|Newspaper Title||Illustrated Sydney News (NSW : 1853 - 1872)|
|Trove Title||Drops of Brandy|
"Lilly- Lilly! you clo not mean to say that I am a drunkard, or even in danger of becoming one?» said Moreland, in whose
face the hot blood flushed redly.
"DROPS OF BRANDY/
' By OLD SALTBUSH.
CHAPTER I. i
"BUT, Lillian, I do love you, better than anything in the world-better than life itself ; for if I were to lose you life would have no charms, death no terrors for me : in fact, I should welcome the grim king as a liberator, who, in return for my great disappointment here came to bring me relieE-came to reward me with nepenthe."
The speaker, Archibald Moreland, was about six aud twenty years of age, and was possessed of a form and face which few women could gaze upon but with admiration. In height he stood fully six feet, and so lithe and supple was his form that a casual observer would have credited him with greater activity than strength ; but those who had seen his noble frame bent to the oar, or engaged in any of our manly British sports-in most of which he excelled-knew that, however great his activity, it was not superior to his strength. His face was intelligent and handsome, with full flowing beard of a rich sunny brown, and ample moustache, which served to hide a mouth whose want of -firmness was its only fault. His hair, which, according to the prevailing custom, was cut short, still refused to be denied the right to curl, which it did, in close crisp curls, round neck, temples, and forehead. His eyes were of the darkest blue, and wore a bright, joyous expression. In temper he was mild, cheerful, and slow to anger; but, his wrath fairly roused, was a torrent in its strength.
We have said that Moreland's mouth betrayed infirmity of purpose, and in this fact lay the one weak point in his character, the one great blemish in an organization other- wise almost perfect, but io that blemish dwelt the cause of many bitter sorrows-days of darkness and anguish, of which his heart never ceased to bear the impress. Had he not suffered himself to be too easily led by the opinion of others, from sheer disinclination to vigorously defend his ' own opinions, and had his actions not been often ruled by
those of others from want of firmness to mark out and, per- sistently hold his own course, he might have travelled over the pathway of this life with but few obstructions to hinder the smoothness of his progress, and entered the valley of the shadow of death with as few, regrets for days misspent as most erring mortals. How often do we see those who are willing, nay, anxious to act rightly, but who are wanting in
firmness to encounter the derisive sneers of their more
thoughtless, or more evil companions, who, in the service of their master, the Devil, use his most potent weapons to over- come the righteousness of an immortal spirit. Through this culpable weakness are those young men led into wrong actions ; at first, from force of example, or force of evil advice and argument, until a love of evil usurps the good
which was sown in their hearts, which would have grown and flourished, and brought forth the fruit of righteousness, had they ^ût found strength to pluck up and castaway the weeds of sin which were choking its growth. From this point the downward track is broad and well defined, leading
to where ?-to the abode of the Master ! ,
If there is joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, must not tears of divine sorrow bedew the eyes of angels, who see poor mortals being dragged helplessly, hopelessly, towards the brink of that dread chasm from which they are powerless to warn them.
It must not be inferred that Moreland was so weak of character that sneers, laughter, or evil counsel would urge him to do deliberate wrong ; so far from such being the case, he would ever defend a weak, but holy cause with vigour and determination, and in its defence would manfully break a lance with all comers ; but he loved to glide down the stream in tranquil ease, and let his actions be ruled and guided by those of others around him, without rousing him- self to question the correctness of those actions, or the soundness of the opinions which led to them ; without tax- ing his energies to think, judge, and act for himself, and without girding himself to fight the battle of life, which all must fight if they would not fall.
Reader, had you seen Lillian Willoughby upon the morning of which we write you would have confessed that not often had it been your fortune to see a model so perfect of elegant and refined loveliness as she, standing as she did, with one exquisitely moulded arm resting upon a mar- ble mantel-piece, and a tiny high-ar ched £oot supported by a richly-wrought fender, in the drawing-room of Brolga House, and her large dark, soft luminous eyes, rendered still softer and more luminous by the light'of a first love, gazing dreamily into the fire for the morning was cold.
Her hair, which was of a rich dark brown, and upon which a sunny gleam seemed to play, fell in soft rippling curls unrestrained upon her shoulders. Her eyes, which we have said, were large and dark, were surrounded by dark heavily-fringed lashes, which added much to the depth and softness of their expression. Her features were even in con- tour, and her lips, which formed a perfect cupid's bow, were sufficiently full, without being either voluptuous or weak : her complexion was moderately fair, and her cheeks bore the bright rosy bloom of youth and health, and her figure was such as is more frequently seen in the dreams of poets or painters than realised in actual life-an excellent daughter, a steadfast friend, a single-hearted, true good woman-such was Lillian Willoughby.
Mr. Charles Willoughby, her father, was a merchant, but as he will not bear a part in this eventful tale, it will be
enoughT'to say that he was moderately, wealthy, was a widower, and almost idolized his only daughter, our heroine. To conclude our digression we, will here mention that Archibald Moreland was a wealthy man, being the 'towner of several fine stations in N. S. Wales and Queens-
land, besides having a magnificent freehold estate of many thousand acres, within easy distance of the city of Blank. He also had a business in India, where he and Mrs. More- land had both fallen victims to the unhealthy climate, leaving all that they died possessed of to their dear and only son, A rchie.
* ' And have not I, even so late as last evening, acknow- ledged that I cared for you only ; and if I ever did marry-'
"Oh ! Lilly, dearest ; why that horrid little 'if?'; Why did you, then as now, make me almost the happiest of mortals, yet by the use of that 'if,' cast down my bright ferial castles? Why not complete my happiness by consenting to be my own dear wife, and telling when I may claim my treasure ? Surely you cannot doubt my love for you. If not, and a3
you have confessed that I am so fortunate as to have won .
yoiir love, what can be your reason for refusing to engage. . yourself to me? If you have a reason that you think aX good and sufficient one, ought you not to have enough faith and confidence in me to reveal it to me ? and, to go one
step further, do you think you are justified in concealing it , from the one whom you love, and who loves you so very, very dearly ?"
"Myreason, Archie, must be told, soon or late; and it is but putting off the evil hour, and, by delay, rendering the task more difficult for me to refuse to tell you now ; but the knowledge, that my words will« wound, perhaps offend you, makes me shrink from the duty, for a duty it is, due to your- self and to me ; but remembér, dear Archie, if my words causé you pain, as surely.they will, that my own heart is more deeply pained in wounding yours than yours can be in receiving the wound."'/
"I'ear not, dear, speak freely, and without reserve ; your words may, as you say, wound, but they cannot offend me ; and the knowledge that they are spoken in love shall be their atonement, their complete healing balm."
" Then, Archie, what I would say-and, oh, it is hard to be compelled to say it-is that you are becoming, by almost imperceptible degrees, too fond of the use of ardent spirits."
" Lilly ! Lilly ! you do not mean to say that I am a drunk- ard, or even in danger of becoming one ?" said Moreland, in whose face the hot blood flushed redly.
" Not in the ordinary sense, Archie, for you are too tho- roughly a gentleman ever to become so debased ; but on several occasions of late you have taken more than prudence warranted, and your manner upon these occasions betrayed
an excitement which is, under ordinary circumstances, quite foreign to it. I wilt instance Colonel Sparkley's dinner and
Mrs. Meredith's ball."
" But, Lilly, you should make some allowance for one on such occasions ; for champagne is insidious and does not remind one of its strength until too late."
" Archibald, Archibald ! Why will you, by such want of candour, compel me to proceed with my accusation ? Why force me to push in the probe until it reaches the quick ? Knowing, as you do know, how painful it is to me to make this charge against you. Why will you, with the perverse- ness natural to man, make me tell you that on those occa- sions you scarcely touched champagne, but confined yourself to brandy ; and further, that you never drink wine when there is brandy upon the table ?"
The paleness which overspread the poor girl's face, and the tremulous motion of her dainty foot, which still rested upon the fender, were indications that she was indeed powerfuly moved.
"You are right Lilly," said Moreland, after a pause, while upon his face the red flush burnt hotter than ever ; " you are quite right, and it was a prevarication, and therefore un- worthy of me to ascribe any peculiarity in my manner to champagne : but though I may have beén slightly excited
twice or thrice in my life, I deny any increasing taste for, or ! love of, alcohol j or that it ever did, or ever will cause me ' to do or say anything foolish or unseemly ; and surely you do
not object to one taking a few drops of brandy with a friend, or at some social gathering, provided one does not exceed
Drops of brandy ! drops of brandy ! where is the begin- ning of the significance contained in those words ? and where does it end ? Drops of brandy ! Drops of brandy ! words of fearful import ; who can reveal the full extent of thei meaning ? To do BO would call up a train of events too jong for the mind to grasp ; too numerous for the brain to ta ke cognizance of ; too tragical to be spoken of or dwelt upon but with woe and horror-woe for the fallen state of man, so reduoed by the abuse of liquor, and horror for the
deeds done under its influence.
.11 well know, dearest Lilly, that drunkenness is the causeof much sin and crime, but-."
" N ot sin and crime alone, Archie, but want and misery, starvation and wretchedness beyond all description. Cannot your me mory call up some poor pale wife, clad in rags, and surrounded by evidences of absolute want, at whose knees were children for whose sake her hands toiled until the power to toil was past, and in whose pinched faces want and woe had set their stamp in too legible characters? What has robbed that poor wife of all her home comforts, and of that cheerfulness without which life must be almost insupportable ? What has left her with a blighted youth, a hopeless future, and a dreary past ? And what has cheated those poor children of their sustenance, and stolen from their young life its childhood ? for if you take away the buoyancy of infancy, if you introduce want and woe where should be the ringing laugh and thoughtless chatter of childhood, in reality you take away childhood also, and in its place is left a thing, neither child nor man, but infinitely more pitiable than either ; search for the source of all this misery and you will find it in drops of brandy."
" But you, surely, Lillian, do not attribute all the want and woe in the world to the effects of drink ?"
" Not all ; no, not all, but by far the greatest proportion of it, and not only the want and woe, but the sin and crime also. To what does the unhappy fellow serving his sentence upon the roads, or awaiting in the jail the execution of the law's last and greatest penalty owe, in nineteen cases out of twenty, his degrading and painful position but to the use
of alcohol ? "
" Dear Lilly, your illustrations, though powerfully drawn and undoubtedly true, are so apart from the subject upon which we were conversing, I mean my, as you fancy, in- creasing taste for the use of spirits, that 1 scarcely know how to reply to you : you cannot, in your own mind, draw any parallel between the cases you have cited and my case."
" No, no ! a hundred times no ! There never could, under any circumstances, be a parallel drawn between the case of one such as you and those of whom I have spoken ; but, think not, dear Archie, that, because you hold an exalted position, and are proud of the consciousness ojjyour own righteousness, of which I*also am proud, that you are beyond the reach of harm. You cannot have forgotten my dear brother Charlie, he who was your playmate when a boy and your college-chum in after years ; who was handsomer or more manly and good than he ?-whose youth more promising ?-whose heart lighter ?-whose prospects fairer ? And yet, at the age of thirty, he was laid beneath the shadow of a mighty pine tree, away in the western forests. Aud did he not owe his blighted life-his shattered health, his early death, entirely to his love ¿of brandy? Ah! poor Charlie! My kind merry-hearted ¡friend, whom I loved as a brother, whose heart was open to all good impres- sions-whose honour unimpeachable. Can I ever forget him ? No, indeed ; but I have often pondered over and wondered at 1 the suddenness of his departure from the paths of sobriety.
"And think you that he, poor fellow, plunged into dissi- pation at one leap ? Ah, no ! It crept upon him by imper- ceptible degrees, as the snow-death creeps upon the bewil- dered traveller, so stealthily that, as the angels alone tell when, for the poor traveller, life ended and eternity began ; so only could the angels tell when his good life ceased, and his evil one began."
As evidence of the deep feeling which had urged Lillian Willoughby to make such a powerful and sustained appeal to the right feeling of the man whom she loved-large tears slowly gathered beneath the heavily-fringed eye-lids, and coursed down her cheeks, whose paleness was almost pain-
ful to behold.
That appeal, supported and strengthened as it was by those tears and pallid cheeks, had indeed made a deep im pression upon the warm true heart of Archibald Moreland, and he lost not a moment in responding to it. His looks were subdued, and his voice very grave, as he spoke thus :
"Lillian, my beloved one, I know but too well what sad and serious cause you have to dread the effects of drink upon those whom you love ; therefore, it shall be my pleasing task to remove those fears as far as I am concerned, v and for ever to bury this painful subject by making you any promise or pledge which you may desire, and the know- ledge that I have brought peace to your heart will be to me a rich reward. Speak, dearest, what would you have
me do ?"
" Thanks, dear Archie ! I wish you to promise me that, from this day forth, for five years, you will abstain from the use of spirituous liquors."
" I accept the pledge, Lilly, and tender to you my word of honour, as a man and as a gentleman, for the faithful observance of it. Now it is your turn, my dear."
" My turn, yes ! my turn to thank you ! and say how confident, and proud, and happy, you have made me feel. Oh, how good it is of you to make me the promise so freely, and not to be vexed with me for hurting you so much as I know I did ; and how glad I am that my courage did not fail me in the task which was so hard for me to perform."
"Yes, love," replied Moreland, smiling at her impulsive gush of thanks, praise, and self-gratulation combined, " and your turn, also, to pledge your troth to me, through good report and through evil report, through life unto death."
" lt is done, dear Archie ; I am yours, for ever and
"Ten thousand thanks, my dearest, my best beloved !" and the young man folded her to his heart in a long warm embrace.