Brandy As A
Preventive by T. S. Arthur
THE cholera had made its appearance in New York, and many deaths
were occurring daily. Among those who weakly permitted themselves to
feel an alarm amounting almost to terror, was a Mr. Hobart, who, from
the moment the disease manifested itself, became infested with the
idea that he would be one of its victims.
"Doctor," said he to his family physician, meeting him one day in
the street, "is there nothing which a man can take that will act as a
preventive to cholera?"
"I'll tell you what I do," replied the doctor.
"Well, what is it?"
"I take a glass of good brandy twice a day. One in the morning and
the other after dinner."
"Indeed! And do you think brandy useful in preventing the disease?"
"I think it a protection," said the doctor. "It keeps the system
slightly stimulated; and is, besides, a good astringent."
"A very simple agent," remarked Mr. Hobart.
"Yes, the most simple that we can adopt. And what is better, the
use of it leaves no after bad consequences, as is too often the case
with medicines, which act upon the system as poisons."
"Sometimes very bad consequences arise from the use of brandy,"
remarked Mr. Hobart. "I have seen them in my time."
"Drunkenness, you mean."
"People who are likely to make beasts of themselves had better let
it alone," said the doctor, contemptuously. "If they should take the
cholera and die, it will be no great loss to the world."
"And you really think a little good brandy, taken daily, fortifies
the system against the cholera?"
"Seriously I do," replied the doctor. "I have adopted this course
from the first, and have not been troubled with a symptom of the
"I feel very nervous on the subject. From the first I have been
impressed with the idea that I would get the disease and die."
"That is a weakness, Mr. Hobart."
"I know it is, still I cannot help it. And you would advise me to
take a little good brandy?"
"Yes, every day."
"I am a Son of Temperance."
"No matter; you can take it as medicine under my prescription. I
know a dozen Sons of Temperance who have used brandy every day since
the disease appeared in New York. It will be no violation of your
contract. Life is of too much value to be put in jeopardy on a mere
"I agree with you there. I'd drink any thing if I thought it would
give me an immunity against this dreadful disease."
"You'll be safer with the brandy than without it."
"Very well. If you think so, I will use it."
On parting with the doctor, Mr. Hobart went to a liquor store and
ordered half a gallon of brandy sent home. He did not feel altogether
right in doing so, for it must be understood, that, in years gone by,
Mr. Hobart had fallen into the evil habit of intemperance, which clung
to him until he run through a handsome estate and beggared his family.
In this low condition he was found by the Sons of Temperance, who
induced him to abandon a course whose end was death and destruction,
and to come into their Order. From that time all was changed. Sobriety
and industry were returned to him in many of the good things of this
world which he had lost, and he was still in the upward movement at
the time when the fatal pestilence appeared.
On going home at dinner time, Hobart's wife said to him, with a
"A demijohn, with some kind of liquor in it, was sent here to-day."
"Oh, yes," he replied, it is brandy that Doctor L—ordered me to
take as a cholera preventive."
"Brandy!" ejaculated Mrs. Hobart, with an expression of painful
surprise in her voice and on her countenance, that rather annoyed her
"Yes. He says that he takes it every day as a preventive, and
directed me to do the same."
"I wouldn't touch it if I were you. Indeed I wouldn't," said Mrs.
"Why wouldn't you?"
"You will violate your contract with the Sons of Temperance."
"Not at all. Brandy may be used as a medicine under the
prescription of a physician. I wouldn't have thought of touching it
had not Doctor L—ordered me to do so."
"You are not sick, Edward."
"But there is death in the very air I breathe. At any moment I am
liable to be struck down by an arrow sent from an unseen bow, unless
a shield be interposed. Such a shield has been placed in my hands.
Shall I not use it?"
Mrs. Hobart knew her husband well enough to be satisfied that
remonstrance and argument would be of no avail, now that his mind was
m de up to use the brandy; and yet so distressed did she feel, that
she couldn't help saying, with tears in her eyes—
"Eaward,(sic) let me beg of you not to touch it."
"Would you rather see me in my coffin?" replied Mr. Hobart, with
some bitterness. "Death may seem a light thing to you, but it is not
so to me."
"You are not sick," still urged the wife.
"But I am liable, as I said just now, to take the disease every
"You will be more liable, with your system stimulated and disturbed
by brandy. Let well enough alone. Be thankful for the health you
have, and do not invite disease."
"The doctor ought to know. He understands the matter better than
you or I. He recommends brandy as a preventive. He takes it himself."
"Because he likes it, no doubt."
"It is silly for you to talk in that way," replied the husband,
with much impatience. "He isn't rendered more liable to the disease by
taking a little pure brandy, for he says that it keeps him perfectly
"A glass of brandy every day may have been his usual custom," urged
Mrs. Hobart. "In that case, in its continuance, no change was
produced. But your system has been untouched by the fiery liquid for
nearly five years, and its sudden introduction must create
disturbance. It is reasonable."
"The doctor ought to know best," was replied to this. "He has
prescribed it, and I must take it. Life is too serious a matter to be
trifled with. 'An ounce of preventive is worth a pound of cure,' you
"I am in equal danger with yourself," said Mrs. Hobart; "and so are
"Undoubtedly. And I wish you all to use a little brandy."
"Not a drop of the poison shall pass either my lips or those of the
children," replied Mrs. Hobart, with emphasis.
"As you please," said the husband, coldly, and turned away.
"Edward!" Mrs. Hobart laid her hand upon his arm. "Edward! Let me
beg of you not to follow this advice."
"Why will you act so foolishly? Has not the doctor ordered the
brandy? I look to him as the earthly agent for the preservation of my
health and the saving of my life. If I do not regard his advice, in
what am I to trust?"
"Remember the past, Edward," said the wife, solemnly.
"I do remember it. But I fear no danger."
Mrs. Hobart turned away sadly, and went up to her chamber to give
vent to her feelings alone in tears. Firm to his purpose of using the
preventive recommended by the doctor, Mr. Hobart, after dinner, took a
draught of brandy and water. Nearly five years, as his wife remarked,
had elapsed since a drop of the burning fluid had passed his lips. The
taste was not particularly agreeable. Indeed, his stomach rather
revolted as the flavor reached his palate.
"It's vile stuff at best," he remarked to himself, making a wry
face. "Fit only for medicine. Not much danger of my ever loving it
again. I wish Anna was not so foolish. A flattering opinion she has
of her husband!"
The sober countenance of his wife troubled Mr. Hobart, as he left
home for his place of business earlier by half an hour than usual.
Neither in mind nor body were his sensations as pleasant as on the
day before. The brandy did something more than produce an agreeable
warmth in his stomach. A burning sensation soon followed its
introduction, accompanied by a feeling of uneasiness that he did not
like. In the course of half an hour, this unnatural heat was felt in
every part of his body, but more particularly about his head and
face; and it was accompanied by a certain confusion of mind that
prevented his usual close application to business during the
Towards evening, these disagreeable consequences of the glass of
cholera-preventive he had taken in a great measure subsided; but
there followed a dryness of the palate, and a desire for some drink
more pleasant to the taste than water. In his store was a large
pitcher of ice-water; but, though thirsty, he felt no inclination to
taste the pure beverage; but, instead, went out and obtained a glass
of soda water. This only made the matter worse. The half gill of
syrup with which the water was sweetened, created, in a little while,
a more uneasy feeling. Still, there was no inclination for the water
that stood just at hand, and which he had daily found so refreshing
during the hot weather. In fact, when he thought of it, it was with a
sense of repulsion.
In this state, the idea of a cool glass of brandy punch, or a mint
julep, came up in his mind, and he felt the draught, in imagination,
at his lips.
"A little brandy twice a day; so the doctor said." This was uttered
Just at the moment a slight pain crossed his stomach. It was the
first sensation of the kind he had experienced since the epidemic he
so much dreaded had appeared in the city; and it caused a slight
shudder to go through his frame, for he was nervous in his fear of
"A little mint with the brandy would make it better still. I don't
like this feeling. I'll try a glass of brandy and mint." Thus spoke
Mr. Hobart to himself.
Putting on his hat, he went forth for the purpose of getting some
brandy and mint. As he stepped into the street the pain was felt
again, and more distinctly. The effect was to cause a slight
perspiration to manifest itself on the face and forehead of Mr.
Hobart, and to make, in his mind, the necessity for the brandy and
mint more imperative. He did not just like to be seen going boldly in
at the door of a refectory or drinking-house in a public place, for he
was a Son of Temperance, and any one who knew this and happened to see
him going in, could not, at the same time, know that he was acting
under his physician's advice. So he went off several blocks from the
neighborhood in which his store was located, and after winding his way
along a narrow, unfrequented street, came to the back entrance of a
tavern, where he went in, as he desired, unobserved.
Years before, Hobart had often stood at the bar where he now found
himself. Old, familiar objects and associations brought back old
feelings, and he was affected by an inward glow of pleasure.
"What! you here?" said a man who stood at the bar, with a glass in
his hand. He was also a member of the Order.
"And you here!" replied Mr. Hobart.
"It isn't for the love of it, I can assure you," remarked the man,
as he looked meaningly at his glass. "These are not ordinary times."
"You are right there," said Hobart. "A little brandy sustains and
fortifies the system. That all admit."
"My physician has ordered it for me. He takes a glass or two every
day himself, and tells me that, so far, he has not been troubled with
the first symptom."
"Indeed. That is testimony to the point."
"So I think."
"Who is your physician?"
"He stands high. I would at any time trust my life in his hands."
"I am willing to do so." Then turning to the bar-keeper, Mr. Hobart
said—"I'll take a glass of brandy and water, and you may add some
"Perhaps you'll have a mint julep?" suggested the barkeeper,
winking aside to a man who stood near, listening to what passed
between the two members of the Order.
"Yes—I don't care—yes. Make it a julep," returned Hobart. "It's
the brandy and mint I want. I've had a disagreeable sensation," he
added, speaking to the friend he had met, and drawing his hand across
his stomach as he spoke, "that I don't altogether like. Here it is
"A little brandy will help it."
"I hope so."
When the mint julep was ready, Hobart took it in his hand and
retired to a table in the corner of the room, and the man he had met
went with him.
"Ain't you afraid to tamper with liquor?" asked this person, a
little seriously, as he observed the relish with which Hobart sipped
the brandy. Some thoughts had occurred to himself that were not very
"Oh, no. Not in the least," replied Mr. Hobart. "I only take it as
a medicine, under my physician's order; and I can assure you that the
taste is quite as disagreeable as rhubarb would be. I believe the old
fondness has altogether died out."
"I'm afraid it never dies out," said the man, whose eyes told him
plainly enough, that it had not died out in the case of the
individual before him, notwithstanding his averment on the subject.
"I feel much better now," said Mr. Hobart, after he had nearly
exhausted his glass. "I had such a cold sensation in my stomach,
accompanied by a very disagreeable pain. But both are now gone. This
brandy and mint have acted like a charm. Dr. L—understands the
matter clearly. It is fortunate that I saw him this morning. I would
not have dared to touch brandy, unless under medical advice; and, but
for the timely use of it, I might have been dangerously ill with this
After sitting a little while longer, the two men retired through
the back entrance to escape observation.
"How quickly these temperance men seize hold of any excuse to get a
glass of brandy," said the bar-keeper to a customer, as soon as
Hobart had retired, laughing in a half sneer as he spoke. "They come
creeping in through our back way, and all of them have a pain! Ha!
"I've taken a glass of brandy and water, every day for the last
five years," replied the man to whom this was addressed, "and I
continue it now. But I can tell you what, if I'd been an abstainer,
you wouldn't catch me pouring it into my stomach now. Not I! All who
do so are more liable to the disease."
"So I think," said the bar-tender. "But every one to his liking. It
puts money in our till. We've done a better business since the
cholera broke out, than we've done these three years. If it were to
continue for a twelve month we would make a fortune."
This was concluded with a coarse laugh, and then he went to attend
to a new customer for drink.
For all Mr. Hobart had expressed himself so warmly in favor of
brandy, and had avowed his freedom from the old appetite, he did not
feel altogether right about the matter. There was a certain pressure
upon his feelings that he could not well throw off. When he went home
in the evening, he perceived a shadow on the brow of his wife; and the
expression of her eyes, when she looked at him, annoyed and troubled
After supper, the uneasiness he had felt during the afternoon,
returned, and worried his mind considerably. The fact was, the brandy
had already disturbed the well balanced action of the lower viscera.
The mucous membrane of the whole (sic) alementry canal had been
stimulated beyond health, and its secretions were increased and
slightly vitiated. This was the cause of the uneasiness he felt, and
the slight pains which had alarmed him. By ten o'clock his feelings
had become so disagreeable, that he felt constrained to meet them
with another "mouthful," of brandy. Thus, in less than ten hours, Mr.
Hobart had wronged his stomach by pouring into it three glasses of
brandy; entirely disturbing its healthy action.
The morning found Mr. Hobart far from feeling well. His skin was
dry and feverish and his mouth parched. There was an uneasy sensation
of pain in his head. Immediately upon rising he took a strong glass of
brandy. That, to use his own words, "brought him up," and made him
feel "a hundred per cent better." During the forenoon, however, a
slight diarrhoea manifested itself. A thrill of alarm was the
"I must check this!" said he, anxiously. And, in order to do so,
another and stronger glass of brandy was taken.
In the afternoon, the diarrhoea appeared again. It was still
slight, and unaccompanied by pain. But, it was a symptom not to be
disregarded. So brandy was applied as before. In the evening, it
showed itself again.
"I wish you would give me a little of that brandy," said he to his
wife. "I'm afraid of this, it must be stopped."
"Hadn't you better see the doctor?"
"I don't think it necessary. The brandy will answer every purpose."
"I have no faith in brandy," said Mrs. Hobart. Poor woman! she had
cause for her want of faith!
"I have then," replied her husband. "It's the doctor's
recommendation. And he ought to know."
"You were perfectly well before you commenced acting on his
"I was well, apparently. But, it is plain that the seeds of disease
were in me. There is no telling how much worse I would have been."
"Nor how much better. For my part I charge it all on the brandy."
"That's a silly prejudice," said Mr. Hobart, with a good deal of
impatience. "Every one knows that brandy is a remedy in diseases of
this kind; not a producing cause."
Mrs. Hobart was silent. But she did not get the brandy. That was
more than she could do. So her husband got it himself. But, in order
to make the medicinal purpose more apparent, he poured the liquor
into a deep plate, added some sugar, and set it on fire.
"You will not object to burnt brandy at least," said he. "That you
know to be good."
Mrs. Hobart did not reply. She felt that it would be useless. Only
a disturbance of harmony could arise, and that would produce greater
unhappiness. The brandy, after having parted with its more volatile
qualities, was introduced into Mr. Hobart's stomach, and fretted that
delicate organ for more than an hour.
"I thought the burnt brandy would be effective," said Mr. Hobart on
the next morning. "And it has proved so." In order not to lose this
good effect, he fortified himself before going out with some of the
same article, unburnt. But, alas! By ten o'clock the diarrhoea showed
itself again, and in a more decided form.
Oh dear!" said he in increased alarm. "This won't do. I must see
the doctor." And off he started for Doctor L—'s office. But, on the
way he could not resist the temptation to stop at a tavern for
another glass of brandy, notwithstanding he began to entertain a
suspicion as to the true cause of the disturbance. The doctor
happened to be in. "I think I'd better have a little medicine,
doctor," said he, on seeing his medical adviser. A stitch in time,
"Ain't you well?"
"No," and Mr. Hobart gave his symptoms.
"An opium pill will do all that is required," said the doctor.
"Shall I continue the brandy?" asked the patient.
"Have you taken brandy every day since I saw you?" inquired the
"Yes; twice, and sometimes three times."
"Ah!" The doctor looked thoughtful.
"Shall I continue to do so?"
"Perhaps you had better omit it for the present. You're not in the
habit of drinking any thing?"
"No. I haven't tasted brandy before for five years."
"Indeed! Yes, now, I remember you said so. You'd better omit it
until we see the effect of the opium. Sudden changes are not always
good in times like these."
"I don't think the brandy has hurt me," said Mr. Hobart.
"Perhaps not. Still, as a matter of prudence, I would avoid it. Let
the opium have a full chance, and all will be right again."
An opium pill was swallowed, and Mr. Hobart went back to his place
of business. It had the intended effect. That is, it cured one
disease by producing another—suspended action took the place of
over-action. He was, therefore, far from being in a state of health,
or free from danger in a cholera atmosphere. There was one part of
the doctor's order that Mr. Hobart did not comply with. The free use
of brandy for a few days rekindled the old appetite, and made his
desire for liquor so intense, that he had not, or, if he possessed
it, did not exercise the power of resistance.
Sad beyond expression was the heart of Mrs. Hobart, when evening
came, and her husband returned home so much under the influence of
drink as to show it plainly. She said nothing to him, then, for that
she knew would be of no avail. But next morning, as he was rising,
she said to him earnestly and almost tearfully.
"Edward, let me beg of you to reflect before you go further in the
way you have entered. You may not be aware of it, but last night you
showed so plainly that you had been drinking that I was distressed
beyond measure. You know as well as I do, where this will end, if
continued. Stop, then, at once, while you have the power to stop. As
to preventing disease, it is plain that the use of brandy has not
done so in your case; but, rather, acted as a predisposing cause. You
were perfectly well before you touched it; you have not been well
since. Look at this fact, and, as a wise man, regard its indications."
Truth was so strong in the words of his wife, that Mr. Hobart did
not attempt to gainsay them.
"I believe you are right," he replied with a good deal of
depression apparent in his manner. "I wish the doctor had kept his
brandy advice to himself. It has done me no good."
"It has done you harm," said his wife.
"Perhaps it has. Ah, me! I wish the cholera would subside."
"I think your fear is too great," returned Mrs. Hobart. "Go on in
your usual way; keep your mind calm; be as careful in regard to diet,
and you need fear no danger."
"I wish I'd let the brandy alone!" sighed Mr. Hobart, who felt as
he spoke, the desire for another draught.
"So do I. Doctor L—must have been mad when he advised it."
"So I now think. I heard yesterday of two or three members of our
Order who have been sick, and every one of them used a little brandy
as a preventive."
"It is bad—bad. Common sense teaches this. No great change of
habit is good in a tainted atmosphere. But you see this now, happily,
and all will yet be well I trust."
"Yes; I hope so. I shall touch no more of this brandy preventive.
To that my mind is fully made up."
Mrs. Hobart felt hopeful when she parted with her husband. But she
knew nothing of the real conflict going on in his mind between reason
and awakened appetite—else had she trembled and grown faint in
spirit. This conflict went on for some hours, when, alas! appetite
At dinner time Mrs. Hobart saw at a glance how it was. The whole
manner of her husband had changed. His state of depression was gone,
and he exhibited an unnatural exhilaration of spirits. She needed not
the sickening odor of his breath to tell the fatal secret that he had
been unable to control himself.
It was worse at night. He came home so much beside himself that he
could with difficulty walk erectly. Half conscious of his condition,
he did not attempt to join the family, but went up stairs and groped
his way to bed. Mrs. Hobart did not follow him to his chamber.
Heartsick, she retired to another room, and there wept bitterly for
more than an hour. She was hopeless. Up from the melancholy past
arose images of degradation and suffering too dreadful to
contemplate. She felt that she had not strength to suffer again as
she had suffered through many, many years. From this state she was
aroused by groans from the room where her husband lay. Alarmed by the
sounds, she instantly went to him.
"What is the matter?" she asked, anxiously.
"Oh! oh! I am in so much pain!" was groaned half inarticulately.
"In pain, where?"
"Oh! oh!" was repeated, in a tone of suffering; and then he
Mrs. Hobart placed her hand upon his forehead and found it cold and
clammy. Other and more painful symptoms followed. Before the doctor,
who was immediately summoned, arrived, his whole system had become
prostrate, and was fast sinking into a state of collapse. It was a
decided case of cholera.
"Has he been eating any thing improper?" asked Doctor L—, after
administering such remedies, and ordering such treatment as he deemed
the case required.
"Has he eaten no green fruit?"
"Nothing, to my knowledge, replied Mrs. Hobart. "We have been very
careful in regard to food."
"Nor unripe vegetables?"
Mrs. Hobart shook her head.
"Nothing of the kind."
"That is strange. He was well a few days ago."
"Yes, perfectly, until he began to take a little brandy every day
as a preventive."
"Ah!" The doctor looked thoughtful. "But it couldn't have been
that. I take a little pure brandy every day, and find it good. I
recommend it to all my patients."
Mrs. Hobart sighed. Then she asked—"Do you think him dangerous?"
"I hope not. The attack is sudden and severe. But much worse cases
recover. I will call round again before bed time."
The doctor went away feeling far from comfortable. Only a few hours
before he, had left a man sick with cholera beyond recovery, who had,
to his certain knowledge, adopted the
brandy-drinking-preventive-system but a week before; and that at his
recommendation. And here was another case.
At eleven o'clock Dr. L—called to see Mr. Hobart again, and found
him rapidly sinking. Not a single symptom had been reached by his
treatment. The poor man was in great pain. Every muscle in his body
seemed affected by cramps and spasms. His mind, however, was
perfectly clear. As the doctor sat feeling his pulse, Hobart said to
"Doctor L—, it is too late!"
"Oh, no. It is never too late," replied the doctor. "Don't think of
death; think of life, and that will help to sustain you. You are not,
by any means, at the last point. Hundreds, worse than you now are,
come safely through. I don't intend to let you slip through my hands."
"Doctor," said the sick man, speaking in a solemn voice, "I feel
that I am beyond the reach of medicine. I shall die. What I now say I
do not mean as a reproach. I speak it only as a truth right for you to
know. Do you see my poor wife?"
The doctor turned his eyes upon Mrs. Hobart, who stood weeping by
"When she is left a widow, and my children orphans," continued the
patient, "remember that you have made them such!"
"Me! Why do you say that, Mr. Hobart?" The doctor looked startled.
"Because it is the truth. I was a well man, when you, as my medical
adviser, recommended me to drink brandy as a protection against
disease. I was in fear of the infection, and followed your
prescription. From the moment I took the first draught my body lost
its healthy equilibrium; and not only my body, but my mind. I was a
reformed man, and the taste inflamed the old appetite. From that time
until now I have not been really sober."
The doctor was distressed and confounded by this declaration. He
had feared that such was the case; but now it was charged
"I am pained at all this," he replied, "In sinning I sinned
But, ere he could finish his reply, the sick man became suddenly
worse, and sunk into a state of insensibility.
"If it be in human power to save his life," murmured the doctor—"I
will save it."
Through the whole night he remained at the bed-side, giving, with
his own hands, all the remedies, and applying every curative means
within reach. But, when the day broke, there was little, if any
change for the better. He then went home, but returned in a couple of
"How is your husband?" he asked of the pale-faced wife as he
entered. She did not reply, and they went up to the chamber together.
A deep silence reigned in the room as they entered.
"Is he asleep?" whispered the doctor.
"See!" The wife threw back the sheet.
"O!" was the only sound that escaped the doctor's lips. It was a
prolonged sound, and uttered in a tone of exquisite distress. The
white and ghastly face of death was before him.
"It is your work!" murmured the unhappy woman, half beside herself
in her affliction.
"Madam! do not say that!" ejaculated the physician. "Do not say
"It is the truth! Did he not charge it upon you with his dying
"I did all for the best, madam! all for the best! It was an error
in his case. But I meant him no harm."
"You put poison to his lips, and destroyed him. You have made his
wife a widow and his children orphans!"
"Madam!—"The doctor knit his brows and spoke in a stern voice.
But, ere he had uttered a word more, the stricken-hearted woman gave a
wild scream and fell upon the floor. Nature had been tried beyond the
point of endurance, and reason was saved at the expense of physical
A few weeks later, and Doctor L—, in driving past the former
residence of Mr. Hobart, saw furniture cars at the door. The family
were removing. Death had taken the husband and father, and the poor
widow was going forth with her little ones from the old and pleasant
home, to gather them around her in a smaller and poorer place. His
feelings at the moment none need envy.
How many, like Mr. Hobart, have died through the insane
prescription of brandy as a preventive to cholera! and how many more
have fallen back into old habits, and become hopeless drunkards!
Brandy is not good for health at any time; how much less so, when the
very air we breathe is filled with a subtle poison, awaiting the least
disturbance in the human economy to affect it with disease.