Brandy by T. S.
"WE shall have to give them a wedding party," said Mrs. Eldridge to
Mr. Eldridge assented.
"They will be home to-morrow, and I think of sending out of
invitations for Thursday."
"As you like about that," replied Mr. Eldridge. "The trouble will
"You have no objections?"
"O, none in the world. Fanny is a good little girl, and the least
we can do is to pay her this compliment on her marriage. I am not
altogether satisfied about her husband, however; he was rather a wild
sort of a boy a year or two ago."
"I guess he's all right now," remarked Mrs. Eldridge; "and he
strikes me as a very kind-hearted, well-meaning young man. I have
flattered myself that Fanny has done quite well as the average run of
"Perhaps so," said Mr. Eldridge, a little thoughtfully.
"Will you be in the neighborhood of Snyder's?" inquired the lady.
"I think not. We are very busy just now, and I shall hardly have
time to leave the store to-day. But I can step around there
"To-morrow, or even the next day, will answer," replied Mrs.
Eldridge. "You must order the liquors. I will attend to everything
"How many are you going to invite?" inquired Mr. Eldridge.
"I have not made out a list yet, but it will not fall much short of
seventy or eighty."
"Seventy or eighty!" repeated Mr. Eldridge.
"Let me see. Three dozen of champagne; a dozen of sherry; a dozen
of port; a dozen of hock, and a gallon of brandy,—that will be enough
to put life into them I imagine."
"Or death!" Mrs. Eldridge spoke to herself, in an undertone.
Her husband, if he noticed the remark, did not reply to it, but
said, "Good morning," and left the house. A lad about sixteen years
of age sat in the room during this conversation, with a book in his
hand and his eyes on the page before him. He did not once look up or
move; and an observer would have supposed him so much interested in
his book as not to have heard the passing conversation. But he had
listened to every word. As soon as Mr. Eldridge left the room his
book fell upon his lap, and looking towards Mrs. Eldridge, he said,
in an earnest but respectful manner,—
"Don't have any liquor, mother."
Mrs s Eldridge looked neither offended nor irritated by this
remonstrance, as she replied,—
"I wish it were possible to avoid having liquor, my son; but it is
the custom of society and if we give a party it must be in the way it
is done by other people."
This did not satisfy the boy, who had been for some time associated
with the Cadets of Temperance, and he answered, but with modesty and
great respect of, manner,—"If other people do wrong, mother—what
"I am not so sure of its being wrong, Henry."
"O, but mother," spoke out the boy, quickly, "if it hurts people to
drink, it must be wrong to give them liquor. Now I've been thinking
how much better it would be to have a nice cup of coffee. I am sure
that four out of five would like it a great deal better than wine or
brandy. And nobody could possibly receive any harm. Didn't you hear
what father said about Mr. Lewis? That he had been rather wild? I am
sure I shall never forget seeing him stagger in the street once. I
suppose he has reformed. But just think, if the taste should be
revived again and at our house, and he should become intoxicated at
this wedding party! O, mother! It makes me feel dreadfully to think
about it. And dear Cousin Fanny! What sorrow it would bring to her!"
"O, dear, Henry! Don't talk in that kind of a way! You make me
shudder all over. You're getting too much carried away by this
subject of temperance"
And Mrs. Eldridge left the room to look after her domestic duties.
But she could not push from her mind certain uneasy thoughts which
her son's suggestions had awakened. During the morning an intimate
lady friend came in to whom Mrs. Eldridge spoke of the intended
"And would you believe it," she said, "that old-fashioned boy of
mine actually proposed that we should have coffee instead of wine and
"And you're going to adopt the suggestion," replied the lady, her
face lighten up with a pleasant smile.
"It would suit my own views exactly; but then such an innovation
upon a common usage as that; is not to be thought of for a moment."
"And why not?" asked the lady. "Coffee is safe, while wine and
brandy are always dangerous in promiscuous companies. You can never
tell in what morbid appetite you may excite an unhealthy craving. You
may receive into your house a young man with intellect clear, and
moral purposes well-balanced, and send him home at midnight, to his
mother, stupid from intoxication! Take your son's advice, my friend.
Exclude the wine and brandy, and give a pleasant cup of coffee to your
"O, dear, no, I can't do that!" said Mrs. Eldridge. "It would look
as if we were too mean to furnish wines and brandy. Besides, my
husband would never consent to it."
"Let me give you a little experience of my own. It may help you to
a right decision in this case."
The lady spoke with some earnestness, and a sober cast of thought
in her countenance. "It is now about three years since I gave a large
party, at which a number of young men were present,—boys I should
rather say. Among these was the son of an old and very dear friend.
He was in his nineteenth year,—a handsome, intelligent, and most
agreeable person—full of life and pleasant humor. At supper time I
noticed him with a glass of champagne in his hand, gayly talking with
some ladies. In a little while after, my eyes happening to rest on
him, I saw him holding, a glass of port wine to his lips, which was
emptied at a single draught. Again passing near him, in order to speak
to a lady, I observed a tumbler in his hand, and knew the contents to
be brandy and water. This caused me to feel some concern, and I kept
him, in closer observation. In a little while he was at the table
again, pouring out another glass of wine. I thought it might be for a
lady upon whom he was in attendance; but no, the sparkling liquor
touched his own lips. When the company returned to the parlors, the
flushed face, swimming eyes, and over-hilarious manner of my young
friend, showed too plainly that he had been drinking to excess. He was
so much excited as to attract the attention of every one, and his
condition became the subject of remark. He was mortified and
distressed at the occurrence, and drawing him from the room, made free
to tell him the truth. He showed some indignation at first, and
intimated that I had insulted him but I rebuked him sternly, and told
him he had better go home. I was too much excited to act very wisely.
He took me at my word, and left the house. There was no sleep for my
eyes on that night, Mrs. Eldridge. The image of that boy going home to
his mother at midnight, in such a condition, and made so by my hand
haunted me like a rebuking spectre; and I resolved never again to set
out a table with liquors to a promiscuous company of young and old,
and I have kept that word of promise. My husband is not willing to
have a party unless there is wine with the refreshments, and I would
rather forego all entertainments than put temptation in the way of any
one. Your son's suggestion is admirable. Have the independence to act
upon it, and set an example which many will be glad to follow. Don't
fear criticism or remark; don't stop to ask what this one will say or
that one think. The approval of our own consciences is worth far more
than the opinions of men. Is it right? That is the question to ask;
not How will it appear? or What will people say? There will be a
number of parties given to your niece, without doubt; and if you, lead
off with coffee instead of wine, all the rest of Fanny's friends may
follow the good example."
When Mr. Eldridge came home at dinner-time, his wife said to him,—
"You needn't order any liquors from Snyder."
"Why not?" Mr. Eldridge looked at his wife with some surprise.
"I'm going to have coffee, instead of wine, and brandy," said Mrs.
Eldridge, speaking firmly.
"Nonsense!" You're jesting."
"No, I'm in earnest. These liquors are not only expensive, but
dangerous things to offer freely in mixed companies. Many boys get
their first taste for drink at fashionable parties, and many reformed
men have the old fiery thirst revived by a glass of wine poured out
for them in social hospitality. I am afraid to have my conscience
burdened with the responsibility which this involves."
"There is no question as to the injury that is done by this free
pouring out of liquors at our fashionable entertainments. I've long
enough seen that," said Mr. Eldridge; "but she will be a bold lady
who ventures to offer a cup of coffee in place of a glass of wine.
You had better think twice on this subject before you act once."
"I've done little else I but think about it for the last two hours,
and the more I think about it the more settled my purpose becomes."
"But what put this thing into your head?" inquired Mr. Eldridge.
"You were in full sail for party this morning, liquor and all; this
sudden tacking for a new course is a little surprising. I'm puzzled."
"Your son put it into my head," replied Mrs. Eldridge.
"Henry? Well, that boy does beat all!" Mr. Eldridge did not speak
with disapprobation, but with a tone of pleasure in his voice. "And
so he proposed that we should have coffee instead of wine and
"Bravo for Henry! I like that. But what will people say, my dear? I
don't want to become a laughing stock."
"I'd rather have other people laugh at me for doing right," said
Mrs. Eldridge, "than to have my conscience blame me for doing wrong."
"Must we give the party?" asked Mr. Eldridge, who did not feel much
inclined to brave public opinion.
"I don't see that we can well avoid doing so. Parties will be
given, and as Fanny is our niece, it will look like a slight towards
her if we hold back. No, she must have a party; and as I am resolved
to exclude liquor, we must come in first. Who knows but all the rest
may follow our example."
"Don't flatter yourself on any such result. We shall stand alone,
you may depend upon it."
The evening of the party came and a large company assembled at the
house of Mr. and Mrs. Eldridge. At eleven o'clock they passed to the
supper-room. On this time the thoughts of the host and hostess had
passed, ever and anon, during the whole evening, and not without many
misgivings as to the effect their entertainment would produce on the
minds of the company. Mr. Eldridge was particularly nervous on the
subject. There were several gentlemen present whom he knew to be
lovers of good wine; gentlemen at whose houses he had often been
entertained, and never without the exhilarating glass. How would they
feel? What would they think? What would they say? These questions
fairly haunted him; and he regretted, over and over again, that he had
yielded to his wife and excluded the liquors.
But there was no holding back now; the die was cast, and they must
stand to the issue. Mr. Eldridge tried to speak pleasantly to the
lady on his arm, as he ascended to the supper-room; but the words
came heavily from his tongue, for his heart was dying in him. Soon
the company were around the table, and eyes, critical in such
matters, taking hurried inventories of what it contained. Setting
aside the wine and brandy, the entertainment was of the most liberal
character, and the whole arrangement extremely elegant. At each end
of the table stood a large coffee-urn, surrounded with cups, the
meaning of which was not long a mystery to the company. After the
terrapin, oysters, salad, and their accompaniments, Mr. Eldridge said
to a lady, in a half-hesitating voice, as if he were almost ashamed to
ask the question,—
"Will you have a cup of coffee?"
"If you please," was the smiling answer. "Nothing would suit me
"Delicious!" Mr. Eldridge heard one of the gentlemen, of whom he
stood most in dread, say. "This is indeed a treat. I wouldn't give
such a cup of coffee for the best glass of wine you could bring me."
"I am glad you are pleased," Mr. Eldridge could not help remarking,
as he turned to the gentleman.
"You couldn't have pleased me better," was replied.
Soon the cups were circling through the room, and every one seemed
to enjoy the rich beverage. It was not the ghost of coffee, nor
coffee robbed of its delicate aroma; but clear, strong, fragrant, and
mellowed by the most delicious cream. Having elected to serve coffee,
Mrs. Eldridge was careful that her entertainment should not prove a
failure through any lack of excellence in this article. And it was
very far from proving a failure. The first surprise being over, one
and another began to express an opinion on the subject to the host and
"Let me thank you," said a lady, taking the hand of Mrs. Eldridge,
and speaking very warmly, "for your courage in making this innovation
upon a custom of doubtful prudence. I thank you, as a mother, who has
two sons here to-night."
She said no more, but Mrs. Eldridge understood well her whole
"You are a brave man, and I honor you," was the remark of a
gentleman to Mr. Eldridge. "There will be many, I think, to follow
your good example. I should never have had the courage to lead, but I
think I shall be brave enough to follow, when it comes my turn to
entertain my friends."
Henry was standing by his father when this was said listening with
respectful, but deeply gratified attention.
"My son, sir," said Mr. Eldridge.
The gentleman took the boy by the hand, and while he held it, the
"I must let the honor go to where it really is due. The suggestion
came from him. He is a Cadet of Temperance, and when the party was
talked of, he pleaded so earnestly for the substitution of coffee for
wine and brandy, and used such good reason for the change, that we saw
only one right course before us, and that we have adopted."
The gentleman, on hearing this, shook the lad's hand warmly, and
"Your father has reason to be proud of you, my brave boy! There is
no telling what good may grew out of this thing. Others will follow
your father's example, and hundreds of young men be saved from the
enticements of the wine cup."
With what strong throbs of pleasure did the boy's heart beat when
these words came to his ears! He had scarcely hoped for success when
he pleaded briefly, but earnestly, with his mother. Yet he felt that
he must speak, for to his mind, what she proposed doing was a great
evil. Since it had been resolved to banish liquor from the
entertainment, he had heard his father and mother speak several times
doubtfully as to the result; and more than once his father expressed
result that any such "foolish" attempt to run in the face of people's
prejudices had been thought of. Naturally, he had felt anxious about
the result; but now that the affair had gone off so triumphantly, his
heart was outgushing with pleasure.
The result was as had been predicted. Four parties were given to
the bride, and in each case the good example of Mrs. Eldridge was
followed. Coffee took the place of wine and brandy, and it was the
remark of nearly all, that there had been no pleasant parties during
So much for what a boy may do, by only a few right words spoken at
the right time, and in the right manner. Henry Eldridge was
thoughtful, modest, and earnest-minded. His attachment to the cause
of temperance was not a mere boyish enthusiasm, but the result of a
conviction that intemperance was a vice destructive, to both soul and
body, and one that lay like a curse and a plague-spot on society, He
could understand how, if the boys rejected, entirely, the cup of
confusion, the next, generation of men would be sober; and this had
led him to join the Cadets, and do all in his power to get other lads
to join also. In drawing other lads into the order, he had been very
successful; and now, in a few respectfully uttered, but earnest words,
he had checked the progress of intemperance in a circle far beyond the
ordinary reach of his influence.
Henry Eldridge was a happy boy that night.