Give me back my Husband

 

NOT many years since, a young married couple from the far "fast-anchored isle" sought our shores with the most sanguine anticipations of happiness and prosperity. They had begun to realize more than they had seen in the visions of hope, when, in an evil hour, the husband was tempted "to look upon the wine when it is red," and to taste of it, "when it giveth its colour in the cup." The charmer fastened round its victim all the serpent-spells of its sorcery, and he fell; and at every step of his degradation from the man to the brute, and downward, a heartstring broke in the bosom of his companion.

Finally, with the last spark of hope flickering on the altar of her heart, she threaded her way into  one of those shambles where man is made such a thing as the beasts of the field would bellow at. She pressed her way through the bacchanalian crowd who were revelling there in their own ruin. With her bosom full of "that perilous stuff that preys upon the heart," she stood before the plunderer of her husband's destiny, and exclaimed in tones of startling anguish, "Give me back my husband!"

"There's your husband," said the man, as he pointed toward the prostrate wretch.

"That my husband? What have you done to him? That my husband? What have you done to that noble form that once, like the great oak, held its protecting shade over the fragile vine that clung to it for support and shelter? That my husband? With what torpedo chill have you touched the sinews of that manly arm? What have you done to that once noble brow, which he wore high among his fellows, as if it bore the superscription of the Godhead? That my husband? What have you done to that eye, with which he was wont to look erect on heaven, and see in his mirror the image of his God? What Egyptian drug have you poured into his veins, and turned the ambling fountains of the heart into black and burning pitch? Give me back my husband! Undo your basilisk spells, and give me back the man that stood with me by the altar!"

The ears of the rumseller, ever since the first demijohn of that burning liquid was opened upon our shores, have been saluted, at every stage of the traffic, with just such appeals as this. Such wives, such widows, and mothers, such fatherless children, as never mourned in Israel at the massacre of Bethlehem or at the burning of the temple, have cried in his ears, morning, night, and evening, "Give me back my husband! Give me back my boy!  Give me back my brother! Give me back my sister! Give me back my wife!"

But has the rumseller been confounded or speechless at these appeals? No! not he. He could show his credentials at a moment's notice with proud defiance. He always carried in his pocket a written absolution for all he had done and could do in his work of destruction. He had bought a letter of indulgence—I mean a license!—a precious instrument, signed and sealed by an authority stronger and more respectable than the pope's. He confounded? Why, the whole artillery of civil power was ready to open in his defence and support. Thus shielded by the law, he had nothing to fear from the enemies of his traffic. He had the image and superscription of Cæsar on his credentials, and unto Cæsar he appealed; and unto Cæsar, too, his victims appealed, and appealed in vain.