Pledge with Wine

 

PLEDGE with wine—pledge with wine!" cried the young and thoughtless Harry Wood. "Pledge with wine," ran through the brilliant crowd.

The beautiful bride grew pale—the decisive hour had come, she pressed her white hands together, and the leaves of her bridal wreath trembled on her pure brow; her breath came quicker, her heart beat wilder.

"Yes, Marion, lay aside your scruples for this once," said the Judge, in a low tone, going towards his daughter; "the company expect it, do not so seriously infringe upon the rules of etiquette;—in your own house act as you please; but in mine, for this once please me."

Every eye was turned towards the bridal pair. Marion's principles were well known. Henry had been a convivialist, but of late his friends noticed the change in his manners, the difference in his  habits—and to-night they watched him to see, as they sneeringly said, if he was tied down to a woman's opinion so soon.

Pouring a brimming beaker, they held it with tempting smiles toward Marion. She was very pale, though more composed, and her hand shook not, as smiling back, she gratefully accepted the crystal tempter and raised it to her lips. But scarcely had she done so when every hand was arrested by her piercing exclamation of "Oh, how terrible!" "What is it?" cried one and all, thronging together, for she had slowly carried the glass at arm's length, and was fixedly regarding it as though it were some hideous object.

"Wait," she answered, while an inspired light shone from her dark eyes, "wait and I will tell you. I see," she added, slowly pointing one jewelled finger at the sparkling ruby liquid, "A sight that beggars all description; and yet listen; I will paint it for you if I can: It is a lonely spot; tall mountains, crowned with verdure, rise in awful sublimity around; a river runs through, and bright flowers grow to the waters' edge. There is a thick, warm mist that the sun seeks vainly to pierce; trees, lofty and beautiful, wave to the airy motion of the birds; but there, a group of Indians gather; they flit to and fro with something like sorrow upon their dark brow; and in their midst lies a manly form, but his cheek, how deathly; his eye wild with the fitful fire of fever. One friend stands beside him, nay, I should say kneels, for he is pillowing that poor head upon his breast.

"Genius in ruins. Oh! the high, holy looking brow! Why should death mark it, and he so young? Look how he throws the damp curls! see him clasp his hands! hear his thrilling shrieks for life! mark how he clutches at the form of his  companion, imploring to be saved. Oh! hear him call piteously his father's name; see him twine his fingers, together as he shrieks for his sister—his only sister—the twin of his soul—weeping for him in his distant native land.

"See!" she exclaimed, while the bridal party shrank back, the untasted wine trembling in their faltering grasp, and the Judge fell, overpowered, upon his seat; "see! his arms are lifted to heaven; he prays, how wildly, for mercy! hot fever rushes through his veins. The friend beside him is weeping; awe-stricken, the men move silently, and leave the living and dying together."

There was a hush in that princely parlor, broken only by what seemed a smothered sob, from some manly bosom. The bride stood yet upright, with quivering lip, and tears stealing to the outward edge of her lashes. Her beautiful arm had lost its tension, and the glass, with its little troubled red waves, came slowly towards the range of her vision. She spoke again; every lip was mute. Her voice was low, faint, yet awfully distinct: she still fixed her sorrowful glance upon the wine-cup.

"It is evening now; the great white moon is coming up, and her beams lay gently on his forehead. He moves not; his eyes are set in their sockets; dim are their piercing glances; in vain his friend whispers the name of father and sister—death is there. Death! and no soft hand, no gentle voice to bless and soothe him. His head sinks back! one convulsive shudder! he is dead!"

A groan ran through the assembly, so vivid was her description, so unearthly her look, so inspired her manner, that what she described seemed actually to have taken place then and there. They noticed also, that the bridegroom hid his face in his hands and was weeping.

"Dead!" she repeated again, her lips quivering faster and faster, and her voice more and more broken; "and there they scoop him a grave; and there without a shroud, they lay him down in the damp reeking earth. The only son of a proud father, the only idolized brother of a fond sister. And he sleeps to-day in that distant country, with no stone to mark the spot. There he lies—my father's son—my own twin brother! a victim to this deadly poison. Father," she exclaimed, turning suddenly, while the tears rained down her beautiful cheeks, "father, shall I drink it now?"

The form of the old Judge was convulsed with agony. He raised his head, but in a smothered voice he faltered—"No, no, my child, in God's name, no."

She lifted the glittering goblet, and letting it suddenly fall to the floor it was dashed into a thousand pieces. Many a tearful eye watched her movements, and instantaneously every wine-glass was transferred to the marble table on which it had been prepared. Then, as she looked at the fragments of crystal, she turned to the company, saying:—"Let no friend, hereafter, who loves me, tempt me to peril my soul for wine. Not firmer the everlasting hills than my resolve, God helping me, never to touch or taste that terrible poison. And he to whom I have given my hand; who watched over my brother's dying form in that last solemn hour, and buried the dear wanderer there by the river in that land of gold, will, I trust, sustain me in that resolve. Will you not, my husband?"

His glistening eyes, his sad, sweet smile was her answer.

The Judge left the room, and when an hour later he returned, and with a more subdued manner  took part in the entertainment of the bridal guests, no one could fail to read that he, too, had determined to dash the enemy at once and forever from his princely rooms.

Those who were present at that wedding, can never forget the impression so solemnly made. Many from that hour forswore the social glass.