Wine by T. S. Arthur
"WASN'T that Ernestine Lee that we passed this moment?" asked
Harvey Lane, a young M.D., of his friend James Everett, in a tone of
"Yes, I believe it was—"Everett returned, rather coldly.
"You believe it was! Surely, James, nothing has occurred to destroy
the intimacy that has for some time existed between you."
"You saw that we did not speak."
"And, probably, shall never be on terms of friendship again."
"What you say pains me very much, James. Of course there is a
reason for so great a change. May I ask what it is?"
"It is, no doubt, a good deal my own fault. But still, I cannot
help thinking that she has taken offence too suddenly, where no
offence was intended. You know that I have been long paying attentions
"If I remember rightly, I told you last week, that my intentions
towards her were of a serious character. In a word, that I had fully
made up my mind to ask her hand in marriage."
"O, yes,—I remember it very well. And that is the reason why I
felt so much surprised at seeing you pass each other, without
"Well, a few evenings ago, I called, as usual, intending, if a good
opportunity offered, to make known my true feelings towards her.
Unfortunately, I had dined out that day with some young friends. We
sat late at table, and when I left, I was a little flushed with
wine. It was a very little, for you know that I can drink pretty
freely without its being seen. But, somehow, or other, I was more
elated than is usual with me on such occasions, and when I called on
Ernestine, felt as free and easy as if everything was settled, and we
were to be married in a week. For a time, we chatted together very
pleasantly; then I asked her to play and sing for me. She went to the
piano, at my request, and played and sung two or three very sweet
airs. I don't know which it was that elated my feelings so much—the
wine, or the delightful music. Certain it is, that at the conclusion
of a piece, I was in such rapture, that I threw my arms around her
neck, drew back her head, and kissed her with emphatic earnestness."
"You may well be surprised at the commission of so rude and
ungentlemanly an act. But, as I have said, I was flushed with wine."
"How did Ernestine act?"
"She was, of course, deeply indignant at the unwarrantable liberty.
Springing from the piano-stool, her face crimsoned over, she drew
herself up with a dignified air, and ordered me instantly to leave
her presence. I attempted to make an apology, but she would not hear
a word. I have since written to her, but my letter has been returned
"Really, that is unfortunate," the friend of Everett said, with
concern. "Ernestine is a girl whom any man might be proud to gain as
a wife. And, besides her personal qualifications, a handsome fortune
will go with her hand."
"I know all that too well, Harvey. Fool that I have been, to mar
such prospects as were mine! But she must have known that I was not
myself—and ought to have charged the fault upon the wine, and not
"Such a discrimination is not usually made."
"I know that it is not. And for not making it in my case, I
certainly cannot help blaming Ernestine a little. She must have
known, that, had I not been flushed with wine, I never would have
taken the liberty with her that I did. As it is, however, I am not
only pained at the consequences of my foolishness, but deeply
mortified at my conduct."
"Is there no hope of a reconciliation?"
"I do not think there is any. If she had accepted my written
apology for the act, there would have been some hope. But the fact of
her returning my letter unopened, is conclusive as to the permanency
of the breach. I can now make no further advances."
"Truly, it is mortifying!" the friend remarked. Then, after a
pause, he added, with emphasis—
"What fools this wine does make of us, sometimes!"
"Doesn't it? Another such a circumstance as this, would almost
drive me to join a temperance society."
"O, no, hardly that, James."
"Well, perhaps not. But, at least, to eschew wine for ever."
"Wine is good enough in its place; but, like fire, is rather a bad
master. Like you, I have injured my prospects in life by an
over-indulgence in the pleasures of the cup."
"When did that happen?"
"Since I last saw you."
"Indeed! I am sorry to hear you say so. But how was it?—tell me."
"You know, that as a young physician, I shall have to struggle on
in this city for years before I can rise to any degree of distinction,
unless aided by some fortunate circumstance, that shall be as a
stepping-stone upon which to elevate me, and enable me to gain the
public eye. I am conscious that I have mastered thoroughly the
principles of my profession—and that, in regard to surgery,
particularly, I possess a skill not surpassed by many who have
handled the knife for years. Of this fact, my surgical teacher, who
is my warm friend, is fully aware. At every important case that he
has, I am desired to be present, and assist in the operation, and
once or twice, where there were no friends of the patient to object,
I have been permitted to perform the operation myself, and always
with success. In this department of my profession, I feel great
confidence in myself—and it is that part of it, in which I take the
"And in which, I doubt not, you will one day be distinguished."
"I trust so; and yet, things look dark enough just now. But to go
on. A few days ago, I dined with some friends. After dinner, the
bottle was circulated pretty freely, and I drank as freely as the
rest, but was not aware of having taken enough to produce upon me any
visible effects. It was about an hour after the table had been cleared
for the wine, that an unusually loud ringing of the door-bell
attracted our attention. In a few moments after, I heard a voice
asking, in hurried tones, for Doctor Lane. Going down at once to the
hall, I found old Mr. Camper there, the rich merchant, in a state of
"'Doctor,' said he, grasping my arm,—'a most terrible accident has
happened to my daughter!—thrown from a carriage!—My physician
cannot be found, and as I have often heard your skill warmly alluded
to by him, I desire your instant attendance. My carriage is at the
door—Come along with me, quickly.'
"Catching up my hat, I attended him at once, and during our rapid
drive to his princely residence, learned that his only daughter had
been thrown from a carriage, and dreadfully injured; but in what way,
could not ascertain. Unaccountably to myself, I found my mind all in
confusion,—and, strange, unprofessional omission! forgot to request
that I be driven first to my office for my case of instruments. We had
not proceeded half the distance to Mr. Camper's residence, before I
noticed that the old man became silent, and that his eye was fixed
upon me with a steady, scrutinizing gaze. This added to the confusion
of mind which I felt. At length the carriage stopped, and I
accompanied Mr. Camper to his daughter's chamber, hurriedly, and in
silence. As I paused by the bed upon which she lay, I again noticed
that he was regarding me with a steady searching look, and an
expression of face that I did not like, and could not understand.
"I proceeded, however, at once, to examine the condition of my
patient, who lay in a kind of stupor. There was a deep gash on the
side of her face, from which the blood had issued profusely. By the
aid of warm-water, I soon cleared the wound from a mass of coagulated
blood that had collected around it, and was glad to find that it was
not a serious one. I then proceeded to examine if there were any
fractures. All this time my hands were unsteady, my face burned, and
my mind was confused. I was conscious that I had taken too much
"'There is no apparent injury here,' I at length said, after
examining the arms and chest. 'She is probably only stunned by the
"'But she could not stand on her feet when first lifted after the
fall, and fainted immediately upon attempting to sustain her own
weight,' Mr. Camper replied.
"I then made further examination, and found sad indications of her
fall, in a fractured patella. The knee was, however, so swollen, that
I could not ascertain the nature, nor extent of the fracture.
"'What do you find the matter there, doctor?' Mr. Camper asked,
after I had finished my examination.
"'A very serious injury, sir, I am sorry to say,' was my reply.
"'Of what nature?' was his somewhat stern inquiry.
"'Her knee-pan is fractured, sir; but so much swollen, that I
cannot, now, fully ascertain the extent of the injury.'"
"Henry!" cried the old man in a quick, eager tone to an attendant,
"go again for doctor L—; and if he is not in, go for doctor R—; and
if you cannot find him, call on doctor T—, and ask him to come
The attendant hurriedly departed, when Mr. Camper turned slowly
towards me, with a mingled expression of anger, pain, and contempt,
upon his face, and said, in a stern voice,
"'Go home young man! and quit drinking wine, or quit the
profession! You are in no fit state to undertake a case like this.'
"It came upon me like a peal of thunder from an unclouded summer
sky. It was the knell of newly-awakened hopes—the darkening of
newly-opening prospects. Silently I turned away under the cutting
rebuke, and left the house."
"Really, that was most unfortunate!" his friend Everett remarked,
with earnest sympathy.
"Could anything have been more unfortunate, or more mortifying. Her
case was one that I fully understood; and could have treated
successfully. It would have brought me into contact with the family
for six months, or more, and the eclat which I should have
derived from the case, would have given me a prominence as a young
surgeon, that I am afraid the fact of my losing the case under such
mortifying circumstances, will prevent me ever attaining in this
"Really, Harvey, I do feel exceedingly pained at what you have told
me. Confound this wine! I believe it does more harm than good."
"Too free an indulgence of it does, no doubt. Our error has lain in
this. We must be more prudent in future."
"Suppose we swear off for ever from touching it."
"No, I will not do that. Wine is good in its place, and I shall
continue to use it, but more moderately. A physician never knows the
moment he may be called upon, and should, therefore, always be in a
state to exercise a clear head and a steady hand."
"Certainly, we have both of us had lessons not soon to be
forgotten," was the reply; and then the two young men separated.
Two weeks from the day this conversation took place, doctor Lane
and his friend James Everett met at a supper-party, where all kinds of
liquors were introduced, and every kind of inducement held out for
the company to drink freely. Both of the young men soon forgot their
resolutions to be guarded in respect to the use of wine. As the first
few glasses began to take effect, in an elevation of spirits, each
felt a kind of pride in the thought that he could bear as much as any
one there, and not show signs of intoxication.
By eleven o'clock, there was not one at the table who was not drunk
enough to be foolish. The rational and intelligent conversation that
had been introduced early in the evening, had long since given place
to the obscene jest—the vulgar story—or the bacchanalian song.
Gayest of the gay were our young men, who had already, one would
think, received sufficient lessons of prudence and temperance.
"Take care, James!" cried Lane, across the table to his friend
Everett, familiarly, late in the evening. "You are pouring the wine
on the table, instead of in your glass."
"You are beginning to see double," was Everett's reply, lifting his
head with a slight drunken air, and throwing a half-angry glance upon
"That is more than you can do," was the retort, with a meaning toss
of the head.
"I don't understand you," Everett said, pausing with the decanter
still in his hand, and eyeing his friend, steadily.
"Don't you, indeed! You see yourself in a state of blessed
singleness—ha! Do you take?"
"Look here, James,—you are my friend. But there are things that I
will not allow even a friend to utter. So take care now!"
"Ha! ha! There comes the raw. Do I rub too hard, my boy?"
"You 're drunk, and a fool into the bargain!" was the angry retort
"Not so drunk as you were when you hugged and kissed Ernestine Lee!
How do you like—?"
Lane could not finish the sentence, before the decanter which
Everett had held in his hand glanced past his head with fearful
velocity, and was dashed into fragments against the wall behind him.
The instant interference of friends prevented any further acts of
It was about ten o'clock on the next morning that young doctor Lane
sat in his office, musing on the events of the previous night, of
which he had only a confused recollection, when a young man entered,
and presented a note. On opening it, he found it to be a challenge
"Leave me your card, and I will refer my friend to you," was his
reply, with a cold bow, as he finished reading the note. The card was
left, and the stranger, with a frigid bow in return, departed.
"Fool, fool that I have been!" ejaculated Lane, rising to his feet,
and pacing the floor of his office backwards and forwards with
hurried steps. This was continued for nearly half an hour, during
which time his countenance wore a painful and gloomy expression. At
last, pausing, and seating himself at a table, he murmured, as he
lifted a pen,
"It is too late now for vain regrets."
He then wrote a note with a hurried air, and dispatched it by an
attendant. This done, he again commenced pacing the floor of his
office, but now with slower steps, and a face expressive of sad
determination. In about twenty minutes a young man entered, saying,
as he did so—
"I'm here at a word, Harvey—and now what is this important
business which I can do for you, and for which you are going to be so
"That will tell you," Lane briefly said, handing him the challenge
he had received.
The young man's face turned pale as he read the note.
"Bless me, Harvey!" he ejaculated, as he threw the paper upon the
table. "This is a serious matter, truly! Why how have you managed to
offend Everett? I always thought that you were friends of the warmest
"So we have been, until now. And at this moment, I have not an
unkind thought towards him, notwithstanding he threw a bottle of wine
at my head last night, which, had it taken effect, would have,
doubtless, killed me instantly."
"How in the world did that happen, doctor?"
"We were both flushed with wine, at the time. I said something that
I ought not to have said—something which had I been myself, I would
have cut off my right hand before I would have uttered—and it roused
him into instant passion."
"And not satisfied with throwing the bottle of wine at your head,
he now sends you a challenge?"
"Yes. And I must accept it, notwithstanding I have no angry
feelings against him; and, but for the hasty step he has now taken,
would have most willingly asked his pardon."
"That, of course, is out of the question now," the friend replied.
"But I will see his second; and endeavour, through him, to bring
about a reconciliation, if I can do so, honourably, to yourself."
"As to that," replied Lane, "I have nothing to say. If he insists
upon a meeting, I will give him the satisfaction he seeks."
It was about half an hour after, that the friend of Lane called
upon the friend of Everett. They were old acquaintances.
"You represent Everett, I believe, in this unpleasant affair
between him and doctor Lane," the latter said.
"I do," was the grave reply.
"Surely we can prevent a meeting!" the friend of Lane said, with
"I do not see how," was the reply.
"They were flushed with wine when the provocation occurred, and
this ought to prevent a fatal meeting. If Lane insulted Everett, it
was because he was not himself. Had he been perfectly sober, he would
never have uttered an offensive word."
"Perhaps not. But with that I have nothing to do. He has insulted
my friend, and that friend asks a meeting. He can do no less than
grant it—or prove himself a coward."
"I really cannot see the necessity that this should follow," urged
the other. "It seems to me, that it is in our power to prevent any
"By representing to the principals in this unhappy affair, the
madness of seeking each other's lives. You can learn from Everett
what kind of an apology, if any, will satisfy him, and then I can
ascertain whether such an apology will be made."
"You can do what you please in that way," the friend of Everett
replied. "But I am not disposed to transcend my office. Besides, I
know that, as far as Everett is concerned, no apology will be
accepted. The insult was outrageous, involving a breach of
confidence, and referring to a subject of the most painful,
mortifying, and delicate nature."
"I am really sorry to hear that both you and your friend are
determined to push this matter to an issue, for I had hoped that an
adjustment of the difficulty would be easy."
"No adjustment can possibly take place. Doctor Lane must fight, or
be posted as a coward, and a scoundrel."
"He holds himself ready to give Mr. Everett all the satisfaction he
requires," was the half-indignant reply.
"Then, of course, you are prepared to name the weapons; and the
time and place of meeting?"
"I am not. For so confident did I feel that it would only be
necessary to see you to have all difficulties put in a train for
adjustment, that I did not confer upon the subject of the
preliminaries of the meeting. But I will see you again, in the course
of an hour, when I shall be ready to name them."
"If you please." And then the seconds parted.
"I am afraid this meeting will take place in spite of all that I
can do," the friend of doctor Lane said, on returning after his
interview with Everett's second. "The provocation which you gave last
night is felt to be so great, that no apology can atone for it."
"My blood probably will,—and he can have that!" was the gloomy
A troubled silence ensued, which was at last broken by the
"Have you decided, doctor, upon the weapons to be used?"
"Pistols, I suppose," was the answer.
"Have you practised much?"
"Me! No. I don't know that I ever fired a pistol in my life."
"But Everett is said to be a good shot."
"So much the worse for me. That is all."
"You have the liberty of choosing some other weapon. One with which
you are familiar."
"I am familiar with no kind of deadly weapons."
"Then you will stand a poor chance, my friend; unless you name the
day of meeting next week, and practise a good deal in the meantime."
"I shall do no such thing. Do you suppose, that if I fight with
Everett, I shall try to kill him? No. I would not hurt a hair of his
head. I am no murderer!"
"Then you go out under the existence of a fatal inequality."
"I cannot help that. It is my misfortune. I did not send the
"That is no reason why you should not make an effort to preserve
your own life."
"If we both fire at once, and both of our balls take effect, the
fact that my ball strikes him will not benefit me any. And suppose he
should be killed, and I survive, do you think I could ever know a
single hour's happiness? No—no—I choose the least of two evils. I
must fight. But I will not kill."
"In this you are determined?"
"I certainly am. I have weighed the matter well, and come to a
"You choose pistols, then?"
"Yes. Let the weapons be pistols."
"When shall the meeting take place?"
"Let it be to-morrow morning, at sunrise. The quicker it is over,
This determined upon, the friend went again to the second of
Everett, and completed all necessary arrangements for the duel.
It was midnight, and young doctor Lane sat alone in his chamber,
beside a table, upon which were ink and paper. He had, evidently,
made several attempts to write; and each time failed from some cause
to accomplish his task. Several sheets of paper had been written
upon, and thrown aside. Each of these bore the following words:—
"My Dear Parents:—When these lines are read by you, the hand
that penned them will be cold and nerveless—"
Thus far the unhappy young man could go, but no farther.
Imagination pictured too vividly the heart-stricken father who had so
often looked down upon him when a boy with pride and pleasure, and the
tender, but now agonized mother, as that appalling announcement met
Again, for the fifth time, he took up his pen, murmuring in a low
tone, yet with a resolute air,
"It must be done!"
He had again written the words:—
"My Dear Parents—"
When his ear caught the sound of steps, strangely familiar to his
ear, ascending the stairs, and approaching his chamber. He paused,
and listened with a heart almost stilled in its pulsations. In a
brief space, the door of his room opened, and a grey-haired, feeble
old man came slowly in.
"My father!" exclaimed Harvey, starting to his feet in
astonishment—scarcely, for the moment, being able to realize whether
it were indeed his father, or, only an apparition.
"Thank heaven! that I have found my son alive—" ejaculated the old
man, uncovering his head, and lifting his eyes upward. "O, Harvey, my
child!" he then said, with an earnest pathos, that touched the young
man's heart—"how could you so far forget us as to think even for a
single moment of the dreadful act you are preparing to commit?"
"I had hoped to be spared this severest trial of all," the young
man said, rising and grasping the hand of his father, while the tears
sprang to his eyes. "What officious friend has taken the pains to
disturb both your peace and mine—dragging you thus away from your
home, in the vain effort to prevent an act that must take place."
"Speak not so rashly, my son! It cannot, it must not, it shall not
"I have no power to prevent it, father."
"You are a free agent."
"Not to do a deed of dishonour,—or, rather, I am not free to
"There is no honour in wantonly risking or taking life, Harvey."
"I insulted a friend, in the grossest manner."
"That was dishonourable. But why did you insult him?"
"I was flushed with wine."
The old man shook his head, sadly.
"I know it was wrong, father. But it can't be helped now. Well, as
I said; I insulted him, and he has demanded satisfaction. Can I do
less than give it to him?"
"If you insulted him, you can apologize. And, from what I know of
James Everett, he will at once forgive."
"I cannot do that now, father. He threw a bottle of wine at my
head, and then precipitately challenged me. I owe at least something
"And something, I should think, to your mother, if not to me,"
replied the old man, bitterly. "How, think you she will receive the
news of your death, if the combat should terminate fatally for you?
Or, how, if your hands should become stained with the blood of your
"Talk not thus, father! Talk not thus!" ejaculated the young man,
rising up quickly, and beginning to pace the floor of his chamber
with hurried steps. "Is not my situation dreadful enough viewed in
any light? Then why seek to agonize my heart with what I would gladly
forget? I am already racked with tortures that can scarcely be
endured—why seek to run my cup of misery over?"
"I seek but to save you, my child," the father replied, in a voice
that suddenly became low and tremulous.
"It is a vain effort. There is but one course for me, and that is
to go on, and meet whatever consequences ensue. The result may not be
so bad as feared."
"Harvey!" old Mr. Lane said, in a voice that had somewhat regained
its steadiness of tone. "This meeting must not take place. If you
persist in going out tomorrow morning, I must take measures to
"And thus dishonour your son."
"All dishonour that will appertain to you, Harvey, appertains to
you now. You insulted your friend. Neither your death nor his can
atone for that offence. If reparation be truly made, it will come in
some other form."
"It is vain to urge that matter with me," was the reply to this. "I
must give James Everett the satisfaction he requires to-morrow
morning. And now, father, if I should fall, which heaven forbid for
others' sakes more than my own," and the young man's voice quivered,
"break the matter to my mother as gently as possible—tell her, that
my last thoughts were of her, and my last prayer that she might be
given strength from above to bear this heavy affliction."
It was a damp, drizzly morning, just at break of day, when Harvey
Lane, accompanied by his friend, and a young physician, entered a
close carriage, and started for the duelling-ground, which had been
selected, some four miles from the city. Two neat mahogany cases were
taken along, one containing a pair of duelling pistols, and the other
a set of surgical instruments. As these were handed in, the eye of
Lane rested upon them for a moment. They conjured up in his mind no
very pleasant thoughts. He was very pale, and silent. Nor did his
companions seem in much better condition, or much better spirits. A
rapid drive of nearly three quarters of an hour brought them upon the
ground. The other party had not yet arrived, but came up in a few
minutes afterwards. Then commenced the formal preparations. The ground
was measured off—ten paces. The seconds prepared the deadly weapons
which were to heal the honour that had been so dreadfully wounded, and
arranged all the minor provisions of the duel.
During all this time, neither of the young men looked towards each
other, but each paced rapidly over a little space of ground,
backwards and forwards, with agitated steps—though evidently with an
effort to seem composed.
"Ready," said Lane's second, at length, close to his ear.
The young man started, and his cheek blanched to a pale hue. He had
been thinking of his father and mother. With almost the vividness of
reality had he seen them before him, and heard their earnest; tearful
pleadings with him to forbear for their sakes, if not for his own. But
he took the deadly weapon in his hand mechanically, and moved to the
position that had been assigned him. The arrangement was, that the
seconds should give the words—one—two—three—in slow succession,
and that the parties should fire as soon after "three" was uttered, as
Their positions taken, the young men's eyes met for the first
time—and for the first time they looked again upon each other's
faces. The word one had been given, at which each raised his pistol,—
two was uttered—and then another individual was suddenly, and
unexpectedly added to the party, who threw himself in front of Harvey
Lane, in range of both the deadly weapons. Turning, then, towards
Everett, he said, lifting his hat, and letting his thin grey hairs
fall about his forehead—
"We cannot spare our son, yet, James! We are growing old, and he is
our only child. If he were taken thus away from us, we should not be
able to bear it. For our sakes, then, James, if he has injured you,
Already had the face of his old and long-tried friend, as he met
its familiar expression, softened in some degree the feelings of
Everett, and modified the angry vindictiveness which he still
continued to cherish. The apparition of the father, and his
unexpected appeal, completely conquered him, and he threw, with a
sudden effort, his pistol away some twenty yards.
"I am satisfied!" he said, in a low tone, advancing, and taking the
old man's hand. "You have conquered the vindictive pride of a foolish
"I know that I grossly insulted you, James"—Harvey Lane said,
coming quickly forward, and offering his hand. "But would I, could I
have done it, if I had been myself?"
"No, Harvey, you could not! And I was mad and blind that I would
not see this"—Everett replied, grasping the hand of his friend. "We
were both flushed with wine, and that made both of us fools.
Surely, Harvey, we have had warning enough, of the evil of drinking.
Within the last two weeks, it has seriously marred our prospects in
life, and now it has brought us out here with the deliberate intent
of taking each other's lives."
"From this hour, I solemnly declare, that I will never again touch,
taste, or handle the accursed thing!" Lane said, with strong
"In that resolution I join you," replied Everett, with a like
earnest manner. "And let this resolution be the sealing bond of our
"Amen!" ejaculated Harvey Lane, solemnly,—and, "Amen!" responded
the old man, fervently, lifting his eyes to Heaven.