Part 4 out of 5
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,
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
"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
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
"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
"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
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
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
"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
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
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
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
"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
"'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
"'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
"'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
"'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
"'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
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
"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
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
Mrs. Birtwell accepted the invitation. As the carriage moved away
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
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
"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
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.
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
"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
"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
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
"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
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
"How are we to get near him, Mrs. Birtwell? This is our great
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
"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
"Has Mrs. Sandford engaged her?"
"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
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
"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
"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
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
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
"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
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
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
"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
"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
"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
"What's that?" asked Mrs Birtwell, a little startled at the unusual
They listened, and heard the voice of a man saying, in an excited
"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.
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
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
"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
"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
"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,
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
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
"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
"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
"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