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.