Pledge by T. S. Arthur
"IT is two years, this very day, since I signed the pledge,"
remarked Jonas Marshall, a reformed drinker, to his wife, beside whom
he sat one pleasant summer evening, enjoying the coolness and quiet of
that calm hour.
"Two years! And is it, indeed, so long?" was the reply. "How
swiftly time passes, when the heart is not oppressed with cape and
"To me, they have been the happiest of my life," resumed the
husband. "How much do we owe to this blessed reformation!"
"Blessed, indeed, may it be called!" the wife said, with feeling.
"It seems scarcely possible, Jane, that one, who, like me, had
become such a slave to intoxication, could have been reclaimed. I
often think of myself, and wonder. A little over two years ago, I
could no more control the intolerable desire for liquor that I felt,
than I could fly. Now I have not the least inclination to touch,
taste, or handle it."
"And I pray Heaven you may never again have!"
"That danger is past, Jane. Two years of total abstinence have
completely changed the morbid craving once felt for artificial
stimulus, into a natural and healthy desire for natural and healthy
"It would be dangerous for you even now, Jonas, to suffer a drop of
liquor to pass your lips; do you not think so?"
"There would be no particular danger in my tasting liquor, I
presume. The danger would be, as at first, in the use of it, until an
appetite was formed." Marshall replied, in a tone of confidence.
"Then you think that old, inordinate craving for drink, has been
"O yes, I am confident of it."
"And heartily glad am I to hear you say so. It doubles the
guarantee for our own and children's happiness. The pledge to guard us
on one side, and the total loss of all desire on the other, is surely
a safe protection. I feel, that into the future I may now look,
without a single painful anxiety on this account."
"Yes, Jane. Into the future you may look with hope. And as to the
past, let it sink, with all its painful scenes,—its heart-aching
trials, into oblivion."
Jonas Marshall and his young wife had, many years before the period
in which the above conversation took place, entered upon the world
with cheerful hopes, and a flattering promise of happiness. They were
young persons of cultivated tastes, and had rather more of this
world's goods than ordinarily falls to the lot of those just
commencing life. A few years sufficed to dash all their hopes to the
ground, and to fill the heart of the young wife with a sorrow that it
seemed impossible for her to bear. Marshall, from habitual drinking of
intoxicating liquors, found the taste for them fully confirmed before
he dreamed of danger, and he had not the strength of character at once
and for ever to abandon their use. Gradually he went down, down,
slowly at first, but finally with a rapid movement, until he found
himself stripped of everything, and himself a confirmed drunkard. For
nearly two years longer, he surrendered himself up to drink—his wife
and children suffering more than my pen can describe, or any but the
drunkard's wife and drunkard's children realize.
Then came a new era. A friend of humanity sought out the poor,
degraded wretch, in his misery and obscurity, and prevailed upon him
to abandon his vile habits, and pledge himself to total abstinence.
Two years from the day that pledge was signed, found him again rising
in the world, with health, peace, and comfort, the cheerful inmates of
his dwelling. Here is the brief outline of a reformed drinker's
history. How many an imagination can fill in the dark shadows, and
distinct, mournful features of the gloomy picture!
On the day succeeding the second anniversary of Jonas Marshall's
reformation, he was engaged to dine with a few friends, and met them
at the appointed hour. With the dessert, wine was introduced. Among
the guests were one or two persons with whom Marshall had but
recently become acquainted. They knew little or nothing of his former
life. One of them sat next to him at table, and very naturally handed
him the wine, with a request to drink with him.
"Thank you," was the courteous, but firm reply. "I do not drink
Another, who understood the reason of this refusal, observing it,
"Our friend Marshall belongs to the tee-totallers."
"Ah, indeed! Then we must, of course, excuse him," was the
"Don't you think, Marshall," remarked another, "that you temperance
men are a little too rigid in your entire proscription of wine?"
"For the reformed drinker," was the reply, "it is thought to be the
safest way to cut off entirely everything that can, by possibility,
inflame the appetite. Some argue, that when that morbid craving,
which the drunkard acquires, is once formed, it never can be
"Do you think the position a true one?" asked a member of the
"I have my doubts of it," Marshall said. "For instance: Most of you
know that for some years I indulged to excess in drink. Two years ago
I abandoned the use of wine, brandy, and everything else of an
intoxicating nature. For a time, I felt the cravings of an intense
desire for liquor; but my pledge of total abstinence restrained me
from any indulgence. Gradually, the influence of my old appetite
subsided, until it ceased to be felt. And it is now more than a year
since I have experienced the slightest inclination to touch a drop.
Your wine and brandy are now, gentlemen, no temptation to me."
"But if that be the case," urged a friend, "why need you restrict
yourself, so rigidly, from joining in a social glass? Standing, as
you evidently do, upon the ground you occupied, before, by a too free
indulgence, you passed, unfortunately, the point of self-control: you
may now enjoy the good things of life without abusing them. Your
former painful experience will guard you in that respect."
"I am not free to do so," replied Marshall.
"Because I have pledged myself never again to drink anything that
can intoxicate, and confirmed that pledge by my sign-manual—thus
giving it a double force and importance."
"What end had you in view in making that pledge?"
"The emancipation of myself from the horrible bondage in which I
had been held for years."
"That end is accomplished."
"True. But the obligations of my pledge are perpetual."
"That is a mere figure of speech. You fully believed, I suppose,
that perpetual total-abstinence was absolutely necessary for your
"I certainly did."
"You do not believe so now?"
"No. I have seen reason, I think, to change my views in that
respect. The appetite which I believed would remain throughout life,
and need the force of a solemn bond to restrain it, has, under the
rigid discipline of two years, been destroyed. I now feel myself as
much above the enslaving effects of intoxicating liquors, as I ever
did in my life."
"Then, it is clear to my mind, that all the obligations of your
pledge are fulfilled; and that, as a matter of course, it ceases to
"I should be very unwilling to violate that pledge."
"It would be, virtually, no violation."
"I cannot see it in that light," Marshall said, "although you may
be perfectly correct. At any rate, I am not now willing to act up to
your interpretation of the matter."
This declaration closed the argument, as his friends did not feel
any strong desire to see him drink, and argued the matter with him as
much for argument sake as anything else. In this they acted with but
little true wisdom; for the particular form in which the subject was
presented to the mind of Marshall, gave him something to think about
and reason about. And the more he thought and reasoned, the more did
he become dissatisfied with the restrictions under which he found
himself placed. Not having felt, for many months, the least desire for
liquor, he imagined that even the latent inclination which existed, as
he readily supposed, for some time, had become altogether
extinguished. There existed, therefore, in his estimation, now that he
had begun to think over the matter, no good reason why he should
abstain, totally, from wine, at least, on a social occasion.
The daily recurrence of such thoughts, soon began to worry his
mind, until the pledge, that had for two years lain so lightly upon
him, became a burden almost too intolerable to be borne.
"Why didn't I bind myself for a limited period?" he at last said,
aloud, thus giving a sanction and confirmation by word of the
thoughts that had been gradually forming themselves into a decision
in his mind. No sooner had he said this, than the whole subject
assumed a more distinct form, and a more imposing aspect in his view.
He now saw clearly, what had not before seemed perfectly plain—what
had been till then encompassed by doubts. He was satisfied that he had
acted blindly when he pledged himself to total-abstinence.
"Three hundred signed the pledge last night," said his wife to him,
a few weeks after the occurrence of the dinner-party, just mentioned.
"Three hundred! We are carrying everything before us."
"Who can tell," resumed the wife, "the amount of happiness involved
in three hundred pledges to total-abstinence? There were, doubtless,
many husbands and fathers among the number who signed. Now, there is
joy in their dwellings. The fire, that long since went out, is again
kindled upon their hearths. How deeply do I sympathize with the
heart-stricken wives, upon whom day as again arisen, with a bright
sun shining down from an unclouded sky!"
"It is, truly, to them, a new era—or the dawning of a new
existence.—Most earnestly do I wish that the day had arrived, which
I am sure will come, when not a single wife in the land will mourn
over the wrong she suffers at the hand of a drunken husband."
"To that aspiration, I can utter a most devout amen," Mrs. Marshall
"A few years of perseverance and well-directed energy, on our part,
will effect all this, I allow myself fondly to hope, if we do not
create a reaction by over-doing the matter."
"How, over-doing it?" asked the wife.
"There is a danger of over-doing it in many ways. And I am by no
means sure that the pledge of perpetual abstinence is not an instance
"The pledge of perpetual abstinence! Why, husband, what do you
"My remark seems to occasion surprise. But I think that I can make
the truth of what I say apparent to your mind. The use of the pledge,
you will readily admit, is to protect a man against the influence of a
morbid thirst for liquor, which his own resolution is not strong
enough to conquer."
"So soon, then, as this end is gained, the use of the pledge
"Is it ever gained? Is a man who has once felt this morbid thirst,
ever safe from it?"
"Most certainly do I believe that he is. Most certainly do I
believe that a few years of total abstinence from everything that
intoxicates, will place him on the precise ground that he occupied
before the first drop of liquor passed his lips."
"I cannot believe this, Jonas. Whatever is once confirmed by habit,
it seems to me, must be so incorporated into the mental and physical
organization, as never to be eradicated. Its effect is to change, in
a degree, the whole system, and to change it so thoroughly, as to
give a bias to all succeeding states of mind and body—thus
transmitting a tendency to come under the influence of that bias."
"You advance a thing, Jane, which will not hold good in practice.
As, for instance, it is now two years since I tasted a drop of wine,
brandy, or anything else of a like nature. If your theory were true,
I should still feel a latent desire, at times, to drink again. But
this is not the case. I have not the slightest inclination. The
sight, or even the smell of wine, does not produce the old desire,
which it would inevitably do, if it were only quiescent—not
extirpated—as I am confident that it is."
"And this is the reason why you think the pledge should not be
"It is. Why should there be an external restraint imposed upon a
mere nonentity? It is absurd!"
"Granting, for the sake of argument, the view you take, in regard
to the extirpation of the morbid desire, which, however, I cannot see
to be true," Mrs. Marshall said, endeavouring to seem unconcerned,
notwithstanding the position assumed by her husband troubled her
instinctively,—"it seems to me, that there still exists a good
reason why the pledge should be perpetual."
"What is that, Jane?"
"If a man has once been led off by a love of drink, when no
previous habit had been formed, there exists, at least, the same
danger again, if liquor be used;—and if it should possibly be true
that the once formed desire, if subdued, is latent—not
eradicated—the danger is quadrupled."
"I do not see the force of what you say," the husband replied. "To
me, it seems, that the very fact that he had once fallen, and the
remembrance of its sad consequences, would be a sure protection
against another lapse from sobriety."
"It may all be so," Mrs. Marshall said, in a voice that conveyed a
slight evidence of the sudden shadow that had fallen upon her heart.
And then ensued a silence of more than a minute. The wife then
remarked in an inquiring tone—
"Then, if I understand you rightly, you think that the pledge
should be binding only for a limited time?"
"From one to two years. Two, at the farthest, would be sufficient,
I am fully convinced, to restore any man, to the healthy tone of mind
and body that he once possessed. And then, the recollection of the
past would be an all-sufficient protection for the future."
Seeing that the husband was confirming himself more and more in the
dangerous position that he had assumed, Mrs. Marshall said no more.
Painfully conscious was she, from a knowledge of his peculiar
character, that, if the idea now floating in his mind should become
fixed by a rational confirmation, it would lead to evil consequences.
From that moment, she began eagerly to cast about in her mind for the
means of setting him right,—means that should fully operate, without
her apparent agency. But one way presented itself,—(argument, she was
well aware, as far as it was possible for her to enter into it with
him, would only set his mind the more earnestly in search of reason,
to prove the correctness of his assumed positions,)—and that was to
induce him to attend more frequently the temperance meetings, and
listen to the addresses and experiences there given.
"Come, dear," she said to him, after tea, a few evenings subsequent
to the time Marshall had begun to urge his objections to the pledge.
"I want you to go with me to-night to this great temperance meeting.
Mr.—is going to make an address, and I wish to hear him very much."
"It will be so crowded, Jane, that you will not have the least
satisfaction," objected her husband—"and, besides, the evening is
"But I don't mind that, Jonas. I am very anxious to hear
"I am sorry, Jane," Marshall said, after the silence of a few
moments. "But I recollect, now, that I promised Mr. Patton to call
down and see him this evening. There are to be a few friends there,
and he wished me, particularly, to meet them."
Poor Mrs. Marshall's countenance fell at this, and the tears
gathered in her eyes.
"So, then, you won't go with me to the temperance meeting," she
said, in a disappointed tone.
"I should like to do so, Jane," was the prevaricating reply, "but
you see that it is out of my power, without breaking my promise,
which you would not, of course, have me do."
"O, no, of course not."
"You can go, Jane. I will leave you at the door, and call for you
when the meeting is out."
"No, I do not feel like going, now I should have enjoyed it with
you by my side. But to go alone would mar all the pleasure."
"But surely that need not be, Jane. You know that I cannot be
always with you."
"No, of course not," was uttered, mechanically; and then followed a
"So you will not go," Marshall at length said.
"I should not enjoy the meeting, and therefore do not wish to go,"
his wife replied.
"I am sorry for it, but cannot help it now, for I should not feel
right were I not to comply with my promise."
"I do not wish you to break it, of course. For a promise should
ever be kept sacred," Mrs. Marshall said, with a strong emphasis on
the latter sentence.
This emphasis did not escape the notice of her husband, who felt
that it was meant, as it really was, to apply to his state of mind in
regard to the pledge. For it was a fact, which the instinctive
perception of his wife had detected, that he had begun, seriously, to
argue in his own mind, the question, whether, under the circumstances
of the case, seeing, that, in taking the pledge, the principle of
protection was alone considered, he was any longer bound by it. He did
not, however, give expression to the thoughts that he had at the time.
The subject of conversation was changed, and, in the course of half an
hour, he left to fulfil his engagement, which had not, in reality,
been a positive one. As he closed the door after him, Mrs. Marshall
experienced a degree of loneliness, and a gloomy depression of
feeling, that she could not fully account for, though she could not
but acknowledge that, for a portion of it, there existed too certain a
cause, in the strange and dangerous position her husband had taken in
regard to the pledge.
As Marshall emerged from his dwelling, and took his way towards the
friend's house, where he expected to meet a select company, his mind
did not feel perfectly at ease. He had partly deceived his wife in
reference to the positive nature of the engagement, and had done so
in order to escape from an attendance on a temperance meeting. This
did not seem right. There was, also, a consciousness in his mind that
it would be extremely hazardous to throw off the restraints of his
pledge, at the same time that a resolution was already half formed to
do so. The agitation of mind occasioned by this conflict continued
until he arrived at his friend's door, and then, as he joined the
pleasant company within, it all subsided.
"A hearty welcome, Marshall!" said the friend, grasping his hand
and shaking it warmly. "We were really afraid that we should not have
the pleasure of your good society. But right glad am I, that, with
your adherence to temperance men and temperance principles, you do
not partake of the exclusive and unsocial character that so many
"I regard my friends with the same warm feelings that I ever did,"
Marshall replied,—"and love to meet them as frequently."
"That is right. We are social beings, and should cultivate
reciprocal good-feelings. But don't you think, Marshall, that some of
you temperance folks carry matters too far?"
"Certainly I do. As, for instance, I consider this binding of a man
to perpetual total-abstinence, as an unnecessary infringement of
individual liberty. As I look upon it, the use of the pledge, is to
enable a man, by the power of an external restraint, to gain the
mastery over an appetite that has mastered him. When that is
accomplished, all that is wanted is obtained: of what use is the
pledge after that?"
"Very true," was the encouraging reply.
"A man," resumed Marshall, repeating the argument he had used to
his wife, which now seemed still more conclusive, "has only to abstain
for a year or two from liquor to have the morbid craving for it which
over-indulgence had created, entirely eradicated. Then he stands upon
safe ground, and may take a social glass, occasionally, with his
friends, without the slightest danger. To bind himself up, then, to
perpetual abstinence, seems not only useless, but a real infringement
of individual liberty."
"So it presents itself to my mind," rejoined one of the company.
"I feel it to be so in my case," was the reply of the reformed man
to this, thus going on to invite temptation, instead of fleeing from
"Certainly, if I were the individual concerned," remarked one of
the company, "I should not be long in breaking away from such
"How would you get over the fact of having signed the pledge?"
asked Marshall, with an interest that he dared not acknowledge to
"Easy enough," was the reply.
"On the plea that I was deceived into signing such a pledge."
"Into a belief that it was the only remedy in my case. There is no
moral law binding any man to a contract entered into ignorantly. The
fact of ignorance, in regard to the fundamental principles of an
agreement, vitiates it. Is not that true?"
"It certainly is," was the general reply to this question.
"Then you think," said Marshall, after reflecting for a few
moments, "that no moral responsibility would attach to me, for
instance, if I were to act independently of my pledge?"
"Certainly none could attach," was the general response; "provided,
of course, that the end of that pledge was fully attained."
"Of that there can be no doubt," was the assumption of the reformed
man. "The end was, to save me from the influence of an appetite for
drink, against which, in my own strength, I could not contend. That
end is now accomplished. Two years of total abstinence has made me a
new man. I now occupy the same ground that I occupied before I lost
"Then I can see no reason why you should be denied the social
privilege of a glass with your friends," urged one of the company.
"Nor can I see it clearly," Marshall said. "Still I feel that a
solemn pledge, made more solemn and binding by the subscription of my
name, is not a thing to be lightly broken. The thought of doing so
troubles me, when I seriously reflect upon it."
"It seems to me that, were I in your place," gravely remarked one
of the company, heretofore silent, "I would not break my pledge
without fully settling two points—if it is possible for you, or any
other man, under like circumstances, to settle them."
"What are they?" asked Marshall, with interest.
"They are the two most prominent points in your case;—two that
have already been introduced here to-night. One involves the question,
whether you are really free from the influence of your former
"I have not a single doubt in regard to that point," was the
"I do not see, Mr. Marshall, how it is possible for you to settle
it beyond a doubt," urged the friend. "To me, it is not
philosophically true that the power of habit is ever entirely
destroyed. All subsequent states of body or mind, I fully believe, are
affected and modified by what has gone before, and never lose the
impression of preceding states,—and more particularly of anything
like an overmastering habit—or rather, I should say, in this case, of
an overmastering affection. The love, desire, or affection, whichever
you may choose to call it, which you once felt for intoxicating
drinks, or for the effects produced by them, never could have existed
in the degree that they did, without leaving on your mind—which is a
something far more real and substantial than this material body, which
never loses the marks and scars of former abuse—ineradicable
impressions. The forms of old habits, if this be true, and that it so,
I fully believe, still remain; and these forms are in the
endeavour, if I may so speak, to be filled with the affections that
once made them living and active. Rigidly exclude everything that can
excite these, and you are safe;—but, to me it seems, that no
experiment can be so dangerous, as one which will inevitably produce
in these forms a vital activity."
"That, it seems to me," was the reply of one of the company, "is a
little too metaphysical—or rather, I should say,
transcendental—for, certainly, it transcends my powers of reasoning
to be able to see how any permanent forms, as you call them, can be
produced in the mind, as in the body—the one being material, and the
other immaterial, and, therefore, no more susceptible of lasting
impressions, than the air around us."
"You have not, I presume, given much thought to this subject," the
previous speaker said, "or you would not doubt, so fully, the truth
of my remark. The power of habit, a fact of common observance, which
is nothing but a fixed form of the mind, illustrates it. And,
certainly, if the mind retained impressions no better than the air
around us, we should remember but little of what we learned in early
"I see," was the reply to this, "that my remark was too broad.
Still, the memory of a thing is very different from a permanent and
inordinate desire to do something wrong, remaining as a latent
principle in the mind, and ready to spring into activity years
afterwards, upon the slightest provocation."
"It certainly is a different thing; and if it be really so, its
establishment is a matter of vital importance. In regard to reformed
drinkers, there has been much testimony in proof of the position. I
have heard several men relate their experiences; and all have said
that time and again had they resolved to conquer the habit that was
leading them on headlong to destruction; and that they had, on more
than one occasion, abstained for months. But that, so soon as they
again put liquor to their lips, the old desire came back for it,
stronger and more uncontrollable than before."
"That was, I presume," Marshall remarked, "because they had not
abstained long enough."
"One man, I remember to have heard say, that he did not at one
period of his life use any kind of intoxicating drink for three
years. He then ventured to take a glass of cider, and was drunk and
insensible before night! And what was worse, did not again rise
superior to his degradation for years."
"I should call that an, extreme case," urged the infatuated man.
"There must have been with him a hereditary propensity. His father
was, doubtless, a drunkard before him."
"As to that, I know nothing, and should not be willing to assume
the fact as a practical principle,"—the friend replied. "But there is
another point that ought to be fully settled."
"What is that?"
"No one can, without seriously injuring himself, morally, violate a
solemn pledge—particularly, as you have justly said, a pledge made
more binding and solemn, by act and deed, in the sign-manual. A man
may verbally pledge himself to do or not to do a thing. To violate
this pledge deliberately, involves moral consequences to himself that
are such as almost any one would shrink from incurring. But when a man
gives to any pledge or contract a fulness and a confirmation by the
act of subscribing his name to it, and then deliberately violates that
pledge or contract, he necessarily separates himself still further
from the saving power of good principles and influences than in the
other case, and comes more fully under the power of evil principles
and evil influences. After such an act, that man's state is worse, far
worse than it was before. I speak strongly and earnestly on this
subject, because I feel deeply its importance. And I would say to our
friend Marshall here, as I would say to my own brother, let these two
points be fully settled before you venture upon dangerous ground. Be
sure that the latent desire for stimulating drinks is fully
eradicated—and be certain that your pledge can be set aside without
great moral injury to yourself, before you take the first step towards
its violation, which may be a step fraught with the most fatal
consequences to yourself and family."
This unlooked-for and serious turn which the discussion assumed,
had the effect to make Marshall hesitate to do what he had too hastily
made his mind up that he might venture upon without the slightest
danger. It also furnished reasons to the company why they should not
urge him to drink. The result was, that he escaped through all the
temptations of the evening, which would have overcome him,
inevitably, had his own inclination found a general voice of
But none of the strong arguments why he should not again run madly
into the way of evil, which had been so opportunely and unexpectedly
urged, had the effect to keep his eye off of the decanters and
brim-full glasses that circulated far too freely;—nor to prevent the
sight of them from exciting in his mind a strong, almost unconquerable
desire, to join with the rest. This very desire ought to have warned
him—it should have caused him to tremble and flee away as if a raging
wild beast had stood in his path. But it did not. He deceived himself
by assuming (sic) hat the desire which he felt to drink with his
friends arose from his love of sociality, not of wine.
The evening was lonely and long to Mrs. Marshall, and there was a
shadow over her feelings that she endeavoured in vain to dispel. Her
husband's knock, which came between ten and eleven o'clock, and for
which she had been listening anxiously for at least an hour, made her
heart bound and tremble, producing a feeling of weakness and
oppression. As she opened the door for him, it was with a vague fear.
This was instantly dispelled by his first affectionate word uttered in
steady tones. He was still himself! Still as he had been for the
blessed two years that had just gone by!
"What is the matter, Jane? You look troubled," the husband
remarked, after he had seated himself, and observed his wife's
"Do I?—If so, it is because I have felt troubled this evening."
"Why were you troubled, Jane?"
"That question I can hardly answer, either to your satisfaction or
my own," Mrs. Marshall said. "From some cause or other, my feelings
have been strangely depressed this evening; and I have experienced,
besides, a consciousness of coming misery, that has cast a shadow
over my spirits, even now but half dispelled."
"But why is all this, Jane? There must be some cause for such a
change in your feelings."
"I know but one cause, dear husband!" Mrs. Marshall said, in a
voice of deep tenderness, laying her hand upon her husband's arm as
she spoke, and looking him in the face with an expression of earnest
"Speak out plainly, Jane. What is the cause?"
"Do not be offended, Jonas, when I tell you, that I have not been
so overcome by such gloomy feelings since that happy day when you
signed the pledge, as I have been this evening. The cause of these
feelings lies in the fact of your having become dissatisfied with
that pledge. I tremble, lest, in some unguarded moment, under the
assurance that old habits are conquered, you may be persuaded to cast
aside that impassable barrier, which has protected your home and
little ones for so long and happy a time."
"You are weak and foolish, Jane," her husband said, in a
"In many things I know that I am," was Mrs. Marshall's reply, "but
not in this. A wife who loves her husband and children as tenderly as
I do mine, cannot but tremble when fears are suddenly awakened that
the footsteps of a deadly enemy are approaching her peaceful
"Such an enemy is not drawing nigh to your dwelling, Jane."
"Heaven grant that it may not be so!" was the solemn ejaculation.
"To this, Marshall felt no inclination to reply. He had already
said enough in regard to his pledge to awaken the fears of his wife,
and to call forth from her expressions of strong opposition to his
views of the nature of his obligation. His silence tended, in no
degree, to quiet her troubled feelings.
On the next morning, Marshall was thoughtful and silent. After
breakfast, he went out to attend to business, as usual. As he closed
the door after him, his wife heaved a deep sigh, lifted her eyes
upwards, and prayed silently, but fervently, that her husband might
be kept from evil. And well might she thus pray, for he needed
support and sustenance in the conflict that was going on in his
bosom—a conflict far more vigorous than was dreamed of by the wife.
He had invited temptation, and now he was in the midst of a struggle,
that would end in a more perfect emancipation of himself from the
demon-vice that had once ruled him with a rod of iron, or in his being
cast down to a lower depth of wretchedness and misery than that out of
which he had arisen. In this painful struggle he stood not alone. Good
spirits clustered around him, anxiously interested in his fate, and
endeavouring to sustain his faltering purposes; and evil spirits were
also nigh, infusing into his mind reasons for the abandonment of his
useless pledge. It was a period in his history full of painful
interest. Heaven was moving forward to aid and rescue him, and hell to
claim another victim. But neither the one nor the other could act upon
him for good or for evil, except through his own volition. It was for
him to turn himself to the one, and live, or to the other, and die.
So intense was this struggle, that, after he had entered his place
of business, he remained there for only a short time, unable to fix
his mind upon anything out of himself, or to bid the tempest in his
mind "be still." Going out into the street, he turned his steps he
knew not whither. He had moved onwards but a few paces, when the
thought of home and his children came up in his mind, accompanied by
a strong desire to go back to his dwelling—a feeling that required a
strong effort to resist. The moment he had effectually resisted it,
and resolved not to go home, his eye fell upon the tempting exposure
of liquors in a bar-room, near which he happened to be passing. At the
same instant, it seemed as if a strong hand were upon him, urging him
towards the open door.
"No—no—no!" he said, half aloud, hurrying forward, "I am not
prepared for that. And yet, what a fool I am," he continued, "to
suffer myself thus to be agitated! Why not come to some decision, and
end this uncertain, painful state at once? But what shall I do? How
shall I decide?"
"To keep your pledge," a voice, half audible, seemed to say.
"And be for ever restless under it,—for ever galled by its slavish
chains," another voice urged, instantly.
"Yes," he said, "that is the consequence which makes me hesitate.
Fool—fool—not to have taken a pledge for a limited period! I was
deceived—tricked into an act that my sober reason condemns! And
should I now be held by that act? No!—no!—no! The voice of reason
says no! And I will not!"
As he said this, he turned about, and walked with a firm,
deliberate step, towards the bar-room he had passed but a few moments
before, entered it, called for a glass of wine, and drank it off.
"Now I am a free man!" he said, as he turned away, and proceeded
towards his place of business, with an erect bearing.
He had not gone far, however, before he felt a strong desire for
another glass of wine, unaccompanied by any thought or fear of
danger. From the moment he had placed the forbidden draught to his
lips, the struggle in his mind had ceased, and a great calm succeeded
to a wild conflict of opposite principles and influences. He felt
happy, and doubly assured that he had taken a right step. A second
glass of wine succeeded the first, and then a third, before he
returned to his place of business. These gave to the tone of his
spirits a very perceptible elevation, but threw over his mind a veil
of confusion and obscurity, of which, however, he was not conscious.
An hour only had passed after his return to business, before he again
went out, and seeking an obscure drinking-house, where his entrance
would not probably be observed, he called for a glass of punch, and
then retired into one of the boxes, where it was handed to him. Its
fragrance and flavour, as he placed it to his lips, were
delightful—so delightful, that it seemed to him a concentration of
all exquisite perceptions of the senses.
Another was soon called for, and then another and another, each one
stealing away more and more of distinct consciousness, until at last
he sunk forward on the table before which he had seated himself,
perfectly lost to all consciousness of external things!
Gladly would the writer draw a veil over all that followed that
insane violation of a solemn pledge, sealed as it had been by the
hand-writing of confirmation. But he cannot do it. The truth, and the
whole truth needs to be told,—the beacon-light must be raised on the
gloomy shores of destruction, as a warning to the thoughtless or
Sadder and more wretched was the heart of Mrs. Marshall during the
morning of that day, than it had been on the evening before. There
was an overwhelming sense of impending danger in her mind, that she
could not dissipate by any mode of reasoning with herself. As her
children came about her, she would look upon them with an emotion of
yearning tenderness, while her eyes grew dim with tears. And then she
would look up, and breathe a heart-felt prayer that He who tempereth
the winds to the shorn lamb, would regard her little ones.
The failure of her husband to return at the dinner hour, filled her
with trembling anxiety. Not once during two years had he been absent
from home without her being perfectly aware of the cause. Its
occurrence just at this crisis was a confirmation of her vague fears,
and made her sick at heart. Slowly did the afternoon pass away, and at
last the hour came for his return in the evening. But though she
looked for his approaching form, and listened for the well-known sound
of his footsteps, he did not come.
Anxiety and trembling uncertainty now gave way to an overwhelming
alarm. Hurriedly were her children put to bed, and then she went out
to seek for him, she knew not whither. To the store in which he had
become a partner, she first turned her steps. It was closed as she
had feared. Pausing for a few moments to determine where next to
proceed, she concluded to go to the house of his partner, and learn
from him if he had been to the store that day, and at what time. On
her way to his dwelling, she passed down a small street, in which
were several drinking-houses, hid away there to catch the many who
are not willing to be seen entering a tavern.
In approaching one of these, loud voices within, and the sound of a
scuffle, alarmed her. She was about springing forward to run, when
the door was suddenly thrown open, and a man dashed out, who fell
with a violent concussion upon the pavement, close by her feet.
Something about his appearance, dark as it was, attracted her eye.
She stooped down, and laid her hand upon him. It was her husband!
A wild scream, that rung upon the air,—a scream which the poor
heart-stricken creature could not have controlled if her life had
been the forfeit—brought instant assistance. Marshall was taken into
a neighbouring house, and a physician called, who, on making an
examination, said that a serious injury might, or might not have
taken place—he could not tell. One thing, however, was certain, the
man was beastly drunk.
O, with what a chill did that last sentence fall upon the ear of
his wife! It was the death-knell to all the fond hopes she had
cherished for two peaceful years. For a moment she leaned her head
against the wall near which she was standing, and wished that she
could die. But thoughts of her children, and thoughts of duty roused
A carnage was procured and her husband conveyed home, and then,
after he had been laid upon a bed, she was left alone with him, and
her own sad reflections. It was, to her, a sleepless night—but full
of waking dreams, whose images of fear made her heart tremble and
shrink, and long for the morning.
Morning at last came. How eagerly did the poor wife bend over the
still unconscious form of her husband, reading each line of his
features, as the pale light that came in at the windows gave
distinctness to every object! He still breathed heavily, and there
was an expression of pain on his countenance. A double cause for
anxiety and alarm, pressed upon the heart of Mrs. Marshall. She knew
not how serious an injury his fall might have occasioned,—nor how
utter might be his abandonment of himself, now that he had broken his
solemn pledge. As she bent over him in doubt, pain, and anxiety, he
suddenly awoke, and, without moving, looked her for a moment steadily
in the face, with a glance of earnest inquiry. Then came a distinct
recollection of his violated pledge; but all after that was only dimly
seen, or involved in wild confusion. His bodily sensations told him
but too plainly how deep had been his fall: and the intolerable
desire, that seemed as if it were consuming his very vitals, was to
him a sad evidence that he had fallen, never, he feared, to rise
again. All this passed through his mind in a moment, and he closed his
eyes, and turned his face away from the earnest, and now tearful gaze
of his wife.
"How do you feel, Jonas?" Mrs. Marshall inquired, tenderly,
modifying her tones, so as not to permit them to convey to his ear
the exquisite pain that she felt. But he made no reply.
"Say, dear, how do you feel?" she urged, laying her hand upon him,
and pausing for an answer.
"As if I were in hell!" he shouted, springing suddenly from the
bed, and beginning to dress himself, hurriedly.
"O, husband, do not speak so!" Mrs. Marshall said, in a soothing
tone. "All may be well again. One sin need not bring utter
condemnation. Let this be the last, as it has been the first,
violation of your pledge. Let this warn you against the removal of
that salutary restraint, which has been as a wall of fire around you
"Jane!" responded the irritated man, pausing, and looking at his
wife, fixedly, while there sat upon his face an expression of
terrible despair; "that pledge can never be renewed! It would be like
binding a giant with a spider's web. I am lost! lost! lost! The eager,
inexpressible desire that now burns within me, cannot be controlled.
The effort to do so would drive me mad. I must drink, or die. And you,
my poor wife!—and you, my children! what will become of you? Who will
give you sufficient strength to bear your dreadful lot?"
As he said this, his voice fell to a low and mournful, despairing
expression—and he sunk into a chair, covering his face with his
"Dear husband!" urged his wife, coming to his side, and drawing her
arm around his neck, "do not thus give way! Let the love I have ever
borne you, and which is stronger and more tender at this moment than
it has ever been—let the love you feel for your dear little ones,
give you strength to conquer. Be a man! Nerve yourself, and look
upwards for strength, and you must conquer."
"No—no—no—Jane!" the poor wretch murmured, shaking his head,
mournfully. "Do not deceive your heart by false hopes, for they will
all be in vain. I cannot look up. The heavens have become as brass to
me. I have forfeited all claim to success from above. As I lifted the
fatal glass to my lips, I heard a voice, whose tones were as distinct
as yours—'Let us go hence!' and from that moment, I have been weak
and unsustained in the hands of my enemies. I am a doomed man!"
As he said this, a shrinking shudder passed through his frame, and
he groaned aloud. The silence that then reigned through the chamber
was as appalling as the silence of death to the heart of Mrs.
Marshall. It was broken at length by her husband, who looked up with
an expression of tenderness in her face, as she still stood with her
hand upon him, and said—
"Jane, my dear wife! let me say to you now, while I possess my full
senses, which I know not that I ever shall again, that you have been
true and kind to me, and that I have ever loved you with an earnest
love. Bear with me in my infirmity;—if, amid the grief, and wrong,
and suffering, which must fall upon you and your children, you can
bear with the miserable cause of all your wretchedness. I shall not
long remain, I feel, to be a burden and a curse to you. My downward
course will be rapid, and its termination will soon come!"
A gush of tears followed this, and then came a stern silence, that
chilled the heart of Mrs. Marshall. She longed to urge still further
upon her husband to make an effort to restrain the intense desire he
felt, but could not. There seemed to be a seal upon her lips. Slowly
she turned away to attend to her little ones, upon whom she now
looked with something of that hopelessness which the widow feels, as
she turns from the grave of her husband, and looks upon her
With a strong effort, Marshall remained in the house until
breakfast was on the table. But he could only sip a little coffee, and
soon arose, and lifted his hat to go out. His wife was by his side, as
he laid his hand on the door.
"Jonas," she said, while the tears sprang to her eyes, "remember
me—remember your children!" She could say no more; sobs choked her
utterance—and she leaned her head, weak and desponding, upon his
Her husband made no reply, but gently placed her in a chair, kissed
her cheek, and then turned hastily away, and left the house.
It was many minutes before Mrs. Marshall found strength to rise,
and then she staggered across the room, like one who had been stunned
by a blow. We will not attempt the vain task of describing her
feelings through that terrible day;—of picturing the alternate states
of hope and deep despondency, that now made her heart bound with a
lighter emotion,—and now caused it to sink low, and almost
pulseless, in her bosom. It passed away at last, and brought the
gloomy night—fall—but not her husband's return. Eight, nine, ten,
eleven, and twelve o'clock came, and went, and still he was absent.
For an hour she had been seated by the window, listening for the
sound of his approaching footsteps. As the clock struck twelve, she
started, listened for a moment still more intently, and then arose
with a deep sigh, her manner indicating a state of irresolution.
First she went softly to the bed, and stood looking down for some
moments upon the faces of her little ones, sleeping calmly and
sweetly, all unconscious of the anguish that swelled their mother's
heart almost to bursting. Then she raised her head, and again assumed
a listening attitude. An involuntary sigh told that she had listened
in vain. A few moments after she was aroused from a state of deep
abstraction of thought, by a strong shudder passing through her frame,
occasioned by some fearful picture which her excited imagination had
conjured up. She now went hastily to a wardrobe, and took out her
bonnet and shawl. One more glance at her children, told her that they
were sleeping soundly. In the next minute she was in the street,
bending her steps she knew not whither, in search of her husband.
Almost involuntarily, Mrs. Marshall took her way towards that
portion of the city where she had, on the night previous,
unexpectedly found him. It was not longer before she paused by the
door at the same drinking-house from which her husband had been
thrust, when he fell, almost lifeless, at her feet. Although it was
past twelve o'clock, the sound of many voices came from within,
mingled with wild excitement, and boisterous mirth.
Now came a severe trial for her shrinking, sensitive feelings. How
could she, a woman, and alone, enter such a place, at such an hour,
on such an errand? The thought caused a sensation of faintness to
pass over her, and she leaned for a moment against the side of the
door to keep from falling. But affection and thoughts of duty quickly
aroused her, and resolutely keeping down every weakness, she placed
her hand upon the door, which yielded readily to even her light hand,
and in the next moment found herself in the presence of about a dozen
men, all more or less intoxicated. Their loud, insane mirth was
instantly checked by her entrance. They were all men who were in the
habit of mingling daily in good society, and more than one of them
knew Marshall, and instantly recognised his wife. No rudeness was, of
course, offered her. On the contrary, two or three came forward, and
kindly inquired, though they guessed too well, her errand there at
such an hour.
"Has my husband been here to-night, Mr.—?" she asked, in a
choking voice, of one whose countenance she instantly recognised.
"I have not met with him, Mrs. Marshall," was the reply, in a kind,
sympathizing tone, "but I will inquire if any one here has seen him."
These inquiries were made, and then Mr.—came forward again, and
said, in a low tone,
"Come with me, Mrs. Marshall."
As the two emerged into the street, Mr.—said,
"I would not, if I were you, madam, attempt to look further for
your husband. I have just learned that he is safe and well, only a
little overcome, by having, accidentally, I have no doubt, drunken a
little too freely. In the, morning he will come home, and all will, I
trust, be right again."
"What you say, I know, is meant in kindness, Mr.—," Mrs. Marshall
replied, in a firmer tone, the assurance that her husband was at
least safe from external danger, being some relief to her, "but I
would rather see my husband, and have him taken home. Home is the
best place for him, under any circumstances—and I am the most
fitting one to attend to him. Will you, then, do me the favour to
procure a hack, and go with me to the place where he is to be found?"
Mr.—saw that in the manner and tone of Mrs. Marshall which made
him at once resolve to do as she wished him. The hack was procured,
into which both entered. Directions were given, in a low tone, to the
driver, and then they rattled away over the resounding pavement, for a
space of time that seemed very long to the anxious wife. At last the
hack stopped, the door was opened, and the steps thrown down. When
Mrs. Marshall descended, she found herself in a narrow, dark street,
before a low, dirty-looking tavern, the windows and doors of which had
been closed for the night.
While Mr.—was knocking loudly for admission, her eyes, growing
familiar with the darkness, saw something lying partly upon the
street and partly upon the pavement a few yards from her, that grew
more and more distinct, the more intently she looked at it. Advancing
a few steps, she saw that it was the body of a man,—a few paces
further, revealed to her eyes the form of her husband. An exclamation
of surprise and alarm brought both Mr.—and the hack-driver to her
In attempting to raise Marshall to his feet, he groaned heavily,
and writhed with a sensation of pain. Something dark upon the pavement
attracted the eye of his wife. She touched it with her hand, to which
it adhered, with a moist, oily feeling. Hurrying to the lamp in front
of the hack, with a feeling of sudden alarm, she lifted her hand so
that the light could fall upon it. It was covered with blood!
With a strong effort, she kept down the sudden impulse that she
felt to utter a wild scream, and went back to Mr.—and communicated to
him the alarming fact she had discovered. Marshall was at once laid
gently down upon the pavement, and a light procured, which showed
that his pantaloons, above, below, and around the knees, were
saturated with blood.
"O, Mr.—! what can be the matter?" Mrs. Marshall said, in husky
tones, looking up, with a face blanched to an ashy paleness.
"Some passing vehicle has, no doubt, run over him—but I trust that
he is not much hurt. Remain here with him, until I can procure
assistance, and have him taken home."
"O, sir, go quickly!" the poor wife replied, in earnest tones.
In a short time, four men, with a litter, were procured, upon which
Marshall, now groaning, as if acutely conscious of pain, was placed,
and slowly conveyed home. A surgeon reached the house as soon as the
party accompanying the injured man. An examination showed that his
legs had been broken just above the knees. And one of them had the
flesh dreadfully torn and bruised, and both were crushed as if run
over by some heavy vehicle. A still further examination showed the
fracture to be compound, and extensive; but, fortunately, the knee
joint had entirely escaped. Already the limbs had swollen very
considerably, exhibiting a rapidly increasing inflammation. This was
a natural result flowing from the large quantity of alcohol which he
had evidently been taking through the day and evening.
Fortunately, notwithstanding the morbid condition of his body, and
the nature and extent of the injury he had sustained, the vital
system of Marshall, unexhausted by a long-continued series of
physical abuse from drinking, rallied strongly against the violent
inflammation that followed the setting of the bones, and dressing of
the wounds, and threw off the too apparent tendency to mortification
that continued, much to the anxiety of the surgeon, for many days.
During this time, he suffered almost incessant pain—frequently of an
excruciating character. The severity of this pain entirely destroyed
all desire for intoxicating drink. This desire, however, gradually
began to return, as the pain, which accompanied the knitting of the
bones, subsided. But he did not venture to ask for it, and, of course,
it was not offered to him.
With the most earnest attentions, and the tenderest solicitude, did
Mrs. Marshall wait and watch by the bedside of her husband, both day
and night, wearing down her own strength, and neglecting her
At the end of three weeks, he had so far recovered, as to be able
to sit up, and to bear a portion of his weight. As fear for the
consequences of the injury her husband had received, began to fade
from the mind of Mrs. Marshall, another fear took possession of it—a
heart-sickening fear, under which her spirit grew faint. There was no
pledge to bind him, and his newly-awakened desire for liquor, she felt
sure would bear him away inevitably, notwithstanding the dreadful
lesson he had received.
About this time, however, two or three of his temperance friends,
who had heard of his fall, came to see him. This encouraged her,
especially as they soon began to urge him again to sign the
pledge;—but he would not consent.
"It is useless," was his steady reply, to all importunities, and
made usually, in a mournful tone, "for me to sign another pledge.
Having broken one, wilfully and deliberately, I have no power to keep
another. I am conscious of this—and, therefore, am resolved not to
stain my soul with another sin."
"But you can keep it. I am sure you can," one friend, more
importunate than the rest, would repeatedly urge. "You broke your
first pledge, deliberately, because you believed that you were freed
from the old desire, even in a latent form. Satisfied, from painful
experience, that this is not the case, you will not again try so
dangerous an experiment."
But Marshall would shake his head, sadly, in rejection of all
arguments and persuasions.
"It may all seem easy enough for you," he would sometimes say, "who
have never broken a solemn pledge; but you know not how utter a
destruction of internal moral power such an act, deliberately done,
effects. I am not the man I was, before I so wickedly violated that
solemn compact made between myself and heaven—for so I now look upon
it. While I kept my pledge, I had the sustaining power of heaven to
bear me safely up against all temptations;—but since the very moment
it was broken, I have had nothing but my own strength to lean upon,
and that has proved to be no better than a broken reed, piercing me
through with many sorrows."
To such declarations, in answer to arguments, and sometimes earnest
entreaties made by his friends to induce him to renew his pledge,
Mrs. Marshall would listen in silence, but with a sinking, sickening
sensation of mind and body. All and more than she could say, was said
to him, but he resisted every appeal—and what good could her weak
persuasions and feeble admonitions do?
Day after day passed on, and Marshall gradually gained more use of
his limbs. In six weeks, he could walk without the aid of his
"I think I must try and get down to the store to-morrow," he said,
to his wife, about this time. "This is a busy season, and I can be of
some use there for two or three hours, every day."
"I don't think I would venture out yet," Mrs. Marshall said,
looking at him, with an anxious, troubled expression of countenance,
that she tried in vain to conceal.
"Why not, Jane?"
"I don't think you are strong enough, dear."
"O, yes, I am. And, besides, it will do me good to go out and take
the fresh air. You know that it is now six weeks since I have been
outside of the front door."
"I know it has. But—"
"But what, Jane?"
"You know what I would say, Jonas. You know the terrible fear that
rests upon my heart like a night-mare."
And Mrs. Marshall covered her face with her hands, and gave way to
A long silence followed this. At length Marshall said,
"I hope, Jane, that I shall be able to restrain myself. I am, at
least, resolved to try."
"O, husband, if you will only try!" Mrs. Marshall ejaculated
eagerly, lifting her tearful eyes, and looking him with an appealing
expression in the face—"If you will only try!"
"I will try, Jane. But do not feel too much confidence in my
effort. I am weak—so weak that I tremble when I think of it—and
remember what an almost irresistible influence I have to contend
"Why not take the pledge, again, Jonas?" said his wife, for the
first time she had urged that recourse upon him.
"You have heard my reasons given for that, over and over again."
"I know I have. But they never satisfied me."
"You would not have me add the sin of a double violation of a
solemn pledge to my already overburdened conscience?"
"No, Jonas. Heaven forbid!"
"The fear of that restrains me. I dare not again take it."
"Do you not deeply repent of your first violation?" the wife asked,
after a few moments of earnest thought. "Heaven knows how deeply."
"And Heaven, that perceives and knows the depth and sincerity of
that repentance, accepts it according to its quality. And just so far
as Heaven accepts the sincere offering of a repentant heart, conscious
of its own weakness, and mourning over its derelictions, is strength
given for combat in future temptations. The bruised reed he will not
break, nor quench the smoking flax. Hope, then, dear husband! you are
not cast off—you are not rejected by Heaven."
"O, Jane, if I could feel the truth of what you. say, how happy I
should be!—For the idea of sinking again into that hopeless,
abandoned, wretched condition, out of which this severe affliction
has lifted me, as by the hair of the head, is appalling!" was the
reply, to his wife's earnest appeal.
"Trust me, dear husband,—there is truth in what I say. He who came
down to man's lowest, and almost lost condition, that he might raise
him up, and sustain him against the assaults of his worst enemies,
has felt in his own body all the temptations that ever can assail his
children, and not only felt them, but successfully resisted and
conquered them; so that, there is no state, however low, in which
there is an earnest desire to rise out of evil, to which he does not
again come down, and in which he does not again successfully contend
with the powers of darkness. Look to Him, then, again, in a fixed
resolution to put away the evils into which you have fallen, and you
must, you will be sustained!"
"O, if I could but believe this, how eagerly would I again fly to
the pledge!" Marshall said, in an earnest voice.
"Fly to it then, Jonas, as to a city of refuge; for it is true. You
have felt the power of the pledge once-try it again. It will be
strength to you in your weakness, as it has been before."
Still Marshall hesitated. While he did so, his wife brought him
pens, ink and paper.
"Write a pledge and sign it, dear husband!" she urged, as she
placed them before him. "Think of me—of the joy that it will bring to
my heart—and sign."
"I am afraid, Jane."
"Can you stand alone?"
"I fear not."
"Are you not sure, that the pledge will restrain you some?"
"O, yes. If I ever take it again, I shall tremble under the fearful
responsibility that rests upon me."
"Come with me, a moment," Mrs. Marshall said, after a thoughtful
Her husband followed, as she led the way to an adjoining room,
where two or three bright-eyed children were playing in the happiest
"For their sakes, if not for mine, Jonas, sign the pledge again,"
she said, while her voice trembled, and then became choked, as she
leaned her head upon his shoulder.
"You have conquered! I will sign!" he whispered in her ear.
Eagerly she lifted her head, arid looked into his face with a
glance of wild delight.
"O, how happy this poor heart will again be!" she ejaculated,
clasping her hands together, and looking upwards with a joyous smile.
In a few minutes, a pledge of total abstinence from all kinds of
intoxicating drinks, was written out and signed. While her husband
was engaged in doing this, Mrs. Marshall stood looking down upon each
letter as it was formed by his pen, eager to see his name subscribed.
When that was finally done; she leaned forward on the table at which
he wrote, swayed to and fro for a moment or two, and then sank down
upon the floor, lost to all consciousness of external things.
From that hour to this, Jonas Marshall has been as true to his
second pledge, even in thought, as the needle to the pole. So
dreadful seems the idea of its violation, that the bare recollection
of his former dereliction, makes him tremble.
"It was a severe remedy," he says, sometimes, in regard to his
broken legs; "and proved eminently successful. But for that, I should
have been utterly lost."