Little Lizzie by
T. S. Arthur
"IF they wouldn't let him have it!" said Mrs. Leslie, weeping. "O,
if they wouldn't sell him liquor, there'd be no trouble! He's one of
the best of men when he doesn't drink. He never brings liquor into
the house; and he tries hard enough, I know, to keep sober, but he
cannot pass Jenks's tavern."
Mrs. Leslie was talking with a sympathizing neighbor, who
responded, by saying, that she wished the tavern would burn down, and
that, for her part, she didn't feel any too good to apply fire to the
place herself. Mrs. Leslie sighed, and wiped away the tears with her
"It's hard, indeed, it is," she murmured, "to see a man like Jenks
growing richer and richer every day out of the earnings of poor
working-men, whose families are in want of bread. For every sixpence
that goes over his counter some one is made poorer—to some heart is
given a throb of pain."
"It's a downright shame!" exclaimed the neighbor, immediately. "If
I had my way with the lazy, good-for-nothing fellow, I'd see that he
did something useful, if it was to break stone on the road. Were it
my husband, instead of yours, that he enticed into his bar, depend
on't he'd get himself into trouble."
While this conversation was going on, a little girl, not over ten
years of age, sat listening attentively. After a while she went
quietly from the room, and throwing her apron over head, took her
way, unobserved by her mother, down the road.
Where was little Lizzie going? There was a purpose in her mind: She
had started on a mission. "O, if they wouldn't sell him liquor!"
These earnest, tearful words of her, mother had filled her thoughts.
If Mr. Jenks wouldn't sell her father anything to drink, "there would
be no more trouble." How simple, how direct the remedy! She would go
to Mr. Jenks, and ask him not to let her father have any more liquor,
and then all would be well again. Artless, innocent child! And this
was her mission.
The tavern kept by Jenks, the laziest man in Milanville,—he was
too lazy to work, and therefore went to tavern-keeping,—stood nearly
a quarter of a mile from the poor tenement occupied by the Leslies.
Towards this point, under a hot, sultry sun, little Lizzie made her
way, her mind so filled with its purpose that she was unconscious of
heat of fatigue.
Not long before a traveller alighted at the tavern. After giving
directions to have his horses fed, he entered the bar-room, and went
to where Jenks stood, behind the counter.
"Have something to drink?" inquired the landlord.
"I'll take a glass of water, if you please."
Jenks could not hide the indifference at once felt towards the
stranger. Very deliberately he set a pitcher and a glass upon the
counter, and then turned partly away. The stranger poured out a
tumbler of water, and drank it off with an air of satisfaction.
"Good water, that of yours, landlord," said he.
"Is it?" was returned, somewhat uncourteously.
"I call it good water—don't you?"
"Never drink water by itself." As Jenks said this, he winked to one
of his good customers, who was lounging, in the bar. "In fact, it's
so long since I drank any water, that I forgot how it tastes. Don't
The man, to whom this was addressed, was not so far lost to shame
as Jenks. He blushed and looked confused, as he replied,—
"It might be better for some of us if we had not lost our relish
for pure water."
"A true word spoken, my friend!" said the stranger, turning to the
man, whose swollen visage, and patched, threadbare garments, too
plainly told the story of his sad life. "'Water, pure water, bright
water;' that is my motto. It never swells the face, nor inflames the
eyes, nor mars the countenance. Its attendants are health, thrift,
and happiness. It takes not away the children's bread, nor the
toiling wife's garments. Water!—it is one of God's chiefest
blessings! Our friend, the landlord here, says he has forgotten how
it tastes; and you have lost all relish for the refreshing draught!
Ah, this is a sad confession!—one which the angels might weep to
There were two or three customers in the bar besides Leslie, to
whom this was addressed; and all of them, in spite of the landlord's
angry and sneering countenance, treated the stranger with attention
and respect. Seeing this, Jenks could not restrain himself; so,
coming from behind his bar, he advanced to his side, and, laying his
hand quite rudely on his shoulder, said, in a peremptory manner,—
"See here, my friend! If you are about making a temperance lecture,
you can adjourn to the Town Hall or the Methodist Chapel."
The stranger moved aside a pace or two, so that the hand of Jenks
might fall from his person, and then said, mildly,—
"There must be something wrong here if a man may not speak in
praise of water without giving offense."
"I said you could adjourn your lecture!" The landlord's face was
now fiery red, and he spoke with insolence and passion.
"O, well, as you are president of the meeting, I suppose we must
let you exercise an arbitrary power of adjournment," said the
stranger, good-humoredly. "I didn't think any one had so strong a
dislike for water as to consider its praise an insult."
At this moment a child stepped into the bar-room. Her little face
was flushed, and great beads of perspiration were slowly moving down
her crimson cheeks. Her step was elastic, her manner earnest, and her
large, dark eyes bright with an eager purpose. She glanced neither to
the right nor the left, but walking up to the landlord, lifted to him
her sweet young face, and said, in tones that thrilled every heart but
"Please, Mr. Jenks, don't sell papa any more liquor!"
"Off home with you, this instant!" exclaimed Jenks, the crimson of
his face deepening to a dark purple. As he spoke, he advanced towards
the child, with his hand uplifted in a threatening attitude.
"Please don't, Mr. Jenks," persisted the child, not moving from
where she stood, nor taking her eyes front the landlord's
countenance. "Mother says, if you wouldn't sell him liquor, there'd
be no trouble. He's kind and good to us all when he doesn't drink."
"Off, I say!" shouted Jenks, now maddened beyond self-control; and
his hand was about descending upon the little one, when the stranger
caught her in his arms, exclaiming, as he did so, with deep
"God bless the child! No, no, precious one!" he added; "don't fear
him. Plead for your father—plead for your home. Your petition must
prevail! He cannot say nay to one of the little ones, whose angels do
always behold the face of their Father in heaven. God bless the
child!" added the stranger, in a choking voice. "O, that the father,
for whom she has come on this touching errand, were present now! If
there were anything of manhood yet left in his nature, this would
awaken it from its palsied sleep."
"Papa! O, papa!" now cried the child, stretching forth her hands.
In the next moment she was clinging to the breast of her father, who,
with his arms clasped tightly around her, stood weeping and mingling
his tears with those now raining from the little one's eyes.
What an oppressive stillness pervaded that room! Jenks stood
subdued and bewildered, his state of mental confusion scarcely
enabling him to comprehend the full import of the scene. The stranger
looked on wonderingly, yet deeply affected. Quietly, and with moist
eyes, the two or three drinking customers who had been lounging in the
bar, went stealthily out; and the landlord, the stranger and the
father and his child, were left the only inmates of the room.
"Come, Lizzie, dear! This is no place for us," said Leslie,
breaking the deep silence. "We'll go home."
And the unhappy inebriate took his child by the hand, and led her
towards the door. But the little one held back.
"Wait, papa; wait!" she said. "He hasn't promised yet. O, I wish he
"Promise her, in Heaven's name!" said the stranger.
"Promise!" said Leslie, in a stern yet solemn voice, as he turned
and fixed his eyes upon the landlord.
"If I do promise, I'll keep it!" returned Jenks, in a threatening
tone, as he returned the gaze of Leslie.
"Then, for God's sake, promise!" exclaimed Leslie, in a
half-despairing voice. "Promise, and I'm safe!"
"Be it so! May I be cursed, if ever I sell you a drop of drinking
at this bar, while I am landlord of the 'Stag and Hounds'!" Jenks
spoke with with an angry emphasis.
"God be thanked!" murmured the poor drunkard, as he led his child
away. "God be thanked! There is hope for me yet."
Hardly had the mother of Lizzie missed her child, ere she entered,
leading her father by the hand.
"O, mother!" she exclaimed, with a joy-lit countenance, and in a
voice of exultation, "Mr. Jenks has promised."
"Promised what?" Hope sprung up in her heart, on wild and
fluttering wings, her face flushed, and then grew deadly pale. She sat
panting for a reply.
"That he would never sell me another glass of liquor," said her
A pair of thin, white hands were clasped quickly together, an ashen
face was turned upwards, tearless eyes looked their thankfulness to
"There is hope yet, Ellen," said Leslie.
"Hope, hope! And O, Edward, you have said the word!"
"Hope, through our child. Innocence has prevailed over vice and
cruelty. She came to the strong, evil, passionate man, and, in her
weakness and innocence, prevailed over him. God made her fearless and
A year afterwards a stranger came again that way, and stopped at
the "Stag and Hounds." As before, Jenks was behind his well-filled
bar, and drinking customers came and went in numbers. Jenks did not
recognize him until he called for water, and drank a full tumbler of
the pure liquor with a hearty zest. Then he knew him, but feigned to
be ignorant of his identity. The stranger made no reference to the
scene he had witnessed there a twelvemonth before, but lingered in
the bar for most of the day, closely observing every one that came to
drink. Leslie was not among the number.
"What has become of the man and the little girl I saw here, at my
last visit to Milanville?" said the stranger, speaking at last to
"Gone to the devil, for all I care," was the landlord's rude
answer, as he turned off from his questioner.
"For all you care, no doubt," said the stranger to himself. "Men
often speak their real thoughts in a passion."
"Do you see that little white cottage away off there, just at the
edge of the wood? Two tall poplars stand in front."
Thus spoke to the stranger one who had heard him address the
"I do. What of it?" he answered.
"The man you asked for lives there."
"And what is more, if he keeps on as he has begun, the cottage will
be all his own in another year. Jenks, here, doesn't feel any good
blood for him, as you may well believe. A poor man's prosperity is
regarded as so much loss to him. Leslie is a good mechanic—one of
the best in Milanville. He can earn twelve dollars a week, year in
and year out. Two hundred dollars he has already paid on his cottage;
and as he is that much richer, Jenks thinks himself just so much
poorer; for all this surplus, and more too, would have gone into his
till, if Leslie had not quit drinking."
"Aha! I see! Well, did Leslie, as you call him, ever try to get a
drink here, since the landlord promised never to let him have another
"Twice to my knowledge."
"And he refused him?"
"Yes. If you remember, he said, in his anger, '_May I be cursed, if
I sell him another drop.'"
"I remember it very well."
"That saved poor Leslie. Jenks is superstitious in some things. He
wanted to get his custom again,—for it was well worth having,—and he
was actually handing him the bottle one day, when I saw it, and
reminded him of his self-imprecation. He hesitated, looked
frightened, withdrew the bottle from the counter, and then, with
curses, drove Leslie from his bar-room, threatening, at the same
time, to horsewhip him if ever he set a foot over his threshold
"Poor drunkards!" mused the stranger, as he rode past the neat
cottage of the reformed man a couple of hours afterwards. "As the
case now stands, you are only saved as by fire. All law, all
protection, is on the side of those who are engaged in enticing you
into sin, and destroying you, body and soul. In their evil work, they
have free course. But for you, unhappy wretches, after they have
robbed you of worldly goods, and even manhood itself, are provided
prisons and pauper homes! And for your children,"—a dark shadow swept
over the stranger's face, and a shudder went through his frame. "Can
it be, a Christian country in which I live, and such things darken the
very sun at noonday!" he added as he sprung his horse into a gallop
and rode swiftly onward.