Chapter 64036448

See chapter in newspaper

Chapter NumberIV
Chapter Title
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article64036448
Full Date1885-08-01
Page Number0
Corrections0
Word Count3948
IllustratedY
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleIllustrated Sydney News (NSW : 1853 - 1872)
Trove TitleDrops of Brandy
article text

.1

" A .quick rusli ; a desperate bound, a duli, sickening crash, as of the breaking of bones amongst muscles and flesh,; and man,

child, and horse lie in a confused, heap at the edge of the water."-CHAPTER IV.

"DROPS OF BRANDY, "

By OLD SALTBUSH.

CHAPTER IV.

A year or two had passed away uneventfully, and still Moreland was, to all appearance, the same temperate man as of old ; but his wife knew that each day he consumed large, and increasing, quantities of brandy ; and although his eye never failed him in the cover, or his hand in "the tield, she knew that the spoiler was at work, slowly it may be, but ah ! too surely.

The insects which eat away the piles that support bridges do their work slowly, but when the final crash comes, and the structure is hurled into the river beneath, a ruined and confused mass, then it is known how surely their work has been done. Moreland had given way to that most ruinous of habit called "nipping," or "nobbleriz ing," and, as is usual with persons who have formed the habit, numberless were the excuses which offered them- selves as reasons for indulging in a "nip" of brandy. If the days were cold, frequent "nips" were requis;Le to neutralise the effects of the cold; if hot, "nips" were equally requisite to remove the lassitude produced by the heat. If company arrived, the " nip " was introduced as sauce to the conversation, and in the absence of company was resorted to to dispel dulness.

It is ever thus with the votaries of drink. The craving for stimulants becomes so deeply seated in their constitu- tion that every chance to allay that burning desire must be seized, thus adding fuel to the already devouring flame. At length death or madness steps in and lets down the curtain upon one of life's commonest, but most piteous and disgusting dramas, and shuts for ever from our gaze the shattered and loathsome wreck of what was once an intelligent being.

As time passed on, it became evident to Mrs. Moreland that this baneful habit was obtaining a firmer hold upon her husband, and was sapping his really fine constitution.

The constantly burning hand, the bloodshot eye, and the nervous excitement visible therein ; the fl uctiiating spirits, either marked by unhealthy buoyancy, or an unhealthy depression, and the pale face and unnatural languor of the morning, contrasted with the feverish excite- ment of the evening, told the anxious and loving wife that, unless a change occurred, some intervention of God's good providence, even he, her beloved one, was doomed to au early and disgraceful death.

" Oh, God !" she, in her despair, would cry, "stretch forth thy hand and save him who is all to me ! Who, in all other respects is so noble and good. Take away our worldly goods ; the prosperity that has attended us through life, anything and everything that thou hast given us, but

í

spare him, only him, to me. Let the righteousness of his life plead for him. Let the prayers of me, Iiis wife, plead for him. Let the voices of his innocent children who look to him for support and counsel, precept and example in the early days of their lives, plead for him. Let the tempta- tion, suffering and death of thy dearly beloved Son, who shed His blood upon the cross in atonement for the sins and frailties of erring humanity, plead for him. And let Thy great love, which surrendered that dear Son for the sake of Thy weak creatures, whom He so much pitied, plead for

him."

An answering echo, like a knell in her heart, seemed to utter the words, too late ! too late !

Trouble not thy heart, thou good and faithful wife ! God's hand is omnipotent to save, even though to us the case may seem desperate.

Lower and lower sinks the unhappy man, into that dread quicksand which has swallowed up so maoy of his fellows. Feeble and more feeble become his struggles to free himself

from the toils which surround him.

. Each morning sees a resolution, to give up drink, made, each evening sees it broken, for the consuming thirst-was upon him, and the power no longer his to abstain.

" Minstrel away ; thc work of fate

Is bearing on, its issue wait."

Oh ! thou demon drink ! Creator and abettor of all kinds and descriptions of sin and crime, fellest demon of all who have issued from the gapiug mouth of hell ; who separateth husband from wife, parent from child ; who polluteth the young, and leadeth the daughters of man from the paths of virtue ; who filleth the gaols with felons, the streets with waifs and paupers, and the homes of the people with sorrow and discord ; whose reign is over all countries and all climes. Will thy rule never be divided ? ' Will thy poison never be neutralised ? Will the curse of

thy presence never be destroyed ?

Oh, ye nations, which boast of your victories by sea and land ; which glory in your achievements in the domains of art and science ; crush out this fearful hydra, which raises its leprous heads in every city, village, hamlet throughout the world, and ye will have gained a greater victory than those of a Hannibal, a Caesar, or a Napoleon, and earned a more noble and enduring fame than ye would had ye succeeded in subduing all the elements, and making them subservient to your will.

'Tis the hour of ten in the morning, the birds are carolling sweetly amongst the boughs, or hopping from blossom to blossom, sipping honey and delicious fragrance from the flowers. Spring has spread its mantle of verdure over the

1 face of the southern hemisphere. Nature is filled with

life, and, with man's exception, life with joy. A holy hymn of praise is constantly rising to the Creator in the 8ong of birds ; in the music of brooks ; in the hum of insect life ; in the murmur of the breeze amongst the branches ;. in all sounds which arise from : earth to heaven on this lovely spring morning. But in Moreland's heart there is no spring, no sunshine, no gladness. He sits in his study, which looks out upon a broad balcony, and upon the lawn,

the river and the plain beyond-truly a scene of witching

,beauty.

A newspaper is stretched upon his knees, upon which his hands rest, while his eyes seem fixed upon the lovely prospect,, which lay stretched like some glorious panorama,, before him. They do not drink in the beauty which they seem to rest upon. They have other things to gaze upon ;, weird things, impalpable things, unreal things, but things which to his mind bear the stamp and impress of reality. Strange phantoms, the creations of a heated brain, flit before his staring eyes in endless variety of shape, and with an endless monotony of motion ; a wearying persistency, trying indeed to the nerves of one who Í3, even now, upon the verge of madness. And from out the seething mass of indefinite but horrible shapes, a shape more definite, and still more horrible, would at intervals rush, only to approach him, until its loathsome features seemed almost to touch his own, and then melt into air, to be succeeded,

by othôrs, if possible, more loathsome and torturing still. / ' A feeling of despair and dread has taken possession o( Moreland's mind, and as it grows stronger the unrest of souud is added to the unrest of motion-the murmurs of voices greet his ear with a jingle of broken sentences and half articulate sounds, varied occasionally by a few words uttered with startling distinctness. Anon the words grow more distinct, until at length a voice out of that bewilder- ing throng seems to address him, or rather to sing to him the following rhymes :

" We're happy, we're happy, whenever a soul

Falls meshed in our nets to the shades below ; We may thank our procurer, the flowing bowl,

That the path is so broad which lost souls go. ' .We'.re merry, we're merry, when crime is begun ; :

We're merry, we're merry, when murder's done- ....>.-,-,.? And we laugh ha, ha ! with a shout of glee,

When the criminal stands 'neath the gatlowa tree."

" Ha ! ha! Moreland what thiuk of my song ? Ay!' Capital song, is it not? I'll sing it over your coffin before many hours are pa3t. Hark ye, Moreland, old fellow what about that great boast of yours, that you could take your brandy at pleasure, or relinquish it at once aud for ever t

Where is the powerful will of which, you were so proud 1 I have destroyed it with my ' drops of brandy ?' Where now is your steady hand-your nerves of steel ? The one trembles as you raise your glass, the other causes you to start and shudder if a sudden sound smites your ear, and conjures up all the torturing devils of which I am the master. All this you owe to brandy. Then why not give it up now at once and for ever? Because I defy you to do it, Moreland. Sold ! Aye, sold to me for my weapon of power-alcohol. t How often of late have you tried to overcome the tempta-

tion ? Aye, tried with the whole force of your debilitated mind. Too late ! too late ! You are mine, irrecoverably mine; and when you strive to subvert my sway I send those torturing little imps of mine to harass you with their restless activity, to shut sleep from your eyes and peace from your brain. I afflict you with an almost total collapse of your nervous system, until you feel that the Angel of Death is about to clutch you to himself. And then, were the most frightful chasm'of Hell to lie between you and the coveted liquor, you would cross it upon the frailest of planks to obtain relief from those torments. Thus I force you ; aye, force you, against your better judgment, and in spite of the opposition of your enfeebled will to drown the effect in the cause ! Ha ! ha ! An excellent idea, is it not ? Those fine possessions on which your eyes now rest, or seem to rest, are yours no longer. That lovely wife, those beautiful children, you must forfeit them also, not only here but in the world to come ; where they go you cannot come, for the blessing and forgiveness of God will never hallow the suicide's grave. And you are as assuredly a suicide if you die by drink as you would be had you de- stroyed your life by the means of any other poison, or if you had cut your throat with a razor, or blew out your brains with a pistol. The difference is only in the speed with' which the act is consummated-between a slow and a quick suicide ; between a death which doeB not claim its victim until it has left him degraded in intellect, demoralised in principle, and denuded of all the attributes which render man a companion for angels, and one which, at least, has the merit of destroying its prey before it has reduced them to such depths of degradation."

" True ! true, by heaven ! True as gospel ! " cried More- land, starting up in a paroxysm of agitation. " Ob, Lilly ! my darling Lilly ! My children ! my treasured children ! Lost ! lost to me through this accursed drink ! Oh, me 1 oh, me ! oh, me ! Oh, my most damned infatuation ! "

Peace, poor heart ! peace ! Out of evil shall come thy good ; out of the black night of thy despair shall arise the star of thy peace and gladness ; out of the valley of the shadow of death shall come thy resurrection and life. Even now there is help approaching, and in the form of one whom

thou lovest dearly,

He has sunk into his chair, clasping his hands across his eyes in utter hopeless, helpless misery ; but he cannot shut out from his mind's eye the weird shapes which so distress him, or from his ears the sound of that voice, itself the creature of his own heated fancy, which seems twitting him with what he is and what he might have been. He has gained a respite indeed, but it is but momentary. Again the tempter's voice seems to be speaking words (to him)

. distinctly audible :

Hark in your ear, Moreland ; will you submit to be hunted to death by those imps of darkness which surround you? Will you die such a dog's death as that? Surely the pluck which stood to you in the jungles of India is not all gone ? Surely, surely, you have enough of manhood left to enable you to end all in a sudden crash. And why should you not ? It is cowardly, you say, to commit suicide ; but your own hand deals your death if you die by drink, ergo, you are a suicide. Tut, man, the other way is the shortest, simplest, and most satisfactory-and the result the same. Why do you hesitate ? Your pistols are at your hand, ready loaded. Don't be a fool, Moreland ; don't die a despicable sot, or end your days in an asylum.

Moreland stands with the pistol in his hand. The colour of life has forsaken his face, and the ashen hue of death has usurped its place. Slowly the pistol is raised, until its muzzle rests upon his temple. His finger is on the latch of eternity ; his foot upon that portal which, once crossed, can never be re-traversed. The specious arguments of the tempter have overcome him.

Hark! the voice of Mrs. Moreland calling to him rings clear and sweet through the room: "Archie! Archie! where are you ? "

God's hand is powerful to save the sinner, even from the

brink of hell.

The spell is broken ; the pistol falls upon the floor,

exploding in its fall, and Moreland sinks half-fainting

beside it.

Mrs. Moreland entered the room with haste ; at the first glance her eye took in the apparent position of affairs, and she thought the deed had been completed. To attempt to describe the wild surge of fright that swept- across her breast would be to attempt the impossible ; some may have felt the same, none can describe it. Many women would have rent the air with shrieks, and thus given publicity tc that which a wife would naturally wish to suppress. She did not do this, but raising her husband's head from th« floor, she murmured, "Oh, Archie! Oh, ' my beloved one ! What have you done? "

With his head pillowed upon her faithful breast ; witl eye8 closed and upturned pallid face, lay Moreland for i time. At length, in response to her plaintive calling upoi his name, and to the showers of her bright tears whicl rained upon him, he began to recover, and in a little tim« was able to accompany his wife to the drawing-room on th ground floor, where Bhe placed him upon a sofa, and the) sat gently talking to him.

In the meantime a groom had been ordered to Blanktowi for the family physician ; for, though the tale had not beej told, Mrs. Moreland well knew the history of that drea< scene in her husband's study ; and, though her mind wa now more at ease, yet she fancied she saw a light in More land's eyes which was strange to them, and she feared tba his brain had, to some extent, been affected by the ordea through which he had passed.

Moreland was now conversing with his wife, feebly bu rationally, but still with that steadfast, staring light in hi eyes, as if they sought to perceive that which was beyon< their vision, which Mrs. Moreland had noticed, when th groom sent in word that he wished to speak with hi mistress ; she arose, and proceeded to the back door.

" Please, ma'am," said the man, respectfully touching hi hat, "if Dr. Earnest is not at home, what doctor shall

bring?"

" Bring Dr. Brentford, or Dr. Hart, but do not retur ' without one of them, Lose no time ; ride for your lif<

What horse have you got ? "

'"Old Melbourne,' ma'am; Master Archie has him on

the lawn."

" Well, go, Rodgers, and say that I fear your master is getting brain fever, as his mind seems affected."

Mrs. Moreland returned to the drawing room, where she had left her husband reclining upon the sofa, he was, how- ever, no longer there ; she was about to proceed in search of him when a shout of " Master ! master ! stop ! for God sake, stop ! " brought her flying out on to the lawn. The sight that there met her gaze conquered even her strong nerves, and patient-enduring heart ; with a shuddering, despairing cry she fell forward, insensible.

To enable our readers to understand the position of affairs, we must return to Moreland at the moment when his wife left him. At that moment old Melbourne appeared upon the carriage drive, with young Archie holding his bridle. A magnificent horse indeed, in colour a dark chesnut, with a slight blaze in his face, whose heat, game head and lean shapely neck were set upon powerful sloping shoulders, and whose broad hocks, strong handsome quarters, and clean wiry legs, bespoke the power of the hunter with the speed

of the race horse.

" Ha, Melbourne, good old friend ; if I were once astride of you they would never catch me. No, not if they were led by the master-fiend of hell. I'll baffle them yet, and save my noble boy, or die with him. See how they crowd round him. By G--d they shall not have him. "

The poor maniac's imagination had led him to believe that the fiends were about to seize his boy. Springing up from the sofa, with a sudden restoration of his former agility and strength, he crossed the lawn in a few strides, and snatching the reins from the hands of the child he threw them over the horse's neck, who stood waiting for him to moüht. In an instant little Archie was placed upon the pommel with his father seated in the saddle, and grasping him with a frenzied grip. No sooner was Moreland seated than he dashed his heels into old Melbourne's ribs, who, unaccustomed to such treatment, went off with the speed

of a race horse.

"Oh, pa ! don't hold me so tight, you hurt me. Oh, pull up, please, dear pa ; I'm so frightened." -

"Don't be afraid, boy; they'shall not have you ; they can never catch old Melbourne. Never, never !"

It was at this moment that Mrs. Moreland appeared upon the lawn, and it was no wonder that her courage failed her and her heart stood still, for there, right in front and barely an eighth of a mile away stood the park fence, a five-foot paling, and for this the frantic man headed his noble horse.

' ' Now, Melbourne, don't fail me, and we'll beat them yet."

The onlookers saw nothing but death for man and child at that fence, for they thought that no horse so weighted, and ridden by a maniac, could accomplish such a leap. But, mad as he was, Moreland retained something of his consummate horsemanship still. Gathering his horse, he steadied him at the leap ; and the grand old horse, accus- tomed to his work, measured his distance to perfection ; with a wild bound, and a wilder shout from Moreland, they were safely over.

By this time the poor child was screaming from pain and terror, for he had discovered, with the quickness of infan- tile perception, that there was something strange and terrible in the manner and conduct of his father, and this discovery, even more than the rough treatment to which he was subjected, and to which he was so totally unaccustomed, terrified him exceedingly.

"Hush! Archie; they shall not get you! Don't be afraid ; they cannot cross the river ; we'll beat them there."

The river ! great God ! Will even madness make him attempt that ?

The river, with its steep rocky banks, more than 20 feet wide, and its narrow stream trickling over a sandy bed, more than 12 feet below, lies some 300 yards ahead.

A. labourer rushes forward and tries to check the horse, but is brushed aside from his path like a fly.

"Oh, pa! oh, dad, dear dad, stop !"

Dad was Archie's pet name for his father, and was used only on special occasions. Poor child, he might as well have spoken to the hurricane and asked it to restrain its violence ; or have thrown his voice upon the torrent, and thereby hoped to stay its downward rush.

The river is reached in silence, but for the cries of the child.

Well, does the gallant Melbourne know the desperate nature of the leap he is about to attempt, but in many a hard day's hunt, over many a stiff fence and dangerous chasm, he has carried the bold rider who now urges him forward ; never has he been known to swerve from the work set him to do, nor will he now, though to accomplish it with the burthen he carries is an utter impossibility. A quick rush ; a desperate bound ; a dull sickening crash, as of the breaking of bones amongst muscles and flesh, and man, child, and horse lie in a confused heap at the edge of

the water.

Melbourne lies upon his side with his neck broken, and

head doubled under him.

Moreland is upon his back with the weight of the dead horse lying upon one of his legs ; a quick stream of blood wells from a ghastly wound in his temple : his left hand still grasps the reinB, while his right rests across his chest,

broken above the elbow.

Little Archie's feet are lying in the water, but the posi- tion of one leg indicates that it is broken at the thigh : his fair hair falls in wavy curls from his pale white forehead, and his eyes are closod.

The labourer who strove to arrest Moreland's mad career is soon upon the spot, and more help is nigh.

Tenderly ! God knows how tenderly does that rough man raise the wounded child, and convey him across the stream to the arms of some females who are hurrying to

the scene of the accident.

" Is he dead, Jock ? Oh, Jock, is the poor child gone ? " " Na lassie, not dead, Gude be thankit, but sairhurtit, sair hurtit. Oh pure bairn ; pure bairn."

" And the master, is he hurt ? is he killed ? "

"I canna tell. Harry and Sam are with him; and I'm ganging back the noo. This'll be a sair day for the mistress, pureleddie."