Ellis; I want to say a word to you before going to Mrs.
Birtwell's."

The lady had just completed her toilette, and was elegantly dressed for
an evening party. She was a handsome, stately-looking woman, with dark
hair through which ran many veins of silver, large, thoughtful eyes and
a mouth of peculiar sweetness.

The young man took a chair, and his mother seated herself in front of
him.

"Ellis."

The tremor still remained in her voice.

"Well, what is it?"

The young man assumed a careless air, but was not at ease.

"There is a good old adage, my son, the remembrance of which Has saved
many a one in the hour of danger: _Forewarned, forearmed_."

"Oh, then you think we are going into danger to-night?" he answered, in
a light tone.

"I am sorry to say that we are going where some will find themselves in
great peril," replied the mother, her manner growing more serious; "and
it is because of this that I wish to say a word or two now."

"Very well, mother; say on."

He moved uneasily in his chair, and showed signs of impatience.

"You must take it kindly, Ellis, and remember that it is your mother
who is speaking, your best and truest friend in all the world."

"Good Heavens, mother! what are you driving at? One would think we were
going into a howling wilderness, among savages and wild beasts, instead
of into a company of the most cultured and refined people in a
Christian city."

"There is danger everywhere, my son," the mother replied, with
increasing sobriety of manner, "and the highest civilization of the day
has its perils as well as the lowest conditions of society. The enemy
hides in ambush everywhere--in the gay drawing-room as well as in the
meanest hovel."

She paused, and mother and son looked into each other's faces in
silence for several moments. Then the former said:

"I must speak plainly, Ellis. You are not as guarded as you should be
on these occasions. You take wine too freely."

"Oh, mother!" His voice was, half surprised, half angry. A red flush
mounted to cheeks and forehead. Rising, he walked the room in an
agitated manner, and then came and sat down. The color had gone out of
his face:

"How could you say so, mother? You do me wrong. It is a mistake."

The lady shook her head:

"No, my son, it is true. A mother's eyes rarely deceive her. You took
wine too freely both at Mrs. Judson's and Mrs. Ingersoll's, and acted
so little like my gentlemanly, dignified son that my cheeks burned and
my heart ached with mortification. I saw in other eyes that looked at
you both pity and condemnation. Ah, my son! there was more of
bitterness in that for a mother's heart than you will ever comprehend."

Her voice broke into a sob.

"My dear, dear mother," returned the young man, exhibiting much
distress, "you and others exaggerated what you saw. I might have been a
trifle gay, and who is not after a glass or two of champagne? I was no
gayer than the rest. When young people get together, and one spurs
another on they are apt to grow a little wild. But to call high
spirits, even noisy high spirits, intoxication is unjust. You must not
be too hard on me, mother, nor let your care for your son lead you into
needless apprehensions. I am in no danger here. Set your heart at rest
on that score."

But this was impossible. Mrs. Whitford knew there was danger, and that
of the gravest character. Two years before, her son had come home from
college, where he had graduated with all the honors her heart could
desire, a pure, high-toned young man, possessing talents of no common
order. His father wished him to study law; and as his own inclinations
led in that direction, he went into the office of one of the best
practitioners in the city, and studied for his profession with the same
thoroughness that had distinguished him while in college. He had just
been admitted to the bar.

For the first year after his return home Mrs. Whitford saw nothing in
her son to awaken uneasiness. His cultivated tastes and love of
intellectual things held him above the enervating influences of the
social life into which he was becoming more and more drawn. Her first
feeling of uneasiness came when, at a large party given by one of her
most intimate friends, she heard his voice ring out suddenly in the
supper-room. Looking down the table, she saw him with a glass of
champagne in his hand, which he was flourishing about in rather an
excited way. There was a gay group of young girls around him, who
laughed merrily at the sport he made. Mrs. Whitford's pleasure was gone
for that evening. A shadow came down on the bright future of her son--a
future to which her heart had turned with such proud anticipations. She
was oppressed by a sense of humiliation. Her son had stepped down from
his pedestal of dignified self-respect, and stood among the common herd
of vulgar young men to whom in her eyes he had always been superior.

But greater than her humiliation were the fears of Mrs. Whitford. A
thoughtful and observant woman, she had reason for magnifying the
dangers that lay in the path of her son. The curse of more than one
member of both her own and husband's family had been intemperance.
While still a young man her father had lost his self-control, and her
memory of him was a shadow of pain and sorrow. He died at an early age,
the victim of an insatiable and consuming desire for drink. Her
husband's father had been what is called a "free liver"--that is, a man
who gave free indulgence to his appetites, eating and drinking to
excess, and being at all times more or less under the influence of wine
or spirits.

It was the hereditary taint that Mrs. Whitford dreaded. Here lay the
ground of her deepest anxiety. She had heard and thought enough on this
subject to know that parents transmit to their children an inclination
to do the things they have done from habit--strong or weak, according
to the power of the habit indulged. If the habit be an evil one, then
the children are in more than common danger, and need the wisest care
and protection. She knew, also, from reading and observation, that an
evil habit of mind or body which did not show itself in the second
generation would often be reproduced in the third, and assert a power
that it required the utmost strength of will and the greatest
watchfulness to subdue.

And so, when her son, replying to her earnest warning, said, "I am in
no danger. Set your heart at rest," she knew better--knew that a deadly
serpent was in the path he was treading. And she answered him with
increasing earnestness:

"The danger may be far greater than you imagine, Ellis. It _is_ greater
than you imagine."

Her voice changed as she uttered the last sentence into a tone that was
almost solemn.

"You are talking wildly," returned the young man, "and pay but a poor
compliment to your son's character and strength of will. In danger of
becoming a sot!--for that is what you mean. If you were not my mother,
I should be angry beyond self-control."

"Ellis," said Mrs. Whitford, laying her hand upon the arm of her son
and speaking with slow impressiveness, "I am older than you are by
nearly thirty years, have seen more of life than you have, _and know
some things that you do not know._ I have your welfare at heart more
deeply than any other being except God. I know you better in some
things than you know yourself. Love makes me clear-seeing. And this is
why I am in such earnest with you to-night. Ellis, I want a promise
from you. I ask it in the name of all that is dearest to you--in my
name--in the name of Blanche--in the name of God!"

All the color had, gone out of Mrs. Whitford's face, and she stood
trembling before her son.

"You frighten me, mother," exclaimed the young man. "What do you mean
by all this? Has any one been filling your mind with lies about me?"

"No; none would dare speak to me of you in anything but praise, But I
want you to promise to-night, Ellis. I must have that, and then my
heart will be at ease. It will be a little thing for you, but for me
rest and peace and confidence in the place of terrible anxieties."

"Promise! What? Some wild fancies have taken hold of you."

"No wild fancies, but a fear grounded in things of which I would not
speak. Ellis, I want you to give up the use of wine."

The young man did not answer immediately. All the nervous restlessness
he had exhibited died out in a moment, and he stood very still, the
ruddy marks of excitement going out of his face. His eyes were turned
from his mother and cast upon the floor.

"And so it has come to this," he said, huskily, and in a tone of
humiliation. "My mother thinks me in danger of becoming a
drunkard--thinks me so weak that I cannot be trusted to take even a
glass of wine."

"Ellis!" Mrs. Whitford again laid her hand upon the arm of her son.
"Ellis," her voice had fallen to deep whisper, "if I must speak, I
must. There are ancestors who leave fatal legacies to the generations
that come after them, and you are one accursed by such a legacy. There
is a taint in your blood, a latent fire that a spark may kindle into a
consuming flame."

She panted as she spoke with hurried utterance. "My father!" exclaimed
the young man, with an indignant flash in his eyes.

"No, no, no! I don't mean that. But there is a curse that descends to
the third and fourth generation," replied Mrs. Whitford, "and you have
the legacy of that curse. But it will be harmless unless with your own
hand you drag it down, and this is why I ask you to abstain from wine.
Others may be safe, but for you there is peril."

"A scarecrow, a mere fancy, a figment of some fanatic's brain;" and
Ellis Whitford rejected the idea in a voice full of contempt.

But the pallor and solemnity of his mother's face warned him that such
a treatment of her fears could not allay them. Moreover, the hint of
ancestral disgrace had shocked his family pride.

"A sad and painful truth," Mrs. Whitford returned, "and one that it
will be folly for you to ignore. You do not stand in the same freedom
in which many others stand. That is your misfortune. But you can no
more disregard the fact than can one born with a hereditary taint of
consumption in his blood disregard the loss of health and hope to
escape the fatal consequences. There is for every one of us 'a sin that
doth easily beset,' a hereditary inclination that must be guarded and
denied, or it will grow and strengthen until it becomes a giant to
enslave us. Where your danger lies I have said; and if you would be
safe, set bars and bolts to the door of appetite, and suffer not your
enemy to cross the threshold, of life."

Mrs. Whitford spoke with regaining calmness, but in tones of solemn
admonition.

A long silence followed, broken at length by the young man, who said,
in a choking, depressed voice that betrayed a quaver of impatience:

"I'm sorry for all this. That your fears are groundless I know, but you
are none the less tormented by them. What am I to do? To spare you pain
I would sacrifice almost anything, but this humiliation is more than I
am strong enough to encounter. If, as you say, there has been
intemperance in our family, it is not a secret locked up in your bosom.
Society knows all about the ancestry of its members, who and what the
fathers and grandfathers were, and we have not escaped investigation.
Don't touch wine, you say. Very well. I go to Mrs. Birtwell's to-night.
Young and old, men and women, all are partakers, but I stand aloof--I,
of all the guests, refuse the hospitality I have pretended to accept.
Can I do this without attracting attention or occasioning remark? No;
and what will be said? Simply this--that I know my danger and am
afraid; that there is in my blood the hereditary taint of drunkenness,
and that I dare not touch a glass of wine. Mother, I am not strong
enough to brave society on such an issue, and a false one at that. To
fear and fly does not belong to my nature. A coward I despise. If there
is danger in my way and it is right for me to go forward in that way, I
will walk steadily on, and fight if I must. I am not a craven, but a
man. If the taint of which you speak is in my blood, I will extinguish
it. If I am in danger, I will not save myself by flight, but by
conquest. The taint shall not go down to another generation; it shall
be removed in this."

He spoke with a fine enthusiasm kindling over his handsome face, and
his mother's heart beat with a pride that for the moment was stronger
than fear.

"Ask of me anything except to give up my self-respect and my
manliness," he added. "Say that you wish me to remain at home, and I
will not go to the party."

"No. I do not ask that. I wish you to go. But--"

"If I go, I must do as the rest, and you must have faith in me.
Forewarned, forearmed. I will heed your admonition."

So the interview ended, and mother and son went to the grand
entertainment at Mr. Birtwell's. Ellis did mean to heed his mother's
admonition. What she had said, about the danger in which he stood had
made a deeper impression on him than Mrs. Whitford thought. But he did
not propose to heed by abstinence, but by moderation. He would be on
guard and always ready for the hidden foe, if such a foe really existed
anywhere but in his mother's fancy.

"Ah, Mrs. Whitford! Glad to see you this evening;" and the Rev. Mr.
Brantley Elliott gave the lady a graceful and cordial bow. "Had the
pleasure of meeting your son a few moments ago--a splendid young man,
if you will pardon me for saying so. How much a year has improved him!"

Mrs. Whitford bowed her grateful acknowledgment.

"Just been admitted to the bar, I learn," said Mr. Elliott.

"Yes, sir. He has taken his start in life."

"And will make his mark, or I am mistaken. You have reason to feel
proud of him, ma'am."

"That she has," spoke out Dr. Hillhouse, who came up at the moment.
"When so many of our young men are content to be idle drones--to let
their fathers achieve eminence or move the world by the force of
thought and will--it is gratifying to see one of their number taking
his place in the ranks and setting his face toward conquest. When the
sons of two-thirds of our rich men are forgotten, or remembered only as
idlers or nobodies, or worse, your son will stand among the men who
leave their mark upon the generations."

"If he escapes the dangers that lie too thickly in the way of all young
men," returned Mrs. Whitford, speaking almost involuntarily of what was
in her heart, and in a voice that betrayed more concern than she had
meant to express.

The doctor gave a little shrug, but replied:

"His earnest purpose in life will be his protection, Mrs. Whitford.
Work, ambition, devotion to a science or profession have in them an
aegis of safety. The weak and the idle are most in danger."

"It is wrong, I have sometimes thought," said Mrs. Whitford speaking
both to the physician and the clergyman, "for society to set so many
temptations before its young men--the seed, as some one has forcibly
said, of the nation's future harvest."

"Society doesn't care much for anything but its own gratification,"
replied Dr. Hillhouse, "and says as plainly as actions can do it 'After
me the deluge.'"

"Rather hard on society," remarked Mr. Elliott.

"Now take, for instance, its drinking customs, its toleration and
participation in the freest public and private dispensation of
intoxicating liquors to all classes, weak or strong, young or old. Is
there not danger in this--great danger? I think I understand you, Mrs.
Whitford."

"Yes, doctor, you understand me;" and dropping her voice to a lower
tone, Mrs. Whitford added: "There are wives and mothers and sisters not
a few here to-night whose hearts, though they may wear smiles on their
faces, are ill at ease, and some of them will go home from these
festivities sadder than when they came."

"Right about that," said the doctor to himself as he turned away, a
friend of Mrs. Whitford's having come up at the moment and interrupted
the conversation--"right about that; and you, I greatly fear, will be
one of the number."

"Our friend isn't just herself to-night," remarked Mr. Elliott as he
and Dr. Hillhouse moved across the room. "A little dyspeptic, maybe,
and so inclined to look on the dark side of things. She has little
cause, I should think, to be anxious for her own son or husband. I
never saw Mr. Whitford the worse for wine; and as for Ellis, his
earnest purpose in life, as you so well said just now, will hold him
above the reach of temptation."

"On the contrary, she has cause for great anxiety," returned Dr.
Hillhouse.

"You surprise me. What reason have you for saying this?"

"A professional one--a reason grounded in pathology."

"Ah?" and Mr. Elliott looked gravely curious.

"The young man inherits, I fear, a depraved appetite."

"Oh no. I happen to be too well acquainted with his father to accept
that view of the case."

"His father is well enough," replied Dr. Hillhouse, "but as much could
not be said of either of his grandfathers while living. Both drank
freely, and one of them died a confirmed drunkard."

"If the depraved appetite has not shown itself in the children, it will
hardly trouble the grandchildren," said Mr. Elliott. "Your fear is
groundless, doctor. If Ellis were my son, I should feel no particular
anxiety about him."

"If he were your son," replied Dr. Hillhouse, "I am not so sure about
your feeling no concern. Our personal interest in a thing is apt to
give it a new importance. But you are mistaken as to the breaking of
hereditary influences in the second generation. Often hereditary
peculiarities will show themselves in the third and fourth generation.
It is no uncommon thing to see the grandmother's red hair reappear in
her granddaughter, though her own child's hair was as black as a
raven's wing. A crooked toe, a wart, a malformation, an epileptic
tendency, a swart or fair complexion, may disappear in all the children
of a family, and show itself again in the grand-or great-grandchildren.
Mental and moral conditions reappear in like manner. In medical
literature we have many curious illustrations of this law of hereditary
transmission and its strange freaks and anomalies."

"They are among the curiosities of your literature," said Mr. Elliott,
speaking as though not inclined to give much weight to the doctor's
views--"the exceptional and abnormal things that come under
professional notice."

"The law of hereditary transmission," replied Dr. Hillhouse, "is as
certain in its operation as the law of gravity. You may disturb or
impede or temporarily suspend the law, but the moment you remove the
impediment the normal action goes on, and the result is sure. Like
produces like--that is the law. Always the cause is seen in the effect,
and its character, quality and good or evil tendencies are sure to have
a rebirth and a new life. It is under the action of this law that the
child is cursed by the parent with the evil and sensual things he has
made a part of himself through long indulgence."

There came at this moment a raid upon Mr. Elliott by three or four
ladies, members of his congregation, who surrounded him and Dr.
Hillhouse, and cut short their conversation.

Meanwhile, Ellis Whitford had already half forgotten his painful
interview with his mother in the pleasure of meeting Blanche Birtwell,
to whom he had recently become engaged. She was a pure and lovely young
woman, inheriting her mother's personal beauty and refined tastes. She
had been carefully educated and kept by her mother as much within the
sphere of home as possible and out of society of the hoydenish girls
who, moving in the so-called best circles, have the free and easy
manners of the denizens of a public garden rather than the modest
demeanor of unsullied maidenhood. She was a sweet exception to the
loud, womanish, conventional girl we meet everywhere--on the street, in
places, of public amusement and in the drawing-room--a fragrant human
flower with the bloom of gentle girlhood on every unfolding leaf.

It was no slender tie that bound these lovers together. They had moved
toward each other, drawn by an inner attraction that was irresistible
to each; and when heart touched heart, their pulses took a common beat.
The life of each had become bound up in the other, and their betrothal
was no mere outward contract. The manly intellect and the pure heart
had recognized each other, tender love had lifted itself to noble
thought, and thought had grown stronger and purer as it felt the warmth
and life of a new and almost divine inspiration. Ellis Whitford had
risen to a higher level by virtue of this betrothal.

They were sitting in a bay-window, out of the crowd of guests, when a
movement in the company was observed by Whitford. Knowing what it
meant, he arose and offered his arm to Blanche. As he did so he became
aware of a change in his companion, felt rather than seen; and yet, if
he had looked closely into her face, a change in its expression would
have been visible. The smile was still upon her beautiful lips, and the
light and tenderness still in her eyes, but from both something had
departed. It was as if an almost invisible film of vapor had drifted
across the sun of their lives.

In silence they moved on to the supper-room--moved with the light and
heavy-hearted, for, as Dr. Hillhouse had intimated, there were some
there to whom that supper-room was regarded with anxiety and
fear--wives and mothers and sisters who knew, alas! too well that
deadly serpents lie hidden among the flowers of every banqueting-room.

How bright and joyous a scene it was! You did not see the trouble that
lay hidden in so many hearts; the light and glitter, the flash and
brilliancy, were too strong.

Reader, did you ever think of the power of spheres? The influence that
goes out from an individual or mass of individuals, we mean--that
subtle, invisible power that acts from one upon another, and which when
aggregated is almost irresistible? You have felt it in a company moved
by a single impulse which carried you for a time with the rest, though
all your calmer convictions were in opposition to the movement. It has
kept you silent by its oppressive power when you should have spoken out
in a ringing protest, and it has borne you away on its swift or
turbulent current when you should have stood still and been true to
right. Again, in the company of good and true men, moved by the
inspiration of some noble cause, how all your weakness and hesitation
has died out! and you have felt the influence of that subtle sphere to
which we refer.

Everywhere and at all times are we exposed to the action of these
mental and moral spheres, which act upon and impress us in thousands of
different ways, now carrying us along in some sudden public excitement
in which passion drowns the voice of reason, and now causing us to
drift in the wake of some stronger nature than our own whose active
thought holds ours in a weak, assenting bondage.

You understand what we mean. Now take the pervading sphere of an
occasion like the one we are describing, and do you not see that to go
against it is possible only to persons of decided convictions and
strong individuality? The common mass of men and women are absorbed
into or controlled by its subtle power. They can no more set themselves
against it, if they would, than against the rush of a swiftly-flowing
river. To the young it is irresistible.

As Ellis Whitford, with Blanche leaning on his arm, gained the
supper-room, he met the eyes of his mother, who was on the opposite
side of the table, and read in them a sign of warning. Did it awaken a
sense of danger and put him on his guard? No; it rather stirred a
feeling of anger. Could she not trust him among gentlemen and
ladies--not trust him with Blanche Birtwell by his side? It hurt his
pride and wounded his self-esteem.

He was in the sphere of liberty and social enjoyment and among those
who did not believe that wine was a mocker, but something to make glad
the heart and give joy to the countenance; and when it began to flow he
was among the first to taste its delusive sweets. Blanche, for whom he
poured a glass of champagne, took it from his hand, but with only half
a smile on her lips, which was veiled by something so like pain or fear
that Ellis felt as if the lights about him had suddenly lost a portion
of their brilliancy. He stood holding his own glass, after just tasting
its contents, waiting for Blanche to raise the sparkling liquor to her
lips, but she seemed like one under the influence of a spell, not
moving or responding.



CHAPTER X.


BLANCHE still held the untasted wine in her hand, when her father, who
happened to be near, filled a glass, and said as he bowed to her:

"Your good health, my daughter; and yours, Mr. Whitford," bowing to her
companion also.

The momentary spell was broken. Blanche smiled back upon her father and
raised the glass to her lips. The lights in the room seemed to Ellis to
flash up again and blaze with a higher brilliancy. Never had the taste
of wine seemed more delicious. What a warm thrill ran along his nerves!
What a fine exhilaration quickened in his brain! The shadow which a
moment before had cast a veil over the face of Blanche he saw no
longer. It had vanished, or his vision was not now clear enough to
discern its subtle texture.

"Take good care of Blanche," said Mr. Birtwell, in a light voice. "And
you, pet, see that Mr. Whitford enjoys himself."

Blanche did not reply. Her father turned away. Eyes not veiled as
Whitford's now were would have seen that the filmy cloud which had come
over her face a little while before was less transparent, and sensibly
dimmed its brightness.

Scarcely had Mr. Birtwell left them when Mr. Elliott, who had only a
little while before heard of their engagement, said to Blanche in an
undertone, and with one of his sweet paternal smiles:

"I must take a glass of wine with you, dear, in, commemoration of the
happy event."

Mr. Elliott had not meant to include young Whitford in the invitation.
The latter had spoken to a lady acquaintance who stood near him, and
was saying a few words to her, thus disengaging Blanche. But observing
that Mr. Elliott was talking to Blanche, he turned from the lady and
joined her again. And, so Mr. Elliott had to say:

"We are going to have a glass of wine in honor of the auspicious event."

Three glasses were filled by the clergyman, and then he stood face to
face with the young man and maiden, and each of them, as he said in a
low, professional voice, meant for their ears alone, "Peace and
blessing, my children!" drank to the sentiment. Whitford drained his
glass, but Blanche only tasted the wine in hers.

Mr. Elliott stood for a few moments, conscious that something was out
of accord. Then he remembered his conversation with Dr. Hillhouse a
little while before, and felt an instant regret. He had noted the
manner of Whitford as he drank, and the manner of Blanche as she put
the wine to her lips. In the one case was an enjoyable eagerness, and
in the other constraint. Something in the expression of the girl's face
haunted and troubled him a long time afterward.

"Our young friend is getting rather gay," said Dr. Hillhouse to Mr.
Elliott, half an hour afterward. He referred to Ellis Whitford, who was
talking and laughing in a way that to some seemed a little too loud and
boisterous. "I'm afraid for him," he added.

"Ah, yes! I remember what you were saying about his two grandfathers,"
returned the clergyman. "And you really think he may inherit something
from them?"

"Don't you?" asked the doctor.

"Well, yes, of course. But I mean an inordinate desire for drink, a
craving that makes indulgence perilous?"

"Yes; that is just what I do believe."

"If that be so, the case is a serious one. In taking wine with him a
short time ago I noticed a certain enjoyable eagerness as he held the
glass to his lips not often observed in our young men."

"You drank with him?" queried the doctor.

"Yes. He and Blanche Birtwell have recently become engaged, and I took
some wine with them in compliment."

The doctor, instead of replying, became silent and thoughtful, and Mr.
Elliott moved away among the crowd of guests.

"I am really sorry for Mrs. Whitford," said a lady with whom he soon
became engaged in conversation.

"Why so?" asked the clergyman, betraying surprise.

"What's the matter? No family trouble, I hope?"

"Very serious trouble I should call it were it my own," returned the
lady.

"I am pained to hear you speak so. What has occurred?"

"Haven't you noticed her son to-night? There! That was his laugh. He's
been drinking too much. I saw his mother looking at him a little while
ago with eyes so full of sorrow and suffering that it made my heart
ache."

"Oh, I hope it's nothing," replied Mr. Elliott. "Young men will become
a little gay on these occasions; we must expect that. All of them don't
bear wine alike. It's mortifying to Mrs. Whitford, of course, but she's
a stately woman, you know, and sensitive about proprieties."

Mr. Elliott did not wait for the lady's answer, but turned to address
another person who came forward at the moment to speak to him.

"Sensitive about proprieties," said the lady to herself, with some
feeling, as she stood looking down the room to where Ellis Whitford in
a group of young men and women was giving vent to his exuberant spirits
more noisily than befitted the place and occasion. "Mr. Elliott calls
things by dainty names."

"I call that disgraceful," remarked an elderly lady, in a severe tone,
as if replying to the other's thought.

"Young men will become a little gay on these occasions," said the
person to whom she had spoken, with some irony in her tone. "So Mr.
Elliott says."

"Mr. Elliott!" There was a tone of bitterness and rejection in the
speaker's voice. "Mr. Elliott had better give our young men a safer
example than he does. A little gay! A little drunk would be nearer the
truth."

"Oh dear! such a vulgar word! We don't use it in good society, you
know. It belongs to taverns and drinking-saloons--to coarse, common
people. You must say 'a little excited,' 'a little gay,' but not drunk.
That's dreadful!"

"Drunk!" said the other, with emphasis, but speaking low and for the
ear only of the lady with whom she was talking. "We understand a great
deal better the quality of a thing when we call it by its right name.
If a young man drinks wine or brandy until he becomes intoxicated, as
Whitford has done to-night, and we say he is drunk instead of
exhilarated or a little gay, we do something toward making his conduct
odious. We do not excuse, but condemn. We make it disgraceful instead
of palliating the offence."

The lady paused, when her companion said:

"Look! Blanche Birtwell is trying to quiet him. Did you know they were
engaged?"

"What!"

"Engaged."

"Then I pity her from my heart. A young man who hasn't self-control
enough to keep himself sober at an evening party can't be called a very
promising subject for a husband."

"She has placed her arm in his and is looking up into his face so
sweetly. What a lovely girl she is! There! he's quieter already; and
see, she is drawing him out of the group of young men and talking to
him in such a bright, animated way."

"Poor child! it makes my eyes wet; and this is her first humiliating
and painful duty toward her future husband. God pity and strengthen her
is my heartfelt prayer. She will have need, I fear, of more than human
help and comfort."

"You take the worst for granted?"

The lady drew a deep sigh:

"I fear the worst, and know something of what the worst means. There
are few families of any note in our city," she added, after a slight
pause, "in which sorrow has not entered through the door of
intemperance. Ah! is not the name of the evil that comes in through
this door Legion? and we throw it wide open and invite both young and
old to enter. We draw them by various allurements. We make the way of
this door broad and smooth and flowery, full of pleasantness and
enticement. We hold out our hands, we smile with encouragement, we step
inside of the door to show them the way."

In her ardor the lady half forgot herself, and stopped suddenly as she
observed that two or three of the company who stood near had been
listening.

Meantime, Blanche Birtwell had managed to get Whitford away from the
table, and was trying to induce him to leave the supper-room. She hung
on his arm and talked to him in a light, gay manner, as though wholly
unconscious of his condition. They had reached the door leading into
the hall, when Whitford stopped, and drawing back, said:

"Oh, there's Fred Lovering, my old college friend. I didn't know he was
in the city." Then he called out, in a voice so loud as to cause many
to turn and look at him, "Fred! Fred! Why, how are you, old boy? This
is an unexpected pleasure."

The young man thus spoken to made his way through the crowd of guests,
who were closely packed together in that part of the room, some going
in and some trying to get out, and grasping the hand of Whitford, shook
it with great cordiality.

"Miss Birtwell," said the latter, introducing Blanche. "But you know
each other, I see."

"Oh yes, we are old friends. Glad to see you looking so well, Miss
Birtwell."

Blanche bowed with cold politeness, drawing a little back as she did
so, and tightening her hold on Whitford's arm.

Lovering fixed his eyes on the young lady with an admiring glance,
gazing into her face so intently that her color heightened. She turned
partly away, an expression of annoyance on her countenance, drawing
more firmly on the arm of her companion as she did so, and taking a
step toward the door. But Whitford was no longer passive to her will.

Any one reading the face of Lovering would have seen a change in its
expression, the evidence of some quickly formed purpose, and he would
have seen also something more than simple admiration of the beautiful
girl leaning on the arm of his friend. His manner toward Whitford
became more hearty.

"My dear old friend," he said, catching up the hand he had dropped and
giving it a tighter grip than before, "this is a pleasure. How it
brings back our college days! We must have a glass of wine in memory of
the good old times. Come!"

And he moved toward the table. With an impulse she could not restrain,
Blanche drew back toward the door, pulling strongly on Whitford's arm:

"Come, Ellis; I am faint with the heat of this room. Take me out,
please."

Whitford looked into her face, and saw that it had grown suddenly pale.
If his perceptions had not been obscured by drink, he would have taken
her out instantly. But his mind was not clear.

"Just a moment, until I can get you a glass of wine," he said, turning
hastily from her. Lovering was filling three glasses as he reached the
table. Seizing one of them, he went back quickly to Blanche; but she
waved her hand, saying: "No, no, Ellis; it isn't wine that I need, only
cooler air."

"Don't be foolish," replied Whitford, with visible impatience. "Take a
few sips of wine, and you will feel better."

Lovering, with a glass in each hand, now joined them. He saw the change
in Blanche's face, and having already observed the exhilarated
condition of Whitford, understood its meaning. Handing the latter one
of the glasses, he said:

"Here's to your good health, Miss Birtwell, and to yours, Ellis,"
drinking as he spoke. Whitford drained his glass, but Blanche did not
so much as wet her lips. Her face had grown paler.

"If you do not take me out, I must go alone," she said, in a voice that
made itself felt. There was in it a quiver of pain and a pulse of
indignation.

Lovering lost nothing of this. As his college friend made his way from
the room with Blanche on his arm, he stood for a moment in an attitude
of deep thought, then nodded two or three times and said to himself:

"That's how the land lies. Wine in and wit out, and Blanche troubled
about it already. Engaged, they say. All right. But glass is sharp, and
love's fetters are made of silk. Will the edge be duller if the glass
is filled with wine? I trow not."

And a gleam of satisfaction lit up the young man's face.

With an effort strong and self-controlling for one so young, Blanche
Birtwell laid her hand upon her troubled heart as soon as she was out
of the supper-room, and tried to still its agitation. The color came
back to her cheeks and some of the lost brightness to her eyes, but she
was not long in discovering that the glass of wine taken with his
college friend had proved too much for the already confused brain of
her lover who began talking foolishly and acting in a way that
mortified and pained her exceedingly. She now sought to get him into
the library and out of common observation. Her father had just received
from France and England some rare books filled with art illustrations,
and she invited him to their examination. But he was feeling too social
for that.

"Why, no, pet." He made answer with a fond familiarity he would
scarcely have used if they had been alone instead of in a crowded
drawing-room, touching her cheek playfully with his fingers as he
spoke. "Not now. We'll reserve that pleasure for another time. This is
good enough for me;" and he swung his arms around and gave a little
whoop like an excited rowdy.

A deep crimson dyed for a moment the face of Blanche. In a moment
afterward it was pale as ashes. Whitford saw the death-like change, and
it partially roused him to a sense of his condition.

"Of course I'll go to the library if your heart's set on it," he said,
drawing her arm in his and taking her out of the room with a kind of
flourish. Many eyes turned on them. In some was surprise, in some
merriment and in some sorrow and pain.

"Now for the books," he cried as he placed Blanche in a large chair at
the library-table. "Where are they?"

Self-control has a masterful energy when the demand for its exercise is
imperative. The paleness went out of Blanche's face, and a tender light
came into her eyes as she looked up at Whitford and smiled on him with
loving glances.

"Sit down," she said in a firm, low, gentle voice.

The young man felt the force of her will and sat down by her side,
close to the table, on which a number of books were lying.

"I want to show you Dore's illustrations of Don Quixote;" and Blanche
opened a large folio volume.

Whitford had grown more passive. He was having a confused impression
that all was not just right with him, and that it was better to be in
the library looking over books and pictures with Blanche than in the
crowded parlors, where there was so much to excite his gayer feelings.
So he gave himself up to the will of his betrothed, and tried to feel
an interest in the pictures she seemed to admire so much.

They had been so engaged for over twenty minutes, Whitford beginning to
grow dull and heavy as the exhilaration of wine died out, and less
responsive to the efforts made by Blanche to keep him interested, when
Lovering came into the library, and, seeing them, said, with a spur of
banter in his voice:

"Come, come, this will never do! You're a fine fellow, Whitford, and I
don't wonder that Miss Birtwell tolerates you, but monopoly is not the
word to-night. I claim the privilege of a guest and a word or two with
our fair hostess."

And he held out his arm to Blanche, who had risen from the table. She
could do no less than take it. He drew her from the room. As they
passed out of the door Blanche cast a look back at Whitford. Those who
saw it were struck by its deep concern.

"Confound his impudence!" ejaculated Ellis Whitford as he saw Blanche
vanish through the library door. Rising from the table he stood with an
irresolute air, then went slowly from the apartment and mingled with
the company, moving about in an aimless kind of way, until he drifted
again into the supper-room, the tables of which the waiters were
constantly replenishing, and toward which a stream of guests still
flowed. The company here was noisier now than when he left it a short
time before. Revelry had taken the place of staid propriety. Glasses
clinked like a chime of bells, voices ran up into the higher keys, and
the loud musical laugh of girls mingled gaily with the deeper tones of
their male companions. Young maidens with glasses of sparkling
champagne or rich brown and amber sherry in their hands were calling
young men and boys to drink with them, and showing a freedom and
abandon of manner that marked the degree of their exhilaration. Wine
does not act in one way on the brain of a young man and in another way
on the brain of a young woman. Girls of eighteen or twenty will become
as wild and free and forgetful of propriety as young men of the same
age if you bring them together at a feast and give them wine freely.

We do not exaggerate the scene in Mr. Birtwell's supper-room, but
rather subdue the picture. As Whitford drew nigh the supper-room the
sounds of boisterous mirth struck on his ears and stirred him like the
rattle of a drum. The heaviness went out of his limbs, his pulse beat
more quickly, he felt a new life in his veins. As he passed in his name
was called in a gay voice that he did not at first recognize, and at
the same moment a handsome young girl with flushed face and sparkling
eyes came hastily toward him, and drawing her hand in his arm, said, in
a loud familiar tone:

"You shall be my knight, Sir Ellis."

And she almost dragged him down the room to where half a dozen girls
and young men were having a wordy contest about something. He was in
the midst of the group before he really understood who the young lady
was that had laid such violent hands upon him. He then recognized her
as the daughter of a well-known merchant. He had met her a few times in
company, and her bearing toward him had always before been marked by a
lady-like dignity and reserve. Now she was altogether another being,
loud, free and familiar almost to rudeness.

"You must have some wine, Sir Knight, to give you mettle for the
conflict," she said, running to the table and filling a glass, which
she handed to him with the air of a Hebe.

Whitford did not hesitate, but raised the glass to his lips and emptied
it at a single draught.

"Now for knight or dragon, my lady fair. I am yours to do or die," he
exclaimed, drawing up his handsome form with a mock dignity, at which a
loud cheer broke out from the group of girls and young men that was far
more befitting a tavern-saloon than a gentleman's dining-room.

Louder and noisier this little group became, Whitford, under a fresh
supply of wine, leading in the boisterous mirth. One after another,
attracted by the gayety and laughter, joined the group, until it
numbered fifteen or twenty half-intoxicated young men and women, who
lost themselves in a kind of wild saturnalia.

It was past twelve o'clock when Mrs. Whitford entered the dining-room,
where the noise and laughter were almost deafening. Her face was pale,
her lips closely compressed and her forehead contracted with pain. She
stood looking anxiously through the room until she saw her son leaning
against the wall, with a young lady standing in front of him holding a
glass in her hand which she was trying to induce him to take. One
glance at the face of Ellis told her too plainly his sad condition.

To go to him and endeavor to get him away Mrs. Whitford feared might
arouse his latent pride and make him stubborn to her wishes.

"You see that young man standing against the wall?" she said to one of
the waiters.

"Mr. Whitford do you mean?" asked the waiter.

"Yes," she replied. "Go to him quietly, and say that his mother is
going home and wants him. Speak low, if you please."

Mrs. Whitford stood with a throbbing heart as the waiter passed down
the room. The tempter was before her son offering the glass of wine,
which he yet refused. She saw him start and look disconcerted as the
waiter spoke to him, then wave the glass of wine aside. But he did not
stir from him place.

The waiter came back to Mrs. Whitford:

"He says don't wait for him, ma'am."

The poor mother felt an icy coldness run along her nerves. For some
moments she stood irresolute, and then went back to the parlor. She
remained there for a short time, masking her countenance as best she
could, and then returned to the dining-room, where noise and merriment
still prevailed. She did not at first see her son, though her eyes went
quickly from face to face and from form to form. She was about
retiring, under the impression that he was not there, when the waiter
to whom she had spoken before said to her:

"Are you looking for Mr. Whitford?"

There was something in his voice that made her heart stand still.

"Yes," she replied.

"You will find him at the lower end of the room, just in the corner,"
said the man.

Mrs. Whitford made her way to the lower end of the room. Ellis was
sitting in a chair, stupid and maudlin, and two or three thoughtless
girls were around his chair laughing at his drunken efforts to be
witty. The shocked mother did not speak to him, but shrunk away and
went gliding from the room. At the door she said to the waiter who had
followed her out, drawn by a look she gave him:

"I will be ready to go in five minutes, and I want Mr. Whitford to go
with me. Get him down to the door as quietly as you can."

The waiter went back into the supper-room, and with a tact that came
from experience in cases similar to this managed to get the young man
away without arousing his opposition.

Five minutes afterward, as Mrs. Whitford sat in her carriage at the
door of Mr. Birtwell's palace home, her son was pushed in, half
resisting, by two waiters, so drunk that his wretched mother had to
support him with her arm all the way home. Is it any wonder that in her
aching heart the mother cried out, "Oh, that he had died a baby on my
breast!"



CHAPTER XI.


AMONG the guests at Mr. and Mrs. Birtwell's was an officer holding a
high rank in the army, named Abercrombie. He had married, many years
before, a lady of fine accomplishments and rare culture who was
connected with one of the oldest families in New York. Her grandfather
on her mother's side had distinguished himself as an officer in the
Revolutionary war; and on her father's side she could count statesmen
and lawyers whose names were prominent in the early history of our
country.

General Abercrombie while a young man had fallen into the vice of the
army, and had acquired the habit of drinking.

The effects of alcohol are various. On some they are seen in the
bloated flesh and reddened eyes. Others grow pale, and their skin takes
on a dead and ashen hue. With some the whole nervous system becomes
shattered; while with others organic derangements, gout, rheumatism and
kindred evils attend the assimilation of this poison.

Quite as varied are the moral and mental effects of alcoholic
disturbance. Some are mild and weak inebriates, growing passive or
stupid in their cups. Others become excited, talkative and intrusive;
others good-natured and merry; not a few coarse, arbitrary, brutal and
unfeeling; and some jealous, savage and fiend-like.

Of the last-named class was General Abercrombie. When sober, a kinder,
gentler or more considerate man toward his wife could hardly be found;
but when intoxicated, he was half a fiend, and seemed to take a
devilish delight in tormenting her. It had been no uncommon thing for
him to point a loaded pistol at her heart, and threaten to shoot her
dead if she moved or cried out; to hold a razor at his own throat, or
place the keen edge, close to hers; to open a window at midnight and
threaten to fling himself to the ground, or to drag her across the
floor, swearing that they should take the leap together.

For years the wretched wife had borne all this, and worse if possible,
hiding her dreadful secret as best she could, and doing all in her
power to hold her husband, for whom she retained a strong attachment,
away from temptation. Friends who only half suspected the truth
wondered that Time was so aggressive, taking the flash and merriment
out of her beautiful eyes, the color and fullness from her cheeks, the
smiles from her lips and the glossy, blackness from her hair.

"Mrs. Abercrombie is such a wreck," one would say on meeting her after
a few years. "I would hardly have known her; and she doesn't look at
all happy."

"I wonder if the general drinks as hard as ever?" would in all
probability be replied to this remark, followed by the response:

"I was not aware that he was a hard drinker. He doesn't look like it."

"No, you would not suspect so much; but I am sorry to say that he has
very little control over his appetite."

At which a stronger surprise would be expressed.

General Abercrombie was fifty years old, a large, handsome and
agreeable man, and a favorite with his brother officers, who deeply
regretted his weakness. As an officer his drinking habits rarely
interfered with his duty. Somehow the discipline of the army had gained
such a power over him as to hold him repressed and subordinate to its
influence. It was only when official restraints were off that the devil
had power to enter in and fully possess him.

A year before the time of which we are writing General Abercrombie had
been ordered to duty in the north-eastern department. His headquarters
were in the city where the characters we have introduced resided.
Official standing gave him access to some of the wealthiest and best
circles in the city, and his accomplished wife soon became a favorite
with all who were fortunate enough to come into close relations with
her. Among these was Mrs. Birtwell, the two ladies drawing toward each
other with the magnetism of kindred spirits.

A short time before coming to the city General Abercrombie, after
having in a fit of drunken insanity come near killing his wife, wholly
abandoned the use of intoxicants of every kind. He saw in this his only
hope. His efforts to drink guardedly and temperately had been
fruitless. The guard was off the moment a single glass of liquor passed
his lips, and, he came under the influence of an aroused appetite
against which resolution set itself feebly and in vain.

Up to the evening of this party at Mr. Birtwell's General Abercrombie
had kept himself free from wine, and people who knew nothing of his
history wondered at his abstemiousness. When invited to drink, he
declined in a way that left no room for the invitation to be repeated.
He never went to private entertainments except in company with his
wife, and then he rarely took any other lady to the supper-room.

The new hope born in the sad heart of Mrs. Abercrombie had grown
stronger as the weeks and months went by. Never for so long a time had
the general stood firm. It looked as, if he had indeed gained the
mastery over an appetite which at one time seemed wholly to have
enslaved him.

With a lighter heart than usual on such occasions, Mrs. Abercrombie
made ready for the grand entertainment, paying more than ordinary
attention to her toilette. Something of her old social and personal
pride came back into life, giving her face and bearing the dignity and
prestige worn in happier days. As she entered the drawing-room at Mr.
and Mrs. Birtwell's, leaning on her husband's arm, a ripple of
admiration was seen on many faces, and the question, "Who is she?" was
heard on many lips. Mrs. Abercrombie was a centre of attraction that
evening, and no husband could have been prouder of such a distinction
for his wife than was the general. He, too, found himself an object of
interest and attention. Mr. Birtwell was a man who made the most of his
guests, and being a genuine _parvenu_, did not fail through any
refinement of good breeding in advertising to each other the merits or
achievements of those he favored with introductions. If he presented a
man of letters to an eminent banker, he informed each in a word or two
of the other's distinguished merits. An officer would be complimented
on his rank or public service, a scientist on his last book or essay, a
leading politician on his statesmanship. At Mr. Birtwell's you always
found yourself among men with more in them than you had suspected, and
felt half ashamed of your ignorance in regard to their great
achievements.

General Abercrombie, like many others that evening, felt unusually well
satisfied with himself. Mr. Birtwell complimented him whenever they
happened to meet, sometimes on his public services and sometimes on the
"sensation" that elegant woman Mrs. Abercrombie was making. He grew in
his own estimation under the flattering attentions of his host, and
felt a manlier pride swelling in his heart than he had for some time
known. His bearing became more self-poised, his innate sense of
strength more apparent. Here was a man among men.

This was the general's state of mind when, after an hour, or two of
social intercourse, he entered the large supper-room, whither he
escorted a lady. He had not seen his wife for half an hour. If she had
been, as usual on such occasions, by his side, he would have been on
guard. But the lady who leaned on his arm was not his good angel. She
was a gay, fashionable woman, and as fond of good eating and drinking
as any male epicure there. The general was polite and attentive, and as
prompt as any younger gallant in the work of supplying his fair
companion with the good things she was so ready to appropriate.

"Will you have a glass of champagne?"

Of course she would. Her eyebrows arched a little in surprise at the
question. The general filled a glass and placed it in her hand. Did she
raise it to her lips? No; she held it a little extended, looking at him
with an expression which said, "I will wait for you."

For an instant General Abercrombie felt as if he were sinking through
space. Darkness and fear were upon him. But there was no time for
indecision. The lady stood holding her glass and looking at him
fixedly. An instant and the struggle was over. He turned to the table
and filled another glass. A smile and a bow, and then, a draught that
sent the blood leaping along his veins with a hot and startled impulse.

Mrs. Abercrombie, who had entered the room a little while before, and
was some distance from the place where her husband stood, felt at the
moment a sudden chill and weight fall upon her heart. A gentleman who
was talking to her saw her face grow pale and a look that seemed like
terror come into he eyes.

"Are you ill, Mrs. Abercrombie?" he asked, in some alarm.

"No," she replied. "Only a slight feeling of faintness. It is gone
now;" and she tried to recover herself.

"Shall I take you from the room?" asked the gentleman, seeing that the
color did not come back to her face.

"Oh no, thank you."

"Let me give you a glass of wine."

But she waved her hand with a quick motion, saying, "Not wine; but a
little ice water."

She drank, but the water did not take the whiteness from her lips nor
restore the color to her cheeks. The look of dread or fear kept in her
eyes, and her companion saw her glance up and down the room in a
furtive way as if in anxious search for some one.

In a few moments Mrs. Abercrombie was able to rise in some small degree
above the strange impression which had fallen upon her like the shadow
of some passing evil; but the rarely flavored dishes, the choice
fruits, confections and ices with which she was supplied scarcely
passed her lips. She only pretended to eat. Her ease of manner and fine
freedom of conversation were gone, and the gentleman who had been
fascinated by her wit, intelligence and frank womanly bearing now felt
an almost repellant coldness.

"You cannot feel well, Mrs. Abercrombie," he said. "The air is close
and hot. Let me take you back to the parlors."

She did not reply, nor indeed seem to hear him. Her eyes had become
suddenly arrested by some object a little way off, and were fixed upon
it in a frightened stare. The gentleman turned and saw only her husband
in lively conversation with a lady. He had a glass of wine in his hand,
and was just raising it to his lips.

"Jealous!" was the thought that flashed through his mind. The position
was embarrassing. What could he say? In the next moment intervening
forms hid those of General Abercrombie and his fair companion. Still as
a statue, with eyes that seemed staring into vacancy, Mrs. Abercrombie
remained for some moments, then she drew her hand within the
gentleman's arm and said in a low voice that was little more than a
hoarse whisper:

"Thank you; yes, I will go back to the parlors."

They retired from the room without attracting notice.

"Can I do anything for you?" asked the gentleman as he seated her on a
sofa in one of the bay-windows where she was partially concealed from
observation.

"No, thank you," she answered, with regaining self-control. She then
insisted on being left alone, and with a decision of manner that gave
her attendant no alternative but compliance.

The gentleman immediately returned to the supper-room. As he joined the
company there he met a friend to whom he said in a half-confidential
way: "Do you know anything about General Abercrombie's relations with
his wife?

"What do you mean?" inquired the friend, with evident surprise.

"I saw something just now that looks very suspicious."

"What?"

"I came here with Mrs. Abercrombie a little while ago, and was engaged
in helping her, when I saw her face grow deadly pale. Following her
eyes, I observed them fixed on the general, who was chatting gayly and
taking wine with a lady."

"What! taking wine did you say?"

The gentleman was almost as much surprised at the altered manner of his
friend as he had been with that of Mrs. Abercrombie:

"Yes; anything strange in that?"

"Less strange than sad," was replied. "I don't wonder you saw the color
go out of Mrs. Abercrombie's face."

"Why so? What does it mean?"

"It means sorrow and heartbreak."

"You surprise and pain me. I thought of the lady by his side, not of
the glass of wine in his hand."

The two men left the crowded supper-room in order to be more alone.

"You know something of the general's life and habits?"

"Yes."

"He has not been intemperate, I hope?"

"Yes."

"Oh, I am pained to hear you say so."

"Drink is his besetting sin, the vice that has more than once come near
leading to his dismissal from the army. He is one of the men who cannot
use wine or spirits in moderation. In consequence of some diseased
action of the nutritive organs brought on by drink, he has lost the
power of self-control when under the influence of alcoholic
stimulation. He is a dypso-maniac. A glass of wine or brandy to him is
like the match to a train of powder. I don't wonder, knowing what I do
about General Abercrombie, that his wife grew deadly pale to-night when
she saw him raise a glass to his lips."

"Has he been abstaining for any length of time?"

"Yes; for many months he has kept himself free. I am intimate with an
officer who told me all about him. When not under the influence of
drink, the general is one of the kindest-hearted men in the world. To
his wife he is tender and indulgent almost to a fault, if that were
possible. But liquor seems to put the devil into him. Drink drowns his
better nature and changes him into a half-insane fiend. I am told that
he came near killing his wife more than once in a drunken phrensy."

"You pain me beyond measure. Poor lady! I don't wonder that the life
went out of her so suddenly, nor at the terror I saw in her face. Can
nothing be done? Has he no friends here who will draw him out of the
supper-room and get him away before he loses control of himself?"

"It is too late. If he has begun to drink, it is all over. You might as
well try to draw off a wolf who has tasted blood."

"Does he become violent? Are we going to have a drunken scene?"

"Oh no; we need apprehend nothing of that kind. I never heard of his
committing any public folly. The devil that enters into him is not a
rioting, boisterous fiend, but quiet, malignant, suspicious and cruel."

"Suspicious? Of what?"

"Of everybody and everything. His brother officers are in league
against him; his wife is regarded with jealousy; your frankest speech
covers in his view some hidden and sinister meaning. You must be
careful of your attentions to Mrs. Abercrombie to-night, for he will
construe them adversely, and pour out his wrath on her defenceless head
when they are alone."

"This is frightful," was answered. "I never heard of such a case."

"Never heard of a drunken man assaulting his wife when alone with her,
beating, maiming or murdering her?"

"Oh yes, among the lowest and vilest. But we are speaking now of people
in good society--people of culture and refinement."

"Culture and social refinements have no influence over a man when the
fever of intoxication is upon him. He is for the time an insane man,
and subject to the influx and control of malignant influences. Hell
rules him instead of heaven."

"It is awful to think of. It makes me shudder."

"We know little of what goes on at home after an entertainment like
this," said the other. "It all looks so glad and brilliant. Smiles,
laughter, gayety, enjoyment, meet you at every turn. Each one is at his
or her best. It is a festival of delight. But you cannot at this day
give wine and brandy without stint to one or two or three hundred men
and women of all ages, habits, temperaments and hereditary moral and
physical conditions without the production of many evil consequences.
It matters little what the social condition may be; the hurt of drink
is the same. The sphere of respectability may and does guard many.
Culture and pride of position hold others free from undue sensual
indulgence. But with the larger number the enticements of appetite are
as strong and enslaving in one grade of society as in another, and the
disturbance of normal conditions as great. And so you see that the wife
of an intoxicated army officer or lawyer or banker may be in as much
danger from his drunken and insane fury, when alone with him and
unprotected, as the wife of a street-sweeper or hod-carrier."

"I have never thought of it in that way."

"No, perhaps not. Cases of wife-beating and personal injuries, of
savage and frightful assaults, of terrors and sufferings endured among
the refined and educated, rarely if ever come to public notice. Family
pride, personal delicacy and many other considerations seal the lips in
silence. But there are few social circles in which it is not known that
some of its members are sad sufferers because of a husband's or a
father's intemperance, and there are many, many families, alas! which
have always in their homes the shadow of a sorrow that embitters
everything. They hide it as best they can, and few know or dream of
what they endure."

Dr. Angier joined the two men at this moment, and heard the last
remark. The speaker added, addressing him:

"Your professional experience will corroborate this, Dr. Angier."

"Corroborate what?" he asked, with a slight appearance of evasion in
his manner.

"We were speaking of the effects of intemperance on the more cultivated
and refined classes, and I said that it mattered little as to the
social condition; the hurt of drink was the same and the disturbance of
normal conditions as great in one class of society as in another, that
a confirmed inebriate, when under the influence of intoxicants, lost
all idea of respectability or moral responsibility, and would act out
his insane passion, whether he were a lawyer, an army officer or a
hod-carrier. In other words, that social position gave the wife of an
inebriate no immunity from personal violence when alone with her
drunken husband."

Dr. Angier did not reply, but his face became thoughtful.

"Have you given much attention to the pathology of drunkenness?" asked
one of the gentlemen.

"Some; not a great deal. The subject is one of the most perplexing and
difficult we have to deal with."

"You class intemperance with diseases, do you not?"

"Yes; certain forms of it. It may be hereditary or acquired like any
other disease. One man may have a pulmonary, another a bilious and
another a dypso-maniac diathesis, and an exposure to exciting causes in
one case is as fatal to health as in the other. If there exist a
predisposition to consumption, the disease will be developed under
peculiar morbific influences which would have no deleterious effect
upon a subject not so predisposed. The same law operates as unerringly
in the inherited predisposition to intemperance. Let the man with a
dypso-maniac diathesis indulge in the use of intoxicating liquors, and
he will surely become a drunkard. There is no more immunity for him
than for the man who with tubercles in his lungs exposes himself to
cold, bad air and enervating bodily conditions."

"A more serious view of the case, doctor, than is usually taken."

"I know, but a moment's consideration--to say nothing of observed
facts--will satisfy any reasonable man of its truth."

"What do you mean by dypso-mania as a medical term?"

"The word," replied Dr. Angier, "means crazy for drink, and is used in
the profession to designate that condition of alcoholic disease in
which the subject when under its influence has no power of
self-control. It is characterized by an inordinate and irresistible
desire for alcoholic liquors, varying in intensity from a slight
departure from a normal appetite to the most depraved and entire
abandonment to its influence. When this disease becomes developed, its
action upon the brain is to deteriorate its quality and impair its
functions. All the faculties become more or less weakened. Reason,
judgment, perception, memory and understanding lose their vigor and
capacity. The will becomes powerless before the strong propensity to
drink. The moral sentiments and affections likewise become involved in
the general impairment. Conscience, the feeling of accountability, the
sense of right and wrong, all become deadened, while the passions are
aroused and excited."

"What an awful disease!" exclaimed one of the listeners.

"You may well call it an awful disease," returned the doctor, who,
under the influence of a few glasses of wine, was more inclined to talk
than usual. "It has been named the mother of diseases. Its death-roll
far outnumbers that of any other. When it has fairly seized upon a man,
no influence seems able to hold him back from the indulgence of his
passion for drink. To gratify this desire he will disregard every
consideration affecting his standing in society, his pecuniary
interests and his domestic relations, while the most frightful
instances of the results of drinking have no power to restrain him. A
hundred deaths from this cause, occurring under the most painful and
revolting circumstances, fail to impress him with a sense of his own
danger. His understanding will be clear as to the cases before him, and
he will even condemn the self-destructive acts which he sees in others,
but will pass, as it were, over the very bodies of these victims,
without a thought of warning or a sense of fear, in order to gratify
his own ungovernable propensity. Such is the power of this terrible
malady."

"Has the profession found a remedy?"

"No; the profession is almost wholly at fault in its treatment. There
are specialists connected with insane and reformatory institutions who
have given much attention to the subject, but as yet we have no
recorded line of treatment that guarantees a cure."

"Except," said one of his listeners, "the remedy of entire abstinence
from drinks in which alcohol is present."

The doctor gave a shrug:

"You do not cure a thirsty man by withholding water."

His mind was a little clouded by the wine he had taken.

"The thirsty man's desire for water is healthy; and if you withhold it,
you create a disease that will destroy him," was answered. "Not so the
craving for alcohol. With every new supply the craving is increased,
and the man becomes more and more helpless in the folds of an enslaving
appetite. Is it not true, doctor, that with few exceptions all who have
engaged in treating inebriates agree that only in entire abstinence is
cure possible?"

"Well, yes; you are probably right there," Dr. Angler returned, with
some professional reserve. "In the most cases isolation and abstinence
are no doubt the only remedies, or, to speak more correctly, the only
palliatives. As for cure, I am one of the skeptics. If you have the
diathesis, you have the danger of exposure always, as in consumption."

"An occasion like this," remarked the other, "is to one with a
dypso-maniac diathesis like a draft of cold, damp air on the exposed
chest of a delicate girl who has the seeds of consumption in her lungs.
Is it not so, doctor?"

"Yes, yes."

"There are over three hundred persons here to-night."

"Not less."

"In so large a company, taking society as we have it to-day, is it
likely that we have none here with a hereditary or acquired love of
drink?"

"Scarcely possible," replied Dr. Angier.

"How large do you think the percentage?"

"I have no means of knowing; but if we are to judge by the large army
of drunkards in the land, it must be fearfully great."

"Then we cannot invite to our houses fifty or a hundred guests, and
give them as much wine and spirits as they care to drink, without
seriously hurting some of them. I say nothing of the effect upon
unvitiated tastes; I refer only to those with diseased appetites who
made happen to be present."

"It will be bad for them, certainly. Such people should stay at home."

And saying this, Dr. Angier turned from the two gentlemen to speak with
a professional friend who came toward him at the moment.



CHAPTER XII.


"THE doctor likes his glass of wine," remarked one of the gentlemen as
Dr. Angier left them.

"Is that so?"

"Didn't you observe his heightened color and the gleam in his eyes?"

"I noticed something unusual in his manner, but did not think it the
effect of wine."

"He is a reticent man, with considerable of what may be called
professional dignity, and doesn't often let himself down to laymen as
he did just now."

"There wasn't much letting down, that I could see."

"Perhaps not; but professional pride is reserved and sensitive in some
persons. It hasn't much respect for the opinions of non-experts, and is
chary of discussion with laymen. Dr. Angier is weak, or peculiar if you
please, in this direction. I saw that he was annoyed at your reply to
his remark that you do not cure a thirsty man by withholding water. It
was a little thing, but it showed his animus. The argument was against
him, and it hurt his pride. As I said, he likes his glass of wine, and
if he does not take care will come to like it too well. A doctor has no
more immunity from dypso-mania than his patient. The former may inherit
or acquire the disease as well as the latter."

"How does the doctor know that he has not from some ancestor this fatal
diathesis? Children rarely if ever betray to their children a knowledge
of the vices or crimes of their parents. The death by consumption,
cancer or fever is a part of oral family history, but not so the death
from intemperance. Over that is drawn a veil of silence and secresy,
and the children and grandchildren rarely if ever know anything about
it. There may be in their blood the taint of a disease far more
terrible than cancer or consumption, and none to give them warning of
the conditions under which its development is certain."

"Is it not strange," was replied, "that, knowing as Dr. Angier
certainly does, from what he said just now, that in all classes of
society there is a large number who have in their physical
constitutions the seeds of this dreadful disease--that, as I have said,
knowing this, he should so frequently prescribe wine and whisky to his
patients?"

"It is a little surprising. I have noticed, now that you speak of it,
his habit in this respect."

"He might as well, on his own theory, prescribe thin clothing and damp
air to one whose father or mother had died of consumption as alcoholic
stimulants to one, who has the taint of dypso-mania in his blood. In
one case as in the other the disease will almost surely be developed.
This is common sense, and something that can be understood by all men."

"And yet, strange to say, the very men who have in charge the public
health, the very men whose business it is to study the relations
between cause and effect in diseases, are the men who in far too many
instances are making the worst possible prescriptions for patients in
whom even the slightest tendency to inebriety may exist hereditarily.
We have, to speak plainly, too many whisky doctors, and the harm they
are doing is beyond calculation. A physician takes upon himself a great
responsibility when, without any knowledge of the antecedents of a
patient or the stock from which he may have come, he prescribes whisky
or wine or brandy as a stimulant. I believe thousands of drunkards have
been made by these unwise prescriptions, against which I am glad to
know some of the most eminent men in the profession, both in this
country and Europe, have entered a solemn protest."

"There is one thing in connection with the disease of intemperance,"
replied the other, "that is very remarkable. It is the only one from
which society does not protect itself by quarantine and sanitary
restrictions. In cholera, yellow fever and small-pox every effort is
made to guard healthy districts from their invasion, and the man who
for gain or any other consideration should be detected in the work of
introducing infecting agents would be execrated and punished. But
society has another way of dealing with the men who are engaged in
spreading the disease of intemperance among the people. It enacts laws
for their protection, and gives them the largest liberty to get gain in
their work of disseminating disease and death, and, what is still more
remarkable, actually sells for money the right to do this."

"You put the case sharply."

"Too sharply?"

"Perhaps not. No good ever comes of calling evil things by dainty names
or veiling hard truth under mild and conservative phrases. In granting
men a license to dispense alcohol in every variety of enticing forms
and in a community where a large percentage of the people have a
predisposition to intemperance, consequent as well on hereditary taint
as unhealthy social conditions, society commits itself to a disastrous
error the fruit of which is bitterer to the taste than the ashen core
of Dead Sea apples."

"What about Dead Sea apples?" asked Mr. Elliott, who came up at the
moment and heard the last remark. The two gentlemen were pew-holders in
his church. Mr. Elliott's countenance was radiant. All his fine social
feelings were active, and he was enjoying a "flow of soul," if not "a
feast of reason." Wine was making glad his heart--not excess of wine,
in the ordinary sense, for Mr. Elliott had no morbid desire for
stimulants. He was of the number who could take a social glass and not
feel a craving for more. He believed in wine as a good thing, only
condemning its abuse.

"What were you saying about Dead Sea apples?" Mr. Elliott repeated his
question.

"We were speaking of intemperance," replied one of the gentlemen.

"O--h!" in a prolonged and slightly indifferent tone. Mr. Elliott's
countenance lost some of its radiance. "And what were you saying about
it?"

Common politeness required as much as this, even though the subject was
felt to be out of place.

"We were talking with Dr. Angier just now about hereditary drunkenness,
or rather the inherited predisposition to that vice--disease, as the
doctor calls it. This predisposition he says exists in a large number
of persons, and is as well defined pathologically, and as certain to
become active, under favoring causes, as any other disease. Alcoholic
stimulants are its exciting causes. Let, said the doctor, a man so
predisposed indulge in the use of intoxicating liquors, and he will
surely become a drunkard. There is no more immunity for him, he added,
than for the man who with tubercles in his lungs exposes himself to
cold, bad air and enervating bodily conditions. Now, is not this a very
serious view to take of the matter?"

"Certainly it is," replied Mr. Elliott. "Intemperance is a sad thing,
and a most fearful curse."

He did not look comfortable. It was to him an untimely intrusion of an
unpleasant theme. "But what in the world set the doctor off on this
subject?" he asked, trying to make a diversion.

"Occasions are apt to suggest subjects for conversation," answered the
gentleman. "One cannot be present at a large social entertainment like
this without seeing some things that awaken doubts and questionings. If
it be true, as Dr. Angier says, that the disease of intemperance is as
surely transmitted, potentially, as the disease of consumption, and
will become active under favoring circumstances, then a drinking
festival cannot be given without fearful risk to some of the invited
guests."

"There is always danger of exciting disease where a predisposition
exists," replied Mr. Elliott. "A man can hardly be expected to make
himself acquainted with the pathology of his guests before inviting
them to a feast. If that is to be the rule, the delicate young lady
with the seeds of consumption in her system must be left at home for
fear she may come with bare arms and a low-necked dress, and expose
herself after being heated with dancing to the draught of an open
window. The bilious and dyspeptic must be omitted also, lest by
imprudent eating and drinking they make themselves sick. We cannot
regulate these things. The best we can do is to warn and admonish.
Every individual is responsible for his own moral character, habits and
life. Because some may become the slaves of appetite, shall restraint
and limitation be placed on those who make no abuse of liberty? We must
teach men self-control and self-mastery, if we would truly help and
save them. There is some exaggeration, in my opinion, about this
disease-theory of intemperance. The deductions of one-idea men are not
always to be trusted. They are apt to draw large conclusions from small
facts. Man is born a free agent, and all men have power, if they will,
to hold their appetites in check. This truth should be strongly
impressed upon every one. Your disease-theory takes away moral
responsibility. It assumes that a man is no more accountable for
getting drunk than for getting the consumption. His diathesis excuses
him as much in one case as in the other. Now, I don't believe a word of
this. I do not class appetites, however inordinate, with physical
diseases over which the will has no control. A man must control his
appetite. Reason and conscience require this, and God gives to every
one the mastery of himself if he will but use his high prerogative."

Mr. Elliott spoke a little loftily, and in a voice that expressed a
settlement of the argument. But one at least of his listeners was
feeling too strongly on the subject to let the argument close.

"What," he asked, "if a young man who did not, because he could not,
know that he had dypso-mania in his blood were enticed to drink often
at parties where wine is freely dispensed? Would he not be taken, so to
speak, unawares? Would he be any more responsible for acts that
quickened into life an over-mastering appetite than the young girl who,
not knowing that she had in her lungs the seeds of a fatal disease,
should expose herself to atmospheric changes that were regarded by her
companions as harmless, but which, to her were fraught with peril?"

"In both cases," replied Mr. Elliott, "the responsibility to care for
the health would come the moment it was found to be in danger."

"The discovery of danger may come, alas! too late for responsible
action. We know that it does in most cases with the consumptive, and
quite as often, I fear, with the dypso-maniac."

As the gentleman was closing the last sentence he observed a change
pass over the face of Mr. Elliott, who was looking across the room.
Following the direction of his eyes, he saw General Abercrombie in the
act of offering his arm to Mrs. Abercrombie. It was evident, from the
expression of his countenance and that of the countenances of all who
were near him that something had gone wrong. The general's face was
angry and excited. His eyes had a fierce restlessness in them, and
glanced from his wife to a gentleman who stood confronting him and then
back to her in a strange and menacing way.

Mrs. Abercrombie's face was deadly pale. She said a few words hurriedly
to her husband, and then drew him from the parlor.

"What's the matter?" asked Mr. Elliott, crossing over and speaking to
the gentleman against whom the anger of General Abercrombie had seemed
to be directed.

"Heaven knows," was answered, "unless he's jealous of his wife."

"Very strange conduct," said one.

"Been drinking too much," remarked another.

"What did he do?" inquired a third.

"Didn't you see it? Mr. Ertsen was promenading with Mrs. Abercrombie,
when the general swept down upon them as fierce as a lion and took the
lady from his arm."

This was exaggeration. The thing was done more quietly, but still with
enough of anger and menace to create something more than a ripple on
the surface.

A little while afterward the general and Mrs. Abercrombie were seen
coming down stairs and going along the hall. His face was rigid and
stern. He looked neither to the right nor the left, but with eyes set
forward made his way toward the street door. Those who got a glimpse of
Mrs. Abercrombie as she glided past saw a face that haunted them a long
time afterward.



CHAPTER XIII.


AS General and Mrs. Abercrombie reached the vestibule, and the door
shut behind them, the latter, seeing, that her husband was going out
into the storm, which was now at its height, drew back, asking at the
same time if their carriage had been called.

The only answer made by General Abercrombie was a fiercely-uttered
imprecation. Seizing at the same time the arm she had dropped from his,
he drew her out of the vestibule and down the snow-covered step with a
sudden violence that threw her to the ground. As he dragged her up he
cursed her again in a cruel undertone, and then, grasping her arm,
moved off in the very teeth of the blinding tempest, going so swiftly
that she could not keep pace with him. Before they had gone a dozen
steps she fell again.

Struggling to her feet, helped up by the strong grasp of the madman
whose hand was upon her arm, Mrs. Abercrombie tried to rally her
bewildered thoughts. She knew that her life was in danger, but she knew
also that much, if not everything, depended on her own conduct. The
very extremity of her peril calmed her thoughts and gave them clearness
and decision. Plunging forward as soon as his wife could recover
herself again, General Abercrombie strode away with a speed that made
it almost impossible for her to move on without falling, especially as
the snow was lying deep and unbroken on the pavement, and her long
dress, which she had not taken time to loop up before starting, dragged
about her feet and impeded her steps. They had not gone half a block
before she fell again. A wild beast could hardly have growled more
savagely than did this insane man as he caught her up from the bed of
snow into which she had fallen and shook her with fierce passion. A
large, strong man, with an influx of demoniac, strength in every
muscle, his wife was little more than a child in his hands. He could
have crushed the life out of her at a single grip.

Not a word or sound came from Mrs. Abercrombie. The snow that covered
the earth was scarcely whiter than her rigid face. Her eyes, as the
light of a flickering gas-lamp shone into them, hardly reflected back
its gleam, so leaden was their despair.

He shook her fiercely, the tightening grasp on her arms bruising the
tender flesh, cursed her, and then, in a blind fury, cast her from him
almost into the middle of the street, where she lay motionless, half
buried in the snow. For some moments he stood looking at the prostrate
form of his wife, on which the snow sifted rapidly down, making the
dark garments white in so short a space of time that she seemed to fade
from his view. It was this, perhaps, that wrought a sudden change in
his feelings, for he sprang toward her, and taking her up in his arms,
called her name anxiously. She did not reply by word or sign, He
carried her back to the pavement and turned her face to the lamp; it
was white and still, the eyes closed, the mouth shut rigidly.

But Mrs. Abercrombie was not unconscious. Every sense was awake.

"Edith! Edith!" her husband cried. His tones, anxious at first, now
betrayed alarm. A carriage went by at the moment. He called to the
driver, but was unheard or unheeded. Up and down the street, the air of
which was so filled with snow that he could see only a short distance,
he looked in vain for the form of a policeman or citizen. He was alone
in the street at midnight, blocks away from his residence, a fierce
storm raging in the air, the cold intense, and his wife apparently
insensible in his arms. If anything could free his brain from its
illusions, cause enough was here. He shouted aloud for help, but there
came no answer on the wild careering winds. Another carriage went by,
moving in ghostly silence, but his call to the driver was unheeded, as
before.

Feeling the chill of the intensely cold air going deeper and deeper,
and conscious of the helplessness of their situation unless she used
the strength that yet remained, Mrs. Abercrombie showed symptoms of
returning life and power of action. Perceiving this, the general drew
an arm around her for support and made a motion to go on again, to
which she responded by moving forward, but with slow and not very
steady steps. Soon, however, she walked more firmly, and began pressing
on with a haste that ill accorded with the apparent condition out of
which she had come only a few moments before.

The insane are often singularly quick in perception, and General
Abercrombie was for the time being as much insane as any patient of an
asylum. It flashed into his mind that his wife had been deceiving him,
had been pretending a faint, when she was as strong of limb and clear
of intellect as when they left Mr. Birtwell's. At this thought the
half-expelled devil that had been controlling him leaped back into his
heart, filling it again with evil passions. But the wind was driving
the fine, sand-like, sharp-cutting snow into his face with such force
and volume as to half suffocate and bewilder him. Turning at this
moment a corner of the street that brought him into the clear sweep of
the storm, the wind struck him with a force that seemed given by a
human hand, and threw him staggering against his wife, both falling.

Struggling to his feet, General Abercrombie cursed his wife as he
jerked her from the ground with a sudden force that came near
dislocating her arm. She gave no word of remonstrance nor cry of pain
or fear, but did all in her power to keep up with her husband as he
drove on again with mad precipitation.

How they got home Mrs. Abercrombie hardly knew, but home they were at
last and in their own room, the door closed and locked and the key
withdrawn by her husband, out of whose manner all the wild passion had
gone. His movements were quiet and his voice when he spoke low, but his
wife knew by the gleam of his restless eyes that thought and purpose
were active.

Their room was in the third story of a large boarding-house in a
fashionable part of the city. The outlook was upon the street. The
house was double, a wide hall running through the centre. There were
four or five large rooms on this floor, all occupied. In the one
adjoining theirs were a lady and gentleman who had been at Mr. and Mrs.
Birtwell's party, and who drove up in a carriage just as the general
and Mrs. Abercrombie, white with snow, came to the door. They entered
together, the lady expressing surprise at their appearance, at which
the general growled some incoherent sentences and strode away from them
and up the stairs, Mrs. Abercrombie following close after him.

"There's something wrong, I'm afraid," said the gentleman, whose name
was Craig, as he and his wife gained their own room. "They went in a
carriage, I know. What can it mean?"

"I hope the general has not been drinking too much," remarked the wife.

"I'm afraid he has. He used to be very intemperate, I've heard, but
reformed a year or two ago, A man with any weakness in this direction
would be in danger at an entertainment such as Mr. and Mrs. Birtwell
gave to-night."

"I saw the general taking wine with a lady," said Mrs. Craig.

"If he took one glass, he would hardly set that as a limit. It were much
easier to abstain altogether; and we know that if a man over whom drink
has once gained the mastery ventures upon the smallest indulgence of
his appetite he is almost sure to give way and to fall again. It's a
strange thing, and sad as strange."

"Hark!"

Mr. Craig turned quickly toward the door which when opened made a
communication between their apartment and that of General and Mrs.
Abercrombie. It was shut, and fastened on both sides, so that it could
not be opened by the occupants, of either room.

A low but quickly-stifled cry had struck on the ears of Mr. and Mrs.
Craig. They looked at each other with questioning glances for several
moments, listening intently, but the cry was not repeated.

"I don't like that," said Mr. Craig. He spoke with concern.

"What can it mean?" asked his wife.

"Heaven knows!" he replied.

They sat silent and listening. A sharp click, which the ear of Mr.
Craig detected as the sound made by the cocking of a pistol, struck
upon the still air. He sprang to his feet and took a step or two toward
the door leading into the hall, but his wife caught his arm and clung
to it tightly.

"No, no! Wait! wait!" she cried, in a deep whisper, while her face
grew-ashen pale. For some moments they stood with repressed breathing,
every instant expecting to hear the loud report of a pistol. But the
deep silence remained unbroken for nearly a minute; then a dull
movement of feet was heard in the room, and the opening and shutting of
a drawer.

"No, general, you will not do that," they heard Mrs. Abercrombie say,
in a low, steady tone in which fear struggled with tenderness.

"Why will I not do it?" was sternly demanded.

They were standing near the door, so that their voices could be heard
distinctly in the next room.

"Because you love me too well," was the sweet, quiet answer. The voice
of Mrs. Abercrombie did not betray a single tremor.

All was hushed again. Then came another movement in the room, and the
sound of a closing drawer. Mr. and Mrs. Craig were beginning to breathe
more freely, when the noise as of some one springing suddenly upon
another was heard, followed by a struggle and a choking cry. It
continued so long that Mr. Craig ran out into the hall and knocked at
the door of General Abercrombie's room. As he did so the noise of
struggling ceased, and all grew still. The door was not opened to his
summons, and after waiting for a little while he went back to his own
room.

"This is dreadful," he said. "What can it mean? The general must be
insane from drink. Something will have to be done. He may be strangling
his poor wife at this very moment. I cannot bear it. I must break open
the door."

Mr. Craig started toward the hall, but his wife seized hold of him and
held him back.

"No, no, no!" she cried, in a low voice. "Let them alone. It may be her
only chance of safety. Hark!"

The silence in General Abercrombie's room was again broken. A man's
firm tread was on the floor and it could be heard passing clear across
the apartment, then returning and then going from side to side. At
length the sound of moving furniture was heard. It was as if a person
were lifting a heavy wardrobe or bureau, and getting it with some
difficulty from one part of the room to the other.

"What can he be doing?" questioned Mrs. Craig, with great alarm.

"He is going to barricade the door, most likely," replied her husband.

"Barricade the door? What for? Good heavens, Mr. Craig! He may have
killed his wife. She may be lying in there dead at this very moment.
Oh, it is fearful! Can nothing be done?"

"Nothing, that I know of, except to break into the room."

"Hadn't you better rouse some of the boarders, or call a waiter and
send for the police?"

The voice of Mrs. Abercrombie was heard at this moment. It was calm and
clear.

"Let me help you, general," she said.

The noise of moving furniture became instantly still. It seemed as if
the madman had turned in surprise from his work and stood confronting
his wife, but whether in wrath, or not it was impossible to conjecture.
They might hear her fall to the floor, stricken down by her husband, or
cry out in mortal agony at any moment. The suspense was dreadful.

"Do it! I am ready."

It was Mrs. Abercrombie speaking again, and in a calm, even voice. They
heard once more and with curdling blood, the sharp click of a
pistol-lock as the hammer was drawn back. They held their breaths in
horror and suspense, not moving lest even the slightest sound they made
should precipitate the impending tragedy.

"I have been a good and true wife to you always, and I shall remain so
even unto death."

The deep pathos of her quiet voice brought tears to the eyes of Mr. and
Mrs. Craig.

"If you are tired of me, I am ready to go. Look into my eyes. You see
that I am not afraid."

It was still as death again. The clear, tender eyes that looked so
steadily into those of General Abercrombie held him like a spell, and
made his fingers so nerveless that they could not respond to the
passion of the murderous fiend that possessed him. That was why the
scared listeners did not hear the deadly report of the pistol he was
holding within a few inches of his wife's head.

"Let me put it away. It isn't a nice thing to have in a lady's chamber.
You know I can't bear the sight of a pistol, and you love me too well
to give me the smallest pain or uneasiness. That's a dear, good
husband."

They could almost see Mrs. Abercrombie take the deadly weapon from the
general's hand. They heard her dress trailing across the room, and
heard her open and shut and then lock a drawer. For some time afterward
they could hear the low sound of voices, then all became silent again.

"Give me that pistol!" startled them not long afterward in a sudden
wild outbreak of frenzied passion.

"What do you want with it?" they heard Mrs. Abercrombie ask. There was
no sign of alarm in her tones.

"Give me that pistol, I say!" The general's voice was angry and
imperious. "How dared you take, it out of my hand!"

"Oh, I thought you wished it put away because the sight of a pistol is
unpleasant to me."

And they heard the dress trailing across the room again.

"Stop!" cried the general, in a commanding tone.

"Just as you please, general. You can have the pistol, if you want it,"
answered Mrs. Abercrombie, without the smallest tremor in her voice.
"Shall I get it for you?"

"No!" He flung the word out angrily, giving it emphasis by an
imprecation. Then followed a growl as if from an ill-natured beast, and
they could hear his heavy tread across the floor.

"Oh, general!" came suddenly from the lips of Mrs. Abercrombie, in a
surprised, frightened tone. Then followed the sound of a repressed
struggle, of an effort to get free without making a noise or outcry,
which continued for a considerable time, accompanied by a low muttering
and panting as of a man in some desperate effort.

Mr. and Mrs. Craig stood with pale faces, irresolute and powerless to
help, whatever might be the extremity of their neighbor. To attempt a
forcible entry into the room was a doubtful expedient, and might be
attended with instant fatal consequences. The muttering and panting
ceased at length, and so did all signs of struggling and resistance.
The madman had wrought his will, whatever that might be. Breathlessly
they listened, but not a sound broke the deep silence. Minutes passed,
but the stillness reigned.

"He may have killed her," whispered Mrs. Craig, with white lips. Her
husband pressed his ear closely to the door.

"Do you hear anything?"

"Yes."

"What?"

They spoke in a low whisper.

"Put your ear against the door."

Mrs. Craig did so, and after a moment or two could hear a faint
movement, as of something being pulled across the carpet. The sound was
intermittent, now being very distinct and now ceasing altogether. The
direction of the movement was toward that part of the room occupied by
the bed. The listeners' strained sense of hearing was so acute that it
was able to interpret the meaning of each varying sound. A body had
been slowly dragged across the floor, and now, hushed and almost
noiselessly as the work went on, they knew that the body was being
lifted from the floor and placed upon the bed. For a little while all
was quiet, but the movements soon began again, and were confined to the
bed. Something was being done with the dead or unconscious body. What,
it was impossible to make out or even guess. Mrs. Abercrombie might be
lifeless, in a swoon or only feigning unconsciousness.

"It won't do to let this go on any longer," said Mr. Craig as he came
back from the door at which he had been listening. "I must call some of
the boarders and have a consultation."

He was turning to go out, when a sound as of a falling chair came from
General Abercrombie's room, and caused him to stop and turn back, This
was followed by the quick tread of heavy feet going up and down the
chamber floor, and continuing without intermission for as much as five
minutes. It stopped as suddenly as it had begun, and all was silent
again. They knew that the general was standing close by the bed.

"My God!" in a tone full, of anguish and fear dropped from his lips.
"Edith! Edith! oh, Edith!" he called in a low wail of distress. "Speak
to me, Edith! Why don't you speak to me?"

They listened, but heard no answer. General Abercrombie called the name
of his wife over and over again, and in terms of endearment, but for
all Mr. and Mrs. Craig could tell she gave back no sign.

"O my God! what have I done?" they heard him say, the words followed by
a deep groan.

"It is my time now;" and Mr. Craig ran out into the hall as he said
this and knocked at the general's door. But no answer came. He knocked
again, and louder than at first. After waiting for a short time he
heard the key turn in the lock. The door was opened a few inches, and
he saw through the aperture the haggard and almost ghastly face of
General Abercrombie. His eyes were wild and distended.

"What do you want?" he demanded, impatiently.

"Is Mrs. Abercrombie sick? Can we do anything for you, general?" said
Mr. Craig, uttering the sentences that came first to his tongue.

"No!" in angry rejection of the offered service. The door shut with a
jar, and the key turned in the lock. Mr. Craig stood for a moment
irresolute, and then went back to his wife. Nothing more was heard in
the adjoining room. Though they listened for a long time, no voice nor
sound of any kind came to their ears. The general had, to all
appearance, thrown himself upon the bed and fallen asleep.

It was late on the next morning when Mr. and Mrs. Craig awoke. Their
first thought was of their neighbors, General and Mrs. Abercrombie. The
profoundest silence reigned in their apartments--a silence death-like
and ominous.

"If he has murdered her!" said Mrs. Craig, shivering at the thought as
she spoke.

"I hope not, but I shouldn't like to be the first one who goes into
that room," replied her husband. Then, after a moment's reflection, he
said:

"If anything has gone wrong in there, we must be on our guard and make
no admissions. It won't do for us to let it be known that we heard the
dreadful things going on there that we did, and yet gave no alarm. I'm
not satisfied with myself, and can hardly expect others to excuse where
I condemn."



CHAPTER XIV.


WHEN Mr. and Mrs. Craig entered the breakfast-room, they saw, to their
surprise, General Abercrombie and his wife sitting in their usual
places. They bowed to each other, as was their custom on meeting at the
table.

The face of Mrs. Abercrombie was pale and her features pinched. She had
the appearance of one who had been ill and was just recovering, or of
one who had endured exhausting pain of mind or body. She arose from the
table soon after Mr. and, Mrs. Craig made their appearance, and retired
with her husband from the room.

"The general is all out of sorts this morning," remarked a lady as soon
as they were gone.

"And so is Mrs. Abercrombie," said another. "Dissipation does not agree
with them. They were at the grand party given last night by Mr. and
Mrs. Birtwell. You were among the guests, Mrs. Craig?"

The lady addressed bowed her affirmative.

"A perfect jam, I suppose?"

"Yes."

"Who were there? But I needn't ask. All the world and his wife, of
course, little bugs and big bugs. How was the entertainment?"

"Splendid! I never saw such a profusion of everything."

"Fools make feasts for wise men to eat," snapped out the sharp voice of
a lady whose vinegar face gave little promise of enjoyment of any kind.
"Nobody thinks any more of them for it. Better have given the money to
some charity. There's want and suffering enough about, Heaven knows."

"I don't imagine that the charity fund has suffered anything in
consequence of Mr. Birtwell's costly entertainment," replied Mr. Craig.
"If the money spent for last night's feast had not gone to the
wine-merchant and the caterer, it would have remained as it was."

The lady with the vinegar face said something about the Dives who have
their good things here, adding, with a zest in her voice, that "Riches,
thank God! can't be taken over to the other side, and your nabobs will
be no better off after they die than the commonest beggars."

"That will depend on something more than the money-aspect of the case,"
said Mr. Craig. "And as to the cost of giving a feast, what would be
extravagance in one might only be a liberal hospitality in another.
Cake and ice cream for my friends might be as lavish an expenditure for
me as Mr. Birtwell's banquet last night was for him, and as likely to
set me among the beggars when I get over to the other side."

"Then you don't believe that God holds rich men to a strict account for
the manner in which they spend the money he has placed in their hands?
Are they not his almoners?"

"No more than poor men, and not to be held to any stricter
accountability," was replied. "Mr. Birtwell does not sin against the
poor when he lavishes his hundreds, or it may be thousands, of dollars
in the preparation of a feast for his friends any more than you do when
you buy a box of French candies to eat alone in your room or share with
your visitors, maybe not so much."

There was a laugh at the expense of the vinegar-faced lady, who did not
fail in a sharp retort which was more acid than convincing. The
conversation then went back to General Abercrombie and his wife.

"Didn't she look dreadful?" remarked one of the company.

"And her manner toward the general was so singular."

"In what respect?" asked Mrs. Craig.

"She looked at him so strangely, so anxious and scared-like. I never
knew him to be so silent. He's social and talkative, you know--such
good company. But he hadn't a word to say this morning. Something has
gone wrong between him and his wife. I wonder what it can be?"

But Mr. and Mrs. Craig, who were not of the gossiping kind, were
disposed to keep their own counsel.

"I thought I heard some unusual noises in their room last night after
they came home from the party," said a lady whose chamber was opposite
theirs across the hall. "They seemed to be moving furniture about, and
twice I thought I heard a scream. But then the storm was so high that
one might easily have mistaken a wail of the wind for a cry of
distress."

"A cry of distress! You didn't imagine that the general was maltreating
his wife?"

"I intimated nothing of the kind," returned the lady.

"But what made you think about a cry of distress?"

"I merely said that I thought I heard a scream; and if you had been
awake from twelve to one or two o'clock this morning, you would have
thought the air full of wailing voices. The storm chafed about the roof
and chimneys in a dreadful way. I never knew a wilder night."

"You saw the general at the party?" said one, addressing Mr. Craig.

"Yes, a few times. But there was a crowd in all the rooms, and the same
people were not often thrown together."

"Nothing unusual about him? Hadn't been drinking too much?"

"Not when I observed him. But--" Mr. Craig hesitated a moment, and then
went on: "But there's one thing has a strange look. They went in a
carriage, I know, but walked home in all that dreadful storm."

"Walked home!" Several pairs of eyes and hands were upraised.

"Yes; they came to the door, white with snow, just as we got home."

"How strange! What could it have meant?"

"It meant," said one, "that their carriage disappointed them--nothing
else, of course."

"That will hardly explain it. Such disappointments rarely, if ever,
occur," was replied to this.

"Did you say anything to them, Mr. Craig?"

"My wife did, but received only a gruff response from the general. Mrs.
Abercrombie made no reply, but, went hastily after her husband. There
was something unusual in the manner of both."

While this conversation was going on General Abercrombie and his wife
stood in the hall, she trying, but in vain, to persuade him not to go
out. He said but little, answering her kindly, but with a marked
decision of manner. Mrs. Abercrombie went up slowly to their room after
he left her, walking as one who carried a heavy load. She looked ten
years older than on the day previous.

No one saw her during the morning. At dinner-time their places were
vacant at the table.

"Where are the general and his wife?" was asked as time passed and they
did not make their appearance.

No one had seen either of them since breakfast.

Mrs. Craig knew that Mrs. Abercrombie had not been out of her room all
the morning, but she did not feel inclined to take part in the
conversation, and so said nothing.

"I saw the general going into the Clarendon about two o'clock," said a
gentleman. "He's dining with some friend, most probably."

"I hear," remarked another, "that he acted rather strangely at Mr.
Birtwell's last night."

Every ear pricked up at this.

"How?" "In what way?" "Tell us about it," came in quick response to the
speaker's words.

"I didn't get anything like a clear story. But there was some trouble
about his wife."

"About his wife?" Faces looked eagerly down and across the table.

"What about his wife?" came from half a dozen lips.

"He thought some one too intimate with her, I believe. A brother
officer, if I am not mistaken. Some old flame, perhaps. But I couldn't
learn any of the particulars."

"Ah! That accounts for their singular conduct this morning. Was there
much of a row?" This came from a thin-visaged young man with
eye-glasses and a sparse, whitish moustache.

"I didn't say anything about a row," was the rather sharp reply. "I
only said that I heard that the general had acted strangely, and that
there had been some trouble about his wife."

"What was the trouble?" asked two or three anxious voices--anxious for
some racy scandal.

"Couldn't learn any of the particulars, only that he took his wife from
a gentleman's arm in a rude kind of way, and left the party."

"Oh! that accounts for their not coming home in a carriage," broke in
one of the listeners.

"Perhaps so. But who said they didn't ride home?"

"Mr. Craig. He and Mrs. Craig saw them as they came to the door,
covered with snow. They were walking."

"Oh, you were at the party, Mr. Craig? Did you see or hear anything
about this affair?"

"Nothing," replied Mr. Craig. "If there had been any trouble, I should
most likely have heard something of it."

"I had my information from a gentleman who was there," said the other.

"I don't question that," replied Mr. Craig. "A trifling incident but
half understood will often give rise to exaggerated reports--so
exaggerated that but little of the original truth remains in them. The
general may have done something under the excitement of wine that gave
color to the story now in circulation. I think that very possible. But
I don't believe the affair to be half so bad as represented."

While this conversation was going on Mrs. Abercrombie sat alone in her
room. She had walked the floor restlessly as the time drew near for the
general's return, but after the hour went by, and there was no sign of
his coming, all the life seemed to go out of her. She was sitting now,
or rather crouching down, in a large cushioned chair, her face white
and still and her eyes fixed in a kind of frightened stare.

Time passed, but she remained so motionless that but for her wide-open
eyes you would have thought her asleep or dead.

No one intruded upon her during the brief afternoon; and when darkness
shut in, she was still sitting where she had dropped down nerveless
from mental pain. After it grew dark Mrs. Abercrombie arose, lighted
the gas and drew the window curtains. She then moved about the room
putting things in order. Next she changed her dress and gave some
careful attention to her personal appearance. The cold pallor which had
been on her face all the afternoon gave way to a faint tinge of color,
her eyes lost their stony fixedness and became restless and alert. But
the trouble did not go out of her face or eyes; it was only more active
in expression, more eager and expectant.

After all the changes in her toilette had been made, Mrs. Abercrombie
sat down again, waiting and listening. It was the general's usual time
to come home from headquarters. How would he come? or would he come at
all? These were the questions that agitated her soul. The sad, troubled
humiliating, suffering past, how its records of sorrow and shame and
fear kept unrolling themselves before her eyes! There was little if
anything in these records to give hope or comfort. Ah! how many times
had he fallen from his high estate of manhood, each time sinking lower
and lower, and each time recovering himself from the fall with greater
difficulty than before! He might never rise again. The chances were
largely against him.

How the wretched woman longed for yet dreaded the return of her
husband! If he had been drinking again, as she feared, there, was
before her a night of anguish and terror--a night which might have for
her no awaking in the world. But she had learned to dread some things
more than death.

Time wore on until it was past the hour for General Abercrombie's
return, and yet there was no sign of his coming. At last the loud clang
of the supper-bell ringing through the halls gave her a sudden start.
She clasped her hands across her forehead, while a look of anguish
convulsed her face, then held them tightly against her heart and
groaned aloud.

"God pity us both!" she cried, in a low, wailing voice, striking her
hands together and lifting upward her eyes, that were full of the
deepest anguish.

For a few moments her eyes were upraised. Then her head sunk forward
upon her bosom, and she sat an image of helpless despair.

A knock at the door roused her. She started to her feet and opened it
with nervous haste.

"A letter for you," said a servant.

She took it from his hand and shut and locked the door before examining
the handwriting on the envelope. It was that of her husband. She tore
it open with trembling hand and read:


"DEAR EDITH: An order requiring my presence in Washington to-morrow
morning has just reached me, and I have only time to make the train. I
shall be gone two or three days."


The deep flush which excitement had spread over the face of Mrs.
Abercrombie faded off, and the deadly pallor returned. Her hands shook
so that the letter dropped out of them and fell to the floor. Another
groan as of a breaking heart sobbed through her lips as she threw
herself in despairing abandonment across the bed and buried her face
deep among the pillows.

She needed no interpreter to unfold the true meaning of that letter.
Its unsteady and blotted words and its scrawled, uncertain signature
told her too well of her husband's sad condition. His old enemy had
stricken him down, his old strong, implacable enemy, always armed,
always lying in wait for him, and always ready for the unguarded moment.



CHAPTER XV.


DOCTOR HILLHOUSE was in his office one morning when a gentleman named
Carlton, in whose family he had practiced for two or three years, came
in. This was a few weeks before the party at Mr. Birtwell's.

"Doctor"--there was a troubled look on his visitor's face--"I wish you
would call in to-day and examine a lump on Mrs. Carlton's neck. It's
been coming for two or three months. We thought it only the swelling of
a gland at first, and expected it to go away in a little while. But in
the last few weeks it has grown perceptibly."

"How large is it?" inquired the doctor.

"About the size of a pigeon's egg."

"Indeed! So large?"

"Yes; and I am beginning to feel very much concerned about it."

"Is there any discoloration?"

"No."

"Any soreness or tenderness to the touch?"

"No; but Mrs. Carlton is beginning to feel a sense of tightness and
oppression, as though the lump, whatever it may be, were beginning to
press upon some of the blood-vessels."

"Nothing serious, I imagine," replied Dr. Hillhouse, speaking with a
lightness of manner he did not feel. "I will call about twelve o'clock.
Tell Mrs. Carlton to expect me at that time."

Mr. Carlton made a movement to go, but came back from the door, and
betraying more anxiety of manner than at first, said:

"This may seem a light thing in your eyes, doctor, but I cannot help
feeling troubled. I am afraid of a tumor."

"What is the exact location?" asked Dr. Hillhouse.

"On the side of the neck, a little back from the lower edge of the
right ear."

The doctor did not reply. After a brief silence Mr. Carlton said:

"Do you think it a regular tumor, doctor?"

"It is difficult to say. I can speak with more certainty after I have
made an examination," replied Doctor Hillhouse, his manner showing some
reserve.

"If it should prove to be a tumor, cannot its growth be stopped? Is
there no relief except through an operation--no curative agents that
will restore a healthy action to the parts and cause the tumor to be
absorbed?"

"There is a class of tumors," replied the doctor, "that may be
absorbed, but the treatment is prejudicial to the general health, and
no wise physician will, I think, resort to it instead of a surgical
operation, which is usually simple and safe."

"Much depends on the location of a tumor," said Mr. Carlton. "The
extirpation may be safe and easy if the operation be in one place, and
difficult and dangerous if in another."

"It is the surgeon's business to do his work so well that danger shall
not exist in any case," replied Doctor Hillhouse.

"I shall trust her in your hands," said Mr. Carlton, trying to assume a
cheerful air. "But I cannot help feeling nervous and extremely anxious."

"You are, of course, over-sensitive about everything that touches one
so dear as your wife," replied the doctor. "But do not give yourself
needless anxiety. Tumors in the neck are generally of the kind known as
'benignant,' and are easily removed."

Dr. Angier came into the office while they were talking, and heard a
part of the conversation. As soon as Mr. Carlton had retired he asked
if the tumor were deep-seated or only a wen-like protuberance.

"Deep-seated, I infer, from what Mr. Carlton said," replied Dr.
Hillhouse.

"What is her constitution?"

"Not as free from a scrofulous tendency as I should like."

"Then this tumor, if it should really prove to be one, may be of a
malignant character."

"That is possible. But I trust to find only a simple cyst, or, at the
worst, an adipose or fibrous tumor easy of removal, though I am sorry
it is in the neck. I never like to cut in among the large blood-vessels
and tendons of that region."

At twelve o'clock Doctor Hillhouse made the promised visit. He found
Mrs. Carlton to all appearance quiet and cheerful.

"My husband is apt to worry himself when anything ails me," she said,
with a faint smile.

The doctor took her hand and felt a low tremor of the nerves that
betrayed the nervous anxiety she was trying hard to conceal. His first
diagnosis was not satisfactory, and he was not able wholly to conceal
his doubts from the keen observation of Mr. Carlton, whose eyes never
turned for a moment from the doctor's face. The swelling was clearly
outlined, but neither sharp nor protuberant. From the manner of its
presentation, and also from the fact that Mrs. Carlton complained of a
feeling of pressure on the vessels of the neck, the doctor feared the
tumor was larger and more deeply seated than the lady's friends had
suspected. But he was most concerned as to its true character. Being
hard and nodulated, he feared that it might prove to be of a malignant
type, and his apprehensions were increased by the fact that his patient
had in her constitution a taint of scrofula. There was no apparent
congestion of the veins nor discoloration of the skin around the hard
protuberance, no pulsation, elasticity, fluctuation or soreness, only a
solid lump which the doctor's sensitive touch recognized as the small
section or lobule of a deeply-seated tumor already beginning to press
upon and obstruct the blood vessels in its immediate vicinity. Whether
it were fibrous or albuminous, "benignant" or "malignant," he was not
able in his first diagnosis to determine.

Dr. Hillhouse could not so veil his face as to hide from Mr. Carlton
the doubt and concern that were in his mind.

"Deal with me plainly," said the latter as he stood alone with the
doctor after the examination was over. "I want the exact truth. Don't
conceal anything."

Mr. Carlton's lips trembled.

"Is it a--a tumor?" He got the words out in a low, shaky voice.

"I think so," replied Doctor Hillhouse. He saw the face of Mr. Carlton
blanch instantly.

"It presents," added the doctor, "all the indications of what we call a
fibrous tumor."

"Is it of a malignant type?" asked Mr. Carlton, with suspended breath.

"No; these tumors are harmless in themselves, but their mechanical
pressure on surrounding blood-vessels and tissues renders their removal
necessary."

Mr. Carlton caught his breath with a sigh of relief.

"Is their removal attended with danger?" he asked.

"None," replied Dr. Hillhouse.

"Have you ever taken a tumor from the neck?"

"Yes. I have operated in cases of this kind often."

"Were you always successful?"

"Yes; in every instance."

Mr. Carlton breathed more freely. After a pause, he said, his lips
growing white as he spoke:

"There will have to be an operation in this case?"

"It cannot, I fear, be avoided," replied the doctor.

"There is one comfort," said Mr. Carlton, rallying and speaking in a
more cheerful voice. "The tumor is small and superficial in character.
The knife will not have to go very deep among the veins and arteries."

Doctor Hillhouse did not correct his error.

"How long will it take?" queried the anxious husband, to whom the
thought of cutting down into the tender flesh of his wife was so
painful that it completely unmanned him.

"Not very long," answered the doctor.

"Ten minutes?"

"Yes, or maybe a little longer."

"She will feel no pain?"

"None."

"Nor be conscious of what you are doing?"

"She will be as much in oblivion as a sleeping infant," replied the
doctor.

Mr. Carlton turned from Dr. Hillhouse and walked the whole length of
the parlor twice, then stood still, and said, with painful
impressiveness:

"Doctor, I place her in your hands. She is ready for anything we may
decide upon as best."

He stopped and turned partly away to hide his feelings. But recovering
himself, and forcing a smile to his lips, he said:

"To your professional eyes I show unmanly weakness. But you must bear
in mind how very dear she is to me. It makes me shiver in every nerve
to think of the knife going down into her tender flesh. You might cut
me to pieces, doctor, if that would save her."

"Your fears exaggerate everything," returned Doctor Hillhouse, in an
assuring voice. "She will go into a tranquil sleep, and while dreaming
pleasant dreams we will quickly dissect out the tumor, and leave the
freed organs to continue their healthy action under the old laws of
unobstructed life."

"When ought it to be done?" asked Mr. Carlton the tremor coming back
into his voice.

"The sooner, the better, after an operation is decided upon," answered
the doctor. "I will make another examination in about two weeks. The
changes that take place in that time will help me to a clearer decision
than it is possible to arrive at now."

After a lapse of two weeks Doctor Hillhouse, in company with another
surgeon, made a second examination. What his conclusions were will
appear in the following conversation held with Dr. Angier.

"The tumor is not of a malignant character," Doctor Hillhouse replied,
in answer to his assistant's inquiry. "But it is larger than I at first
suspected and is growing very rapidly. From a slight suffusion of Mrs.
Carlton's face which I did not observe at any previous visit, it is
evident that the tumor is beginning to press upon the carotids. Serious
displacements of blood-vessels, nerves, glands and muscles must soon
occur if this growth goes on."

"Then her life is in danger?" said Dr. Angier.

"It is assuredly, and nothing but a successful operation can save her."

"What does Doctor Kline think of the case?"

"He agrees with me as to the character of the tumor, but thinks it
larger than an orange, deeply cast among the great blood-vessels, and
probably so attached to their sheaths as to make its extirpation not
only difficult, but dangerous."

"Will he assist you in the operation?"

"Yes."

Dr. Hillhouse became thoughtful and silent. His countenance wore a
serious, almost troubled aspect.

"Never before," he said, after a long pause, "have I looked forward to
an operation with such a feeling of concern as I look forward to this.
Three or four months ago, when there was only a little sack there, it
could have been removed without risk. But I greatly fear that in its
rapid growth it has become largely attached to the blood-vessels and
the sheaths of nerves, and you know how difficult this will make the
operation, and that the risk will be largely increased. The fact is,
doctor, I am free to say that it would be more agreeable to me if some
other surgeon had the responsibility of this case."

"Dr. Kline would, no doubt, be very ready to take it off of your hands."

"If the family were satisfied, I would cheerfully delegate the work to
him," said Doctor Hillhouse.

"He's a younger man, and his recent brilliant operations have brought
him quite prominently before, the public."

As he spoke Doctor Hillhouse, who was past sixty-five and beginning to
feel the effects of over forty years of earnest professional labor,
lifted his small hand, the texture of which, was as fine as that of a
woman's, and holding it up, looked at it steadily for some moments. It
trembled just a little.

"Not quite so firm as it was twenty years ago," he remarked, with a
slight depression in his voice.

"But the sight is clearer and the skill greater," said Doctor Angier.

"I don't know about the sight." returned Doctor Hillhouse. "I'm afraid
that is no truer than the hand."

"The inner sight, I mean, the perception that comes from long-applied
skill," said Doctor Angier. "That is something in which you have the
advantage of younger men."

Doctor Hillhouse made no reply to this, but sat like one in deep and,
perplexed thought for a considerable time.

"I must see Doctor Kline and go over the case with him more carefully,"
he remarked at length. "I shall then be able to see with more clearness
what is best. The fact that I feel so averse to operating myself comes
almost as a warning; and if no change should occur in my feelings, I
shall, with the consent of the family, transfer the knife to Doctor
Kline."



CHAPTER XVI.


MRS. CARLTON was a favorite in the circle where she moved; and when it
became known that she would have to submit to a serious operation in
order to save her life, she became an object of painful interest to her
many friends. Among the most intimate of these was Mrs. Birtwell, who,
as the time approached for the great trial, saw her almost every day.

It was generally understood that Doctor Hillhouse, who was the family
physician, would perform the operation. For a long series of years he
had held the first rank as a surgeon. But younger men were coming
forward in the city, and other reputations were being made that
promised to be even more notable than his.

Among those who were steadily achieving success in the walks of surgery
was Doctor Kline, now over thirty-five years of age. He held a chair in
one of the medical schools, and his name was growing more and more
familiar to the public and the profession every year.

The friends of Mrs. Carlton were divided on the question as to who
could best perform the operation, some favoring Doctor Kline and some
Doctor Hillhouse.

The only objection urged by any one against the latter was on account
of his age.

Mr. and Mrs. Carlton had no doubt or hesitation on the subject. Their
confidence in the skill of Doctor Hillhouse was complete. As for Doctor
Kline, Mr. Carlton, who met him now and then at public dinners or at
private social entertainments, had not failed to observe that he was
rather free in his use of liquor, drinking so frequently on these
occasions as to produce a noticeable exhilaration. He had even remarked
upon the fact to gentlemen of his acquaintance, and found that others
had noticed this weakness of Doctor Kline as well as himself.

As time wore on Doctor Hillhouse grew more and more undecided. No
matter how grave or difficult an operation might be, he had always,
when satisfied of its necessity, gone forward, looking neither to the
right nor to the left. But so troubled and uncertain did he become as
the necessity for fixing an early day for the removal of this tumor
became more and more apparent that he at last referred the whole matter
to Mr. Carlton, and proposed that Doctor Kline, whose high reputation
for surgical skill he knew, should be entrusted with the operation. To
this he received an emphatic "No!"

"All the profession award him the highest skill in our city, if not the
whole country," said Doctor Hillhouse.

"I have no doubt of his skill," replied Mr. Carlton. "But--"

"What?" asked the doctor, as Mr. Carlton hesitated. "Are you not aware
that he uses wine too freely?"

Doctor Hillhouse was taken by surprise at this intimation.

"No, I am not aware of anything of the kind," he replied, almost
indignantly. "He is not a teetotaller, of course, any more than you or
I. Socially and at dinner he takes his glass of wine, as we do. But to
say that he uses liquor too freely is, I am sure, a mistake."

"Some men, as you know, doctor, cannot use wine without a steady
increase of the appetite until it finally gets the mastery, and I am
afraid Doctor Kline is one of them."

"I am greatly astonished to hear you say this," replied Dr. Hillhouse,
"and I cannot but hold you mistaken."

"Have you ever met him at a public dinner, at the club or at a private
entertainment where there was plenty of wine?"

"Oh yes."

"And observed no unusual exhilaration?"

Dr. Hillhouse became reflective. Now that his attention was called to
the matter, some doubts began to intrude themselves.

"We cannot always judge the common life by what we see on convivial
occasions," he made answer. "One may take wine freely with his friends
and be as abstemious as an anchorite during business-or
profession-hours."

"Not at all probable," replied Mr. Carlton, "and not good in my
observation. The appetite that leads a man into drinking more when
among friends than his brain will carry steadily is not likely to sleep
when he is alone. Any over-stimulation, as you know, doctor, leaves in
the depressed state that follows a craving for renewed exhilaration. I
am very sure that on the morning after one of the occasions to which I
have referred Doctor Kline finds himself in no condition for the work
of a delicate surgical operation until he has steadied his relaxed
nerves with more than a single glass."

He paused for a moment, and then said, with strong emphasis:

"The hand, Doctor Hillhouse, that cuts down into her dear flesh must be
steadied by healthy nerves, and not by wine or brandy. No, sir; I will
not hear to it. I will not have Doctor Kline. In your hands, and yours
alone, I trust my wife in this great extremity."

"That is for you to decide," returned Dr. Hillhouse. "I felt it to be
only right to give you an opportunity to avail of Doctor Kline's
acknowledged skill. I am sure you can do so safely."

But Mr. Carlton was very emphatic in his rejection of Dr. Kline.

"I may be a little peculiar," he said, "but do you know I never trust
any important interest with a man who drinks habitually?--one of your
temperate drinkers, I mean, who can take his three or four glasses of
wine at dinner, or twice that number, during an evening while playing
at whist, but who never debases himself by so low a thing as
intoxication."

"Are not you a little peculiar, or, I might say, over-nice, in this?"
remarked Doctor Hillhouse.

"No, I am only prudent. Let me give you a fact in my own experience. I
had a law-suit several years ago involving many thousands of dollars.
My case was good, but some nice points of law were involved, and I
needed for success the best talent the bar afforded. A Mr. B----, I
will call him, stood very high in the profession, and I chose him for
my counsel. He was a man of fine social qualities, and admirable for
his after-dinner speeches. You always met him on public occasions. He
was one of your good temperate drinkers and not afraid of a glass of
wine, or even brandy, and rarely, if ever, refused a friend who asked
him to drink.

"He was not an intemperate man, of course. No one dreamed of setting
him over among that banned and rejected class of men whom few trust,
and against whom all are on guard. He held his place of honor and
confidence side by side with the most trusted men in his profession. As
a lawyer, interests of vast magnitude were often in his hands, and
largely depended on his legal sagacity, clearness of thought and
sleepless vigilance. He was usually successful in his cases.

"I felt my cause safe in his hands--that is, as safe as human care and
foresight could make it. But to my surprise and disappointment, his
management of the case on the day of trial was faulty and blind. I had
gone over all the points with him carefully, and he had seemed to hold
them with a masterly hand. He was entirely confident of success, and so
was I. But now he seemed to lose his grasp on the best points in the
case, and to bring forward his evidence in a way that, in my view,
damaged instead of making our side strong. Still, I forced myself to
think that he knew best what to do, and that the meaning of his
peculiar tactics should soon become apparent. I noticed, as the trial
went on, a bearing of the opposing counsel toward Mr. B---- that
appeared unusual. He seemed bent on annoying him with little side
issues and captious objections, not so much showing a disposition to
meet him squarely, upon the simple and clearly defined elements of the
case, as to draw him away from them and keep them as far out of sight
as possible.

"In this he was successful. Mr. B---- seemed in his hands more like a
bewildered child than a strong, clear-seeing man. When, after all the
evidence was in, the arguments on both sides were submitted to the
jury, I saw with alarm that Mr. B---- had failed signally. His summing
up was weak and disjointed, and he did not urge with force and
clearness the vital points in the case on which all our hopes depended.
The contrast of his closing argument with that of the other side was
very great, and I knew when the jury retired from the court-room that
all was lost, and so it proved.

"It was clear to me that I had mistaken my man--that Mr. B----'s
reputation was higher than his ability. He was greatly chagrined at the
result, and urged me to take an appeal, saying he was confident we
could get a reversal of the decision.

"While yet undecided as to whether I would appeal or not, a friend who
had been almost as much surprised and disappointed at the result of the
trial as I was came to me in considerable excitement of manner, and
said:

"'I heard something this morning that will surprise you, I think, as
much as it has surprised me. Has it never occurred to you that there
was something strange about Mr. B---- on the day your case was tried?'

"'Yes,' I replied, 'it has often occurred to me; and the more I think
about it, the more dissatisfied am with his management of my case. He
is urging me to appeal; but should I do so, I have pretty well made up
my mind to have other counsel.'

"'That I should advise by all means,' returned my friend.

"'The thought has come once or twice,' said I, 'that there might have
been false play in the case.'

"'There has been,' returned my friend.

"What!' I exclaimed. 'False play? No, no, I will not believe so base a
thing of Mr. B----.'

"'I do not mean false play on his part,' replied my friend. 'Far be it
from me to suggest a thought against his integrity of character. No,
no! I believe him to be a man of honor. The false play, if there has
been any, has been against him.'

"'Against him?' I could but respond, with increasing surprise. Then a
suspicion of the truth flashed into my mind.

"'He had been drinking too much that morning,' said my friend. 'That
was the meaning of his strange and defective management of the case,
and of his confusion of ideas when he made his closing argument to the
jury.'

"It was clear to me now, and I wondered that I had not thought of it
before. 'But,' I asked, 'what has this to do with foul play? You don't
mean to intimate that his liquor was drugged?'

"'No. The liquor was all right, so far as that goes,' he replied. 'The
story I heard was this. It came to me in rather a curious way. I was in
the reading-room at the League this morning looking over a city paper,
when I happened to hear your name spoken by one of two gentlemen who
sat a little behind me talking in a confidential way, but in a louder
key than they imagined. I could not help hearing what they said. After
the mention of your name I listened with close attention, and found
that they were talking about the law-suit, and about Mr. B---- in
connection therewith. "It was a sharp game," one of them said. "How was
it done?" inquired the other.

"'I partially held my breath,' continued my friend, 'so as not to lose
a word. "Neatly enough," was the reply. "You see our friend the lawyer
can't refuse a drink. He's got a strong head, and can take twice as
much as the next man without showing it. A single glass makes no
impression on him, unless it be to sharpen him up. So a plan was laid
to get half a dozen glasses aboard, more or less, before court opened
on the morning the case of Walker vs. Carlton was to be called. But not
willing to trust to this, we had a wine-supper for his special benefit
on the night before, so as to break his nerves a little and make him
thirsty next morning. Well, you see, the thing worked, and B---- drank
his bottle or two, and went to bed pretty mellow. Of course he must
tone up in the morning before leaving home, and so come out all right.
He would tone up a little more on his way to his office, and then be
all ready for business and bright as a new dollar. This would spoil
all. So five of us arranged to meet him at as many different points on
his way down town and ask him to drink. The thing worked like a charm.
We got six glasses into him before he reached his office. I saw as soon
as he came into court that it was a gone case for Carlton. B---- had
lost his head. And so it proved. We had an easy victory."'

"I took the case out of B----'s hands," said Mr. Carlton, "and gained
it in a higher court, the costs of both trials falling upon the other
side. Since that time, Dr. Hillhouse, I have had some new views on the
subject of moderate drinking, as it is called."

"What are they?" asked the doctor.

"An experience like this set me to thinking. If, I said to myself, a
man uses wine, beer or spirits habitually, is there no danger that at
some time when great interests, or even life itself, may be at stake, a
glass too much may obscure his clear intellect and make him the
instrument of loss or disaster? I pursued the subject, and as I did so
was led to this conclusion--that society really suffers more, from what
is called moderate drinking than it does from out-and-out drunkenness."

"Few will agree with you in that conclusion," returned Doctor Hillhouse.

"On the contrary," replied Mr. Carlton, "I think that most people,
after looking at the subject from the right standpoint, will see it as
I do."

"Men who take a glass of wine at dinner and drink with a friend
occasionally," remarked Doctor Hillhouse, "are not given to idleness,
waste of property and abuse and neglect of their families, as we find
to be the case with common drunkards. They don't fill our prisons and
almshouses. Their wives and children do not go to swell the great army
of beggars, paupers and criminals. I fear, my friend, that you are
looking through the wrong end of your glass."

"No; my glass is all right. The number of drunken men and women in the
land is small compared to the number who drink moderately, and very few
of them are to be found in places of trust or responsibility. As soon
as a man is known to be a drunkard society puts a mark on him and sets
him aside. If he is a physician, health and life are no longer
entrusted to his care; if a lawyer, no man will give an important case
into his hands. A ship-owner will not trust him with his vessel, though
a more skilled navigator cannot be found; and he may be the best
engineer in the land, yet will no railroad or steamship company trust
him with life and property. So everywhere the drunkard is ignored.
Society will not trust him, and he is limited in his power to do harm.

"Not so with your moderate drinkers. They fill our highest places and
we commit to their care our best and dearest interests. We put the
drunkard aside because we know he cannot be trusted, and give to
moderate drinkers, a sad percentage of whom are on the way to
drunkenness, our unwavering confidence. They sail our ships, they drive
our engines, they make and execute our laws, they take our lives in
their hands as doctors and surgeons; we trust them to defend or
maintain our legal rights, we confide to them our interests in hundreds
of different ways that we would never dream of confiding to men who
were regarded as intemperate. Is it not fair to conclude, knowing as we
do how a glass of wine too much will confuse the brain and obscure the
judgment, that society in trusting its great army of moderate drinkers
is suffering loss far beyond anything we imagine? A doctor loses his
patient, a lawyer his case, an engineer wrecks his ship or train, an
agent hurts his principal by a loose or bad bargain, and all because
the head had lost for a brief space its normal clearness.

"Men hurt themselves through moderate drinking in thousands of ways,"
continued Mr. Carlton. "We have but to think for a moment to see this.
Many a fatal document has been signed, many a disastrous contract made,
many a ruinous bargain consummated, which but for the glass of wine
taken at the wrong moment would have been rejected. Men under the
excitement of drink often enter into the unwise schemes of designing
men only to lose heavily, and sometimes to encounter ruin. The gambler
entices his victim to drink, while he keeps his own head clear. He
knows the confusing quality of wine."

"You make out rather a strong case," said Doctor Hillhouse.

"Too strong, do you think?"

"Perhaps not. Looking at the thing through your eyes, Mr. Carlton,
moderate drinking is an evil of great magnitude."

"It is assuredly, and far greater, as I have said, than is generally
supposed. The children of this world are very wise, and some of them, I
am sorry to add, very unscrupulous in gaining their ends. They know the
power of all the agencies that are around them, and do not scruple to
make use of whatever comes to their hand. Three or four capitalists are
invited to meet at a gentleman's house to consider some proposition he
has to lay before them. They are liberally supplied with wine, and
drink without a lurking suspicion of what the service of good wine
means. They see in it only the common hospitality of the day, and fail
to notice that one or two of the company never empty their glasses. On
the next day these men will most likely feel some doubt as to the
prudence of certain large subscriptions made on the previous afternoon
or evening, and wonder how they could have been so infatuated as to put
money into a scheme that promised little beyond a permanent investment.

"If," added Mr. Carlton, "we could come at any proximate estimate of
the loss which falls upon society in consequence of the moderate use of
intoxicating drinks, we would find that it exceeded a hundred--nay, a
thousand--fold that of the losses sustained through drunkenness.
Against the latter society is all the while seeking to guard itself,
against the former it has little or no protection--does not, in fact,
comprehend the magnitude of its power for evil. But I have wearied you
with my talk, and forgotten for the time being the anxiety that lies so
near my heart. No, doctor, I will not trust the hand of Doctor Kline,
skillful as it may be, to do this work; for I cannot be sure that a
glass too much may not have been taken to steady the nerves a night's
excess of wine may have left unstrung."

Doctor Hillhouse sat with closely knit brows for some time after Mr.
Carlton ceased speaking.

"There is matter for grave consideration in what you have said," he
remarked, at length, "though I apprehend your fears in regard to Doctor
Kline are more conjectural than real."

"I hope so," returned Mr. Carlton, "but as a prudent man I will not
take needless risk in the face of danger. If an operation cannot be
avoided, I will trust that precious life to none but you."



CHAPTER XVII.


WE have seen how it was with Doctor Hillhouse on the morning of the day
fixed for the operation. The very danger that Mr. Carlton sought to
avert in his rejection of Doctor Kline was at his door. Not having
attended the party at Mr. and Mrs. Birtwell's, he did not know that
Doctor Hillhouse had, with most of the company, indulged freely in
wine. If a suspicion of the truth had come to him, he would have
refused to let the operation proceed. But like a passenger in some
swiftly-moving car who has faith in the clear head and steady hand of
the engineer, his confidence in Doctor Hillhouse gave him a feeling of
security.

But far from this condition of faith in himself was the eminent surgeon
in whom he was reposing his confidence. He had, alas! tarried too long
at the feast of wine and fat things dispensed by Mr. Birtwell, and in
his effort to restore the relaxed tension of his nerves by stimulation
had sent too sudden an impulse to his brain, and roused it to morbid
action. His coffee failed to soothe the unquiet nerves, his stomach
turned from the food on which he had depended for a restoration of the
equipoise which the night's excesses had destroyed. The dangerous
condition of Mrs. Ridley and his forced visit to that lady in the early
morning, when he should have been free from all unusual effort and
excitement, but added to his disturbance.

Doctor Hillhouse knew all about the previous habits of Mr. Ridley, and
was much interested in his case. He had seen with hope and pleasure the
steadiness with which he was leading his new life, and was beginning to
have strong faith in his future. But when he met him on that morning,
he knew by unerring signs that the evening at Mr. Birtwell's had been
to him one of debauch instead of restrained conviviality. The extremity
of his wife's condition, and his almost insane appeals that he would
hold her back from death, shocked still further the doctor's already
quivering nerves.

The imminent peril in which Doctor Hillhouse found Mrs. Ridley
determined him to call in another physician for consultation. As twelve
o'clock on that day had been fixed for the operation on Mrs. Carlton,
it was absolutely necessary to get his mind as free as possible from
all causes of anxiety or excitement, and the best thing in this
extremity was to get his patient into the hands of a brother in the
profession who could relieve him temporarily from _all_ responsibility,
and watch the case with all needed care in its swiftly approaching
crisis. So he sent Doctor Angier, immediately on his return from his
visit to Mrs. Ridley, with a request to Doctor Ainsworth, a physician
of standing and experience, to meet him in consultation at ten o'clock.

Precisely at ten the physicians arrived at the house of Mr. Ridley, and
were admitted by that gentleman, whose pale, haggard, frightened face
told of his anguish and alarm. They asked him no questions, and he
preceded them in silence to the chamber of his sick wife. It needed no
second glance at their patient to tell the two doctors that she was in
great extremity. Her pinched face was ashen in color and damp with a
cold sweat, and her eyes, no longer wild and restless, looked piteous
and anxious, as of one in dreadful suffering who pleaded mutely for
help. An examination of her pulse showed the beat to be frequent and
feeble, and on the slightest movement she gave signs of pain. Her
respiration was short and very rapid. Mr. Ridley was present, and
standing in a position that enabled him to observe the faces of the two
doctors as they proceeded with their examination. Hope died as he saw
the significant changes that passed over them. When they left the
sick-chamber, he left also, and walked the floor anxiously while they
sat in consultation, talking together in low tones. Now and then he
caught words, such as "peritoneum," "lesion," "perforation," etc., the
fatal meaning of which he more than half guessed.

They were still in consultation when a sudden cry broke from the lips
of Mrs. Ridley; and rising hastily, they went back to her chamber. Her
face was distorted and her body writhing with pain.

Doctor Hillhouse wrote a prescription hastily, saying to Mr. Ridley as
he gave it to him: "Opium, and get it as quickly as you can."

The sick woman had scarcely a moment's freedom from pain of a most
excruciating character during the ten minutes that elapsed before her
husband's return. The quantity of opium administered was large, and its
effects soon apparent in a gradual breaking down of the pains, which
had been almost spasmodic in their character.

When Doctor Hillhouse went away, leaving Doctor Ainsworth in charge of
his patient, she was sinking: into a quiet sleep. On arriving at his
office he found Mr. Wilmer Voss impatiently awaiting his return.

"Doctor," said this gentleman, starting up on seeing him and showing
considerable agitation, "you must come to my wife immediately."

Doctor Hillhouse felt stunned for an instant. He drew his hand tightly
against his forehead, that was heavy with its dull, half-stupefying
pain which, spite of what he could do, still held on. All his nerves
were unstrung.

"How is she?" he asked, with the manner of one who had received an
unwelcome message. His hand was still held against his forehead.

"She broke all down a little while ago, and now lies moaning and
shivering. Oh, doctor, come right away! You know how weak she is. This
dreadful suspense will kill her, I'm afraid."

"Have you no word of Archie yet?" asked Doctor Hillhouse as he dropped
the hand he had been holding against his forehead and temples.

"None! So far, we are without a sign."

"What are you doing?"

"Everything that can be thought of. More than twenty of our friends, in
concert with the police, are at work in all conceivable ways to get
trace of him, but from the moment he left Mr. Birtwell's he dropped out
of sight as completely as if the sea had gone over him. Up to this time
not the smallest clue to this dreadful mystery has been found. But
come, doctor. Every moment is precious."

Doctor Hillhouse drew out his watch. It was now nearly half-past ten
o'clock. His manner was nervous, verging on to excitement. In almost
any other case he would have said that it was not possible for him to
go. But the exigency and the peculiarly distressing circumstances
attending upon this made it next to impossible for him to refuse.

"At twelve o'clock, Mr. Voss, I have a delicate and difficult operation
to perform, and I have too short a time now for the preparation I need.
I am sure you can rely fully on my assistant, Doctor Angler."

"No, no!" replied Mr. Voss, waving his hand almost impatiently. "I do
not want Doctor Angier. You must see Mrs. Voss yourself."

He was imperative, almost angry. What was the delicate and difficult
operation to him? What was anything or anybody that stood in the way of
succor for his imperiled wife? He could not pause to think of others'
needs or danger.

Doctor Hillhouse had to decide quickly, and his decision was on the
side where pressure was strongest. He could not deny Mr. Voss.

He found the poor distressed mother in a condition of utter
prostration. For a little while after coming out of the swoon into
which her first wild fears had thrown her, she had been able to
maintain a tolerably calm exterior. But the very effort to do this was
a draught on her strength, and in a few hours, under the continued
suspense of waiting and hearing nothing from her boy, the overstrained
nerves broke down again, and she sunk into a condition of
half-conscious suffering that was painful to see.

For such conditions medicine can do but little. All that Doctor
Hillhouse ventured to prescribe was a quieting draught. It was after
eleven o'clock when he got back to his office, where he found Mr.
Ridley waiting for him with a note from Doctor Ainsworth.

"Come for just a single moment," the note said. "There are marked
changes in her condition."

"I cannot! It is impossible!" exclaimed Doctor Hillhouse, with an
excitement of manner he could not repress. Doctor Ainsworth can do all
that it is in the power of medical skill to accomplish. It will not
help her for me to go again now, and another life is in my hands. I am
sorry, Mr. Ridley, but I cannot see your wife again until this
afternoon.

"Oh, doctor, doctor, don't say that!" cried the poor, distressed
husband, clasping his hands and looking at Doctor Hillhouse with a
pale, imploring face. "Just for single moment, doctor. Postpone your
operation. Ten minutes, or even an hour, can be of no consequence. But
life or death may depend on your seeing my wife at once. Come, doctor!
Come, for God's sake!"

Doctor Hillhouse looked at his watch again, stood in a bewildered,
uncertain way for a few moments, and then turned quickly toward the
door and went out, Mr. Ridley following.

"Get in," he said, waving his hand in the direction of his carriage,
which still remained in front of his office. Mr. Ridley obeyed. Doctor
Hillhouse gave the driver a hurried direction, and sprang in after him.
They rode in silence for the whole distance to Mr. Ridley's dwelling.

One glance at the face of the sick woman was enough to show Doctor
Hillhouse that she was beyond the reach of professional skill. Her
disease, as he had before seen, had taken on its worst form, and was
running its fatal course with a malignant impetuosity it was impossible
to arrest. The wild fever of anxiety occasioned by her husband's
absence during that dreadful night, the cold to which, in her delirium
of fear, she had exposed herself, the great shock her delicate organism
had sustained at a time when even the slightest disturbance might lead
to serious consequences,--all these causes combined had so broken down
her vitality and poisoned her blood that nature had no force strong
enough to rally against the enemies of her life.

A groan that sounded like a wail of desperation broke from Mr. Ridley's
lips as he came in with the doctor and looked at the death-stricken
countenance of his wife. The two physicians gazed at each other with
ominous faces, and stood silent and helpless at the bedside.

When Doctor Hillhouse hurried away ten minutes afterward he knew that
he had looked for the last time upon his patient. Mr. Ridley did not
attempt to detain him. Hope had expired, and he sat bowed and crushed,
wishing that he could die.

The large quantity of opium which had been taken by Mrs. Ridley held
all her outward senses locked, and she passed away, soon after Doctor
Hillhouse retired, without giving her husband a parting word or even a
sign of recognition.



CHAPTER XVIII.


WHEN Doctor Hillhouse arrived at his office, it lacked only a quarter
of an hour to twelve, the time fixed for the operation on Mrs. Carlton.
He found Doctor Kline and Doctor Angier, who were to assist him, both
awaiting his return.

"I thought twelve o'clock the hour?" said Doctor Kline as he came in
hurriedly.

"So it is. But everything has seemed to work adversely this morning.
Mr. Ridley's wife is extremely ill--dying, in fact--and I have had to
see her too or three times. Other calls have been imperative, and here
I am within a quarter of an hour of the time fixed for a most delicate
operation, and my preparations not half completed."

Doctor Kline regarded him for a few moments, and then said:

"This is unfortunate, doctor, and I would advise a postponement until
to-morrow. You should have had a morning free from anything but
unimportant calls."

"Oh no. I cannot think of a postponement," Doctor Hillhouse replied.
"All the arrangements have been made at Mr. Carlton's, and my patient
is ready. To put it off for a single day might cause a reaction in her
feelings and produce an unfavorable condition. It will have to be done
to-day."

"You must not think of keeping your appointment to the hour," said
Doctor Kline, glancing at his watch. "Indeed, that would now be
impossible. Doctor Angier had better go and say that we will be there
within half an hour. Don't hurry yourself in the slightest degree. Take
all the time you need to make yourself ready. I will remain and assist
you as best I can."

A clear-seeing and controlling mind was just what Doctor Hillhouse
needed at that moment. He saw the value of Doctor Kline's suggestion,
and promptly accepted it. Doctor Angier was despatched to the residence
of Mr. Carlton to advise that gentleman of the brief delay and to make
needed preparations for the work that was to be done.

The very necessity felt by Doctor Hillhouse for a speedy repression of
the excitement from which he was suffering helped to increase the
disturbance, and it was only after he had used a stimulant stronger
than he wished to take that he found his nerves becoming quiet and the
hand on whose steadiness so much depended growing firm.

At half-past twelve Doctor Hillhouse, in company with Doctor Kline,
arrived at Mr. Carlton's. The white face and scared look of the female
servant who admitted them showed how strongly fear and sympathy were at
work in the house. She directed them to the room which had been set
apart for their use. In the hall above Mr. Carlton met them, and
returned with a trembling hand and silent pressure the salutation of
the two physicians, who passed into a chamber next to the one occupied
by their patient and quickly began the work of making everything ready.
Acting from previous concert, they drew the table which had been
provided into the best light afforded by the room, and then arranged
instruments, bandages and all things needed for the work to be done.

When all these preparations were completed, notice was given to Mrs.
Carlton, who immediately entered from the adjoining room. She was a
beautiful woman, in the very prime of life, and never had she appeared
more beautiful than now. Her strong will had mastered fear, strength,
courage and resignation looked out from her clear eyes and rested on
her firm lips. She smiled, but did not speak. Doctor Hillhouse took her
by the hand and led her to the table on which she was to lie during the
operation, saying, as he did so, "It will be over in a few minutes, and
you will not feel it as much as the scratch of a pin."

She laid herself down without a moment's hesitation, and as she did so
Doctor Angier, according to previous arrangement, presented a sponge
saturated with ether to her nostrils, and in two minutes complete
anaesthesis was produced. On the instant this took place Doctor
Hillhouse made an incision and cut down quickly to the tumor. His hand
was steady, and he seemed to be in perfect command of himself. The
stimulants he had taken as a last resort were still active on brain and
nerves. On reaching the tumor he found it, as he had feared, much
larger than its surface presentation indicated. It was a hard, fibrous
substance, and deeply seated among the veins, arteries and muscles of
the neck. The surgeon's hand retained its firmness; there was a
concentration of thought and purpose that gave science and skill their
best results. It took over twenty minutes to dissect the tumor away
from all the delicate organs upon which it had laid its grasp, and
nearly half as long a time to stanch the flow of blood from the many
small arteries which had been severed during the operation. One of
these, larger than the rest, eluded for a time the efforts of Doctor
Hillhouse at ligation, and he felt uncertain about it even after he had
stopped the effusion of blood. In fact, his hand had become unsteady
and his brain slightly confused. The active stimulant taken half an
hour before was losing its effect and his nerves beginning to give way.
He was no longer master of the situation, and the last and, as it
proved, the most vital thing in the whole operation was done
imperfectly.

At the end of thirty-five minutes the patient, still under the
influence of ether was carried back to her chamber and laid back upon
her bed, quiet as a sleeping infant.

"It is all over," said Doctor Hillhouse as the eyes of Mrs. Carlton
unclosed a little while afterward and she looked up into his face. He
was no longer the impassive surgeon, but the tender and sympathizing
friend. His voice was flooded with feeling and moisture dimmed his eyes.

What a look of sweet thankfulness came into the face of Mrs. Carlton as
she whispered, "And I knew nothing of it!" Then, shutting her eyes and
speaking to herself, she said, "It is wonderful. Thank God, thank God!"

It was almost impossible to, restrain Mr. Carlton, so excessive was his
delight when the long agony of suspense was over. Doctor Hillhouse had
to grasp his arm tightly and hold him back as he stooped down over his
wife. In the blindness of his great joy he would have lifted her in his
arms.

"Perfect quiet," said the doctor. "There must be nothing to give her
heart a quicker pulsation. Doctor Angier will remain for half an hour
to see that all goes well."

The two surgeons then retired, Doctor Kline accompanying Doctor
Hillhouse to his office. The latter was silent all the way. The strain
over and the alcoholic stimulation gone, mind and body had alike lost
their abnormal tension.

"I must congratulate you, doctor," said the friendly surgeon who had
assisted in the operation. "It was even more difficult than I had
imagined. I never saw a case in which the sheathings of the internal
jugular vein and carotid artery were so completely involved. The tumor
had made its ugly adhesion all around them. I almost held my breath
when the blood from a severed artery spurted over your scalpel and hid
from sight the keen edge that was cutting around the internal jugular.
A false movement of the hand at that instant might have been fatal."

"Yes; and but for the clearness of that inner sight which, in great
exigencies, so often supplements the failing natural vision, all might
have been lost," replied Doctor Hillhouse, betraying in his unsteady
voice the great reaction from which he was suffering. "If I had known,"
he added, "that the tumor was so large and its adhesion so extensive, I
would not have operated to-day. In fact, I was in no condition for the
performance of any operation. I committed a great indiscretion in going
to Mr. Birtwell's last night. Late suppers and wine do not leave one's
nerves in the best condition, as you and I know very well, doctor; and
as a preparation for work such as we have had on hand to-day nothing
could be worse."

"Didn't I hear something about the disappearance of a young man who
left Mr. Birtwell's at a late hour?" asked Doctor Kline.

"Nothing has been heard of the son of Wilmer Voss since he went away
from Mr. Birtwell's about one o'clock," replied Doctor Hillhouse, "and
his family are in great distress about him. Mrs. Voss, who is one of my
patients, is in very delicate health and when I saw her at eleven
o'clock to-day was lying in a critical condition."

"There is something singular about that party at Mr. and Mrs.
Birtwell's, added Doctor Hillhouse, after a pause. I hardly know what
to make of it."

"Singular in what respect?" asked the other.

The face of Doctor Hillhouse grew more serious:

"You know Mr. Ridley, the lawyer? He was in Congress a few years ago."

"Yes."

"He was very intemperate at one time, and fell so low that even his
party rejected him. He then reformed and came to this city, where he
entered upon the practice of his profession, and has been for a year or
two advancing rapidly. I attended his wife a few days ago, and saw her
yesterday afternoon, when she was continuing to do well. There were
some indications of excitement about her, though whether from mental or
physical causes I could not tell, but nothing to awaken concern. This
morning I found her in a most critical condition. Puerperal fever had
set in, with evident extensive peritoneal involvement. The case was
malignant, all the abdominal viscera being more or less affected. I
learned from the nurse that Mr. Ridley was away all night, and that
Mrs. Ridley, who was restless and feverish through the evening, became
agitated and slightly delirious after twelve o'clock, talking about and
calling for her husband, whom she imagined dying in the storm, that now
raged with dreadful violence. No help could be had all night; and when
we saw her this morning, it was too late for medicine to control the
fatal disease which was running its course with almost unprecedented
rapidity. She was dying when I saw her at half-past eleven this
morning. This case and that of Mrs. Voss were the ones that drew so
largely on my time this morning, and helped to disturb me so much, and
both were in consequence of Mr. Birtwell's party."

"They might have an indirect connection with the party," returned
Doctor Kline, "but can hardly be called legitimate consequences."

"They are legitimate consequences of the free wine and brandy dispensed
at Mr. Birtwell's," said Doctor Hillhouse. "Tempted by its sparkle and
flavor, Archie Voss, as pure and promising a young man as you will find
in the city, was lured on until he had taken more than his brain would
bear. In this state he went out at midnight alone in a blinding storm
and lost his way--how or where is not yet known. He may have been set
upon and robbed and murdered in his helpless condition, or he may have
fallen into a pit where he lies buried beneath the snow, or he may have
wandered in his blind bewilderment to the river and gone down under its
chilling waters.

"Mr. Ridley, with his old appetite not dead, but only half asleep and
lying in wait for an opportunity, goes also to Mr. Birtwell's, and the
sparkle and flavor of wine and the invitations that are pressed upon
him from all sides prove too much for his good resolutions. He tastes
and falls. He goes in his right mind, and comes away so much
intoxicated that he cannot find his way home. How he reached there at
last I do not know--he must have been in some station-house until
daylight; but when I saw him, his pitiable suffering and alarmed face
made my heart ache. He had killed his wife! He, or the wine he found at
Mr. Birtwell's? Which?"

Doctor Hillhouse was nervous and excited, using stronger language than
was his wont.

"And I," he added, before Doctor Kline could respond--"I went to the
party also, and the sparkle and flavor of wine and spirit of
conviviality that pervaded the company lured me also--not weak like
Archie, nor with a shattered self-control like Mr. Ridley--to drink far
beyond the bounds of prudence, as my nervous condition to-day too
surely indicates. A kind of fatality seems to have attended this party."

The doctor gave a little shiver, which was observed by Doctor Kline.

"Not a nervous chill?" said the latter, manifesting concern.

"No; a moral chill, if I may use such a term," replied Doctor
Hillhouse--"a shudder at the thought of what might have been as one of
the consequences of Mr. Birtwell's liberal dispensation of wine."

"The strain of the morning's work has been too much for you, doctor,
and given your mind an unhealthy activity," said his companion. "You
want rest and time for recuperation."

"It would have been nothing except for the baleful effects of that
party," answered the doctor, whose thought could not dissever itself
from the unhappy consequences which had followed the carousal (is the
word too strong?) at Mr. Birtwell's. "If I had not been betrayed into
drinking wine enough to disturb seriously my nervous system and leave
it weak and uncertain to-day, if Mr. Ridley had not been tempted to his
fall, if poor Archie Voss had been at home last night instead of in the
private drinking-saloon of one of our most respected citizens, do you
think that hand," holding up his right hand as he spoke, "would have
lost for a moment its cunning to-day and put in jeopardy a precious
life?"

The doctor rose from his chair in much excitement and walked nervously
about the room.

"It did not lose its cunning," said Doctor Kline, in a calm but
emphatic voice. "I watched you from the moment of the first incision
until the last artery was tied, and a truer hand I never saw."

"Thank God that the stimulus which I had to substitute for nervous
power held out as long as it did. If it had failed a few moments
sooner, I might have--"

Doctor Hillhouse checked himself and gave another little shudder.

"Do you know, doctor," he said, after a pause speaking in a low,
half-confidential tone and with great seriousness of manner, "when I
severed that small artery as I was cutting close to the internal
jugular vein and the jet of blood hid both the knife-points and the
surrounding tissues, that for an instant I was in mental darkness and
that I did not know whether I should cut to the right or to the left?
If in that moment of darkness I had cut to the right, my instrument
would have penetrated the jugular vein."

It was several moments before either of the surgeons spoke again. There
was a look something like fear in both their faces.

"It is the last time," said Doctor Hillhouse, breaking at length the
silence and speaking with unwonted emphasis, "that a drop of wine or
brandy shall pass my lips within forty-eight hours of any operation."

"I am not so sure that you will help as much as hurt by this
abstinence," replied Doctor Kline. "If you are in the habit of using
wine daily, I should say keep to your regular quantity. Any change will
be a disturbance and break the fine nervous tension that is required.
It is easy to account for your condition to-day. If you had taken only
your one or two or three glasses yesterday as the case may be, and kept
away from the excitement and--pardon me excesses of last
night--anything beyond the ordinary rule in these things is an excess,
you know--there would have been no failure of the nerves at a critical
juncture."

"Is not the mind clearer and the nerves steadier when sustained by
healthy nutrition than when toned up by stimulants?" asked Doctor
Hillhouse.

"If stimulants have never been taken, yes. But you know that we all use
stimulants in one form or another, and to suddenly remove them is to
leave the nerves partially unstrung."

"Which brings us face to face with the question whether or not
alcoholic stimulants are hurtful to the delicate and wonderfully
complicated machinery of the human body. I say alcoholic, for we know
that all the stimulation we get from wine or beer comes from the
presence of alcohol."

While Doctor Hillhouse was speaking, the office bell rang violently. As
soon as the door was opened a man came in hurriedly and handed him, a
slip of paper on which were written these few words:


"An artery has commenced bleeding. Come quickly! ANGIER"


Doctor Hillhouse started to his feet and gave a quick order for his
carriage. As it drove up to the office-door soon after, he sprang in,
accompanied by Doctor Kline. He had left his case of instruments at the
house with Doctor Angier.

Not a word was spoken by either of the two men as they were whirled
along over the snow, the wheels of the carriage giving back only a
sharp crisping sound, but their faces were very sober.

Mr. Carlton met them, looking greatly alarmed.

"Oh, doctor," he exclaimed as he caught the hand of Doctor Hillhouse,
almost crushing it in his grasp, "I am so glad you are here. I was
afraid she might bleed to death."

"No danger of that," replied Doctor Hillhouse, trying to look assured
and to speak with confidence. "It is only the giving way of some small
artery which will have to be tied again."

On reaching his patient, Doctor Hillhouse found that one of the small
arteries he had been compelled to sever in his work of cutting the
tumor away from the surrounding parts was bleeding freely. Half a dozen
handkerchiefs and napkins had already been saturated with blood; and as
it still came freely, nothing was left but to reopen the wound and
religate the artery.

Ether was promptly given, and as soon as the patient was fairly under
its influence the bandages were removed and the sutures by which the
wound had been drawn together cut. The cavity left by the tumor was, of
course, full of blood. This was taken out with sponges, when at the
lower part of the orifice a thin jet of blood was visible. The
surrounding parts had swollen, thus embedding the mouth of the artery
so deeply that it could not be recovered without again using the knife.
What followed will be best understood if given in the doctor's own
words in a relation of the circumstances made by him a few years
afterward.

"As you will see," he said, "I was in the worst possible condition for
an emergency like this. I had used no stimulus since returning from Mr.
Carlton's though just going to order wine when the summons from Doctor
Angier came. If I had taken a glass or two, it would have been better,
but the imperative nature of the summons disconcerted me. I was just in
the condition to be disturbed and confused. I remembered when too late
the grave omission, and had partly resolved to ask Mr. Carlton for a
glass of wine before proceeding to reopen the wound and search for the
bleeding artery. But a too vivid recollection of my recent conversation
with him about Doctor Kline prevented my doing so.

"I felt my hand tremble as I removed the bandages and opened the deep
cavity left by the displaced tumor. After the blood with which it was
filled had been removed, I saw at the deepest part of the cavity the
point from which the blood was flowing, and made an effort to recover
the artery, which, owing to the uncertainty of hand which had followed
the loss of stimulation, I had tied imperfectly. But it was soon
apparent that the parts had swollen, and that I should have to cut
deeper in order to get possession of the artery, which lay in close
contact with the internal jugular vein. Doctor Kline was holding the
head and shoulders of the patient in such a way as to give tension to
all the vessels of the neck, while my assistant held open the lips of
the wound, so that I could see well into the cavity.

"My hand did not recover its steadiness. As I began cutting down to
find the artery I seemed suddenly to be smitten with blindness and to
lose a clear perception of what I was doing. It seemed as if some
malignant spirit had for the moment got possession of me, coming in
through the disorder wrought in my nervous system by over stimulation,
and used the hand I could no longer see to guide the instrument I was
holding, for death instead of life. I remember now that a sudden
impulse seemed given to my arm as if some one had struck it a blow.
Then a sound which it had never before been my misfortune to hear--and
I pray God I may never hear it again--startled me to an agonized sense
of the disaster I had wrought. Too well I knew the meaning of the
lapping, hissing, sucking noise that instantly smote our ears. I had
made a deep cut across the jugular vein, the wound gaping widely in
consequence of the tension given to the vein by the position of the
patient's head. A large quantity of air rushed in instantly.

"An exclamation of alarm from Doctor Kline, as he changed the position
of the patient's neck in order to force the lips of the wound together
and stop the fatal influx of air, roused me from a momentary stupor,
and I came back into complete self-possession. The fearful exigency of
the moment gave to nerve and brain all the stimulus they required.
Already there was a struggle for breath, and the face of Mrs. Carlton,
which had been slightly suffused with color, became pale and
distressed. Sufficient air had entered to change the condition of the
blood in the right cavities of the heart, and prevent its free
transmission to the lungs. We could hear a churning sound occasioned by
the blood and air being whipped together in the heart, and on applying
the hand to the chest could feel a strange thrilling or rasping
sensation.

"The most eminent surgeons differ in regard to the best treatment in
cases like this, which are of very rare occurrence; to save life the
promptest action is required. So large an opening as I had unhappily
made in this vein could not be quickly closed, and with each
inspiration of the patient more, air was sucked in, so that the blood
in the right cavities of the heart soon became beaten into a spumous
froth that could not be forced except in small quantities through the
pulmonary vessels into the lungs.

"The effect of a diminished supply of blood to the brain and nervous
centres quickly became apparent in threatened syncope. Our only hope
lay in closing the wound so completely that no more air could enter,
and then removing from the heart and capillaries of the lungs the air
already received, and now hindering the flow of blood to the brain. One
mode of treatment recommended by French surgeons consists in
introducing the pipe of a catheter through the wound, if in the right
jugular vein--or if not, through an opening made for the purpose in
that vein--and the withdrawal of the air from the right auricle of the
heart by suction.

"Doctor Kline favored this treatment, but I knew that it would be
fatal. Any reopening of the wound now partially closed in order to
introduce a tube, even if my instrument case had contained one of
suitable size and length, must necessarily have admitted a large
additional quantity of air, and so made death certain.

"Indecision in a case like this is fatal. Nothing but the right thing
done with an instant promptness can save the imperiled life. But what
was the right thing? No more air must be permitted to enter, and the
blood must be unloaded as quickly as possible of the air now
obstructing its way to the lungs, so, that the brain might get a fresh
supply before it was too late. We succeeded in the first, but not in
the last. Too much air had entered, and my patient was beyond the reach
of professional aid. She sank rapidly, and in less than an hour from
the time my hand, robbed of its skill by wine, failed in its wonted
cunning, she lay white and still before me."



CHAPTER XIX.


IT was late in the afternoon when Mrs. Voss came out of the deep sleep
into which the quieting draught administered by Doctor Hillhouse had
thrown her. She awoke from a dream so vivid that she believed it real.

"Oh, Archie, my precious boy!" she exclaimed, starting up and reaching
out her hands, a glad light beaming on her countenance.

While her hands were still outstretched the light began to fade, and
then died out as suddenly as when a curtain falls. The boy who stood
before her in such clear presence had vanished. Her eyes swept about
the room, but he was not there. A deadly pallor on her face, a groan on
her lips, she fell back shuddering upon the pillow from which she had
risen.

Mr. Voss, who was sitting at the bedside, put his arm under her, and
lifting her head, drew it against his breast, holding it there tightly,
but not speaking. He had no comfort to give, no assuring word to offer.
Not a ray of light had yet come in through the veil of mystery that
hung so darkly over the fate of their absent boy. Many minutes passed
ere the silence was broken. In that time the mother's heart had grown
calmer. She was turning, in her weakness and despair, with religious
trust, to the only One who was able to sustain her in this great and
crushing sorrow.

"He is in God's hands," she said, in a low voice, lifting her head from
her husband's breast and looking into his face.

"And he will take care of him," replied Mr. Voss, falling in with her
thought.

"Yes, we must trust him. He is present in every place. He knows where
Archie is, and how to shield and succor him. O heavenly Father, protect
our boy! If in danger, help and save him. And, O Father, give me
strength to bear whatever may come."

The mother closed her eyes and laid her head back upon her husband's
bosom. The rigidity and distress went out of her face. In this hour of
darkness and distress, God, to whom she looked and prayed for strength,
came very close to her, and in his nearer presence there is always
comfort.

But as the day declined and the shadows off another dreary winter night
began to draw their solemn curtains across the sky the mother's heart
failed again, and a wild storm of fear and anguish swept over it.
Neither policemen nor friends had been able to discover a trace of the
missing young man, and advertisements were given out for the papers
next morning offering a large reward for his restoration to his friends
if living or for the recovery of his body if dead.

The true cause of Archie's disappearance began to be feared by many of
his friends. It did not seem possible that he could have dropped so
completely out of sight unless on the theory that he had lost his way
in the storm and fallen into the river. This suggestion as soon as it
came to Mrs. Voss settled into a conviction. Her imagination brooded
over the idea and brought the reality before her mind with such a cruel
vividness that she almost saw the tragedy enacted, and heard again that
cry of "Mother!" which had seemed to mingle with the wild shrieks of
the tempest, but which came only to her inner sense.

She dreamed that night a dream which, though it confirmed all this,
tranquilized and comforted her. In a vision her boy stood by her
bedside and smiled upon her with his old loving smile. He bent over and
kissed her with his wonted tenderness; he laid his hand on her forehead
with a soft pressure, and she felt the touch thrilling to her heart in
sweet and tender impulses.

"It is all well with me," he said; "I shall wait for you, mother."

And then he bent over and kissed her again, the pressure of his lips
bringing an unspeakable joy to her heart. With this joy filling and
pervading it, she awoke. From that hour Mrs. Voss never doubted for a
single moment that her son was dead, nor that he had come to her in a
vision of the night. As a Christian woman with whom faith was no mere
ideal thing or vague uncertainty, she accepted her great affliction as
within the sphere and permission of a good and wise Providence, and
submitted herself to the sad dispensation with a patience that
surprised her friends.

Months passed, and yet the mystery was unsolved. The large reward
offered by Mr. Voss for the recovery of his son's remains kept hundreds
of fishermen and others who frequented the river banks and shores of
the bay leading down to the ocean on the alert. As the spring opened
and the ice began to give way and float, these men examined every
inlet, cove and bar where the tide in its ebb and flow might possibly
have left the body for which they were in search; and one day, late in
the month of March, they found it, three miles away from the city,
where it had drifted by the current.

The long-accepted theory of the young man's death was proved by this
recovery of his body. No violence was found upon it. The diamond pin
had not been taken from his shirt-bosom, nor the gold watch from his
pocket. On the dial of his watch the hands, stopping their movement as
the chill of the icy water struck the delicate machinery, had recorded
the hour of his death--ten minutes to one o'clock.

It was not possible, under the strain of such an affliction and the
wear of a suspense that no human heart was able to endure without waste
of life, for one in feeble health like Mrs. Voss to hold her own.
Friends read in her patient face and quiet mouth, and eyes that had a
far-away look, the signs of a coming change that could not be very far
off.

After the sad certainty came and the looking and longing and waiting
were over, after the solemn services of the church had been said and
the cast-off earthly garments of her precious boy hidden away from
sight for ever, the mother's hold upon life grew feebler every day. She
was slowly drifting out from the shores of time, and no hand was strong
enough to hold her back. A sweet patience smoothed away the lines of
suffering which months of sorrow and uncertainty had cut in her brow,
the grieving curves of her pale lips were softened by tender
submission, the far-off look was still in her eyes, but it was no
longer fixed and dreary. Her thought went away from herself to others.
The heavenly sphere into which she had come through submission to her
Father's will and a humble looking to God for help and comfort began to
pervade her soul and fill it with that divine self-forgetting which all
who come spiritually near to him must feel.

She could not go out and do strong and widely-felt work for humanity,
could not lift up the fallen, nor help the weak, nor visit the sick,
nor comfort the prisoner, though often her heart yearned to help and
strengthen the suffering and the distressed. But few if any could come
into the chamber where most of her days were spent without feeling the
sphere of her higher and purer life, and many, influenced thereby, went
out to do the good works to which she so longed to put her hands. So
from the narrow bounds of her chamber went daily a power for good, and
many who knew her not were helped or comforted or lifted into purer and
better lives because of her patient submission to God and reception of
his love into her soul.

It is not surprising that one thought took a deep hold upon her. The
real cause of Archie's death was the wine he had taken in the house of
her friend. But for that he could never have lost his way in the
streets of his native city, never have stepped from solid ground into
the engulfing water.

The lesson of this disaster was clear, and as Mrs. Voss brooded over
it, the folly, the wrong--nay, the crime--of those who pour out wine
like water for their guests in social entertainments magnified
themselves in her thought, and thought found utterance in speech. Few
came into her chamber upon whom she did not press a consideration of
this great evil, the magnitude of which became greater as her mind
dwelt upon it, and very few of these went away without being disturbed
by questions not easily answered.

One day one of her attentive friends who had called on her said:

"I heard a sorrowful story yesterday, and can't get it out of my mind."

Before Mrs. Voss could reply a servant came in with a card.

"Oh, Mrs. Birtwell. Ask her to come up."

The visitor saw a slight shadow creep over her face, and knew its
meaning. How could she ever hear the name or look into the face of Mrs.
Birtwell without thinking of that dreadful night when her boy passed,
almost at a single step, from the light and warmth of her beautiful
home into the dark and frozen river? It had cost her a hard and painful
struggle to so put down and hold in check her feelings as to be able to
meet this friend, who had always been very near and dear to her. For a
time, and while her distress of mind was so great as almost to endanger
reason, she had refused to see Mrs. Birtwell; but as that lady never
failed to call at least once a week to ask after her, always sending up
her card and waiting for a reply, Mrs. Voss at last yielded, and the
friends met again. Mrs. Birtwell would have thrown her arms about her
and clasped her in a passion of tears to her heart, but something
stronger than a visible barrier held her off, and she felt that she
could never get as near to this beloved friend as of old. The interview
was tender though reserved, neither making any reference to the sad
event that was never a moment absent from their thoughts.

After this Mrs. Birtwell came often, and a measure of the old feeling
returned to Mrs. Voss. Still, the card of Mrs. Birtwell whenever it was
placed in her hand by a servant never failed to bring a shadow and
sometimes a chill to her heart.

In a few moments Mrs. Birtwell entered the room; and after the usual
greetings and some passing remarks, Mrs. Voss said, speaking to the
lady with whom she had been conversing:

"What were you going to say--about some sorrowful story, I mean?"

The pleasant light which had come into the lady's face on meeting Mrs.
Birtwell, faded out. She did not answer immediately, and showed some
signs of embarrassment. But Mrs. Voss, not particularly noticing this,
pressed her for the story. After a slight pause she said:

"In visiting a friend yesterday I observed a young girl whom I had
never seen at the house before. She was about fifteen or sixteen years
of age, and had a face of great refinement and much beauty. But I
noticed that it had a sad, shy expression. My friend did not introduce
her, but said, turning to the girl a few moments after I came in:

"'Go up to the nursery, Ethel, and wait until I am disengaged!'

"As the girl left the room I asked, 'Who is that young lady?' remarking
at the same time that there was something peculiarly interesting about
her.

"'It's a sad case, remarked my friend, her voice falling to a tone of
regret and sympathy. 'And I wish I knew just what to do about it.'

"'Who is the young girl?' I asked repeating my question.

"'The daughter of a Mr. Ridley,' she replied."

Mrs. Birtwell gave a little start, while an expression of pain crossed
her face. The lady did not look at her, but she felt the change her
mention of Mr. Ridley had produced.

"'What of him?' I asked; not having heard the name before.

"'Oh, I thought you knew about him. He's a lawyer, formerly a member of
Congress, and a man of brilliant talents. He distinguished himself at
Washington, and for a time attracted much attention there for his
ability as well as for his fine personal qualities. But unhappily he
became intemperate, and at the end of his second term had fallen so low
that his party abandoned him and sent another in his place. After that
he reformed and came to this city, bringing his family with him. He had
two children, a boy and a girl. His wife was a cultivated and very
superior woman. Here he commenced the practice of law, and soon by his
talents and devotion to business acquired a good practice and regained
the social position he had lost.

"'Unhappily, his return to society was his return to the sphere of
danger. If invited to dine with a respectable citizen, he had to
encounter temptation in one of its most enticing forms. Good wine was
poured for him, and both appetite and pride urged him to accept the
fatal proffer. If he went to a public or private entertainment, the
same perils compassed him about. From all these he is said to have held
himself aloof for over a year, but his reputation at the bar and
connection with important cases brought him more and more into notice,
and he was finally drawn within the circle of danger. Mrs. Ridley's
personal accomplishments and relationship with one or two families in
the State of high social position brought her calls and invitations,
and almost forced her back again into society, much as she would have
preferred to remain secluded.

"'Mr. Ridley, it is said, felt his danger, and I am told never escorted
any lady but his wife to the supper-room at a ball or party, and there
you would always see them close together, he not touching wine. But it
happened last winter that invitations came, for one of the largest
parties of the season, and it happened also that only a few nights
before the party a little daughter had been born to Mrs. Ridley. Mr.
Ridley went alone. It was a cold and stormy night. The wind blew
fiercely, wailing about the roofs and chimneys and dashing the
fast-falling snow in its wild passion against the windows of the room
in which his sick wife lay. Rest of body and mind was impossible,
freedom from anxiety impossible. There was everything to fear,
everything to lose. The peril of a soldier going into the hottest of
the battle was not greater than the peril that her husband would
encounter on that night; and if he fell! The thought chilled her blood,
as well it might, and sent a shiver to her heart.

"'She was in no condition to bear any shock or strain, much less the
shock and strain of a fear like this. As best she could she held her
restless anxiety in check, though fever had crept into her blood and an
enemy to her life was assaulting its very citadel. But as the hour at
which her husband had promised to return passed by and he came not,
anxiety gave place to terror. The fever in her blood increased, and
sent delirium to her brain. Hours passed, but her husband did not
return. Not until the cold dawn of the next sorrowful morning did he
make his appearance, and then in such a wretched plight that it was
well for his unhappy wife that she could not recognize his condition.
He came too late--came from one of the police stations, it is said,
having been found in the street too much intoxicated to find his way
home, and in danger of perishing in the snow--came to find his wife,
dying, and before the sun went down on that day of darkness she was
cold and still as marble. Happily for the babe, it went the way its
mother had taken, following a few days afterward.

"'That was months ago. Alas for the wretched man! He has never risen
from that terrible fall, never even made an effort, it is said, to
struggle to his feet again. He gave up in despair.

"'His eldest child, Ethel, the young lady you saw just now, was away
from home at school when her mother died. Think of what a coming back
was hers! My heart grows sick in trying to imagine it. Poor child! she
has my deepest sympathy.

"'Ethel did not return to school. She was needed at home now. The death
of her mother and the unhappy fall of her father brought her face to
face with new duties and untried conditions. She had a little brother
only six years old to whom she must be a mother as well as sister.
Responsibilities from which women of matured years and long experience
might well shrink were now at the feet of this tender girl, and there
was no escape for her. She must stoop, and with fragile form and hands
scarce stronger than a child's lift and bear them up from the ground.
Love gave her strength and courage. The woman hidden in the child came
forth, and with a self-denial and self-devotion that touches me to
tears when I think of it took up the new life and new burdens, and has
borne them ever since with a patience that is truly heroic.

"'But new duties are now laid upon her. Since her father's fall his
practice has been neglected, and few indeed have been willing to
entrust him with business. The little he had accumulated is all gone.
One article of furniture after another has been sold to buy food and
clothing, until scarcely anything is left. And now they occupy three
small rooms in an out-of-the-way neighborhood, and Ethel, poor child!
is brought face to face with the question of bread.'"



CHAPTER XX.


THE voice of the speaker broke as she uttered the last sentence. A deep
silence fell upon the little company. Mrs. Birtwell had turned her
face, so that it could not be seen, and tears that she was unable to
keep back were falling over it. She was first to speak.

"What," she asked, "was this young lady doing at the house of your
friend?"

"She had applied for the situation of day-governess. My friend
advertised, and Ethel Ridley, not knowing that the lady had any
knowledge of her or her family came and offered herself for the place.
Not being able to decide what was best to be done, she requested Ethel
to call again on the next day, and I came in while she was there."

"Did your friend engage her?" asked Mrs. Birtwell.

"She had not done so when I saw her yesterday. The question of fitness
for the position was one that she had not been able to determine. Ethel
is young and inexperienced. But she will do all for her that lies in
her power."

"What is your friend's name?" asked Mrs. Birtwell.

"The lady I refer to is Mrs. Sandford. You know her, I believe?"

"Mrs. Sandford? Yes; I know her very well."

By a mutual and tacit consent the subject was here dropped, and soon
after Mrs. Birtwell retired. On gaining the street she stood with an
air of indetermination for a little while, and then walked slowly away.
Once or twice before reaching the end of the block she paused and went
back a few steps, turned and moved on again, but still in an undecided
manner. At the corner she stopped for several moments, then, as if her
mind was made up, walked forward rapidly. By the firm set of her mouth
and the contraction of her brows it was evident that some strong
purpose was taking shape in her thoughts.

As she was passing a handsome residence before which a carriage was
standing a lady came out. She had been making a call. On seeing her
Mrs. Birtwell stopped, and reaching out her hand, said:

"Mrs. Sandford! Oh, I'm glad to see you. I was just going to your
house."

The lady took her hand, and grasping it warmly, responded:

"And I'm right glad to see you, Mrs. Birtwell. I've been thinking about
you all day. Step into the carriage. I shall drive directly home."

Mrs. Birtwell accepted the invitation. As the carriage moved away she
said:

"I heard something to-day that troubles me. I am told that Mr. Ridley,
since the death of his wife, has become very intemperate, and that his
family are destitute--so much so, indeed, that his daughter has applied
to you for the situation of day-governess in order to earn something
for their support."

"It is too true," replied Mrs. Sandford. "The poor child came to see me
in answer to an advertisement."

"Have you engaged her?"

"No. She is too young and inexperienced for the place. But something
must be done for her."

"What? Have you thought out anything? You may count on my sympathy and
co-operation."

"The first thing to be done," replied Mrs. Sandford, "is to lift her
out of her present wretched condition. She must not be left where she
is, burdened with the support of her drunken and debased father. She is
too weak for that--too young and beautiful and innocent to be left amid
the temptations and sorrows of a life such as she must lead if no one
comes to her rescue."

"But what will become of her father if you remove his child from him?"
asked Mrs. Birtwell.

Her voice betrayed concern. The carriage stopped at the residence of
Mrs. Sandford, and the two ladies went in.

"What will become of her wretched father?"

Mrs. Birtwell repeated her question as they entered the parlors.

"He is beyond our reach," was answered. "When a man falls so low, the
case is hopeless. He is the slave of an appetite that never gives up
its victims. It is a sad and a sorrowful thing, I know, to abandon all
efforts to save a human soul, to see it go drafting off into the rapids
with the sound of the cataract in your ears, and it is still more sad
and sorrowful to be obliged to hold back the loving ones who could only
perish in their vain attempts at rescue. So I view the case. Ethel must
not be permitted to sacrifice herself for her father."

Mrs. Birtwell sat for a long time without replying. Her eyes were bent
upon the floor.

"Hopeless!" she murmured, at length, in a low voice that betrayed the
pain she felt. "Surely that cannot be so. While there is life there
must be hope. God is not dead."

She uttered the last sentence with a strong rising inflection in her
tones.

"But the drunkard seems dead to all the saving influences that God or
man can bring to bear upon him," replied Mrs. Sandford.

"No, no, no! I will not believe it," said Mrs. Birtwell, speaking now
with great decision of manner. "God can and does save to the uttermost
all who come unto him."

"Yes, all who come unto him. But men like Mr. Ridley seem to have lost
the power of going to God."

"Then is it not our duty to help them to go? A man with a broken leg
cannot walk to the home where love and care await him, but his Good
Samaritan neighbor who finds him by the way can help him thither. The
traveler benumbed with cold lies helpless in the road, and will perish
if some merciful hand does not lift him up and bear him to a place of
safety. Even so these unhappy men who, as you say, seem to have lost
the power of returning to God, can be lifted up, I am sure, and set
down, as it were, in his very presence, there to feel his saving,
comforting and renewing power."

"Perhaps so. Nothing is impossible," said Mrs. Sandford, with but
little assent in her voice. "But who is to lift them up and where will
you take them? Let us instance Mr. Ridley for the sake of illustration.
What will you do with him? How will you go about the work of rescue?
Tell me."

Mrs. Birtwell had nothing to propose. She only felt an intense yearning
to save this man, and in her yearning an undefined confidence had been
born. There must be away to save even the most wretched and abandoned
of human beings, if we could but find that way, and so she would not
give up her hope of Mr. Ridley--nay, her hope grew stronger every
moment; and to all the suggestions of Mrs. Sanford looking to help for
the daughter she supplemented something that included the father, and
so pressed her views that the other became half impatient and exclaimed:

"I will have nothing to do with the miserable wretch!"

Mrs. Birtwell went away with a heavy heart after leaving a small sum of
money for Mrs. Sandford to use as her judgment might dictate, saying
that she would call and see her again in a few days.

The Rev. Mr. Brantly Elliott was sitting in his pleasant study, engaged
in writing, when a servant opened the door and said:

"A gentleman wishes to see you, sir."

"What name?" asked the clergyman.

"He did not give me his name. I asked him, but he said it wasn't any
matter. I think he's been drinking, sir."

"Ask him to send his name," said Mr. Elliott, a slight shade of
displeasure settling over his pleasant face.

The servant came back with information that the visitor's name was
Ridley. At mention of this name the expression on Mr. Elliott's
countenance changed:

"Did you say he was in liquor?"

"Yes, sir. Shall I tell him that you cannot see him, sir?"

"No. Is he very much the worse for drink?"

"He's pretty bad, I should say, sir."

Mr. Elliott reflected for a little while, and then said:

"I will see him."

The servant retired. In a few minutes he came back, and opening the
door, let the visitor pass in. He stood for a few moments, with his
hand on the door, as if unwilling to leave Mr. Elliott alone with the
miserable-looking creature he had brought to the study. Observing him
hesitate, Mr. Elliott said:

"That will do, Richard."

The servant shut the door, and he was alone with Mr. Ridley. Of the
man's sad story he was not altogether ignorant. His fall from the high
position to which he had risen in two years and utter abandonment of
himself to drink were matters of too much notoriety to have escaped his
knowledge. But that he was in the slightest degree responsible for this
wreck of a human soul was so far from his imagination as that of his
responsibility for the last notorious murder or bank-robbery.

The man who now stood before him was a pitiable-looking object indeed.
Not that he was ragged or filthy in attire or person. Though all his
garments were poor and threadbare, they were not soiled nor in
disorder. Either a natural instinct of personal cleanliness yet
remained or a loving hand had cared for him. But he was pitiable in the
signs of a wrecked and fallen manhood that were visible everywhere
about him. You saw it most in his face, once so full of strength and
intelligence, now so weak and dull and disfigured. The mouth so mobile
and strong only a few short months before was now drooping and weak,
its fine chiseling all obliterated or overlaid with fever crusts. His
eyes, once steady and clear as eagles', were now bloodshotten and
restless.

He stood looking fixedly at Mr. Elliott, and with a gleam in his eyes
that gave the latter a strange feeling of discomfort, if not uneasiness.

"Mr. Ridley," said the clergyman, advancing to his visitor and
extending his hand. He spoke kindly, yet with a reserve that could not
be laid aside. "What can I do for you?"

A chair was offered, and Mr. Ridley sat down. He had come with a
purpose; that was plain from his manner.

"I am sorry to see you in this condition, Mr. Ridley," said the
clergyman, who felt it to be his duty to speak a word of reproof.

"In what condition, sir?" demanded the visitor, drawing himself up with
an air of offended dignity. "I don't understand you."

"You have been drinking," said Mr. Elliott, in a tone of severity.

"No, sir. I deny it, sir!" and the eyes of Mr. Ridley flashed. "Before
Heaven, sir, not a drop has passed my lips to-day!"

His breath, loaded with the fumes of a recent glass of whisky, was
filling the clergyman's nostrils. Mr. Elliott was confounded by this
denial. What was to be done with such a man?

"Not a drop, sir," repeated Mr. Ridley. "The vile stuff is killing me.
I must give it up."

"It is your only hope," said the clergyman. "You must give up the vile
stuff, as you call it, or it will indeed kill you."

"That's just why I've come to you, Mr. Elliott. You understand this
matter better than most people. I've heard you talk."

"Heard me talk?"

"Yes, sir. It's pure wine that the people want. My sentiments exactly.
If we had pure wine, we'd have no drunkenness. You know that as well as
I do. I've heard you talk, Mr. Elliott, and you talk right--yes, right,
sir."

"When did you hear me talk?" asked Mr. Elliott, who was beginning to
feel worried.

"Oh, at a party last winter. I was there and heard you."

"What did I say?"

"Just these words, and they took right hold of me. You said that 'pure
wine could hurt no one, unless indeed his appetite were vitiated by the
use of alcohol, and even then you believed that the moderate use of
strictly pure wine would restore the normal taste and free a man from
the tyranny of an enslaving vice.' That set me to thinking. It sounded
just right. And then you were a clergyman, you see, and had studied out
these things and so your opinion was worth something. There's no reason
in your cold-water men; they don't believe in anything but their patent
cut-off. In their eyes wine is an abomination, the mother of all evil,
though the Bible doesn't say so, Mr. Elliott, does it?"

At this reference to the Bible in connection with wine, the clergyman's
memory supplied a few passages that were not at the moment pleasant to
recall. Such as, "Wine is a mocker;" "Look not upon the wine when it is
red;" "Who hath woe? who hath sorrow? ... They that tarry long at the
wine;" "At last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder."

"The Bible speaks often of the misuse of wine," he answered, "and
strongly condemns drunkenness."

"Of course it does, and gluttony as well. But against the moderate use
of good wine not a word is said. Isn't that so, sir?"

"Six months ago you were a sober man, Mr. Ridley, and a useful and
eminent citizen. Why did you not remain so?"

Mr. Elliott almost held his breath for the answer. He had waived the
discussion into which his visitor was drifting, and put his question
almost desperately.

"Because your remedy failed." Mr. Ridley spoke in a repressed voice,
but with a deliberate utterance. There was a glitter in his eyes, out
of which looked an evil triumph.

"My remedy? What remedy?"

"The good wine remedy. I tried it at Mr. Birtwell's one night last
winter. But it didn't work. _And here I am!_"

Mr. Elliott made no reply. A blow from the arm of a strong man could
not have hurt or stunned him more.

"You needn't feel so dreadfully about it," said Mr. Ridley seeing the
effect produced on the clergy man. "It wasn't any fault of yours. The
prescription was all right, but, you see, the wine wasn't good. If it
had been pure, the kind you drink, all would have been well. I should
have gained strength instead of having the props knocked from under me."

But Mr. Elliott did not answer. The magnitude of the evil wrought
through his unguarded speech appalled him. He had learned, in his
profession, to estimate the value of a human soul, or rather to
consider it as of priceless value. And here was a human soul cast by
his hand into a river whose swift waters were hurrying it on to
destruction. The sudden anguish that he felt sent beads of sweat to his
forehead and drew his flexible lips into rigid lines.

"Now, don't be troubled about it," urged Mr. Ridley. "You were all
right. It was Mr. Birtwell's bad wine that did the mischief."

Then his manner changed, and his voice falling to a tone of
solicitation, he said:

"And now, Mr. Elliott, you know good wine--you don't have anything
else. I believe in your theory as much as I believe in my existence. It
stands to reason. I'm all broken up and run down. Not much left of me,
you see. Bad liquor is killing me, and I can't stop. If I do, I shall
die.' God help me!"

His voice shook now, and the muscles of his face quivered.

"Some good wine--some pure wine, Mr. Elliott!" he went on, his voice
rising and his manner becoming more excited. "It's all over with me
unless I can get pure wine. Save me, Mr. Elliott, save me, for God's
sake!"

The miserable man held out his hands imploringly. There was wild look
in his face. He was trembling from head to foot.

"One glass of pure wine, Mr. Elliott--just one glass." Thus he kept on
pleading for the stimulant his insatiable appetite was craving. "I'm a
drowning man. The floods are about me. I am sinking in dark waters. And
you can save me if you will!"

Seeing denial still on the clergyman's face, Mr. Ridley's manner
changed, becoming angry and violent.

"You will not?" he cried, starting from the chair in which he had been
sitting and advancing toward Mr. Elliott.

"I cannot. I dare not. You have been drinking too much already,"
replied the clergyman, stepping back as Mr. Ridley came forward until
he reached the bell-rope, which he jerked violently. The door of his
study opened instantly. His servant, not, liking the visitor's
appearance, had remained in the hall outside and came in the moment he
heard the bell. On seeing him enter, Mr. Ridley turned from the
clergyman and stood like one at bay. His eyes had a fiery gleam; there
was anger on his brow and defiance in the hard lines of his mouth. He
scowled at the servant threateningly. The latter, a strong and resolute
man, only waited for an order to remove the visitor, which he would
have done in a very summary way, but Mr. Elliott wanted no violence.

The group formed a striking tableau, and to any spectator who could
have viewed it one of intense interest. For a little while Mr. Ridley
and the servant stood scowling at each other. Then came a sudden
change. A start, a look of alarm, followed by a low cry of fear, and
Mr. Ridley sprang toward the door, and was out of the room and hurrying
down stairs before a movement could be made to intercept him, even if
there had been on the part of the other two men any wish to do so.

Mr. Elliott stood listening to the sound of his departing feet until
the heavy jar of the outer door resounded through the passages and all
became still. A motion of his hand caused the servant to retire, As he
went out Mr. Elliott sank into a chair. His face had become pale and
distressed. He was sick at heart and sorely troubled. What did all this
mean? Had his unconsidered words brought forth fruit like this? Was he
indeed responsible for the fall of a weak brother and all the sad and
sorrowful consequences which had followed? He was overwhelmed, crushed
down, agonized by the thought, It was the bitterest moment in all his
life.



CHAPTER XXI.


MR. ELLIOTT still sat in a kind of helpless maze when his servant came
in with the card of Mrs. Spencer Birtwell. He read the name almost with
a start. Nothing, it seemed to him, could have been more inopportune,
for now he remembered with painful distinctness that it was at the
party given by Mr. and Mrs. Birtwell that Ridley had yielded to
temptation and fallen, never, he feared, to rise again.

Mrs. Birtwell met him with a very serious aspect.

"I am in trouble," was the first sentence that passed her lips as she
took the clergyman's hand and looked into his sober countenance.

"About what?" asked Mr. Elliott.

They sat down, regarding each other earnestly.

"Mr. Elliott," said the lady, with solemn impressiveness, "it is an
awful thing to feel that through your act a soul may be lost."

Mrs. Birtwell saw the light go out of her minister's face and a look of
pain sweep over it.

"An awful thing indeed," he returned, in a voice that betrayed the
agitation from which he was still suffering.

"I want to talk with you about a matter that distresses me deeply,"
said Mrs. Birtwell, wondering as she spoke at Mr. Elliott's singular
betrayal of feeling.

"If I can help you, I shall do so gladly," replied the clergyman. "What
is the ground of your trouble?"

"You remember Mr. Ridley?"

Mrs. Birtwell saw the clergyman start and the spasm of pain sweep over
his face once more.

"Yes," he replied, in a husky whisper. But he rallied himself with an
effort and asked, "What of him?" in a clear and steady voice.

"Mr. Ridley had been intemperate before coming to the city, but after
settling here he kept himself free from his old bad habits, and was
fast regaining the high position he had lost. I met his wife a number
of times. She was a very superior woman; and the more I saw of her, the
more I was drawn to her. We sent them cards for our party last winter.
Mrs. Ridley was sick and could not come. Mr. Ridley came, and--and--"
Mrs. Birtwell lost her voice for a moment, then added: "You know what I
would say. We put the cup to his lips, we tempted him with wine, and he
fell."

Mrs. Birtwell covered her face with her hands. A few strong sobs shook
her frame.

"He fell," she added as soon as she could recover herself, "and still
lies, prostrate and helpless, in the grasp of a cruel enemy into whose
power we betrayed him."

"But you did it ignorantly," said Mr. Elliott.

"There was no intention on your part to betray him. You did not know
that your friend was his deadly foe."

"My friend?" queried Mrs. Birtwell. She did not take his meaning.

"The wine, I mean. While to you and me it may be only a pleasant and
cheery friend, to one like Mr. Ridley it may be the deadliest of
enemies."

"An enemy to most people, I fear," returned Mrs. Birtwell, "and the
more dangerous because a hidden foe. In the end it biteth like a
serpent and stingeth like an adder."

Her closing sentence cut like a knife, and Mr. Elliott felt the sharp
edge.

"He fell," resumed Mrs. Birtwell, "but the hurt was not with him alone.
His wife died on the next day, and it has been said that the condition
in which he came home from our house gave her a shock that killed her."

Mrs. Birtwell shivered.

"People say a great many things," returned Mr. Elliott, "and this, I
doubt not is greatly exaggerated. Have you asked Doctor Hillhouse in
regard to the facts in the case? He attended Mrs. Ridley, I think."

"No. I've been afraid to ask him."

"It might relieve your mind."

"Do you think I would feel any better if he said yea instead of nay?
No, Mr. Elliott. I am afraid to question him."

"It's a sad affair," remarked the clergyman, gloomily, "and I don't see
what is to be done about a it. When a man falls as low as Mr. Ridley
has fallen, the case seems hopeless."

"Don't say hopeless, Mr. Elliott." responded Mrs. Birtwell, her voice
still more troubled. "Until a man is dead he is not wholly lost. The
hand of God is not stayed, and he can save to the uttermost."

"All who come unto him," added the clergyman, in a depressed voice that
had in it the knell of a human soul. "But these besotted men will not go
to him. I am helpless and in despair of salvation, when I stand face to
face with a confirmed drunkard. All one's care and thought and effort
seem wasted, You lift them up to-day, and they fall to-morrow. Good
resolutions, solemn promises, written pledges, go for nothing. They
seem to have fallen below the sphere in which God's saving power
operates."

"No, no, no, Mr. Elliott. I cannot, I will not, believe it," was the
strongly-uttered reply of Mrs. Birtwell. "I do not believe that any man
can fall below this potent sphere."

A deep, sigh came from the clergyman's lips, a dreary expression crept
into his face. There was a heavy weight upon his heart, and he felt
weak and depressed.

"Something must be done." There was the impulse of a strong resolve in
Mrs. Birtwell's tones.

"God works by human agencies. If we hold back and let our hands lie
idle, he cannot make us his instruments. If we say that this poor
fallen fellow-creature cannot be lifted out of his degradation and turn
away that he may perish, God is powerless to help him through us. Oh,
sir, I cannot do this and be conscience clear. I helped him to fall,
and, God giving me strength, I will help him to rise again."

Her closing sentence fell with rebuking force upon the clergyman. He
too was oppressed by a heavy weight of responsibility. If the sin of
this man's fall was upon the garments of Mrs. Birtwell, his were not
stainless. Their condemnation was equal, their duty one.

"Ah!" he said, in tones of deep solicitude, "if we but knew how to
reach and influence him!"

"We can do nothing if we stand afar off, Mr. Elliott," replied Mrs.
Birtwell. "We must try to get near him. He must see our outstretched
hands and hear our voices calling to him to come back. Oh, sir, my
heart tells me that all is not lost. God's loving care is as much over
him as it is over you and me, and his providence as active for his
salvation."

"How are we to get near him, Mrs. Birtwell? This is our great
impediment."

"God will show us the way if we desire it. Nay, he is showing us the
way, though we sought it not," replied Mrs. Birtwell, her manner
becoming more confident.

"How? I cannot see it," answered the clergyman.

"There has come a crisis in his life," said Mrs. Birtwell. "In his
downward course he has reached a point where, unless he can be held
back and rescued, he will, I fear, drift far out from the reach of
human hands. And it has so happened that I am brought to a knowledge of
this crisis and the great peril it involves. Is not this God's
providence? I verily believe so, Mr. Elliott. In the very depths of my
soul I seem to hear a cry urging me to the rescue. And, God giving me
strength, I mean to heed the admonition. This is why I have called
today. I want your help, and counsel."

"It shall be given," was the clergyman's answer, made in no
half-hearted way. "And now tell me all you know about this sad case.
What is the nature of the crisis that has come in the life of this
unhappy man?"

"I called on Mrs. Sandford this morning," replied Mrs. Birtwell, "and
learned that his daughter, who is little more than a child, had applied
for the situation of day-governess to her children. From Ethel she
ascertained their condition, which is deplorable enough. They have been
selling or pawning furniture and clothing in order to get food until
but little remains, and the daughter, brought face to face with want,
now steps forward to take the position of bread-winner."

"Has Mrs. Sandford engaged her?"

"No."

"Why not?"

"Ethel is scarcely more than a child. Deeply as Mrs. Sandford feels for
her, she cannot give her a place of so much responsibility. And
besides, she does not think it right to let her remain where she is.
The influence upon her life and character cannot be good, to say
nothing of the tax and burden far beyond her strength that she will
have to bear."

"Does she propose anything?"

"Yes. To save the children and let the father go to destruction."

"She would take them away from him?"

"Yes, thus cutting the last strand of the cord that held him away from
utter ruin."

A groan that could not be repressed broke from Mr. Elliott's lips.

"This must not be--at least not now," added Mrs. Birtwell, in a firm
voice. "It may be possible to save him through his home and children.
But if separated from them and cast wholly adrift, what hope is left?"

"None, I fear," replied Mr. Elliott.

"Then on this last hope will I build my faith and work for his rescue,"
said Mrs. Birtwell, with a solemn determination; "and may I count on
your help?"

"To the uttermost in my power." There was nothing half-hearted in Mr.
Elliott's reply. He meant to do all that his answer involved.

"Ah!" remarked Mrs. Birtwell as they talked still farther about the
unhappy case, "how much easier is prevention than cure! How much easier
to keep a stumbling-block out of another's way than to set him on his
feet after he has fallen! Oh, this curse of drink!"

"A fearful one indeed," said Mr. Elliott, "and one that is desolating
thousands of homes all over the land."

"And yet," replied Mrs. Birtwell, with a bitterness of tone she could
not repress, "you and I and some of our best citizens and church
people, instead of trying to free the land from this dreadful curse,
strike hands with those who are engaged in spreading broadcast through
society its baleful infection."

Mr. Elliott dropped his eyes to the floor like one who felt the truth
of a stinging accusation, and remained silent. His mind was in great
confusion. Never before had his own responsibility for this great evil
looked him in the face with such a stern aspect and with such rebuking
eyes.

"By example and invitation--nay, by almost irresistible enticements,"
continued Mrs. Birtwell--"we tempt the weak and lure the unwary and
break down the lines of moderation that prudence sets up to limit
appetite. I need not describe to you some of our social saturnalias. I
use strong language, for I cannot help it. We are all too apt to look
on their pleasant side, on the gayety, good cheer and bright reunions
by which they are attended, and to excuse the excesses that too often
manifest themselves. We do not see as we should beyond the present, and
ask ourselves what in natural result is going to be the outcome of all
this. We actually shut our eyes and turn ourselves away from the
warning signs and stern admonitions that are uplifted before us.

"Is it any matter of surprise, Mr. Elliott, that we should be
confronted now and then with some of the dreadful consequences that
flow inevitably from the causes to which I refer? or that as individual
participants in these things we should find ourselves involved in such
direct personal responsibility as to make us actually shudder?"

Mrs. Birtwell did not know how keen an edge these sentences had for Mr.
Elliott, nor how, deeply they cut. As for the clergyman, he kept his
own counsel.

"What can we do in this sad case?" he asked, after a few assenting
remarks on the dangers of social drinking. "This is the great question
now. I confess to being entirely at a loss. I never felt so helpless in
the presence of any duty before."

"I suppose," replied Mrs. Birtwell, "that the way to a knowledge of our
whole duty in any came is to begin to do the first thing that we see to
be right."

"Granted; and what then? Do you see the first right thing to be done?"

"I believe so."

"What is it?"

"If, as seems plain, the separation of Mr. Ridley from his home and
children is to cut the last strand of the cord that holds him away from
destruction, then our first work, if we would save him, is to help his
daughter to maintain that home."

"Then you would sacrifice the child for the sake of the father?"

"No; I would help the child to save her father. I would help her to
keep their little home as pleasant and attractive as possible, and see
that in doing so she did not work beyond her strength. This first."

"And what next?" asked Mr. Elliott.

"After I have done so much, I will trust God to show me what next. The
path of duty is plain so far. If I enter it in faith and trust and walk
whither it leads, I am sure that other ways, leading higher and to
regions of safety, will open for my willing feet."

"God grant that it may be so," exclaimed Mr. Elliott, with a fervor
that showed how deeply he was interested. "I believe you are right. The
slender mooring that holds this wretched man to the shore must not be
cut or broken. Sever that, and he is swept, I fear, to hopeless ruin.
You will see his daughter?"

"Yes. It is all plain now. I will go to her at once. I will be her fast
friend. I will let my heart go out to her as if she were my own child.
I will help her to keep the home her tender and loving heart is trying
to maintain."

Mrs. Birtwell now spoke with an eager enthusiasm that sent the warm
color to her cheeks and made her eyes, so heavy and sorrowful a little
while before, bright and full of hope.

On rising to go, Mr. Elliott urged her to do all in her power to save
the wretched man who had fallen over the stumbling-block their hands
had laid in his way, promising on his part all possible co-operation.



CHAPTER XXII.


AS Mrs. Birtwell left the house of Mr. Elliott a slender girl, thinly
clad, passed from the beautiful residence of Mrs. Sandford. She had
gone in only a little while before with hope in her pale young face;
now it had almost a frightened look. Her eyes were wet, and her lips
had the curve of one who grieves helplessly and in silence. Her steps,
as she moved down the street, were slow and unsteady, like the steps of
one who bore a heavy burden or of one weakened by long illness. In her
ears was ringing a sentence that had struck upon them like the doom of
hope. It was this--and it had fallen from the lips of Mrs. Sandford,
spoken with a cold severity that was more assumed than real--

"If you will do as I suggest, I will see that you have a good home; but
if you will not, I can do nothing for you."

There was no reply on the part of the young girl, and no sign of doubt
or hesitation. All the light--it had been fading slowly as the brief
conference between her and Mrs. Sandford had progressed--died out of
her face. She shrunk a little in her chair, her head dropping forward.
For the space of half a minute she sat with eyes cast down. Both were
silent, Mrs. Sandford waiting to see the effect of what she had said,
and hoping it would work a change in the girl's purpose. But she was
disappointed. After sitting in a stunned kind of way for a short time,
she rose, and without trusting herself to speak bowed slightly and left
the room. Mrs. Sandford did not call after the girl, but suffered her
to go down stairs and leave the house without an effort to detain her.

"She must gang her ain gait," said the lady, fretfully and with a
measure of hardness in her voice.

On reaching the street, Ethel Ridley--the reader has guessed her
name--walked away with slow, unsteady steps. She felt helpless and
friendless. Mrs. Sandford had offered to find her a home if she would
abandon her father and little brother. The latter, as Mrs. Sandford
urged, could be sent to his mother's relatives, where he would be much
better off than now.

Not for a single instant did Ethel debate the proposition. Heart and
soul turned from it. She might die in her effort to keep a home for her
wretched father, but not till then had she any thought of giving up.

On leaving the house of Mr. Elliott, Mrs. Birtwell went home, and after
remaining there for a short time ordered her carriage and drove to a
part of the town lying at considerable distance from that in which she
lived. Before starting she had given her driver the name of the street
and number of the house at which she was going to make a call. The
neighborhood was thickly settled, and the houses small and poor. The
one before which the carriage drew up did not look quite so forlorn as
its neighbors; and on glancing up at the second-story windows, Mrs.
Birtwell saw two or three flower-pots, in one of which a bright rose
was blooming.

"This is the place you gave me, ma'am," said the driver as he held open
the door. "Are you sure it is right?"

"I presume so;" and Mrs. Birtwell stepped out, and crossing the
pavement to the door, rang the bell. It was opened by a
pleasant-looking old woman, who, on being asked if a Miss Ridley lived
there, replied in the affirmative.

"You will find her in the front room up stairs, ma'am," she added.
"Will you walk up?"

The hall into which Mrs. Birtwell passed was narrow and had a rag
carpet on the floor. But the carpet was clean and the atmosphere pure.
Ascending the stairs, Mrs. Birtwell knocked at the door, and was
answered by a faint "Come in" from a woman's voice.

The room in which she found herself a moment afterward was almost
destitute of furniture. There was no carpet nor bureau nor wash-stand,
only a bare floor, a very plain bedstead and bed, a square pine table
and three chairs. There was not the smallest ornament of any kind on
the mantel-shelf but in the windows were three pots of flowers.
Everything looked clean. Some work lay upon the table, near which Ethel
Ridley was sitting. But she had, turned away from the table, and sat
with one pale cheek resting on her open hand. Her face wore a dreary,
almost hopeless expression. On seeing Mrs. Birtwell, she started up,
the blood leaping in a crimson tide to her neck, cheeks and temples,
and stood in mute expectation.

"Miss Ridley?" said her visitor, in a kind voice.

Ethel only bowed. She could not speak in her sudden surprise. But
recovering herself in a few moments she offered Mrs. Birtwell a chair.

"Mrs. Sandford spoke to me about you."

As Mrs. Birtwell said this she saw the flush die out of Ethel's face
and an expression of pain come over it. Guessing at what this meant,
she added, quickly:

"Mrs. Sandford and I do not think alike. You must keep your home, my
child."

Ethel gave a start and caught her breath. A look of glad surprise broke
into her face.

"Oh, ma'am," she answered, not able to steady her voice or keep the
tears out of her eyes, "if I can only do that! I am willing to work if
I can find anything to do. But--but--" She broke down, hiding her face
in her hands and sobbing.

Mrs. Birtwell was deeply touched. How could she help being so in
presence of the desolation and sorrow for which she felt herself and
husband to be largely responsible?

"It shall all be made plain and easy for you, my dear child," she
answered, taking Ethel's hand and kissing her with almost a mother's
tenderness. "It is to tell you this that I have come. You are too young
and weak to bear these burdens yourself. But stronger hands shall help
you."

It was a long time before Ethel could recover herself from the surprise
and joy awakened by so unexpected a declaration. When she comprehended
the whole truth, when the full assurance came, the change wrought in
her appearance was almost marvelous, and Mrs. Birtwell saw before her a
maiden of singular beauty with a grace and sweetness of manner rarely
found.

The task she had now to perform Mrs. Birtwell found a delicate one. She
soon saw that Ethel had a sensitive feeling of independence, and that
in aiding her she would have to devise some means of self-help that
would appear to be more largely remunerative than it really was. From a
simple gratuity the girl shrank, and it was with some difficulty that
she was able to induce her to take a small sum of money as an advance
on some almost pretended service, the nature of which she would explain
to her on the next day, when Ethel was to call at her house.

So Mrs. Birtwell took her first step in the new path of duty wherein
she had set her feet. For the next she would wait and pray for
guidance. She had not ventured to say much to Ethel at the first
interview about her father. The few questions asked had caused such
evident distress of mind that she deemed it best to wait until she saw
Ethel again before talking to her more freely on a subject that could
not but awaken the keenest suffering.

Mrs. Birtwell's experience was a common one. She had scarcely taken her
first step in the path of duty before the next was made plain. In her
case this was so marked as to fill her with surprise. She had
undertaken to save a human soul wellnigh lost, and was entering upon
her work with that singleness of purpose which gives success where
success is possible. Such being the case, she was an instrument through
which a divine love of saving could operate. She became, as it were,
the human hand by which God could reach down and grasp a sinking soul
ere the dark waters of sin and sorrow closed over it for ever.

She was sitting alone that evening, her heart full of the work to which
she had set her hand and her mind beating about among many suggestions,
none of which had any reasonable promise of success, when a call from
Mr. Elliott was announced. This was unusual. What could it mean?
Naturally she associated it with Mr. Ridley. She hurried down to meet
him, her heart beating rapidly. As she entered the parlor Mr. Elliott,
who was standing in the centre of the room, advanced quickly toward her
and grasped her hand with a strong pressure. His manner was excited and
there was a glow of unusual interest on his face:

"I have just heard something that I wish to talk with you about. There
is hope for our poor friend."

"For Mr. Ridley?" asked Mrs. Birtwell, catching the excitement of her
visitor.

"Yes, and God grant that it may not be a vain hope!" he added, with a
prayer in his heart as well as upon his lips.

They sat down and the clergyman went on:

"I have had little or no faith in any of the efforts which have been
made to reform drunkenness, for none of them, in my view, went down to
the core of the matter. I know enough of human nature and its
depravity, of the power of sensual allurement and corporeal appetite,
to be very sure that pledges, and the work usually done for inebriates
in the asylums established for their benefit, cannot, except in a few
cases, be of any permanent good. No man who has once been enslaved by
any inordinate appetite can, in my view, ever get beyond the danger of
re-enslavement unless through a change wrought in him by God, and this
can only take place after a prayerful submission of himself to God and
obedience to his divine laws so far as lies in his power. In other
words, Mrs. Birtwell, the Church must come to his aid. It is for this
reason that I have never had much faith in temperance societies as
agents of personal reformation. To lift up from any evil is the work of
the Church, and in her lies the only true power of salvation."

"But," said Mrs. Birtwell, "is not all work which has for its end the
saving of man from evil God's work? It is surely not the work of an
enemy."

"God forbid that I should say so. Every saving effort, no matter how or
when made, is work for God and humanity. Do not misunderstand me. I say
nothing against temperance societies. They have done and are still
doing much good, and I honor the men who organize and work through
them. Their beneficent power is seen in a changed and changing public
sentiment, in efforts to reach the sources of a great and destructive
evil, and especially in their conservative and restraining influence.
But when a man is overcome of the terrible vice against which they
stand in battle array, when he is struck down by the enemy and taken
prisoner, a stronger hand than theirs is needed to rescue him, even the
hand of God; and this is why I hold that, except in the Church, there
is little or no hope for the drunkard."

"But we cannot bring these poor fallen creatures into the Church,"
answered Mrs. Birtwell. "They shun its doors. They stand afar off."

"The Church must go to them," said Mr. Elliott--"go as Christ, the
great Head of the Church, himself went to the lowest and the vilest,
and lift them up, and not only lift them up, but encompass them round
with its saving influences."

"How is this to be done?" asked Mrs. Birtwell.

"That has been our great and difficult problem; but, thank God! it is,
I verily believe, now being solved."

"How? Where?" eagerly asked Mrs. Birtwell. "What Church has undertaken
the work?"

"A Church not organized for worship and spiritual culture, but with a
single purpose to go into the wilderness and desert places in search of
lost sheep, and bring them, if possible, back to the fold of God. I
heard of it only to-day, though for more than a year it has been at
work in our midst. Men and women of nearly every denomination have
joined in the organization of this church, and are working together in
love and unity. Methodists, Episcopalians, Baptists, Presbyterians,
Swedenborgians, Congregationalists, Universalists and Unitarians, so
called, here clasp hands in a common Christian brotherhood, and give
themselves to the work of saving the lost and lifting up the fallen."

"Why do you call it a Church?" asked Mrs. Birtwell.

"Because it was founded in prayer to God, and with the acknowledgment
that all saving power must come from him. Men of deep religious
experience whose hearts yearned over the hapless condition of poor
drunkards met together and prayed for light and guidance. They were
willing to devote themselves to the task of saving these unhappy men if
God would show them the way. And I verily believe that he has shown
them the way. They have established a _Christian Home_, not a mere
inebriate asylum."

As he spoke Mr. Elliott drew a paper from his pocket.

"Let me read you," he said, "a few sentences from an article giving an
account of the work of this Church, as I have called it. I only met
with it to-day, and I am not sure that it would have taken such a hold
upon me had it not been for my concern about Mr. Ridley.

"The writer says, 'In the treatment of drunkenness, we must go deeper
than hospital or asylum work. This reaches no farther than the physical
condition and moral nature, and can therefore be only temporary in its
influence. We must awaken the spiritual consciousness, and lead a man
too weak to stand in his own strength when appetite, held only in
abeyance, springs back upon him to trust in God as his only hope of
permanent reformation. First we must help him physically, we must take
him out of his debasement, his foulness and his discomfort, and
surround him with the influences of a home. Must get him clothed and in
his right mind, and make him feel once more that he has sympathy--is
regarded as a man full of the noblest possibilities--and so be
stimulated to personal effort. But this is only preliminary work, such
as any hospital may do. The real work of salvation goes far beyond
this; it must be wrought in a higher degree of the soul--even that
which we call spiritual. The man must be taught that only in
Heaven-given strength is there any safety. He must be led, in his
weakness and sense of degradation, to God as the only one who can lift
him up and set his feet in a safe place. Not taught this as from pulpit
and platform, but by earnest, self-denying, sympathizing Christian men
and women standing face to face with the poor repentant brother, and
holding him tightly by the hand lest he stumble and fall in his first
weak efforts to walk in a better way. And this is just the work that is
now being done in our city by a Heaven-inspired institution not a year
old, but with accomplished results that are a matter of wonder to all
who are familiar with its operations."

Mrs. Birtwell leaned toward Mr. Elliott as he read, the light of a new
hope irradiating her countenance.

"Is not this a Church in the highest and best sense?" asked Mr.
Elliott, with a glow of enthusiasm in his voice.

"It is; and if the membership is not full, I am going to join it,"
replied Mrs. Birtwell, "and do what I can to bring at least one
straying sheep out of the wilderness and into its fold."

"And I pray God that your work be not in vain," said the clergyman. "It
is that I might lead you to this work that I am now here. Some of the
Christian men and women whose names I find here"--Mr. Elliott referred
to the paper in his hand--"are well known to me personally, and others
by reputation."

He read them over.

"Such names," he added, "give confidence and assurance. In the hands of
these men and women, the best that can be done will be done. And what
is to hinder if the presence and the power of God be in their work?
Whenever two or three meet together in his name, have they not his
promise to be with them? and when he is, present, are not all saving
influences most active? Present we know him to be everywhere, but his
presence and power have a different effect according to the kind and
degree of reception. He is present with the evil as well as the good,
but he can manifest his love and work of saving far more effectually
through the good than he can through the evil.

"And so, because this Home has been made a Christian Home, and its
inmates taught to believe that only in coming to God in Christ as their
infinite divine Saviour, and touching the hem of his garments, is there
any hope of being cured of their infirmity, has its great saving power
become manifest."

Just then voices were heard sounding through the hall. Apparently there
was an altercation between the waiter and some one at the street door.

"What's that?" asked Mrs Birtwell, a little startled at the unusual
sound.

They listened, and heard the voice of a man saying, in an excited tone:

"I must see her!"

Then came the noise of a struggle, as though the waiter were trying to
prevent the forcible entry of some one.

Mrs. Birtwell started to her feet in evident alarm. Mr. Elliott was
crossing to the parlor door, when it was thrown open with considerable
violence, and he stood face to face with Mr. Ridley.



CHAPTER XXIII.


ON leaving the clergyman's residence, baffled in his efforts to get the
wine he had hoped to obtain, Mr. Ridley strode hurriedly away, almost
running, as though in fear of pursuit. After going for a block or two
he stopped suddenly, and stood with an irresolute air for several
moments. Then he started forward again, moving with the same rapid
speed. His face was strongly agitated and nearly colorless. His eyes
were restless, glancing perpetually from side to side.

There was no pause now until he reached the doors of a large hotel in
the centre of the city. Entering, he passed first into the reading-room
and looked through it carefully, then stood in the office for several
minutes, as if waiting for some one. While here a gentleman who had
once been a client came in, and was going to the clerk's desk to make
some inquiry, when Ridley stepped forward, and calling him by name,
reached out his hand. It was not taken, however. The man looked at him
with an expression of annoyance and disgust, and then passed him
without a word.

A slight tinge of color came into Ridley's pale face. He bit his lips
and clenched his hands nervously.

From the office he went to the bar-room. At the door he met a
well-known lawyer with whom he had crossed swords many times in
forensic battles oftener gaining victory than suffering defeat. There
was a look of pity in the eyes of this man when they rested upon him.
He suffered his hand to be taken by the poor wretch, and even spoke to
him kindly.

"B----," said Ridley as he held up one of his hands and showed its
nerveless condition, "you see where I am going?"

"I do, my poor fellow!" replied the man; "and if you don't stop short,
you will be at the end of your journey sooner than you anticipate."

"I can't stop; it's too late. For God's sake get me a glass of brandy!
I haven't tasted a drop since morning."

His old friend and associate saw how it was--saw that his
over-stimulated nervous system was fast giving way, and that he was on
the verge of mania. Without replying the lawyer went back to the bar,
at which he had just been drinking. Calling for brandy, he poured a
tumbler nearly half full, and after adding a little water gave it to
Ridley, who drank the whole of it before withdrawing the glass from his
lips.

"It was very kind of you," said the wretched man as he began to feel
along his shaking nerves the stimulating power of the draught he had
taken. "I was in a desperate bad way."

"And you are not out of that way yet," replied the other. "Why don't
you stop this thing while a shadow of hope remains?"

"It's easy enough to say stop"--Ridley spoke in a tone of
fretfulness--"and of about as much use as to cry 'Stop!' to a man
falling down a precipice or sweeping over a cataract. I can't stop."

His old friend gazed at him pityingly, then, shrugging his shoulders,
he bade him good-morning. From the bar Ridley drifted to the
reading-room, where he made a feint of looking over the newspapers.
What cared he for news? All his interest in the world had become
narrowed down to the ways and means of getting daily enough liquor to
stupefy his senses and deaden his nerves. He only wanted to rest now,
and let the glass of brandy he had taken do its work on his exhausted
system. It was not long before he was asleep. How long he remained in
this state he did not know. A waiter, rudely shaking him, brought him
back to life's dreary consciousness again and an order to leave the
reading room sent him out upon the street to go he knew not whither.

Night had come, and Ethel, with a better meal ready for her father than
she had been able to prepare for him in many weeks, sat anxiously
awaiting his return. Toward her he had always been kind and gentle. No
matter how much he might be under the influence of liquor, he had never
spoken a harsh word to this patient, loving, much-enduring child. For
her sake he had often made feeble efforts at reform, but appetite had
gained such mastery; over him that resolution was as flax in the flame.

It was late in the evening when Mr. Ridley returned home. Ethel's quick
ears detected something unusual in his steps as he came along the
entry. Instead of the stumbling or shuffling noise with which he
generally made his way up stairs, she noticed that his footfalls were
more distinct and rapid. With partially suspended breath she sat with
her eyes upon the door until it was pushed open. The moment she looked
into her father's face she saw a change. Something had happened to him.
The heavy, besotted look was gone, the dull eyes were lighted up. He
shut the door behind him quickly and with the manner of one who had
been pursued and now felt himself in a place of safety.

"What's the matter, father dear?" asked Ethel as she started up and
laying her hand upon his shoulder looked into his face searchingly.

"Nothing, nothing," he replied. But the nervousness of his manner and
the restless glancing of his eyes, now here and now there, and the look
of fear in them, contradicted his denial.

"What has happened, father? Are you sick?" inquired Ethel.

"No, dear, nothing has happened. But I feel a little strange."

He spoke with unusual tenderness in his manner, and his voice shook and
had a mournful cadence.

"Supper is all ready and waiting. I've got something nice and hot for
you. A strong cup of tea will do you good," said Ethel, trying to speak
cheerily. She had her father at the table in a few minutes. His hand
trembled so in lifting his cup that he spilled some of the contents,
but she steadied it for him. He had better control of himself after
drinking the tea, and ate a few mouthfuls, but without apparent relish.

"I've got something to tell you," said Ethel, leaning toward her father
as they still sat at the table. Mr. Ridley saw a new light in his
daughter's face.

"What is it, dear?" he said.

"Mrs. Birtwell was here to-day, and is going--"

The instant change observed in her father's manner arrested the
sentence on Ethel's lips. A dark shadow swept across his face and he
became visibly agitated.

"Going to do what?" he inquired, betraying some anger.

"Going to help me all she can. She was very kind, and wants me to go
and see her to-morrow. I think she's very good, father."

Mr. Ridley dropped his eyes from the flushed, excited face of his
child. The frown left his brow. He seemed to lose himself in thought.
Leaning forward upon the table, he laid his face down upon his folded
arms, hiding it from view.

A sad and painful conflict, precipitated by the remark of his daughter,
was going on in the mind of this wretched man. He knew also too well
that he was standing on the verge of a dreadful condition from the
terrors of which his soul shrunk back in shuddering fear. All day he
had felt the coming signs, and the hope of escape had now left him. But
love for his daughter was rising above all personal fear and dread. He
knew that at any moment the fiend of delirium might spring upon him,
and then this tender child would be left alone with him in his awful
conflict. The bare possibility of such a thing made him shudder, and
all his thought was now directed toward the means of saving her from
being a witness of the appalling scene.

The shock and anger produced by the mention of Mrs. Birtwell's name had
passed off, and his thought was going out toward her in a vague,
groping way, and in a sort of blind faith that through her help in his
great extremity might come. It was all folly, he knew. What could she
do for a poor wretch in his extremity? He tried to turn his thought
from her, but ever as he turned it away it swung back and rested
in-this blind faith.

Raising his eyes at last, his mind still in a maze of doubt, he saw
just before him an the table a small grinning head. It was only by a
strong effort that he could keep from crying out in fear and starting
back from the table. A steadier look obliterated the head and left a
teacup in its place.

No time was now to be lost. At any moment the enemy might be upon him.
He must go quickly, but where? A brief struggle against an almost
unconquerable reluctance and dread, and then, rising from the table,
Mr. Ridley caught up his hat and ran down stairs, Ethel calling after
him. He did not heed her anxious cries. It was for her sake that he was
going. She heard the street door shut with a jar, and listened to her
father's departing feet until the sound died out in the distance.

It was over an hour from this time when Mr. Ridley, forcing his way
past the servant who had tried to keep him back, stood confronting Mr.
Elliott. A look of disappointment, followed by an angry cloud, came
into his face. But seeing Mrs. Birtwell, his countenance brightened;
and stepping past the clergyman, he advanced toward her. She did not
retreat from him, but held out her hand, and said, with an earnestness
so genuine that it touched his feeling:

"I am glad to see you, Mr. Ridley."

As he took her extended hand Mrs. Birtwell drew him toward a sofa and
sat down near him, manifesting the liveliest interest.

"Is there anything I can do for you?" she asked.

"No, ma'am," he replied, in a mournful voice--"not for me. I didn't
come for that. But you'll be good to my poor Ethel, won't you,
and--and--"

His voice broke into sobs, his weak frame quivered.

"I will, I will!" returned Mrs. Birtwell with prompt assurance.

"Oh, thank you. It's so good of you. My poor girl! I may never see you
again."

The start and glance of fear he now threw across the room revealed to
Mr. Elliott the true condition of their visitor, and greatly alarmed
him. He had never been a witness of the horrors of delirium tremens,
and only knew of it by the frightful descriptions he had sometimes
read, but he could not mistake the symptoms of the coming attack as now
seen in Mr. Ridley, who, on getting from Mrs. Birtwell a repeated and
stronger promise to care for Ethel, rose from the sofa and started for
the door.

But neither Mr. Elliott nor Mrs. Birtwell could let him go away in this
condition. They felt too deeply their responsibility in the case, and
felt also that One who cares for all, even the lowliest and most
abandoned, had led him thither in his dire extremity.

Following him quickly, Mr. Elliott laid his hand firmly upon his arm.

"Stop a moment, Mr. Ridley," he said, with such manifest interest that
the wretched man turned and looked at him half in surprise.

"Where are you going?" asked the clergyman.

"Where?" His voice fell to a deep whisper. There was a look of terror
in his eyes. "Where? God only knows. Maybe to hell."

A strong shiver went through his frame.

"The 'Home,' Mr. Elliott! We must get him into the' Home,'" said Mrs.
Birtwell, speaking close to the minister's ear.

"What home?" asked Mr. Ridley, turning quickly upon her.

She did not answer him. She feared to say a "Home for inebriates," lest
he should break from them in anger.

"What home?" he repeated, in a stronger and more agitated voice; and
now both Mr. Elliott and Mrs. Birtwell saw a wild eagerness in his
manner.

"A home," replied Mr. Elliott, "where men like you can go and receive
help and sympathy. A home where you will find men of large and hopeful
nature to take you by the hand and hold you up, and Christian women
with hearts full of mother and sister love to comfort, help, encourage
and strengthen all your good desires. A home in which men in your
unhappy condition are made welcome, and in which they are cared for
wisely and tenderly in their greatest extremity."

"Then take me there, for God's sake!" cried out the wretched man,
extending his hand eagerly as he spoke.

"Order the carriage immediately," said Mrs. Birtwell to the servant who
stood in the half-open parlor door.

Then she drew Mr. Ridley back to the sofa, from which he had started up
a little while before, and said, in a voice full of comfort and
persuasion:

"You shall go there, and I will come and see you every day; and you
needn't have a thought or care for Ethel. All is going to come out
right again."

The carriage came in a few minutes. There was no hesitation on the part
of Mr. Ridley. The excitement of this new hope breaking in so suddenly
upon the midnight of his despair acted as a temporary stimulant and
held his nerves steady for a little while longer.

"You are not going?" said Mr. Elliott, seeing that Mrs. Birtwell was
making ready to accompany them in the carriage.

"Yes," she replied. "I want to see just what this home is and how Mr.
Ridley is going to be received and cared for."

She then directed their man-servant to get into the carriage with them,
and they drove away. Mr. Ridley did not stir nor speak, but sat with
his head bent down until they arrived at their destination. He left the
carriage and went in passively. As they entered a large and pleasant
reception-room a gentleman stepped forward, and taking Mr. Elliott by
the hand, called him by name in a tone of pleased surprise.

"Oh, Mr. G----!" exclaimed the clergyman. "I am right glad to find you
here. I remember seeing your name in the list of directors."

"Yes, I am one of the men engaged in this work," replied Mr. G----.
Then, as he looked more closely at Mr. Ridley, he recognized him and
saw at a glance his true condition.

"My dear sir," said he, stepping forward and grasping his hand, "I am
glad you have come here."

Mr. Ridley looked at, or rather beyond, him in a startled way, and then
drew back a few steps. Mr. G---- saw him shiver and an expression of
fear cross his face. Turning to a man who sat writing at a desk, he
called him by name, and with a single glance directed his attention to
Mr. Ridley. The man was by his side in a moment, and as Mr. Elliott did
not fail to notice all on the alert. He spoke to Mr. Ridley in a kind
but firm voice, and drew him a little way toward an adjoining room, the
door of which stood partly open.

"Do the best you can for this poor man," said Mrs. Birtwell, now
addressing Mr. G----. "I will pay all that is required. You know him, I
see."

"Yes, I know him well. A sad case indeed. You may be sure that what can
be done will be done."

At this moment Mr. Ridley gave a cry and a spring toward the door.
Glancing at him, Mrs. Birtwell saw that his countenance was distorted
by terror. Instantly two men came in from the adjoining room and
quickly restrained him. After two or three fruitless efforts to break
away, he submitted to their control, and was immediately removed to
another part of the building.

With white lips and trembling limbs Mrs. Birtwell stood a frightened
spectator of the scene. It was over in a moment, but it left her sick
at heart.

"What will they do with him?" she asked, her voice husky and choking.

"All that his unhappy case requires," replied Mr. G----. "The man you
saw go first to his side can pity him, for he has himself more than
once passed through that awful conflict with the power of hell upon
which our poor friend has now entered. A year ago he came to this Home
in a worse condition than Mr. Ridley begging us for God's sake to take
him in. A few weeks saw him, to use sacred words, 'clothed and in his
right mind,' and since then he has never gone back a single step. Glad
and grateful for his own rescue, he now devotes his life to the work of
saving others. In his hands Mr. Ridley will receive the gentlest
treatment consistent with needed restraint. He is better here than he
could possibly be anywhere else; and when, as I trust in God the case
may be, he comes out of this dreadful ordeal, he will find himself
surrounded by friends and in the current of influences all leading him
to make a new effort to reform his life. Poor man! You did not get him
here a moment too soon."



CHAPTER XXIV.


MRS. BIRTWELL slept but little that night and in the brief periods of
slumber that came to her she was disturbed by unquiet dreams. The
expression of Mr. Ridley's face as the closing door shut it from her
sight on the previous evening haunted her like the face of an accusing
spectre.

Immediately after breakfast she dressed herself to go out, intending to
visit the Home for reforming inebriates and learn something of Mr.
Ridley. Just as she came down stairs a servant opened the street door,
and she saw the slender figure of Ethel.

"My poor child!" she said, with great kindness of manner, taking her by
the hand and drawing her in. "You are frightened about your father."

"Oh yes, ma'am," replied Ethel, with quivering lips. "He didn't come
home all night, and I'm so scared about him. I don't know what to do.
Maybe you'll think it wrong in me to trouble you about it, but I am in
such distress, and don't know where to go.

"No, not wrong, my child, and I'm glad you've come. I ought to have
sent you word about him."

"My father! Oh, ma'am, do you know where he is?"

"Yes; he came here last night sick, and I took him in my carriage to a
Home for just such as he is, where he will be kindly taken care of
until he gets well."

Ethel's large brown eyes were fixed in a kind of thankful wonder on the
face of Mrs. Birtwell. She could not speak. She did not even try to put
thought or feeling into words. She only took the hand of Mrs. Birtwell,
and after touching it with her lips laid her wet cheek against it and
held it there tightly.

"Can I go and see him?" she asked, lifting her face after some moments.

"It will not be best, I think," replied Mrs. Birtwell--"that is, not
now. He was very sick when we took him there, and may not be well
enough to be seen this morning."

"Very sick! Oh, ma'am!" The face of Ethel grew white and her lips
trembled.

"Not dangerously," said Mrs. Birtwell, "but yet quite ill. I am going
now to see him; and if you will come here in a couple of hours, when I
shall return home--"

"Oh. ma'am, let me go along with you," broke in Ethel. "I won't ask to
see him if it isn't thought best, but I'll know how he is without
waiting so long."

The fear that Mr. Ridley might die in his delirium had troubled Mrs.
Birtwell all night, and it still oppressed her. She would have much
preferred to go alone and learn first the good or ill of the case, but
Ethel begged so hard to be permitted to accompany her that she could
not persist in objection.

On reaching the Home, Mrs. Birtwell found in the office the man in
whose care Mr. Ridley had been placed. Remembering what Mr. G---- had
said of this man, a fresh hope for Ethel's father sprang up in her soul
as she looked into his clear eyes and saw his firm mouth and air of
conscious poise and strength. She did not see in his manly face a
single scar from the old battle out of which he had come at last
victorious. Recognizing her, he called her by name, and not waiting for
her to ask the question that looked out of her face, said:

"It is all right with him."

A cry of joy that she could not repress broke from Ethel. It was
followed by sobbing and tears.

"Can we see him?" asked Mrs. Birtwell.

"The doctor will not think it best," replied the man. "He has had a
pretty hard night, but, the worst is over. We must keep him quiet
to-day."

"In the morning can I see him?" asked Ethel lifting her eyes, half
blinded by tears, to the man's face.

"Yes; I think I can say yes," was the reply.

"How soon?"

"Come at ten o'clock."

"You'll let me call and ask about him this evening, won't you?"

"Oh yes, and you will get a good report, I am sure."

The care and help and wise consideration received in the Home by Mr.
Ridley, while passing through the awful stages of his mania, had
probably saved his life. The fits of frenzy were violent, so
overwhelming him with phantom terrors that in his wild and desperate
struggles to escape the fangs of serpents and dragons and the horrid
crew of imaginary demons that crowded his room and pressed madly upon
him he would, but for the restraint to which he was subjected, have
thrown himself headlong from a window or bruised and broken himself
against the wall.

It was the morning of the second day after Mr. Ridley entered the Home.
He had so far recovered as to be able to sit up in his room, a clean
and well ventilated apartment, neatly furnished and with an air of home
comfort about it. Two or three pictures hung on the walls, one of them
representing a father sitting with a child upon each knee and the happy
mother standing beside them. He had looked at this picture until his
eyes grew dim. Near it was an illuminated text: "WITHOUT ME YE CAN DO
NOTHING."

There came, as he sat gazing at the sweet home-scene, the beauty and
tenderness of which had gone down into his heart, troubling its waters
deeply, a knock at the door. Then the matron, accompanied by one of the
lady managers of the institution, came in and made kind inquiries as to
his condition. He soon saw that this lady was a refined and cultivated
Christian woman, and it was not long before he felt himself coming
under a new influence and all the old desires and purposes long ago
cast away warming again into life and gathering up their feeble
strength.

Gradually the lady led him on to talk to her of himself as he would
have talked to his mother or his sister. She asked him of his family,
and got the story of his bereavement, his despair and his helplessness.
Then she sought to inspire him with new resolutions, and to lead him to
make a new effort.

"I will be a man again," he exclaimed, at last, rising to this
declaration under the uplifting and stimulating influences that were
around him.

Then the lady answered him in a low, earnest, tender voice that
trembled with the burden of its great concern:

"Not in your own strength. That is impossible."

His lips dropped apart. He looked at her strangely.

"Not in your own strength, but in God's," she said reverently. "You
have tried your own strength many times, but it has failed as often.
But his strength never fails."

She lifted her finger and pointed to the text on the wall, "Without me
ye can do nothing," then added: "But in him we can do all things.
Trusting in yourself, my friend, you will go forth from here to an
unequal combat, but trusting in him your victory is assured. You shall
go among lions and they will have no power to harm you, and stand in
the very furnace flame of temptation without even the smell of fire
being left upon your garments."

"Ah, ma'am, you are doubtless right in what you say," Mr. Ridley
answered, all the enthusiasm dying out of his countenance. "But I am
not a religious man. I have never trusted in God."

"That is no reason why you should not trust in him now," she answered,
quickly. "All other hope for you is vain, but in God there is safety.
Will you not go to him now?"

There came a quick, nervous rap upon the door; then it was flung open,
and Ethel, with a cry of "Oh, father, my father, my father!" sprang
across the room and threw herself into Mr. Ridley's arms.

With an answering cry of "Oh, Ethel, my child, my child!" Mr. Ridley
drew her to his bosom, clasped her slender form to his heart and laid
his face, over which tears were flowing, down among the thick masses of
her golden hair.

"Let us pray," fell the sweet, solemn voice of the lady manager on the
deep stillness that followed. All knelt, Mr. Ridley with his arm drawn
tightly around his daughter. Then in tender, earnest supplication did
this Christian woman offer her prayers for help.

"Dear Lord and Saviour," she said, in hushed, pleading tones, "whose
love goes yearning after the lost and straying ones, open the eyes of
this man, one of thy sick and suffering children, that he may see the
tender beauty of thy countenance. Touch his heart, that he may feel the
sweetness of thy love. Draw him to come unto thee, and to trust and
confide in thee as his ever-present and unfailing Friend. In thee is
safety, in thee is peace, and nowhere else."

God could answer this prayer through its influence upon the mind of him
for whom it was offered. It was the ladder on which his soul climbed
upward. The thought of God and of his love and mercy with which it
filled all his consciousness inspired him with hope. He saw his own
utter helplessness, and felt the peril and disaster that were before
him when his frail little vessel of human resolution again met the
fierce storms and angry billows of temptation; and so, in despairing
abandonment of all human strength, he lifted his thoughts to God and
cried out for the help and strength he needed.

And then, for he was deeply and solemnly in earnest, there was a new
birth in his soul--the birth of a new life of spiritual forces in which
God could be so present with him as to give him power to conquer when
evil assailed him. It was not a life of his own, but a new life from
God--not a self-acting life by which he was to be taken over the sea of
temptation like one in a boat rowed by a strong oarsman, but a power he
must use for himself, and one that would grow by use, gaining more and
more strength, until it subdued and subordinated every natural desire
to the rule of heavenly principles, and yet it was a life that, if not
cherished and made active, would die.

There was a new expression in Mr. Ridley's face when he rose from his
knees. It was calmer and stronger.

"God being your helper," said the lady manager, impressively, "victory
is sure, and he will help you and overcome for you if you will let him.
Do not trust to any mere personal motives or considerations. You have
tried to stand by these over and over again, and every time you have
fallen their power to help you has become less. Pride, ambition, even
love, have failed. But the strength that God will give you, if you make
his divine laws the rule of your life, cannot fail. Go to him in
childlike trust. Tell him as you would tell a loving father of your sin
and sorrow and helplessness, and ask of him the strength you need. Read
every morning a portion of his holy word, and lay the divine precepts
up in your heart. He is himself the word of life, and is therefore
present in a more real and saving way to those who reverence and obey
this word than it is possible for him to be to those who do not.

"Herein will lie your strength. Hence will come your deliverance. Take
hold upon God our Saviour, my friend, and all the powers of hell shall
not prevail against you. You will be tempted, but in the moment you
hear the voice of the tempter look to God and ask him for strength, and
it will surely come. Don't parley, for a single moment. Let no feeling
of security lead you to test your own poor strength in any combat with
the old appetite, for that would be an encounter full of peril. Trust
in God, and all will be safe. But remember that there is no real trust
in God without a life in harmony with his commandments. All-abiding
spiritual strength comes through obedience only."

Mr. Ridley listened with deep attention, and when the lady ceased
speaking said:

"Of myself I can do nothing. Long ago I saw that, and gave up the
struggle in despair. If help comes now, it must come from God. No power
but his can save me."

"Will you not, then, go to him?"

"How am I to go? What am I to do? What will God require of me?"

He spoke hurriedly and with the manner of one who felt himself in
imminent danger and looked anxiously for a way of escape.

"To do justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly before him; he requires
nothing more," was the calmly spoken reply.

A light broke into Mr. Ridley's face.

"You cannot be just and merciful if you touch the accursed thing, for
that would destroy your power to be so. To touch it, then, will be to
sin against God and hurt your neighbor. Just here, then, must your
religious life be in. For you to taste any kind of intoxicating drink
would be a sin. God cannot help you, unless you shun this evil as a sin
against him, and he will give you the power to shun it if, whenever you
feel the desire to drink, you resist that desire and pray for strength
by which to gain a victory.

"Every time you do this you will receive new spiritual strength, and be
so much nearer the ark of safety. So resisting day by day, always in a
humble acknowledgment that every good gift comes from a loving Father
in heaven, the time is not far distant when your feet will be on the
neck of the enemy that has ruled over you so long. God, even our God,
will surely bring you off conqueror."

Mr. Ridley on whose calmer face the light of a new confidence now
rested, drew his arm closely about Ethel, who was leaning against him,
and said:

"Take heart, darling. If God is for us, who shall be against us?
Henceforth I will trust in him."

Ethel put her arms about his neck, weeping silently. The matron and
lady manager went out and left them alone.

Mrs. Birtwell did not visit the Home on this morning to see how it
fared with Mr. Ridley as she had intended doing. The shadow of a great
evil had fallen upon her house. For some time she had seen its
approaches and felt the gathering gloom. If the reader will go back
over the incidents and characters of this story, he will recall a scene
between Mrs. Whitford and her son Ellis, the accepted lover of Blanche
Birtwell, and will remember with what earnestness the mother sought to
awaken in the mind of the young man a sense of danger, going so far as
to uncover a family secret and warn him of a taint in his blood. It
will also be remembered how the proud, self-confident young man
rejected, her warnings and entreaties, and how wine betrayed him.

The humiliation that followed was deep, but not effective to save him.
Wine to his inherited appetite was like blood to the wolf-nature. To
touch it was to quicken into life an irrepressible desire for more. But
his pride fought against any acknowledgment of his weakness, and
particularly against so public an acknowledgment as abstinence when all
around him were taking wine. Every time he went to a dinner or
evening-party, or to any entertainment where wine was to be served, he
would go self-admonished to be on guard against excess, but rarely was
the admonition heeded. A single glass so weakened his power of
restraint that he could not hold back his hand; and if it so happened
that from any cause this limit was forced upon him, as in making a
morning or an evening call, the stimulated appetite would surely draw
his feet to the bar of some fashionable saloon or hotel in order that
it might secure a deeper satisfaction.

It was not possible, so impelled by appetite and so indulging its
demands, for Ellis Whitford to keep from drifting out into the fatal
current on whose troubled waters thousands are yearly borne to
destruction.

After her humiliation at Mrs. Birtwell's, a smile was never seen upon
the mother's face. All that she deemed it wise to say to her son when
he awoke in shame next morning she said in tears that she had no power
to hold back. He promised with solemn asseverations that he would never
again so debase himself, and he meant to keep his promise. Hope stirred
feebly in his mother's heart, but died when, in answer to her
injunction, "Touch not, taste not, handle not, my son. Herein lies your
only chance of safety," he replied coldly and with irritation:

"I will be a man, and not a slave. I will walk in freedom among my
associates, not holding up manacled wrists."

Alas! he did not walk in freedom. Appetite had already forged invisible
chains that held him in a fatal bondage. It was not yet too late. With
a single strong effort he could have rent these bonds asunder, freeing
himself for ever. But pride and a false shame held him back, from
making this effort, and all the while appetite kept silently
strengthening every link and steadily forging new chains. Day by day he
grew feebler as to will-power and less clear in judgment. His fine
ambition, that once promised to lift him into the highest ranks of his
profession, began to lose its stimulating influence.

None but his mother knew how swiftly this sad demoralization was
progressing, through others were aware of the fact that he indulged too
freely in wine.

With a charity that in too many instances was self-excusing, not a few
of his friends and acquaintances made light of his excesses, saying:

"Oh, he'll get over it;" or, "Young blood is hot and boils up
sometimes;" or, "He'll steady himself, never fear."

The engagement between Ellis and Blanche still existed, though Mr. and
Mrs. Birtwell were beginning to feel very much concerned about the
future of their daughter, and were seriously considering the propriety
of taking steps to have the engagement broken off. The young man often
came to their house so much under the influence of drink that there was
no mistaking his condition; but if any remark was made about it,
Blanche not only exhibited annoyance, but excused and defended him, not
unfrequently denying the fact that was apparent to all.

One day--it was several months from the date of that fatal party out of
which so many disasters came, as if another Pandora's box had been
opened--the card of Mrs. Whitford was placed in the hands of Mrs.
Birtwell.

"Say that I will be down in a moment."

But the servant who had brought up the card answered:

"The lady wished me to say that she would like to see you alone in your
own room, and would come up if it was agreeable."

"Oh. certainly. Tell her to come right up."

Wondering a little at this request, Mrs. Birtwell waited for Mrs.
Whitford's appearance, rising and advancing toward the door as she
heard her steps approaching. Mrs. Whitford's veil was down as she
entered, and she did not draw it aside until she had shut the door
behind her. Then she pushed it away.

An exclamation of painful surprise fell from the lips of Mrs. Birtwell
the moment she saw the face of her visitor. It was pale and wretched
beyond description, but wore the look of one who had resolved to
perform some painful duty, though it cost her the intensest suffering.



CHAPTER XXV.


"I HAVE come," said Mrs. Whitford, after she was seated and had
composed herself, "to perform the saddest duty of my whole life."

She paused, her white lips quivering, then rallied her strength and
went on:

"Even to dishonor my son."

She caught her breath with a great sob, and remained silent for nearly
half a minute, sitting so still that she seemed like one dead. In that
brief time she had chained down her overwrought feelings and could
speak without a tremor in her voice.

"I have come to say," she now went on, "that this marriage must not
take place. Its consummation would be a great wrong, and entail upon
your daughter a life of misery. My son is falling into habits that
will, I sadly fear, drag him down to hopeless ruin. I have watched the
formation and growth of this habit with a solicitude that has for a
long time robbed my life of its sweetness. All the while I see him
drifting away from me, and I am powerless to hold him back. Every day
he gets farther off, and every day my heart grows heavier with sorrow.
Can nothing be done? Alas! nothing, I fear; and I must tell you why,
Mrs. Birtwell. It is best that you should see the case as hopeless, and
save your daughter if you can."

She paused again for a few moments, and then continued:

"It is not with my son as with most young men. He has something more to
guard against than the ordinary temptations of society. There is, as
you may possibly know, a taint in his blood--the taint of hereditary
intemperance. I warned him of this and implored him to abjure wine and
all other drinks that intoxicate, but he was proud and sensitive as
well as confident in his own strength. He began to imagine that
everybody knew the family secret I had revealed to him, and that if he
refused wine in public it would be attributed to his fear of arousing a
sleeping appetite which when fully awake and active might prove too
strong for him, and so he often drank in a kind of bravado spirit. He
would be a man and let every one see that he could hold the mastery
over himself. It was a dangerous experiment for him, as I knew it would
be, and has failed."

Mrs. Whitford broke down and sobbed in an uncontrollable passion of
grief. Then, rising, she said:

"I have done a simple duty, Mrs. Birtwell. How hard the task has been
you can never know, for through a trial like mine you will never have
to pass. It now remains for you to do the best to save your child from
the great peril that lies before her. I wish that I could say, 'Tell
Blanche of our interview and of my solemn warning.' But I cannot, I
dare not do so, for it would be to cast up a wall between me and my son
and to throw him beyond the circle of my influence. It would turn his
heart against his mother, and that is a calamity from the very thought
of which I shrink with a sickening fear."

The two women, sad partners in a grief that time might intensify,
instead of making less, stood each leaning her face down upon the
other's shoulder and wept silently, then raised their eyes and looked
wistfully at each other.

"The path of duty is very rough sometimes; but if we must walk it to
save another, we cannot stay our feet and be guiltless before God,"
said Mrs. Whitford. "It has taken many days since I saw this path of
suffering and humiliation open its dreary course for me to gather up
the strength required to walk in it with steady feet. Every day for
more than a week I have started out resolved to see you, but every day
my heart has failed. Twice I stood at your door with my hand on the
bell, then turned, and went away. But the task is over, the duty done,
and I pray that it may not be in vain."

What was now to be done? When Mr. Birtwell was informed of this
interview, he became greatly excited, declaring that he should forbid
any further intercourse between the young people. The engagement, he
insisted, should be broken off at once. But Mrs. Birtwell was wiser
than her husband, and knew better than he did the heart of their
daughter.

Blanche had taken more from her mother than from her father, and the
current of her life ran far deeper than that of most of the frivolous
girls around her. Love with her could not be a mere sentiment, but a
deep and all-pervading passion. Such a passion she felt for Ellis
Whitford, and she was ready to link her destinies with his, whether the
promise were for good or for evil. To forbid Ellis the house and lay
upon her any interdictions, in regard to him would, the mother knew,
precipitate the catastrophe they were anxious to avert.

It was not possible for either Mr. or Mrs. Birtwell to conceal from
their daughter the state of feeling into which the visit of Mrs.
Whitford had thrown them, nor long to remain passive. The work of
separation must be commenced without delay. Blanche saw the change in
her parents, and felt an instinct of danger; and when the first
intimations of a decided purpose to make a breach between her and Ellis
came, she set her face like flint against them, not in any passionate
outbreak, but with a calm assertion of her undying love and her
readiness to accept the destiny that lay before her. To the declaration
of her mother that Ellis was doomed by inheritance to the life of a
drunkard, she replied:

"Then he will only the more need my love and care."

Persuasion, appeal, remonstrance, were useless. Then Mr. Birtwell
interposed with authority. Ellis was denied the house and Blanche
forbidden to see him.

This was the condition of affairs at the time Mrs. Birtwell became so
deeply interested in Mr. Ridley and his family. Blanche had risen, in a
measure, above the deep depression of spirits consequent on the
attitude of her parents toward her betrothed husband, and while showing
no change in her feelings toward him seemed content to wait for what
might come. Still, there was something in her manner that Mrs. Birtwell
did not understand, and that occasioned at times a feeling of doubt and
uneasiness.

"Where is Blanche?" asked Mr. Birtwell. It was the evening following
that on which Mr. Ridley bad been taken to the Home for inebriates. He
was sitting at the tea-table with his wife.

"She is in her room," replied Mrs. Birtwell.

"Are you sure?" inquired her husband.

Mrs. Birtwell noticed something in his voice that made her say quickly:

"Why do you ask?"

"For no particular reason, only she's not down to tea."

Mr. Birtwell's face had grown very serious.

"She'll be along in a few moments," returned Mrs. Birtwell.

But several minutes elapsed, and still she did not make her appearance.

"Go up and knock at Miss Blanche's door," said Mrs. Birtwell to the
waiter. "She may have fallen asleep."

The man left the room.

"I feel a little nervous," said Mr. Birtwell, setting down his cup, the
moment they were alone. "Has Blanche been out since dinner?"

"No."

"All right, then. It was only a fancy, as I knew it to be at the time.
But it gave me a start."

"What gave you a start?" asked Mrs. Birtwell.

"A face in a carriage. I saw it for an instant only."

"Whose face?"

"I thought for the moment it was that of Blanche."

Mrs. Birtwell grew very pale, leaned back in her chair and turned her
head listening for the waiter. Neither of them spoke until he returned.

"Miss Blanche is not there."

Both started from the table and left the room, the waiter looking after
them in surprise. They were not long in suspense. A letter from
Blanche, addressed to her mother, which was found lying on her bureau,
told the sad story of her perilous life-venture, and overwhelmed her
parents with sorrow and dismay. It read:


"MY DEAR FATHER AND MOTHER: When you receive this, I shall be married
to Ellis Whitford. There is nothing that I can say to break for you the
pain of this intelligence. If there was, oh how gladly would I say it!
My destiny is on me, and I must walk in the way it leads. It is not
that I love you less that I go away from you, but because I feel the
voice of duty which is calling to me to be the voice of God. Another
life and another destiny are bound up in mine, and there is no help for
me. God bless you and comfort you, and keep your hearts from turning
against your loving

BLANCHE."


In all their fond looks forward to the day when their beautiful child
should stand in bridal robes--and what parents with lovely daughters
springing up toward womanhood do not thus look forward and see such
visions?--no darkly, brooding fancy had conceived of anything like
this. The voice that fell upon their ears was not the song of a happy
bride going joyously to the altar, but the cry of their pet lamb bound
for the sacrifice.

"Oh, madness, madness!" exclaimed Mr. Birtwell, in anger and dismay.

"My poor unhappy child! God pity her!" sobbed the white-lipped mother,
tearless under the sudden shock of this great disaster that seemed as
if it would beat out her life.

There was no help, no remedy. The fatal step had been taken, and
henceforth the destiny of their child was bound up with that of one
whose inherited desire for drink had already debased his manhood. For
loving parents we can scarcely imagine a drearier outlook upon life
than this.

The anger of Mr. Birtwell soon wasted its strength amid the shallows of
his weaker character, but the pain and hopeless sorrow grew stronger
and went deeper down into the heart of Mrs. Birtwell day by day. Their
action in the case was such as became wise and loving parents. What was
done was done, and angry scenes, coldness and repulsion could now only
prove hurtful. As soon as Blanche returned from a short bridal-tour the
doors of her father's house were thrown open for her and her husband to
come in. But the sensitive, high-spirited young man said, "No." He
could not deceive himself in regard to the estimation in which he was
held by Mr. and Mrs. Birtwell, and was not willing to encounter the
humiliation of living under their roof and coming in daily but
restrained contact with them. So he took his bride to his mother's
house, and Mrs. Birtwell had no alternative but to submit, hard as the
trial was, to this separation from her child.

This was the shadow of the great evil in which Mrs. Birtwell was
sitting on the day Mr. Ridley found himself amid the new influences and
new friends that were to give him another start in life and another
chance to redeem himself. She had passed a night of tears and agony,
and though suffering deeply had gained a calm exterior. Ethel, after
leaving the Home, came with a heart full of new hope and joy to see
Mrs. Birtwell and tell her about her father.

The first impulse of the unhappy mother, sitting in the shadows of her
own great sorrow, was to send the girl away with a simple denial.

"Say that I cannot see her this morning," she said coldly. But before
the servant could leave the room she repented of this denial.

"Stay!" she called. Then, while the servant paused, she let her
thoughts go from herself to, Ethel and her father.

"Tell the young lady to wait for a little while," she said. "I will
ring for you in a few minutes." The servant went out, and Mrs. Birtwell
turned to her secretary and wrote a few lines, saying that she was not
feeling well and could not see Miss Ridley then, but would be glad to
have her call in two or three days. Placing this with a bank-bill in an
envelope, she rang for the servant, who took the letter down stairs and
gave it to Ethel.

But Mrs. Birtwell did not feel as though she had done her whole duty in
the case. A pressure was left upon her feelings. What of the father?
How was it faring with him? She hesitated about recalling the servant
until it was too late. Ethel took the letter, and without opening it
went away.

A new disquiet came from this cause, and Mrs. Birtwell could not shake
it off. Happily for her relief, Mr. Elliott, whose interest in the
fallen man was deep enough to take him to the Home that morning, called
upon her with the most gratifying intelligence. He had seen Mr. Ridley
and held a long interview with him, the result of which was a strong
belief that the new influences under which he had been brought would be
effectual in saving him.

"I have faith in these influences," said the clergyman, "because I
understand their ground and force. Peter would have gone down
hopelessly in the Sea of Galilee if he had depended on himself alone.
Only the divine Saviour, on whom he called and in whom he trusted,
could save him; and so it is in the case of men like Mr. Ridley who try
to walk over the sea of temptation. Peter's despairing cry of 'Save,
Lord, or I perish,' must be theirs also if they would keep from sinking
beneath the angry waters, and no one ever calls sincerely upon God for
help without receiving it. That Mr. Ridley is sincere I have no doubt,
and herein lies my great confidence."

At the end of a week Blanche returned from her wedding-tour, and was
received by her parents with love and tenderness instead of reproaches.
These last, besides being utterly useless, would have pushed the young
husband away from them and out of the reach of any saving influences it
might be in their power to exercise.

The hardest trial now for Mrs. Birtwell was the separation from
Blanche, whose daily visits were a poor substitute for the old constant
and close companionship. If there had not been a cloud in the sky of
her child's future, with its shadow already dimming the brightness of
her young life, the mother's heart would have still felt an aching and
a void, would have been a mourner for love's lost delights and
possessions that could nevermore return. But to all this was added a
fear and, dread that made her soul grow faint when thought cast itself
forward into the coming time.

The Rev. Mr. Brantley Elliott was a wiser and truer man than some who
read him superficially imagined. His churchmanship was sometimes
narrower than his humanity, while the social element in his character,
which was very strong, often led him to forget in mixed companies that
much of what he might say or do would be judged of by the clerical and
not the personal standard, and his acts and words set down at times as
favoring worldliness and self-indulgence. Harm not unfrequently came of
this. But he was a sincere Christian man, deeply impressed with the
sacredness of his calling and earnest in his desire to lead heavenward
the people to whom he ministered.

The case of Mr. Ridley had not only startled and distressed him, but
filled him with a painful concern lest other weak and tempted ones
might have fallen through his unguarded utterance or been bereaved
through his freedom. The declaration of Paul came to him with a new
force: "Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no
meat while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend;" and
he resolved not only to abstain from wine hereafter in mixed companies,
but to use his influence to discourage a social custom fraught, as he
was now beginning to see, with the most disastrous consequences.

The deep concern felt for Mr. Ridley by Mr. Elliott and Mrs. Birtwell
drew them oftener together now, and took them frequently to the Home
for inebriates, in which both took a deep interest. For over three
weeks Mr. Ridley remained at the institution, its religious influences
growing deeper and deeper every day. He met there several men who had
fallen from as high an estate as himself--men of cultured intellect,
force of character and large ability--and a feeling of brotherhood grew
up between them. They helped and strengthened each other, entering into
a league offensive and defensive, and pledging themselves to an undying
antagonism toward every form of intemperance.

When Mr. Ridley returned to his home, he found it replete with many
comforts not there when love and despair sent him forth to die, for
aught he knew, amid nameless horrors. An office had been rented for
him, and Mr. Birtwell had a case of considerable importance to place in
his hands. It was a memorable occasion in the Court of Common Pleas
when, with the old clear light in his eyes and bearing of conscious
power, he stood among his former associates, and in the firm, ringing
voice which had echoed there so many times before, made an argument for
his client that held both court and jury almost spellbound for an hour.



CHAPTER XXVI.


THE seed and the harvest are alike in quality. Between cause and effect
there is an unchanging and eternal relation. Men never find grapes on
thorns nor figs on thistles.

As an aggregate man, society has no escape from this law. It must reap
as it sows. If its customs be safe and good, its members, so far as
they are influenced by these customs, will be temperate, orderly and
virtuous; but if its tone be depraved and its customs evil or
dangerous, moral and physical ruin must; in too many sad cases be the
inevitable result.

It is needless to press this view, for it is self-evident and no one
calls it in question. Its truth has daily and sorrowful confirmation in
the wan faces and dreary eyes and wrecks of a once noble and promising
manhood one meets at every turn.

The thorn and the thistle harvest that society reaps every year is
fearfully great, and the seed from which too large a portion of this
harvest comes is its drinking customs. Men of observation and
intelligence everywhere give this testimony with one consent. All
around us, day and night, year by year, in palace and hovel, the
gathering of this sad and bitter harvest goes on--the harvest of broken
hearts and ruined lives. And still the hand of the sower is not stayed.
Refined and lovely women and men of low and brutal instincts, church
members and scoffers at religion, stately gentlemen and vulgar clowns,
are all at work sowing the baleful seed that ripens, alas! too quickly
its fruit of woe. The _home saloon_ vies with the common licensed
saloon in its allurements and attractions, and men who would think
themselves degraded by contact with those who for gain dispense liquor
from a bar have a sense of increased respectability as they preside
over the good wine and pure spirits they offer to their guests in
palace homes free of cost.

We are not indulging in forms of rhetoric. To do so would only weaken
the force of our warning. What we have written is no mere fancy work.
The pictures thrown upon our canvas with all the power of vivid
portraiture that we possess are but feeble representations of the
tragic scenes that are enacted in society year by year, and for which
every member of society who does not put his hand to the work of reform
is in some degree responsible.

We are not developing a romance, but trying, as just said, to give from
real life some warning pictures. Our task is nearly done. A few more
scenes, and then our work will be laid for the present aside.

There are men who never seem to comprehend the lesson of events or to
feel the pressure of personal responsibility. They drift with the tide,
doing as their neighbors do, and resting satisfied. The heroism of
self-sacrifice or self-denial is something to which they cannot rise.
Nothing is farther from their ambition than the role of a reformer.
Comfortable, self-indulgent, placid, they move with the current and
manage to keep away from its eddies. Such a man was Mr. Birtwell. He
knew of some of the disasters that followed so closely upon his grand
entertainment, but refused to connect therewith any personal
responsibility. It was unfortunate, of course, that these things should
have happened with him, but he was no more to blame for them than if
they had happened with his neighbor across the way. So he regarded the
matter. But not so Mrs. Birtwell. As we have seen, a painful sense of
responsibility lay heavily upon her heart.

The winter that followed was a gay one, and many lag entertainments
were given. The Birtwells always had a party, and this party was
generally the event of the season, for Mr. Birtwell liked _eclat_ and
would get it if possible. Time passed, and Mrs. Birtwell, who had sent
regrets to more than half the entertainments to which they received
invitations said nothing.

"When are we going to have our party?" asked Mr. Birtwell of his wife
as they sat alone one evening. He saw her countenance change. After a
few moments she replied in a low but very firm and decided voice:

"Whenever we can have it without wine."

"Then we'll never have it," exclaimed Mr. Birtwell, in considerable
excitement.

"It will be better so," returned his wife, "than again to lay
stumbling-blocks at the feet of our neighbors."

There came a sad undertone in her voice that her husband did not fail
to perceive.

"We don't agree in this thing," said Mr. Birtwell, with some irritation
of manner.

"Then will it not be best to let the party go over until we can agree?
No harm can come of that, and harm might come, as it did last year,
from turning our house into a drinking-saloon."

The sting of these closing words was sharp. It was not the first time
Mr. Birtwell had heard his wife use them, and they never failed to
shock his fine sense of respectability.

"For Heaven's sake, Margaret," he broke out, in a passion he could not
control, "don't say that again! It's an outrage. You'll give mortal
offence if you use such language."

"It is best to call things by their right names," replied Mrs.
Birtwell, in no way disturbed by her husband's weak anger. "As names
signify qualities, we should be very careful how we deceive others by
the use of wrong ones. To call a lion a lamb might betray a blind or
careless person into the jaws of a ferocious monster, or to speak of
the fruit of the deadly nightshade as a cherry might deceive a child
into eating it."

"You are incorrigible," said Mr. Birtwell, his anger subsiding. It
never went very deep, for his nature was shallow.

"No, not incorrigible, but right," returned Mrs. Birtwell.

"Then we are not to have a party this winter?"

"I did not say so. On the contrary, I am ready to entertain our
friends, but the party I give must be one in which no wine or brandy is
served."

"Preposterous!" ejaculated Mr. Birtwell. "We'd make ourselves the
laughing-stock of the city."

"Perhaps not," returned his wife.

Mr. Birtwell shook his head and shut his mouth tightly:

"There's no use in talking about it if the thing can't be done right,
it can't be done at all."

"So say I. Still, I would do it right and show society a better way if
you were brave enough to stand by my side. But as you are not, our
party must go by default this winter."

Mrs. Birtwell smiled faintly to soften the rebuke of her words. They
had reached this point in their conversation when Mr. Elliott, their
clergyman, called. His interest in the Home for inebriates had
increased instead of abating, and he now held the place of an active
member in the board of directors. Mrs. Birtwell had, months before,
given in her adhesion to the cause of reform, and the board of lady
managers, who had a close supervision of the internal arrangements of
the Home, had few more efficient workers.

In the beginning Mr. Birtwell had "pooh-poohed" at his wife's
infatuation, as he called it, and prophesied an early collapse of the
whole affair. "The best thing to do with a drunkard," he would say,
with mocking levity, "is to let him die. The sooner he is out of the
way, the better for himself and society." But of late he had given the
matter a more respectful consideration. Still, he would have his light
word and pleasant banter both with his wife and Mr. Elliott, who often
dropped in to discuss with Mrs. Birtwell the interests of the Home.

"Just in the nick of time," exclaimed Mr. Birtwell, smiling, as he took
the clergyman's hand.

"My wife and I have had a disagreement--we quarrel dreadfully, you
know--and you must decide between us."

"Indeed! What's the trouble now?" said Mr. Elliott, looking from one to
the other.

"Well, you see, we've been discussing the party question, and are at
daggers' points."

The light which had spread over Mr. Elliott's countenance faded off
quickly, and Mr. Birtwell saw it assume a very grave aspect. But he
kept on:

"You never heard anything so preposterous. Mrs. Birtwell actually
proposes that we give a coldwater-and-lemonade entertainment. Ha! ha!"

The smile he had expected to provoke by this sally did not break into
the clergyman's face.

"But I say," Mr. Birtwell added, "do the thing right, or don't do it
all."

"What do you call right?" asked Mr. Elliott.

"The way it is done by other people--as we did it last year, for
instance."

"I should be sorry to see last year's entertainment repeated if like
consequences must follow," replied Mr. Elliott, becoming still more
serious.

Mr. Birtwell showed considerable annoyance at: this.

"I have just come from a visit to your friend Mrs. Voss," said the
clergyman.

"How is she?" Mrs. Birtwell asked, anxiously.

"I do not think she can last much longer," was replied.

Tears came into Mrs. Birtwell's eyes and fell over her cheeks.

"A few days at most--a few hours, maybe--and she will be at rest. She
spoke of you very tenderly, and I think would like to see you."

"Then I will go to her immediately," said Mrs. Birtwell, rising. "You
must excuse me, Mr. Elliott. I will take the carriage and go alone,"
she added, glancing toward her husband.

The two men on being left alone remained silent for a while. Mr.
Birtwell was first to speak.

"I have always felt badly," he said, "about the death of Archie Voss.
No blame attaches to us of course, but it was unfortunate that he had
been at our house."

"Yes, very unfortunate," responded the clergyman. Something in his
voice as well as in his manner awakened an uncomfortable feeling in the
mind of Mr. Birtwell.

They were silent again, neither of them seeming at his ease.

"I had hoped," said Mr. Elliott, breaking at length this silence, "to
find you by this time over upon our side."

"The cold-water side, you mean?" There was perceptible annoyance in Mr.
Birtwell's tone.

"On the side of some reform in our social customs. Why can't you join
with your excellent wife in taking the initiative? You may count on me
to endorse the movement and give it my countenance and support."

"Thank you, Mr. Elliott, but I'm not your man," returned Mr. Birtwell.
He spoke with decision. "I have no desire to be counted in with
reformers."

"Think of the good you might do."

"I am not a philanthropist."

"Then think of the evil you might prevent."

"The good or the evil resulting from my action, take which side I may,
will be very small," said Mr. Birtwell, with an indifference of manner
that showed his desire to drop the subject. But Mr. Elliott was only
leading the way for some plainer talk, and did not mean to lose his
opportunity.

"It is an error," he said, "to make light of our personal influence or
the consequences that may flow from what we do. The hand of a child is
not too weak to hold the match that fires a cannon. When evil elements
are aggregated, the force required to release them is often very small.
We may purpose no wrong to our neighbor in the indulgence of a freedom
that leads him into fiery temptation; but if we know that our freedom
must of necessity do this, can we escape responsibility if we do not
deny ourselves?"

"It is easy to ask questions and to generalize," returned Mr. Birtwell,
not hiding the annoyance he felt.

"Shall I come down to particulars and deal in facts?" asked Mr. Elliott.

"If you care to do so."

"I have some facts--very sad and sorrowful ones. You may or may not
know them--at least not all. But you should know them, Mr. Birtwell."

There was no escape now.

"You half frighten me, Mr. Elliott. What are you driving at?"

"I need not refer," said the clergyman, "to the cases of Archie Voss
and Mr. Ridley."

Mr. Birtwell raised his hands in deprecation.

"Happily," continued Mr. Elliott, "Mr. Ridley has risen from his fall,
and now stands firmer, I trust, than ever, and farther away from the
reach of temptation, resting not in human but in divine strength.
Archie is in heaven, where before many days his mother will join him."

"Why are you saying this?" demanded Mr. Birtwell. "You are going too
far." His face had grown a little pale.

"I say it as leading to something more," replied the clergyman. "If
there had been no more bitter fruit than this, no more lives
sacrificed, it would have been sad enough. But--"

"Sir, you are trifling," exclaimed Mr. Birtwell, starting from his
chair. "I cannot admit your right to talk to me in this way."

"Be calm, my dear sir," answered Mr. Elliott, laying his hand upon his
companion. "I am not trifling with you. As your warm personal friend as
well as your spiritual counselor, I am here to-night to give a solemn
admonition, and I can best do this through the communication of
facts--facts that stand on record for ever unchangeable whether you
know them or not. Better that you should know them."

Mr. Birtwell sat down, passive now, his hand grasping the arms of his
chair like one bracing himself for a shock.

"You remember General Abercrombie?"

"Yes."

"Do you know what has become of him?"

"No. I heard something about his having been dismissed from the army."

"Did you hear the cause?"

"It was drunkenness, I believe."

"Yes, that was the cause. He was a fine officer and a man of high
character, but fell into habits of intemperance. Seeing himself
drifting to certain ruin, he made a vigorous effort to reform his life.
Experience told him that his only safety lay in complete abstinence,
and this rule he adopted. For many months he remained firm. But he fell
at your house. The odor of wine that pervaded all the air and stirred
within him the long-sleeping appetite, the freedom he saw around him,
the invitations that met him from distinguished men and beautiful
women, the pressure of a hundred influences upon his quickened desires,
bore him down at last, and he fell.

"I heard the whole sad story to-day," continued Mr. Elliott. He did not
even attempt to struggle up again, but abandoned himself to his fate.
Soon after, he was removed from the command of this department and sent
off to the Western frontier, and finally court-martialed and dismissed
from the army.

"To his wife, who was deeply attached to him, General Abercrombie was
when sober one of the kindest and most devoted of husbands, but a crazy
and cruel fiend when drunk. It is said that on the night he went home
from your house last winter strange noises and sudden cries of fear
were heard in their room, and that Mrs. Abercrombie when seen next
morning looked as if she had just come from a bed of sickness. She
accompanied him to the West, but I learned today that since his
dismissal from the army his treatment of her has been so outrageous and
cruel that she has had to leave him in fear of her life, and is now
with her friends, a poor broken-hearted woman. As for the general, no
one seems to know what has become of him."

"And the responsibility of all this you would lay at my door?" said Mr.
Birtwell, in a husky voice, through which quivered a tone of anger.
"But I reject your view of the case entirely. General Abercrombie fell
because he had no strength of purpose and no control of his appetite.
He happened to trip at my house--that is all. He would have fallen
sooner or later somewhere."

"Happened to trip! Yes, that is it, Mr. Birtwell; you use the right
word. He tripped at your house. But who laid the stone of stumbling in
his path? Suppose there had been no wine, served to your guests, would
he have stumbled on that fatal night? If there had been no wine served,
would Archie Voss have lost his way in the storm or perished in the icy
waters? No, my friend, no; and if there had been no wine served at your
board that night, three human lives which have, alas! been hidden from
us by death's eclipse would be shedding light and warmth upon many
hearts now sorrowful and desolate. Three human lives, and a fourth just
going out. There is responsibility, and neither you nor I can escape
it, Mr. Birtwell, if through indifference or design we permit ourselves
to become the instruments of such dire calamities."

Mr. Birtwell had partly risen from his chair in making the weak defence
to which this was a reply, but now sunk back with an expression that
was half bewilderment and half terror on his countenance.

"In Heaven's name, Mr. Elliott, what does all this mean?" he cried.
"Three lives and a fourth going out, and the responsibility laid at my
door!"

"It is much easier to let loose an evil power than to stay its
progress," said Mr. Elliott. "The near and more apparent effects we may
see, rarely the remote and secondary. But we know that the action of
all forces, good or evil, is like that of expanding wave-circles, and
reaches far beyond, our sight. It has done so in this case. Yes, Mr.
Birtwell, three lives, and a fourth now flickering like an expiring
candle.

"I would spare you all this if I dared, if I could be
conscience-clear," continued Mr. Elliott. "But I would be faithless to
my duty if I kept silent. You know the sad case of Mrs. Carlton?"

"You don't mean to lay that, too, at my door!" exclaimed Mr. Birtwell.

"Not directly; it was one of the secondary effects. I had a long
conversation with Dr. Hillhouse to-day. His health has failed rapidly
for some months past, and he is now much broken down. You know that he
performed the operation which cost Mrs. Carlton her life? Well, the
doctor has never got over the shock of that catastrophe. It has preyed
upon his mind ever since, and is one of the causes of his impaired
health."

"I should call that a weakness," returned Mr. Birtwell. "He did his
best. No one is safe from accidents or malign influences. I never heard
that Mr. Carlton blamed him."

"Ah, these malign influences!" said the clergyman. "They meet us
everywhere and hurt us at every turn, and yet not one of them could
reach and affect our lives if some human hand did not set them free and
send them forth among men to, hurt and to destroy. And now let me tell
you of the interview I had with Dr. Hillhouse to-day. He has given his
consent, but with this injunction: we cannot speak of it to others."

"I will faithfully respect his wishes," said Mr. Birtwell.

"This morning," resumed Mr. Elliott, "I received a note from the
doctor, asking me to call and see him. He was much depressed, and said
he had long wanted to have a talk with me about something that weighed
heavily on his mind. Let me give you his own words as nearly as I am
able to remember them. After some remarks about personal influence and
our social responsibilities, he said:

"'There is one thing, Mr. Elliott, in which you and I and a great many
others I could name have not only been derelict of duty, but serious
wrongdoers. There is an evil in society that more than all others is
eating out its life, and you and I have encouraged that evil even by
our own example, calling it innocent, and so leading the weak astray
and the unwary into temptation.'

"I understood what he meant, and the shock of his including accusation,
his 'Thou art the man,' sent a throb of pain to my heart. That I had
already seen my false position and changed front did not lessen the
shock, for I was only the more sensitive to pain.

"'Happily for you, Mr. Elliott,' he went on, 'no such bitter fruit has
been plucked by your hands as by mine, and I pray God that it may never
be. For a long time I have carried a heavy load here'--he drew his hand
against his breast--'heavier than I have strength to bear. Its weight
is breaking me down. It is no light thing, sir, to feel at times that
you are a murderer.'

"He shivered, and there passed across his face a look of horror. But it
was gone in a moment, though an expression of suffering remained.

"'My dear doctor.' I interposed, 'you have permitted yourself to fall
into a morbid state. This is not well. You are overworked and need
change and relaxation.'

"'Yes,' he replied, a little mournfully 'I am overworked and morbid and
all that, I know, and I must have change and relaxation or I shall die.
Ah, if I could get rid of this heavy weight!' He laid his hand upon his
breast again, and drew a deep inspiration. 'But that is impossible. I
must tell you all about it, but place upon you at the same time an
injunction of silence, except in the case of one man, Mr. Spencer
Birtwell. He is honorable and he should know, and I can trust him.

"'You remember, of course, the entertainment he gave last winter and
some, of the unhappy effects that came of it, but you do not know all.
I was there and enjoyed the evening, and you were there, Mr. Elliott,
and I am afraid led some into temptation through our freedom. Forgive
me for saying so, but the truth is best.

"'Wine was free as water--good wine, tempting to the taste. I meant to
be very guarded, to take only a glass or two, for on the next day I had
a delicate and dangerous operation to perform, and needed steady
nerves. But the wine was good, and my one or two glasses only made way
for three or four. The temptation of the hour were too much for my
habitual self-restraint. I took a glass of wine with you, Mr. Elliott,
after I had already taken more than was prudent under the circumstances
another with Mr. Birtwell, another with General Abercrombie--alas for
him! he fell that night so low that he has never risen again--and
another with some one else. It was almost impossible to put a restraint
upon yourself. Invitation and solicitation met you at every turn. The
sphere of self-indulgence was so strong that it carried almost every
one a little too far, and many into excess and debauch. I was told
afterward that at a late hour the scene in the supper-room was simply
disgraceful. Boys and men, and sadder still, young women, were more
than half drunk, and behaved most unseemly. I can believe this, for I
have seen such things too often.

"'As I went out from Mr. Birtwell's that night, and the cold,
snow-laden air struck into my face on crossing the pavement to my
carriage, cooling my blood and clearing my brain, I thought of Mrs.
Carlton and the life that had been placed in my hands, and a feeling of
concern dropped into my heart. A night's indulgence in wine-drinking
was a poor preparation for the work before me, in which a clear head
and steady nerves were absolutely essential. How would I be in the
morning? The question thrust itself into my thoughts and troubled me.
My apprehensions were not groundless. Morning found me with unsteady
nerves. But this was not all. From the moment I left my bed until
within half an hour of the time when the operation was to begin, I was
under much excitement and deeply anxious about two of my patients, Mrs.
Voss and Mrs. Ridley, both dangerously ill, Mrs. Voss, as you know, in
consequence of her alarm about her son, and Mrs. Ridley--But you have
heard all about her case and its fatal termination, and understand in
what way it was connected with the party at Mr. and Mrs. Birtwell's.
The consequence of that night's excesses met me at every turn. The
unusual calls, the imminent danger in which I found Mrs. Ridley and the
almost insane demands made upon me by her despairing husband, all
conspired to break down my unsteady nerves and unfit me for the work I
had to do. When the time came, there was only one desperate expedient
left, and that was the use of a strong stimulant, under the effect of
which I was able to extract the tumor from Mrs. Carlton's neck.

"'Alas for the too temporary support of my stimulant! It failed me at
the last moment. My sight was not clear nor my hand steady as I tied
the small arteries which had been cut during the operation. One of
these, ligated imperfectly, commenced bleeding soon after I left the
house. A hurried summons reached me almost immediately on my return
home, and before I had steadied my exhausted nerves with a glass of
wine. Hurrying back, I found the wound bleeding freely. Prompt
treatment was required. Ether was again administered. But you know the
rest, Mr. Elliott. It is all too dreadful, and I cannot go over it
again. Mrs. Carlton fell another victim to excess in wine. This is the
true story. I was not blamed by the husband. The real cause of the
great calamity that fell upon him he does not know to this day, and I
trust will never know. But I have not since been able to look steadily
into his dreary eyes. A guilty sense of wrong oppresses me whenever I
come near him. As I said before, this thing is breaking me down. It has
robbed me, I know, of many years of professional usefulness to which I
had looked forward, and left a bitter thought in my mind and a shadow
on my feelings that can never pass away.

"'Mr. Elliott,' he continued, 'you have a position of sacred trust.
Your influence is large. Set yourself, I pray you, against the evil
which has wrought these great disasters. Set yourself against the
dangerous self-indulgence called "moderate drinking." It is doing far
more injury to society than open drunkenness, more a hundred--nay, a
thousand--fold. If I had been a drunkard, no such catastrophe as this I
have mentioned could have happened in my practice, for Mr. Carlton
would not then have trusted his wife in my hands. My drunkenness would
have stood as a warning against me. But I was a respectable moderate
drinker, and could take my wine without seeming to be in any way
affected by it. But see how it betrayed me at last.'"

Mr. Birtwell had been sitting during this relation with his head bowed
upon his breast. When Mr. Elliott ceased speaking, he raised himself up
in a slow, weary sort of way, like one oppressed by fatigue or weak
from illness.

"Dreadful, dreadful!" he ejaculated. "I never dreamed of anything like
this. Poor Carlton!"

"You see," remarked Mr. Elliott, "how easily a thing like this may
happen. A man cannot go to one of these evening entertainments and
indulge with anything like the freedom to which he is invited and be in
a condition to do his best work on the day following. Some of your
iron-nerved men may claim an exemption here, but we know that all
over-stimulation must leave the body in some degree unstrung when the
excitement dies out, and they suffer loss with the rest--a loss the
aggregate of which makes itself felt in the end. We have to think for a
moment only to satisfy ourselves that the wine-and brandy-drinking into
which men and women are enticed at dinner-parties and fashionable
entertainments is a fruitful source of evil. The effect upon body and
mind after the indulgence is over is seen in headaches, clouded brain,
nervous irritation, lassitude, inability to think, and sometimes in a
general demoralization of both the physical and mental economy. Where
there is any chronic or organic ailment the morbid condition is
increased and sometimes severe attacks of illness follow.

"Are our merchants, bankers, lawyers, doctors and men holding
responsible trusts as fit for duty after a social debauch--is the word
too strong?--as before? If we reflect for a moment--you see, Mr.
Birtwell, in what current my thoughts have been running--it must be
clear to us that after every great entertainment such as you and other
good citizens are in the habit of giving many business and professional
mistakes must follow, some of them of a serious character. All this
crowds upon and oppresses me, and my wonder is that it did not long ago
so crowd upon and oppress me. It seems as though scales had dropped
suddenly from my eyes and things I had never seen before stood out in
clearest vision."



CHAPTER XXVII.


THEY were still in conversation when Mrs. Birtwell returned. Her eyes
were wet and her face pale and sorrowful. She sat down beside her
husband, and without speaking laid her head against him and sobbed
violently. Mr. Birtwell feared to ask the question whose answer he
guessed too well.

"How is it with our friend?" Mr. Elliott inquired as Mrs. Birtwell grew
calmer. She looked up, answering sorrowfully:

"It is all over," then hid her face again, borne down by excessive
emotion.

"The Lord bless and comfort his stricken ones," said the minister as he
arose and stood for a few moments with his hand resting on the bowed
head of Mrs. Birtwell. "The Lord make us wiser, more self-denying and
more loyal to duty. Out of sorrow let joy come, out of trouble peace;
out of suffering and affliction a higher, purer and nobler life for us
all. We are in his merciful hands, and he will make us instruments of
blessing if we but walk in the ways he would lead us. Alas that we have
turned from him so often to walk in our own paths and follow the
devices of our own hearts! His ways are way of pleasantness and his
paths are peace, but ours wind too often among thorns and briars, or go
down into the gloomy valley and shadow of death."

A solemn silence followed, and in that deep hush vows were made that
are yet unbroken.

"If any have stumbled through us and fallen by the way," said Mr.
Elliott, "let us here consecrate ourselves to the work of saving them
if possible."

He reached his hand toward Mr. Birtwell. The banker did not hesitate,
but took the minister's extended hand and grasped it with a vigor that
expressed the strength of his new-formed purpose. Light broke through
the tears that blinded the eyes of Mrs. Birtwell. Clasping both of her
hands over those of her husband and Mr. Elliott, she cried out with
irrepressible emotion:

"I give myself to God also in this solemn consecration!"

"The blessing of our Lord Jesus Christ rest upon it, and make us true
and faithful," dropped reverentially from the minister's lips.

Somewhere this panorama of life must close. Scene after scene might
still be given; but if those already presented have failed to stir the
hearts and quicken the consciences of many who have looked upon them,
rousing some to a sense of danger and others to a sense of duty, it
were vain to display another canvas; and so we leave our work as it
stands, but in the faith that it will do good.

Hereafter we may take it up again and bring into view once more some of
the actors in whom it is impossible not to feel a strong interest. Life
goes on, though the record of events be not given,--life, with its joys
and sorrows, its tempests of passion and its sweet calms, its successes
and its failures, its all of good and evil; goes on though we drop the
pencil and leave our canvas blank.

It is no pleasant task to paint as we have been painting, nor as we
must still paint should the work now dropped ever be resumed. But as we
take a last look at some of the scenes over which we now draw the
curtain we see strong points of light and a promise of good shining
clear through the shadows of the evil.



THE END.





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