Pledge by T. S. Arthur
"YOU'LL sign it, I'm sure," said a persevering Washingtonian, who
had found his way into a little village grogshop, and had there
presented the pledge to some three or four of its half-intoxicated
inmates. The last man whom he addressed, after having urged the
others to no effect, was apparently about thirty years of age, and
had a sparkling eye, and a good-humoured countenance, that attracted
rather than repelled. The marks of the destroyer were, however, upon
him, showing themselves with melancholy distinctness.
"You'll sign, I'm sure, Jim."
"O, of course," replied the individual addressed, winking, as he
did so to the company, as much as to say—"Don't you want to see fun?"
"Yes, but you will, I know?"
"Of course I will. Where's the document?"
"Here it is,"—displaying a sheet of paper with sundry appropriate
devices, upon which was printed in conspicuous letters,
"We whose names—,"
"That's very pretty, aint it, Ike?" said Jim, or James Braddock,
with a mock seriousness of tone and manner.
"O, yes—very beautiful."
"Just see here," ran on Jim, pointing to the vignette over the
pledge.—"This spruce chap, swelled out with cold-water until just
ready to burst, and still pouring in more, is our friend Malcom here,
A loud laugh followed this little hit, which seemed to the company
exceedingly humorous. But Malcom took it all in good part, and
retorted by asking Braddock who the wretched looking creature was
with a bottle in his hand, and three ragged children, and a pale,
haggard, distressed woman, following after him.
"Another cold-water man, I suppose, "Jim Braddock replied; but
neither his laugh nor the laugh of his cronies was so hearty as
"O, no. That's a little mistake into which you have fallen, "Malcom
said, smiling. "He is one of your firewater men. Don't you see how he
has been scorched with it, inside and out. Now, did you ever see such
a miserable looking creature? And his poor children—and his wife! But
I will say nothing about them. The picture speaks for itself."
"Here's a barrel, mount him up, and let us have a temperance
speech!" cried the keeper of the grog-shop, coming from behind his
counter, and mingling with the group.
"O, yes.—Give us a temperance speech!" rejoined Jim Braddock, not
at all sorry to get a good excuse for giving up his examination of
the pledge, which had revived in his mind some associations of not
the pleasantest character in the world.
"No objection at all," replied the ready Washingtonian, mounting
the rostrum which the tavern-keeper had indicated, to the no small
amusement of the company, and the great relief of Jim Braddock, who
began to feel that the laugh was getting on the wrong side of his
mouth, as he afterwards expressed it.
"Now for some rare fun!" ejaculated one of the group that gathered
around the whiskey-barrel upon which Malcom stood.
"This is grand sport!" broke in another.
"Take your text, Mr. Preacher!" cried a third.
"O yes, give us a text and a regular-built sermon!" added a fourth,
rubbing his hands with great glee.
"Very well," Malcom replied, with good humour. "Now for the text."
"Yes, give us the text," ran around the circle.
"My text will be found in Harry Arnold's grog-shop, Main street,
three doors from the corner. It is in these words:—'Whiskey-barrel.'
Upon this text I will now, with your permission, make a few remarks."
Then holding up his pledge and laying his finger upon the wretched
being there represented as the follower after strong drink, he went
"You all see this poor creature here, and his wife and
children—well, as my text and his fall from happiness and
respectability are inseparably united, I will, instead of giving you
a dry discourse on an empty whiskey-barrel, narrate this man's
history, which involves the whiskey-barrel, and describes how it
became empty, and finally how it came here. I will call him James
Bradly—but take notice, that I call him a little out of his true
name, so as not to seem personal.
"Well, this James Bradly was a house-carpenter—I say was
—for although still living, he is no longer an industrious
house-carpenter, but a very industrious grog-drinker,—he has changed
his occupation. About five years ago, I went to his house on some
business. It was about dinner-time, and the table was set, and the
dinner on it.
"'Come, take some dinner with me,' Mr. Bradly said, in such a kind
earnest way, that I could not resist, especially as his wife looked
so happy and smiling, and the dinner so neatly served, plentiful and
inviting. So I sat down with Mr. and Mrs. Bradly, and two fat,
chubby-faced children; and I do not think I ever enjoyed so pleasant
a meal in my life.
"After dinner was over, Mr. Bradly took me all through his house,
which was new. He had just built it, and furnished it with every
convenience that a man in mode. rate circumstances could desire. I
was pleased with everything I saw, and praised everything with a
hearty good will. At last he took me down into the cellar, and showed
me a barrel of flour that he had just bought—twenty bushels of
potatoes and turnips laid in for the winter, five large fat hogs, and
I can't remember what all. Beside these, there was a barrel of
something lying upon the cellar floor.
"'What is this?' I asked.
"'O, that is a barrel of whiskey that I have laid in also.'
"'A barrel of whiskey!' I said, in surprise.
"'Yes. I did some work for Harry Arnold, and the best I could do
was to take this barrel of good old 'rye' in payment. But it is just
as well. It will be a saving in the end.'
"'How so?' I asked.
"'Why, because there are more than twice as many drams in this
barrel of whiskey, as I could get for what I paid for it. Of course,
I save more than half.'
"'But have you taken into your calculation the fact, that, in
consequence of having a barrel of whiskey so handy, you will drink
about two glasses to one that you would want if you had to go down to
Harry Arnold's for it every time!'
"'O yes, I have,' Bradly replied. 'But still I calculate on it
being a saving, from the fact that I shall not lose so much time as I
otherwise would do. A great deal of time, you know, is wasted in
"'All true. But have you never considered the danger arising from
the habitual free use of liquor—such a free use as the constant
sight of a whole barrel of whiskey may induce you to make?'
"'Danger!' ejaculated Mr. Bradly in surprise.
"'Yes, danger,' I repeated.
"'Of what?' he asked.
"'Of becoming too fond of liquor,' I replied.
"'I hope you do not wish to insult me in my own house, Mr. Malcom,'
the carpenter said, rather sternly.
"'O no,' I replied. 'Of course I do not. I only took the liberty
that a friend feels entitled to use, to hint at what seemed to me a
danger that you might be running into blindly.'
"Mrs. Bradly, who had gone through the house with us, enjoying my
admiration of all their comfortable arrangements, seemed to dwell
with particular interest on what I said in reference to the
whiskey-barrel. She was now leaning affectionately upon her husband's
arm—her own drawn through his, and her hands clasped
together—looking up into his face with a tender and confiding
regard. I could not help noticing her manner, and the expression of
her countenance. And yet it seemed to me that something of concern
was on her face, but so indistinct as to be scarcely visible. Of this
I was satisfied, when she said,
"'I don't think there is much use in drinking liquor, do you, Mr.
"'I cannot see that there is,' I replied, of course.
"'Nor can I. Of one thing I think I am certain, and that is, that
James would be just as comfortable and happy without it as with it.'
"'You don't know what you are talking about, Sally,' her husband
replied good-humouredly, for he was a man of excellent temper, and a
little given to jesting. 'But I suppose you thought it good for you
last christmas, when you got boozy on egg-nog.'
"'O James, how can you talk so!' his wife exclaimed, her face
reddening. 'You know that you served me a shameful trick then.'
"'What do you think he did, Mr. Malcom?' she added, turning to me,
while her husband laughed heartily at what she said. 'He begged me to
let him make me a little wine egg-nog, seeing that I wouldn't touch
that which had brandy in it, because liquor always flies to my head.
To please him, I consented, though I didn't want it. And then, the
rogue fixed me a glass as strong again with brandy as that which I had
refused to take. I thought while I was drinking it, that it did not
taste like wine, and told him so. But he declared that it was wine,
and that it was so sweet that I could not clearly perceive its
flavour. Of course I had to go to bed, and didn't get fairly over it
for two or three days. Now, wasn't that too bad, Mr. Malcom!'
"'Indeed it was, Mrs. Bradly,' I said in reply.
"'It was a capital joke, though, wasn't it?' rejoined her husband,
"'I'll tell you a good way to retort on him,' I said, jestingly.
"'How is that, Mr. Malcom?'
"Pull the tap out of his whiskey-barrel.'
"'I would, if I dared.'
"'She'd better not try that, I can tell her.'
"'What would you do, if I did?' she asked.
"'Buy two more in its place, and make you drink one of them.'
"'O dear! I must beg to be excused from that. But, indeed, James, I
wish you would let it run. I'm really ashamed to have it said, that
my husband keeps a barrel of whiskey in the house.'
"'Nonsense, Sally! you don't know what you are talking about.'
"'Well, perhaps I don't,' the wife said, and remained silent, for
there was a half-concealed rebuke in her husband's tone of voice.
"I saw that I could say no more about the whiskey-barrel, and so I
dropped the subject, and, in a short time, after having finished my
business with Mr. Bradly, went away.
"'Well, how comes on the whiskey-barrel?' I said to him, about a
month after, as we met on the road.
"'First-rate,' was his reply. 'It contains a prime article of good
old 'rye,' I can tell you. The best I have ever tasted. Come, won't
you go home with me and try some?'
"'No, I believe not.'"
"'Do now—come along,' and he took me by the button, and pulled me
gently. 'You don't know how fine it is. I am sure there is not
another barrel like it in the town.'
"'You must really excuse me, Bradly,' I replied, for I found that
he was in earnest, and what was more, had a watery look about the
eyes, that argued badly for him, I thought.
"'Well, if you won't, you won't,' he said. 'But you always were an
unsocial kind of a fellow.'
"And so we parted. Six months had not passed before it was rumoured
through the neighbourhood, that Bradly had begun to neglect his
business; and that he spent too much of his time at Harry Arnold's. I
met his wife one day, about this time, and, really, her distressed
look gave me the heart ache. Something is wrong, certainly, I said to
myself. It was only a week after, that I met poor Bradly intoxicated.
"'Ah, Malcom—good day—How are you?' he said, reeling up to me and
offering his hand.—'You havn't tried that good old rye of mine yet.
Come along now, it's most gone.'
"'You must excuse me today, Mr. Bradly,' I replied, trying to pass
"But he said I should not get off this time—that home with him I
must go, and take a dram from his whiskey-barrel. Of course, I did
not go. If there had been no other reason, I had no desire, I can
assure you, to meet his wife while her husband was in so sad a
condition. After awhile I got rid of him, and right glad was I to do
"Come, that'll do for one day!" broke in Harry Arnold, the
grog-shop-keeper, at this point, not relishing too well the allusions
to himself, nor, indeed, the drift of the narrative, which he very
"No—no—go on! go on!" urged two or three of the group. But Jim
Braddock said nothing, though he looked very thoughtful.
"I'll soon get through," replied the Washingtonian, showing no
inclination to abandon his text. "You see, I did not, of course, go
home with poor Bradly, and he left me with a drunken, half-angry
malediction. That night he went down into his cellar, late, to draw
some whiskey, and forgot his candle, which had been so carelessly set
down, that it set fire to a shelf, and before it was discovered the
fire had burned through the floor above.
"Nearly all their furniture was saved, whiskey-barrel and all, but
the house was burned to the ground. Since that time, Bradly will tell
you that luck has been against him. He has been going down, down,
down, every year, and now does scarcely anything but lounge about
Harry Arnold's grog-shop and drink, while his poor wife and children
are in want and suffering, and have a most wretched look, as you may
see by this picture on the pledge. As for the whiskey-barrel, that was
rolled down here about a month ago, and sold for half a dollar's worth
of liquor, and here I now stand upon it, and make it the foundation of
a temperance speech.
"Now, let me ask you all seriously, if you do not think that James
Bradly owes his rapid downfall, in a great measure, to the fact that
Harry Arnold would not pay him a just debt in anything but whiskey?
And against Harry Arnold really your friend, that you are so willing
to beggar your wives and children to put money in his till? I only
ask the questions. You can answer then at your leisure. So ends my
"You are an insulting fellow, let me tell you!" the
grog-shop-keeper said, as he turned away, angrily, and went behind his
The Washingtonian took no notice of this, but went to Jim Braddock,
who stood in a musing attitude near the door, and said—
"You will sign now, won't you, Jim?"
"No, I will not!" was his gruff response.
"I am not going to sign away my liberty for you or anybody else. So
long as I live, I'll be a free man."
"That's right, Jim! Huzza for liberty!" shouted his companions.
"Yes, huzza for liberty! say I," responded Braddock, in the effort
to rally himself, and shake off the thoughts and feelings that.
Malcom's narrative had conjured up a narrative that proved to be too
true a history of his own downfall.
"It was a shame for you to do what you did down at Harry Arnold's,"
Braddock said to the Washingtonian about half an hour afterwards,
meeting him on the street.
"Do what, Jim!"
"Why, rake up all my past history as you did, and insult Harry in
his own house into the bargain."
"How did I insult Harry Arnold?"
"By telling about that confounded whiskey-barrel that I have wished
a hundred times had been in the bottom of the sea, before it ever
fell into my hands."
"I told the truth, didn't I?"
"O yes—it was all true enough, and a great deal too true."
"He owed you a bill?"
"And you wanted your money?"
"But Harry wouldn't pay you in anything but whiskey?"
"No, he would not."
"And so you took a barrel of whiskey, that you did not want, in
"But would much rather have had the money?"
"Of course, I would."
"And yet, you are so exceedingly tender of Harry Arnold's feelings,
notwithstanding his agency in your ruin, that you would not have him
reminded of his original baseness—or rather his dishonesty in not
paying you in money, according to your understanding with him, for
"I don't see any use in raking up these old things."
"The use is, to enable you to see your folly so clearly as to cause
you to abandon it. I am sure you not only see it now, but feel it
"Well, suppose I do?—what then?"
"Why, sign the pledge, and become a sober man."
"I've made up my mind never to sign a pledge," was the emphatic
"Because, I am determined to live and die a free man. I'll never
sign away my liberty. My father was a free man before me, and I will
live and die a free man!"
"But you're a slave now."
"It is not true! I am free.—Free to drink, or free to et it alone,
as I choose."
"You are mistaken, Jim. You have sold yourself into slavery, and
the marks of the chains that still bind you, are upon your body. You
are the slave of a vile passion that is too strong for your reason."
"I deny it. I can quit drinking if I choose."
"Then why don't you quit?"
"Because I love to drink."
"And love to see your wife's cheek growing paler and paler every
day—and your children ragged and neglected?"
"I only asked the question, Jim."
"But you know that I don't love to see them in the condition they
"And still, you say that you can quit drinking whenever you choose,
but will not do so, because you love the taste, or the effect of the
liquor, I don't know which?"
Braddock's feelings were a good deal touched, as they had been,
ever since Malcom's temperance speech in the grog-shop. He stood
silent for some time, and then said—
"I know it's too bad for me to drink as I do, but I will break
"You had better sign the pledge then."
"No, I will not do that. As I have told you, I am resolved never to
sign away my liberty."
"Very well. If you are fixed in your resolution, I suppose it is
useless for me to urge the matter. For the sake, then, of your wife
and children, break away from the fetters that bind you, and be
really free. Now you are not only a slave, but a slave in the most
The two then separated, and Jim Braddock—in former years it was
Mr. Braddock—returned to his house; a very cheerless place, to what
it had once been. Notwithstanding his abandonment of himself to drink
and idleness, Braddock had no ill-nature about him. Though he
neglected his family, he was not quarrelsome at home. she might, and
talked hard to him, he never retorted, but always turned the matter
off with a laugh or a jest. With his children, he was always
cheerful, and frequently joined in their sports, when not too drunk
to do so. All this cool indifference, as it seemed to her, frequently
irritated his wife, and made her scold away at him with might and
main. He had but one reply to make whenever this occurred, and that
"There—there—Keep cool, Sally! It will all go in your lifetime,
As he came into the house after the not very pleasant occurrence
that had taken place at Harry Arnold's, he saw by Sally's excited
face and sparkling eyes that something was wrong.
"What's the matter, Sally?" he asked.
"Don't ask me what's the matter, if you please!" was her tart
"Yes, but I want to know? Something is wrong."
"Something is always wrong, of course," Sally rejoined—"and
something always will be wrong while you act as you do: It's a
burning shame for any man to abuse his family as you are abusing
"There—there. Keep cool, Sally! It will all go in your lifetime,
darling!" Jim responded, in a mild, soothing tone.
"O yes:—It's very easy to say 'keep cool!' But I'm tired of this
everlasting 'keep cool!' Quit drinking and go to work, and then it'll
be time to talk about keeping cool. Here I've been all the morning
scraping up chips to make the fire burn. Not a stick in the wood-pile,
and you lazing it down to Harry Arnold's. I wish to goodness he was
hung! It's too bad! I'm out of all manner of patience!"
"There—there. Keep cool, Sally! It'll all go—"
"Hush, will you!" ejaculated Sally, stamping her foot, all patience
having left her over-tried spirit. "Keep away from Harry Arnold's!
Quit drinking, and then it'll be time for you to talk to me about
"I'm going to quit, Sally," Jim replied, altogether unexcited by
her words and manner.
"Nonsense!" rejoined Sally. "You've said that fifty times."
"But I'm going to do it now."
"Have you signed the pledge?"
"No. I'm not going to sign away my liberty, as I have often said.
But I'm going to quit."
"Fiddle-de-de! Sign away your liberty! You've got no liberty to
sign away! A slave, and talk of liberty!"
"Look here, Sally," her husband said, good-humouredly, for nothing
that she could say ever made him get angry with her—"you're a
hard-mouthed animal, and it would take a strong hand to hold you in.
But as I like to see you go at full gallop, darling, I never draw a
tight rein. Aint you most out of breath yet?"
"You're a fool, Jim!"
"There's many a true word spoken in jest, Sally," her husband
responded in a more serious tone; "I have been a most egregious
fool—but I'm going to try and act the wise man, if I havn't
forgotten how. So now, as little Vic. said to her mother—
'Pray, Goody, cease and moderate
The rancour of your tongue.'"
Suddenly his wife felt that he was really in earnest, and all her
angry feelings subsided—
"O James!" she said—"if you would only be as you once were, how
happy we might all again be!"
"I know that, Sally. And I'm going to try hard to be as I once was.
There's a little job to be done over at Jones', and I promised him
that I would do it for him today. but I got down to Harry Arnold's,
and there wasted my time until I was ashamed to begin a day's work.
But to-morrow morning I'll go over, and stick at it until it's done.
It'll be cash down, and you shall have every cent it comes to, my old
girl!" patting his wife on the cheek as he said so.
Mrs. Braddock, of course, felt a rekindling of hope in her bosom.
Many times before had her husband promised amendment, and as often
had he disappointed her fond expectations. But still she suffered her
heart to hope again.
On the next morning, James Braddock found an early breakfast ready
for him when he got up. His hand trembled a good deal as he lifted
his cup of coffee to his lips, which was insipid without the usual
morning-dram to put a taste in his mouth. He did not say much, for he
felt an almost intolerable craving for liquor, and this made him
serious. But his resolution was strong to abandon his former habits.
"You won't forget, James?" his wife said, laying her hand upon his
arm, and looking him earnestly and with moistened eyes in the face,
as he was about leaving the house.
"No, Sally, I won't forget. Take heart, my good girl. Let what's
past go for nothing. It's all in our lifetime."
And so saying, Braddock turned away, and strode off with a resolute
bearing. His wife followed with her eyes the form of her husband
until it was out of sight, and then closed the door with a long-drawn
The way to Mr. Jones' house was past Arnold's grogshop, and as
Braddock drew nearer and nearer to his accustomed haunt, he felt a
desire, growing stronger and stronger every moment, to enter and join
his old associates over a glass of liquor. To this desire, he opposed
every rational objection that he could find. He brought up before his
mind his suffering wife and neglected children, and thought of his
duty to them. He remembered that it was drink, and drink alone, that
had been the cause of his downfall. But with all these auxiliaries to
aid him in keeping his resolution, it seemed weak when opposed to
desires, which long continued indulgence had rendered inordinate.
Onward he went with a steady pace, fortifying his mind all the while
with arguments against drinking, and yet just ready at every moment to
yield the contest he was waging against habit and desire. At last the
grog-shop was in sight, and in a few minutes he was almost at the
"Hurrah! Here's Jim Braddock, bright and early!" cried one of his
old cronies, from among two or three who were standing in front of
"So the cold-water-men havn't got you yet!" broke in another. "I
thought Jim Braddock was made of better stuff."
"Old birds aint caught with chaff!" added a third.
"Come! Hallo! Where are you off to in such a hurry, with your tools
on your back?" quickly cried the first speaker, seeing that Braddock
was going by without showing any disposition to stop.
"I've got a job to do that's in a hurry," replied Braddock,
pausing—"and have no time to stop. And besides, I've sworn off."
"Sworn off! Ha! ha! Have you taken the pledge?"
"No, I have not. I'm not going to bind myself down not to drink any
thing. I'll be a free man. But I won't touch another drop, see if I
"O yes—we'll see. How long do you expect to keep sober?"
"You'll be drunk by night."
"Why do you say so?"
"I say so—that's all; and I know so."
"But why do you say so? Come, tell me that."
"O, I've seen too many swear off in my time—and I've tried it too
often myself. It's no use. Not over one in a hundred ever sticks to
it; and I'm sure, Jim Braddock's not that exception."
"There are said to be a hundred reformed men in this town now. I am
sure, I know a dozen," Braddock replied.
"O yes. But they've signed the pledge."
"Nonsense! I don't believe a man can keep sober any the better by
signing the pledge, than by resolving never again to drink a drop."
"Facts are stubborn things, you know. But come, Jim, as you havn't
signed the pledge, you might as well come in and take a glass now,
for you'll do it before night, take my word for it."
It was a fact, that Braddock began really to debate the question
with himself, whether he should or not go in and take a single glass,
when he became suddenly conscious of his danger, turned away, and
hurried on, followed by the loud, jeering laugh of his old boon
"Up-hill work," he muttered to himself, as he strode onward.
An hour's brisk walking brought him to the residence of Mr. Jones,
nearly four miles away from the little town in which he lived, where
he entered upon his day's work, resolved that, henceforth, he would
be a reformed man. At first he was nervous, from want of his
accustomed stimulus, and handled his tools awkwardly. But after
awhile, as the blood began to circulate more freely, the tone of his
system came up to a healthier action.
About eleven o'clock Mr. Jones came out to the building upon which
Braddock was at work, and after chatting a little, said—
"This is grog time, aint it, Jim?"
"Yes sir, I believe it is," was the reply.
"Well, knock off then for a little while, and come into the house
and take a dram."
Now Mr. Jones was a very moderate drinker himself, scarcely
touching liquor for weeks at a time, unless in company. But he always
kept it in the house, and always gave it to his workmen, as a matter
of course, at eleven o'clock. Had he been aware of Braddock's effort
to reform himself, he would as soon have thought of offering him
poison to drink as whiskey. But, knowing his habits, he concluded,
naturally, that the grog was indispensable, and tendered it to him as
he had always done before, on like occasions.
"I've signed the pledge," were the words that instantly formed
themselves in the mind of Braddock—but were instantly set aside, as
that reason for not drinking would not have been the true one. Could
he have said that, all difficulty would have vanished in a moment.
"No objection, Mr. Jones," was then uttered, and off he started for
the house, resolutely keeping down every reason that struggled in his
mind to rise and be heard.
The image of Mr. Jones, standing before him, with a smiling
invitation to come and take a glass, backed by his own instantly
aroused inclinations, had been too strong an inducement. He felt,
too, that it would have been rudeness to decline the proffered
"That's not bad to take, Mr. Jones," he said, smacking his lips,
after turning off a stiff glass.
"No, it is not, Jim. That's as fine an article of whiskey as I've
ever seen," Mr. Jones replied, a little flattered at Braddock's
approval of his liquor. "You're a good judge of such matters."
"I ought to be." And as Jim said this, he turned out another glass.
"That's right—help yourself," was Mr. Jones' encouraging remark,
as he saw this.
"I never was backward at that, you know, Mr. Jones." After eating a
cracker and a piece of cheese, and taking a third drink, Braddock
went back and resumed his work, feeling quite happy.
After dinner Mr. Jones handed him the bottle again, and did the
same when he knocked off in the evening. Of course, he was very far
from being sober when he started for home. As he came into town, his
way was past Harry Arnold's, whose shop he entered, and was received
with a round of applause by his old associates, who saw at a glance
that Jim was "a little disguised." Their jokes were all received in
good part, and parried by treating all around.
When her husband left in the morning, Mrs. Braddock's heart was
lightened with a new hope, although a fear was blended with that
hope, causing them both to tremble in alternate preponderance in her
bosom. Still, hope would gain the ascendency, and affected her
spirits with a degree of cheerfulness unfelt for many months. As the
day began to decline towards evening, after putting everything about
the house in order, she took her three children, washed them clean,
and dressed them up as neatly as their worn and faded clothes would
permit. This was in order to make home present the most agreeable
appearance possible to her husband when he returned. Then she killed
a chicken and dressed it, ready to broil for his supper—made up a
nice short-cake, and set the table with a clean, white table-cloth.
About sundown, she commenced baking the cake, and cooking the
chicken, and at dusk had them all ready to put on the table the
moment he came in.
Your father is late," she remarked to one of the children, after
sitting in a musing attitude for about five minutes, after everything
was done that she could do towards getting supper ready. As she said
this, she got up and went to the door and looked long and intently
down the street in the direction that she expected him, calling each
distant, dim figure, obscured by the deepening twilight, his, until a
nearer approach dispelled the illusion. Each disappointment like this,
caused her feelings to grow sadder and sadder, until at length, as
evening subsided into night, with its veil of thick darkness, she
turned into the house with a heavy oppressive sigh, and rejoined the
children who were impatient for their supper.
"Wait a little while," was her reply to their importunities.
"Father will soon be here now."
She was still anxious that their father should see their improved
"O no"—urged one. "We want our supper now."
"O yes. Give us our supper now. I'm so sleepy and hungry," whined
And to give force to these, the youngest began to fret and cry.
Mrs. Braddock could delay no longer, and so she set them up to the
table and gave them as much as they could eat. Then she undressed each
in turn, and in a little while, they were fast asleep.
When all was quiet, and the mother sat down to wait for her
husband's return, a feeling of deep despondency came over her mind.
It had been dark for an hour, and yet he had not come home. She could
imagine no reason for this, other than the one that had kept him out
so often before—drinking and company. Thus she continued to sit, hour
after hour, the supper untasted. Usually, her evenings were spent in
some kind of work—in mending her children's clothes, or knitting them
stockings. But now she had no heart to do anything. The state of
gloomy uncertainty that she was in, broke down her spirits, for the
Bedtime came; and still Braddock was away. She waited an hour later
than usual, and then retired, sinking back upon her pillow as she did
so, in a state of hopeless exhaustion of mind and body.
In the meantime, her husband had spent a merry evening at Harry
Arnold's, drinking with more than his accustomed freedom. He was the
last to go home, the thought of meeting his deceived and injured
wife, causing him to linger. When he did leave, it was past eleven
o'clock. Though more than half-intoxicated on going from the
grog-shop, the cool night air, and the thought of Sally, sobered him
considerably before he got home. Arrived there, he paused with his
hand on the door for some time, reluctant to enter. At last he opened
the door, and went quietly in, in the hope of getting up to bed
without his wife's discovering his condition. The third step into the
room brought his foot in contact with a chair, and over he went,
jarring the whole house with his fall. His wife heard this—indeed her
quick ear had detected the opening of the door—and it caused her
heart to sink like a heavy weight in her bosom.
Gathering himself up, Braddock moved forward again as steadily as
he could, both hands extended before him. A smart blow upon the nose
from an open door, that had insinuated itself between his hands,
brought him up again, and caused him, involuntarily, to dash aside
the door which shut with a heavy slam. Pausing now, to recall his
bewildered senses, he resolved to move forward with more caution, and
so succeeded in gaining the stairs, up which he went, his feet, softly
as he tried to put them down, falling like heavy lumps of lead, and
making the house echo again. He felt strongly inclined to grumble
about all the lights being put out, as he came into the chamber—but a
distinct consciousness that he had no right to grumble, kept him
quiet, and so he undressed himself with as little noise as
possible,—which was no very small portion, for at almost every moment
he stept on something, or ran against something that seemed endowed
for the time with sonorous power of double the ordinary capacity,—and
crept softly into bed.
Mrs. Braddock said nothing, and he said nothing. But long before
her eyelids closed in sleep, he was loudly snoring by her side. When
he awoke in the morning, Sally had arisen and gone down. A burning
thirst caused him to get up immediately and dress himself. There was
no water in the room, and if there had been, he could not have
touched it while there was to be had below a cool draught from the
well. So he descended at once, feeling very badly, and resolving over
again that he would never touch another drop of liquor as long as he
lived. Having quenched his thirst with a large bowl of cool water
drawn right from the bottom of the well, he went up to his wife where
she was stooping at the fire, and said—
"Sally, look here—"
"Go 'way, Jim," was her angry response.
"No, but Sally, look here, I want to talk to you," persisted her
"Go 'way, I say—I don't care if I never see you again!"
"So you've said a hundred times, but I never believed you, or I
might have taken you at your word."
To this his wife made no reply.
"I was drunk last night, Sally," Jim said, after a moment's
"You needn't take the trouble to tell me that."
"Of course not. But an open confession, you know, is good for the
soul. I was drunk last night, then—drunk as a fool, after all I
promised—but I'm not going to get drunk again, so—"
"Don't swear any more false oaths, Jim: you've sworn enough
"Yes, but Sally, I am going to quit now, and I want you to talk to
me like a good wife, and advise with me."
"If you don't go away and let me alone now, I'll throw these tongs
at you!" the wife rejoined, angrily, rising up and brandishing the
article she had named. "You are trying me beyond all manner of
"There—there—keep cool, Sally. It'll all go into your lifetime,
darlin'," Jim replied, good-humouredly, taking hold of her hand, and
extricating the tongs from them, and then drawing his arm around her
waist, and forcing her to sit down in a chair, while he took one just
"Now, Sally, I'm in dead earnest, if ever I was in my life," he
began, "and if you'll tell me any way to break off from this wretched
habit into which I have fallen, I'll do it."
"Go and sign the pledge, then;" his wife said promptly, and
"And give up my liberty?"
"And regain it, rather. You're a slave now."
"I'll do it, then, for your sake."
"Don't trifle with me, any more, James; I can't bear it much
longer, I feel that I can't—" poor Mrs. Braddock said in a plaintive
tone, while the tears came to her eyes.
"I wont deceive you any more, Sally. I'll sign, and I'll keep my
pledge. If I could only have said—'I've signed the pledge,'
yesterday, I would have been safe. But I've got no pledge, and I'm
afraid to go out to hunt up Malcom, for fear I shall see a
"Can't you write a pledge?"
"No. I can't write anything but a bill, or a label for one of your
"Well, give me a pen, some ink, and a piece of paper."
But there was neither pen, ink, nor paper, in the house. Mrs.
Braddock, however, soon mustered them all in the neighbourhood, and
came and put them down upon the table before her husband.
"There, now, write a pledge," she said.
"I will." And Jim took up the pen and wrote—"Blister my feathers
if ever I drink another drop of Alcohol, or anything that will make
drunk come, sick or well, dead or alive!"
"But that's a queer pledge, Jim."
"I don't care if it is. I'll keep it."
"It's just no pledge at all."
"You're an old goose! Now give me a hammer and four nails."
"What do you want with a hammer and four nails?"
"I want to nail my pledge up over the mantelpiece."
"But it will get smoky."
"So will your aunty. Give me the hammer and nails."
Jim's wife brought them as desired, and he nailed his pledge up
over the mantelpiece, and then read it off with a proud, resolute air.
"I can keep that pledge, Sally, my old girl! And what's more, I
will keep it, too!" he said, slapping his wife upon the shoulder. "And
now for some breakfast in double quick time, for I must be at Jones's
early this morning."
Mrs. Braddock's heart was very glad, for she had more faith in this
pledge than she had ever felt in any of his promises. There was
something of confirmation in the act of signing his name, that
strengthened her hopes. It was not long before she had a good warm
breakfast on the table, of which her husband eat with a better
appetite than usual, and then, after reading his pledge over, Jim
As before, he had to go past Harry Arnold's, and early as it was,
there were already two or three of his cronies there for their
morning dram. He saw them about the door while yet at a distance, but
neither the grog-shop nor his old companions had now any attraction
for him. He was conscious of standing on a plain that lifted him above
their influence. As he drew near, they observed him, and awaited his
approach with pleasure, for his fine flow of spirits made his company
always desirable. But as he showed no inclination to stop, he was
hailed, just as he was passing, with,
"Hallo, Jim! Where are you off to in such a hurry?"
"Off to my work like an honest, sober man," Jim replied, pausing to
return his answer. "I've taken the pledge, my hearties, and what's
more, I'm going to keep it. It's all down in black and white, and my
name's to it in the bargain,—so there's an end of the matter, you
see! Good bye, boys!—I'm sorry to leave you,—but you must go my way
if you want my company. Good bye, Harry! You've got the old
whiskey-barrel, and that's the last you'll ever get of mine. I never
had any good luck while it was in my house, and I am most heartily
glad it's out, and in your whiskey-shop, where I hope it will stay.
Good bye, old cronies!"
And so saying, Jim turned away, and walked off with a proud, erect
bearing. His old companions raised a feeble shout, but according to
Jim's account, the laugh was so much on the wrong side of their
mouths, that it didn't seem to him anything like a laugh.
At eleven o'clock, Mr. Jones came out as usual, and said—
"Well, Jim, I suppose you begin to feel a little like it was
"No, sir," Jim replied. "I'm done with grog."
"Done with grog!" ejaculated Mr. Jones, in pleased surprise.
"Why, you didn't seem at all afraid of it, yesterday?"
"I did drink pretty hard, yesterday; but that was all your fault."
"My fault! How do you make that out?"
"Clear enough. Yesterday morning, seeing what a poor miserable
wretch I had got to be, and how much my wife and children were
suffering, I swore of from ever touching another drop. I wouldn't
sign a pledge, though, because that, I thought, would be giving up my
freedom. In coming here, I got past Harry Arnold's grog-shop pretty
well, but when you came out so pleasantly at eleven o'clock, and asked
me to go over to the house and take a drink, I couldn't refuse for the
life of me—especially as I felt as dry as a bone. So I drank pretty
freely, as you' know, and went home, in consequence, drunk at night,
notwithstanding I had promised Sally, solemnly, in the morning, never
to touch another drop again as long as I lived. Poor soul! Bad enough,
and discouraged enough, she felt last night, I know.
"So you see—when I got up this morning, I felt half-determined to
sign the pledge, at all hazards. Still I didn't want to give up my
liberty, and was arguing the points over again, when Sally took me
right aback so strongly that I gave up, wrote a pledge, signed it,
and nailed it up over the mantelpiece, where it has got to stay."
"I am most heartily glad to hear of your good resolution," Mr.
Jones said, grasping warmly the hand of Braddock—"and heartily
ashamed of myself for having tempted you, yesterday. Hereafter, I am
resolved not to offer liquor to any man who works for me. If my money
is not enough for him, he must go somewhere else. Well," he
continued—"you have signed away your liberty, as you called it. Do
you feel any more a slave than you did yesterday?"
"A slave? No, indeed! I'm a free man now! Yesterday I was such a
slave to a debased appetite, that all my good resolutions were like
cobwebs. Now I can act like an honest, rational man. I am in a state
of freedom. You ask me to drink. I say 'no'—yesterday I could not
say no, because I was not a free man. But now I am free to choose
what is right, and to reject what is wrong. I don't care for all the
grog-shops and whiskey-bottles from here to sun-down! I'm not afraid
to go past Harry Arnold's—nor even to go in there and make a
temperance speech, if necessary. Hurrah for freedom!"
It cannot be supposed that Jim's wife, after her many sad
disappointments, could feel altogether assured that he would stand by
his pledge, although she had more confidence in its power over him
than in anything else, and believed that it was the only thing that
would save him, if he could be saved at all. She was far more
cheerful, however, for her hope was stronger than it had ever been;
and went about her house with a far lighter step than usual.
Towards evening, as the time began to approach for his return, she
proceeded, as she had done on the day before, to make arrangements
for his comfortable reception. The little scene of preparation for
supper, and dressing up the children, was all acted over again, and
with a feeling of stronger confidence. Still, her heart would beat at
times oppressively, as a doubt would steal over her mind.
At last, the sun was just sinking behind a distant hill. It was the
hour to expect him. The children were gathered around her in the
door, and her eyes were afar off, eagerly watching to descry his
well-known form in the distance. As minute after minute passed away,
and the sun at length went down below the horizon, her heart began to
tremble. Still, though she strained her eyes, she could see nothing of
him,—and now the twilight began to fall, dimly around, throwing upon
her oppressed heart a deeper shadow than that which mantled, like a
thin veil, the distant hills and valleys. With a heavy sigh, she was
about returning into the house, when a slight noise within caused her
to turn quickly, and with a start.
"Back again, safe and sound, old girl!" greeted her glad ear, as
the form of her husband caught her eye, coming in at the back door.
"O, Jim!" she exclaimed, her heart bounding with a wild, happy
pulsation. "How glad I am to see you!"
And she flung herself into his arms, giving way, as she did so, to
a gush of joyful tears.
"And I'm glad enough to see you, too, Sally! I've thought about you
and the children all day, and of how much I have wronged you. But
it's all over now. That pledge has done it!" pointing up as he spoke
to his pledge nailed over the mantelpiece. "Since I signed that, I've
not had the first wish to touch the accursed thing that has ruined me.
I'm free, now, Sally! Free to do as I please. And that's what I havn't
been for a long time. As I told Mr. Jones, I don't care now for all
the grog-shops, whiskey-bottles, and Harry Arnolds, from here to
"I told you it was all nonsense, Jim, about signing away your
liberty!" Sally said, smiling through her tears of joy.
"Of course it was. I never was free before. But now I feel as free
as air. I can go in and come out and care no more for the sight of a
grog-shop, than for a hay-stack. I can take care of my wife and
children, and be just as kind to them as I please. And that's what I
couldn't do before. Huzza for the pledge, say I!
"Blister my feathers if ever I drink another drop of Alcohol, or
anything that will make drunk come, sick or well, dead or alive!"
That evening Jim Braddock sat down to a good supper with a smiling
wife, and three children, all cleanly dressed, and looking as happy
as they could be. The husband and father had not felt so light a
heart bounding in his bosom for years. He was free,—and felt that he
was free to act as reason dictated,—to work for and care for his
Nearly a year has passed, and Mr. James Braddock has built himself
a neat little frame house, which is comfortably furnished, and has
attached to it a well-cultivated garden. In his parlour, there hangs,
over the mantelpiece, his original pledge, handsomely framed. Recently
in writing to a friend, he says—
"You will ask, where did I get them?" (his new house, furniture,
"I'll tell you, boy. These are part payment for my liberty,
that I signed away. Didn't I sell it at a bargain? But this is not
all. I've got my shop back again, with a good run of custom—am ten
years younger than I was a year ago—have got the happiest wife and
the smartest boy in all creation—and don't care a snap for anybody!
So now, S. come down here; bring your wife, and all the
responsibilities, and I'll tell you the whole story—but I can't
write. Hurrah for slavery! Good bye!